Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hollywood Rich

Hollywood Rich-

You make things. Hollywood shows interest in these things. Announcements happen. Things fall apart. More announcements. Every now and then some actual money shows up.
When the "big check" does come, you find that, if you add it to everything else you've made in the previous several years, you may just be living above the poverty line.

None of this is meant as complaining, of course. Last I checked, I still get to write stories for a living, as meager as said living may be. I get to work and occasionally hang out with some really cool people. And, every now and then, I get to sit at Chateau Marmont and look at Charlize Theron. Hollywood!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Perspective, Courtesy Orson Welles

I think about the moment at the 1:30 mark of this clip a lot. Whenever I have regrets about how I've managed my career or how hard I've worked or how many hours I've spent on a treadmill, I think of this clip.
In my case, the old man wouldn't say, "You always just used money to..." He would say, "What have you done with your life? You've used it just to..." And I would interrupt, "to enjoy it". "To surround myself with people I love and who love me and just... enjoy it."
Thanks for the comforting little piece of this scene that lives on in the back of my brain, Orson.
I did not post this video. Whoever did so has my thanks, particularly for the appropriate title.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Inking Made Easy

I published this on Twitter the other day. Figured I might as well place it here, too.
Here, in my semi-humble opinion, is what makes good comic book inking, in five not-so-easy steps:

1- Draw, don't trace. You don't have to be Frazetta, but you have to know what the forms are and how to contribute to them. Always.
2- Make confident lines. We don't want to see you tentatively feeling your way around. Make every line like you know it's the right line.
3- Vary line weights. If all your line weights are the same the work will be flat. Fat, bold lines next to razor thin lines makes stuff POP.
4- Texture. Develop & consistently apply visual shorthand for textures. Complex or simple, they must be convincing. Wood, steel, cloth, etc.
5- Saved the most important for last. Help tell the story! Spot blacks. Separate visual planes. Keep things clear. Story > pretty lines.

There. Now you can all go be brilliant inkers and take all the jobs. I don't care anymore. I'm a writer! #alleged

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My Happy Experiences with Dynamite and Nick Barrucci

I wrote this the other day for Clifford Meth, who was writing a piece about the recent Don McGregor/Dynamite thing. Since Cliff only used part of my message, I thought I'd share the whole thing here:

My experience as a freelancer at Dynamite has been very positive. At a time when I was looking to move from inking for a living to becoming a full-time writer, Nick gave me a chance to make that happen. The rates at Dynamite, in my experience, are not the best in the industry, but I feel I'm getting a fair deal, considering the amount of freedom I'm given. I've done work as a writer for the Big Two. In my experience, the size of the resulting headaches was not worth the higher rate. I want to produce work I'm proud of, with minimal editorial interference. Dynamite has allowed me to do so. I find this especially remarkable given the fact that I'm working on licensed properties.

Not everything has always been perfect. Nick and I have had a few misunderstandings and/or miscommunications. These have been handled directly, on both sides of the equation. If I'm upset, I talk to Nick about it. If he agrees that he screwed up, he apologizes and we find a way to fix it that pleases both parties. If I screw up or fail to deliver, we handle it the same way. I've always felt that I can call Nick and hash things out. I think he feels the same.

I am very happy with Joe Rybandt, the editor on my books. Joe juggles a lot of books, but he's always been there when I need him. As I referenced above, he is hands off. He hires me to do a good job. I try to do so. I get left alone, aside from an occasional note from the folks who actually own these properties. Those instances have been few and far between, and Joe has gone to bat for me more than once.

In my experience, Nick is honest and straight-forward. He will tell you he's got to watch his bottom line to keep his company going. He'll tell you what he can afford to pay. He'll tell you if a book is selling well. He'll tell you if it's doing poorly. He'll tell you what he wants and listen if your needs don't coincide with his.

Of course, I say all this as someone who is still getting paid by Dynamite on a monthly basis (as an aside, their voucher-processing and check-cutting system is as smooth as any I've ever dealt with). If I no longer worked for Dynamite as of tomorrow, I would offer the same assessment, but people will have to take my word on that. I understand that some may think I'm biased or wanting to court favor. My answer would be that my integrity is not for sale.

One final caveat- I have never worked for Dynamite in a situation where I was involved with rights. Everything I've done as been work-for-hire and page rate only. I would consider doing something creator-owned with Nick. That situation just hasn't come up yet. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Ten Years Back

Andrew Sullivan's writing on how he came to be so wrong about Iraq War 10 years ago is amazing stuff. A model for how we should examine ourselves.

Ten years ago, I knew Bush was intent on the Iraq invasion. We had a sign up opposing the war until the day it started. I was just hoping it would be over quickly, with minimal loss of life. I knew the US wouldn't accept defeat. We would "win", even if it meant Iraq was wiped off the map. Thus, while my right-wing friends saw me as not supporting the troops, I was supporting them completely. 

Of course, it didn't end quickly or well. Cheney and company turned 9-11 into a greater victory for bin Laden than the attacks alone ever could have, and so many died needlessly, on both sides. 

I carried so much anger about all this stuff for so long. Most of all, I was angry at my liberal friends who said "it doesn't matter" as they pulled the lever for Nader. Back to Sullivan, he's been talking about that mentality this week. He felt the same... wanting Gore to lose because he saw no leadership there. We all know better now, I hope.

End of rant. I'm thankful every morning that I wake up with Barack Obama as the leader of the country I felt so alienated from ten years back.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Giordano on Getting it Done

I was talking about inking and my inking hero, Dick Giordano, this morning.

One more thing about Giordano. A possibly apocryphal story-

Dick's suggestion for curing slowness as an inker went something like this: Divide a page into tiers of horizontal panels. Usually there are 3 or 4 on a page. Decide how much time each tier should take. In Dick's case, he figured each tier should take him about an hour. So, he set a timer for an hour and got to work.

Dick would watch the timer as he inked. If it looked like he wasn’t going to make it, Dick would start spotting more blacks. Whatever it took, Dick would finish that tier in the hour and move on. He said, in his experience, the pages where he had to spot more blacks were usually better.

I know some will scream that Dick was saying you should hack it out. I think he was dispensing practical advice. Whether he ever actually did that hour per tier and black it out trick, the story gets at something very important to young artists: the work can't be too precious.

Get it done. Make it bold. Make it readable.

The inker's main job is the same as every other job in the making of a comic: tell the story. It's not about making perfect, precious lines. It's about telling a story clearly and efficiently. Be a storyteller! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Dressing for the Hat

This came up at one of my regular online hangouts the other day. To what extent does one try to match your hat to the rest of your outfit, or even vice versa?

I do try to match my outfits, but I also keep it simple. I try to break things down to either earthy tones (browns, greens, silverbelly, etc.) or grey tones (including blacks). That's about it. Sometimes it starts with the shirt. Sometimes the pants. Sometimes I just really want to wear a certain hat, and it goes from there.

I've gone so far now as to have two different watches (one silver and one gold/brown) and different overcoats (one brown and one black. I've also been buying dress shoes in both palettes. In fact, I've been on something of a used shoe-buying binge. I kind of fell in love with Allen Edmonds shoes when I stopped into their store in Chicago. I can't afford to drop $300 or more on a new pair, but I have been able to find some deals on eBay. The sizing is challenging, but I've had decent luck. I wear custom orthotics, and I have them in various thicknesses, so I can kind of fit a shoe to my foot, based on the orthotic I insert. The orthotic is also nice because it gives me a buffer between my foot and the used insole.

With the influx of nice shoes, I often find myself leaving the house in a very nice, vintage fedora and a pair of very nice, pre-owned shoes. What's in between isn't very fancy, but I figure the extremities earn me some slack there.

Back to work. More poor-writer fashion advice another day.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Current Process, In Five Steps

I get asked from time to time how I go about tackling a monthly comic book script. I wrote down the steps I currently go through the other day for a friend, so I figured I'd share here. This is just the way I do it... this month. It changes from time to time. One is always hoping there's some magic formula that will make it easier... better. For now, this seems to work for me, except for the times when it doesn't.


Step One- I make tons of notes on what the issue is about, what the arc is about (if there is one) and what happens. These are sometimes hand-written. Sometimes not. This assumes I have already handed in some kind of outline for the arc I'm working on. That outline is sometimes quite brief. On occasion, it's not much more than a paragraph's worth of solicitation copy.

Step Two- I build a 22 page document and write a paragraph at the top of each page. Just saying what's going to happen page by page. This lets me know how the pacing is working out. I try to be very mindful to keep things loose… I don't want seven panels on every page. I also don't want four. I try to keep it at a five panel norm, with a few big shots or splashes thrown in.

Step Three- I go through the script and write dialogue. I can already see what's going to happen on each page. Now I start to build the conversations and narrations. I try to make this pass good, but not too good. I will have another shot at this. A couple of shots, in fact.

Step Four- I go through again, writing the art direction now. At this point, I break the action (and the dialogue I've just written) into panels. I write everything I think the artist may need to know. I also read and tweak the dialogue again.

Step Five- A final pass. I re-work dialogue, format things properly, bold words for emphasis, get rid of my notes at the top of each page, count the pages to make sure I haven't gone over or under, etc. One last chance to make it as good as I can.