Ghost Lines

Ghost Lines was one of the first comic ideas I had that I thought was actually original, as well as being one of the first non-superhero comic ideas I ever had. I don’t remember exactly where all of it came from, but I remember hearing the phrase “ghost lines” at my job at the time (a cellular phone company) in reference to cell phone line set up outside of a billing system, which were essentially ghost lines.

The phrase stuck with me, slowly seeding little ideas in my head until I had built up a single scene that I had to write. That scene is almost completely unchanged from the first 8 pages of Ghost Lines issue 1.

The other parts started to come together later on. I wanted something psychological. I wanted to deal with serial killers. I wanted a nameless, faceless corporation controlling things in the background.

When I first conceived of Ghost Lines, and armed with the 8-page script, I found an artist named David Cheifetz, who worked up those 8 pages as a submission package. David had a very interesting Photoshop-rendered style that I liked a lot. It was very interesting to see these pages come to life, as although this wasn’t the first time someone had created art based on a story of mine, it was the first time I had anything sequential.

That original Ghost Lines package was mailed to Image comics. Seven or eight years later, and I’m guessing they weren’t interested…

But that’s okay, because lots of things happened with Ghost Lines since then. David gracefully withdrew from comics to pursue painting, and I moved on to other work and filed Ghost Lines in a dead folder.

A year or so later, I was working on a crime comic (one that never came to fruition) and was looking for an artist to work on the pitch package. An artist named Carl Yonder emailed me, interested in checking out what I had, so I sent him the script, and he replied with a polite “no thanks”, as he wasn’t a fan of the high quantity of four-letter words I had plugged into the script. But I had already seen Carl’s samples and knew, absolutely and without doubt, that I had to work with him. I couldn’t let this amazing artist get away!

I emailed him back, trying to stall for time so I could figure out what other story I could position for him. Something pinged way back in my mind about Ghost Lines, and I sent him a quick pitch for it. He seemed genuinely interested in the idea, was a fan of that kind of psychological story, as well as a fan of serial killers (not in a weird way, but of serial killers in fiction, like Hannibal Lechter, etc.). Carl agreed to read the script I had, and soon after, started working on the pages.

Ghost Lines became the first mini-series I finished. I wrote all four issues, Carl kept creating pages, and we tried to figure out what to do with it. By the time we had two full issues completed, with lettering from my friend ET Dollman, I knew we had something fantastic but was unsure of where to go with it. I found a small press publisher on Facebook who were going to be publishing a comic called The Devil’s Trail by my buddy Stephen Lindsay. I emailed the publisher, pitched the idea of Ghost Lines, and sent over the submission package. It helped that Carl and I had more than 50% of the work completed at that point. It got accepted, and I was super psyched about it. I couldn’t wait to get this story finished and into reader’s hands.

Once all four issues were done, they were published digitally at a few places (I’m being very vague about the publisher and where the digital stuff was released for a reason, you’ll see it soon enough), and got very excited about getting print versions of the book. This wasn’t the first publishing deal I’d signed, but it was the first thing that was finished, that was a complete product from beginning to end.

But nothing ever happened. The first issue was solicited in Diamond Previews as a primer. I agonized over the solicitation copy for so long, wanting it to be perfect. But nothing ever happened. The pre-orders weren’t there, the book got cancelled, and nothing ever happened. The publisher told me they didn’t know what to do next. I was confident that we could get something going with it, and I waited to see what their next plan of action was.

And I waited. And waited. Eventually, it became clear to me that Ghost Lines was not a priority at all for them. They had other books coming out, stuff they pushed much harder and to a wider audience that I felt Ghost Lines had been presented to. Eventually, I half admit, I gave up on the book. I figured it was dead in the water. But out of it I’d gained a great friend in Carl, and he and I continued to create comics together.

After a year (!) had gone by with no movement on Ghost Lines, I requested the publishing rights to be returned to me. The publisher did so, and that was a pretty good indication to me that they really didn’t have any future plans for the book. I mean, I don’t want to toot my own horn, but Ghost Lines is a great little sci-fi/noir story. It’s four issues, so not a huge commitment, and it’s solid from beginning to end. And Carl’s art s gritty and dirty and dark and perfect for the story. I still enjoy reading it.

So, with the publishing rights back in my hands (and that was all I had ever given up to the original publisher, the rest of the rights still belonged to me), I approached my Breakneck publisher, 215 Ink, about publishing Ghost Lines. The fact that the 4 issues were all done and it was print ready and nothing needed to be done with it probably helped, and it was accepted for publication through 215. From what I understand, it’s been slated into the company’s 2013 publication schedule.

Ghost Lines is important to me for a few reasons. It was the first thing I worked on with Carl. Carl has illustrated more pages of my work than anyone else. We have a great working relationship; we understand what each of us brings to the table. Ghost Lines was also the first comic I wrote that was illustrated and completed. That’s a big deal, because so many times I’ve started projects that have just fizzled out. I’m sure that’s the case with every writer, everywhere, so getting something to the finish line is a big deal.

Also, Ghost Lines might…might I say…get adapted into a TV show. Over the past six months, I’ve been working on the Ghost Lines series “bible”, the document that has all the information on the story, the characters, the themes, the settings, the tone, etc. etc. so that it can be presented to a studio or director and they can get a clear picture of what we want to do with it, how we perceive Ghost Lines working as a continuing TV series. My literary manager is working on his end to get things moving. He feels Ghost Lines could work in the same kind of format as a show like The Walking Dead, an hour-long, continuing drama set in the Ghost Lines world. I’m excited about that. The comic focused on one part of what could be a much larger cast of characters and stories.

I know there’s a very, very good chance nothing will ever happen with it. I learned that with the ill-fated attempt as selling Breakneck as a movie. It’s nice to think about, but getting my work turned into movies isn’t the goal. The goal is creating comics. I write comic books, I don’t write movies. If it happens, great, I’ll never deny there’s a part of me that desperately would love for that to happen, to get some kind of a payday for my work, but ultimately, the bottom line is this: I love comics. I love writing comics. I love Ghost Lines; it holds a very special place in my heart. Even if no one ever got the chance to read (or watch) Ghost Lines, I’ve already gotten the best possible result from it: my favorite and most trusted collaborator.

That’s it, it’s Friday. Go have a good weekend. Drink a beer or three for me, because I’m on daddy-duty. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Diamond Eyes” by Deftones this weekend.

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