Being a raging egomaniac, I signed myself up for one of those Google News Alerts that let you know when someone out in cyberspace has mentioned you, whether it's in a Nobel Prize application or some sort of online porn ad.
Most of the time, I just get an annoying e-mails mentioning that, 10 months ago, DC solicited an issue of Aquaman with my name in the credits. Accurate, sure, but not exactly the sort of "alert" I'm looking for. But yesterday, I got a link to something more interesting. Well, more interesting to me, anyway.
FINALS was my first comic book series, and it's still one of my favorites. Combining all the dark, smart-ass humor Jill Thompson and I could muster at the turn of the millennium, it only lasted four issues and didn't sell many copies, but I still hear from people who really got a bang out of it. I love HERO, and I love AQUAMAN, but nothing makes me happier at a convention than signing someone's four issues of FINALS.
So anyway, that got me thinking about the series itself, and I realized I actually have something in my files that people might actually be interested in seeing. Something that, as far as I know, has never been glimpsed outside the DC offices. I'm talking about the splash page to FINALS #1. The original splash page.
See, though Jill and I worked on FINALS throughout 1998, we were putting the finishing touches on it in the spring of 1999. April 1999. And do you remember what happened on April 20, 1999?
If you''ll recall, the media went into overdrive during that time, pulling back and/or changing anything that might have content related to school shootings, black trenchcoats or teen violence. The release of "Fight Club" was postponed. "Killing Mrs. Tingle" was renamed "Teaching Mrs. Tingle."
And FINALS got a brand new splash page.
See, the book originally opened with the same jock and cheerleader strolling along the sunny paths of the Knox State campus. Only, instead of the jock turning into a monster and popping the cutie's head off, as we saw in the published version...
...something else happened. Something less violent (well, sort of), but a little more real. Originally, our two lovebirds were shot from a rooftop sniper in the best University of Texas tradition. The shooter (and here's the joke, dark as it may be) was just another undergrad, working on his senior project.
Naturally, after Columbine, any scenes anywhere of students shooting jocks and cheerleaders (especially played for laughs) were strictly verboten. Soon after the shootings, I got a call from my top-notch editor Joan Hilty asking if I could change the scene. DC's reasoning was that, if that scene started off the book, that tie to Columbine would be all anyone would talk about. It made sense (and, as a first-time writer getting his first-ever break, I didn't feel too comfortable throwing my weight around), so we changed it. I quickly wrote and Jill even more quickly drew the version that was printed, with the monstrous jock and the more outrageous premise. It wasn't the ideal solution, but it seemed like the best one. (The fact that my dad passed away on April 24, right in the middle of all this chaos, didn't make things any easier. But at least he knew his son was going to be a published writer after all. And he did get to read FINALS #1-- the original version.)
So the scene was changed, the issue appeared and little Willy got his comic book debut after all. Simple, eh? Well, not quite. This was around the same time DC got some bad press for destroying copies of the 80 PAGE GIANT that originally contained Kyle Baker's once-notorious "Superbaby in the microwave" story, "Letitia Lerner, Superman's Baby Sitter." (It ran a few years later in the BIZARRO COMICS collection, along with a Green Lantern story by those FINALS cut-ups, Will and Jill.) The fate of the original FINALS opening got some similar press, and a pre-"Lying in the Gutters" Rich Johnston even listed the differences in the two versions. (Scroll down on that site if you want to see them.)
Though the second version worked well, I always preferred the original opening. Throughout FINALS, I was aiming for an over-the-top but down-to-earth tone, and that first splash hit the target perfectly. Er, you know what I mean.
So, at long last, after more than five years and hundreds of words of my blather, here it is, the original FINALS splash page. Script by me, art by Jill. Enjoy!
FINALS was copyright Will Pfeifer and Jill Thompson, and trademark DC Comics. Confusing? You bet!