Celebrated Iron Man Writer Bob Layton Shares Plans for a George Romero/Marvel Collaboration in the '80s

Earlier this year, horror legend George A. Romero continued the world of his iconic film Night of [...]

Earlier this year, horror legend George A. Romero continued the world of his iconic film Night of the Living Dead in a Marvel Comics series -- Empire of the Dead -- that imagined what his zombie-plagued world would look like if vampires were to decide they'd had just about enough of the walking dead chowing down on their food supply and start a war between undead factions.

The story was pretty well-received, and of course drove a lot of new readers to comics since somebody of Romero's caliber comes with his own built-in fan base. It was also the first Big Two work he'd done in a decade -- preceded only by 2004's Toe Tags for DC -- and the first set in the world of his film.

Apparently, though, there was a previous project that Romero almost did at Marvel and...well, it looks like it would have been one of the only times he got into comics for a non-zombie story (he also worked on Land of the Dead for IDW and a single story in the famed Heavy Metal anthology series.

Copperhead -- also the name of a DC Comics villain -- was a cyborg sheriff in a near-future version of Philadelphia, according to the action movie blog The Action Elite. The comic would have been a play at eventually making a movie, with Romero pitching Marvel on a 48-page comic story by writer/inker Layton and penciller Jackson "Butch" Guice that would help to prop up a treatment he'd written to turn Copperhead into a movie. While this piece of promotional art makes it look as though Copperhead the comic didn't carry a story credit for then-Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, he reportedly had one on the movie after agreeing to develop the property in Hollywood and in print.

The project apparently stalled after the financial failure of Romero's Day of the Dead, which was sabotaged after having budget problems throughout production. What had been referred to as "Romero's Star Wars" would turn out to be just another project that never got off the ground.

Without a movie to prop it up, or a generation of filmmakers on big and small screens aping Romero's success as would happen years later, apparently Marvel also felt the comic was too big a risk and put the project in mothballs.

You can check out a full-page ad from Variety at right and a number of pages of Guice and Layton's art for the project below.