Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

How Do You Spell Divorce: E-X-P-O-S-I-T-I-O-N



Pages 4-10 introduce our hero and unpacks a ton of exposition. Backstory is key if you are going to have a lead character with baggage. Character depth comes from a history. The two quickest ways address exposition is either to have a news anchor deliver it in a news broadcast (a trick I pulled with the first issue of Destined a story I hope we get to put up soon at Adventures in Pulp) or to have two people get in an argument. Yup, when two people fight everything you ever did wrong will come out in the heat of the exchange. You can watch how it snowballs.

Without a word we can see right off the bat on page four that Dan is a farmer, and not a very good one. On page five we bring in Cassandra and quickly establish that this is his soon to be ex-wife but Dan is resisting the divorce (however he is still very angry). On page six things heat up. We confirm his farm is failing. He was not always a farmer but inherited the farm from his dad who never expected him to keep it. He was an athlete and has issues with gambling. On page seven, we start to give some info about Cass. She's an alcoholic. We restate the gambling issues before we establish that Dan is smart and well educated with multiple degrees and his life is stagnate. I thought by making Dan a gambling addict it could lead to some interesting future dilemmas. Would someone like that take chances that are too big? What if lives instead of money are on the line? Psychologically, how does that play out long term? It's a fascinating character trait for a pulp action hero.
Page seven also had an interesting editorial history. In our first "mature readers" draft, a panel was somehow missed. Instead of re-working the whole page, we added a line to page six and rotated some of the balloons. It worked great. But when revising the dialogue for the web version, I had completely forgotten about it so I was surprised to see how cleverly Matt re-edited the page to get everything to fit. Sadly, it was at the expense of a beautiful shot of Cass. The original colored art is pictured above. On page eight we slow it down and go emotion. Matt really nails the expression. We build on the mystery of what changed, but clearly it had a big emotional impact for Cass (I would give it a proper reveal on page 12).
On page nine we get our first "action" beat. Who guessed it would be a battered husband? We amp up the emotion and reiterate Cass' drinking problem. We hit the drinking problem again on page ten (gee, will that some into play at some point?) but also established the duality of Dan. He's not a quitter even though he appears to have given up on his marriage by finally signing the papers and his farm life is stagnate. Cass literally drives off into the sunset, but it's hardly a happy ending for her.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Long Road to a Patchwork Planet

Sorry for the long delay since my last post. Between the holidays and Xander's wrestling schedule I have been way too neglectful of my blog. Well that changes today. Today we have the first of six writer's commentaries covering Jigsaw World. I hope you enjoy the peak behind the curtain.


I first created Jigsaw World back in 2007. I really wanted to do an epic adventure in the tradition of classic comics like Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon. I loved those kind of pulpy adventure comics, but always thought the heroes were a bit too perfect. Too square-jawed, confident and competent. I wanted the fun adventure of the pulps but with a more accessible hero, more flawed and weighed down with issues and baggage. More real. More adult. However, I didn't want to ditch the gee-whiz factor. The giant spiders, spaceships, ray guns, dinosaur men all had to be a part of it. My adult had to be satisfied with the depth of character but I wanted my inner 10-year-old buzzing and spinning like a top.
First I needed a premise. If Flash Gordon would explore the worlds of Mongo, then where would my hero explore? Maybe it was seeing the "Mirror, Mirror" episode of Star Trek one too many times as a kid or maybe, I saw one too many episodes of Sliders while tapping the keg in college. Or maybe as I get older I find myself too frequently wondering about the road not taken. I don't want to devolve into navel gazing self introspection, so I'll keep it simple. It's a really cool idea. I mean think about it: String theory says alternate universes existing simultaneously in different dimensions is not only possible but probable. The presence of infinite parallel worlds that are near-identical or completely different from our Earth is now an accepted  theory within the most prestigious scientific circles. Seriously, how cool is that?
So I had the idea for a flawed leading character who explores the alternate versions of his own world. Like Billy Batson yelling "Shazam!" Jigsaw World and Dan Gideon popped into my head virtually fully formed. A little tinkering here and there with the premise (how does Dan go from reality to reality? Earth is remade with pieces of parallel Earths which in essence brings the alternate realities to him), then I developed an eclectic supporting cast, a reason to get them started on their journey and a ticking clock.
After unsuccessfully shopping it around on my own, ("you need an artist attached") Matt agreed to go in on it with me. I gave him his choice of scripts to choose from and at first I thought he was going for a book titled Destined. At the last minute, he went with Jigsaw World. He said he felt it was the most marketable, but I think it was the dinosaur men. Because, you know, dinosaur men are cool. It was our first collaboration, even though it was the fourth story to go up at www.adventuresinpulp.com. It was because we enjoyed the process so much that we decided to continue together with the web series. Alas, after shopping it around, again without success, we decided to put it on the site. We believe in the story and, at the very least, hope to play out the entire four part "pilot" story arc. We still hope someone will pick it up for publication.  If not, comic shops loss is Adventure In Pulp's gain. Since Jigsaw World was intended to be a "mature readers" book for publication, we decided to tone it down for the website.
Our UNUSED page 2. Art by Matt Childers.
That brings us to the opening sequence. Pages 1-3 are the prelude to the entire series. It introduces one of our regulars Dr. Stein (a tip of the hat to DC's Firestorm character). While we have made no secret about the origins of the series being about scientists from a dying world building a new "patchwork" planet to inhabit, I didn't want to spell it out right away. Instead, I wanted to have the characters in conflict about the morality of taking such steps since it results in the destruction of an entire world. That gives us some drama and conflict right away as well as an awesomely drawn sci-fi splash page by Matt. An interesting point, the sci-fi "glasses" Dr. Stein wears were not scripted. Matt tossed those in as character design. Immediately my wheels started turning. Are they just glasses? Do they serve another purpose? That is the kind of synergy that I love. When an artist throws something in that I can develop later. In fact I have developed an entire sequence planned for those "glasses" later in the run. Just for fun, pictured is an early draft of page two. I loved Matt's sickly green color scheme and how Dr. Stein's glasses perch on his nose but everything else from design and framing works so much better on his revised version.