The Fastest Man Alive

The Flash is my favorite DC comic book character. If I had the chance to write a DC comic (aka The Dream) it would either be the Flash or Firestorm (more on him another time). So when they announced the new Flash tv show what do you think my reaction to it was going to be? Excitement? Marking it down on the calendar… making sure I took the day off?

No. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all.

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Let me clarify that for some of the non-comic people out there with a little history lesson. There have really been 3 people to wear the Flash costume for any length of time (yes, comic book people, I am aware there have been more than 3 – but I’m just going to talk about the Big 3, ok?).

Jay Garrett – Jay was the first Flash way back in the 1940s. I’ll admit that most of my knowledge about Jay is entirely based on comics written in the 90s and the 00s (my collection only goes back so far). What I will say is that in the later years Jay has been treated as both the elder spokesman for the entire Flash family as well as held a leadership role in the Justice Society of America.

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Plus his costume is kinda awesome.

Barry Allen – This is the one you’d most likely be familiar with if you read comics pre-1986 or watched the live-action show in the early 90s. Barry Allen. And this is the man the new TV show will be focused on.

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This is where I have a little blasphemy.

I gotta say, Barry is boring to me. In the comics he’s the CSI scientist who is a bit bumbling and wears bow-ties and is always late to everything (get it – he’s late, but yet he’s the fastest man alive – ugh). I always thought that the best thing that Barry ever did was give his life for the universe (see Crisis on Infinite Earths for more on that story – in fact, if you haven’t read that one then you should do so immediately. It has everything a superhero story is supposed to have – high stakes, heavy losses on both sides, and it changed the way comic events were looked at). A character who seemed to accomplish more by being dead than being alive. He could be something that all other strove to emulate. He could be this thing that showed the true merit of a hero.

There is one good thing about Barry – his villains. Behind Spider-Man and Batman, I think that the Flash has the best villains. Mirror Master, Captain Cold, Heatwave, Weather Wizard, Professor Zoom, Abrakadabra, Gorilla Grodd… and all of those come straight from Barry’s run as the Flash.

Wally West – This is my Flash. You may know this version of the Flash from the Justice League cartoon.

When I started reading comics – this was the current Flash. And as I read I began to understand where this character came from. DC has built itself over the years by being a company all about legacies. Those ties from the 30s and 40s which stretch to the 50s and 60s and then end up in the 80s and 90s.

3 generations of heroes.

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But it was in Wally West that this idea was really fulfilled. Years before Dick Grayson (Robin) would become Batman (after Bane broke his back), Wally shed the Kid Flash costume and adopted his uncle’s. But it wasn’t a comfortable change. For years he struggled with the idea of living up to the legacy of a man who sacrificed himself for the entire universe.

Wally wasn’t as fast, wasn’t as smart, and maybe he wasn’t supposed to be anything more than Kid Flash.

He just wasn’t Barry.

Until a writer named Mark Waid took over the book and saw in Wally something more than his uncle Barry. Yes, he lived in the shadow of greatness, but that did not preclude him from being great. Maybe he could be better than any other speedster had ever dared. He just needed a little push.

He became The Flash.

So maybe you can understand why I wasn’t over the moon about the Flash tv show. It wasn’t going to be “my” Flash (which I knew it couldn’t be, but still). And I like the fact that Arrow is pretty grounded – this was going to throw it all out of whack. I made up my mind to begrudgingly watch it, but it would be under protest.

Then I saw the first teaser… hmm…

The I saw a trailer for it… uhm, that looks pretty good…

And now that the moment is almost here… well, I might be getting excited about it.

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Bonus – My Top Flash storylines:

terminal velocity

Terminal Velocity (The Flash #96-100, vol. 2) – Wally West realizes that he is going to die very soon, consumed by the very energy he uses to achieve great speeds. So he does the only thing that he can, he passes his legacy onto a new Flash… all the while trying to stop a madman from blowing up his city.

Terminal Velocity was the comic that brought me back to the Flash after having stopped picking it up for about a year. It was also the comic that made Wally West my Flash. The beats in each issue builds to the point where you’re legitimately not sure how things are going to turn out.

race against time

Race Against Time *The Flash #112-118, vol. 2) – Wally is caught in the timestream, his memory swiss cheese… the only thing he has that can keep him from disappearing into the Speed Force is his love, Linda.

Of course, this trip through time leaves a different sort of Flash back in the now. And he and Linda seem to be getting a bit close…

Time travel and the Flash go hand in hand. Two of his villains are from the future. He has a treadmill that can let him travel through time (don’t ask). But mostly I love this story because of one moment where Wally’s world comes flying apart. I remember having my friends wait for me to finish reading the issue so that we could all share in the WTF moment.

flash 76

The Return of Barry Allen (The Flash #74-79, vol. 2) – What happens when the man whose legacy you are trying to uphold returns from the dead? And what happens when you realize that he is not happy that the world has moved on to a new Flash.

Somehow this was the first Flash storyline I ever read. I barely knew who everyone was, but I devoured these comics. And maybe it was the fact that I didn’t know everyone and ever moment of history in the book, but I did not see the ending coming.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week fourof its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

TV Casualty – Please Don’t Feed My Television Screen

This is how it goes come September. Our DVR is relatively clear. Sure, perhaps there is that one lingering show from last year we just haven’t quite gotten around to watching… but otherwise we start fresh.

That lasts for all of about 2 weeks.

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We scan through the new shows, looking through Entertainment or online or even TV Guide flagging those shows which catch our eye and ensuring there are no conflicts with any existing shows. Slowly that DVR fills up. Shows become endangered species as the capacity approaches. 5% left and now the easy decisions get made:

We were never going to watch X show… let’s just delete it. That buys us, what? 3 days?

My wife sees the numbers of episodes click ever upward. Her palms begin to sweat. She’d rather not bother with the show if the number gets too high (Heaven help you if she finds out that pilot is 2 hours – she might go screaming from the house). So now I become a Vaudevillian performer with my spinning plates, ensuring that everything survives as long as it can (or until we make a decision about locking it in for the rest of the year.

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Maybe this is beginning to change though. We’ve certainly joined into the binge watching affairs during this last year. 2 seasons of Orange is the New Black, all of Breaking Bad, and even the new run of 24. And each one of those had a number beside them that was at least 12 long, and in some cases many, many more than that.

And then last year, even though Sleepy Hollow looked right in my wheelhouse – I waited. I recorded the episodes, but didn’t watch them. Had I not been burned time and time again by these shows? And this one looked like the type that begged to be cancelled 4 episodes in. Plus it was on FOX, so there was little doubt.

Imagine my surprise when they were picked up for a full season well before Christmas. Somehow a genre program which walks that line between goofy and serious has turned into the little show that could.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to judge this year’s newcomers?

We may still be in the Golden Age of TV… I don’t know for sure. I do know that for superhero “stuff” on TV, this next year is above and beyond anything we’ve ever experienced before. It’s an all you can eat buffet.

I just wanted to look at the comic shows debuting this Fall:

Gotham – If you haven’t listened to Kevin Smith’s “Fatman on Batman” Podcast, you are missing out. He typically does these epic 2 + hour conversations with the various creators, voice actors, animators, etc. who have worked on something Batman related. But it was one of his conversations with Paul Dini where they discussed a potential Batman show done where he was much younger than anything we’d ever seen before. How you could focus on Gordon when he was a much younger man trying to make his way in the world. How you could slowly introduce many of his villains.

The tangent probably lasted 20 or 30 minutes, but I was in. Gotham seems like it sprang directly from that talk (though it was developed entirely separate). But, yeah, I’m in on that one.

Flash – I actually have a blog post coming up in a couple of weeks about the Flash. Sufficed to say I will be watching it.

Constantine – I think I have about 6 comics with Constantine in them. I never have read Hellblazer (it is on my list). I didn’t see the Keanu Reeves movie from a few years back (though that might be a blessing). Assuming I do check this one out, I’m pretty much going into it blind. I know there will be demons and magic and that’s about it.

I check this one out, but I need to be wowed quickly.

Agent Carter – I wonder if this concept has enough “juice”. I like the general idea of exploring the early days of SHIELD and the Marvel Universe, but I worry that once the gimmick runs its course, the show won’t have much more to stand on. There is definitely some opportunities for them to universe build, but it could easily turn into the show winking at the audience every week with some random comic easter egg (which Agents of SHIELD did a few times to mixed results).

The other worry is that it took SHIELD half a season to get to where they should have started. Now, don’t get me wrong, by the end of the season it was running on all cylinders, but if Carter fails to get out of the gate in the same way, I wonder if the leash will be quite so long?

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3 from DC and one more from the Marvel movie universe. My best guess is that Gotham and Flash survive, Constantine doesn’t finish the season. Agent Carter gets 1 full season and then it is done (and maybe they end up saying that was the idea all along).

But aside from these, what shows should I be checking out (no guarantee they get added, but I know I’m going to miss a few somewhere in there).

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

Dragon Con Memories

We’re days away from another year of Dragon Con. As you may or may not know, I’ll be at the Terminus Media panel on Saturday night at 8pm. I’m not 100% on what we’ll be discussing, but it should be a fun time to mix it up and talk with some of the local independent comic people around Atlanta.

Dragon Con 2014

Dragon Con is this weird thing for me because it has always been there. I believe the very first time I went I was 15 or 16 and Chad’s dad dropped us off and then picked us up some time later. It is where I first realized that there were these comic book conventions, and where I got my very first comic autographed (issue 300 of Amazing Spider-Man by Todd McFarlane). We were only there for a few hours, but my mind was blown, and I resolved to come back again the following year.

ASM-300

Of course that promise was blown away the very next year when family commitments meant I couldn’t attend and ended up missing a DnD session run by Tracy Hickman (of Dragonlance fame). For the weeks afterward my friends all made sure to let me know what I missed out on.

A year later the Magic the Gathering frenzy had taken over. You had to wake up early, stand in line for some crazy amount of time, and if you were lucky you would get 1 pack of Legends. Now I know that must sound crazy to think that the current set could not be bought at any random comic store, but it was the world we were living in.

The years went by and most of the time I tried to ensure I’d go at least two of the three days. And then when it became a four-day con, I pretty much stuck to  the two days anyway. At the time it felt like they were expanding just to do it… I mean, I could see 90% of what I wanted in 2 days, why bother with 3.

But then a curious thing happened… friends began to move away or maybe they lost interest into going. And soon that group of 10 or so that made it where no matter what panel you wanted to go see or what deal was going on in the Dealer’s room – you’d know about it and have someone to share in the experience. I don’t know about you, but doing things by myself means there is no one to nudge when you see that “cool thing”.

And not long after that, I was the only one going to con… and it became strictly a 1 day thing for me.

I carried the flag for those “dark” years for my group of friends. Sure, I might see a couple of people I knew, but that old core group was nowhere to be found… and it lessened things a bit.

Then came Firefly and Serenity.

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For most of this time my wife avoided Dragon Con. It was something I think that amused her from a distance. That “thing” John did around Labor Day. Every year I’d ask and nudge and hint that I thought she’d have a great time if she just did 1 day with me.

And she always put it off. Maybe next year. Maybe next year.

Then came Firefly and Serenity. And a panel at Dragon Con with pretty much the whole damn cast.

And I had her.

And she came to Con, and saw the panel, and then saw that Charlene Harris and TruBlood was there and sat in on another panel. And we spent the evening watching the costume contest with some good friends in their room on closed circuit enjoying room service.

That’s all it took.

And suddenly I wasn’t alone anymore. I had my best friend to nudge and point at a cool costume and to experience things with and just enjoy this piece of my own life with her.

Soon enough some of the other friends have drifted back (here and there) to the con. And I get to meet up with newer friends as well… guys and gals I may not have seen in months.

It’s glorious.

At the end of Dragon Con I’m always hit with a slight melancholy. No matter how much I enjoyed myself or even on those years I was bummed out about being by myself… I would still get it. That idea of all these people who shared some passions with me… all these people who said fuck it, I want to enjoy what I want to enjoy and not worry if I look or act silly during these 4 days. I love that about Dragon Con. I love people watching. I love going to panels and seeing tv and movie stars talk about their projects and getting excited about the next big thing. I love going to writing panels in an effort to glean as much information from people in the “know” as possible.

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It makes me feel not so alone. Because, for a long time there us nerds were out in the wilderness. It wasn’t cool to say that you played DnD or Magic or read comics or liked Anime or played computer games. And for 4 days Dragon Con offered an oasis for those of us who wanted to feel apart of something bigger than just us.

So yeah, at the end of the day on Sunday (most likely I will not be down there on Monday – we’re using it to recover) I’ll get that funny feeling in my stomach that another one of these has ended, and it will be another year before I get the chance to do it again. I’ll be tired, my feet may hurt, and my wallet will likely be lighter, but even with that slight sadness I know that it is only a matter of a little time before we get to do it again.

Hope to see you this weekend!

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

CO-OP Gaming: The Best Way To Game

First, let’s get the business out of the way.

If you want to read some quality comic books head here and here.

I’m kind of biased, but I think they’re the bee’s knees. 🙂

So, I’m here tonight (or this morning, considering what side of the world you’re on) to talk video games with ya.

Specifically co-op games.

A lot of people love playing sports games, role playing games, third person action-adventure games, first person shooters (FPS), and the lists go on and on. A little mustached plumber and his brother have pretty much cornered the market in most of the above categories, though I haven’t seen Mario busting a cap FPS style in a goomba’s butt.

That’d be awesome to watch.

Mario brings sunshine. And pain.

Mario brings sunshine.
And pain.

I’m getting sidetracked.

Co-op games.

Jason Rybka of About.com defines co-operative games as “a game in which two or more players team up to achieve a specific goal, playing side by side, either via LAN, split-screen, or via the Internet. More specifically, co-op is a multiplayer game play type. The literal translation is co-operative. Co-op games are widely popular and are increasingly becoming an included game play option in many games.”

Robert Jeffrey’s definition of co-operative games: games which allow you and a group of friends to collectively kick the butt’s of hordes of zombies/ super villains/ stereotypical y cheesy 80’s-90’s street toughs, while having a fun time.

The idea of teaming up in person with a group of friends, random strangers at an arcade (ahhhh, those were the days), or via online gaming, is a fun one for me. I understand the single player experience. I get it. Heck, I even love the competitive aspect of an FPS or fighting game. I’ve spent countless hours getting my butt handed to me in epic Halo death matches, and Marvel vs. Capcom bouts.

But to me, planning, and strategizing with a group of guys and gals to complete a game can lead to some extraordinary gaming experiences.

Special Co-Op Handshake. All the cool kids do it.

Special Co-Op Handshake. All the cool kids do it.

I don’t consider myself an expert gamer at all, just a guy who likes to have a good time with a wireless controller.

Wow, that didn’t sound right at all.

Um… well as I think of a way to clean up that creepy statement, read ahead and check out the first two entries on my list of my four favorite co-op games/ gaming experiences.

4. Streets of Rage 2/ Sega Genesis/ Release Date: December 20, 1992

The cover of this game says it all.

The cover of this game says it all.

After my brother and I got our NES system, the next game console that we received a few years later was the Sega Genesis. The mighty, mighty, SEGA! Note: you’ve got to yell SEGA like that guy from the commercials.

The system of Sonic. Altered Beast. Toe Jam and Earl. Sewer Shark (actually that was the Sega CD).

And Streets of Rage 2.

Oh hellz yeah.

Streets of Rage 2 was the shiznit. Sure there had been Double Dragon before, and other such brawlers. But for me the Streets of Rage series was something special. Was it the stylish R&B, electronica/techno laced soundtrack (that I can still nod my head to even now)? Was it the aforementioned stereotypical multi-ethnic street gangs with dumb names? Or was it the fact that each game in the series had a plot which sounded like a bad Steven Seagal movie?

It might’ve been all of the above. Who knows?  But what stood out to me (and I’m sure my brother can agree with this) was the awesome butt whooping’s that you could lay down.

First off, every fighter in this sequel (Axel Stone, Blaze Fielding, Eddie “Skate” Hunter, and Max Thunder”) KICKS-MAJOR-ASS. And has an awesome name.

Choose wisely......

Choose wisely……

Whether it’s Axel knuckling up on some punks, Blaze kicking butt oh-so gracefully with skull crushing kicks, or Max Thunder using his hulking frame to tear through the baddies, you got to button mash to your hearts content.

And don’t think I’ve forgotten about Skate. My homey Skate.

Skate sizing up the competition.

Skate sizing up the competition.

This dude was fighting on roller blades.

ROLLER BLADES.

Skate doing what he does best: knocking dudes out.

Skate doing what he does best: knocking dudes out.

I know I turned into an 11 year old with that statement, but hear me out.

This was a kid, a black kid who was kicking butt to save his kidnapped brother. And in an industry where a lot of heroic characters of color weren’t in great abundance, this was awesome for my brother and me to see.

Skate could pull off awesome moves like jumping onto the back of a thug, and commence to dropping blow’s like small anvils on their heads. He had this fantastic special move where he’d flail his arms like a madman, while hurtling towards the bad guys on his roller blades.

Blaze was always my personal favorite in the series, but Skate came a close second.

I'll admit, she was my video game crush. Don't judge me.

I’ll admit, she was my video game crush. Don’t judge me.

So we would spend countless hours beating up various baddies in the hopes of defeating Mr.  X, and saving the day. Whether it was avoiding motorcycle riding grenade tossing Mad Max rejects, or fighting evil kick boxers, my brother and I enjoyed fun times with cracking skulls and taking names.

So definitely, if you’re in the mood to team up with another friend, to just knuckle up and beat some bad guy butts, you can find the title on XBOX Live Arcade, and Steam.

Go with the dynamic duo of Blaze and Skate and you won’t be disappointed.

Honorable Mentions: Street Team: The Video Game, Battle Toads, Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Castle Crashers, XMEN Arcade, TMNT Arcade

3. Marvel Ultimate Alliance/ Xbox 360/ Release Date: October 24, 2006

Remember as a kid when you use to team up with your neighborhood friends, choose a superhero, and kick all sorts of imaginary bad guy butt? Remember how awesome it felt to strap a towel around your neck, jump from tree’s, do fake karate, and shoot imaginary laser’s from your fists?

Awesome, right?

Fast forward a number of years, and now you can do that from the comfort of your couch, sans towel wrapped around your neck.

Okay, maybe you still wear the towel.

Hey, if Linus can rock it for as long as he has, so can you.

Enter stage left, Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Alliance allows you to choose from an impressive lineup of Marvel heroes and heroines, including such stand out characters as Spiderman, Blade, Captain America, Wolverine (as if that dude doesn’t get enough screen time already), Ms. Marvel, Mister Fantastic, Colossus, Luke Cage, Doctor Strange, Thor, Storm, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

Notice Blade in the top right trying to look cool as a cucumber.  A half human/ half vampire cucumber.

Notice Blade in the top right trying to look cool as a cucumber.
A half human/ half vampire cucumber.

You want the Fantastic Four? You got ‘em.

You want an X-MEN themed team? You got ‘em.

You want the mighty, bi-coastal Avengers? You-got-em.

Sweet Christmas! That's a lot of characters!

Sweet Christmas! That’s a lot of characters!

With a host of baddies to fight, and levels potmarked with Easter Eggs which die hard Marvel fans can appreciate, this game is a beauty to behold.

The fighting system is excellent, and as you gain more experience your abilities grow in awe inspiring fashion. Being able to do team combos is an added plus, and gets you wanting to reenact scenes from “The Avengers”.

Spidey and company going buck wild.

Spidey and company going buck wild.

Don’t even get me started on the awesomesauce that is “alternate costumes”.

So many Storm's.......

So many Storm’s…….

Myself and a group of friends pretty much waded through this game over a series of weeks, XBOX controllers in hand, staying up to the wee hours of the night. A personal favorite of mine is Storm (going back to the X-MEN Legends days, another title you should give a shot for the PS2). This goddess of weather tornadoed and chain lightning’ed her way through Dr. Doom, Ultron, the Winter Soilder and a host of other evil-doers.

You can more than likely find a copy of this with most online video game retailers (Amazon.com), or used video game retailers.

Honorable Mentions: XMEN Legends, XMEN Legends: Rise of Apocalypse, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

Gonna stop here for the evening as my eyelids are steadily drooping.  I’ll drop my last two favorite co-op titles your way next week. Thanks for following me down my video gaming memory lane.

San Diego Comic Con Musing

No, sadly, I didn’t go this year. Or last year. Or any year. I have yet to go. Mostly due to the fact that I’m on the east coast and it’s waaay across the map.

One day perhaps…

Comic-Con-Logo

But what I was thinking about was that we all know that it isn’t the Comic Book Convention anymore. It is an Entertainment Convention. It is a TV and Movie Convention. It is a place to see and be seen Convention. And then it is a Comic Book Convention.

Now the bigger companies still have a strong foothold, though that seems to be as much due to the fact that they have their movies and tv shows themselves going on – drawing attention back to the comics. And pretty much every major announcement happens at this convention for Marvel, DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc.

But is there too much Noise for the Signal?

On Saturday night I went to www.BleedingCool.com and promptly opened every article that even kinda appealed to me. After having to reboot the tablet because I had opened too many windows I had to wonder again about the smaller companies bothering with announcing anything at all. Heck, I know a couple of people who had panels that I never saw any press about – not because they weren’t good panels, but because they’ve been drowned out by the volume of other news stories.

So I have to ask: if you aren’t DC or Marvel, why are you bothering with big announcements there? Why not pick a con a few weeks earlier or a few weeks later where you are the big talk of the comic book world. I mean how am I supposed to get excited about your newest book when I didn’t even get a chance to check out the trailer for the newest <insert hot fall movie here>?

Years ago (20 some-odd) the 3rd largest comic company was Valiant Comics. They did Solar, X-O Manowar, Turok, etc. But just as they were really hitting big they came down to Atlanta and basically had their own convention here. They gave away all sorts of freebies, had various creators run panels pitching their books, and made themselves approachable to their fans.

valiant-comics-relaunches-headed-by-ex-marvel-ceo

Why do I mention some convention 20 years ago? Because if you are Image or Dynamite or Dark Horse – you could do the same thing with a Denver Comic Con or a Heroes Con. Make that your coming out party for the summer. And do it year after year – set the precedence and then follow through so that in 3 years time people associate you with that city’s con. People who love your comics will go to that con to bask in the glory of YOUR THING. You get to control the message of your books and you do it during a time when maybe everyone else is holding off until San Diego to make that “cool” announcement.

Yeah, maybe you don’t get the volume of eyes of SDCC, but if I’m looking for your post and can’t find it, how many people are just going to randomly stumble over it?

I don’t know, just a random thought I had this past week.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

The Dark That Follows is now available in print here or on Amazon!

My Writing Process (Blog Tour Entry)

I loathe chain emails. I’m not sure if they existed in paper form, but the thing which always killed me was the warning at the end. Like something out of a Steven King novel: “If you dare break this chain of old, a thousand locusts will descend upon thy host until only misery and bones are left to thee.”

Chain Letter

 

I snub my nose at such dire warnings. And I’m insulted that you feel that the subject manner itself is not good enough to spur me into action. There are many things that are difficult in this digital age, forwarding something on is not one of those things.

(Though I wonder if some of my recent bad luck is a result of not sending along that latest one… hmm, maybe I should rethink my stance.)

But a Chain Blog Tour? Well now, that is a horse of a different color. And when a fellow Guild-mate taps you then you do your best to appease the chain-blog gods. So with that in mind a little something to say about J Edward Neill.

I’ve known Mr. Neill since high school, brought together by a shared love of basketball and roleplaying. For the many years I thought about writing a book, he was sitting in his dark cave (or mountain top or volcano fortress) actually putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard to create his fantasy opus: Down the Dark Path. And much like in sports where they tell you to play against better competition in order to get better at your craft – I use him as one of my gauges. Of course, this week he’s come out with Book 2: Dark Moon Daughter… so my work is cut out for me.

 

writing

What am I working on?

Sometimes I feel like the question should be “What am I not working on”, but let’s see:

The White Effect – My science fiction story about a man who finds that his world is rebooting, and he is one of the lucky (unlucky) ones who realizes what’s happening. It is currently with BETA readers with my next draft being targeted for late summer.

Hollow Empire – Serialized Dark Fantasy is all I’ll say about this one until it is out. This one is done, I’m just in the process of getting a final proof-reader edit on it. This process has slowed due to some recent life developments, but I’m hoping (and I’m sure my co-writer hopes as well) to have this one all wrapped up in the next month or so.

Gilded Age – My Steampunk creator-owned comic series through Terminus Media. Issue 2 is set to have final inks and colors begin any day now, and in the meantime I have final edits on issue 3’s script.

Entropy – A post-apocalyptic comic series set at the Ends of the Universe. Co-written with Robert Jeffrey II (see below for more on him), we merely wait for the artist to be unleashed upon this project.

The Edge of the World – A story in the vein of Journey to the Center of the Earth where our heroine seeks to find her missing uncle. I am 15,000 words into the first draft of this one.

 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

With my comic writing, and The Gilded Age in particular, I’m trying to write character based stories and create a world from them as opposed to plopping them into a world. With my novel, The Dark That Follows, I’d say that it differs from “standard” urban fantasy in that it isn’t a romantic story where you wonder will they/won’t they. Instead it is about a man in way over his head just trying to do the right thing.

 

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Why do I write what I do?

As you can see above, I’m a little all over the place with regards to genre (for better or for worse). I guess I just follow that old rule of write what you’d like to read, and since I don’t just read fantasy or science fiction or urban fantasy or super-heroes exclusively my brain ensures that almost everything I work on is something different from the thing I wrote before. I take everything I’ve read, everything I’ve watched, everything I’ve ever heard and put them through the grinder of my brain and then something comes out. If it is interesting and moves me, then I write about it, if not, I move onto the next project.

 

How does my writing process work?

It starts with music. Something to write to. Recently it has been 10 Years, Chevelle, and Deftones. Once I have the right mood set I generally have a decent idea of what needs to happen within the story, so much more plotter than pantser. For a comic script I tend to write out a 1-2 paragraph summary of the major story beats and then start writing dialogue. Only after most of the dialogue is written do I go back and fill in every panel’s description and manipulate the pace of the comic. After a couple of passes I send it on to my editors, do one more pass with their notes, and then end up doing a FINAL-FINAL pass during the lettering stage as I can see the whole picture (literally) and see if something needs to be added or subtracted.

With my novels I have the story beats, but I write out-of-order most of the time, jumping from one scene to another and then piece things together like a puzzle. After that first draft is done I follow Steven King’s advice and put it in the drawer for 6-8 weeks to gain perspective. After that time I do my second pass, and if I’m happy with that version I might reach out to a couple of BETA readers for thoughts. Another draft follows that and then the editor. And then the final draft.

But at some point I do say “pencils down” because while we can tweak and refine our work forever, it doesn’t mean we should. Release it into the world and move onto the next project.

 

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Artist Highlights (or Next on the Tour):

Robert Jeffrey II: Robert is an Atlanta-based freelance writer whose portfolio includes a multitude of work in the arenas of print/web journalism and comics. His work with Atlanta-based Terminus Media includes comics (his creator owned/ 2014 Glyph Comic Award winning “Route 3” and “Daddy’s Little Girl”, “Terminus Team Up”, and B. Robert Bell’s “Radio Free Amerika”) and contracted client work including custom comics and animation scripting/editing duties for clients such as the Center for Disease Control and Nitto Tires.

Robert’s life long dream is to win a pop-locking battle to save a community center.

 

Sean Taylor: Bad Girls, Good Guys, and Two-Fisted Action is the official writing blog of Sean Taylor. But it’s not just a place to promote his stuff. It’s a resource (he hopes) of information about writing and creating genre fiction, literary prose, comic books, and just about anything else you can create with pens, pencils, paper, or word-processing software and a printer. On this site, you’ll be able to find publishers calling for submissions, tutorials about the craft of writing and editing, interviews with other writers, links to helpful and fascinating articles about the art, craft and business of writing and publishing, etc. — and of course, yes, you’ll also be able to keep up with whatever Sean has his writerly little paws involved in too.

 

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Behind the Comic – The Comic Script

 

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The company I do a lot of my comic related work with is Terminus Media. Early on, before the money and the fame (ok, maybe I’m still waiting on that), we met in the back of a comic book shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. These were open meetings where any number of creatives were welcomed to listen in, discuss their own ideas, and even contribute to the anthology comics if they had the desire.

Each time new writers or artists came in they had the same questions I had when I walked through those doors. When I sat down to write my very first comic script I had no idea of how to go about setting it up. It’s a weird thing, this product we read on a weekly basis, but how in the world does it get from the writer’s brain to the artist’s fingertips? How does the script work?

In the comics industry there are basically two main forms that comics take: Full Script and Marvel Method.

Full Script – This is the one most people might be familiar with. In a full script the writer typically is going to break the comic down into pages and then those pages are broken down further into panels. Then within each panel would be a description of what you want the artist to draw (perhaps painting a general idea of the scene all the way to “camera placement”). Finally there will be any dialogue or narration needed. And so on and so forth until all 20-24 pages have been scripted out.

Yet, even among the Full Scripts there are those who give a small amount of  description and those who give tons. Do yourself a favor and try to find a copy of an Alan Moore script… that man writes tons of description and analysis for each panel (some might say too much, but he is one of the greatest comic writers of all time so what do they know, huh?).

 

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Marvel Method was something that developed from Stan Lee’s early days at Marvel Comics. Since he was the main writer (only writer) he didn’t have enough time for a full script. And he happened to work with the likes of  Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. They were artists who he knew could “do the job” as it were. So he provided them with plots of the comic, but left it up to them to actually layout the pages, determine what would go in each panel, and so on. Then, once it was done, Stan would go back in and add the narration and dialogue.

I had no sample script to work from, so my first one was probably closer related to the Marvel Method than a full script. But that was due to me not knowing than any conscious decision about how this scripting thing was supposed to work.

Over the years I’ve mostly done the Full Script version for my comics. And the reason for that is because many times I don’t know who is going to be the artist on the book. And without that key knowledge, I’d rather give them my vision for the comic and then go from there, than leave them with just a plot.

But, as I work with an artist, and grow more comfortable with them, I try to leave more things in their hands. Fight scenes are probably the biggest one. I feel like no matter how I think the fight could go, the artist is going to have a better feel for the flow of the characters. So why not let them stretch their skills a little bit. I give them general ideas of what needs to happen: “Bill and Jack rumble on this page. Maybe Bill gains the upper hand early in the fight, only to have Jack turn the tables.” OR “Jack and Bill are going to fight on this page. The only key thing is that by the end of the page Jack needs to hold Bill out a window… otherwise go nuts!”

All that is a long-winded way of saying, lots of those people coming into those early Terminus meetings didn’t have a clue about scripting or, if they were artists, didn’t know how to draw from a script. They just didn’t have access to one. So a few years ago, at the behest of some, I wrote out a short called 3 Brothers for the express idea of helping newer artists have something to draw.

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I divided the story into 3 parts:

Part 1 was a love story (Romance). Two people in love with each other, some talking head shots, playful interaction.

Part 2 was about hate (Rage). Two brothers, in love with the same woman, have a major fist-fight that doesn’t go well for one of them.

Part 3 was about loss (Death). Two people, dealing with the loss of a loved one, standing in the rain (so they have a little bit of the environment to deal with).

Anyway, I think a couple of people tried it out here or there. I think it was a helpful tool, and as such I’ve added a copy of the PDF here Download.

Perhaps an aspiring artist will get inspired by this, or want to draw something that isn’t just superheroes for their portfolio.

Hope it helps.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program. He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does Whatever A Spider Can

With the release of the Amazing Spider-man 2 I feel like there is something I should say. I have a confession to make. Well, maybe not a confession, but more like a moment of truth. Spider-Man is my favorite comic book character.

That’s not the confession.

This revelation does not make me unique or anything. Plenty of people love Spider-Man (as evidenced by the sheer amount of money the movies alone have made). The fact that any kid might have something Spider-Man themed in his closet. Or that dozens of figures of the guy are released every year.

No, the confession is that I have not read a Spider-Man comic in quite some time (5+ years).

Now if Spider-Man is my favorite character why would I forsake him in the very media that I profess to love beyond probably even my wife’s understanding?

One name: Mary Jane Watson Parker.

Many of you will know the name Mary Jane Watson from the Sam Rami movies of the 00s as she was played by Kirsten Dunst. As you can tell from the movies, she is an important cog in Peter Parker’s life.

I personally think she’s the true love of his life, not Gwen Stacy, but that’s mostly because I don’t know Gwen. She had been dead for a decade before I picked up my first issue of Amazing Spider-Man. I only have the occasional flashback to let me know who she was.

Though, one of my favorite stories came from a “Gwen” moment. Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale tell a story where on Valentine’s Day Peter is feeling reflective about how much he misses Gwen, and proceeds to talk into a tape recorder about the two of them falling in love. He talks to her about how her death messed him up for a long time, but through Mary Jane he learned to love again. And then this happens…

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And if you were to pick up a Spider-Man comic from around 1987/1988 until about 2008 you would have probably seen Mrs. Parker in the comics. As Peter’s wife she’s been with him through think and thin.

However, if you picked up a Spider-Man comic today you might notice that Peter is no longer married.

More on that in a second…

Spider-Man appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 in 1962. By the time I started reading the comic was approximately 25 years old. During that entire time Spider-Man was a single guy. Yeah, there were girlfriends: Betty Brant, Felicia Hardy, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane, but he was a single guy. For 25 years those writers got to weave stories featuring a single Spidey. But that changed in 1987 (Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21) when the two of them tied the knot.

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I was 11 at the time this happened. I think I had read about 6 issues of Spider-Man before he got married. Spider-Man getting married did not change how I saw the character. It did not make him my “Dad” all of a sudden. It didn’t make him the “winner” of life because he married this gorgeous model (these were some of the reasons for getting rid of the marriage, but more on that later).

Growing up I never saw myself as a good-looking kid. I was taller than all the other kids, maybe a little clumsy, and shy around girls. There were plenty of times I would think about the fact that I would never find a girlfriend.

Comics are a great escape from life. When you get down on yourself, get depressed about something that’s happened to you, they are there waiting for you, month in and month out. Ready to take on the worst of the worst bad guys.

So how did it make me feel when Spidey got married?

It actually made me feel like, maybe, just maybe, there was a girl out there for me. That even if I felt awkward and ugly that it wouldn’t matter. I’d find that person who I was meant to be with. Maybe that girl next door might take a shine to me.

It’s probably silly to think that way. These weren’t real people. And yet… because Mary Jane and Peter weren’t just two people who started dating and decided to get married. These were two friends from way back. They’d suffered through tragedy on both sides. And where he had never confided in Gwen about his alter-ego, Mary Jane knew (she figured it out – girl is smart). Because she was his best friend. Moreso than Harry Osborn (when he wasn’t the Green Goblin) or Flash Thompson (in the later years), MJ was the one that he could always turn to.

So, no, it wasn’t a bad thing that this happened. Not for me at least.

And so it went that from 1987 to early in 2008 Spider-man was a married character.

But apparently this was a problem for the people in charge. Apparently having Spider-Man married meant that they couldn’t have Peter date the Black Cat or whomever they wanted him to. Apparently being married… wait for it…

Made Spider-Man OLD.

They felt like the truest form of the character was that of a single guy. That him finding love with his best friend meant he’d won and was no longer the loveable loser everyone thought he was.

They (the writers) felt like they were hamstrung on stories because he was married.

Counselor, I present Matt Fraction’s take:

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During J. Michael Straczynski’s run on the book I told my wife that I could have read 22 pages of just the two of them talking. But more than that, I think JMS understood how to approach the relationship. Mary Jane being married to Spidey is the life many women (and some men) live when their spouse is a police officer (or firefighter or in the military). There is always that chance that they may not come home that night. I don’t think that means they love them less, though. I think that means they try to fight for every moment they get.

But the powers that be didn’t like the marriage. And I’d heard the same argument about Superman and Lois Lane. And I think it is complete crap. It’s lazy writing to say you can’t come up with a story for the character because his connection to another person is marriage. Because, let’s face it, Peter Parker, single, was not going to be running around banging every chick that he meets. He’s not that character and never will be. So if he had a girlfriend he’s not going to cheat. So what the heck is the real difference there?

There isn’t one.

One other point about this that I’m not sure people really thought about. 25 years as a bachelor and 21 years married. That’s effectively the same amount of time, and one could argue that there were far more actual comics with him married than single (more titles in the 90s, etc.). But it wasn’t like this marriage had been around for only a couple of years. For all intents and purposes Spidey was a married man (or at least a committed man).

But the decision had been made. They came up with a story line that had Aunt May on the brink of death (yes, that old chestnut of a story – never used that one before!), and the only way to save her was to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

And the Devil wanted their (Peter and Mark Jane’s love).

Wait, that’s not right. He wanted their marriage.

Let’s toss aside the fact that Spidey lives in a Universe where superheroes come back to life on an almost daily basis. Let’s ignore the fact that there are mutants who have the ability to HEAL other people, and even if he doesn’t specifically know those people, he knows people who know those people (confused yet?). And let’s even forget about the fact that Aunt May is OLD and has lived the good life, and would NEVER want her nephew to make a DEAL WITH THE DEVIL.

The fundamental problem with this is that Peter and Mary Jane would never make such a deal. They just wouldn’t. Peter would find another way. He’d triumph through some angle we hadn’t thought of.

But no, he made the deal and the marriage was undone.

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The last issue of Amazing Spider-Man I own.

And I haven’t picked up an issue of Spider-Man since.

The place I now get to read about my favorite character is in the pages of the Avengers when he happens to be on the team, or when he makes a guest appearance in a comic I read.

Now we’re 6 years into my “strike” on reading the character. They just finished a 30+ issue story where Doc Ock swapped bodies with Peter and then tried to use the powers for good. There’s a new story (that could have been told with him being married I’m sure), and one I would like to read.

But I can’t. Stupid principles.

So now I have to be content with watching Amazing Spider-Man 2 this weekend to get my fix. Fingers crossed its a good one.

 

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and now the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

 

Taking a stab at the Marvel Movies

This is the Golden Age of superhero movies. It is flat-out ridiculous to think that not only has so many of these type of movies been made, but they have grossed tons of money. They aren’t a joke, but actually movies that non-comic book people will go see.

So we’re a couple of weeks past Captain America: The Winter Soldier’s release and a couple of weeks before The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (though I must admit I’m a bit worried about that one), so it feels like a good time to post my rankings of the various Marvel movies. Note that I have not seen Punisher: War Zone, Elektra, Blade Trinity, and both Ghost Rider films (I’m guessing from most people’s thoughts that I haven’t missed anything.

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26. Wolverine: Origins – I didn’t see this one in the theater, so when I finally sat down to watch it I knew that it was supposed to be “bad”. Then the first five minutes of this movie went by and we saw Wolverine throughout the 20th Century and I thought that was all sorts of awesome. Sadly that is the only highlight of a movie whose big way to not invalidate the X-Men movies was a memory erasing bullet. Seriously. And Professor X didn’t notice the metal lodged in Wolverine’s brain… really?

Just terrible.

25. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer – My one take-away from watching this movie was: “Was that actually an hour and a half?” If ever there was an example of doing a movie “just because” this may be it within the confines of the Marvel Universe. I would say more bad things about it but I honestly can’t remember much about it. Ranked higher than Wolverine only because the Silver Surfer looked cool.

24. X-Men 3 – I can sum up my dislike of this movie in one way: they killed Cyclops off-screen. I was watching the movie and about 40 minutes after the non-scene I realized what exactly had happened. And I still was shocked that is how they managed to do it. I know X-Men: Days of Future’s Past is tying these movies with the First Class movie, but they could forget about X-Men 3 and be better off for it.

23. Daredevil – I liked this one more on the first viewing than on subsequent viewings, but regardless of all of that I think that people have maligned this movie more than it really deserved. Bullseye’s battle with Elektra on the roof was nice. Michael Clark Duncan, while not the Kingpin from the comics, worked perfectly in the role. Yes, there is bad in there, but it isn’t all bad.

It isn’t all good either.

22. The Hulk – This is the first one, with the radioactive dogs. This is a solid movie for the first 2/3 of the flick, and then everything falls apart in the last act. Completely. I also think this one suffers from trying to be something different. It’s not a superhero movie, it is a 1950s style monster movie with a bit of 24’s multiple cameras thrown in. But, yeah, the Absorbing Man stuff at the end was shoehorned in horribly.

And radioactive “Hulk” dogs… that’s not a good idea ever.

21. The Incredible Hulk – More along the lines of the old tv show and the second of the Marvel Universe movies… something was just not 100% on this one, and I can’t put my finger on it. I love Ed Norton. I love Liv Tyler. It had the Abomination in it. It even set the Leader up for a future movie.

And somehow it is just ok. A head scratcher.

20. Fantastic Four – I’m saddened by this and its sequel mostly because after Spider-Man and The Avengers, I have more Fantastic Four comics in my collection than any other Marvel titles. The good – The Human Torch. Chris Evans nailed Johnny Storm… 1000%. As to the rest, it’s more blah than outright bad to me (they saved all the true suck for the second movie). In fact, this movie does what it set out to do, but it suffers from probably the worst thing: being boring. Regardless, this could never be ranked very on my list since they completely screwed up Doctor Doom.

19. Spider-Man 3 – I like the emo Peter Parker. I like the goofy dance. I think Venom is an excellent character (and story)… from the comics. This one suffers from the oldest problem in the Superhero movie bible: too many villains. Venom, Sandman, and Green Goblin is at least 1 villain too many. I know part of the issue was the studio wanted Venom and Rami did not, but this one just gets too cluttered at too many times. And really Gwen Stacy is wasted in this movie.

18. Iron Man 2 – Another one that kinda falls apart at the end. I don’t know what Whiplash’s “plan” really is, and I really don’t care. Let’s be honest, we were just watching for another 2 hours of RDJ playing Tony Stark, right? That’s what I thought.

17. The Punisher – I know that tons of people hate this one. I don’t read the Punisher comics. I don’t like the character of the Punisher in the comics. Just never understood why he was so popular. But this movie gave me exactly what I wanted from a Punisher movie – 80s action flick. I dig this one if only for his last interaction with Travolta. “You killed my son.” An explosion goes off in the distance and Punisher says, “Both of them.” Come on! That’s some Clint Eastwood badassness!

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16. The Wolverine – I needed this movie to be good. It needed to get the taste of the first Wolverine and X3 to a lesser extent, out of my mouth. So for that, it worked really well. It also showed that Wolverine didn’t need tons of other characters running around to make a movie… he’s the only focus the audience needs.

15. The Amazing Spider-Man – Loved the quips from Spider-Man in this one. Loved his interaction with Gwen Stacy. Loved that some of his movements in costume were very “spider-like”. I liked the Lizard’s look. I liked that they chose to focus on his parents some (at least in a background way, and more than anything they did in the Rami movies). Still, I didn’t need the origin again. I’m not sure the Lizard battle at the end holds up to any of the other Spider-Man movie fights. I wonder if the Rami movies didn’t exist would I like it more.

Too bad for it that the Rami movies do exist.

14. Iron Man 3 – I really need to rewatch this one because with more distance from it, I find my opinion of it lessens. It’s still a good movie. Again, any chance to see RDJ as Tony Stark is well worth the price of admission. I like the Mandarin swerve… did not see that one coming. But blowing up your armor, Tony? Really? You know there is another Avengers movie on the horizon, right? Let’s think this stuff through, ok?

13. X-Men – I didn’t see X-Men for a month or so after it initially came out. I was completely sure that it was going to be awful. There was no way any of it could work. So it wasn’t until my friends started talking it up that I finally broke down and saw it. I was stunned that somehow they’d made an X-Men movie that worked. The casting was just about perfect (even Hally Berry seems like she should be a decent Storm… seems). They were smart enough to focus on Wolverine and Rogue, to have them provide us our eyes into the world.

12. Captain America: The First Avenger – I liked the first Cap movie. They really nailed all the stuff I wanted to see in a WWII Captain America movie. If anything I think that the section where we delve into montages hurt this one more than anything else. They could have scrapped that and had a much tighter movie on their hands (and maybe use that time to get to know Bucky and the Howling Commandos? Just a thought). In light of The Winter Soldier, I do need to sit down and rewatch this one to see if my memory of the Bucky related stuff pays off in the second one the way I think it does.

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If only… if only…

11. Blade 2 – I flip flop between the two Blade movies. Sometimes I think the first is better and other times I think the second one is superior. But I think it comes down to the second one is more “fun”. Blade having to work with his enemies to ward off a new type of vampire… I’m in.

10. Blade – There is no reason this movie should work. It just shouldn’t, but it does. It captures the spirit of the Blade comics while being a little bit frightening at times. Pitch perfect adaptation in my mind.

9. X-Men: First Class – I could watch young Magneto and young Xavier wander around recruiting mutants for 4 hours if they’d let me. The stuff with the actual “First Class” was alright, but what made this movie sing was the friendship of two men who were destined to be on opposing sides of the coming war.

8. Thor – How in the world were they going to get Thor to work? How would they managed to tie in the Asgard stuff into the Earth (Midgard)? Would they get the character of Loki? This may be the biggest surprise of any of these movies (maybe the first X-Men is a little more because it had never been done, but I digress). Somehow they managed to paint a portrait of Thor’s home that made it where the connection it had to Midgard and the people there… well, it worked. But more than that, I think that the overall storyline, exiling Thor to Earth, teaching him humility. I don’t know if he learned a full lesson, but I dug it.

7. Thor: The Dark World – Again the theme of heroes and villains teaming up shows itself. Thor not only needing Loki’s help, but the fact that Loki needs to help his brother. I think I’m going to be sad when I watch Avengers 2, just because Loki won’t be there.

6. Spider-Man – I walked out of the first Spider-Man and you would have had to use a jack hammer to get the smile off my face. I loved this movie so much. That said, it isn’t ranked higher because the middle portion of the movie drags a little bit on rewatches. That being said, I will still watch it anytime it comes on tv, so that little bit doesn’t bother me all that much.

5. X-Men 2 – This might be the most “perfect” superhero movie of any on this list. I don’t think I have any complaints about it. Loved the interaction between Cyclops and Wolverine. Loved the good guys having to work with the bad guys. Loved the initial sequence with Nightcrawler teleporting around the White House. Had they never made another X-Men movie, this would have been a fitting one to end on.

4. Spider-Man 2 – Though my wife doesn’t like this one as much as the first, I just love it when we don’t have to worry about spending 45 minutes on the superhero origin. We get to focus on the characters and their interactions. And while I don’t know if I agree with the idea that Doctor Octopus is Spider-Man’s greatest villain. It is not the most obvious thing, like the Joker to Batman. But given that the Green Goblin became a legacy more than just one guy in a mask trying to beat our hero up.. well, Otto’s got the longevity.

3. Iron Man – Inspired casting of RDJ as Iron Man. Wait, this is a character with addiction problems and you’re getting an actor who has addiction problems. I wonder if he can bring anything to the character? A friend of mine always says he thinks Iron Man has the best origin story of any of the heroes, and after watching (and rewatching) this one, I don’t get sick of it. The first of the Marvel Movies really set the stage for something special to come down the pipeline in the years to come.

2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I may be riding the wave on this one, but that was all sorts of crazy. Falcon = awesome. Black Widow = awesome. And Steve Rogers = awesome. This was the inheritor of the Avengers movie mantle more than any of the other Phase 2 films. I would say more, but to say much more might open the door to spoilers and I don’t want to ruin any moment of this one for anyone.

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1. The Avengers – The pinnacle. Chad called me the moment he exited the theater and the message on my voicemail was simply. “Joss did it.” When this one was over I could only grin like an idiot. When you are 11 years old reading about these characters, you figure the best they might be able to do is a cartoon with them all in it. But a live-action version. Not in a million years. No, younger John, they just needed like 25 years. 25 years to make a movie that was both the beginning of a trilogy and the defacto sequel to 4 different franchises. Shouldn’t have worked, and yet it did.

 

Anyway, that’s my list, which will get at least 3 longer after this year and maybe more if I could bring myself to actually watch Ghost Rider. He’s a guy with a flaming skull on his head! How did they mess that one up?

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John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is currently in week one of its 6-part release. Each episode is only $0.99.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Six Comics You May Not Be Reading, But Should

I realized that I haven’t really written about current comics that I actually read, and since we all love lists, I thought I’d mention a couple I’m currently enjoying. The only rule that I provided myself is that I wouldn’t choose any Marvel or DC comic (though I read a fair amount of both). Those two tend to get more than enough love. I also won’t bother with mentioning The Walking Dead as you’d need to be living under a rock to both not know it exists and not have checked it out as of yet.

Otherwise, everything else is fair game.

 

Saga (Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples) – Image Comics

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This is probably a cheat to the above “rules” as I’m thinking quite a few people who read comics know about this book. It was Y the Last Man that hooked me onto Vaughn’s writing, but it was Runaways that made me a fan of his for life. As soon as I heard word he was doing a comic for Image, I added it to my pull list without even worrying about what it was about or whether I would like it or not. Not that I needed to worry, since the Romeo and Juliet story set against a space conflict where the entire thing is narrated by their child at some point in the distant future had me at… well, it had me as soon as I read that first issue.

The kicker is how much Staples art is both beautiful and bizarre all at the same time. Each new alien that we meet, whether it is the Prince’s with TV’s for heads or the spider-like Stalk or Lying Cat, the characters are so vivid, even the most crazy of the crazy works.

They just completed their 18th issue, but the first two trades are out and well worth picking up.

 

Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra) – Image Comics

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It’s Einstein holding a frickin’ chainsaw!
What more could you want?

What if you wrote a comic about the fabled Manhattan Projects, but then twisted it so that everything and everyone made such little sense that somehow it just worked? Hickman takes a story about scientists pushing the envelope and turns it all the way up to 11. Oppenheimer is an insane person. Einstein is a dick. And even Laika, the Soviet Space Dog. Pitarra’s artwork does a good job matching the frenetic pace of the book with his cartoony style, lots of little bits and pieces on each page and in each panel.

It’s a crazy comic where there is literally no way that a reader could ever figure out where the next issue is going. And it is one of those comics I need to sit down with and do a full reread of the first 15 issues or so because I’m sure I’ve missed so much that has been included within the story, between the panels, and in the chapter breaks.

 

Archer and Armstrong (Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, & Matt Milla) – Valiant Comics

archer and armstrong

Since Valiant relaunched a couple of years ago, my refrain when referring to their comics has been that I think Harbinger is the best book they put out… but Archer and Armstrong is my favorite. A book that takes the absurd idea of a kid who grew up in a cult and an immortal (who might just drink a little too much) he was programmed to kill… and then turn that into a buddy comedy is something that shouldn’t really work. And yet, somehow, Van Lente gets it to work.

It’s the one Valiant comic (prior to the relaunch of Quantum and Woody at least) where I’ve laughed out loud on more than one occasion. And even when their enemies might not inspire the greatest “fear” from our heroes, the story doesn’t ever suffer. And I love the way that they have almost pop-up video style remarks within the panels which explain what a particular move or moment might have been. It is a technique that echoes back to the old days when an editor would put comments into the panel (“For more information on why Archer just crane kicked the bad guy see…”).

All of the Valiant books have been well worth the ride over these first 2 years, but this is the stand-out star.

 

Knights of the Dinner Table (Jolly Blackburn) – Kenzer & Company

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I used to roleplay. For many years I was very happy in spending an evening or a Saturday rolling the dice and weaving my character’s story through whatever world the Game Master supplied. But like many things, I just don’t have the time for it any more. And that makes me a little sad because no matter how cool video games are, there is something about spending time in another world with some good friends and drinking waaay too much soda.

Knights of the Dinner Table is my conduit back to those times. It is a black and white comic with the back half of the comic devoted to various roleplaying articles and whatnot, but the thing that brings me back month after month are the strips in the front of each issue. Most stories deal with things that might have occured during my own roleplaying sessions. Those funny, crazy moments, where you just about spit Coke out of your nose because of someone doing the “dumbest thing ever” (TM). That is the bread and butter of this comic.

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It just passed issue 200 last year, but it is the type of comic that you could pick up and pretty much be in on the joke for the word go. And there are many, many trades to be had (though if they ever start doing Omnibuses that will be bought the day it comes out).

 

Alex + Ada (Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn) – Image Comics

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During South By Southwest Comixology ran a promo where you could download the first issue for free. I’ve been a fan of the Luna Brothers since I read Ultra and Girls (I haven’t read The Sword yet, but it is on my bookshelf waiting), so I figured I’d give it a shot.

And then I bought the 2nd issue. And the 3rd. And the 4th. And if there had been a 5th I would have bought it as well. That’s called transforming “free” to “paying” customers.

Alex + Ada is about a man and his robot, just that in this case the robot looks like a fairly good-looking girl. And is willing to do whatever Alex would like. The only problem is that robots can’t have true AI due to an event prior to the beginning of the series. So Alex is in a weird place where he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be with this robot girl.

And then a potential solution presents itself.

That’s all I’ll say about it so that I don’t give anything big away, but I read these over the weekend and am now waiting for the next issue to arrive (I think in a couple of weeks it’ll be live).

 

The Last Days of American Crime (Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini) – Radical

The Last Days of American Crime Movie

There is only 1 week before the US government uses a signal which will make it so no one will want to commit a crime… and word has leaked out to a few. So now, with the clock literally counting down, they have to pull off the last heist anyone might ever pull off.

A mix of noir, cyberpunk, and good old fashioned heist story all rolled into one, Last Days is one of those stories where you end up pulling for the criminals, the “villains”. Will they get that big score and retire to the beach somewhere? Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it is one of those I probably need to go back and read again.

This one has been out for a couple of years, but the good thing is that it is done and collected as a trade. I remember seeing a brief synopsis on this and earmarking it to buy if I ever saw it at a con. Lucky for me I did, and now it is sitting on my bookshelf.

 

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but definitely worth checking out if you have run out of things to read.

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows and the steampunk comic The Gilded Age.

Behind the Comic – The Gilded Age

 

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This week over on the Terminus Media LLC’s Facebook page this week is The Gilded Age week (available at Amazon and Comics Plus). So I thought I’d provide the blog with a little bit of how this little project came to be.

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

It all started with a convention in Orlando a few years ago. My buddy Egg either had a table or was sharing a table or something (it doesn’t much matter). The important thing was that while he was down their he met an artist by the name of Larry Watts who was looking for a project to work on. For some reason Egg thought Larry and I could match up on a project. Larry has since gone on to work on a Zenescope Comic called Robyn Hood (found here).

The only problem was that I didn’t really have any ideas that were artist ready.

Now I certainly had a handful of ideas, but I had no finished scripts that were just begging for an artist. So when faced with the prospect of working with an artist and you have no solid ideas I cheated and went onto his Deviant Art page to check out his stuff and see if anything “inspired me”.

And there it was… a shot of a old western gunfighter… with a metallic arm. In that instant, something flipped in my brain and I had the barest bones of an idea. What followed over the course of the next few days would end up becoming a pitch called Machine Heart.

Now Machine Heart was ready, but I believe that Larry was no longer available to work on it (I probably missed my window by not being prepared with something). So I filed it away on the computer, just waiting for the moment to spring it from it’s prison.

A year or so later Terminus Media was beginning to look towards doing something more than just anthology stories. They wanted to have something that could be 5 or 6 issues to start. Something different than what was on the shelves. And that little voice popped up in my brain and I mentioned my “Steampunk” story. A couple of meetings later things began to crystallize and suddenly it looked like things were a go… there was just one problem.

With an indy comic there is always the risk that there will be a delay between issues. You might have production problems, money problems, printing problems, and who-knows-what-else problems. But here we are wanting to tell a story over the course of 5 issues… what happens if people don’t want to wait that long? What happens if someone stumbles onto issue 2 and can’t find issue 1?

So what was the answer? In a perfect world you would find a way to have a regular schedule. We, however, live in the real world (one populated with superheroes and the like, but real enough) where delays are going to happen…

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Iron Man doesn’t like Daylight Savings Time either.

And then it hit me –  I could build this world from the ground up by telling single issue stories about a variety of characters. And what better way to ensure that there are plenty of characters to choose from? Have the stories take place in a vaudevillian carnival where you could have all sorts of weirdos running around and no one would bat an eye. Plus, the other bonus was that I could tell a variety of stories (adventure, horror, heists, etc.) and they could all work because of the characters involved.

There was only one more problem… a title. Machine Heart didn’t really apply to this particular story, so I needed to come up with something better than “Untitled Steampunk Comic”.

Enter Mark Twain and his coining of the phrase “The Gilded Age”. Now his applied to the late 1800s corruption occurring within the US government, but I saw something that could apply to this new world. There would be corruption (there always is), but it also rang true somehow for the comic… I can’t explain it completely, but it “fit”.

gilded age by twain

While Machine Heart’s plot-line no longer applied, the characters of Hannah and Elias still worked for me. An actress who is new to the carnival, bright eyed and innocent, and the stage magician of the crew who would need her help acquiring an item for his next performance. So I made the first issue about the two of them, giving the reader a complete story in 1 issue, but hinting at a much bigger world that I’m hoping to explore more and more of.

Issue 2 is still in the process of being finished, but that gunfighter with the metal arm that inspired it all… well, he’s getting to tell a story of his own…

Gilded Age #2-004-small

 

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Comics on my Nightstand

ComicsI read comics. They are the best of both worlds–art and story–but I wouldn’t say I’m a collector. I just like to read comics, both digital and paper. If I like a comic enough I’ll buy both. For example, when I began reading The Walking Dead the series was already in the 70’s. I was reading from the hard back books. Now I read the single issues via Comixology but I still buy those hardback books when they release. It’s my system. Don’t question it. This past weekend I went through all the comics on my nightstand because the stack had become a beast. I cut the pile in half, keeping what I still hadn’t read (plus the other issues in a series–sometimes I look back to recall little details).

~ A few things to note ~

Marvel: I’m a Marvel fan. More than half the comics I sorted through were Marvel comics. That shouldn’t be any big surprise considering where my loyalties lie. (Did you catch the pun there?) However, I’m not one of those Marvel vs. D.C. fans. Read more

John McGuire is at Atlanta’s Anachrocon This Weekend!

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday) I will be at Anachrocon in Atlanta, Georgia. While I’m still unsure whether I’ll have a table, in theory I will be participating in a couple of panels talking about collaborating with artists in order to make a comic book (that should be on Sunday, though I am not sure of the time).

GildedAge_Front Cover-tessera

Regardless, if you are at the con, come find me and we’ll chat about all sorts of things I’m sure. And if you are trying to find me you can always hunt me down @JohnR_McGuire on Twitter.

Hope to see you there.

John McGuire

 

Behind the Comic – Misusing TIME and Being STUBBORN

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Making comics is a tough business. Maybe the big companies have all the little things figure out, but when you are one of the little guys there are a lot of bumps in the road. And I have come to the conclusion that there are three assets that will serve someone who aspires to create comic books (well there are more… a lot more, but these are the three I’m focusing on).

The first is to be realistic about TIME.

Dragon Clock

What does that mean? Well, what it really means is that you need to get a decent idea of your own abilities and not oversell what you can or cannot do. When someone asks you how long it is going to take to do a script or to draw your pages or to ink those pages or to color those pages or to letter those pages… well, for the sake of everyone else on your team, just be realistic about the amount of time it is going to take.

Back in the prehistoric age (about 8 years ago) Terminus Media (an Atlanta based comics company) decided to dip their toes in the comic book world. It made perfect sense, we had artists and writings sitting mere feet from each other on a weekly basis. None of us had any real credits to our comic resume, so it was a win-win situation. Plus we were meeting in a COMIC BOOK STORE for Heaven’s sake. If that wasn’t a sign to get to work, I don’t know what would be. So we got together and made a black and white anthology comic book. It worked so well we ended up doing another one, and then we did a color one, and then we did one more color one.

So what’s the problem? What does this has to do with TIME?

It took almost 7 months for that first anthology to get done. Four stories of 8 pages each took 7 months. This wasn’t 1 writer and 1 artist, this was 4 artists and 4 writers, teamed up.

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So why did it take so long? Honestly? Because people have lives that they were trying to live. School or work and everything between and when you are doing something for free, deadlines go out the window for many people. But mostly it was because these creators didn’t know how long it was supposed to take. And so they said that they could deliver their script or pages or whatever by X date… and then not do it. It is hard to make something work when you have no idea if someone is going to be true to their word. It sucks to have to hound and probe and needle and stand behind someone with a wooden spoon to whack them on the back of the head yelling “Work faster!” (Why a spoon? Because its dull, it’ll hurt more!).

With the second anthology we had learned all these lessons from the past. We knew what the big mistakes were, we knew that when someone said it would only take X time to do a task we would secretly (mentally) assume 2X to do it. “Oh, it’ll take you 3 weeks to draw those pages?” (writes down 6 weeks). We were going to streamline things… no 7 months for us!

It took 9-10 months to put out the second issue.

Why? Well the TIME thing was a big one. People said 3 weeks and we figured on 6 and it took 12 (if we were lucky). But the other thing we learned was that some people liked the idea of being in comics more than the actual “creating” of comics. They talked a big game, but when push came to shove, nothing ever materialized. And they left some of their co-creators in a huge lurch searching for a replacement.

Be PROFESSIONAL.

I’m not talking about whether you get a page rate (though that is nice), but I’m talking about how you treat the people you are creating with. Don’t waste their TIME. If you aren’t serious about the project, if you don’t care about the story or the art or whatever, and are just doing it as a goof… and are always just minutes away from disappearing from the face of the Earth, then don’t bother. All you are doing is pissing people off and showing that you cannot be trusted with deadlines.

It wouldn’t be a problem if I could just chalk it up to the idea that these guys and gals weren’t getting paid, and sometimes life gets in the way, but I’ve seen it time and time again over the last decade. I’ve seen people with talent, REAL TALENT, just not give a damn. These are writers who seem to have no problem talking about a story that is amazing, but never putting fingers to the keyboard to actually write the damn thing (Just Finish It!). These are artists who I would swear should be drawing Spiderman and Batman right now, but just won’t spend the TIME in front of their artist’s tables doing the work.

When you get a team together that cares about the project and act like they are professional, it is a glorious sight to behold. And suddenly TIME doesn’t seem like quite as big a deal.

The other piece of the puzzle, at least as far as I am personally concerned, is being STUBBORN. I’m the guy that can’t give up. When it was taking 7 months to get that first comic out, I fought and emailed and sometimes just showed up to give my support, and eventually the planets aligned and the comic happened.

Of course, being STUBBORN means that as a writer you are going to get to have a lot of scripts on your hard drive that never get off the ground. You’ll have an idea, but no artist. You’ll have an artist and struggle for an idea. You’ll have the artist and the story, but then he/she decides that they cannot do the project. Or they fall off the face of the Earth and you have to start completely over with a new team.

Over and over again until you feel like you could scream.

But I won’t give up on people. Had I given up The Gilded Age wouldn’t exist. Had I given up I wouldn’t have done Tiger Style. I wouldn’t have multiple shorts in a handful of anthologies. I wouldn’t have completed The Dark That Follows. STUBBORN. Too damn stupid to know any better apparently. INSANE, because I keep doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result… and yet, while there are many failures or aborted projects or things that just don’t get off the ground, I’ll continue to agree to doing these things. I’ll continue writing outlines and full scripts and 8-pagers and whatever else someone wants me to do if I think there is a chance it will work out. How could I not?

Shark Fishing

Because I never know when that next thing might be the one that hits. So I put as many lines in the water and wait for that fish to come.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows, the steampunk comic The Gilded Age, and the novella There’s Something About Mac through the Amazon Kindle Worlds program.

His second novel, Hollow Empire, is now complete. The first episode is now FREE!

He also has a short story in the Beyond the Gate anthology, which is free on most platforms!

And has two shorts in the Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows anthology! Check it out!

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

Illinois Corn, Comics, & Sound Direction

A few years ago (maybe 2006, 2007) my mom’s side of the family, the mostly Chicago based Stephenson clan, decided to hold a family reunion in Monticello, Indiana. Monticello has great vacation spots/ campsites in the area, including a hallmark of Midwest fun times, Indiana Beach, a local amusement park/ waterpark.

Now if you could ignore the various “Anti-Meth dealing” warning signs we saw on various back roads, this place is one to visit.

Emmy-winning meth.

Emmy-winning meth.

In the surrounding area you’ll find picturesque woodlands, replete with nice lakes, small towns, and great places to just barbeque, and while away the day. We were able to snatch up a set of cabins for the entire family, and spent a five day vacation just catching up and having fun.

Our folks had come from all over to commiserate: Atlanta, Sacramento, San Francisco, Jackson (MS), Los Angeles, Chicago.

Heck, there was some family I hadn’t seen since the second Rodney King trial verdict.

Basically, it’d been a while since I’d seen half of these people.

So being Atlanta based my brother (Brandon) and I decided to forgo the sensible option of getting plane tickets to Chicago, and catching a ride with the family to Monticello which was just a few hours away.

Nope, being the guys that we were (and wanting to have some wheels while on vacation), we’d come up with a decision to load up in my 2001 Nissan Altima, and take the 9-10 hour drive to the reunion. Added to this, with the work schedule that I had at the time, we had two options on when to leave: exactly after I got off of work, which would have been around 9 or 11 pm, or wait until the next day.

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Road tripping how it should be done. At least for insomniac’s.

Needless to say, we decided to tap into our inner insomniac and hit the road, caffeine/ Red Bulled up to the gills.

For me night driving is fun, and a bit relaxing. I enjoy being able to see the world when it’s basically asleep, and just catch the sights as most folks are winding down for the day. Our nocturne route took us through Georgia, Tennessee, Illinois, and then Indiana.

Alternating between blasting OutKast, Kanye West, Esperanza Spalding, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, my brother and I took turns with the driving duties.

It was when we hit mid Illinois that things got interesting.

At the time, I was driving, rolling through moon drenched rows upon rows of corn.

Endless-rows-of-corn.

Though I’d gotten use to this from previous road trips to Chicago, to say that endless rows of flat farmland can lull you into a chillastic state is an understatement.

So guess what I had to break me from this stupor?

Police lights ahead of us. A lot of them. Blocking the whole two-lane interstate.

You would’ve thought that damn Dr. Richard Kimble was on the loose with all the lights that I saw.

No caption needed. This scene was just all sorts of awesome.

No caption needed. This scene was just all sorts of awesome.

First thought I had: Damn.

Second thought I had: Damn, damn.

Third thought I had: Our current situation playing out like the one from “The Five Heartbeats” when the cops pull the main characters over on a lonely country road

Check the movie out and you’ll catch my drift.

So I wake my brother up, who’s a much cooler dude than I am. He tells me to just chill, and we hit the roadblock.

I rolled down the window and the officer asks for my license and registration. As I’m handing it over I decide to ask why the whole freeway is closed down at the latest hour known to man.

The cop hands back my information and doesn’t give a reason. At all. Just hands it back. Then asks where we’re headed.

Yeah....our cop wasn't Mr. Smiley.

Yeah….our cop wasn’t Mr. Smiley.

I told him Monticello, and then ask is there an alternate route we can take to get back on the highway we were on.

The cop mumbles something about taking a nearby exit, follows up with something else unintelligible, and then backs away ready to direct the next car in line.

So as I prepared to barrage the officer with more questions, my brother, sensing that this dude wasn’t going to be too forthcoming, instructs me to keep rolling.

So we follow the officer’s “directions”, and all we see are rows of corn.

We drive in another direction, and see rows of corn.

No indication of how to get back on the freeway. None at all.

So this goes on for maybe, 30, 35 minutes max. As far as gas, we’re doing alright, but not spectacular.

I started imagining thoughts of my mom getting a call from the Illinois State Patrol:

ISP: Ma’am, we’re sorry to have to inform you that, well…., ma’am, your son’s got lost and gorged themselves to death on corn.

Ma: Oh….. God….No….

ISP: The truly tragic thing about it miss, is, well…. there was a McDonald’s not but a step or two around the corner from where their bodies were found.

Ma: Noooooo!

So as we’re driving my brother points into the distance.

“BJ (my nickname), look.”

I look in the direction he’s pointing and see a convoy of taillights. A semi-truck convoy.

“Who would you figure might have the best idea on how to get back to the interstate?” Brandon asked.

I figured, heck, we’re not having any success so why not follow them?

Keep on truckin'.

Keep on truckin’.

Relying on faith, and the sound judgment of Brandon, we struck pay dirt. Following the truckers lead we rolled through a small town, sleeping neighborhoods, took a bunch of side roads, and within a bit of time, we were back on the freeway.

After hitting the interstate, we were good to go. Heck we even got to the vacation spot before anyone else in the family.

One thing I learned from that situation and in countless one’s before and since, is it’s sometimes good to follow the lead of others. Not those folks who don’t have your best interest at heart, but those who care enough about you to set you on the right path.

On the nerdy/creative front it’s happened a number of times.

Some of Ms. Butler's most awesome sci-fi works.

Some of Ms. Butler’s most celebrated sci-fi works.

My Dad introduces me to the awesome work of Octavia Butler, a talented sci-fi novelist to whom I now look for inspiration on the writing front.

One of my closest friends Oscar gives me a copy of Alan Moore’s seminal work, Watchmen, and this writer’s mind is blown. An awesome friend, Patrick, loans me his entire of collection of Preacher to read, and I devour the books in the span of a weekend.

 

 

 

A man of many talents.

A man of many talents.

One Saturday afternoon I get a package from my Dad in Atlanta, and was introduced to the mind-blowing universe of Milestone Media, and another writing inspiration, Dwayne McDuffie.

My mom picks up a copy of “The Amazing Spiderman” from the drugstore (remember those days folks?), and my world is forever rocked by the exploits of a certain web slinger who often had problems paying the rent on time.

 

 

 

 

 

I meet up with the folks of Terminus Media, who teach me the ins and outs of writing/ creating comics, and I’m now a published comic book writer.

A little comic I created.

A little comic I created.

Through the instruction, and direction of my editor/ brother from another mother, Dennis, I got a firsthand instruction on what it took to be a successful freelance journalist.

Heck, the often maligned Wizard Magazine got me pushed in the right direction of another writing inspiration, Greg Rucka.

Tara Chace. Her Majesty's Bad Ass.

Tara Chace. Her Majesty’s Bad Ass.

So if you get the gumption, take a chance, and follow the direction of those folks willing to offer a helping or a guiding hand. Makes things fun, heck even easy in some cases.

I’m still doing it, and think I’m all the better for it.

If you don’t you might find yourself stuck in endless rows of corn.

 

My Muse

Today is my wife’s birthday.

Courtney puts up with a fair amount from me. She has endured the loss of an entire closet to a boatload of comic long boxes. But it doesn’t end there. Comic books are normally lying all over the house, and she just takes it in stride… though her favorite line may be “do you need to go buy another long box to put these comics in?” (meaning, maybe these need to go upstairs in the comic room).

longboxes

Now, we’ve been together since high school, so she did not enter into this situation unaware. MAYBE she didn’t quite understand the extent of how many comics I had or how deep my love is for the format, but she had a preexisting knowledge of some aspect of it.

Over the years I even managed to get her to read a Bone comic. She has a Superman t-shirt and a Wonder Woman t-shirt.

She journeys to all the latest comic related movies. She knows not only who Mary Jane Watson is, but knows that her husband hasn’t read a Spiderman comic since their marriage was done away with (even if she doesn’t know how that bit of strangeness happened in the first place).

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I try to take her to this type of movie…

 

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Not this type of Superhero movie!

But that’s not all. I’m not sure she knows this (I don’t know that I’ve said it to her), but she’s my Muse.

She’s the person that has to endure my random story-ideas as we are driving around, running errands, or perhaps even worse for her, when we have a longer trip planned. I can only imagine what she thinks of some of the things which roll past my lips. Yet, somehow, someway, she not only spares my feelings when perhaps the idea is not one of the better ones, but she helps to flesh out some aspects of these tales. There has been many a time where my side of the conversation began with:

“So I have this idea about a guy who does this X thing… and that’s all I have really.”

She takes this in stride and knows to ask questions that may or may not prompt me into some kind of discovery.

This is how The Dark That Follows came to be. I literally had the barest spark of an idea for a story (I didn’t know what it would be or the length even): What if a fortune teller could actually see the future? And then what if he came across a person who no longer had any kind of future? What then?

That’s all I had, just the barest of a thought. She was the one who encouraged me to begin writing that book. And then she assumed her next role… that of my Alpha reader.

Through this entire adventure through my writing those first couple of short comic stories for the Terminus anthologies to my first novel (extremely soon to be released), she has been the rock that not only supports my dreams, but shares in them. I’m in the final phase of editing/formatting The Dark That Follows, and I think she is happier about it than I am (that’s not to say I’m not happy, but it is mixed with a sense of relief that I can finally release this thing I’ve worked on for the last 3 years into the world). She’s bouncing up and down thinking about various ways of letting people know, her hand on the trigger to call all the friends and relatives as soon as the book goes live on Amazon.

And that feeling, knowing that she is proud of the work I’ve done, proud of OUR accomplishment in all of this, is better than the finishing of the book. Because this book is as much hers as it is mine. Without her constant support, I’m not sure I would have gotten this far… perhaps video games or some other shiny object might have occupied my attention.

In the new year, I want to repay her for a little of this support by writing the book she’s been wanting me to write for about a year and a half (currently titled The Edge of the World). Again, I hit her up with a bare-bones idea, but she latched onto it. I keep teasing her with it, telling her that it is next on the docket as soon as I get some free time, as soon as the writing schedule frees up. And in January I should have a little time, maybe a bit more in February, so I’m putting it out there in writing for all to see. It’s not quite wrapped in birthday paper, but it will be my gift to her.

And who knows, maybe a year from now I’ll be talking about publishing that one.

birthday

Happy Birthday, Courtney McGuire!

Thank you for everything you do… I literally couldn’t do it without you.

Behind the Comic – The God That Failed

Of the four of us who write on the Tessera Blog, I’m the comics guy. Though that is a bit of a misnomer as I know both Chad and Amanda read comics as well. However, on the writing side of things, until my novel comes out next month, the only thing I’ve ever gotten published is in the comics field, so…

The first comic book story I ever wrote was composed while I was at my day job in about 10 minutes time. I’m not talking about the basic beats of this 8-page story, but the full script was furiously jotted down on scrap paper to the point that the rest of the world no longer existed (probably a good thing my boss didn’t walk by me at that point, I wouldn’t have noticed him). This idea of a superhero story that wasn’t just the typical story that you’d normally get. That’s what I was shooting for. That and something that could be told in a short form (8 pages).

Now forget that I had no idea what a comic book script was supposed to look like format wise… at least not really. I had this vague idea that I’d need to break this plot down into pages and that those pages would need to be broken down into panels, but for some reason I either couldn’t or just wouldn’t do that. Instead the script that I delivered to the artist was mostly composed of narration and some vague attempts at “Hey this would be an interesting image to appear somewhere on this page”.

But of all of the things I’ve written, The God That Failed holds a special place in my heart. Most likely because it was the first thing I got published in a comic (it appeared in Terminus Media Presents: Evolution Book 1), but I think it also was that first spark which showed that maybe, perhaps, this dream I had since I was all of 10 years old scribbling ideas in a blue spiral notebook might be attainable.

Evolution-Book-one-cover-lo

Since the internet loves a list, here are 10 things (Why 10? Because that’s how many I came up with!) about my first comic that might strike your fancy, a behind the scenes, if you will:

1- The story is online, for free at Terminus Media’s webpage. Click here to give it a read and tell me what you think in the comments section below (on Terminus’s site or on this very blog).

2- John Etienne was the artist on the story. The only reason that Etienne was my artist is because I had approached him a couple of months earlier, before the idea of doing an anthology was even a real thought in anyone’s head. However, it wasn’t because I had this story lined up. No, instead I had wanted him to draw an 8 page Moon Knight story for me (not sure what my goal there would have been). Lucky for me he didn’t have time right then to work on anything, and when the anthology project was finally launched I had a story of my own.

3- John Etienne happens to know my Mother-in-Law. She played a trick on him once the comic was out by telling him that not only had she gone to Dragon Con, but she had bought this comic book and wondered if he was the artist on it. “I always go to Dragon Con, and I love comic books”. After a few dumb-founded seconds she fessed up, but both of them later relayed the story to me (and the look on his face as he wasn’t sure if he’d stepped into Bizzaro world or not). I believe Etienne’s words were to me that he just couldn’t see her at Dragon Con. Though, I would pay good money to see her downtown on Labor Day weekend.

4- There was some debate about the order of the stories within the book. I generally like to be the nice guy about most things, but by my thinking I believed you either wanted to be the first story or the last story in the book (actually we all may have thought those spots were the best). I ended up with the last story position, but when the first story ended up delayed (or abandoned, I can’t remember) everyone agreed to put The God That Failed into the first position. Again, I have to thank Etienne for actually being the first one finished with his pages which made the choice fairly easy plus they looked pretty damn good as well, which did not hurt our cause).

5- I mentioned in the last blog that my favorite superheroes are Spider-Man and The Flash. The God That Failed was my idea of what would happen to a guy who received the abilities of The Flash, but that power was burning him up inside.

TheFlash

6- In my original script, page 7 was actually page 6, and page 6 was page 7. Given the way the narration was done the story wasn’t as much linear as it was a guy talking about his friend who was disappearing from the world. When I actually saw the finished pages I had those two flipped given the way the story played out. That being said, page 7 is a “what if” moment, not something that the character actually did (he didn’t need to get more power, he already had way too much).

7- Though I love the serialized format of comic books, this was always a stand-alone story… a cautionary tale, a new myth or something. Thus began my apparent need to tell complete stories (done in one) in comics. That continues today with The Gilded Age. But the real reason that I didn’t want to have him as a new hero for future stories was that I had no idea if or when I’d ever get a chance to do more comics. And as a reader there is nothing more frustrating than buying a comic that says “To Be Continued” and then not ever finding the rest of the story.

8- The main character’s name was John Smith; however, it wasn’t because two Johns worked on the story. I wanted a generic name, someone who might be easily forgotten regardless of all the good deeds he might have done. That fear is something that I know I have and I was channeling that fear into John Smith. This is really summed up to me on pages 5 & 6 but mostly in panel 4 on page 5. John carving into the Easter Island statues is not him destroying something precious; it is his attempt to prove that he existed at all. I sometimes wonder if he did that all over the world.

9- The title is taken from the title of a song on Metallica’s Black Album. I just liked the way it sounded, and since superheroes many times are considered gods, it fit exceptionally well in my mind.

Now I probably owe them money or something.

10- My favorite page of the story is the last one. I think (I hope) that I dodged becoming too preachy by having that last panel thrown in there. I love the idea of another what if… this one being, of course, what if John Smith had lived. The shot of The Fruit Fly conjures up memories of a 10-year old me. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that.

behindthemusic-thumb-3

So there you go, a few bits and pieces about the story… my own commentary track. Sadly it is not like the old VH1’s Behind the Music because at no point could I really say “And then tragedy struck”.

Or maybe not so sadly…

Chad’s Theory of 10%

a good muffin

I apologize in advance for the brevity of this post. Sometimes the words flow out of you, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you can’t stop writing; sometimes you can’t start. In this case, sometimes you have too much to write and your weekly blog post gets shuffled to the bottom of the pile.

I am currently adapting two works into other mediums: a novel called Proxy into a treatment for a motion picture screenplay and a motion picture screenplay called Dakota Skye into the first of a series of novels.

I wrote both of those things. So that means I’m adapting myself.

And it ain’t easy.

Partially because I’ve told both of these stories before and it’s hard to get up to tell them again.

But mostly because I’m struggling to find the magic 10%. What the hell does that mean? you ask. I’ll explain.

Novels have been adapted into films since the beginning of cinema. Modern readers are often disappointed with the adaptations of their favorite books: “why did they cut that?” “she wouldn’t say that!” “where is Tom Bombadil?” “that’s not how it ends!” “what are you Hollywood morons doing to my favorite thing?!?”.

Understandable thoughts, I think. I’ve had those reactions myself. Understandable, but quite unreasonable.

You see, the major narrative mediums: fiction, drama, television, film, web series, operas, comics, and, to an extent, video games, are 90% the same. The tenants of storytelling apply across the board. Structure, pacing, conflict, character, tone. Storytelling hasn’t changed much since the days of bards and minstrels.

So, if all these mediums are so similar, if storytelling is so uniform, then what makes them different? It’s that missing 10%. That 10% (obviously just an arbitrary symbolic ratio) to me is what makes each art form its own. Every single one of those storytelling vehicles I listed above have something that the others can’t do. A great book, movie, or play takes advantage of what it does better than its peers.

I believe that you should create your work with only one medium in mind. You shouldn’t write your novel thinking about how it would make a good movie. Don’t make your comic book with visions of a video game in your head. Because that thinking limits you to that 90% and keeps you from realizing the full potential of what you’re writing. To me, that’s where you get boring books, paint-by-numbers films, and mediocre television.

I had an incident two years ago that illustrates this. I had an idea for a web series. A friend of mine has a character, an alter ego you would say, that he has created, and we were always looking for something to do with it/him. So I hit on an idea that I thought would work as a web show. I took into consideration the limitations of the form (and our wallets), but also what I thought could make it unique and interesting and funny by working within those confines. By making something that only made sense as a web series, that catered to the viewing habits of internet watchers, that made it unique.

We both loved the idea, but we thought maybe we needed to bring in a few other people to help, because we probably would need a little money. We met with an couple guys that were looking to get into producing web series. We started talking about the show; they had read the pitch already. We all thought it was a good, funny idea.

But then things went south. They started to talk about ‘opening it up’. Taking the character ‘out into the world’. Varying up the types of episodes. Making it less specific, trying to reach a broader audience. It dawned on me what they really wanted to make:

They wanted to make a mini-sitcom.

Which is a terrible fucking idea.

But what they were looking at this web series as was a means to a bigger end and to me, it was the end. They wanted to make something that could then be picked up as a regular television show if successful. So they wanted to apply many of the (outdated) rules of TV to it.

But this idea of mine, it would have been an awful, unsustainable television show.

But a great web series.

I ended up scrapping the whole thing because these guys didn’t understand new media. Had no idea. I would mention very successful web series like ‘The Guild’ and get blank stares. They had never seen a web series. They wanted to make short-form TV pilots.

They wanted to make a show that covered the 90% and ignored the 10% that would make it special. And in my experience, if you write something in one medium with another medium being your goal, you are going to create something that falls short of both.

The same thing happened when I was working on a comic book with a creator/artist who could not shut up about how much money he could make with the toys and movie rights. I kind of wish he had spent less time dreaming about being Todd MacFarlane and more time actually making the fucking comic because it’s been several years since my departure from it and the book has yet to see the light of day.

When I wrote the screenplay for Dakota Skye, I only ever thought of it as a film. Even though it’s talky, I still tried to think visually, using the language of cinema to tell the story. Film stories are flimsy things; there is not a lot of depth to them based on the limitations of running time. You have to do things, like create a love story, in brief and broad strokes. Luckily, a single image can convey what a novelist would need 5000 words to evoke. The image is at least 75% of film’s 10%.

(Getting tired of the arbitrary percentages yet? Sorry. There will be more.)

So now I’m sitting down to turn this screenplay into a novel and whoa boy. I learned on Proxy that a book requires many more words than a screenplay (a script page is mostly blank space). A lot more writing. Adapting Dakota Skye is reinforcing that bit of knowledge with a vengeance. I sat down to write the first chapter, based on the first couple scenes of the script, and just wrote what was in the script. Didn’t add any dialogue, just included very simple descriptions of what was happening and didn’t go too far into the characters’ thoughts. I did a very faithful version of the scenes that people know from the movie and script.

When I was done I had about a page and a half.

So what I’m doing now while I’m writing the book is searching for that 10%. I’ve taken away the things that make the movie a movie: the ability to convey information with imagery alone, characters coming to life through the use of actors, the ability to augment pace and emotion with things like editing and music. So, what do I replace those things with to make Dakota Skye: The Novel into an actual novel in the way Dakota Skye: The Movie was a movie?

It hasn’t been easy, but it mostly involves adding a fuck-ton more words.

At the same time, a few producers have expressed interest in considering thinking about the idea of my novel Proxy as a film. Before they can even see that, though, they need a treatment (a short prose description of the film, usually written before the screenplay) and eventually a script. So I’ve been working on that at the same time as the new novel and am facing the same challenge: the 10%.

In the case of going from the novel to the screen, the specialness you’re losing is the depth. The ability to dive into a character’s mind, to go off of tangents that may or may not enhance the narrative, to take characters on long, complex journeys step-by-step without having to use shorthand, to build robust worlds for your characters to inhabit.

The main thing you lose is the characters’ internal lives, especially with a first-person novel like Proxy. In a film, you can’t describe what a character is thinking: you need to show it. You can’t meander in and out of the world you’ve created: there’s no time. A characters thoughts, emotions, beliefs, motives, they all have to be on the screen. Sure, you can use voice-over (I did in Dakota Skye) but that’s very easy to do wrong and even when it’s done right (like in Dakota Skye) you have to use it sparingly.

No, film truly is ‘show don’t tell’.

So now I have to take this book I wrote, this book that was the center of my world for over a year, strip it down, simplify it, find ways to convey complex information in broad strokes, get rid of the asides and deviations, and mostly ignore the world I’ve built, and in addition serve certain non-diegetic concerns such as commercial viability, budget, and casting.

What do I get in return for these sacrifices? I get the things I’m having to lose from Dakota Skye. The image. The edit. The visceral experience that a book cannot provide. Do you know what will be better in a film version of Proxy than in the book? Fights. Chases. Sex. Things that you can do fine on paper but that movies excel at. Finding the ways you can take what you’ve done and make them visual filmic is difficult and rewarding. Sometimes you add things; sometimes things have to go.

So remember that the next time you see some stupid filmmaker fuck up your favorite book. A book is not a movie; a movie is not a book. That 10% is 100% the difference.

Taking a book and making a word-for-word film version would not just make a thirty-hour movie, it would be impossible.

Taking a screenplay and making a word-for-word novel version would not just leave you with a 45-page book, it would be impossible.

So, anyway. that’s where I am now. This crisscross of adaptation. I’m not going to lie and say it isn’t difficult, but I am determined to find each project’s special 10% that will help it make the transition properly.

This was going to be a blog post about how I didn’t have time to write a blog post. I ended up writing one anyway. I’m a big fat liar like that. There’s at least a 62% chance that I’ll have something substantial next week as opposed to this unorganized rant about how busy I am and my 10% philosophy, one of my many annoying and I’m sure incorrect ideas about writing and art (I’m sure I’ll inflict more of those on you at another point).

Anyway. Gotta go. My other projects are calling me.

Now, should I work on the adaptation…

or the adaptation?

The Biggest Fish: Smallville

At some point the following tale has become my own Big Fish story. Or perhaps it just has that sort of potential. I can only relay the events as they are currently in my mind… somewhat dulled by the time and distance from the original events. What you do with this information is completely up to you.

Garrison_Big_Fish

I cast my mind back to sometime in 2002 where I had joined up with a group of like-minded aspiring writers in the back of the Dragon’s Horde comic shop in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I like to think of this time as the beginning of Phase 1 of my writing career (Phase 2 came in 2010). The beginning of working with others on various projects, and the beginning of having someone read something I had put to paper (up to this point writing was this distant thing in the back of my mind, but I either lacked the willpower or the knowledge to even know where to begin).

Anyway, one of the group members (we called ourselves WriteClub… possibly not the most clever of names, but it got the point across) told us he had a connection through his sister that could walk a potential script into the Smallville offices. We just needed a script.

Smallville-Logo

Of course the first question after “How exactly is this going to work?” and “Really? No BS?” was how were we going to do this? There were 6 of us in our little group and this could be something we all focused on. A true collaboration. So we sat around one Sunday and talked about the show, and if we were going to do a script what plot points should we hit? I want to say after that one afternoon we had a rough outline and plot points, but it may have been a couple of meetings before that happened. And I don’t remember all the specifics of those meetings, but I do recall the FUN of it all. This was our chance, no matter how small, and we were all ready to give it a shot. No idea was off limits at first, and then we slowly began to circle around the true idea… the one that would serve as our story for this script.

That story was roughly as follows:

Green Arrow would make his first appearance on the show. (What nerve we had to even think this way. I mean not only were we going to immediately get this script sold, but we’d also be the first to really bring in a non-Superman hero. Like no one in their writer’s room had thought of that.)

Green_Arrow_Vol_5_logo

He would meet/come into contact with Chloe (she was the sorta Lois character before Lois showed up on the TV Show) and there would be some definite sparks that would fly between the two of them. (While I think this is a fairly obvious thing to do, I actually still like the idea of trying to introduce another person into the Lana/Clark/Chloe triangle. And there would be someone else for Chloe to add to the Wall of Weird.)

He would need something from Lex. And to get that something would require breaking into Lex’s home. (I believe this was one of those things that would initially bring our heroes into conflict as suddenly Clark is really stuck between possibly covering up a misdeed of Lex or letting a thief get away with something that could hurt his friend… a pseudo gray area for the Man of Steel).

And at the end, Green Arrow would get the heck out of town with some aspect of the information he was after (courtesy of Chloe), but with the feel as if he could be back.

Again there was more to it than that, but this was the basics as we settled on them. Now the only question was: Who wanted to bang out this script?

And the table went silent. I’m not sure if it was because none of us really had a clue what we were doing and didn’t want to be called out on it or what, but for whatever reason I found myself saying the words: “I’ll do it.”

Looking back, this was a huge step for me. What in the world was I thinking? What if they hated it? What if I was exposed as a fraud? Hell, I barely understood the way a script was supposed to be formatted at this point. And still I raised my hand and volunteered. I rushed home with Final Draft ready to be installed on my computer and began to type, my fingers a blur as the ideas and the dialogue flowed from me. I did my best to develop scenes and made sure to hit all the high points. By the end of the night (probably more likely very early in the morning), I had the roughest of rough drafts finished. A masterpiece of American Television waiting to be unleashed upon Hollywood.

It was 29 pages.

Now, what I did not know at the time was that in script terms for movies and TV 1 page equals (roughly) 1 minute of filming. Smallville had a running time without commercials of around 42 minutes. Which meant I should have something around 42 pages.

And I had 29.

No problem, though. I was excited to have that much written up. And when I found out about the discrepancy, well that was why I was a part of the group. We tossed more ideas around and I believe we got the script up towards 40 pages (I might be wrong on this, but as I said above, this is my Big Fish and it weighs…). But we weren’t done. We did a table read. We brought in a couple of females to read the women’s lines to help make sure nothing was too out of whack. And at the end of that follow-up meeting I took the notes and compiled that final version.

We sent it off to the sister.

Add_submission

And waited.

And waited.

And then heard back from her that she read it and really liked it! It was on its way as she’d pass it along to her contacts over at Warner Bros.

And then nothing. Nothing came of it. In my mind, I constructed an elaborate Twilight Zone style scenario where the script was on the desk of the man (or woman) who was the final arbiter and somehow it had fallen behind the desk, just out of sight. Because that was the only reason our phones had not been ringing off the hook (back when phones did that and didn’t just vibrate in your pant’s pocket).

Months passed and the script became almost an urban legend in the group. We’d mention it in passing like someone who had taken a grainy picture of Bigfoot or Loch Ness. The thought was occasionally passed around that we might be able to resubmit via another connection (we may or may not have done that, I can’t remember). I took the last printed copy and stored it away for safe-keeping. Eventually, like most legends it slipped completely from our consciousness.

Fast forward to October 20, 2004. I settled in to watch Smallville for the evening as the episode “Run” appeared. It was to feature a non-Superman hero: The Flash.

For those of you that don’t know my two favorite superheroes are Spiderman and The Flash… but I’ll talk about that in another post. So to say I was glued to my seat would be an accurate statement.

This version of the Flash flirts with Chloe, steals something from Lex, which causes him to come into conflict with Clark.

Watching the episode was a bit surreal. Little things here and there seemed familiar, big things seemed close…

And when I was done I felt a warmness spread throughout me. We were on the right track with our script.  This episode felt so much like ours that it only reinforced that thought in my mind. The next day I talked to one of the group. His first words were:

“I liked the episode of Smallville you wrote, John.”

Now do I know if anyone in the Warner Bros’ offices actually ever saw our script? No. Heck, I’m 100% (well more like 99.999 – with a lot more 9s, but we’ll round up) that they did not. I’m not accusing anyone of anything unsorted.

I just think we tapped into that common Idea Space that is out there, that so many creative people seem to be able to harness. That same reason that multiple movies come out about the same subject (of course the other reason for that is because the studio sees an opportunity to beat an opponent at the same game, but I digress).

This was an example of that. That’s how close it was/felt to what we had done. That’s how close we were to getting a shot at the big leagues.

But above everything else, that project gave me some measure of confidence in my abilities. Writing that script in the first place and then watching as the others read it I felt like a team with others, but more than anything I felt like I could be one of the heavy hitters for that team. My future in writing was going to be big and bright.

I mean, I’d written an episode of Smallville after all.

Just Finish It

I’ve gone to plenty of writing panels over the years hoping to discover, like Ponce de Leon looking for the Fountain of Youth, the secret formula to their success. How the heck did they manage to get up there with their book, comic, etc? Most of the time I do learn something, some nugget of truth that makes the trip worthwhile (maybe a technique or some obstacle they managed to overcome). But there really is one thing that separates them from those of us in the room:

You want to be a writer?  Then write, sure, but FINISH the task.

Too much I get caught up in the idea of writing. Make sure that I get my WORDS in for the day, or make sure that the latest chapter gets revised.

w-b-park-finish-it-why-would-i-want-to-finish-it-new-yorker-cartoon

 But at some point you have got to get to “Pencil’s Down”. This is something I have only just now begun to understand, and I am not even close to where I want to be.  I have only scratched the surface of this for myself and constantly have to fight to get there.

There is a difference between “Wanting” to be a writer (nevermind the great) and “Being” a writer.

It is the “Doing”.

In everyday life there are people who WANT to do, be, have something.  How many of them take the time to sit down (or stand up as the case may be) and actually do it?  How many distractions can one person have before their WANT simply becomes their DREAM and then later their REGRET.

Dreams Road Sign

 

This is the mantra I have to keep telling myself over and over. When I get tired or don’t want to sit down at the computer, I repeat it.

It seems so simple. It seems like one of those things that you read and say “Of course. What else would you think you needed to do?”

Even knowing it isn’t enough. It’s never that easy. How many ideas do I currently have sitting on my computer or flash drive that are waiting for me to finish them?  Dozens.  How many are finished?  Not nearly enough (not by a long shot). So why can’t I get there every time? What’s the hold up?

Sometimes it is the FEAR. The FEAR that what I’m writing is not going to be liked. I’m just as worried that by finishing said story or script or novel or whatever that people will read the FINISHED product and not like it and then where did my work get me?  What a waste, right?

ed-dans-ed-wood-de-tim-burton-10967401cmebh_1713

Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better.

I have to convince myself that it isn’t a waste. That with each word that I write (and rewrite and edit and then even the ones I cut) means I am one inch closer to where I need to be. I get to that million words and beyond.

So that unfinished thing is doing you so much good then?  Sure, you can’t get hurt if you don’t finish it, but I have to say, putting that final word down on the page and knowing that you have actually completed something.  That’s got to be worth something.

Right?

When somebody posts their finished piece of art or script or whatever, they are 1 million times ahead of me with my dozens of unfinished products.  It doesn’t matter how much better of a writer I THINK I am because they have already lapped me 4 or 5 times.

I know plenty of people (I am one of those people some times) that start a project and get bored and then jump to another project, get bored, wash, rinse, repeat.  At the end of a year they have enough stuff that you’d think they’d have a Finished Product, but instead it is spread out over ten different things. Ten different UNFINISHED things. Ugh.

It’s an odd thing that really in the last year I feel like I’ve started to have real successes on the writing side of things, but even those are still not quite finished. Sure, issue #1 of The Gilded Age is complete, but I think I allowed myself about 5 minutes to enjoy that it existed in a tangible format before my brain started spinning on when the next issue would be finished. Same with Tiger Style #1.

The greatest thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. You need a writer and an artist and maybe an inker and a colorist and a letterer and an editor before the whole thing is ready and done.

The worst thing about comic books is that it is a collaborative process. And that you need to have those other people because when any one point slips, the whole process comes to a complete halt. I don’t get the artist the next issue’s script, well I guess that is going to delay the book. The inker doesn’t get the pencils by the deadline… now we have another delay. And so on.

It can be maddening. It’s one of the reasons I started writing a novel in the first place. Finally, something that is totally on me and only me to get done.

Only. On. Me.

Gulp.

Yeah, so now who do I get to blame when my next chapter isn’t written yet? Who do I get to blame when that second draft is still waiting to get done?

Oh, that would be me.

Even now as I seemingly crawl through the last bit of editing on my first novel, The Dark That Follows, it doesn’t really exist until it is done. Before that it is just another unfinished project hoping for me to put the time in and get it out the door. The serial I’m working on with J Edward Neill, Hollow Empire, has many chapters completed in various forms (some in needed of editing, some ready for a read through, etc.), but until Episode 6 is complete and edited and out the door it just is another thing “I’m working on”. The next issue of The Gilded Age or Tiger Style or whatever else is coming down the pipeline.

So I repeat my mantra and put my butt in the seat and start typing.

New York Comic Con Recap – Stories from the Con

New-York-Comic-Con

Even a week and a half later I’m still recovering and reflecting from my experience over those (very) long four days. I went up as part of Terminus Media‘s 3-man team. Our goals were to sell some comics, do an interview with the kind folks at Comic Con, and just begin to get the word out about our books. In the coming weeks, I’ll get a little more into Terminus and our books, but for this post I wanted to share a handful of moments/stories from the convention (or just from those four days).

Steampunk Guy

When you are passionate about something in the “Geek Culture” you want everyone else to know it. Maybe you love dropping obscure knowledge or quoting the movie/tv show/book/comic/whatever on some unsuspecting person.  But the biggest thing, is that much like a Superhero, it is your solemn duty to stamp out any perceived ignorance about your LOVE. This means that you must constantly be vigilant for anyone who might take this LOVE’s name in vain. I mean Heaven help those who might get something wrong about that thing you LOVE.

So the comic book that I’m currently working on… the thing which has sprung forth from my little brain is The Gilded Age.  Now this is a Steampunk book (at least according to me… the creator).  That is an important piece of information. I’m at the table and this guy comes up dressed in a Steampunk inspired costume and the following conversation happens once I give him my 30 second spiel about The Gilded Age and he begins to flip through the comic.

Me – So I want to build things through the characters… from their eyes before I throw you in the deep end with dates and everything.

Him – Well that’s not really Steampunk.  You know, that’s what people want, they want all of that information and then they’ll want even more from you.

Me – Well I guess that’s what I like about the genre is that it is open to various ways of telling a story.

Him – Yeah… no, people want it all at once.  That’s what Steampunk is about. <pause> What’s your Point of Divergence?

Me – Sorry?

Him – Where the timeline breaks off?

Me – Oh, well, I haven’t gotten into it, but it has more to do with DaVinci and his inventions than something like Babbage.

Him – Hmm. <takes a moment to flip through the issue again> This isn’t Steampunk.  This is really Arcane Punk.

Me – Ok.

Him – Do you know what <some art related criticism> is?

Me – No, sorry, I’m not sure what that is.

Him – Of course you don’t. You’re just an artist. But it is done wrong in this book.

Me – Well, actually I’m not the artist. I’m the writer.

Him – Oh.

During the whole conversation I’m alternating in my head between channeling Samuel Jackson and just smiling. It took some self-control, but I kept smiling.

Arcane Punk

He bought a copy though.

Airport

After the con was done we had to head back to Atlanta so we got to the airport way early… like your Dad gets to the airport early (three hours early). I’m fine with it even if we had to abandon our booth a couple of hours early, but I’d rather have a moment to grab a little food and rest.

Of course, the flight was delayed 15 minutes to start.  We finally get boarded and then promptly sit on the tarmac for another 30 minutes. It was at this point I found out/remembered that Airtran may possibly have the least about of leg room of ALL TIME.

A little about me: I’m 6′ 5″ tall which means that I have long legs.  Now I have come to grips on the fact that the world is built for much smaller people (on the way up I somehow lucked into an exit row seat – glorious leg room!). However, I’m ready to say right now that sitting on the runway for that long amounts to a form of torture and by the Geneva Convention I think I have a case against the airline.

Really. Kissing your knees is not a fun way to spend the evening.

Phones have not been invented yet

We get to the hotel to check in.  Go up to the front desk and give the concierge our names, but alas the room is not under Tony or my name. Mark (head of Terminus) had reserved the rooms for us. No problem.  We get Mark on the phone in an effort to get all of this resolved.

Tony – I’ve got him on the phone. He can give you all the correct information.

Concierge – No! I can’t take that phone. I can’t do anything over the phone.

Tony – But he’s right here. He can tell you.

Concierge – No, I can’t do it over the phone. What he will have to do is FAX me his information.

At this point Tony and I turn to each other, dumbfounded.

What year is this? FAX? 1993?

Do they still have dial-up modems?

Do dinosaurs still walk the Earth?

dino-phone

Tony – Can he email it to you?

Concierge – Yes.

So wait… he knows what email is, but he can’t take the EXACT same information over the PHONE? In case you were wondering that would be where a person SPEAKS to another person. It’s like texting, but Ma’ Bell thought it up about 100+ years ago!

But he can take it through a FAX which uses the PHONE LINE.  Good lord!

Our Booth Location

Terminus was situated just across from the Intel gaming area which actually was a blessing in disguise as we weren’t cramped up in regular aisles. Instead there was plenty of room in front of us.

It also meant that we had a front row (figuratively speaking) to the Starcraft Tournament they were running. Now the last time I played Starcraft was over a decade ago. I liked the game, but my Xbox 360 pushed it out, and I haven’t really thought about it until the con.  Where they played.

Every day.

On the big screens.

For hours on end.

Never-ending battles of Terrans vs. Zerg vs. Protoss.

Feature matches on the big screens.

At night I would dream of those units moving back and forth across the screen. My brain slowly trying to figure out which board might give an advantage to a certain army.

It may have been too much.

Since I’ve gotten home though I do feel like something is missing in my life. And that old game has begun calling my name.

334px-Starcraft2-logo

Excuse me while I download the latest version for my machine…

Why Can’t I Be Rod Tidwell?

In the movie Jerry Maguire, Rod Tidwell is an athlete who has confidence in himself (some might say too much), in his abilities, and in his skill. But he’s hit the wall. No one seems to know about him and no one seems to care about him (in the football world at least).

Until… finally, at the end of the movie he shows up and on a national stage does something to capture everyone’s attention.

That’s what I want.

No, not the money, I certainly don’t write to make tons of money. I just want the opportunity to show that I have some talent. To tell a story and to have others see it.

To have others enjoy it.

The most maddening thing about being a writer who is on the outside looking in is that moment when you read something “professional” and know, 1000%, that you could do it better. That your ability to string words together in a sentence was better than that particular writer. If only you had the chance.

If only someone with power knew you existed.

I’ve been at this writing thing for almost a decade now. I say a decade because the stuff before it doesn’t count for me. It was playtime in a notebook. I cringe to think about those stories I wrote back in school. The terrible poetry (maybe it is good – with that certain teenage angst running through it, but I cannot bring myself to look) sitting on my hard drive. The one problem with being a pack rat is that old stuff is still around. Everything is kept because to not keep it would be disastrous.

So, ten years ago I became involved in a writing group. We met in the back of a comic book shop. Artists flowed in and out of the place and someone had the idea “let’s make a comic book”. That first day I saw a page of something I’d written drawn was a moment akin to magic.

That was the first step.

But with every little step forward it was followed by at least two steps backward. A cliche, to be sure, but beyond true. Flaky people who promised one thing and then never delivered. They all seemed to fall right off the face of the Earth. And yet, stubbornly, I continued on. The first anthology comic came out. A year and some later another one came out. Then the first color book about a year after that.

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

When Do I Get To See The Sailboat?

And still the frustrations grew. Projects thought up and then abandoned for all sorts of reasons. And still I wondered what it was going to take.

“I should be further along…

If only the artists would stop being so slack and finish something…

If I had more free time…

If…”

Almost three years ago I got laid off from my day job.  For the first time since college, I was out of work for almost four months. That time might have been eaten up before I knew it, if not for my wife. She was the one who suggested that I just write a book.

“You have these stories, and you never have the time normally, but now…”

So I went home that night and started to write what would become The Dark That Follows. Every night after my wife went to bed I stayed up into the early hours writing on that draft. Stumbling over words, but doing the deed.  Butt in chair every night.

I finished the first draft the night before I started my new job.

Since then I’ve written another novel, worked on a bunch of comic projects (both of which I’ll be talking about as time goes on), and slowly feel like the tide is turning. The old 10-year success… maybe. I’m certainly hoping that someone notices.

That someone enjoys it.Rod Tidwell Touchdown

I’ve got my celebration dance ready for that day.

John McGuire

PS – You can find that very first comic here: http://www.terminusmedia.com/new-retro-the-god-that-failed/#more-1063