Initially used as a way to get people to sign up for his email distribution list over the Fourth of July weekend, David Lapham, the Eisner Award-winning writer of the comic book series Stray Bullets, has released the complete artwork for a heretofore mythical, unpublished comic book. The artwork was created by none other than legendary artist Bill Sienkiewicz, and it was created for Detective Comics’ Issue #801, to be published in December 2004. According to Lapham, it’s the “first issue of what was supposed to be our collaboration of an arc of stories titled City of Crime. The art for the first issue was completed but never published. We came across a set of low-res photocopies of the pages while going through some boxes.”
Sienkiewicz started the run, completing the first issue, but was unable to continue due to other commitments or a similar reason, and DC Comics continued instead with other artists, Ramón F. Bachs (Batman: The 12-Cent Adventure) and Nathan Massengill (Detective Comics), who drew the entire 12-issue run of Lapham’s story. The reason we haven’t seen a published version in the intervening years? Lapham answered on Twitter, “The originals were sold and all digital copies are gone.” Lapham said the images he posted, all that is left unless someone shows up with the originals (believed to have been sold off years ago), have too low of a resolution for printing.
Other comic book creators voiced their kudos for Sienkiewicz’s artwork via twitter. Phil Hester added his title for the issue: Batman: Heartbreaker. Mike Oeming added his, “holy wow!” And Alex Segura said, “oh man this is beautiful… Now I’m just dreaming of what the entire run would’ve looked like!”
The online images include all 22 pages plus two additional splash pages.
Now that it’s available, it still could be re-inked (to overcome the pixelation) and colored, and since the story was actually carried forward in the published Issue #801, lettered, so there is no stopping fans or even professionals from re-creating Sienkiewicz’s book–simply as an homage so his fans get to see what the final may have looked like.
Download and admire the striking, alternate, unpublished DC Comics Detective Comics, Issue #801 here now, posted by David Lapham, while it’s still available.