Planetary #1 came out on February 3rd, 1999. Britney Spears was still a chipper seventeen year old whose debut song “Hit Me Baby One More Time” was on top of the Billboard charts. New shows like Family Guy and The Sopranos had debuted days earlier on television. Nobody knew what The Matrix was and people were still optimistic about Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Sales of Zip Discs were peaking, and no one had an iPod, an Xbox, or a TiVo. Major studios like Paramount, Fox and Dreamworks were still resisting the DVD format, throwing their lot in with DIVX.
And if you went into a comic shop on the day Planetary #1 was released, it was also a different world. DC and Marvel released a combined twenty-six comics that day; Marvel alone is shipping twenty-seven books today, with DC adding another eighteen. Each company put out a single trade on February 3rd (The Invisibles: Counting to None and a Spider-Girl collection, respectively), and there were no variant covers. The manga boom hadn’t hit — Tokyopop was still going by MIXX — and Spawn, Battle Chasers, and Danger Girl were all Top Ten books.
Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, Geoff Johns, and Greg Rucka were all newcomers to mainstream comics with a smattering of “Big Two” credits between them. Mark Millar was best known in America as Grant Morrison’s writing partner. No one had heard of Bill Jemas or Dan Didio, and when people thought of “comic book movies” Batman & Robin or Spawn came to mind.
It was to this world that Planetary was released, and it’s no wonder it seemed like such a breath of fresh air. It’s been 3900 days since the series began, and today it ends, a complete work in a different world. Its delays are legendary, and the purpose of these posts is not to mock its lateness, or cast aspersions or blame on Warren Ellis, John Cassaday, or anyone else involved with the series. I just think all of this stuff is fascinating.
Cassaday is an artist whose two major works have been plagued by delays, Astonishing X-Men to a lesser extent than Planetary, though that book was still known for its tardiness. But if you look at his output over the last decade, you’ll see he’s maintained a better-than-bimonthly schedule:
Using Planetary issues 1 and 27 as endpoints, this means Cassaday produced 1666 pages over the course of 3900 days.
1666 pages = 75.76 full twenty-two page comics.
3900 days = 10.7 years
So John Cassaday produced essentially seven comics’ worth of material each year during the duration of Planetary. This is slow in comparison to the likes of workhorses like Mark Bagley or John Romita Jr., but a perfectly respectable pace for a modern comic book artist, particularly since there were issues with scripts for the two projects that comprised the bulk of his work in this period.
More Nate Silvery overanalysis later, but for now, two takeaways:
1) Planetary took forever to come out.
2) John Cassaday is not a particularly slow artist.