Boxed Into A Corner: Hellcat, Englehart, Breyfogle & Brevoort

I found this entry in Tom Brevoort's blog an interesting one, dealing as it did with the trouble Hellcat mini-series. On the surface of things the mini-series should have been a gangbuster - it was written by the legendary Steve Englehart, drawn by Norm Breyfogle and coloured by Tom Smith. None of that trio are newcomers to the scene by any stretch of the imagination. Englehart has forged a long and illustrious career in comic books, stretching back to the 1970s where he had stellar (and in some cases defining) runs on the like of The Avengers at Marvel and Batman at DC (the latter with Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin - one of the best comic book runs around if you ask me). Breyfogle is considered to be one of the best Batman artists of the last twenty five years or so and has worked on virtually every major character at DC and quite a few at Marvel. Tom Smith is George Perez's colourist of choice and was hot from his run on the Avengers (over Perez) and was about to begin colouring the legendary Avengers/JLA cross over. Five star team, so what went wrong?

In an interview done with Silver Bullet comics Norm was asked about the status of a proposed follow-up series.
Offenberger: Marvel approached you to do a Hellcat miniseries. It was well written with really strong artwork, why was there no follow up with another miniseries or an on going series?
Breyfogle: That's a mystery to me and to Steve Englehart, the writer of Hellcat. Ask Marvel.

People did ask Marvel. No answer. I asked Norm myself about he and Englehart working at Marvel again and got this response, "Oh I tried, we tried. After Hellcat we tried to interest Marvel in other ideas and they said, 'No'." Emphatic. We theorized as to who was at fault, and still came up blank. According to Norm he never got a proper answer as to why Marvel ceased to want his services, so I expect that he tracked it back to this title, after all you're only as good as your last job. But then that doesn't make much sense, as Norm wrote himself, "It’s the only series I’ve done for Marvel, the only series I’ve done that was written by Steve Englehart, the second series I’ve done that featured a female lead, and I consider it some of my best work to date. I'd hoped at the time that it marked the beginning of a fruitful relationship with Marvel, and I was immensely disappointed that it didn’t." All of these questions remained unanswered until Brevoort posted his blog.

In his blog entry Brevoort lays the blame for the mini-series 'failure' at his own feet for not overseeing Englehart strongly enough. He makes the concession that as Englehart virtually created the character of Hellcat he might have a rough idea as to how it should be written. Brevoort also takes credit for the costume redesign. This has now prompted Norm to post a reply to the blog, part of which asks the question, "I have one question: if there was no reason to dislike my art (and I consider my art on that mini-series to be one of my better efforts), why hasn't Marvel shown any interest in hiring me since? I've approached them many times since Hellcat and they've always turned me down."

Good question. Finally it's been out out there, in public, on a high profile editors blog - why is Marvel (and DC for that matter) reluctant to hire Norm Breyfogle despite the groundswell of support for his return to titles such as Batman? People have raised petitions and submitted them to a deafening silence. People have asked senior editors at conventions. No answer. Still Brevoort can't say he didn't see or hear this one. And don't think I'm bashing Brevoort, I actually like the guy.

I await the answer but I doubt that we'll get one.


The Stooges said…
How could Marvel judge Norm's success on a "B" character like Hellcat? If this was a Wolverine or Spider-Man series and it flopped, I'd understand if he was blacklisted. But Hellcat? I am a huge Norm Breyfogle fan, and even I never read this series. Who cares about Hellcat?
Marvel should wake up and give Norm a chance at a mainstream character. It doesn't have to be the X-Men or Spiderman. What about Daredevil, or Iron Man or Silver Surfer. Something a little more substantial. Give him a six issue run and watch sales BOOM! I know I'd be reserving my copy immediately.
Marvel's loss is First Salvo's gain. Watch out for the Danger's Dozen!!!

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