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.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009


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.


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!


Thursday, April 23, 2009


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!


Tuesday, April 21, 2009


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.



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!


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:

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.


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.


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.


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!


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!


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


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.


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!


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.


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.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009


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