Comics and relationships in the industry.

Today I want to give a little history lesson, and examine how creating relationships in comics is almost more important than the work itself.

When I first started writing comics seriously, about 7-8 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing; I just knew that I wanted to do it. Very badly indeed. I was lucky in that I had the internet to fall back on. I could Google search (or whatever search engine was used back then) “comic book scripts” and find a few decent examples of scripts. But the actual process of writing one, of trying to make it make sense from my head to the page, was a battle.

I initially did what I think a lot of writers do: I took 22 pieces of Xerox paper, numbered them 1 through 22, and started to draw out the pages. Not detailed drawings, very sketchy, pretty much stick figures. Just to figure out where the characters would be in the panels, the angles I wanted, things like that.

Then I’d take those 22 pages and start writing the panel descriptions.

Then I’d take those 22 pages and start writing the dialogue. Then I’d go back over my stick figure drawings and black in the speech balloons to make sure they’d fit. It was a process, let me tell you. But, as with anything, practice makes perfect (not that I think my scripting style is perfect, but it’s what works for me.) I got more comfortable over the years with writing scripts, it’s now second nature. No more drawing the whole thing out, I can hold all of it in my head now, I can move panels around on the page in my head before I even type a single word. But it took a long time, and a lot of struggling, and a lot of badly formatted, ugly scripts before I got here.

But I digress. The point was, when I first started, after I struggled and struggled and finally had a tiny breakthrough, the first proper comic script I wrote was a 7-page opening sequence for a comic called Antihero. Antihero was one of the first legitimate comic ideas I had, something not incredibly derivative (at least in my mind), something that I thought could actually work. So I did what any brave young writer with 7 pages of script would do: started the artist search.

And I found a guy who was perfect named Michael Tyler. Michael and I started to develop Antihero together, creating the character, his powers, his world, his back story. Michael developed the look of the character, and then…it sort of fell off. Not through any fault of either of us. I think we were both at the very beginning stages of creating comics, I don’t think either of us were prepared for the amount of work involved in this kind of endeavor. Around the same time, I started work on Ghost Lines, and that took off, and then Long Gone followed, and Antihero sort of fell on the backburner.

But Michael and I stayed in touch. He was always very supportive of my work, championed it, would offer pinups and sketches and things over the years. Over the years we developed an actual friendship, discussing our families and kids and work and our lives.

A few years down the line, I had decided to create a Breakneck anthology for 215 Ink. We had some lofty ideas to release it as a convention exclusive at the 2010 NYCC. So I wrote three Breakneck shorts and started approaching my favorite collaborators. Carl Yonder (Ghost Lines) did one. Allen Byrns (Broken) did one. And I had one left. So I sent an email to Michael Tyler, asking if he’d be interested in working on a short featuring the Ghostwalker (the vigilante who gets killed accidentally by Ethan Shade in the first issue of Breakneck). Michael agreed, as excited as I was that we were finally going to work on something together.

And he killed it. I didn’t give him an easy task, as he had to adapt some of what had already been created in Breakneck number 1, as the story took place during a part of that first issue…but he killed it. Here’s a sample:

 

 The Breakneck anthology eventually fell apart, but I was left with three very excellent short stories that I knew I’d get to use sooner or later. Eventually, 215 Ink announced their upcoming anthology, and they wanted to have short stories included from some of the already-published books, so I needed a Breakneck short. I picked the Ghostwalker story with Michael, and it will run in the anthology. That will be our first official published work together.

It was a great experience, and we continued to stay in touch. One day, about a month ago, Michael mentioned something about wanting to work on a superhero story. It was a random comment, but something blew up inside my head. A year or more ago, I wrote a 22-page one-shot comic that was (and still is) tentatively titled The Cardinal. I was really happy with it, really enjoyed writing it and how it came out, but never had the right artist to work on it. So it sat as a file on my computer, not forgotten, but put on the backburner. I imagine every writer in comics has a dozen of these kinds of stories. I know I do.

But when Michael mentioned a superhero story, I knew immediately that this was the right one. It was a one-shot, so no huge commitment for a guy with a family and a job and probably very little free time. It was also a story that I think played to Michael’s strengths: lots of brand new characters to be designed, some good action scenes, a lot of set design. I sent him the idea, sent him the script, sent him the characters…and he said yes. We’d be working on something again.

The Cardinal story really hits all the hallmarks I find in my writing. It’s superheroes with a bit of a twist. It’s an aging main character. It’s a main character dressed all in white. It’s kind of like the perfect distillation of all my comic book specialties. And it also deals with some actual themes, it’s not just mindless violence, or dick-and-fart jokes. There’s an underlying theme of trust and friendship in it (which is pretty interesting considering the message of this update), although there is a pretty good twist in the story. There’s no hand-holding and cheery smiles for too long.

Anyway. Michael started working on character designs, which, in my opinion, is one of his main strengths. Let’s take a look at the characters, shall we?

First up is the Head of State. He’s the quintessential patriotic super-soldier, who was cryogenically frozen for 70 years at the end of WWII. He’s our Captain America.

 

Then we have the Bricklayer, our version of Iron Man. Maybe Iron Man on a budget. But I love the design, and the mask – it’s meant to look like a brick. That was brilliant.

 

Here’s our Norse god, Mr. Knock. Typical big buff guy with the blue paint recalling the Picts. Leather pants and the whole bit.

 

This is Coma White, who ultimately plays the part of the Scarlet Witch, or the Wasp. It was Michael’s idea to make her of Indian nationality, which contrasts nicely with the white costume.

 

Here’s Speedemon, our resident super-speedster. Michael had the (yet again) brilliant idea to give him the prosthetic legs, like the sprinter from the Olympics. I never would have thought of that. That’s the beauty of collaboration, right there. I have an idea, and Michael expands on it, and something like this happens.

 

This is Fallout, who plays the part of the Vision on our little superteam. I love the idea of the limbs being coils, and the faint greenish, almost radioactive glow. His name is Fallout, after all.

 

Then we have Damian Hunter, who isn’t directly based on any existing character, except for maybe a guy like Hawkeye – no superpowers himself, but he has the big hi-tech gauntlets. Damian’s our everyman, and a lot of the story is seen through his eyes.

 

And last but not least, our WWII villain, Baron Dragaan. He was to be our Baron Zemo/Red Skull type of bad guy, but Michael came up with this brilliant mask, something I’d never have thought of. It gives him a regal and pretty disturbing S&M kind of look.

 

Then there’s the Cardinal himself…but some things have to stay secret, right? Don’t worry though; this is a book that Michael and I will be completing and publishing, somewhere, through someone. I even have another one-shot in mind with the same character(s). I can see a series of interconnected one-shots over the years.

But the long and short of it is: when you create comics, also create relationships, friendships. Because that’s the thing that will win out in the end.

Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Brutal Youth” by Elvis Costello.

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FUBAR: American History Z

Today I want to take a bit of time to talk about FUBAR.

For those unaware, FUBAR is a series of zombie anthologies created by the Small Press Commandos, and spearheaded by General Jeff McComsey. The first volume, European Theatre of the Damned, was excellent, and I really wanted to get on-board if I got the chance. When Jeff asked me to contribute to FUBAR volume two, Empire of the Rising Dead, I was thrilled.

Most of the creators involved in FUBAR are guys I am fans of. Some of them I consider friends as well. All of them are talented bastards. My story in volume two was created alongside my long-time comic partner Carl Yonder, and lettered by Knowledge’s letterer, Chris Horan. This was the story and the comic that made us legitimate New York Times Bestselling creators.

Volume three, American History Z is a monster – 32 stories clocking in at 326 pages. 8 of those pages written by me!

As of today, the Kickstarter to fund the printing of the book has gone live. Small Press comics need all the help they can get, but there are some incredible rewards available for your pledges! You really need to take a look, consider offering a few bucks, and help dozens of creators (yours truly included) to keep making comics.

There’s also guys like Tim Truman and Chuck Dixon involved…

Here’s the Kickstarter link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1607639297/fubar-american-history-z

If you can’t pledge (and money’s an issue for all of us, I get it) do me a favor and promote the page on your social networks: Facebook it. Tweet it. Google Plus it (if that’s a thing.) Help spread the word.

Do yourself a favor and listen to “Chocolate and Cheese” by Ween. It’s one of those days.

A random update for Monday. Because I’m tired.

Things and more things happening. So let’s just get on with it, yeah?

I’m still looking for a colorist. I have a few lines out, waiting on samples to come back to me so I can run them past Sami and Andrew and see what works the best. I have a very specific set of guidelines in mind for the colors, as I may have mentioned once or a hundred times. I hope that this doesn’t become a hindrance for a colorist. I just have such a clear mental picture of what I want it to look like.

But I have my letterer. The illustrious and hard-working ET Dollman has agreed to letter our 8-page submission package. ET worked on both my Long Gone and Ghost Lines series, and always brings the goods. With ET and Andrew, we’re three-fifths of the Long Gone team, reunited.

But other news as well…it’s not a surprise so I won’t keep you in suspense. I got word that the Breakneck trade paperback is a go. I’ve spent most of my morning getting things ready for it. It will contain issues 1-4 (keeping in mind, issue 1 and issue 2 are sold out on all levels, and issue 4 never saw a physical print, only digital). It will have an introduction by none other than Stephen “Jesus Hates Zombies” Lindsay. It will have a credits page illustrated by my buddy Carl Yonder and designed by my buddy MaGnUs. Another Carl pinup will be the back cover, complete with some quotes that show just how awesome Breakneck is. And it will have a cover by Rolf “The Swedish Bastard and Ape-Eater” Lejdegård. I’m pretty psyched, especially since we solicited this trade through Diamond a while ago and the pre-orders just weren’t there.

This is one of the reasons why I love my association with a publisher like 215 Ink. Andrew never gives up on his books. Diamond might have given up, but Andrew, and his Liber Distro company don’t and won’t. Small Press. This is where the future of the industry is going to come from.

I don’t begrudge anyone in the industry who is creating comics. We’re all in the same boat; just some of us have a much bigger audience. But when the two biggest companies in North American comic books continue to play it safe, continue to “reboot” and “rebuild” instead of taking chances and experimenting, things just get stagnant. That’s how I feel about the majority of the books being published these days. Again, I have all the respect in the world for those creators. They are among the best comic book creators in the world, bar none. But too much feels like the parent companies wanting things a certain way. I guess when Warner Brothers and Disney own these two biggest companies, there’s a lot of editorial and managerial red tape to deal with. I don’t know.

If someone offered me a Batman story, I’d write it. Of course I would, who would say no? I even have a Batman story in me. Have for years. If someone offered me Spider-Man though? I don’t know, I don’t know if I have a Spider-Man story in me. I really don’t. But give me Daredevil, and it’s a different story…

But I digress. A Breakneck trade and another piece of the Instinct puzzle. That’s today’s update. I’m tired, give me a break.

Do yourself a favor and go listen to “The Rip Tide” by Beirut.

A different change of pace for a Friday.

Today I’m going to post the first chapter of my crime novel SEND HIM ROUND. Briefly: it’s about a professional punching bag, called a “Brick” (as in “Brick Shithouse”) named Sam Bird.

This is the story that my manager likened to Elmore Leonard, but funnier (his words, not mine). I’ve gotten some pretty good feedback on this, and seeing as this is my forum to talk all about me, I figured I’d post it. I hope you actually read it, because I genuinely think it’s pretty good. Ignore any typos and stuff. Just because.

Here goes.

Send Him Round

By Mark Bertolini

August 10, 2012 –

Part One: Wolf Tickets

1.

I was about to get punched in the face.

            I wanted to duck, but ducking was no longer an option, as my arms were being held out to either side by the Sweaty Guy and the Beardy Guy, which made maneuvering my head and shoulders next to impossible.

            Plus, let’s not discount the fact that Sweaty and Beardy had already worked over my ribcage pretty good, and I’d taken a boot to the side of the head, so my neck was pretty bunged up too. I didn’t have much wiggle room, and what room I had, I was unable to capitalize on.

            So basically, I was about to get punched in the face, and could do nothing to stop it. Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve been punched in the face plenty of times. Usually the guy throwing the punch (in my experience) really doesn’t know what he’s doing. The punch is weak, the fist isn’t fully closed, or they manage to hit you in the forehead or cheekbone, which, in the realm of getting punched in the face, isn’t all that bad.

            This guy, though. Sweaty and Beardy’s buddy, who I’ll call Lanky, knew how to punch. He was tall and skinny, but his hands looked like fucking baseball gloves. Like he’d swapped hands with a gorilla. Those were the kinds of hands made for punching. And he knew how to use all of them. The first punch caught me just below my right eye, and it felt like a brick had cranked my eye socket. The whole world spun lazily for a second, but I couldn’t spin, not in the grip of Sweaty and Beardy, who clenched in tighter and propped me back up for Lanky’s second fist, which caught me expertly on the edge of my jaw, and this time my eyes filled with grey.

            I was brought back by a hand slapping the side of my face, the right side, where the eye socket was already swelling. The only good thing about this whole mess was that they hadn’t broken my nose. It still wasn’t fully healed from the last time.

            Lanky, who also doubled as the slapper (those fucking hands, Jesus Christ, they looked so odd on the ends of his skinny arms), gave me a second cuff and I slowly raised my head.

            “So I’m going to ask you again,” said the fourth man, who stood casually behind Lanky, who graciously stepped to the side to allow me to see the speaker. “Where is Morgan Bennett?”

            My right eye was swollen almost shut by this point, so I peered at the man with my left. Dressed nicely, simple suit under a dark overcoat. No tie. I found that strange. You go to all the trouble of getting dressed up nicely, usually you put on a tie. Unless, that is, you expect to get beat to shit at some point, and then you don’t want to bleed all over your nice clothes. I’m going to use that as my excuse. That’s the reason I was dressed in faded cords, a basic blue workshirt, and my favorite fake leather coat that I’d had for going on nine years. So yeah, nothing too classy, so bleeding all over everything was perfectly acceptable.

            “I dunno,” I said, the words feeling all mushy in my mouth after the shot I’d taken off the jaw. I worked a couple of teeth with my tongue. Definitely loose.

            The well dressed man stepped forward, clearly not happy with my answer. “Morgan Bennett. Owes me a significant amount of money. If something has happened to him, if you’ve done something to him, then guess what?”

            I tried to guess, but I was still pretty foggy upstairs. “Capricorn?”

            The well dressed man pursed his lips and gave Lanky a little nod, and the giant hand came flashing out and the slap impacted hard enough on my face that I could just have the cops dust my cheek for prints when this was over.

            Which, I decided, was going to be in about five minutes, give or take.

            I spit blood (more blood, to be specific) and looked up at the well-dressed man not wearing a tie. I’ll call him Tieless. I said “I don’t know. I saw him. Last night. Don’t know where he went.” This response earned me another slap, this one slightly higher up on the side of my head towards my temple. I would have pitched to the side, but my buddies back there, Sweaty (who had some really big sweat stains in the armpits of his t-shirt. A guy like that should definitely not wear grey) and Beardy (no joke, this guy’s beard was enormous, it hung down over the collar of his shirt and I think there was food and birds nesting in it. He was also wearing a red headband, because he had a mane of hair that matched the beard. I should have called him Hairy. Ah well, too late now) still had my arms pinned tightly, enough that I had lost all feeling in them. I’d have to do something about that, soon.

            The well-dressed man (Tieless, his name was Tieless) had seen a lot of gangster movies, I assumed, because he stepped right up into my face, confident his lackeys were more than capable of holding me back, and yelled. The yelling I didn’t mind, it’s happened before, it’ll happen again. But he spit when he yelled, and I didn’t care for that much at all.

            “Morgan fucking Bennett! You tell me where he is, or we’ll leave your body in a—“

            I never did get to hear where he was going to leave my body, because at that moment I snapped my head forward (my neck wasn’t really all that sore) and shattered his nose with my forehead. I have a big forehead. Not like, Cro-Magnon man big, but my hairline was receding, so my forehead just looked big. Bigger than normal anyway. Anyway, yeah, so I smacked my big forehead into his nose, which sort of exploded, and I got more blood on me (not that you could tell, really), and he shrieked, a high-pitched whistle-y noise, and clutched at his bloody, broken nose, stumbling back away from me.

            Lanky moved in, hands balled up into fists that looked like ten-pound bowling balls, and let me tell you, I’d had enough of those hands for one day. I pivoted my torso quickly, and pushed myself forward with my legs, and I came sliding right out of the fake leather jacket. Sweaty and Beardy were left holding the coat, and both looked down at it, trying to reconcile that it no longer held a person. Long enough for me to plant a fist (granted, not as big as Lanky’s) into Beardy’s stomach, doubling him over. I then spun Beardy around and half-threw/half-pushed him, head-first, into Sweaty’s stomach. Like a human cannonball. They went down in a heap, and I turned, narrowly stepping out of the way of Lanky’s fist, a haymaker that must have started down at his shoes.

            The momentum of the punch carried him halfway past me, and I turned my back to him and threw out a vicious elbow that caught him in the triceps and from the squeal he let out, I knew I’d hit my mark and that arm had just turned dead. I kept turning, following through, and drilled the first two fingers of my left hand into the spot on his neck just under his ear. Lanky’s eyes rolled up into his head and he pitched forward, made no move to protect himself, and smacked face first onto the concrete floor. Something made a soft breaking noise from the area of his face, and I figured his nose had let go. Two in one night, that’s not bad.

            Tieless, now covered in his own blood (see? Should have worn his grubbies) backed away from me, hands still plastered to his face, eyes wide. “Nugh,” he said, and since I didn’t quite understand that, I kept moving towards him. He glanced past me quickly, saw that his help was not going to be much help any more, and then turned to flee.

            I was quicker, and caught the back of his overcoat with one hand. He didn’t have the sense to try and wriggle out of it, and I pulled him backwards, sending him falling onto his ass. He let go of his nose to try and break his fall.

            I don’t want to say I enjoyed kicking him in the chest. But I did. I enjoyed it enough that I did it a second time, and then he was flat on his back. He was cringing, staring up at me, eyes showing me pure panic. His situation had changed dramatically in the span of about sixty seconds, and it still wasn’t computing with him.

            But it would. Soon.

            I unclipped a cheap flip phone from my belt, pressed one button and held it to my ear. I heard the line get picked up at the other end, but no one said anything.

            “Bird,” I said.

            “Yeah?” Said a gruff, Cockney-accented voice on the other end.

            “I’m done. Can Jerry come pick me up?”

            “On his way,” the Cockney voice said, and the line disconnected. I clipped the phone back to my belt and looked down at Tieless. A dark stain spread across his pants, and the sharp smell of urine hit my nose. “Christ, what’d you do that for?”

            “Pleghs,” he said, and tried to spit blood out of his mouth, hands up, pleading with me. “Pleghs,” he said a second time. I spit my own blood out of my mouth, and gave him a smile.

            “Not sure what you’re getting at, my friend. You’ll have to annunciate more clearly.”

            He pushed himself into a half-sitting position and tried to see if there was an available avenue of escape. I planted a foot on the coat, which was sprawled out beneath him, effectively trapping him, as he still hadn’t figured out that he should take it off.

            “So. You wanted to know about Morgan Bennett,” I said.

            He stopped trying to speak, but his eyes continued to plead.

            I shook my head. “Not gonna happen. You wanted this, right? This lifestyle? Wanted to be the gangster king, is that it?”

            He shook his head violently.

            “You never stopped to think about how one becomes a king, though, did you? To become the king, the old king has to die. And the old king is still alive. The old king paid me to find you,” I said. “Morgan Bennett was a decoy. Granted, he’s in a dumpster out in the valley now, but he wasn’t important.”

            I knelt down next to him, reached my hands for him. “You’re important. That’s a nice thought to go out on, isn’t it?”

            He only screamed for a minute.

There you have it. Chapter 1 of SEND HIM ROUND. I hope you dig. I’m taking the weekend off, but Monday I will have some more Instinct news.

Until then, do yourself a favor and go listen to “King of Jeans” by Pissed Jeans.

Creating Comics, my way, part 5

Today’s update is going to be kinda short, so I apologize in advance.

Sami just sent me a couple of additional pieces of art, one to be used as the inside front cover, one to be used as the inside back cover.

Here’s the back cover image:

 

Creepy no? The other image, for the front cover, is incredible. Part of making creator-owned comics is thinking about all the design features that go into them. There’s no one else to do this job for me. There’s no one else to pick up my slack, so I have to be on the ball and make sure all the parts are there, that everything’s lined up.

And I love inside front cover designs. You get a killer piece of art, and then you obscure it all with your names. Sami set the front piece up perfectly, with a fantastic image and lots of white space for the credits. Also, space at the bottom, for the legal stuff. That’s (hopefully) going to be important down the road.

So I have a couple things I want to share, related to Instinct.

First, again, is the brand-new Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/Instinctinprogress

I’m running a contest: when/if I get to 100 ‘likes’ on the Facebook page, I’ll do a random draw and the winner will be able to name the hard-as-nails badass female Intelligence Agent who becomes Dominic Arch’s handler later in the comic. If you’re a female and want you name immortalized in the book, you can do that. If you’re a dude, you can, I dunno, give me your girlfriend or wife’s name. Whatever you want. Just to get some more reader involvement. You’ve all been a part of the process so far, by following this series of posts, and I want to keep that going.

If we get to 200 ‘likes’, I’ll let the lucky winner determine how the Russian headcase Romany gets killed. How do you like those apples?

Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter too: @mark_bertolini. I occasionally say funny things and discuss coffee.

And a couple of administrative-type things: I found a couple of potential colorists. Hopefully one of them will get close to the specific color scheme I have in my mind’s eye.

Once I have this colored and lettered, as I mentioned before, I’m going to get the 8 pages and the cover printed into a couple dozen actual comics. Here’s the service I’m going to use (already contacted them to make sure they’ll ship to Canada – they will): https://www.nationsprint.com/clients/racomicsdirect/

This is the service that my buddy, fellow comic writer and fan of good music Jeremy Holt used for his pitch packages. It’s a great idea, to present your comic as a comic. Much better at conveying what it will look like than a PDF file. I can get 25 copies made up for about $65 plus shipping. That’s not a bad deal at all. And they have a reprint option, so I can always order more. I’m hoping to use these as a primer; maybe I’ll sign and sell some. Maybe I’ll give some away to my friends and fellow creators.

Maybe I’ll have another draw later on for a copy…

Do yourself a favor and listen to “Meet Me at the Muster Station” by PS I Love You.

Writing…prose, not comics.

I was hoping to have some more information about Instinct for you today, but nothing yet. I might have found a colorist, so let’s just see how that goes.

I write comics. If that hasn’t been apparent in the last 20-something posts here, then I’m doing something wrong. And I don’t think I am.

But recently (and a long time ago) I also wrote prose. Straight up old fashioned short stories and novels. When I was a teenager, and heavily into the work of Andrew Vachss, I once wrote an entire 100,000 word crime novel that aped all of Vachss’ style and characters. I thought it was pretty good, but it really was a fairly blatant ripoff. I then wrote a Texas-based goofy crime story that was pretty much a Joe R Lansdale ripoff.

In my late teens, when I was heavily into Stephen King, I started writing short horror stories. A few weren’t awful, most were horrible. This was all before the comic book writing bug really bit me.

But recently, I’ve been writing prose again. A lot of it. I’m 22,000 words deep into a crime novel that I’m really enjoying, that my literary manager actually compared to Elmore Leonard. That book’s been stalled out for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been banging away at new stuff. But I will get back to that novel, because my biggest fan demands it of me…and I really need to know what’s going to happen. That might sound weird, since I’m writing it, but it’s the truth. I have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen, but the characters will dictate whether or not that plan gets followed.

But the new stuff has been fun too. Some old ideas re-purposed, some new ideas. Horror stories, along the lines of the stuff you’d read in a Stephen King collection like Night Shift or Skeleton Crew. Some psychological stuff, some out and out slasher movie stuff. I’m thinking of putting the best stories together in a collection. I even have a name for the collection. But no, I’m not sharing that. Not yet.

I wrote a ghost story, something I never thought I’d write. I re-wrote a story I originally wrote in my teens. I wrote a nasty little 4 page story that I thought up in the car on the way to work one day last week.

Writing prose was really tough to get back into after writing comic scripts for so long. I deliberately leave a lot out of my scripts, because that’s the point, right? To allow the artist to interpret your descriptions into something outstanding. When you’re writing prose, the whole show is on your shoulders. You have to set the scene and describe it and make the reader feel it. You don’t have a stellar artist there to rescue you and make you look like a genius.

But something interesting has happened along the way. I think I’ve actually found my own voice in my prose writing. I mentioned the ripoffs of Vachss and Lansdale and King, and all of that influenced me in my writing, without a doubt, but out of all of that (plus the Charlie Huston and George Pelecanos and Robert Crais and Dennis Lehane and Simon Spurrier) has congealed together and created something new: Mark Bertolini. I think I’ve finally found my own voice and my own style. In fact, a lot of it reads a lot like how I’m writing this blog. My prose writing feels very conversational, like I’m bringing the reader into the story. That wasn’t a conscious decision, but it happened and I’m running with it.

Once I have some more prose under my belt, I might serialize one of the stories here. That might be a fun experiment. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I will definitely do that. A new chapter twice or three times a week, a continuing story here at the blog. What do you say? Oh. Well, I’m doing it anyway. You’re not the boss of me.

Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Relationship of Command” by At the Drive-In.

And please head over and check out the new Instinct page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/Instinctinprogress

And be sure to follow me on Twitter for even more of my rambling @mark_bertolini

Inspiration

I read a great quote from Grant Morrison the other day. “I was inspired by what came before me. Hopefully I can inspire you. And then you can inspire the next wave.” I’m paraphrasing, since I can’t be bothered to go look it up again, but I really like that idea. The idea that maybe something I’ve created can inspire someone to want to create comics, there’s really no better thought.

With that in mind, I wanted to run down who/what inspired me, and who/what continues to inspire me.

First and foremost is Warren Ellis. I first found Ellis’ writing from his original run on the Authority. From there I back-tracked, read his Stormwatch run, went back further to Lazarus Churchyard. His Transmetropolitan ranks among my top five favorite comic books of all time. His ideas are mind-blowing, I love his pseudo-scientific outlook on everything. How everything can be described by science. But my favorite works by Ellis are the more recent books he did at Avatar. Where it felt like he truly cut loose. Doktor Sleepless, No Hero, Black Summer. These are my favorite Warren Ellis comics. Black Summer and No Hero especially get constantly re-read. Ellis also single-handedly brought me back to comics after I stopped reading for a while.

On the topic of Warren Ellis, I can’t not mention Planetary. Planetary holds the distinction of being my second-favorite comic of all time. The characters, the stories, the re-purposing of old comic book ideas into something new and fresh is just stunning.

Next up is Garth Ennis, who wrote the unmatched Preacher (which is my all-time favorite comic book), which has the distinction of opening my eyes to the types of stories comics could tell, and made me decide to give up on being a comic book artist and focus on being a comic book writer. Preacher was such a different book than what I was used to at the time (I was still highly caught up in the Image boom at the time). Here was this smart, mature, bloody, funny-as-hell, emotional and sophisticated comic (excluding the chicken-fucking scene, of course) that didn’t pander. It didn’t talk down. I was hooked. This was the kind of comic I wanted to write. I haven’t, yet, but one day. Ennis also wrote the amazing Hitman at DC, and recently the original Crossed series at Avatar, which is still disturbing to read.

Then we have Brian K Vaughan. His series Y: The Last Man also ranks among my most favorite comics. Any time I want to recommend a comic to anyone who has never read a comic, I go with Y. It’s the epitome of the smart comic. But Vaughan’s Ex Machina is actually my favorite work by him. I’m a big superhero guy, and while this take on a “real-world” (in the context of the comic) hero retiring to work in politics may not sound too interesting, it truly is. It’s one of the greatest comics I’ve ever read. And Vaughan is the absolute master of the cliffhanger ending. I recently started reading Saga by Vaughan, and am blown away all over again.

Grant Morrison’s Vertigo work is also high on my list. I first got into Morrison through The Invisibles, which still bends my mind into weird shapes when I think about it. He took everything I thought a comic book could be about and blew it up. The ideas just explode off of every page. From there I found his Animal Man series, and the Doom Patrol. Another of my favorite books of his is The Filth, which defined a lot of my writing during the time I was reading it.

Then we have a guy like Mark Millar, whose Wanted still remains a favorite to this day. Ed Brubaker and his Sleeper and Incognito. Joe Casey’s Automatic Kafka, and Butcher Baker: The Righteous Maker. Brett LewisThe Winter Men. The Programme by Peter Milligan. Absolution by Christos Gage. The list goes on and on. And on.

Outside of comic books, I love the works of Stephen King. In fact, my yearly re-reading of The Stand is coming up soon. I love crime fiction by the likes of Andrew Vachss, Joe R Lansdale, Robert Crais, and George Pelecanos.

In truth, I love reading. If I don’t spend at least a little time each day immersed in a book, be it a novel or a comic, I feel cheated. I strive to write things that hopefully one day will cause someone to write a list like this of their own.

But at the end of the day, my biggest inspiration are my boys. I love to experience things through them, including the love of reading. Them and my number one fan, who knows who she is.

Do yourself a favor and go read any of the books by any of the authors I mentioned. You won’t regret it.