Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Titles

A recent Panel & Pixel discussion about titles prompted this winding reverie:

My biggest titular nightmare (did he say big titulars?) came with Battle Hymn for Image. I had pitched the book as Anthem, and that was the working title right up until we started mentioning it in interviews.

Then Roy Thomas contacted Image to note that he had a World War II book called Anthem that he was either publishing or prepping to be published in...Spain, I think. Now, there was probably no legal reason to change the title, but Roy did say he wanted to bring his Anthem to the States eventually, and wasn't happy about this, especially since he claimed to have mentioned it to Jim Valentino some time before. The implication was that Jim had handed us the title. But I honestly don't think Jim had any recollection of Roy mentioning the title to him, and, in any event, didn't have anything to do with us using it. That wasn't going to make Roy happy.

So after talking it over with Eric Stephenson, we agreed to change the title. And for whatever reason, it took me weeks to come up with anything. I just could not formulate a decent idea. I'd never been blocked on a title like that before, and it was driving me crazy. You start to feel like maybe you'll never have a good thought again (when, usually, it's the stubborn, illogical belief that I can figure anything out that carries me through the day). It was rolling through random patriotic anthems that eventually led me around to Battle Hymn, which I wasn't initially crazy about, but which a few people (Stephenson among them) liked better than Anthem. So that's what we went with.

A few months down the road I ran into Roy Thomas in Toronto, and talked the whole thing over with him. Mainly I didn't want him to be pissed off about it (which I'd heard he had been). He was very nice in conversation, but I still don't think he believed we'd come up with the title independently. At one point he shook his head and said, "Sure, sure, but if you don't mind--where in the world did the inspiration come from for 'Anthem'?" I did my best to explain what my thinking was, which, you know, I'm assuming was the same thinking as his.

Anyway, the book is now called Battle Hymn and you can order it at Amazon.

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