Dead projects – last day of 2012

Today’s dead project is one that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s gone through several versions, with several artists, so get comfortable.

The Gentlemen’s Club is the comic. A story about the world’s most elite assassins, and a splinter group that breaks away from the main organization, which results in the world’s top hitmen in a constant battle for superiority.

This was one of the first real ideas I had, or at least one of the first that I thought could actually be marketed properly, and had a mainstream kind of bent to it.

Anyway, I wrote the first issue (and the second), and again, as always – needed an artist. I met an artist online named Dan Rice, who really dug the idea and agreed to work on it with me. Dan and I put together a lot of what became the base of the book, the design of the characters, the settings, etc.

Dan had some real world things come up and wasn’t able to continue working on the book with me, but that was cool because a) he had created the VERY FIRST piece of art based on something I had written, and b) Dan became a good friend of mine in the process, and we always kept in touch (in fact, Dan’s now inking the Apes With Uzis miniseries I’m writing.)

Here’s the first ever piece of art anyone anywhere in the world ever did based on a piece I wrote:

GC page - Rice

I still have this piece framed. It means a hell of a lot to me.

But I loved the Gentlemen’s Club, the characters, the concept, so I kept trying to make it happen. I met another artist named Lukasz Rydzewski online, and pitched the idea to him, and he ended up creating a pitch package for the first 8 pages plus the cover.

Here’s that cover:

GC v.3

And a page of Lukasz’s work:

GC - Rydzewski page 2

But then…he just up and fell off the face of the Earth. His emails stopped, I had no contact with him. I don’t know what happened to him. I hope he’s okay.

I was stuck again. I couldn’t start pitching the book with an artist that had gone absolutely AWOL. So the Gentlemen’s Club got shelved. It happens. I wasn’t thrilled about it, but had a ton of other work on the go anyway, so it fell off my radar.

A little while later, I teamed up with an artist named Adam Sabic, who started to work on the book, but only got as far as character sketches – but man, I dug his designs. I basically told him I wanted the main character to look like Slayer guitarist Kerry King.

Here’s what I got back:

GC v.2

Then earlier this year, someone mentioned an artist named Kav (who worked with my buddy Josh Dahl on his “Rapid City” book), and I sent him an email, we discussed the idea, and he literally drew the entire 22-page first issue in two weeks. Yeah. It was crazy.

Here’s a sample of Kav’s work on the Gentlemen’s Club:

GC - Kav

This is on the backburner currently, but is something I really want to move forward with when the time is right.

So it’s New Year’s Eve. Have fun, be safe, spend the time with the people you love. I know I am.

Do yourself a favor and listen to “Within and W/O” by Washed Out.

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Dead and not-so-dead projects part 2.

In continuing my exploration (and unearthing some really cool old stuff) of some projects that died before their time, I’m going to take a look at a short story called Capacity.

Capacity was my homage to Bladerunner. In fact, I wrote it while watching Blade Runner one night. I hadn’t planned on writing it, but as soon as those opening scenes hit, this idea exploded into my head and I banged out the 8 pages fairly quickly. A couple of small revisions later, and I had the story.

I had planned on it being much longer than just 8 pages, and maybe one day will expand on this potential universe, but I was really happy with how the story turned out. And since I hate writing shorts, I was pretty thrilled this one turned out nicely.

So anyway, I had this idea and needed an artist. I’d been talking to Jim McMunn (the Frightful Fetus, the Devil’s Trail, FUBAR) about doing a short story together. I gave Jim a few ideas, and he liked this one the best, so we started working on it. Or, I should say, Jim started working on it, creating some intense architecture and crowd scenes and stuff that would probably make blood pour out of his eyes.

Here’s a quick taste:

Capacity v.1

Jim is a super-busy and super-in-demand artist, and quickly realized he just didn’t have the time to work on Capacity, at least not enough to give it his all. Jim’s a good guy and someone I consider a buddy, so I wasn’t completely broken up about it. I know how much work this guy has, and my story (in the grand scheme of things) wasn’t all that important. I didn’t even know what I was going to do with it when it was done.

So I found another artist to work on it, a guy named Kundo Krunch (I’m pretty sure that’s not his real name…). Kundo did the 8 pages, but it wasn’t really how I pictured the story, so we politely parted ways. I just wasn’t feeling it. The art wasn’t bad, just not what I felt the story needed.

Here’s a sample of Kundo’s work on Capacity:

Capacity KK

So the story sat dead in my computer for a long time after that. I eventually sent it to artist Jason Copland, who toyed with the idea briefly, but was in the same boat as Jim: too busy. Which is cool, Jason’s also a buddy, and I know he’s got a ton on his plate.

I know I talk about how much work Carl Yonder and I have done together, but it’s been a little while since we actually put something new together. We’d been talking about a mini-series, a 2 or maybe 3 issue thing, but I had an idea to get our creative mojo back on track: do a short story first. My buddy Ryan Ferrier has started a new publishing imprint called Challenger, running a bunch of short stories online, and I really wanted to pitch him something, so I proposed to Carl that we work on Capacity. Of course, Carl was in, and we’re going to be putting this story together for February-ish of 2013.

Monday will have another dead projects update (Man, I really do have a lot of these…)

Do yourself a favor and go listen to “Slave Ambient” by the War on Drugs.

Dead and not-so-dead projects.

Every writer has a ton of dead ideas, things that you start with a ton of enthusiasm that tend to just…fade away over time. Either your artist got another gig (generally a paying one in my case), or they stop answering emails, or they just tell you they don’t have the time to keep working on it. I’ve “lost” a few potential projects this way. Sometimes things turn out for the better. Case on point:

Ghost Lines – the original Ghost Lines artist, David Cheifetz, did the art for the first 8 pages of issue 1, and then very graciously decided that it wasn’t for him. He gave up on comics and went back to his first artistic love, oil painting (and became a bit of a success in that field, so more power to him.) I lucked out in getting to work with Carl Yonder on Ghost Lines, and the rest is history.

But sometimes, projects just up and die. It happens. So I wanted to look at a few of the projects I had die out on me.

First up is the original Aches and Pains. I created Aches and Pains and found an artist named Ryan Moffett to work on it with me. Aches and Pains is the story of a pair of geriatric hitmen. Ryan and I worked up some concept art, but that was a far as we got, even though I’d put together a nice little 8-page story.

Here’s some of Ryan’s concept work:

Aches and Pains v.1

The story sat around for a while before I could figure out what to do with it. Then, maybe in mid-to-late 2010, my buddy Jason Copland started up an art blog with another artist named Noel Tuazon (who had done the art for Josh Fialkov’s “Tumor” series at Archaia), where they were really just messing around, creating experimental art. Well, I wanted in, and basically invited myself to take part. I started talking to Noel about maybe doing a short project, and immediately Aches and Pains came to mind. I pitched the idea to Noel, he dug it, and started to work on it. His pages were staggering in how good they were! I got another buddy of mine, Glenn Arseneau, to letter the pages (with a quick assist from my perennial letterer, ET Dollman), and we had a nice little black and white 8-pager. This story ended up getting picked up in the 215 Ink anthology.

Here’s a page from Noel’s take on Aches and Pains:

AnP Noel

Working with Noel was a big thrill, and I love how this story turned out. I can’t wait for you all to read it.

Tomorrow (if I have a chance) I’ll have another entry in the “dead projects” series.

For today, do yourself a favor and listen to Titus Andronicus’ “The Monitor”. You’re welcome.

“The Next Big Thing”

I was asked by my friend and fellow writer Dan Hill (http://dan-hill.org/post/38617377783/the-next-big-thing) to contribute to this growing meme, and being the gracious and incredibly humble individual that I am, I agreed to participate (it’s actually really cool that he asked.)

Here’s my entry;

What is the working title of your book?

Instinct.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

From a few different places. Originally, I wanted to do the “spiritual” successor to Ghost Lines, something with a deep psychological bent to it. From there I adapted the basic idea to incorporate some other ideas. I really wanted to create a distinct character. I find a lot of “evil genius” characters are always well spoken and polite and proper, even as they do awful deeds. I wanted to turn that on its head and create an evil genius who was vulgar and base and terrifying. Thus was born Dominic “The Monster” Arch.

What genre does your book fall under?

I’d call it psychological crime noir.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

It’s been mentioned that the main character looks like Grant Morrison…but in my head, he’s a bald version of Wentworth Miller, who played Michael Scofield in the TV series Prison Break. Maybe slightly bigger, though. And more sadistic.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Dominic Arch is the world’s most infamous supervillain. After a series of missteps finds him incarcerated, the government uses his intellect to solve other crimes. When a potential biological threat unfolds in the United States, the government has no choice but to turn to Arch to help solve the crime. But will their solution end up being worse than the problem? (That may be more than one sentence…)

Will your book be self published or represented by an agency/publisher?

Ideally, it will land at a publisher.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About two weeks from beginning to end, including notes from the editor.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

It’s a cross between Silence of the Lambs and Batman (specifically the Joker).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, the idea of creating a disturbing and dangerous main character unlike some we’ve seen in comics recently. This isn’t a guy who’s going to present challenging riddles or stage elaborate crimes. He’s a sociopathic monster, has no remorse, and is a very disturbing and vicious individual.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It has incredible art by Sami Kivelä, who recently illustrated the Markosia GN “Dark Lies, Darker Truth”. The creation of the comic is being covered, step by step, on my blog. We’ve covered the full creation of the first page of the comic from initial idea to script to sketches to finished inks to colors to letters.

cover_out

 

I was supposed to send this off to some other creators and have them create their own Next Big Thing entries, but with the holidays and my shocking laziness, that didn’t happen…yet. But I’ll get some of my buddies on-board and link to them when it happens.

This will likely be my last blog post this year, though. I know I’ve been slacking, but it’s justifiable because work’s been brutally busy. I haven’t been able to do any script writing either. But I promise a return to form in the new year. 2013 is going to be my breakout year. More stuff published. More ideas created. More collaborations, more fun, more kickass comics.

Do yourself a favor and spend time with your loved ones this Christmas.

Creator-owned vs paying the bills? I dunno.

There’s a pattern in the comics industry that goes something like this:

1)      Publish your own work independently, either through self-publishing or through a small press company

2)      Get the bigger companies to notice you

3)      Get handed a big-time assignment at Marvel or DC.

That’s incredibly simplified, but it seems to me that right now, this is happening more than ever. It’s something that’s been happening for a long time now, even Brian Bendis published his first works through a smaller publisher (Caliber) which led him to getting noticed by Todd McFarlane, which in turn led him to getting noticed by Marvel, where he then took over that whole company. Or something.

But look at some more recent examples: Justin Jordan, who came out of nowhere last year with The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, has taken over writing Deathstroke and Team 7 at DC, and Shadowman at Valiant.

Nathan Edmonson, who exploded with independent books like Olympus, Dancer, Who is Jake Ellis and more, is now writing Ultimate Iron Man at Marvel.

Jim Zubkavich, a fellow Toronto-based writer, blew up with Skull Kickers, and just very recently got snapped up by DC to write Birds of Prey.

And you know what? That’s fucking awesome for all of those guys. Seriously. How cool is it to be recognized by the companies that publish the comics we mostly all grew up reading? It’s pretty fucking cool.

Now, the point to all this is: should that be the endgame for anyone creating independent comics? I’m not sure. I will never, ever begrudge anyone who works for the Big Two. How could I? That’s a sweet deal. Getting paid (because Marvel and DC pay their creators) to create comics. My God, yes. Sign me up.

As much as I fucking love writing my own comics, creating my own stories, answering to nobody because I own that shit

I’d write a book for Marvel or DC if it got offered. I would. Really, who wouldn’t? That’s the biggest audience in the world in this industry. I’m not that proud that I’d turn it down in favor of only working on my own creations. I’m not saying that I’d abandon all the work I’m doing or have done or will do, but I’d be pretty stupid to not look at Marvel or DC as a pretty good means to an end: do some work for the big guys, get paid, use that money to do more of my own work.

If I could pattern my career (that should be in quotations, I think) after anyone, it would be a guy like Warren Ellis. He saw himself as a mercenary: go do some mainstream comics for Marvel or DC, get the paychecks, and then turn around and use that money to fund his own work. You can see that progression in his stuff: work at Marvel, work at Avatar, work at DC, work at Image.

Is that something that’s likely to happen to me? Who knows. I tend to err on the side of: no, probably not. I don’t want to be expecting it, you know? Like it’s owed to me. Because it’s not. There are thousands (at least) of writers in the exact same position as me. I have a few things published. Do I work harder than any of them? Probably not. Would it be luck that would get me noticed somewhere? Most likely. Is it going to cause me to lose sleep over what could be? Hell no.

If in 20 years, I look back and see that I’ve published my own comics, stuff I created and owned and nurtured and loved, and that’s it? That’s pretty awesome. There’s a lot of people who can say that same, but really, that “lot of people” is a fairly small percentage. When I think about writing comics having been the only thing I ever really wanted to do, and I’ve done it, that’s kind of me accomplishing my life’s goal. How many people can really say that?

I’d love to write something for Marvel or DC. Flat out. But that’s not why I started writing comics (I started so I could write something at Image, naturally). I started because I had characters and stories in my head that needed to come out. My characters and my stories. And I fucking love writing them.

And in all seriousness: I have a job that pays my bills. I write comics because I love to do it. And if someday those two things line up and connect, and I get paid to write comics and pay my bills that way? Even better.

But when I was 13 years old and creating my first characters, that shit wasn’t even on my radar.

Man, I italicized a lot of stuff in this little rant, didn’t I?

Happy Friday. Do yourself a favor and listen to “Clouds Taste Metallic” by the Flaming Lips.

Best comics of the year – as decided by me.

Hey all, sorry for the lack of recent updates. Work’s been busy, and you know, this time of year. I’m hoping to get back on track with updates soon, but I really wanted to touch on some of my favorite comics of the year.

There were lots of awesome comics that came out this year, so many that I’m not going to bother with a top 10 kind of list. I am, however, going to break them down into publishers, just to see who got the most of my money this year.

Marvel:

Hawkeye

Daredevil

Moon Knight

Punisher/Punisher War Zone

DC

Batman

Batman Inc.

Scalped

Comixtribe

Scam

IDW

Locke and Key: Grindhouse

Image

Saga

Danger Club

Hell Yeah

Comeback

I Love Trouble

Dancer

Near Death

Manhattan Projects

Secret

Prophet

Happy

Mind the Gap

Glory

Peter Panzerfaust

Choker

The Legend of Luther Strode

Clone

Yeah, it’s pretty clear where the majority of my cash went this year. Image continues to dominate my buying habits, with high quality creator-owned comics hitting shelves on a weekly basis.

I’m hoping to do a favorite albums and favorite movies update as well soon.

Sorry this is so brief, but make sure you’re following me on twitter, because I say a lot of funny and insightful shit there.

Maybe not quite so insightful….

@mark_bertolini

Also, do yourself a favor and listen to “Grace” by Jeff Buckley. Did I do that one already?