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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mike Wieringo 1963-2007


I realize I'm coming a little late with this, but I wanted to make sure and say something about Mike Wieringo.

I always admired "Ringo"'s work, and when I saw these sample Aquaman pieces he did in conjunction with Mark Waid's pitch for a new Aquaman series, I got so angry and sad. Angry that DC passed on this idea--twice--and then sad knowing now that Mike is gone it will never, ever be, and us AquaFans fans will be denied it,
not to mention all the other wonderful work Mike would've gone on to do.

I'm always searching the web looking to see what writers, artists, and editors I can contact for either an interview or maybe even an Aquaman sketch. Not that many of the people I pursue have their own website, but Mike did, and when I came across it I made a mental note to someday email him to commission a sketch. I would've loved to send him my book and get an original Mike Wieringo sketch of my hero. Seeing the above piece makes me mad at myself for not doing so immediately, it woulda been great, and I would've had the chance to tell him how much I liked his work.

Below is the text from Waid's proposal(which he posted at
Newsarama's tribute to Mike). I know there's lots of variables in the world of comics that we as outsiders don't know about, but considering a lot of the stuff that does get published, I'm at a loss to explain how this idea, from two established talents like Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo, didn't get the immediate green light:
A One-Issue Prestige Format
Mark Waid/Mike Wieringo
Preliminary Pitch/August 3, 2003

I am so sick of people making fun of Aquaman that I'm beginning to take it personally. For the last ten years or so, the way we've been scrambling to combat Aquaman's "Dork of the Sea" image--and I've been guilty of trying this, too--is by making Aquaman increasingly darker, grittier, and tougher, the brooding, angry king beset with trouble. Each incarnation of the character seems grimmer than the last, to the point where all that's left for us to do is give him two hooks. And a peg-leg.

OR--here's ANOTHER thought. Yes, the seas can be turbulent and stormy, but y'know what? Far more often, the ocean is a universal symbol for peace and contentment. It's a calming influence. If it weren't, Bermuda would be deserted and Hawaii would be an industrial trade port. It is most people's "happy place." Yes, the ocean is the set piece for A Perfect Storm, but it's also the world of Finding Nemo and The Little Mermaid. I have never yet met anyone of any age who didn't come away from Sea World envying the guides who swim with the whales and porpoises. I propose we turn this "grim Aquaman" paradigm around for a one-shot and see what happens. "Test the waters," if you will. I know, I slay me. Anyway...

Our POV character in this story is a female marine biologist--and since Aquaman's turf covers the world, there's no need to make her American. (In fact, Russian is preferable--I've been doing a lot of reading about the culture of Russian courtship, and that could really play in nicely.) At any rate, our biologist--let's call her Yelena for now--may have heard the name "Aquaman" here and there, but to her, he's about as real and significant as, say, German football stars are to you and me.

Yelena's work is done with grungy old equipment and spit-and-bailing-wire technology, the best she has to work with. Her whole world has a gritty feel to it--

--so when this bright, blond, shining knight of a man pops out of the water and into her life, she's addled simply by the contrast.

Their paths cross, she's drawn into an adventure, and to Yelena, this "Aquaman" is, yes, mysterious like the sea--but in a warm, enticing way. To Yelena, he is otherworldly, like a fairy tale character come to life. He rarely speaks (though when he does, he's staggeringly charming), he lives in the water, and he smiles. Constantly. In fact, at first, Yelena has a nearly impossible time taking him seriously. He's like a walking cartoon.

And yet...the more she gets to know him, the further she’s drawn out of her world and into his, she'll come to realize that there's something going on behind those wide eyes of his. Looking in them, she sees peace and confidence; looking through them, she's gradually introduced to an underwater world of absolute wonder, a place that is far more colorful and in tune with nature than is her own gritty lifestyle. Once she surrenders to the implausibility of it all, she's rewarded a thousandfold, and so are we. Aquaman’s joy becomes her joy becomes OUR joy.

There will be no mocking. NO jokes about how "dumb" talking to fish is. Anyone with a keyboard can make cynical jokes. That’s easy. What’s harder is reminding you why, when you were a kid, you thought the idea of living underwater or commanding the creatures of the sea WAS cool. We can do that. We can remind you, and Yelena’s awed voice will be there to back us up.

Ah, what might have been...not only did/does Waid get it--what was wrong with DC's then-take on Aquaman as well as how to fix it, but as you can see it would've looked like gangbusters. Rest in Peace, Ringo.


Diabolu Frank said...

I've avoided discussion of Wieringo because I'm not comfortable with his untimely death and I mourn his never having gotten around to that "Shazam!" series I was promised around, oh "Zero Hour?" I still have a retailer's book around here somewhere with a promotional piece of his Captain Marvel inked by Jerry Ordway, which was actually rather oil and water, but still...

I can see why the proposal was rejected, as Waid seems to have mistaken a subplot or narrative device with an actual story. That said, the direction would have been welcome and Ringo's piece is spot-on perfect. I've been heartened to see a gradual shift away from pirate Aquaman since probably Erik Larsen, but especially from Will Pfifer onward. I hope one day DC realizes that their universe is big enough for both grim n' depressin' and more optimistic and fanciful work.

Man, I love that piece. The stories would seem to write themselves just from the Mike's inspiration alone.

Anonymous said...

Great tribute to Ringo, and cool idea for a story by Waid. Thanks, Rob.

Rick L. Phillips said...

I loved the tribute to Wieringo but I don't think in pitching a new series Mr. Waid should have compared it to cartoons when he said the ocean is also home to stories like Finding Nemo and the Little Mermaid. It almost makes it sound like the new series was going to be a cartoon.
Still it makes me wish it had been done. I would have liked to have read it.

rob! said...

while i like Waid's pitch, you'd think the guy wrote KINGDOM COME would get the benefit of the doubt.

and he did, for if you read Waid's comments at the tribute, it was the editor that didnt like Wieringo's work that it got rejected. Waid wanted specifically to do with him, so after trying one more time they just gave up.

this indicates two, no, three, things:
1)Waid and Ringo were a real team

2)Waid is a pretty stand-up guy

3)some editors have their heads in a really damp, dark place

4)(oh)Aquaman can't win!

Anonymous said...

I met Mike Weiringo at one of the first cons I ever atteneded. He was the nicest guy I ever showed my stuff to. He gave me some constructive criticism, but also encouraged me, and told me some things he liked about my stuff. He didn't even have to look at it, But he took the time, and he did.

And I loved his stuff. His Flash, his Robin, his Spidey, his FF. I never got around to Tellos, but I should.

Intersting how his Aquaman has the black boots like the Filmation Arthur.

This pitch sounds more intersting and less convoluted than Sword of Atlantis. I'm sure that series had it's merits, but although I like Busiek and Guice's work very much, it just seemed too strange for Aquaman. Waid and Ringo's back-to-basics approach would have had a broader appela, IMHO.


Dixon said...

This would have been wonderful. Waid and Wieringo were an excellent team and seeing them work their magic on the king of the seas would have been a real treat. It's sad to think of what might have been. Ringo will be missed.

Unknown said...

Wow. I so wish this had happened...