On May 9, Gene Simmons (KISS) wrote in his blog about his attempts at SABLE, both for film and television. I know Gene to be a longtime fan and supporter of my comic JON SABLE, FREELANCE and it’s true that he was almost singlehandedly responsible for bringing SABLE to television and did, indeed, optioned the rights for a movie that never got made. However, his blog entry contains a few errors that I’d like to correct.
Gene’s blog states in part:
“May 9, 2013 — Quite a few years ago, I optioned the rights to comic book JOHN SABLE Created by Mike Grell.
He then set up at intermedia, a movie production studio. And then I got PREDATOR Writer, Stephen DeSouza to write the script. We were approaching Pierce Brosnan to be the lead.
And then intermedia went out of business.
I never lost hope, and then John Sable was set up as a television series on ABC.”
Read full post here
For starters, it’s JON-–no “H”–not JOHN.
As for the TV series and movie, after all these years memory plays odd tricks (don’t ask me what I had for breakfast), but the TV series came first by more than a decade. SABLE ran on ABC during the 1987-1988 season, but only for six episodes. The reason it failed, despite the efforts of some very talented people behind the cameras and a great cast that included Renee Russo in her debut performance as Eden Kendall, is because they got it all wrong.
I created SABLE to be the reverse of BATMAN and every other comic book hero (by day the mild mannered whatever, by night the dark avenger complete with secret identity and goofy sidekick). SABLE is Mr. Blood & Guts 24/7; his only deep, dark secret is that he’s a closet nice guy who writes children’s books about a troop of leprechauns living in a fairy mound in Central Park, and the only time he wears a disguise is for public appearances and autograph shows in order to prevent his hairy-knuckled chums from learning that he has a gentle side. When the series aired I discovered they had reversed my reverse, thereby making the show exactly like every other comic book character. I didn’t see the pilot until it was already completed and, when I did, I told producer Dick Rosetti there was a big problem. To make matters worse, despite ranking #1 with test audiences in the 18-35 year old male market, ABC ran the show at 8PM on Saturday night when our whole demographic was anywhere but in front of a TV set. The sponsors bailed. We started out selling Coors beer and Dodge trucks and ended up selling Calgon and Ritz crackers.
The series was cancelled shortly after the second episode aired, but the contract called for six episodes to be made. Rosetti had hopes for a mid-season resurrection. He phoned to say I was right and they were wrong and that, after episode three, they hoped to revamp the series the way I had originally written it. Too little, too late.
In 1999, I wrote both a novel and a screenplay for SABLE, determined to see my own vision of the character realized. I had just received the publishing contract when Gene Simmons phoned to enquire about the movie rights. The movie was optioned by PACIFICA/INTERMEDIA in 2000 and prepped for production in 2001. That year, a SAG strike was looming and any film that was to see production would have to be started by March 15–-The Ides Of March—in order to ensure that the actors would be available for post production, looping and ADR. At that point, the studio felt the script needed a bit of fine-tuning and, rather than rush into production, decided to postpone the shoot until October. Unfortunately, on 9/11/2001 the Twin Towers came down and, in the aftermath, foreign funding for the movie evaporated. When the option expired it was never renewed and the movie rights reverted to me.
I’ve since rewritten my screenplay and fine-tuned it to the point where it’s once again getting some action in Hollywood – I have a producer and a fine actor interested. Hope springs eternal and I’ve never given up on my dream of seeing SABLE on the big screen, even though Grandma always said, “Spit in one hand and wish in the other and see which one fills up the fastest.”
After Gene’s blog entry, which ended with the line: “I will revisit this project and see if we can give it a new lease on life”, his remarks were picked up by www.contractmusic.com and commented on under the headline: GENE SIMMONS WANTS TO BRING FLOP COMIC JON SABLE BACK TO SCREENS
“Flop Comic?” Them’s fightin’ words. Gene Simmons would hardly have wasted his time and energy on a flop.
While the TV series certainly flopped and the attempt at a film failed because of an act of terrorism, the comic JON SABLE, FREELANCE was anything but a flop and, in fact, was a top seller over my entire run as creator/writer/artist. I only left the series because the publisher was not paying me the royalties I was owed and I was tired of having to fight for every cent. At that time, I was offered the chance to revamp GREEN ARROW at DC Comics and I took it and moved on, knowing that attempts to continue SABLE without me would fail triggering a reversion of rights. Eventually, publication was suspended and all rights reverted to me.
SABLE has been resumed in recent graphic novels “BLOODTRAIL” and “ASHES OF EDEN” from ComicMix and IDW, with a new graphic novel “‘RULES OF THE HUNT” in development along with a second prose novel “FREELANCE”. Far from a flop, SABLE has been a very successful comic with a continuing audience for over thirty years.