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!


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!


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!


Friday, March 27, 2009


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,

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.


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,

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,

Monday, March 23, 2009

So... Here I Am!

It's been nearly two months since I last posted here. In that time, I have thought about the blog quite a bit. In fact, I've been thinking about my entire online presence. I've added Twitter to my daily routine, and have tied my updates there into my Facebook page. I even conned a friend into helping me do something with my pathetic website, so that should be viable again someday soon.

Which leave this blog. I resisted blogging in the first place for a long time. I figured that I didn't want to do a blog unless I could make it unique somehow. When I hit upon the idea of posting scans from my art collection, it seemed like a natural... something I enjoy talking about, and something that I hadn't really seen anyone else do on a regular basis. For a few months there, it was golden. I was getting read by quite a few folks, and I thought I was actually opening some eyes about what makes good, solid comic book art... well, good and solid.

It was, however, hard work. Choosing images, scanning, finding new things to say... it got tough to keep up the schedule I had laid out.

So, I have decided to change to format here. I plan to blog every weekday (I know... I've said that before), but the posts will not follow any specific format. I'm going to stop by in the morning, before I begin my career writing, and offer whatever I can think of. I may talk about my work. I may talk about something political. I may talk about the new hat I've purchased. Who knows... I may even show off a scan from my art collection.

So, please... stop by again soon. I've got a lot of cool stuff to talk about. Well, for a few days, at least.

Your humble servant,