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The Strange Story Behind Cowboys & Aliens

The teaser trailer for Cowboys & Aliens came out this week, which lead many who haven’t been following the production to exclaim:

“Ok, cool, but Cowboys & Aliens?  What, did they throw darts at a board to come up with their movie premise and then forget to change the working title?”

Leading others to respond:

“Or, they based it on the graphic novel of the same name?”

As it turns out, both parties are correct. Cowboys & Aliens only exists because back in the ’90s, Scott Mitchell Rosenberg trademarked the name, and tried to use that name and a prospective comic cover to get movie studios interested in the IP of Cowboys & Aliens, before there was even a book to base the movie on.

Rosenberg is the chairman of Platinum Studios, the comic book company behind Men in Black and Witchblade, just to name two of the more famous projects they’ve had translated to a screen of some kind.  Cowboys & Aliens was trademarked in 1997, Rosenberg got on the cover of Variety, and started shopping the idea of the comic around to studios despite the fact that there was no book written yet, just a cover featuring a cowboy fleeing from an alien craft and a self-explanatory title.

No studios took the bait, and Rosenberg eventually found some people to make an actual book out of it, which was published in 2006.  But here comes the ingenious/evil part of the whole deal, from Bleeding Cool:

He tried to game the system. Giving cheques to the bigger comic book shops of the day, if they would order thousands of the graphic novel in question. The cheques would cover the amount it would cost to order them, plus a bit extra on top. These comic shops complied, sold the already-below-cost 115 page $3.99 graphic novel for 50c, or free with any comic, or just free if you walk in, to help shift the thousands they had, and it worked. They reported the sales, Entertainment Weekly called Cowboys & Aliens the number one graphic novel of the week, and they made a splash.

The gambit paid off, three years later Jon Favreau signed onto the project, and next summer we’re going to get a taste of the whole thing with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford in the starring roles.

The inevitable part of all of this?  Bleeding Cool reports that copies of the original comic C&A, the ones that stores were practically giving away, are going for more than $30 on eBay.

Read the whole thing, including some interesting investigative journalism, at Bleeding Cool.

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