True story: Two writers with whom I work dreamed up a TESLA comic book that teamed the real-life genius inventor Nikola Tesla with his real-life author friend Mark Twain for a buddy-action-movie-style series of adventures. At once clever and exciting and (overall) historically accurate, the scripts were illustrated by Filipino artist Bong Dazo, best known for Marvel’s DEADPOOL and THUNDERBOLTS, and for STAR WARS at Dark Horse. Bong did a masterful job designing and illustrating the project.
TESLA caught the interest of a client aspiring to publish projects that would capture Hollywood’s attention. On that publisher’s board of directors was a movie producer who claimed TESLA was ideal for Hollywood, and they would push the project aggressively if the company co-owned it. Contracts were signed for TESLA to appear in a serialized anthology. Four installments were completed. Three were published. Glass House provided all of Bong’s concept art, and they told us the Hollywood push began.
First came a curious lack of feedback/updates regarding the Hollywood situation. Then came bigger concerns: Among them was the contractual guarantee that if the material got used in a certain promotional book, the creators would receive $10,000. The book was published; the payment never came.
The actual breaking point occured when the publisher, looking at the eight series he was releasing, decided to do a crossover mini-series. His new (licensed) character would, in each issue, enter and interact in the “world” of each otherwise-unrelated series, theoretically throwing more attention on his line of books.
At first it sounded interesting, and per contract the authors had the first opportunity to write any tie-ins/spin-offs. The problem was that the publisher assigned HIMSELF the writing job for the new-mini-series. His excuse was that the company needed to save money and, as publisher, he would write it all for free; we soon learned that he paid himself the company’s top writing rate for the crossover stories.
The authors blocked the crossover, cited breach of contract, and demanded the property revert back to them. Two years of fighting over ownership and payments ensued, with the publisher demanding reimbursement of art costs on the unpublished issue and the authors simply saying “deduct those art costs from the 10 grand you owe us, and pay us the balance.” Finally, those contracts simply expired with the publisher never paying that balance, and Bong died waiting for the situation to be resolved.
Before long, a TESLA feature film hit theaters; publicity said the film was based on an earlier script the director had written but had never been made. And yet that SAME PRODUCER who told us he was shopping TESLA for us was credited as producing this film. It was certainly a far different – and way less fun – story. But given the lack of transparency in the whole situation, one wonders how much, if any, of our TESLA material was used in pitch decks and presentations and such to shop and develop the film that finally got made.
At the very least, if the producer’s interest had shifted from our TESLA to this other TESLA at some defining point, you’d think we’d at least rated the professional courtesy of advising us as much.