Terrific Production is new publisher Fall 2019. We are staffed by former senior comic book professionals and we are looking for professional artists from film, animation, gaming, video-gaming to break into comic book work. You must have the drive, creativity and passion. We will also review serious non-professionals as our contribution to the Comic-con to help the next generation of artists. Those with the right stuff will be able to receive paid work assignments with Terrific. We are also offering opportunities for trainees that want a chance to help Terrific become a premiere independent publisher.
The company, owned by Andrew Rev, claimed to be the "America's fastest growing comics publisher." It hadn't actually published anything — nor had it announced any specific publication plans — but it did own the rights to Youngblood, a very 90s Rob Liefeld creation that was also the first comic ever published by Image (and arguably kicked off the 90s comic speculator market boom).
That was at least enough to spark my curiosity. I am a comic book fan; and I have written a few comics, and would like to write more. So I followed Terrific Productions on Twitter, mostly out of morbid curiosity. This didn't pass the smell test to begin with, even if it was technically true that they had somehow wrangled the rights to a once-valuable comic book property, so there was some kind of business or legal entity in place.
Their Twitter feed didn't help they seem any more legitimate. It was mostly used as a hype machine with idiosyncratic grammar and lengthy threads that sound like hollow sales pitches. In a way, it was fitting with the 90s speculator comic boom — they tweeted like a 13-year-old boy smashing action figures together and calling it a story.
But at some point, however, I guess I interacted with them, and they DM'd me to talk about work. Here's a piece of our conversation. You can tell I was skeptical from the start — but my writer brain is always morbidly curious about any weird interactions, especially when it promises fortunes and glory in exchange for re-telling a Rob Liefeld story from the 90s that wasn't even good in the first place:
I'd seen this kind of shit before. It's a ruse I'd figured out after the nth time some similarly sketchy dude reached out to my shitty high school punk band, using similarly shitty grammar and questionable sales practices in exchange for just a little free promo. So I re-accepted that my 10-year-old dreams of re-writing a Rob Liefeld comic were still out of reach, and promptly forgot about this entire conversation.
Then a few months back, Beth Elderkin at io9 published a huge, comprehensive expose on Andrew Rev of Terrific Productions (which I only just got around to reading). And it is absolutely wild. It turns out, some people did take him up on offers after interactions like the one I had. He wasn't kidding about the NDAs, either. Apparently Rev is a guy with a long history of these kinds of scams — since at least the 90s, when he bought Comico, which published popular independent series like Bill Willingham's The Elementals and Matt Wagner's Grendel. The company had fallen into bankruptcy, and Rev — having no other comics experience — swooped in to save it. Kind of. As io9 reported:
[Note: Many of Rev's responses, conducted over email, contained spelling and grammatical errors. We've chosen to present them as-is.]
"I was I'll equipped to take on the revival of Comico- I had no staff. Imagine how I felt having paid their salary and then they treated me as a sucker!" Rev wrote. "With only love of comics and an A in art appreciation in college I went ahead to figure out without youtube or Wikipedia how comics were made. My original goal before I arrived was for us to be passive investors with 1/3 rd of Comico. But the president after he saw he had no obligation personally for his staff salary went and handed me the keys and said he was 'going fishing' this is how my book on the comic industry will Possibly start." io9 was unable to contact the former owners of Comico for comment.
Reports on the sale from the Comics Journal described Rev as a Chicago businessman and native of Hungary who worked in the direct mail business and had done consulting for Citibank. A 2017 court case involving his ex-wife's property showed he also tried to start a software business in Vietnam around a decade prior but that he made no money from it. Otherwise, Rev is an enigma. He's believed to be 68 years old and living in California, has a small digital footprint, and his life between Comico and Terrific Production is largely unknown. Rev refused to provide or confirm with io9 any details on himself and noted that he expects "nothing personal in this article."
That's a helluva paragraph, right? The story only gets more bonkers from there, especially as Elderkin interviews artists and writers who did agree to work with Terrific Productions, despite the glaring red flags presented by some contractual clauses:
Terrific Production would hold onto half of their page rates until either 90% of people in the United States and Canada were vaccinated against the coronavirus, or 2,500 comic book shops in those countries were fully open again.
In addition to the covid-19 clause, Casas' new contract included stipulations that put it a few steps short of an exclusive contract. Casas confirmed it banned him from accepting new work from other publishers so long as payments from Terrific Production weren't over 45 days late, and he would have a three-year ban on working for any companies creating similar characters to ones he'd made for Terrific Production. While that might not apply to Casas, since he was making Supreme, Terrific Production has been working on a public domain version of Thor and is currently soliciting new artists for it. It's unclear what the comic entails, but inker Matthew Seaborne said his involved a love triangle between Thor, Hercules, and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
It's a lengthy article, but it is certainly a morbidly fascinating one, winding through weird financial deals and legal holding tricks like one of those magic cup tricks that people in movies play in parks. There is also, naturally, some weird X-rated comic turns, and lots of contractual IP fuckery to behold. It's something.
Comics, Contracts, and Covid: Inside the Scandal at Terrific Production [Beth Elderkin / io9]