Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Profiles in Comic Book Courage: Cable

Comic books are filled with peripheral characters. It's the nature of the art. Your characters, A and B, need a crisis in order to use their super powers. Therefore, the writer creates C. C can be any number of things: a villain, a character in need of intervention, even an offspring of A and B who was sent to the future in order to save his life but has now returned with their own agenda. Some of these characters never make it about C status, some never make it out of that issue. This is the profile of one such character, whom, had it not been for some excellent writing and determination might have been relegated to the margins of A and B's biography.

Cable was a character who could have been very easily dismissed. He is the very picture of 90's excess that we associate with the Liefeld era. The man was devoid of personality, had a back story that makes Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure sound plausible, and oh so many pockets. Cable ripped into the pages of the 90's X books wielding a gun the size of a coffee table, a glowing eye, and very loosely explained cybernetic implants. Cable should, by all rights, be appearing in the quarter bin with G.W. Bridge, Gen 13, and Maverick. Why is it then, that Cable has managed to sustain his own book in this far more discerning age of comics (thinks about last line, decides to leave it.)?

The first answer and the most obvious is his ties to the doomed Summers Legacy. Being the son of Cyclops and Jean Grey implants you in the Marvel U like few other things. Cyclops and Jean were often the characters we loved to hate growing up. In a house full of Wolverines and Icemen, they were the adults. Cyclops was the guy that told you not to jump on the couch and Jean was the woman who wasn't your mom but felt entitled to tell you to eat your vegetables. Yet their lasting appeal comes because despite all of their discipline, they are the two characters with the least control over their powers. When the glasses come off, Cyclops is a human hand grenade. The moment Jean really taps into her powers, she runs the risk of becoming a telepathic nuke. How can a guy with those two as parents not be compelling.

The real problem the Marvel U has had with Cable is finding his voice. Cable has infinite potential and infinite discipline. He has a Messiah Complex that tells him he can prevent the future that spawned him. He has his mother's compassion, his father's need for structure, but kept ending up keeping company with the most ludicrous of characters. Cable and Deadpool was fun, but it was always really Deadpool and Cable. So what is the voice of Cable?

Duane Swierczynski has given Cable the voice that makes him worth reading. The Cable of the current series is John Wayne with cybernetic implants, he's a telepathic Shane, he is that blond stranger who helps those in need, despite being just the sort of man that's after them. Swierczynski's Cable is a soldier without a country, dedicated only to the one Hope that can keep the world from being the way he knows it will be. See, the Nathan Summers I know is the one who is willing to give his very last breath to make sure he's never born.

He fights a war without end to prevent a war without end. This is Cable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Call of Duty and the Fate of the Art

So, everybody's talking about Call of Duty now. I knew it would be like this, I just didn't realize it would be...well, like this.

I should start by saying that I haven't played the game, not a big COD fan, honestly not a big military strategy fan. So, I was first alerted to the "disturbing nature" of some of the game's content through a BBC article early on the day of release. Maybe I'm a strange sort of news listener, but what caught my attention wasn't the brief review, it wasn't the overwhelming controversy of content, it wasn't even the sound clip of people being gunned down by terrorists in the game. What caught my attention was the guest they brought in to talk about it. They were presenting a "downside" article so they needed someone to defend the game right? Who would they get? Designer? Director? Head of the Studio? Any member of Infinity Ward would certainly be acceptable. Even and EA rep would be expected?

They went with politician. Not just any politician, an MP. That would be like pulling Jim Jones, representative from Ohio to talk about the game. To me, this is clearly unacceptable.

Say Oliver Stone's new movie is coming out, say it's "Natural Born Killers" in which you are put in the shoes of two serial killers slaughtering their way across the country. Say there's a controversy and someone is taking shots at his movie. Would it be alright to have Rep. David Price (R-North Carolina), go on tv or the radio to defend the movie? I for one, would expect a reputed news program to bring on Oliver Stone, or perhaps the script writer Quentin Tarantino, or perhaps Actor Woody Harrelson to discuss why he took the part. This is the way you treat an art form.

Yet, during this interview, I heard them repeatedly make reference to the fact that video games "weren't just for kids" and "ought to be judged on the same level as film". If that's true, why does the video game community not get a voice in this discussion? Fringe cultures remain fringe as long as they have to continue telling everyone that they're not a fringe culture. See, it doesn't matter how many times newscasters, politicians, or bloggers say that video games are an art form. Until the creators have a voice in the argument about their creation, the conversation is a joke. Just from the tone of the conversation, it was clear that neither the newscaster nor the MP had played the game. I doubt the play video games at all. Who would accept a review by a reviewer who had not read the book or seen the movie they were reviewing?

Of course, next week the articles will be on Assassin's Creed 2. No one will mention the crazy amount of research, detail, and narrative prowess that the Ubisoft gang put into their art. These "newscasters" who report on the next big threat to our children will not have played the game, they will not have done their research, and they will not take the time to profile the creators. Of course, someday, someone will make a movie of the game and it can be openly dismissed as a movie based on a video game. The only solace I take in this is that, being an English major, I know that once upon a time the novel was in this same boat. This art form though, has gone from incomprehensible ping pong games to complex multi-character narrative sandbox games in thirty years. Give it another twenty, people will be making lists of the "Great American Video Games". Who will be our Hemingway, our Fitzgerald, our Harper Lee?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shout Outs

This entry in my semi-irregular blog is going to be devoted to the people who have made getting into the comic book biz a pleasure for me over the last few months. I don't really know how many people read this and how many of those don't already know these people, but here goes:

I'm going to start with a guy I just met this weekend at the Charlotte Comicon but is fresh on my mind, as I've been reading his stuff. His name is Gabriel Dunston and he publishes his own web-comic over at www.pod-comic.com called "Pitt of Despair". It's a journal comic and definitely not as depressing as the name might lead your to believe. Gabe's a really nice guy with a really funny comic and if at all possible I'd love to throw some business his way (not that I really have any to spare).

Of course, I might never have met Gabe if it weren't for the folks at Bitter TEA Studios, Derek and Nikki Davis. We had the great fortune to get the table next to their's at the Baltimore Comic Con and I knew we got good people from the get go. If you like a good webcomic with a regularity which is largely uncharacteristic of webcomics, Derek and Nikki are great.

I was also fortunate enough to meet Troy Hasbrouck of Jester Press in Baltimore. Like Bitter Tea, Jester operates out of the Charlotte area. Troy's operation is more like ours in that he goes the traditional comics route. Jester publishes the "Night" and "Shades of the Night" comics, which feature all the thrills of both the supernatural and crime genres.

Also, a big thank you to Jon and Alan at Ultimate Comics for stepping up and selling our book in their stores. Making a book is a wonderful experience, but once you have it you're left with the question of how to sell it, which is honestly outside my area of expertise. If you're reading this and you haven't picked up a copy from one of their three stores, I command you do so now! They may even be letting us do an event in their store next month, so hurray for that!

Finally, I want to thank all of the people who have so far been good enough to review the first issue of "The Order of Dagonet". It has been a labor of love for Jason and I and don't think for a second that we don't soak up every bit of love that comes back our way. The sites are all listed on the Order of Dagonet press page and I have to say that not one of those sites sucks. I was already reading them before they reviewed my stuff.

I know I said finally before, but it wouldn't be a real shout-out if I didn't include my new brothers: Charlie Harper, Jason Strutz, Franco, and Ethan Wenberg with all of whom the force is strong. Everybody likes to say artists are flaky, but these are guys I can always count on.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Jeremy's Reading Diary

Suddenly I'm on an Aaron McGruder kick. I recently picked up his "Birth of a Nation" which was co-written with Reggie Hudlin and Illustrated by Kyle Baker. I really can't say enough about this book. It's hilarious, it's insightful, and it's angry. How can you not love this? How did I not know about this? I mean, the man who made "The Boondocks" side by side with the man who made "Nat Turner" is a match made in heaven. How much Reggie Hudlin had to do with this I'm not sure. Clearly, he didn't learn much about writing comics from working with McGruder or I'd still be reading "Black Panther" (btw, don't do that to yourself).

So inspired was I by this book, that I ran out and found a collection of the Boondocks comic strips (cause it wasn't always a show folks). I'm just really getting to the meat of it and I've fallen in love all over again. The show is great, but seeing a great strip cartoonist in action is beyond compare. It's like doing a stand up routine without any of the vocal props which make stand up possible. The collection is called "All the Rage", do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Also, I recently read "Asterios Polyp". This book has had so much praise piled on it, I can't begin to imagine what new I could say. Mazzuchelli does things with art which aren't humanly possible. I finished it and immediately wanted to read it again. I DON'T DO THAT! It's awesome sauce with not a cape or ridiculously large breast in sight.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

One More Last Thing

So, once again my blog is my one more last thing before I finally go to bed. Baltimore is coming up this weekend and depending on the availability of wireless networks there I may or may not be posting from there.
So where are we in the grand scheme of things?

All three websites are up and running: you can see them at www.thedreamersdaughter.com, www.orderofdagonet.com and www.firetowerstudios.com

I fear my blogging activity here may be threatened as I begin to more or less run the blogs at these sites. But oh what good times we'll have eh?

Jason and I sold our first two paper copies of Order of Dagonet #1 tonight to friends of the studio (read, friends of us). So we have now recovered $4 of what we spent to make them. It ain't a penthouse yet, but we're living the dream, you know?

Friday, September 25, 2009

What's Wrong With Twilight

So, I've been going on about this for quite some time, I figure it's time to put my thoughts down in a considered media where I can direct those people who want to have this conversation with me yet again, so here goes:

There are many things about Twilight which bother me a great deal. It is not a hard material to find objection to. As a number of people have pointed out, it reads like a vampire story written by someone who had never read a vampire story. A number of the super-, ab-, and para-normal phenomena in the story seem utterly unresearched or retcon-ed. But nothing upsets me so much as the way in which the story objectifies women.

In the story, the central female character (named Bella) is a normal human who falls in something both like and unlike love with a much older vampire (Edward) who happens to still look like he attends high school. Bella finds herself in a world of paranormal night dwelling beasties and inevitably the target of one's lust and another's blood lust.

How does one establish that a character is objectified? One can begin with looking at the actions associated with the character. What does Bella do? Bella falls, Bella runs, Bella is moved from one place to another, Bella is protected, Bella trips, runs into stationary objects, wanders down dark alleyways and Bella desires. Throughout the story, Bella does not act to save herself or to remove herself from harms way. On the contrary, Bella is not only a deer in the headlights, she is a lame deer in the headlights. She is projected as clumsy, awkward, and entirely sexually powerless. She gives herself over willingly to her vampire mate, who is, despite his sinister nature, too strong willed an individual to take advantage of her.

To make matters worse, Bella is our narrator. It's is through Bella's foggy perception that we see the world at large. It would seem that at least THAT would give her some sort of power. Alas, she is dragged as a narrator in the same manner she is as a character. She is self-deprecating and limited.

And this is what girls have to model themselves on? What happened to heroines? Where is Buffy? Where is Ms. Marple? For the love of God, where is Guinevere, a woman who though tragically flawed at least had sexual agency of a sort. Sure, she's not the model you want for your daughter, but at least she had the backbone to take what she wanted.

The likes of Bella follow in the path of current REAL pop icons like Jessica Simpson and Britney Spears. It was only a few years ago when I noticed otherwise intelligent girls becoming brainless hair twirling bean bags in front of guys because that's what was understood to be the way to get a man. Britney exemplified a downward spiral of leaning on relationships with men for a sense of self worth and we all see how that worked out. Is our world becoming such that a woman like Stephanie Meyer can not even imagine a strong and heroic heroine? Or at least a competent one? It's a disturbing thought and one that's getting no less troublesome on the horizon of the next Twilight movie. I hate to be this guy (read: I love to be this guy) but perhaps girls would do better if they were exposed to comic books. As it is, boys are taught that they can be Superman, Captain America, or Barack Obama. Girls are taught they can be Bella, Jessica, or even dress like Michelle Obama.

So, sparkly vampires aside, that's my issue with Twilight. Feel free to comment.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What makes a comic book

So here's a question I've been pondering a lot and it seems like a good time to ponder it. What makes a good comic book or better yet, what can't be told in a comic book format?

The question is an increasingly hard one to answer. We're all quite familiar with the Super Hero book at the wheelhouse for "comics" and "graphic novels". Second to the superheroes is the genre story. Mystery, Sci-Fi, Adventure: these were all part of the comic book form before the "Super Hero book" as we know it today was established. Batman gliding from "Detective Comics", Spider-Man from "Amazing Fantasy", and Superman from "Action Comics". The question is: is there still room for the genre fiction in the modern comic marketplace?

The answer seems to be "Yes, as long as it's character based". Conan, Red Sonya, Zorro, The Lone Ranger, and even Sgt. Rock have all made more or less triumphant returns to the world of comics. Even Stephen King is writing horror/action stuff right into the comic form. Great!

Add to that the so called "graphic lit" you get in Love and Rockets, Strangers In Paradise, and I would even throw in DMZ (which is pretending to be action, but is something far more insidious); and you have a whole new world of illustrated works of fiction.

What then, can we not turn into comics? Is there a special class which should be confined only to text? Marvel seems ready to say no as they have serialized The Illiad, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and (for God's sake) Pride and Prejudice. Is this Marvel trying to be open minded and make comic books for a wider audience or is this Marvel admitting that they don't know how to write books for a non-traditional audience and so attempting to fain "branching out" by just adapting works of fiction that they think that elusive audience already wants? I would have thought Pride and Prejudice in comic form was a joke if I hadn't seen it myself. Does that sell? I haven't seen a copy leave my local store yet.

I could easily get off topic on Marvel's inability to create for a non-traditional audience, but this is a post about what can and can't be a comic. Among other books I've seen and thought, "Never thought I'd see that!" are the amazing Muppet Show books, Cars, the less amazing Models Inc., and (the best) Air.

I guess it's been made clear that anything "can" be a comic book, if the right people want it enough, but how do we do that successfully? For instance, I'm working on a script for a book right now that's a comedy/fantasy that would ideally be for young and early teen girls. But how will they ever find out about it? The temptation is to go the simpler, more traveled, and admittedly still difficult route of just making an illustrated book. I mean, really, what's the difference?

What I'd father do is create a genre, create a niche for the sort of books I think people would like, then help to make that niche visible. I'm a firm believer that girls need heroes (not models, but heroes) just as much as boys do. If the product is good, if the audience is brought to the product, then the product will sell and it that niche will have a chance to widen. Don't believe me? Look at the Buffy comic. A story and a hero that a lot of people (a lot of them female people) loved moved from a show to a comic and the audience magically moved right along with it.

So, what can be a comic? Anything that your create with both word and picture and have the love and courage to make into something. Find your audience or make your audience.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Headline: Writing and Comic Book Writing NOT "same thing"

Now, undoubtedly you've thought this at some point, but I'm here to say there is a difference between writing and comic book writing. However, it may not be what you think.

Now, popular myth has it that comic book writing is a lesser form of writing. To begin with, I'm opposed to the idea of "lesser forms of writing". Try and write a cookbook well, that junk is hard. Anyway, in my experience people who seem to write "normal" things like novels well don't always do so well at comic book writing. For example, let's take Laurel K. Hamilton. She no doubt thought that turning her Anita Blake books into comics would be easy and help her capitalize on the Buffy crowd. Not so, Ms. Hamilton! I made a long desperate attempt to read Anita Blake: Guilty Pleasures, but had to stop after three chapters. I will read almost any comic book, it has to be really bad to make me stop.

There are two crucial elements Ms. Hamilton missed in the transition here: 1)timing and well...for lack of a better term...2)graphic storytelling understanding.

1)Let's start with the easier one to explain: timing. Comic book, graphic novels, and whatever else you like to call the same medium have a unique sense of timing to non-visual fiction. You can't draw everything that happens in a story, so you have to plot the pictures in such a way as to tell the story smoothly, clearly, and at an appropriate pace. Passage of time is an extremely difficult skill to master. My best tips for someone having trouble with this are: A)note light quality for your artist, B) intersperse story, and C)don't be afraid to date.

A)Noting light quality is self explanatory. Let your artist know whether it's morning, afternoon, twilight, or night. You can't just expect them to know. You will get what you put in.

B)Interspersing story may be something that comes naturally to you. Most comics will have more than one thing going on at a time. You can use this to your advantage or detriment. If you keep tabs on all these stories, you can intersperse them. Say that Story A has two characters who are catching up with one another. Assume we've already heard the story that Character A is telling Character B. At this point you can cut to story B where two other guys are robbing a warehouse. When we get back to Story A, the conversation has been had, time has passed, and we can continue with the story.

C)Don't be afraid to date. Your personal life aside, you should never be afraid to make your self a timeline of your story. When it doubt about the flow, this timeline can make a physical appearance in your story. It's okay to tell people things happen on a certain date or at a certain time, as long as your methodology is consistent.

2) Alright, that leaves us with the puzzle that is graphic storytelling. Where a lot of people screw this up is trying to adapt books directly. Even if you like the way something sounds or is written, that doesn't mean it has a place in the comic. In Creative Writing class in college (and most everywhere else) you are hammered with the maxim "show not tell". The idea is that rather than saying someone is happy, you can say that "a smile teased the edge of her lips. He had never seen her smile" or some such. With comics you have to take it a step further to "show not 'show'". What's that you say, that doesn't make any sense, let me explain:

The hardest thing for a writer to do is to put faith in the artist to get their meaning across. Writers are, by nature, solitary. They craft their own work from beginning to end. Comics, however, are a team sport. You have to have a picture of the person smiling just a little and perhaps your caption can say, "He had never seen her smile". The text of the comic should always relate to what's in the picture but should never tell the reader what's in the picture. It is hard to strike the balance, especially when writing from a P.O.V., between storyteller and narrator. The easiest thing for me to do has been to really think in terms of stream of consciousness. Not that you should write everything the character thinks, but that rather than writing "I jumped to avoid the laser" you should instead write "That almost hit me! She's getting better." A great place to see this in action is almost any spidey or Batman comic.

Well, until next time, show by showing not by "showing"!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

An Item of Interest

So, as I have been talking about writing comics, I figured it couldn't hurt to put up an excerpt from the first issue of "The Dreamers' Daughter" which I am working on with Charlie Harper. These will be the first page of our first issue, right now tentatively numbered "0". If you're really feeling adventurous, you can go to Charlie's site where he has posted the first few illustrated pages, and match the two for a full comic reading experience. Now, without further ado:

The Dreamers’ Daughter
Issue 1
Life is Beautiful Part 1 of 5: A Family Divided
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Created by Jeremy and Alicia Whitley

Page 1: (6 panels)

Panel 1: We open inside of a house in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The house is abandoned but clearly not empty. The remnants of a family’s possessions are still here. It looks as if the residents left in a hurry. Everything is covered in a layer of ash. The results don’t look as if the house itself has been on fire, but like ash had taken the place of dust. The windows are soot stained. A voice echoes from somewhere outside, accompanied by the sound of metal clinking against metal.


Clink, clink, clink

Ats right, ease it in just lak dat.

Panel 2: A desk lies abandoned. It too is covered in ash. A newspaper lies open. A partially covered headline reads: “Wildfire Fallout Sweeps Northward”. There are a number of books on the desk concerning race and politics as well as a book titled: “The Last Dreamers”.

Oh, come on, it ain’t dat damn complex.

Panel 3: A teen’s bedroom. Decorated primarily in yellow and black. Style should imitate as closely as possible (without copyright infringement) the styles of the Pittsburgh Steelers or Pirates. The bed is unmade and the room is left in a dirty state. There are clothes strewn about on the floor and bed. The floor is littered with books, papers, and toys.

I say na lak dat, ya dumb gull. Get outta da way, lemme do it.

Panel 4: The living room. The whole room is covered in ash. The couches are covered in plastic.

Good laad gal, ya’d think ya’d neva picked a lock in ya life. It’s ga-damned simple.

Panel 5: The front door, which leads into the living room, is being unlocked.

Do exactly what I tell ya ta fuckin’ do

Panel 6: The door pops open, the voice is coming from just outside the door. The arm of a hairy white man is opening the door.

And voila, the damn door opens itself.

Page 2: (1 panel)

Panel 1: Two figures stand in the doorway looking in. One of the figures is a white man with heavy body hair. He is dressed in a tank top, shorts, boots, and a gas mask. Voice 1 belongs to this figure, Terry Oliver. The second figure is a female who appears to be roughly sixteen years old. This is Lil. She wears a gasmask, a black hoodie, a skirt, and long black boots. Her skirt is worth particular mention as it is a patchwork of several different materials. The materials are collected scrap and contain things such as a piece of blanket, straps of cloth bed linens, and even a large piece of tin. She stands cowed and uncomfortable. The man is exasperated.

Page 3: (2 panels)

Panel 1: The man holds his arm out impatiently, indicating that the girl should enter.

What now, ya wanna damn invitation? What is with you today Lil? Ca’int ya do nothin’ without ma help.


Page 2: Terry looks around the house, as if surveying the ocean from the deck of his ship. Lil is opening a large burlap sack.

Yeah, dis is good. Cain’t believe all dis shit’s been sittin’ here ten years just waitin’ fer someone ta open Pittsburgh back up.

Where do we start?

Page 4: (5 panels)

Panel 1: Terry looks back at Lil.


Panel 2: Lil demonstrates with a sweep of her hand.

Where do we start?

Panel 3: Terry grabs the sides of his gas mask.

Damn it, hold on.

Panel 4: Terry removes his gas mask revealing a balding man in his forties. He looks irritated and uncomfortable. His face is red.

Oh, thank God. I gotta say Lil, of all da shit you come up wit, dese gas masks is da dumbest. It’s ash. It ain’t even in da air. Now what’d ya say?

Panel 5: Lil is still wearing her mask, but her head is hung extra low. She looks as if Terry were physically bullying her.

I was just asking where to start.

I’m startin in the kitchen. You start at the end a dat hallway, far away from me.

Page 5: (5 panels)

Panel 1: Lil pokes her head around the corner into the office.

Won’t be long now fore the Initiative starts hittin’ all the houses in Pittsburgh. Public servants ma ass!

Panel 2: Lil is dumping pens and office supplies into her bag wholesale.

The government tells em to clean up Pittsburgh, make it livable again. I ga-ron-tee ya; they’ll treat the whole damn city like a yard-sale.

Panel 3: Lil unfolds the newspaper. The headline is fully revealed as well as a lower headline that says, “Black American Movement holds rally in North Carolina”.

And dey’ll have da nerve ta call us thieves and gypsies while air own people do it rat unda dair noses.

Panel 4: Lil takes off her gas mask to read the paper.

It’s a damn shame ya’ cain’t trust the government no more. Reagan and Bush never woulda let it get lak is.

Panel 5: We get our first look at Lil’s face as she pours over the newspaper. She is a cute thin sixteen-year-old girl with dark hair, dark eyes, and vaguely Hispanic features. At least, she would be cute if she didn’t look so glum most of the time. She looks happiest when she is reading. She pours closely over the paper.

Ah swear, sometimes a don’t know who’s worse. Da government or da niggers dey’re supposed to be protectin us against.

Page 6: (6 panels)

Panel 1: Lil tosses the paper in the trashcan next to the desk.

Ya even lis’nin girl?

Panel 2: Lil picks up the book, “The Last Dreamers” from the desk.

Yes, dad.

Panel 3: Lil thumbs it open to the title page. It reads: “The Last Dreamers. A novel of hope. By Jonothan Wallace”.

Den speak da hell up, why don ya? It’s important ta know where ya’ come from. Damn niggers chased us right out a’ house and home.

Panel 4: She flips to the next page. There is a dedication. It reads: “For Zuri: The Dreamers’ Daughter”

We’ll get those niggers someday, Dad.

Panel 5: Lil closes the book and rolls her eyes. She’s clearly skeptical of Terry.

Damn raat, we will Lil. Don’t nobody take from Terry Oliver. Especially dat nigger Esau King. If I e’er see dat head nigger…

Panel 6: Lil drops the book into her bag as she exits. On the wall next to the exit is a poster. The poster has a picture of Esau King in multiple tones. His name is displayed across the bottom, with the letters BAM at the beginning. At the top it says: “WAKE UP!” Below that is a family picture of the family that owned the house, they are black and well dressed.

The dreamers’ daughter…

So there that is, the first 6 pages and the introduction to our story. There is more on the way in the near future, so keep an eye turned to both my and Charlie's pages OR join us at the Baltimore Comic Con to get the first look at the finished product.

Till then homies,

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

How to write a comic book

So, I've titled this post overly ambitiously on purpose. Having worked on a couple of projects, this is really just going to be a matter of tips and hints for the ne'er do well who aims to follow.

1) Have a story. There is nothing more paralyzing than getting halfway through a script and realizing that you don't know what comes next. Trust me, I do it all the time and it rarely goes well.

I'm a rebel when it comes to outlines, I hate the little creeps, but some amount of outlining is necessary. Comics, like music and comedy, have an element of dynamic timing. Don't believe me? Go back and look at some of your favorite books and see what the writers and artists do. The big daddy of them all is the flip page reveal:

Character 1 says, "And it'll take hell to stop me". Someone off panel says, "Why don't you try me first." In the next panel, character 1 sees who it is and shouts "You! You were supposed to be dead!" End of page.

This is a time honored tradition both in comics and television. While tv has the option of revealing before or after the break, comics have to make you pull the next page. BOOM! ADD! Or reveal, you know, one of those. Real experts at this are Brian K Vaughn, Brian Michael Bendis, and Joss Whedon.

2) Setting - this is one of the most commonly overlooked pieces to the comic puzzle. So many writers take it for granted. The first thing you should remember is that your artist doesn't have that luxury. More often than not, things happen somewhere. If you don't say where it is, they have to assume. Some big books can get away with this. For example: a ridiculous number of things in Marvel happen in either Times Square or Central Park. Real New York writers and artists feel more genuine. They know where things happen. When Peter Parker has to go from Flat Iron to Soho, they know how long that'll take.

If you're good and careful enough, your setting will reward you by being a character all its own. For an example of this try either DMZ or the classic The Sandman. DMZ takes on the real New York as an urban battleground. Where things are is of the utmost importance. One could argue that in this book Brian Wood's main character isn't fly by the seat of his pants reporter Matty at all, but NYC herself. In the case of Gaiman's "The Sandman" I never cease to be amazed. Gaiman has fashioned a world so complete and full that it becomes an exterior extension of a hopelessly inward looking character.

3) Get to know your artist: Every comic is different, some stories are different, and artists (as a whole) are different. Beyond that, artists are also different from one another. You need to know where your artist's strengths lie. You can't write the same thing for every artist. A lot of layout and panel structure will be up to your artist, but be sure to give them something they can work with. Some artists live for the splash pages. Some live for details. Some just like a challenge. Let's take two great and well known artists: Jim Lee and JH Williams III.

Jim draws in mostly blocky boxes. He does exaggerated figure and heavy crosshatching. Jim is ideal for drawing the dark, the gritty, and the violent. Jim's look dominated comics for a while, but he has nothing on JH for what JH does best.

JH Williams III is currently working on Detective Comics and has a huge amount of buzz around himself and Batwoman. Williams makes beautiful superheroines and painfully normal real people. He is also a master of page composition. You will rarely see just one picture on a page from Williams, even if it is a two page splash. His panels will be strangely shaped, his characters reaching from one panel to the next. While Jim is a master of the image, JH is a master of the page. You may not see as many giant posters with Williams' art on it, but open to any two pages to Detective Comics and you'll feel the electricity.

If all else fails, ask your artist what they want to do. If they read your scripts (assuming they like them) there are bound to be a few things they'll be excited about drawing. Figure out what they need and give it to them. Check out Jeph Loeb's stuff. He has a larger hater base than almost any writer I've seen, but he's still in business because he gets the best artists and lets them do what they do. It is a team sport after all folks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

On the Verge

Alright, finished "Vol 1" of New West, needs to be loved a little bit by the hands that edit, but there is time for that. That, after all, is the book without an artist. Alicia is worried it will offend people...I am too. I sorta hope it will, but not in the punch in the mouth kinda way, more like a solid shove. I've done my best to tell the story from the point of view of a man who knows that he is right in a world full of sides that know they are right. I feel love for it, but I wonder will it ever see light of day.

I haven't written in my Dreamers' Blogs in two weeks. That is unfortunate as they are important to me, but at the moment I feel no drive to do that. My mission now, I feel, needs to be to get the books ready for convention. I want to work up a good package for both books. Right now, I need to figure out where I'm going. I'm feeling a little listless and I need to reel myself in and concentrate on my pieces and stop being befuddled by the big picture.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Writing from the Boys’ Room

So here I am, another week at Open Eye.  We got most of the gang here:  me, Jason, Charlie, Ethan, and Franco.  Here’s the topics of discussion for the day:

We are planning for Baltimore.  In early Oct we will (all) be packing our bags and heading to the City of the Ravens.  There is a nice little con up there with some real comic love.  The current plan is for Dreamers’ Daughter’s first twelve pages to be a go for previews and have all the info to get you back here or to the homepage of the book, which will hopefully be up by then.  Jason’s current plan is to have the whole first issue of Knights of the Realm ready to go.  It’s ambitious, but if anyone can do it, he can.  My hope is to get together a shirt etc to help us promote the table.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Who to print with?  Both Ka-Blam and Comixpress have their strong points.  If we go with a really big run, we’ll probably go with Comix-press. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lost Time, Found

I am like the moon. I am star-drenched. The light shining from those around me is making me glow. I have rarely felt so lucky as I do now. If I write these books anywhere near as well as I know they will be drawn, oh what the future holds.

So here's the status:

Dreamers' Daughter: Still my first among favorites, though I haven't written any of it in weeks. On the other hand, if there is one book a month, I am nearly three years ahead. Of course I'm sure some of those may never see the light of day, but what's so great about daylight anyway? Everything I've written I like for one reason or another. Charlie has finished the sketches for 7, 8, 9, and I'm told 10. There is not yet color and he has decided to redo even the thumbnails for the other pages. I get this weird feeling like, as much as I love DD, it may not be the sort of book I can lead with. It will be something that takes the reader a little trust to invest in and pays off big time. Maybe once I have that elusive thing called a "fan base" they will deliver my daughter crying into the daylight.

Alright then, enough sounding creepy...

Monsters of Rock: I finished all my edits and handed it back over to Jason. Jason has applied all of the edits and now the text of the book is complete in all its wonder. Jason is now beginning the process of laying out for color and final production. All of Monster Town stands firm behind him.

Knights of the Realm: You know how you always have that class at the beginning of the semester that you think, "Meh, it'll do" then about half way through you realize that the classes you were so anxious to take aren't as great as you thought and the "meh" class is actually amazing if you pay attention. Well, Knights of the Realm is that class for me. I wrote the first script with no real plan for the future, thinking simply, this seems too interesting not to write. Turns out, half way through issue two, I couldn't stop laughing at my own jokes. I know that is traditionally a bad sign, so I had other people read it. They two found themselves cracking up. When I had Jason read it he asked to illustrate it, since he had some spare time with monsters being all in the computer stages. I said that would be great two weeks ago and we now have three completely finished pages, at least five more in the sketching phases, and some amazing character designs.

Sarcasmo: Sarcasmo met with the unfortunate accident of falling into a very dark hole full of Garth Ennis like humor and messed up relationships. Normally, I would greet this with open arms. However, this was supposed to be my clean, nearly all ages, good for the soul book. I swear now that Sarcasmo and the rest of his team of Super misfits will return...I'm just not sure in what form.

New West: Now have three complete issues of New West, though the third may need a little editing. According to my length predictions, that puts me more than halfway through the series. I like that idea, though New West has currently taken a back seat to Knights,as Jason is burning up my heels. If he's going to put all this work in, I have to prepare the sort of mess I need for submission. Charlie wants to do New West, but unless he can find his way out from under the colossal maze of DD, it may not happen for a while.

Lost Loves: This idea...there's something there...it may not have the same name when it comes out the other end, but I can feel it shaping itself in my mind. This may be the book that has the potential to really get me in trouble, as I may find myself at the pointed end of a few fingers when I write what I feel.

Para-legals: Still in a holding patter above my head

Thursday, July 16, 2009

One step at a time

Day off, whoo hoo!

So, I'm of course spending it working on writing and such.

Well, I started with reading comics and eating lunch with Alicia, then I moved up to writing. I updated all four of the established Dreamers' Daughter blogs today as well as making my presence felt on both twitter and sidebar. Planning to go see Harry Potter this weekend with Alicia as well as the Strutzs and Fullers. Don't I sound grown up with all my married friends? Oh dear God...

Actually tied for the win in a round of trivia last night, which is better than we've done in a while. To be honest, I knew we'd get it when the title was announced as "Movies involving time travel". Right up my alley.

Anyway, maybe time to do some real work now. Later

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My Babies

Alright, in the last couple days I've updated Bisa, Zuri, and Paula. Starting to feel good about this. Need to get around to Altsoba, but I always feel particularly careful about hers. She does, after all, have a demandingly unique voice.

Did the Monday night circus tonight. Things with Jason on Knights are looking very promising. He's drawing like a madman! I gave back my edited all to hell copy of Monsters of Rock so that he can make the changes to make the book rock at the level it should. Hopefully, and I'll check this with Jason, he'll be up for posting some of the art and or story on the blog at some point. That would make life happy.

I'm actually feeling kinda okay about this whole twitter thing. It's nice to have followers, even if I don't know them. I'm feeling rather like The Monarch at the moment. I wonder how they would feel if I gave them all numbers instead of names. Plus, weird thing about twitter, instead of learning the things I cared to learn about people of interest, I can instead learn the inane and somehow reassuring details of their day to day life...and keep up with friends in an all but completely meaningless sort of way.

I'm hoping aloud that everything is all right with Charlie and family as they are going through kind of a rough spot with his grandma. Hope to see you next Monday buddy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Jason rocks my world

So anyone that hasn’t visited the link to Jason Strutz’s homepage on the right of this blog should go ahead and do it, because the man is awesome.  The artwork on the site itself was enough to pump me up about working with him, but the stuff I’ve seen from our upcoming projects really rock my world.

For those of you that don’t know Jason, he’s a sort of freelance/whatever he happens to want to draw guy with mad skills.  Right now we’re working on two things:

First is Jason’s baby, Monsters of Rock.  Monsters of Rock is a kids book about a group of young monsters who form a rock band to compete in the local Battle of the Bands.  Jason had been kicking around the idea for some time but was having trouble making it what he wanted it to be.  He gave me the script and I put my shoulder to it and pumped out a fun little script (which I am quite proud to say rhymes).  I’ve been watching it come together as Jason sketches it out and I finally got a finished rough pencils draft to take home and make marks on.  The pictures are going to be awesome and I finally made it sound just the way I wanted.

The second project is still its fledgling phases, so I’m nervous to talk too much about it.  Suffice to say, it’s based in the concept of the current knights of England being called to take up their posts and defend the country from threatening magical forces.  Jason got a nice finished and colored version of the first page done and I am psyched.  It’s beyond what I could have hoped for when I wrote it.  I hope we get to keep doing this, cause I really feel like this could be a huge success.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Dance my Puppets

So here it is, this is Jeremy's blogger blog. I have the whole live journal thing already, but since all of my creations are out here hanging about the blogger, it only makes sense to have this here. Maybe I can find a way to link this to my livejournal somehow, but that is a task for later. In the meantime, this is about to get crazy up in here. Peace!