The Monolith was a short-lived series from DC Comics, set in its shared super-hero universe, about a troubled young woman who ends up befriending a golem that was created in the 1930s to serve as a defender of the Brooklyn neighbourhood by those who conjured it. Published in 2004-2005, it only lasted 12 issues. It was written by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray (who continue to work regularly for DC, penning such titles as Jonah Hex and Freedom Fighters), and the regular artist was Phil Winslade.
Six years after the title’s demise, someone has launched a campaign to bring it back — at least in reprinted form. Dana Moreshead, a fan and friend to Winslade, has established a Facebook group called “Monolith needs a trade (please)!” In the past week, it’s grown from about a dozen members to more than four times that number. It’s still a small group, but it’s attracted the attention (and participation) of several comics professionals — including those involved in the creation of The Monolith.
Moreshead established the group last fall, but it just started getting more active this week, due in part to Winslade’s promotion of it in his Facebook updates.
“I put the page up a while back when I was e-mailing Phil about a project. He’s always wanted a trade of it; I put up the page,” Moreshead told Eye on Comics. “Specifically, I remember ‘waiting for the trade’ on that book when it was on the stands — and it never came. It’s Jimmy and (mostly) Phil, so content-wise it’s an instant-buy. As well, I wanted to see if other people wanted it and how well a promo page like that could groundswell attention.”
Comics creators have posted on the group’s wall, expressing their support for a collected edition of Monolith.
“A great book all round and some of Phil’s finest work… I’d have it on my shelf…Trade, please,” wrote artist John McCrea.
“Jimmy (and now Phil) knows how much I loved this book! TRADE, baby!” illustrator Joe Jusko posted.
Winslade has become the most active participant in the campaign. On Wednesday, he started posting scans of his original artwork from the series to the group, promising to post one page of Monolith art per day. Eye on Comics contacted him to find out why, aside from the potential financial benefit, he was so eager about bringing this relatively unknown title back into print and why it was collected when it was originally being published.
“This was really my kind of story — a GOOD one. There were twists and turns and a skewed perspective. There are a number of reasons to draw a book — a living being one of them — but more important and fulfilling ones are the challenge, the novelty, for some the number of splash pages, or most importantly the story,” he wrote in a message.
“When Jimmy told me about a superhero comic about a recovering junkie who inherits a house from her grandmother that has a basement filled with children’s books and fairy tales with a golem behind the wall who’s been imprisoned for 70 years and who’s only comfort has been her dead grandmother’s voice and the fairy tales it told — I fell in love.”
He said the heroine Alice’s effort to cope with her addiction and recent detox and her lesbian friend Tilt’s struggle to come to terms with her HIV-positive status weren’t the elements one would typically find in the usual superhero fare.
“It was the focus on the personal rather than the ‘broad strokes’ that superhero books do really well — the small rather than the big — that really engaged me, and I was going to draw it the best I possibly could. And I did. I never fudged or skimped — I pushed the black and white as far as I could push it in service to the story,” Winslade said.
“The book wasn’t flawless but it was a hell of a lot less flawed than some! I’m bloody proud of it and believe it deserves a chance to reach the audience it was intended for!”
So why didn’t it reach that audience in a collected format?
“Well, the sales figures on the comics were the main problem. Monolith was slightly on the fringes of the DC universe. In a way, it suffered from originality. It was always intended for the trade market — it was self-contained and its story was about New York. It wasn’t some super-team crossover or a dark Vertigo-type story but had elements of both. It was a dark superhero story about people, places and history,” Winslade said, noting there were also some editorial directives that might have skewed the intended pacing.
“Because Jimmy (Palmiotti) and Justin (Gray) wanted to build the book on solid foundations — the hero didn’t appear ’til the planned second issue — but it was felt by DC that a book starting without the hero in the first issue was unacceptable.”
As a result, the first issue was bumped up to be a double-sized one, and as a result, the price went up as well. Winslade said that had a negative impact on orders.
“It’s hard enough to get your regular comic fan to take a chance on his weekly budget without doubling the risk, and the store owners knew this,” he said.
Winslade said he believes a number of potential readers decided to wait for the trade-paperback collections of The Monolith, as the perception was that everything gets re-released in that format. Unfortunately, he said, that’s not the reality.
“There were intentions to trade the first six issues as a jumping-off point for issue 7 and the Batman run — this never happened,” he said, noting he hopes DC will decide to collect it now and that if enough people call for a Monolith collection, it could help.
Palmiotti told Eye on Comics while he’d love to see a Monolith trade paperback, it’s not looking likely at the moment, though things could change if enough people clamor for such a product.
“I think (the campaign is) awesome. Enough people might prove there is a market for it,” he wrote in a message Thursday. “As it stands, DC really doesn’t think so, and I also understand that as well.
A DC Comics spokesperson didn’t respond to an inquiry for comment. (Addendum: The spokesman did respond Friday, Jan. 28 and said DC declined to comment.)
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