Friday, December 4, 2009

Reborn!

I finished my "last" inking deadline about six weeks ago. The quotes are because I don't want to completely close the door on my inking career. I'm trying to become a full-time writer in the long term, but... you never know.

Anyway, in the last six weeks, I have spent most of my time as a writer wrestling with the same damn pitch. It is a pitch and an idea that I love... one that I would love to write. It is also one that is wearing me out.

When I first wrote the pitch, it was pretty high concept and minimal. It was character driven, and the lead is a character I'm dying to write. It got complicated, though. The pitch was a little too similar to another book that had just come out, so I started tweaking. For the next few weeks, these tweaks occupied my mind damn near all the time. I would find a solution, sure it was the way to go. The next day, that solution was a load of crap. I woke up a few times with great ideas, only to stare at my excited scribbles the next day with disgust.

So, for the first time in the short lifespan of my new career, I did something really smart. I set it aside. A few days ago, I moved on another project... something that's been on my mind for years. That project was an absolute godsend to me this week.

Problems on the "new" project are falling away with relative ease. I'm excited to be back in this world, and while I can still feel the world of the other pitch lurking over there in the corner, it's not weighing on me anymore. I have no guarantees, but I have a strong feeling that, once this new project is resolved on paper, the one I was fighting so desperately will somehow fall in place.

It's been an interesting process, and one I'm not quite familiar with. I didn't often have the luxury to simply move over to another project as an inker. I have a feeling I'm going to be learning a lot of new tricks over the next several months.

Have a solid weekend. See you back here soon, I hope.

Anj

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thursday- Talking Truman

Just time for a quick story today.

I was asked to speak to a high school English class a few years back. The class had read To Kill A Mockingbird and the teacher, knowing I had written about Harper Lee and Truman Capote (you've all read Capote In Kansas by now, I assume!), thought I could offer some insight as to the creation of Harper's masterpiece.

Well, I serve on the school board of our little town, and the last thing I need is an angry parent showing up at a board meeting asking why the hell I was teaching her little angel about the evils of man-sex. I didn't want to be dishonest about Truman's sexuality, but I didn't want to invite controversy, either.

I asked the teacher how, in talking about the character Dill and his Truman Capote life-model, she had dealt with Truman's sexuality. The smiling teacher informed me that she had simply been referring to Truman as "flamboyant!". Um... okay!

So, I did my little talk. As I walked the class through my experiences in researching Truman and Harper, I spoke at length about the Clutter killings and how I portrayed them in my book. Along the way, I mentioned that I believed Truman had, during the writing of In Cold Blood, fallen in love with one of the killers, Perry Smith.

When I asked for questions, a girl at the back of the class raised her hand a little sheepishly. "So," she asked, "Perry was a girl?"

"No," I replied, "Perry was a gentleman, as well".

Silent beat.

Girl screws her face up for another silent beat before finally offering, "Um... oh... yeah. Okay."

And we moved on. Never heard from any parents, so I guess no one was too badly traumatized.

Anj

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wednesday: Reading and Writing

Just finished the first fiction I've actually finished in far too long: James Crumley's The Last Good Kiss. It had the effect on me that all good art does. It opened up possibilities. It made me want to do better.

Part of my new life as a full-time writer is more time for reading. Like I said, I haven't read much fiction lately. I've always been more of a biography and non-fiction reader, but there's been too little of that lately, too. For too long, I've clung to a stubborn belief that staying away from other people's writing helped preserve whatever was unique in my own talent. There may be some kernel of honesty there, but it's mainly a rationalization for laziness. I'm fixing it. I'm not going to be lazy about reading anymore.

Winding my way through Crumley's wonderful prose, I was struck by how you have to get into a flow to read well. I cannot stand to skim through the page. I want to really feel the impact of a clever observation. I'm not just reading for plot. I want to study what the writer has laid out for me, and that takes time. As I made my way through The Last Good Kiss I found myself more in tune with Crumley's style, and the pages flew by. It took me about as long to read the last 150 pages as it had the first hundred.

Crumley also made me wonder about writing more prose. It's something that's been on my mind lately, anyway. I've always said that I liked writing comics exactly because I didn't want to write prose. I thought I preferred writing a script that served as a guide for an artist, and letting the dialogue serve as my only accompaniment. I'm starting to wonder, though. I don't know if I could ever touch Crumley, but I can string words together. It's worth thinking about. There are practical considerations, as well. I have at least some sort of career as a comic book writer. Writing prose means reaching out to an entirely different business... one that is reeling.

On the other hand, in these days of e-reading, maybe I could write prose without finding a publisher in the old-school sense. Well, I know I could write it and distribute it. The question, as always, would be making a buck out of the whole endeavor. Stupid bucks.

That's enough of my rambling for today. Go read some Crumley. I'm moving on to some Steve Hely.

Anj

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guess Who's Back... Back again...

It's been an absolutely embarrassing long time since I posted here. I could blame all manner of things, but what's the point? I was busy elsewhere... that's all.

A lot has happened to me in the past month or two. In a way, I left a career that has treated me pretty well for nearly twenty years behind in pursuit of a new one. It's not that cut and dried, of course. Things rarely are. I know I will do more inking. I know it's possible that I'll be scrambling for inking job by this time next year. I also know, thought, that I really want to be a writer. Inking the last page of the last inking job I had lined up was an interesting experience. Likewise, embarking on what I hope will become a real career as a writer has been exhilarating, daunting, and a bit stressful.

I have a lot to say about the shift, actually. I don't want to blow my blogwad in one day, though, so I'll just pick one thing to focus on for now.

I was twenty-six years old in the summer of 1990, when my wife and I moved away from home to live in Philadelphia. She was going to work on her Doctorate at Penn. I was going to be closer to Marvel and DC Comics in New York, and to establish myself as an inker. Quick aside- screw you, spellchecker, for not knowing that "inker" is a real term.

Anyway, Cynthia and I had been married for only seven months when we hit the road. It was a big step. We weren't kids by any stretch, but it felt like a pretty grand adventure. We were leaving behind parents and relative security to find out if we really could make it in the world on our own. Thankfully, we had each chosen our partners in this adventure wisely. Me more wisely than my wife, I should add.

In short, we did it. My wife, because she's brilliant, kind, and lovable, finished her degree and entered the job market in great shape. I, thanks to a stubborn nature, a little talent, and the help of some extraordinary friends (Mike Manley, Phil Hester and John Heebink, to name a few), made a real career for myself in the comic book business. We settled back in Kansas and began the next chapter in our lives, welcoming our children to the mix.

I indulge myself, and anyone still with me at this point, in these memories because they hit me hard as I finished the last page of this last (for the time being) inking job a month ago. I found myself tinkering with that page: adding unnecessary details, picking at stuff that was really done and good enough before throwing the page on the scanner. It didn't take a lot of soul-searching to realize that I was being wistful.

Damn near twenty years ago... nearly half my life ago... my wife and I took our big first steps together. We drove to Pennsylvania to face the rest of our lives with a thick veneer of excitement and possibilities covering what had to be a lot of uncertainty. We made it. We built good lives for ourselves and our children, and now here I was saying goodbye, even if not permanently, to a job that had served as a cornerstone to that life.

I know it is right for me to move on from inking and into writing. I know that the former represents something of a dead end, while the latter represents almost boundless opportunity. I also know that writing represents challenges that I haven't faced in a long time. And, this time, it's not just me and my young wife along for the ride.

Shit... I better get to work.

I'll be back soon.

Anj

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hollywood Dreaming

Had a dream a couple of nights ago, and thought it was worth putting on "paper". As dreams go, it's awfully transparent. My brain was being especially shallow that night.

First, a little background. I write comics for a living (still inking some, but I consider myself a writer first these days). In the course of writing graphic novels, and trying to make some kind of a living at it, I have brushed against Hollywood from time to time. Like when a beautiful woman touches your shoulder as she moves past... nice enough, but it fades quickly and leaves you with nothing.

I guess I shouldn't say my Hollywood experiences have left me with nothing. For the most part, though, the check is still in the mail.

So, on to the dream:

I'm in Hollywood. I assume I'm there to work with some collaborators out there on a graphic novel and/or film project. Something very much like when I went out a year ago to work on the Ciudad outline with the Russo brothers.

I've been invited to a party being held by some moderately successful starlet. Not Tara Reid, but someone along those lines. Her estate is way bigger and grander than it should be for her perceived level of success. I'm hanging out in the backyard, which goes on forever. There are pretty, shiny Hollywood types all around, but I am hanging by myself. I assume I'm my usual charming self. and I'm sporting a nice enough summer fedora, but I still feel out of place... unbelievable!

I wander over to the pool. Pools, I should say. There are at least two, one of which is ridiculously large. The whole pool area glows a beautiful Maxfield Parrish blue.

I leave the pool and settle next to a decorative boulder. I don't seem to have a cocktail. Bad omen there.

Finally, someone comes over to talk to me. It's a young lady. She's been lured over by the hat, I'm sure. She asks me with just a trace of pity if I'd like to join her and a group of other revelers in the video game room.

The game room is, like the rest of the place, over the top. It's a pretty small room, packed with consoles and joysticks. The walls are completely lined with monitors. There must be two hundred of them.

I know nothing about the game these people are about to play. Still, I've been invited, and I don't want to blow what appears to be the only chance I'm going to have this evening to not be the lonely, creepy dude in the corner.

As the dozen or so beautiful people in the room prepare to begin their tournament, I suddenly realize that I'm holding a bag of some kind. Don't know where it came from or what's in it, but it's there and I have to get rid of it so I can attempt to play this game and become accepted and beautiful myself.

I walk over to the door, where there is an almost bare spot on the floor. Almost bare. There is some kind of electronic box with a switch there, but I toss the bag down anyway. It bumps the switch, and all the games and monitors in the room flick off.

Amidst the general dismay and bitching, someone offers that they probably caused the outage. To my credit, I don't allow them to take the rap. I announce to the room that it was my fault.

I wake up.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

50 Word Noir

My entry for www.dailylit.com's 50 word noir contest.

A Splash on the Widewalk

Wet pavement. Ceiling fans. Shot glasses. Dangerous broads walking into your office at the end of the week.

All bullshit.

It's nothing but tedium, shadows, unpleasant smells.

Grease, sweat, coffee, desperation.

Sometimes, like tonight, it ends with the sharp tang of blood.

Horrific. I vomit out the window. And wait.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A couple more Chicago Pictures

I punch the hell outta AROUND COMICS' Brion Salazar.



And, I pose with my pals Pat Loika and Phil Hester.



Anj

Monday, August 10, 2009

Wizard Chicago Comic-Con Thing

Just back from the "big" show in Chicago. I don't have the time or focus for a full report, so this stream of consciousness rant will have to suffice.

Drive to Chicago was long, and the final hour was a complete pain in the ass. I've driven in a lot of big city traffic, and Chicago is consistently the worst. Tolls every hundred yards, and everything is always torn up and shitty.

Tiki Bar with Jain Nitz and friends was an awesome way to settle down. Also had minor fun at the Hyatt bar Thursday night.

Aloft is a cool place to stay. I did not feel too old to be there, as I feared.

Did not sleep well. Something in the room was beeping! What the fuck was that?!



The con was... weird. Every artist I spoke with made comments about this being their last one. I'm not sure if I would do it again, assuming it happens again. I've been to something like 22 of these in a row.

I think I'm going to C2E2 in April, downtown Chicago.



I love Matt Wagner.

After two months with no steak, the Cajun Ribeye at Morton's was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Drank for almost four hours at the Hyatt Friday night, and paid for not a single drink. I felt like a pretty girl. I knew this Dean Martin mystique I have cultivated would pay off.

Speaking of pretty girls, April tucked my business card into her bra. Also, she loved my hat. Bless her heart.

I have a lot of cool friends... really enjoyed them Friday night.

Poor Jai.

Better sleep Friday night, but still not good.

Bought tickets for the whole family to see Bruce in KC October 25th. Behind the stage to save money, but it's still gonna be awesome.

Did lots of sketches and sold fair amount of books Saturday. No artwork moving at all. The floor in Artist's Alley was packed. People seemed ready to spend small amounts only.

Did a lot of free head sketches. I stuck to my guns on drawing only what I damn well want to for freebies. "Yes, you can have a free drawing. No, I will not draw your D&D character for free. Enjoy your Batman, jerkoff."

It hit me how this shift in my career, from inker to writer, has changed my status. As an inker, I felt I could approach any editor in the business and credibly ask for work. As a writer, I feel I have to open with, "Um... do you know I'm a writer?"

I took three hats on this trip. I needed all of them. I mean, I need to coordinate with shirts and such. What am I, an animal?

Had a wonderful meal at Maria's with Chris Mitten and his girlfriend, Michelle Behnken. I met Michelle just a few weeks ago, and she is already one of my favorite people. Her kids are cool, too.

More Hyatt Saturday night. Ran into April again. Kyle Strahm is hilarious. Jason Latour and Clay Moore really need some therapy. I adore Adam Witt and Anne Jurack, even if Anne is something of a story killer. I love the Around Comics boys. Ditto John Siuntres.



Great seeing the Iowa boys again. Brook, Jason, Aaron, Colin.







I love Pat Loika dearly, but there are certain acts in conjunction which he should not be mentioned.

Got to bed around 2:30 again Saturday night. Better sleep, but not the best.

Shower in my Aloft room was great.

Con was freaking dead Sunday. Oofa!

So nice to see my daughter again.

Ride home was pretty painless. Drove through St. Louis to show Hannah the arch. It freaked her out.

Home. Need to get to work... now.

Anj

Monday, July 27, 2009

San Diego... Part Two!

Friday night now, and...

Then, it was off to the big Oni/UTA/EA party. It was amazing. The party was held at the top floor of the ballpark that hosts the Padres. The night air was great, as were the drinks, the company, and the whole damn vibe of the night. Had a great time with Chuck BB, Jamie Rich, Chris Mitten and his girlfriend Michelle, the Oni folks, and many others. High points included humiliating myself by hovering around that new Spock dude, waiting to take his picture with Michelle, and telling my legendary M&M story (with photo, of course).

Speaking of photos, here's me with Chris Mitten and the lovely Michelle.


And, here's the same photo, with drunk-detector turned on. This is about how I felt at the moment.


After the party, it was back to the Hyatt. Saw my pal and former editor Aubrey Sitterson there, among others. Spoke to Colleen Coover briefly. but missed her man Paul Tobin. I partied pretty hard again, getting to bed at close to 3. I had not really had dinner, so I crashed equal parts hungry and tired. The next morning would take care of that, as I had a big breakfast scheduled with Hester, Ron Marz and Dan Jurgens.

First thing after the awesome breakfast Saturday morning was another signing at Oni. More good folks, including the lovely Pat Loika this time. Also saw my buddy and Ciudad collaborator Joe Russo. Then, I hit the con floor a little bit. Saw my pal Matt Wagner. The far end of the show wore me out in a fucking hurry. It was literally hard to move in some spots. Gah!

By the way... you know what is really the opposite of awesome? You're in a super-packed aisle, trying to squeeze through the sweaty masses when someone decides the need a picture of the dork in the Transformers costume walking in front of you. So, we all have to just freeze, out of some misplaced courtesy reflex, while this douche gets his photo taken. Bleccch!


Anyway, I got out of there in pretty short order. First was a meeting with my pal (and wonderful artist) Matt Haley. We had a drink at my hotel, the Marriott right next door to the show. Then, I ran up to the room, inked a sketch and took a nap. Back to the show briefly, as I really flirted with buying a really nice architectural drawing from '40s Miami. It was a gorgeous piece, but I couldn't afford it, so I settled for a crappy phone picture instead.


I guess it was the responsible decision. Then, time to get ready for dinner. Phil and I hooked up with Jon Lewis, Ron Marz, and many of the Top Cow folks for an amazing meal at El Vitral. Marz found this place and ate their three times during the show. I don't blame him. Gourmet Mexican. A meal to remember, for sure. The meal started with a remarkable cocktail... something with rum and cilantro. It tasted like an earthy, boozy milkshake.

After dinner, we stopped back at our room so I could pour myself a stiff Jack and Coke in a plastic cup (did I mention the lines at the Hyatt bars?) and stuff the flask in my pocket. At the Hyatt, I hung with Dave Gibbons (very briefly), John Layman, Hillary Barta, Seth Jones, and several of the usual suspects.

Hit the room, and the bed, after 2 sometime. Didn't sleep real well, and Sunday morning seemed too much like a morning. I was, finally, shot. Flying out early Sunday turned out to be totally the right choice. As I said above, I was home before the show ended, which was great by me. God, it was nice to be home and with the family. I brought everyone See's candy. Consumables are good. There's enough bullshit in our house without Comicon silliness adding to the chaos.

This year was probably the best time I've had at Comicon. A combination of my previously-mentioned modest goals and my newly-acquired writer comfort zone. It felt so good to go to the "big show" as a writer. It felt so good to talk to people about writing way more than inking. It felt good to talk to my Oni editor (the fantastic James Lucas Jones) with a clear conscience, with one book in the can and more on the way. And, of course, it's cool to go to the show with a light schedule and a peaceful frame of mind.

Anj

San Diego... Part One!

Back from the big Comicon funny book show last night. In fact, at the time I walked through my door, the show was still happening. I arrived in San Diego Thursday evening and left Sunday morning, so I really only had two days at the actual show. Really, that was plenty. My days of wandering the floor and checking out panels are in the past. I'm there to sign a few books, see my publishers and movie guys, and enjoy time with friends I don't see enough.

I decided several years ago that too much time on the con floor made me... um, cranky. You'd call it cranky when you want to rip the liver out of every lousy, stinky motherfucker that looks at you, right? I would. So, although I think I could make a little money at the show, doing so would require me to spend more. I doubt it could ever be much more than a break even affair for me. Thus, I decided to do the show with different goals in mind. I go to do the stuff I mentioned above. I go to network and spend time with folks that are important to my career, and to my life.

I told many friends at the show that the key to a successful Comicon were modest goals. My goals were just that, and I knocked them out of the park. The highlights:

Arrived at about 5:30 San Diego time. Just time to check in, walk to Ralph's (nearby grocery) to buy a bottle of Jack (you can't carry on flasks with booze in them, you know), and then head out to a dinner with the Oni Press and Closed on Monday folks. Oni publishes my graphic novels, and Closed on Mondays reps my stuff to Hollywood. They do a dinner at a nice Thai place every year. Had a few drinks (quite a few) and some good food, along with great chat. I am genuinely fond of the people I work with, and the entire stable of fellow writers and artists. Always nice to hang out with the crew.

After dinner, it was off to the Archaia/Days Missing party. It was great, too. The party was on the roof of a club. The weather was fantastic... cool and slightly breezy by about 10:30. I grabbed another free drink and hooked up with several friends... Andy Kuhn, Rob Levin, Alex Grecian, Jai Nitz, and others. We hung out by an open fireplace... very nice. I may have consumed a found drink. If so, it appeared to be untouched. That's all I'm sayin'.

Then, with my newly-found roommate and best pal Phil Hester, it was off to the madness of the Hyatt bar scene. If you've never been, the Hyatt lobby is enormous, spanning the hotel's two towers. At each end is a bar, and people go back and forth or hang outside, consuming the drinks they clawed through ridiculous crowds to purchase. Saw more folks... kind of becoming a blur. I know I went upstairs for a drink, meeting up with my friend Angela and some other podcasting folks.

At about 2am, Hester and I strolled back to Ralph's for a snack. Luckily, the store security and manager had no problem with my open Jack and Coke. I charmed the hell out of the manager. Security was just lazy. Anyway, Phil and I grabbed some food and wolfed while walking back to the room. I had a dry chicken wrap. Phil had a sandwich and some cake. We have different vices.

Friday was an early dip in the unbelievable Marriott pool, followed by an early signing at Oni, and a meeting with the publisher and the movie guys. Got the word on the various Hollywood projects, and heard some very nice things about the newly-completed Ciudad script. Everyone seems to dig it... very rewarding, even if they are biased. Nice to see Chris and Laura Samnee, Brian Hurtt, and Cullen Bunn at the Oni booth.

After the Oni thing, it really hit me that I had not eaten since Ralph's the night before. I managed to convince Andy Kuhn to join me at the Tin Fish, a great fried fish dive across the street from the con. Tried to invite Alex Grecian, but he gave me the high hat by turning off his phone. Fuck 'im. Had a great meal at the Fish... the fried sampler appetizer. Also, stole Andy's slaw and threw some Jack from my flask into my Diet Coke. Pretty sweet, all around.

Got back to the Marriott and gave my pay Mitch Brian a call. He's a KC screenwriter guy, but I don't see him often enough. Also, we may collaborate on one of the projects I pitched to Oni as the possible "next project". It was Mitch's first Comicon, so I bought him a cherry-popping celebratory margarita, and we talked about writer stuff and golf. Then, I hit the show again, but not for too long. Did I mention that place wears me out?

Friday night was a comedy show with Jason Aaron, featuring acquaintance and fellow comic geek Brian Posehn. I love hanging with Jason, and the show was a lot of fun. The venue, the Balboa Theater, is a grand old place. The show also featured Patton Oswald and Doug Benson. Lots of laughs, and a great way to break up the Comicon experience.

That's a wrap for part one of my Comicon report. Part two tomorrow!

Anj

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday- Hats and Such

I don't post here often enough, so I thought I'd start sharing hats.

Yesterday, I was wearing this vintage Borsalino. It probably dates from the fifties. Very soft and light.



Oh... finished Ciudad script last night, too!

Anj

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thursday... Damn That Ciudad!

Before I move into discussing my current writing project, I should mention that the re-release of my first graphic novel, Union Station, is almost upon us. I think the book will be in stores by the end of July. Please keep an eye out for it. The new cover is really swell. See?



So, on to more recent activities. As you know if you've been reading this blog much at all, I've been working on a book called Ciudad more or less full-time since March. Now, it's almost done. That's the good news. The bad news is that, as they say, that last step is a doosy.

I finished the first full draft a few weeks back. I then took a little time to put together some pitches for my next project. I probably should have taken time away from Ciudad to work on the pitches earlier, but I was really determined to wrap this book as quickly as possible. It was a test I set up for myself to see if I could function as a full-time writer. I think I did pretty well, wrapping the book in record time, by my standards.

Well... almost wrapping it. After getting the pitches done, I went back to do a polish on Ciudad, only to find that pulling teeth would be a party by comparison. I flat out did not want to go back in there. I can't say why, exactly. I guess I felt like I had done that hard work already, and revisiting would be tedious. It's hard to get the focus back. But, I know the work is not quite where I need it to be, so... I am fighting through it.

One really interesting part of the process was the realization, the night of July 4th, that the character Eva was not what I wanted her to be. I was watching fireworks with a bunch of friends that night, one of whom is the 16 year old babysitter friend of mine. This girl had served as my model for Eva early on. She has the right attitude and vitality. In talking to her briefly about the script, it hit me that I had strayed from those characteristics. Eva had become too much a victim. Just a five minute chat with this young woman made it clear to me that I could do better... that Eva could be more.

So, today is the day I've set for myself to be all done with Ciudad revisions. I think it's possible. I'll let you know.

Anj

Monday, July 13, 2009

Monday - and I Saunter Back In, as if Nothing Happened

Hey folks,

I didn't have the stomach to check when my last post was. I know it was a long, long time ago. Since that post, I've been on a lovely family vacation, all but finished one graphic novel, attempted to get several more started up, and done a bunch of other, less interesting crap.

So, I'm going to try to get back to blogging in a big way. As big as I can muster, anyway. I'll try to post on a daily basis for awhile. I should have enough shit to talk about after such a long break.

So, I'll start with Public Enemies. Before I get into discussing the movie, I should state up front that I have some level of personal involvement in its success or failure. If you're reading this, you probably know that my first graphic novel effort was Union Station (published by Oni Press, and being re-released any week now, with a shiny new cover and intro, since you asked). Well, my Hollywood guys have been trying to get Union Station made as a film for a long time now. At one point, we had just about everything lined up... screenplay (by the fantastic Doug Jung), director, financing... it was looking pretty solid. It was around that time that we heard about Michael Mann working on his own little gangster epic, with some actor guy you may have heard of.

So, long story short, Mann's movie got made, while Union Station didn't quite get that far along. It's still out there, and it still could get made. Of course, it's more likely to get made if Public Enemies is a huge hit. So, like I said, I have a stake here. Keep this in mind as you read on.

I like Public Enemies. I liked it a lot. I sometimes struggle with a film when I have so many expectations, good or bad, so it would probably be best to see it again in the theater, but I thought it was really good even upon the first nervous viewing.

The way Mann shot PE has been a topic of much discussion. He chose digital over film, and I thought it worked. Film might have been a little richer, but I have no problem with the digital look, even on this period piece. It looked a little grainy in a few scenes, but it still seemed appropriate to me... like we were on the scene as voyeurs. That's probably hypocritical of me, given that I hated the lens flares in Star Trek, but there it is. Like I said, maybe I'm not completely objective.

My two issues with the film are somewhat paradoxical. In a way, I wanted a little more distance. In another way, I wanted to pull in closer.

During some of the action sequences, I wanted a little distance. I understand the notion of pulling us into a chaotic gunfight almost as one of the participants, so that we feel a little disoriented. I mean, I would imagine that being in a gunfight is somewhat disorienting. Still, during the shootout at the Bohemia Lodge, I would have appreciated a wide shot that gave me more information about who was where. At times, I didn't know who the hell was driving away, who was getting shot, or who was doing the shooting. Still an effective scene overall, but an example of a sensation I had several times during PE.

On the other hand, the bigger flaw with the movie is that it needed more personal, intimate moments. I didn't enjoy the aforementioned Star Trek very much because I didn't ever care about anyone. PE was far better, but the same thing hit me... I wanted more intimacy, so I could care a little more about these people. I did feel for Dillenger and Billie at the end, but I could have cared more. I almost cared for Red, but not quite. In such a long movie, it seems Mann could have found time to slow down and let me know these people better.

On the other hand, Mann is a very thoughtful filmmaker, and I should assume that he made these choices deliberately. Maybe he wanted a surface-level view of Dillenger. I think most people have felt as I did, though... that we could have used a little more up close and personal.

Still, I think it's a terrific movie, and I'm pretty sure I would have thought so whether people seeing it is potentially good for my wallet or not. Depp is one of the best movie stars alive, the rest of the cast is fantastic, the movie looks phenomenal, and it's lively and enjoyable overall. Don't get me started on the incredible hats... we could be here all day.

So, please go see it. It's good, and it helps me out, too. Win/win.

Be back soon... I promise.

Anj

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday!

I know... it's been awhile. I've been busy writing, etc. Nothing too exciting has kept me away, but I haven't been compelled to say anything particularly interesting, either. That's the thing about a blog... you should have something to say, you know?

And, I confess, I don't have a lot to say today, either. Had a decent week writing, especially considering the long weekend that started the week. I'm over 100 pages on Ciudad now, which is unprecedented progress for me. I hope to be done by the end of June. That would also be fairly remarkable.

We're hosting a party for the local comic book folks tonight. I've been smoking meats all week, and we'll break out the hookah. I'm also offering an assortment of delicious cocktails. Ginger/Peach Martini, anyone?

I'll find something to say next week! Enjoy your weekend!

Anj

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tuesday... Gotta Work!

Disgusting day yesterday, in that I didn't get much work done, and I don't really know why. It was a conspiracy of small bullshits that somehow added up to a near-complete loss of productivity. I need to make up for it today. I've hit the halfway point on Ciudad, which feels great. If I'm going to make my goal of finishing it by July, I need to really get on that thing. Today, I will write some of the quieter moments in the script... a dinner scene in which we get our only real glimpses of the main character's past. Soon after that, really horrific violence!

I can name one of the little bullshits that kept me from working yesterday. While eating lunch, I finished watching Gone Baby Gone. It left me with a sensation I get only after seeing a really great piece of work... a mixture of elation and envy - creative inspiration and creative depression. It made me feel thrilled about telling stories, but a little disgusted that I haven't done it better. Fortunately, I feel like I'm getting better at my craft almost every day, so there's still hope!

While watching Gone Baby Gone, I was really struck by how amazing Casey Affleck is. He blew me away in Jesse James, and he was almost as impressive in GBG. So, I went to IMDB to see what he was up to now. Holy Shit... turns out he's filming The Killer Inside Me, one of the best Jim Thompson novels. The lead role, to be played by Affleck, is one of the most twisted protagonists I've ever encountered, and he is perfect for it. Damn, I hope they don't screw this up! Kate Hudson concerns me.

Finally, watching Gone Baby Gone after attempting to watch Frank Miller's The Spirit (haven't finished it yet), it hit me that Gone Baby Gone is the kind of project Frank should be handling as he moves to Hollywood. That path may not be available to him now, as the guys with the money apparently want him to deliver the stylized Sin City thing. Maybe Frank can't or doesn't want to write crime stories like Gone Baby Gone anymore... I don't know. I do know that Frank once could have written a story like Gone Baby Gone, and he once could have created thrilling visuals to go with that story.

Maybe an artist's path is only half determined by the artist himself. It's easy to sit back and look at someone's career and decree that it should have gone this way or that way. Careers aren't linear, though... they're organic. Things interfere that no one but the artist can really appreciate. Opportunities arise and fall away. Financial situations do the same. Shit, sometimes you watch a movie like Gone Baby Gone, get inspired, and dedicate the next two years to telling a gritty, urban crime story. Sometimes, in the middle of that process, you realize you just don't have that story in you.

In short, it's pointless to guess about what leads an artist one way or another. I hope my career will unfold a certain way, but it may not. As I've said many times: In ten years, I could be a successful screenwriter, or I could be managing a Taco Bell... one is about as likely as the other.

And... I'm off to work. Can't afford another Monday.

Anj

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday... Goodbye, Shitty Week!

Well, that was a doozy. Lots of school board meetings, lots of stress, lots of poor sleep, and not enough work done or quality time with family spent.

So, I'm behind the eightball today, trying to make up for the lack of production a little bit before heading out to a dinner with the family tonight. Ciudad script is still going well, and I have been able to adhere, thus far, to the outline I spent so much time on.

I gotta get to it, but I do hate to leave you with nothing visual. So, I grabbed a sketchbook and found a page I wasn't ashamed to share. I have to admit, I do very little of this kind of sketching these days. As you know, I'm trying to write more, and the drawing skills just don't seem as pressing right now. Even at the height of my inking career, I didn't do as much drawing as I should have. But, I would go through little spurts of sketching, and it was always relaxing and good for the inking.

Here's a little sample.

Now, go... enjoy your weekend! Oh, and if you're in Kansas, consider coming out to see me and a lot other cool comic cats at the 2009 Free State FreeCon, in Lawrence. http://www.kcfancon.com/freestate4.html

Anj

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Whew

I can't/won't bore you with all the details, but we had another rough school board meeting last night. It ended well, actually. I was able to do what I thought was best, and no one is too pissed off today. Kansas is really cutting school budgets for next year, but we have a plan in place to deal with the shortfall. It's tough, but feels a lot better today than yesterday.

I need to get back to inking a little more. Phil Hester pages for an issue of The Darkness are trickling in. Exciting, and I need the money, but it's hard to break the writing routine and get back to the board.

On the writing front, I will hit the halfway point on Ciudad this week. That feels really good. I wish I was even further along, but this progress is, for me, unprecedented. I hope to be done with the whole thing by the end of June. I think I can do it. That would be pretty amazing for a book I had originally planned to finish in December of '09.

Pretty soon, I'll have to start thinking about the next writing project. I've got four things listed as possibles right now. I need to really spend some time with those ideas, figuring out what would really get me excited. I think any of the four could be good... I want to find the one that can be excellent, if I don't screw it up. That's the foremost concern. Commercial appeal would be a great bonus, but the main thing is nailing something I can really get excited about every morning - something so good that I'm a little scared about living up to the project's potential.

That's all for now. Well... I should leave you with something visual... lemme see what I can find here.

Okay... here's something that makes me laugh. From the desk of the late, great Mike Wieringo.

Later!

Anj

Friday, May 8, 2009

Whew - the end of a busy week. I don't know what to offer about the writing projects that you haven't already heard. I'm hard at work on Ciudad, which will come out next year, I suppose. I hope to be done with it by the end of June, but since the art has not been started yet... well, it'll take some time. And then there's Union Station, which will ship in June with a new cover and intro. Please ask your retailer to score you a copy of that one.

Since I don't have anything too enlightening to say about the writing projects, I'll share some more old inking. This time, I'm offering pencils and inks from Ant-Man. Phil and I did some interesting work on that book, I think. We try to do something a little different on each project. On Ant-Man, we used a lot of white on black line art. Most of this was done by me in Photoshop, following Phil's notes on the effect he wanted.

I think this spread gives you a pretty good idea what I'm talking about. The crashed Hellicarrier was drawn conventionally, and then reversed in Photoshop. The glowing effect on the spotlights was done old-school, using a toothbrush loaded with white paint. Of course, you have to use masking tape to protect the rest of the art when you start slinging the white ink around.

Enjoy, and I'll see you next week!

Best,
Anj



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I'm under the gun today, trying to get a lot done despite feeling kinda... blech. So, a couple of quick hits:

First, the legendary Steve Rude critique by Alex Toth, now with commentary by The Dude himself!
http://www.illdave.com/comicbooks/history/toth-critiques-rude.htm

On the writing front, I'm finding, to this point, that the tight page-by-page outline for Ciudad is really paying off. The scripting is going well, despite a really challenging week in which to attempt to get work done (sickness in the house). I put a lot of work into the outline, so I'm thrilled that it seems to be paying dividends.

And, finally, a word from Doctor Doom.



Anj

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pitching at Comic-Con

Spotty week of blogging last week. It was a stressful, tired time. I'm feeling a lot more refreshed today. Hopefully, I'll turn that into more writing, here and on the pages of Ciudad.

C.B. Cebulski was just twittering about pitching as a writer at comic book conventions. His point was that you shouldn't get your hopes too high. That's true to an extent, and it reminded me of my experience pitching Union Station six years ago. So... blog post!

The two weeks before the San Diego Comic-Con where I first pitched are a blur of frenzied activity. Of course, I'd been working on the project for much longer... probably about two years by that point. Figuring out the right project, research, writing, etc. I wasn't working on US full time, but I had a lot of energy invested by the time it was ready to pitch.

I knew I wanted to have a substantial, attractive package to distribute at the big show. In the final packet were: one-paragraph description, themes, character bios, marketing, format, longer synopsis, a sample scene with art and lettering, and the complete script for the first third of the book on cd. Putting all that together, including revising and inking the art for the sample scene, was a daunting task, especially since I was dodging my usual inking commitments at the same time. Needless to say, I showed up in San Diego feeling not just anxious, but also exhausted.

I had a handful of publishers in mind - people with whom I had some relationship and I knew would take the packet respectfully. I figured I would find some other people to hand it off to, as well. I tried to get the packets handed out early in the show, before the heavy crowds of Saturday. It went pretty well, as I look back on it. Of course, the reality didn't live up to my naive expectations, built up by the anxiety of the whole process. I had a lot on the line, and I'm not just talking about the work I had invested in the Union Station pitch itself. I felt like all of my aspirations to become a writer were being thrown out there, waiting to be accepted or rejected.

So, I put the packets into the hands of several publishers. I smiled, thanked these men for taking the packet, told them I'd be in touch, and then went back to my hotel room to completely dissolve into a jelly of self-doubt. My ego as a writer had never been so exposed, and I became convinced that, upon getting back to their offices and reading the product of my labors, these publishers would all phone each other and have a big. long laugh at my expense. I vividly remember sitting there in the Embassy Suites bar, thinking it was okay. Of course, no one would want this piece of crap I just dumped into their hands, but that didn't mean it was over. I would publish it on my own. I'd do silk-screen covers, slowly write and draw the Union Station story on my own. I would get it out there somehow. Maybe I wouldn't ever be a professional writer, but I still had options!

Yeah, it was that bad. I don't know what I had expected. I guess there was a little part of me that thought these publishers would glance at the packet and say, "Holy shit... I've been waiting for THE Ande Parks to bring me something just like this! Thank God you showed up to save my company!" That didn't happen, of course. Almost everyone who took the packet, though, thanked me and did as they said they would - they got it back to their office and replied when I followed up a few weeks later. As a quick aside, I still hold a completely petty grudge against those who took the packet, promised to get back to me about it, and then completely blew me off when I attempted to follow up. Kim Thompson and Larry Young, I'm looking at you. See... told you it was petty.

Anyway, this is where my story parts ways with C.B.'s words of advice. In my case, my first pitch actually went over as well as I could have expected. Within a month of the convention, I heard from two publishers that they wanted the book. One of those two was Oni Press, my first choice all along, and the guys I knew pretty well already. I'm still working with Oni, and quite thrilled about it.

So... yeah, C.B. was right in a way. Don't build your expectations up to ridiculously absurd levels. On the other hand, my story demonstrates that, if you put in the work and behave professionally, you can achieve the outcome you're after. I am not the most talented writer out there - not by a long stretch. I just had a good idea, and enough talent to put it together well enough for people to see that it was good. It's a relatively simple formula... not as intimidating as we sometimes make it out to be.

So, get to work, people! But please, don't hand me your crappy proposal at this year's Comic-Con. I'll likely be too loaded to take it seriously.

Anj

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tuesday

Just wanted to drop in and say that I don't have the time or state of mind to drop in and say anything today. Stressed out and tired...

I'll get back with something tomorrow.

Thanks,
Anj

Oh... screw it. Here's a scan of something I own. What a giver I am! Ladies and Gentlemen, I present, straight out of 1936, Mister Milton Caniff.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back At It!

Seems like much of the last week has been school board business, and that continues today. One long meeting this morning, and another tonight. As a bonus, tonight's meeting will deal with a very tough personnel decision and new budget concerns. Oof. Why did I sign up for this again?

On the work front today, I'm trying to finally wrap up the Ciudad page-by-page outline. It has dragged on way too long. Part of that has been me not working on it as much as I would have liked, and part has been just struggling with it. I've been forced to face some things that worked in the abstract, but did not work perfectly when really put down on the page. I think I have cleared the last of the big hurdles now- the emotional beats that will really make the story work. So, it's down to a lot of chasing and shooting. Easier to write, but a little trickier when it comes to nailing down exactly how much space it will consume.

Finally, a little art to share today. I loaded a bunch of stuff to my eBay store last night. I thought I'd show off one of those items here. Phil Hester and I have moved to a blue-line inking process, where Phil sends me a digital file instead of the actual pencils. I then print that file in blue and ink on that printout. Thus, we can now offer both pencils and inks for sale. I think it's kind of cool. We'll see how the market responds. God knows I wish Jack Kirby had been working this way on Thor. Damn you, Colletta!

So, enjoy!

Anj

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday

Had a great day yesterday. Went to Costco, spent too much on fancy food and booze, ate Arthur Bryant's barbecue, played a little golf, and spent the rest of the night out carousing. The only thing missing was quality time with the family. I'll make up for that today.

Yesterday's antics have also left me feeling behind on the Ciudad page-by-page plotting, which I really wanted to wrap up by tomorrow. I still have a ways to go, but the big chase//action sequence at the end should go pretty quickly. I think I have a chance to get it done.

Before I get back to that work, I need to vent on the torture issue again. Andrew Sullivan, who has really become a hero of mine, nails it again today.

An excerpt:
For me, the most telling moment was when president Bush gave his convention speech by satellite for John McCain. Bush had to avoid using the word "torture" to describe what the Vietnamese had once done to McCain. Because if the Vietnamese were torturers, so was Bush.

And, with that, I'm off to start my day's work. Yippee!

Anj

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Oof!

Been a rough start to the week, and I'm feeling kind of buried. I'll try to get back soon with some more cogent analysis, but I'm not feeling it this morning.

I do have something to offer, though! A couple of years ago, I got to ink one of my all-time heroes, Rick Leonardi. It was really challenging, thrilling, and rewarding. Here are pencils and inks of one the coolest pages.

In inking Leonardi, I try to accomplish several things: First, I want to make it as readable as possible (this is always my top priority, no matter who I'm inking). Next, I want to preserve Leonardi's unique line, while pulling the stuff together a little bit. Finally, I want to bring something of myself to the party... again, without overpowering Rick's fantastic style.

Enjoy!

Anj

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday... what a week.

It's been an up and down week. As I mentioned before, I spent my writing time this week working on the outline for Ciudad. It's going well, but it's been tough. Plotting is not my favorite part of the job. I thrive more on the character moments, and would rather coast on those, letting those moments dictate the flow of the story. There are too many other concerns on Ciudad, though, to let that happen. There is a page count restriction, and I've been developing the book with my co-creators (the awesome Joe and Anthony Russo... look them up on IMDB), so we already have a loose outline that we've all agreed on. While I am changing things along the way, I need to respect the time we all spent as a team as we bashed out our story.

So, I've been stewing a lot this week. Good work has come out of all that staring at the wall, though. I feel better about the big beats between my main characters now, and I'm clearer on everyone's motivations. I'm behind on what I hoped to get done this week, but I've got the tight outline down to the last big action sequence and conclusion. I also think that the reader will buy what goes down between Tyler and Eva now, which feels really good.

It hasn't been all work this week, though. Since I was just stewing a lot, I had time to restore an old fedora I had in storage. The hat was probably born in the '40s. When I got it, the only thing worth saving was the felt. The sweat band was shot, the liner had disintegrated, and the ribbon was too stained to save. This week I stripped the hat, cleaned the felt in Coleman fuel (kerosene, more or less), stitched in a new sweat band, added stiffener to give the hat shape, made a new bow, and sewed on a new ribbon. It's a lovely hat now, and it feels great to have saved it from the dump. Picture below. Please take a second to appreciate my fabulous bow... I'm so proud.

Also had a lot of school board this week, including a really challenging personnel decision that I still have to face. Added to that was the memo release yesterday that proved that my country completely lost its way under the Bush/Cheney torture doctrine. I read a lot of that crap yesterday, and was so filled with rage and sadness that it was hard to be productive. The 9/11 attacks were horrific, of course. What may have been worse was the fact that our president reacted by chipping away at the core ideals that our country stands for. We are not the Khmer Rouge. We are not supposed to torture people... ever. Hopefully, we never will again. I read a lot of Andrew Sullivan yesterday. I would encourage you to do the same.

Oh, there was one other overriding emotion as I read the torture memos and reactions to them... relief. Eight years was more than enough. Thank god it's over.

Okay... I gotta get to work. Thanks for wading through this... both of you. Sorry about the political rant. I want to use this space to promote my projects, but I also want to be able to speak my mind. This isn't worth doing if I'm not going to express myself honestly. Of course, these are just one man's opinions... worth what you paid on most days.

Have a great weekend!

Anj

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taking a Step Back

I reached a point this week in the Ciudad script where I felt I needed to pause and think about the overall structure a bit more. As is always the case, I spend a lot of time thinking about the first act- planning it, setting up the cool moments, etc. It's not that I neglect the rest of the story in the outline stage, but I don't seem to have the brilliant, chess master brain to nail all the detail ten steps down the line.

So, I'm taking a break from the regular Ciudad scripting, and going back into outline mode. This time, though, I'll be working on a tighter outline than I have done for this book so far. I want to work out a page-by-page breakdown, outlining the entire book. That is daunting, but it'll really pay off if I can get it done.

Just so you know exactly what I'm talking about, one page of this new, tighter outline might look something like this:

PAGE 62
Tyler wakes, finds Eva against him in her sleep. He's uncomfortable with the closeness. He gets up, goes to bathroom, studies his wounds (and his face) in the mirror.


You can see how having that done for the entire book would be a big load off. The problem is that, to do a page-by-page outline that tight, I really have to nail the characters and their motivations for the whole book now. I need to know how Tyler is going to react a situation in the third act, knowing how he feels about Eva at that point in the story. If I don't have all that nailed, the tight outline becomes nothing more than an exercise in plot, and the characters become puppets to that plot.

So, that's my life as a writer this week. Challenging, but it beats real work.

Anj

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More Union Station Behind the Scenes

No time to be insightful and witty today. Stayed up too late last night, and now I'm behind the eightball on the day.

So, here's a little more script and art from Union Station... continued from two posts ago.

Anj

Panel Three
Vetterli sits on the edge of the cot, his head in his hands, trying to wake himself up before he rises completely.

Panel Four
Vetterli stands in front of a mirror in a public bathroom, just down the hall from where we just saw him. He now wears pants, socks, shoes, and the t-shirt. He’s wetting his face with a cupped handful of water. He looks exhausted… there are bags under his eyes and he has lost some weight since we last saw him.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oh, Neal!

Monday's post on Sunday night, because tomorrow is gonna be crazy. Oh, I'll get back to the Union Station process stuff again soon. I just have something else on my mind right now.

So, I'm going to post something I just wrote on the Bendis Board. They've been talking about the Denny O'Neil/Neal Adams Batman reprints. I jumped in about the alterations Adams has been doing as the new hardcovers come out. First, here's a before and after:





Great example. He revisited Batman's close-up on that page, too. Man... being able to see every individual incisor really makes the page!

It's a shame. I bemoaned all this on the comicart Yahoo list when the first new edition came out, and ended up getting into it with Neal's family... not what I had in mind, and I felt bad about it.

Still, I will repeat here what I said there. I wish Neal would embrace the old stuff for what it is, realize that it is good, despite any flaws he might perceive, and move on. I'd rather see a new Batman story. Hell, I'd rather see that damn Two Men Talking in a Bar graphic novel we've been waiting for than watching Neal waste his time stepping back to fix what ain't broke.

Finally, I would add that, in my own humble opinion, Neal used to be a better comic book inker than he is now. That's not saying he's no longer a great artist, or that his inking isn't perfectly appropriate for commercial work. I just think the decades of cranking out storyboards (excellent storyboards, I'm sure) have eroded the skill sets that he used to possess and apply to comics book art.

Don't like the coloring, either, while I'm at it.

Anj

Friday, April 10, 2009

Union Station Process!

Heavy on content today, but light on my spouting. Win/win!

I thought I'd continue the Union Station promoting today, by showing some behind-the-scenes process stuff. So, we're going to look, over the next several days, at script and art for a scene from Act II.

I am still, six years or so after I finished Union Station, probably a little wordy in my scripting. During US, I was probably a lot wordy. I'm learning how to strip things down, but this early effort shows how much I had to learn.

Art, of course, by the incredible Eduardo Barreto. You could not ask for a better, more professional, or more gracious collaborator on your first graphic novel. What a lucky prick I am!

So, we're going to look at a scene from early in Act II. It's a quiet little scene, in which the local KS FBI agent (Vetterli), a man who was wounded at the Union Station Massacre, meets Hoover's surrogate (August), and realizes that his life is taking a turn he's probably not going to be very comfortable with. I sympathize with both parties here. Vetterli was in over his head, and needed firm assistance. On the other hand, Hoover was incredibly heavy-handed and consumed by self-promotion.

One other note: I told Ed to draw August as Mike Mignola. He did a decent job of it. Oh... you won't see August for several panels yet. Well then, dear reader, consider that a tease!

Oh, and remember, ask your retailer to order you a copy of the Union Station re-release. It drops in June. It's on page 281 of this month's Previews!

Thanks, and have a great weekend!

Anj

UNION STATION
ACT II
PAGE FIVE
Panel One

We’re transitioning to a new scene here. The setting is a small room in the same building as the Kansas City FBI office… the office we saw at the beginning of the book. This space is barely larger than a closet, but it contains a cot, a set of shelves, a chair, and a small table next to the cot. There is one window, as well. An alarm clock sits on the table. The shelves contain file folders, books, and a few empty coffee cups (I think the ‘30s are too early for mugs). A suit jacket is draped over the back of the chair, along with a shirt. A tie and pair of pants sit on the seat of the chair. Black shoes sit under the cot. There are Venetian blinds over the window, and early morning sunlight streams in.
Asleep on the cot is Reed Vetterli. He wears socks, underwear (boxers, of course), and a t-shirt. He is covered by a sheet and a plain blanket. There’s a small pillow under his head. He does not look comfortable on the cot. One hand hangs off the edge of the cot, and his head is barely on the pillow. Some light from the window is hitting him in the face, but his eyes are still closed.

Panel Two
Pull in closer to Vetterli. He raises a hand to shield his eyes from the sunlight. His eyes are barely open. We can also see the time on the clock… ten after seven.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Busy Day

Short post today, as my day is super-packed. School board in the morning, some inking commissions to finish, some ebay shipping, a shopping trip. Oh yeah... I need to write some, too.

I will write briefly about the current writing project, Ciudad. If you're a regular reader here, you know that it's a South American kidnapping story, that it's been optioned by Paramount, and that I developed the book with a couple of Hollywood directors (Joe and Anthony Russo). It's a really intense, realistic action book, set in a very dark, corrupt place.

So, this book is going to be dense. There's a lot to get done in the 150 pages I've allotted myself. In addition, action in comics takes some space. You can't do multiple actions in the same panel very effectively, so a big action sequence requires a lot of panels to play out in a way that reads well.

Because of this, and the fact that the development of this story was rather cinematic, I decided to write the book on an eight panel grid. That does not mean that every page will have eight panels. It just means that the underlying structure is a grid that consists of four tiers of two panels. On almost every pages, I'm trying to feature at least on wide panel that joins two of those panels. Placing these wider shots is an interesting exercise. Sometimes I do it to establish the setting. Sometimes I do it for emotional impact. Sometimes I just want to hit the reader with a bold image.

This is not the way I really prefer to work. I just thought it was best for this particular project. Time will tell, but I'm happy with how it's going so far. Now... we gotta talk this super-talented young man into drawing all these panels...

That's it for now! I'm off to the drawing board, literally!

Best,
Anj

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

UNION STATION

Okay... no opinions today. Well, only opinions that are self-serving, I guess I should say.

I just want to ask you to consider ordering the upcoming reprint of my first graphic novel, Union Station. It's an historical fiction gangster story, dealing with Kansas City's Union Station Massacre and its aftermath. It's good. I can say that without loss of humility because, even if the script sucks, the art by Eduardo Barreto is undeniably fantastic. Don't believe it? Well, check this out, suckas!



And, as if that ain't enough, here's a review you should check out.

Okay, enough of that. It is a solid book, dear reader. Furthermore, I don't know exactly what the new cover might be, but it's gonna be awesome, and it will almost certainly feature a guy shooting a gun right atcha! Damn... you better order two!

Anyway, it's in Previews right now, page 281. It will ship in June. Please ask your retailer to get you one, two, or more.

Thanks,
Anj

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday Morning

Various stuff today. I really don't know what I'm going to write about as I start typing. We'll just see where it goes.

First, I am really bummed about the fire at comic book writer Len Wein's house. Len is one of the real greats, having created Swamp Thing and Wolverine, and generally produced some of the finest scripts in our medium of the last forty years. I'm glad that Len and his family are safe, but I can't get a visual out of my head: Len watching his dog run back into the home to die, and knowing that a fortune in comic book art is being destroyed while he watches helplessly. According to HARLAN ELLISON, Len lost some truly irreplaceable treasures: art original art to the first Wolverine story, the cover to Giant-Sized X-Men #1, and a lifetime's worth of comics, hardcovers, awards, and other things that are just gone forever.

As far as I know, Len does not participate financially from the Wolverine franchise. With the Wolverine film about to hit, that's not e-fucking-nough for one guy to deal with? Jesus. I'm not a religious man, really, but I will be doing my own private version of praying for Len and his family. They will be in my thoughts over the next several weeks.

Next up on the agenda is the item of car chases. Car chases on film are cool. In comics, they seem dull. The two mediums are different- they have different strengths and weaknesses, and the motion of a car chase is a strength of film and, in my opinion, a weakness of comics.

I bring it up because I have reached a spot in the Ciudad script where the outline calls for a car chase. I'm not going to delete it, but I'm going to minimize it somehow. In the film, this would be a key sequence. In the comic, it's going to be a few pages that are filled with enough dialogue or narration that the reader doesn't get too bored too quickly. Maybe I'm wrong... maybe a car chase can be executed in comics that rivals the thrill of a great film sequence. I haven't seen it, though, and I've read Alex Toth's Hot Wheels comics.

That's all for today. I'm off to work!

Best,
Anj

Friday, April 3, 2009

Okay... Transitions

Well, I was gonna write earlier. Had a whole post just about done, as a matter of fact. Then, I re-read the damn thing, and it was too much. I was too mouthy and negative for my own good. I put off blogging for a long time for this very reason- I was afraid that if I was honest and blunt enough to be interesting, I'd be shooting myself in the foot. That's how the whole art collection commentary came to be. And then I got too lazy for that, and here I am anyway...

So, I'll try this again, and I'll try to behave this time.

I've been writing a lot of scene transitions in Ciudad. This first act features a lot of quick hit setups, and I've been trying to find cool ways to link stuff together and engage the reader. Most often, it's a trailing bit of dialogue from the previous page. If I'm good or lucky enough, the dialogue either smoothly fits with or contrasts with the art on the new page. Alan Moore does it much better, but I try.

The problem I have is that I'm deathly afraid of being clever in my work. Like my hero Orson Welles, I want whatever craft I bring to the work to be as transparent as possible. In Orson's case, he had insane amounts of talent to pull him through. I only have handfuls, so it's more of a challenge.

The point is that I don't ever want to be one of those writers that you read and consciously think, "Ohh... that was really clever the way he did that trick there." Blech... I cringe at the thought of it. So, while I do enjoy writing clever transitions, I'm terrified that those transitions might ever be recognized as being... you know ... clever.

So... that was my week in a nutshell. See how hard it is for me to be a writer? I guess there are some writers who just throw it down and walk away, confident that they've delivered what was called for. I doubt that will ever be me. I throw it down, sheepishly step back, and then rush to pick it up again and apologize.

And so, thanks to a few shots of Jack, a blog about transitions has turned into a blog about my fragile writer self-esteem. Be here Monday, folks, when I dissect my body image!

That's it for now. Have a cool weekend, and check me out again next week.

Best,
Anj

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Friday... back to normal!

Hey gang,

Sorry about the spotty posting the past few days. I am one of the world's worst sick people. I don't get sick often and, when I do, a simple cold knocks me the hell out.

I'll be here Friday morning, talking about the art of scene transitioning.

Anj

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sick

Got a cold last night. Struggling just to stay awake and get a little work done. Back with something substantial tomorrow, I hope.

Thanks,
Anj

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quick Hit- a Great Quote Swiped from Andrew Sullivan's Blog

If you haven't read my blog much in the past, you may not know about my appreciation for Andrew Sullivan. I think he is wonderful... a political blogger I completely respect even though I don't share all of his views. Please check him out at his blog.

At the top of that blog right now is an amazing quote of the day from Democratic Senator Jim Webb. This is a subject I'm really passionate about, and one that I think most Americans have closed their eyes to. Most of us say, "More prisons! Longer sentences! Get these monsters off the streets!" It ain't that simple. I think our whole penal system is dysfunctional. I'm gonna write about it someday... unless, of course, it gets fixed before I can get to it.


Anyway, the quote:

"Let's start with a premise that I don't think a lot of Americans are aware of. We have five percent of the world's population; we have 25 percent of the world's known prison population. There are only two possibilities here: either we have the most evil people on earth living in the United States; or we are doing something dramatically wrong in terms of how we approach the issue of criminal justice," - Jim Webb whose criminal justice reform bill has won some encouraging support on the right.

That's all for now!

Anj

A Li'l Inking... A Li'l Later...

I'm gonna share some inking work later today... probably pencils and inks of a commission. But, I can't get to it until later today. Didn't want to break my early morning posting streak, though... so you get this snippet for now.

Check me out later in the day!

Anj

Monday, March 30, 2009

Back to the "Real World"

Attended Planet Comicon in the KC suburbs this weekend. Good time, and saw a lot of folks that I see too infrequently. Kind of a bizarre weekend, thanks to the little spring blizzard. Saturday afternoon, I had to drive from the con to talk to some kids about comic books at a museum about fifteen miles away. That was an interesting trip... I saw a handful of freshly-ditched vehicles along the way. Got there and back, though. Four brave kids and their folks even showed up to hear what I had to say at the museum.

So, this morning, it's back to Ciudad. I have the first third or so of the book almost written... fifty pages, to be precise. Trying to go back through today and fine-tune it all, as well as finish the last several pages, which don't have dialogue yet. I continue to be somewhat concerned about pacing, but I came up with some good ways to simplify some of the setups last week. It's challenging for me, working from an outline that is not entirely mine. I'm hesitant to change it too much. It takes me awhile to remember that this is not a film, and I can do what I need to with the comic book script to make it work for that medium.

That's all I have today. I gotta hit this thing hard while I can. Tonight, more school board work... the fifth long meeting in the last week. Oofa!

See you back here soon!

Anj

Friday, March 27, 2009

Artists

My pal Gordon Harries asked me about how I have been able to come up with great artists to draw my two graphic novels so far, so that's the topic of the day here at blog central.

When I approached Oni Press with the Union Station proposal I had an art team in place, and the pitch packet included some sample pages. For various and complicated reasons, after Oni accepted the project for publication, that plan fell apart. So, Oni and I started looking for someone who could draw the period well, from the cars to the suits and dresses to the guns. Oh, and they had to be able to do so for, frankly, less than a ton of cash.

We danced around with several possibilities without much success until I got an e-mail from my editor Jamie Rich one day that said, "Eduardo Baretto is available... we think he might be the guy." My head spinning, I ran to my comic book collection, pulling out my cherished issues of a book Eduardo had done with Gerard Jones called The Shadow Strikes. That series was set in the same era as Union Station and, holy shit, was it beautiful. Done, thank you.

So, probably over-confident that lightning would strike twice, I pitched Capote In Kansas without an artist in place. Oni said yes, and we began beating the pavement again, looking for the right fit. Again, various flirtations produced no results until a young (I mean... young!) Chris Samnee entered the picture. We weren't sure he was ready initially, but after Chris did a couple of sample pages... sold!

Since Capote In Kansas, I have had my first project accepted at Oni that I actually co-created with an artist. That project, Blood Red, is on hold now, because that artist found higher-paying work. So it goes. I also have another graphic novel in the works for Oni, the South American kidnapping story called Ciudad. Again, no artist in place and, once again, we are on the prowl. We thought we had a guy, and... no. We think we have a guy now... not positive yet. So it goes.

In short, unless you're writing and drawing the whole thing yourself, you have a tall hill to climb in finding a collaborator. Unless you get a movie deal, there is not a ton of money involved in making these books. There is some money, thank god, but it's nothing like drawing a book for the big two. That reduces the options to people who are hungry and ready to prove (or re-prove) themselves. Well, actually, I guess an independently wealthy artist who just loves the material would work, too. Haven't met that guy yet.

Every now and then, I threaten to draw one of my books myself. My good sense has always talked me out of it, to this point. I'm not good enough to satisfy myself, really. I'm certainly not fast enough. It may happen someday, but I kinda doubt it. So, I will continue to be, like so many writers I know, on the lookout.

Do me a favor, willya? If you're a brilliant artist in search of a project with a reasonably talented writer to collaborate with... drop me a line?

As always, your humble servant,
Anj

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I'll be here tomorrow... promise!

My day was all crazy for two reasons: first, I got up and saw the kids off to school, as a little present to my wife, who had a birthday yesterday. Also, I had to get the car to the tire shop this morning, which blew a lot of the early hours.

So, I didn't get to posting here before I felt I had to start writing, and then I had a school board thing at night... and then the day was gone.

I'll be here tomorrow, with some thoughts about my history of finding artists for my writing projects.

Thanks,
Anj

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ciudad Structuring

First, I want to thank everyone who offered support after yesterday's post. I really appreciated the kind words.

Okay- I thought I'd talk a little bit about the project I've been writing lately. It's called Ciudad. It's the story of a mercenary extractor who has to go into a really dangerous city in South America and bring a kidnap victim out safely. If you're so inclined, you can google Ciudad del Este.

I didn't come up with this idea. The concept was brought to my publisher (the wonderful Oni Press) by a couple of film directors, Joe and Anthony Russo. They made the films Welcome to Collinwood and You, Me, and Dupree, and they worked on the tv shows Arrested Development and Carpoolers. Very talented guys, and as nice as they could be. I've been really lucky to end up working with down-to-earth people as I first encounter the craziness of Hollywood. Anyway, Oni approached me about collaborating with the brothers, developing a graphic novel at the same time they're developing the film.

Since we started work on this thing a couple of years ago, we've had a lot of discussions about the setting, characters, and overall structure. We spoke with former CIA guys about Ciudad itself, and we hammered out what we wanted to do with this story. Near the end of last year, the project was optioned by Paramount, and the pressure to write both the film and the book was stepped up. Paramount agreed to fly me out to LA, so we could all bash out an overall outline. With that done, Joe Russo got to work on the screenplay, and I started on the graphic novel script.

So, that's where we are right now. I've been running behind Joe so far, and that's one of the reasons I really felt I needed to find more time in my schedule for writing. I've been able to up my script output quite a bit, and I'm getting close to a third of the way home now.

I think the work is good so far. My only big concern is the pacing. Our outline was heavy on setups and character details in the first act, and I have been really hesitant to trim any of that crucial stuff. The problem is that this is supposed to be a 150 page book, and I'm not quite done with the first act, sitting at page 50. Something is going to have to give here pretty soon.

At this point, I haven't done a tight outline that is unique to the book. Instead, I've been working from the outline we put together for both the book and film. One of the big differences in those two mediums is the way action plays out. As I said, there is a lot of action in this book, and that stuff takes some time in comics. You can't cram multiple actions into one panel, so a big action sequence eats up a big page count.

I will get there. Once these 50 pages are tight, I'll lay out the rest of the book as tightly as possible. I'll probably have to lose some of the stuff that will end up in the screenplay, but I'll get there. It's an exciting process. Most days, it beats inking!

That's all... I'm off to work!

As always, your humble servant,
Anj

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My (kinda) New Career as a Writer

I've been paying the bills (more or less) as a comic book artist for eighteen years. I have been an inker, to be precise... but this isn't the time to explain the subtle art of tracing. It's been a good job. I have made an okay living, set my own hours, and have been able to stay home and be an active part of my kids' development.

In recent years, though, I found myself wanting more. Inking was still a cool job, but it was no longer providing the creative buzz that it once had. It may seem silly to some of you that inking drawings of guys in tights punching each other ever satisfied my creative side. To those of you, I would ask that you dig deep into the archives of this very blog. There you will find posts where I dissect the art of inking. Even if you can't relate to that art, you may be able to appreciate that it is real to me.

Anyway, I'll drop the defensive attitude and get back to the matter at hand... my creative juices. I wrote my first graphic novel, Union Station, about six years ago. That process was grueling, challenging, and extremely rewarding. For the first time, I had a product on the shelf that was really mine... something I could stand behind as a full creator (Union Station was drawn by the great Eduardo Baretto, lest anyone think I was the only creator involved)... something that, if it proved touch a nerve with its audience, would benefit me directly. It was also a genre and a subject that I was passionate about. In short, it was mine, and it felt good.

I followed Union Station with Capote In Kansas, another piece of historical fiction set near my home. Again, it was tough, but extremely rewarding. With a full-time job as an inker, writing these books was taking a long time, as well as a toll on my time with my family.

Since Capote In Kansas came out, about three years ago, I have developed several projects. I've written a couple of Daredevil things for Marvel Comics, as well as a few other short projects. For a number of complex reasons, though, I have not been able to complete another graphic novel. Some of those reasons were out of my hands, but much of the fault lies with me and my schedule as a guy still making a living drawing guys in tights.

My regular art partner (Phil Hester) and I finished our latest superhero commitment just after the new year. After that book, a cool project called El Diablo, wrapped, I sat back and really assessed my career, and my life in general. When I evaluated where I was at this point, and where I wanted to be, I became really frustrated with myself. I know that I want to be a writer. I know that I want to own the projects to which I dedicate my creative energies. I know that I do not want to be dragging my old ass to the drawing board ten years from now, squinting at the page, trying to figure out how many straps there are on some superheroes boots.

So, I went to the wife to make my case (to both of us, really). I told her that I wanted to ink less and write more. I told her I thought it was time to make the same kind of leap I made eighteen years before. I told her I wanted to really give whatever talent I have a chance. Finally, I told her this would mean less money coming in. Being the best wife in the world, she simply said that she trusted me. Christ, I love that woman.

To be clear, I have not stopped inking. I am still committed to inking Phil Hester. Phil has a successful writing career of his own, though, and is drawing a lot less than he used to. Thus, there is a lot less to ink, and less money to be made there. I have not, for example, inked a comic book page since January. What I have done is made an attempt to rebuild my life around a career as a writer.

It's a challenge. Writing is certainly more rewarding than inking. It's also a fuckofa lot harder. I struggle with sitting in a quiet room and forcing myself to do the hard work. I struggle with the stress of less money coming in. I struggle to push myself as far as my talents (such as they are) can take me.

I've been working on my South America kidnapping story, Ciudad. It's going well. While I used to rarely reach my goal of ten pages of script a week, I am now struggling to reach my new goal of twenty. I'm behind, like always, but light years ahead of what my old schedule would have allowed. In addition to Ciudad, I've done some research for two other projects, and approached a friend or two about writing collaborations. So far, so good. I like this new career. I like being a writer, and I like not having to juggle two full-time careers.

So, that's the latest. I'll be using this space to loosen myself up each morning, and to fill you in on what I'm writing about.

Oh, and if you catch me at a bar anytime soon, maybe you could get the first round? Times is hard for a fledgling writer!

As always, your humble servant,
Anj