Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Baseball Delays, Dick Ruby Voting, More Horsemen...

I'm sorry for the lack of updates. I've been a little busy trying to get the Little Pirates ready for opening day, which is a little more than a week away. Other than comics and sci-fi, my son has expanded my horizons to make me a late in life convert to the glory that is baseball. You gotta admire a kid who cosplays Capt. Kirk at RobCon, quotes "Doctor Who" and can turn on a fastball. I hope to start posting regularly even when I am not commenting on our website.

Today however...

Adventure in Pulp's "Dick Ruby" continues to move up in www.ComicMix.com March Madness - Best Online Comic Vote. We are now down from over 300 webcomics to only 32 and voting will continue on round three until midnight tonight. It is still FREE to vote but you can "purchase" additional votes by donating to the www.heroinitiative.org charity. Hopefully "Dick Ruby" will make it to the next round. Again, for all of you who voted: Thank you. For all of you who went above and beyond and donated to give us some extra votes: A SPECIAL THANK YOU. Even if we come up short, the Hero Initiative is a great charity. Remember those donations are tax deductible. So please honor us with another vote.

The second installment of our third story "Four Horsemen" will go tomorrow up at www.adventuresinpulp.com We hope you swing by and give it a try. It's really different from what we did with "Dick Ruby and the Case of the Little Green Men" and "Hawk and a Handsaw," and we are pretty proud of it.

You can also follow me on twitter @BrettTHarris. Even better, send me a tweet. I would love to hear from you!

Remember if a few days go by here and there it's all his fault...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

"Dick Ruby" Makes It to the Next Round at Comic Mix and "Four Horsemen" Launches

Well, Adventure in Pulp's "Dick Ruby" survived the seeding round and first round in www.ComicMix.com March Madness - Best Online Comic Vote. We are now down from over 300 webcomics to only 64 and voting has started on round two. It is still FREE to vote but you can "purchase" additional votes by donating to the www.heroinitiative.org charity. Hopefully "Dick Ruby" will make it to the next round. For all of you who voted: Thank you. For all of you who went above and beyond and donated to give us some extra votes: A SPECIAL THANK YOU. Even if we come up short, the Hero Initiative is a great charity. Remember those donations are tax deductible. Voting for this round goes through until Sat. 11:59 pm. Please honor us with another vote.

Today is the first day of Spring and our first installment of third story "Four Horsemen" is now up at www.adventuresinpulp.com. We hope you swing by and give it a try. It's really different from our first two stories and we are pretty proud of it.

Also remember you can follow "Adventures in Pulp" on Twitter for all the latest updates @AdventureinPulp (no s) and you can follow me @BrettTHarris as well as our Illustrator Matt Childers @mattcdrawsalot. We hope to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Epilogue, Part 2: Fitting Finale (aka Cheap Word Play)



            Our final page, goes as scripted. Three simple panels. We start with a bang. Matt does a fantastic job with the action here. For a claustrophobic story with a lot of action taking place off panel, I knew I wanted one big action moment.

            Next in panel two, we see our parody of the original Captain Marvel. I think any abused kid in the world would LOVE to be able to say a word and turn the tables on their abusers (I know quite a few adults who would like ringside seats to such an event). There is something really satisfying about the switch here. Originally, I scripted the scene with Commander Miracle as an adult still in torn children's clothes, but at some point Matt and I agreed that he should be full on hero. You can see him picking up the saw which was clearly set up on panel one of the last page.

            We get to the final panel. I gotta tell ya, it is perfect. We see that the title of the story was much more than just the quote from Hamlet (as discussed on page ten), there was a double meaning. We have Hawk (Knight Hawk) and a Handsaw (or in this case a bone saw). It was a cheap naming joke to end on, but so was naming a pedophile Dr. Peters. Sometimes you just gotta roll with it. I frequently warn writers that no matter how much you write, it will never look the same as in your head. Matt achieved the unachievable here. It is EXACTLY as I imagined it. He nailed it. Our second story came to a close with a very satisfying note of perfection.
            That's it for the "Adventures in Pulp" commentaries for a while. I will do one for our next story "Four Horsemen" starting the weekend after it wraps. "For Horsemen" begins TOMORROW at adventuresinpulp.com. Until then, I will still periodically post about random things I find interesting. In between you can find me on twitter @BrettTHarris.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Epilogue, Part 1: King of the B's (aka Abrakadabra)



            With Baxter and Dr. Destructo's storyline was wrapped up and nailed down, I had laid ground work for the close sequence back on page 4. We revisit Dr. Peters getting ready for surgery when he decides to get in another "session" with William. Peters takes another turn here. Going from arrogant, pompous and condescending on the first three pages to sympathetic on pages four and five and finally to creepy and disgusting. Not bad for a secondary character who only appears in seven pages of a story.

            Right off the bat I lay the ground work for the final panel of the story on the next page. Matt expands my five panel script to seven very powerful panels. The best being the "smile in the shadow" panel. With that one panel we have moved from a super hero story to a horror story. (apropos for the material). Matt and I both sweated the "drawstring" panel, worried how far is too far for a site that has been striving to be all ages, but it works I think. There is not a lot to say here other than I really like this page overall. Matt does some great work here and story wise it works great as a set up for the finale. With the magic word "abra-kadabra," we are propelled to the big finish.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Resolutions and Debates



            Matt and I had a lot of debate on this page. My original idea was to do a single panel (this was scripted before Matt and I had the final page discussion on "Dick Ruby" about full page panels). I wanted the aftermath of the climax to be a single panel with a lot of clues to hammer the resolution home. Kind of like looking at a table after a meal and trying to figure out what everyone ate. Little crumbs all scattered about. My idea was a high angle looking down at everything. Here is my original page description from the script: A single panel page. A bird's eye POV looking down on the entire room. Two hulking orderlies are inside the door looking confused. Dr. Felicity is hog tied and gagged in the center of the room. Her power bracelet is lying on the floor next to her, the blue jewel is cracked. Another lipstick sized device is lying nearby and it is projecting a recorded hologram of Felicity from the last page saying "And about to die." The bars on the window are melted away and there is no sign of Baxter. About a day after the page was to go up Matt called and suggested ending the story with page ten. I seriously considered it. Ten ended with one heck of a hard punch and, like "Dick Ruby," would give a great "what happens next vibe." However, for it to work would mean moving up our "B" story (which was set up earlier) and was planned to play out over pages 12 and 13. It would need an additional page to bring it all together. It was really tempting. But reordering the pages and doing such a drastic last minute restructuring would have blunted the original ending and it would have required putting up three pages prior to the new ending which had already been up for over a week. It seemed a bit like a cheat to regular readers even though most would find it after the fact. If it were a print book not yet going to press, I probably would have gone that route. So, we decided to keep the structure in tact and Matt came up with a different version of the page. It was a great page, packed full of the "crumbs" as well as some great unscripted touches (I love that Dr. Destructo apparently lost a shoe in the scuffle with Baxter). It had the elements I felt need to be there but there was still some debate as to the panel with the orderlies. On one hand, it was obvious that Dr. Felicity/Destructo was left to be discovered so they seemed extraneous. On the other hand, actually seeing someone make the discovery would give a certain amount of emotional satisfaction to the reader. It also rules out any idea that she would/could escape before being found. Again a common trope of comics is the elaborate inescapable trap which is actually always escapable ("Batman" 1966, I'm looking at you). I really wrestled with it and even second guessed the final decision after it was up in the early days, but I'm glad we went with what we did. With time to reflect and look back at it as a finished product, this page achieves what it needed to and the ending we went with on page 13 really has some punch and irony that page 10 might not have had as an ending.
            Dissection: Beyond the discover of the hog tied doctor, the other "crumbs" I wanted scattered about also include: The melted bars and no sign of Baxter indicating he had an escape plan in place. The recording. It was his plan to expose her. The fact that Baxter left her alive. This shows that in true Bronze Age form, heroes are not killers (and Baxter might be quite sane as well, thank you very much). The broken "Demon's Eye" bracelet. Originally, I wanted a completely unresolved plot point, much like one I buried in "Dick Ruby" but I'm actually mentioning it here because our print edition will have some bonus pages, and I decided to address that plot point in those pages. ("Dick Ruby" readers will have to search and guess. Maybe we will have a contest at some point). Why is it a plot point? Keen eyed readers will recall that a volcano could not destroy the bracelet and that it "could not be destroyed by such pedestrian means." So how did it get smashed?  An excellent question. But I won't answer that one. Instead I will answer this one: If everything is wrapped up, how come there are two more pages? Dear reader, please recall the mute abused pediatric case of William Watson, last mentioned on page four.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Ruses Run Deep and Wide



            Ok so we come to the big climax of the Destructo/Baxter portion of the story. It's a jam packed page but really effective. Matt did a fantastic job, so much so, that one would be hard pressed to realized that there was a lot of last minute re-working. It was scripted as a seven panel page, which was rare for me. After "Jigsaw World," I intentionally tried to lower my panel count to give Matt more room to show off his art work. Ironically, several times (as I have noted on previous commentaries) he would add panels. This time around it went up to eight, but I'm not sure how much was by choice. Because of the quirk of spacing and line count the script page ended with Baxter's line, "You lose." On the next page of the script was the last panel. No partial sentence or anything at all to let Matt know it continued on the next page. So he drew it to end there. tI could have happened to anyone. After the straight-jacket incident I would check against the script, but this time I didn't have to. The initial draft of the script did not have Baxter quoting Hamlet and spelling out the title for readers. As I told friends and family the premise and the title I would get blank stares, no one was putting the two together. So I did a second draft adding the line. When I saw that line was not there, I knew Matt was working from the old draft. A frantic conversation later and it was fixed. I think it only took him a few minutes to rectify both issues. It was amazing. Panel three became an inset, he moved panel four from the bottom left to the top right, slid everything over, dropped in the new line and the new panel and "Presto!" It was all fixed. It was an editorial slight of hand that was genius and more importantly: Seamless.

            Matt gave me a lot of grief over the "Femme Fatales" issue as I mentioned on page eight. However, while doing these commentaries, I noticed something. Originally I wrote panel two (which he split into two panels) with Destructo/Felicity behaving in a condescending demeanor. The dialogue is the same, but I literally having her patting Baxter on the head like a pet or a child in my description. Matt went the other way. He decided to have her embrace him and seductively whispering in his ear. If you recall back in "Dick Ruby," after the big reveal, the Queen Alien also seductively caresses and even licks the ill fated Eugene Lucas. No judgments, just making an observation... that kind of speaks volumes.

             I wanted a flashback sequence as part of the big reveal. Not only would it get us outside the walls of the institution for a few panels, but it would serve as a visual reminder that Baxter and Carlos were more than just inmates but actual super heroes. A big thing for me on this page was the monologue. A common trope in comics is the moment the villains spell out, in detail, their plan in an arrogant display of bravado (usually as a mask for exposition) and I wanted to turn that on its head by have the hero do the monologue. The big reveal that it was all a trap and that Baxter could get free at any time would be the exclamation point on this particular arc. Matt did a fantastic job with the image of Baxter standing there holding the straight-jacket. He is strong and powerful looking and complete juxtaposition to the previous page where he looks so weak and anything but intimidating. I subtly foreshadowed it back on page four with the line, "So this has been a ruse." It was a shout out on multiple levels. Dr. Felicity's act was a ruse, one which we double dip with the Dr. Destructo reveal as was Baxter's imprisonment. There might even be another ahead. Who knows?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Tumble for Ya (aka "But What About Carlos?" and Other Questions)



            I'll start with kind of a broad statement. Matt doesn't take short cuts in his art. During this story I would occasionally start a page with the exact same panel as the last panel on the previous page. Oh, the dialogue would be different or maybe some small element would be different, but it would be the same panel. I figured it would get him a panel ahead if he were ever running against a deadline. Every time, he would do something new. Compare panel one to the last panel on the last page. Written to be the same, but he didn't settle. Otherwise it was pretty much as scripted. The line in the script for panel four was "Carlos falling to certain doom." I was originally intentionally vague to give Matt free reign, but I had a certain image of Carlos falling toward the ocean with rocks jutting out of the coastal water. I mentioned it to him over dinner one night and he just "got" it. I love that panel. You can practically feel the rush of the wind as he falls. This was another page impacted by the straight-jacket fiasco. Matt could have just added a jacket to Baxter in the last panel, but did a full on redesign. 

            At this point we get to the "murder" of Carlos. As I have said before "Hawk and a Handsaw" and "Dick Ruby" were originally conceived as done-in-ones. No follow-ups. So for all intents and purposes, this was Carlos' swan song (or swan dive). I always wanted it to imply but not show the big death. The reader can imagine much worse than we can put out there. I always imagined what I would do if I could fly, and being a compulsive paranoid, I then find myself wondering what would happen if I lost that power while I was way up there. So Carlos' fate was just the naturally dark turn of a compulsively paranoid fan-boy's nightmare of an imagination. I feel like I achieved my goal when the next page came out a week later and someone asked specifically about Carlos. It's obvious he could not survive, right? Riiiiight? I will say that Carlos does appear in a script I have written called "God is a Bullet," however that story may take place prior to this one. He will also appear in a story called "The Invasion of Sterling City" which has not even gotten to the plotting stage. Again, it may or may not take place before this tale. I might have more to say on this later. Maybe not. We'll see. Either way as you can see, the idea of a done-in-one is out the window. Just like with "Dick Ruby," we grew to like the characters and, when you like them, you can't help but start spit balling "what ifs." I'm sure we will put a new story set in this world out at some point. I'm also sure Carlos will be apart of it, but that does not mean he survives this story. Either way this is the last we see of him this go around. Or is it? No, seriously, it is. Maybe.

            So why kill Carlos anyway? The murder of Carlos was an important step. It shows Dr. Destructo is not to be trifled with. If she can kill El Supremo, who, as I have said, is an homage/parody to Superman, then what possible chance does a normal human being like Baxter have? Logically, none. But of course we are only nine pages into a 13 page story, somethings gotta happen, right? It's not like we have a history of leaving the lead hero in danger at the end of a story, do we? Am I asking more questions than I am answering this time around? Well, hang tight, you will get some answers on the next page, as we come to the climax of the Baxter/Destructo story line.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Thanks For Your Vote

Another two post day - this time to give thanks.

As I write this, we are still waiting for the results of the first round of voting for www.ComicMix.com March Madness - Best Online Comic vote totals. While the free vote is still up they still have to add in the votes earned by donating to the www.heroinitiative.org charity. Hopefully either "Dick Ruby" or "Hawk and A Handsaw" will make the next round. For all of you who voted: Thank you. For all of you who went above and beyond and donated to give us some extra votes: THANK YOU. Even if we come up short, the Hero Initiative is a great charity. Remember those donations are tax deductible.

In less than a week our third tale "Four Horsemen" will begin at www.adventuresinpulp.com we hope you swing by and give it a try. It's really different from our first two stories and we are pretty proud of it.

Also remember you can follow "Adventures in Pulp" on Twitter for all the latest updates @AdventureinPulp (no s) and you can follow me @BrettTHarris as well as our Illustrator Matt Childers @mattcdrawsalot. We hope to hear from you.

Smooth as Silk: A Big Twist Revealed



            This page went as smooth as silk. Which is good since it is a major turning point. Perhaps THE turning point in the story. As I said on page seven, it was important to establish that Baxter appeared paranoid and, with his last accusation, delusional. However now that Dr. Felicity/Dr. Destructo has dropped the act, we see that he is possibly/probably quite sane. This page does everything it sets out to do. We touch on the Demon's Eye bracelet again, I planted a little seed for later, we pulled off a big reveal/turn and end on the threat of death. It's good that we pulled it off because it really is the first page of the three page climax. I'm proud of this one, especially the Destructo reveal. Earlier we had revealed that Dr. Felicity was not what she appeared on pages three and four. That was very deliberate on my part. I hoped that everyone would think that I was done with her and that the previous reveal was her big twist for the story. Lightening would not strike twice in the same spot, as they say. I hope I got you.

            As far as whole pages go, this one was closest to what I envisioned. Funny story though: When the page rolled out I complimented Matt on how he bled panel four into the shadow of panel three, I went on and on. Long pause on his end, then: "Um, that's how you scripted it." As I mentioned, it had been a while since I read the script, I had forgotten that and had not yet done a page check against the script. Matt was probably thinking I was either being a self congratulatory jerk or snide towards him since he deviates so frequently from the script. It was neither. Matt did go back and add a few lines to panels one and three after the straight jacket debacle. I absolutely love the expression on Destructo's face with the big reveal.

            One more story: Ok, so over dinner one night Matt looks at my wife and says, "You should watch out for him. This is two stories in a row where the sweet innocent woman turns out to be the villain. It says a lot about him, I think." To her credit, she did not miss a beat, she replied, "No, that just means you have to watch out for me." That's a great line to end on, but I just can't, I have to defend myself. You see while "Hawk and a Handsaw" was our second story published, it was actually the third plotted. The currently untitled story formerly known as "Starlight" was going to be our second tale. It was going to be a detective story set on an alien world inhabited by immortals and follow the case of the first murder in centuries. However, we agreed that two detective pieces back to back might not be a good idea so we put them as far apart as possible. "Formerly-known-as-Starlight" will be our fourth and final piece for "season one." It never occurred to me (or Matt for that matter, now that I think of it), that our "Femme Fatale" stories would now be back to back. If I had it to do over, we would have gone with "Four Horsemen" second. Another lesson learned.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Vote for "Adventures in Pulp" at Comic Mix!

Another two post day - to beg for your vote... again!
ComicMix is voting for best online comic and TWO "Adventures in Pulp" stories are in the running.

Voting ends at midnight (EST) tonight and you can vote once every 24 hours so go click it again! Pretty please with sugar on it. It's pretty strict so it has to be at least 24 hours since you last vote.
Remember this is only the first round of voting. The top 128 will move on to the second round, which will then become single elimination. BothDick Ruby” and “Hawk and A Handsaw,” up on the first round of balloting. Please go to www.comicmix.com and vote for us! Remember to e-mail friends and family and if you are on Twitter or Facebook mention it there as well. You can also "buy" votes for .20 each by donating to "The Hero Initiative" via the ComicMix site. Any donations are tax deductible.
A direct link to balloting at our site www.adventuresinpulp.com

Paranoia: The Character and the Writer



            I really like this page - both versions. This is a great example of why we need an editor: So the initial page rolls in. Looks great. Move along. Flash forward a few weeks, page nine has just gone up and Matt and I are talking about the page 10 twist (I'll elaborate more on that on page 10). Now, I'll just say it's a twist dependent on Baxter being straight-jacketed. Then I realize. "Oh, %#!+, Baxter has not been straight-jacketed for two pages." First I rush to my script to see if I screwed us by leaving it out. It was there, but I still felt like a dolt. You would think I would know the ins and outs of my own story to realize with the first glance that something was amiss. Nope. Not at all. Went right over my head. The artist has an out. He is focused one panel at a time, one page at a time, the writer should see the whole story. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. The artist is focusing on getting the colors and shapes to line up. The writer should see the big picture. I missed this one. Matt went back and fixed the panels (like most artists his art was abandoned instead of finished, so he used the opportunity to revise other things that had nothing to do with the straight-jacket incident). My only excuse was that so much time had passed since I wrote it. My first draft was back in June and my second draft in August. It was now December. In the interim I had written "Four Horsemen" and was hip deep in the full length "Saints and Sinners" for Top Cow. I will admit is a totally lame excuse. Matt stuck closest to the script than he had in pages (very minor variations not even worth the time to describe it). I should have seen it right away or at the very least I should have done what I do now and will forever do in the future... pull out the script. If you have been reading these commentaries you already know Matt and I have a pretty loose attitude about sticking to the script. As long as all the plot points are hit and the intent of the scene goes unchanged, then he has free reign, so naturally I don't go running for the script every time a page comes in because, to put it simply, they ain't gonna match. Now I run for the script. Not to nit pick or anything, but to make sure no little plot point slips through the cracks. Big lesson learned.

            Now story: Dr. Felicity finally comes face to face with a patient from "Hero Hall." I love the line about managing paranoia with medication. The ending panel is pretty strong I think. All in all, the point was to hammer home the feeling that Baxter is paranoid and delusional and I think we accomplished that. I'll have a few more comments but I want to save it for discussion after the page eight twist.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vote for Adventures in Pulp titles at ComicMix!

Another two post day - to beg for your vote!
ComicMix: “Mix March Madness 2014″ is now taking votes for Best Online Comic. The first round of voting is underway and the top 128 (of over 300) will move on to the second round, which will then become single elimination. We have both of our completed "Adventure in Pulp" stories, “Dick Ruby” and “Hawk and A Handsaw,” up on the first round of balloting. Please go to www.comicmix.com and vote for us! E-mail friends and family and if you twitter or facebook mention it there as well.
Matt is working on getting a direct link to balloting at our site www.adventuresinpulp.com

Less is More, Part 2: Artist Unchained, Writer Playing Close to the Vest



            Not a lot to tell on this one, as I said on the previous page, I wanted to let the visuals propel the narrative for this part of the story.  My script page was even more simple than what Matt came up with. He really kicks it out here making sure all the scripted beats were there but using the script as more of a guideline than scripture set in stone. Since it was so brief I'll just include it for you to compare.

Page 6 - Three panels.

A nurse is outside Carlos' room looking at the door because she hears:


She is in the doorway with the door open. The wall has been ripped away at the window.

She is closer to the hole in the wall.  Carlos is in the air flying away (although at a glance it could look like falling)

             You'll notice in my script I was still playing it close to the vest for as long as I possibly could. Carlos could be falling or flying and we don't actually see him tear a hole in the wall, it could have been a lightening strike or something else. I love the look Matt puts on Carlos' face, a sheer look of joy, as well as putting the sound effect over the image of the institution which, as I mentioned back on page one, looks like an old horror film castle.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Less is More, Part 1: Letting the Visuals Move the Narrative



            So everything was set up now and it was past time to get moving. While I deliberately over wrote most of the narration and dialogue for both stories to date to give them a pulpy feel, I thought it was time to step back and let the images carry the narrative as we shift to Carlos' portion of the story. It's a great introduction as we get our first look at an institutionalized Carlos. Matt's red color scheme was a brilliant. It's like the room is Carlos' own personal hell. Matt's been critical of his coloring in his commentaries, but I like it a lot. The cool purple-ish grays and sickly greens in the hall sequences contrast nicely with the nightmare reds and oranges of the patient rooms. Originally scripted as only six panels, Matt added in two more. The first view of Carlos' face was added in and gives us insight as to how he was feeling before the "Demon's Eye" bracelet is activated. The bracelet as we see it here is not much more than a curiosity. We don't explain until later what it is, but clearly it either gives Carlos his powers back or does something to the bars to make him think his powers are back. My last scripted panel, Matt wisely split into two panels. By giving us an extra panel that zoomed in on Carlos' face, he really heightened the impact.

Monday, March 10, 2014

"So This Has Been a Ruse?"



            So we follow up the third page revelation that Dr. Felicity has not been honest. No major variations here, it is pretty much as scripted. You'll note that the stuttering dialogue has vanished since she has dropped the timid act and her relationship with Dr. Peters has shifted. She's in the driver's seat while he is less arrogant and snide. Matt absolutely nailed Dr. Peter's expression on panel two. The look on his face is just so beaten, it's one of my favorite panels in the story because of the emotion. You actually feel bad for him even though he was so condescending just a page earlier.

            I planted some seeds that would grow much further down the line.

            The name William Watson was a play on Billy Batson. Same trick as Bayne and Wayne. Then just expanded Billy to William (for the alliteration). Commander Miracle is obviously our tip of the cap to the original Captain Marvel. I loved how Matt's kid drawing turned out and the color contrast really makes it pop.

            We have everything set up now and even threw in a fun twist by confounding character expectations, I knew it was time to get moving. Origins aside, so far it has been two characters standing in a hall gabbing...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"What are you, man?" "I'm Bat-er-um-Knight Hawk" (aka Bronze Age Comics and Blaxploitation Films - How Denny O'Neil and Pam Grier Influenced "Hawk and a Handsaw")



            Again this is a pretty straightforward continuation of page two. We introduce Knight Hawk, our satire of Batman. Just as I knew I wanted a Latino for El Supremo, I knew from the beginning that I wanted a black man under the Knight Hawk mask. Minorities have mostly gotten the shaft when it comes to comics. Most of the iconic characters were created pre-civil rights so the most enduring characters have been white men. Post civil rights, particularly in the '70s the big two did make efforts to change that. At Marvel we had the introduction of Power Man, The Falcon,  Black Panther and the Latino hero White Tiger while, across town, DC put a Green Lantern ring on the finger of John Stewart. In cinema we had more minority casting and even the evolution of blaxploitation films. Pulp novels (regardless of genre) overall fared even worse with minorities being relegated to villain status (Mr. Big or Thulsa Doom, anyone?). As I said in my page one commentary, the vibe of this particular tale was a mash up of bronze age comics and blaxsploitation films, so I wanted, I needed our titular heroes to be minorities. I started reading comics during the bronze age so part of my love for that era is nostalgia, but I also think that's when comics really grew up. Most people may point to "The Watchmen" or "The Dark Knight Returns" the following decade as the turning point of the maturation of comics, but in my mind it was Denny O'Neil's work on "Green Lantern" that turned that page. Comics ceased to be kid's only fare (although not yet "graphic novel") because in spite of the colorful costumes, there were morality plays, themes, ideas and ideals being bandied about. Comics were no longer disposable entertainment but actual full color literature that had something to say about people and society. Sure, comics got more mature (even with "adult only" books flooding the mainstream market) but Denny's work was an example of all ages reading. Sophisticated enough for adults but nothing you would want to hide from your kids (rather the opposite, I dare say). The blaxploitation genre is something I discovered a few years ago. Low budget films of the '70s starring black actors aimed at a black audiences to make a pile of green. Like all exploitation films there was gratuitous violence and sex, but I must confess what got me loving the genre were the plot twists. Unlike the big budget films, I think writers and directors were left alone and they did daring unexpected stuff. Stuff you would never see coming and, despite the cheapness, a lot of it still holds up (dated fashions aside). If you don't believe me look at Quentin Tarantino's films. They are basically big budget exploitation films. Remember when the "gimp" got out of his box in "Pulp Fiction?" Those are the kind of twists I'm talking about. "Blackula" is still a good classic vampire film (certainly no sparkly, broody twenty-somethings here) certainly as good as the classic Hammer horror films. "Coffy" is an fantastic revenge flick (I'm sorry but Pam Grier is a Goddess, pure and simple). Some films like "Foxy Brown" even veer into self parody. There is some very good overlooked stuff there.

            Page three, like the last page, is all about the origin which was also originally scripted to be a single "large central panel that bleeds multiple images together" and again, Matt repeated his look from page two, which makes for a nice consistency. Like a song, the music is the same but the lyrics are a little different. I also decided to switch up the characters a little and instead of having the child be the lone survivor, I chose to have the father narrowly escape death to become the tragic hero. As a parent let me say, the worst thing in the world that could ever happen is for a parent to outlive their child.  The origin, again, is the primary point of the page, but the continued conversation between Dr. Peters and Dr. Felicity takes us on our first big turn as we learn that Dr. Felicity is not as much the "wide eyed ingenue" as we lead you to believe on the first two pages.

            I also give a shout out to the late great Carmine Infantino. Carmine had passed just a few months prior to my scripting this story and his work in the industry (particularly on "The Flash" including the classic #123 "Flash or Two Worlds" issue) is beloved by fans and creators alike.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

I Must Have Taken a Wrong Turn in Albuquerque (aka Xenon is South of Krypton)



            This is a pretty straightforward continuation of page one. We introduce El Supremo, our satire of Superman. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a Latino in the Superman role as a commentary on the illegal alien aspect. I have always found it funny that one of the great symbols of  American pop culture and Americana is Superman - an illegal alien. Literally. The origin as originally scripted was going to be a single "large central panel that bleeds multiple images together" but Matt did a neat thing separating the images but weaving them like piece of cloth or a film strip across the page. While the origin is the primary point of the page, the continued conversation between Dr. Peters and Dr. Felicity set up an important future plot point, as well as cements their characters' personalities.

            I also managed to work in both name gags onto this page. Carlos Cabrera and Baxter Bayne our send ups of Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne. The alliteration is intentional, like so many of Stan Lee's comic book creations. I'll admit my naming gags can get complicated (I do have to amuse myself). Anyone who follows me on twitter knows my son got me into baseball, so I wanted a Latino last name that sounded like Kent. I went with Venezuelan Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. I chose Carlos simply because they sounded good together.  While with the other name I just went through substituting other letters in place of the W in Wayne. B just sounded best and I picked Baxter because of the Fantastic Four's Baxter Building (and the alliteration). I admit I almost went with Virgil Vayne,  Zack Zayne, or Carl Cayne. but they all sounded too European sounding). I like the end note which sets up the next page nicely.

Friday, March 7, 2014

How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Monocle or Imitation is the Best form a Flattery (aka Please Don't Sue Us, DC)



            As Matt illustrated "Dick Ruby" I started breaking "Hawk and A Handsaw" and while "Dick Ruby" pretty much turned out the way I originally envisioned it, "Hawk and a Handsaw" took a lot of twists and turns. When I started, I wanted to change the style from our previous story. While I went with a mix of dialogue and first person narration with "Dick Ruby," I knew I wanted to have the dialogue alone drive the narrative in "Hawk and A Handsaw." It was a technique I used with "Jigsaw World," and I feel like it gives the reader a more cinematic experience. There would be no glimpses inside the heads of our characters, everything would have to be said or shown. Initially it would be a dark homage to Superman and Batman. Two characters, that would obviously be stand-ins for the two most famous of super heroes, would be locked in an insane asylum. We would witness the sessions with the doctor and by the end, with no proof one way or the other, only the reader would decide if they were actually super heroes or delusional. That was the plan at least. When I started breaking it, it worked. I still think it would make a great story. But I feared it would be too static, too slow, and too talky for a weekly-pulp-cliffhanger serialized story. It would make a great done-in-one for one of the big companies, but for our format... I'll be honest, I just didn't think it would work. I chickened out.

            However, the nucleus was still there, and another story took form. This form. Once I made the decision as to the direction, I hammered out the plot which became a parody. A delicious mix of bronze age superheroes with a mix of exploitation films from the 70's. "Hard Traveling Heroes" meets "Shock Corridor" or Blaxploitation meets Batman. I started with a serious but fun tale then threw in the obvious satirical elements. When I gave it to Matt, I told him to "draw it straight and to reign me in where I might have gone too far with the parody. The mix worked in the end. My only complaint is that I wish I had more room for humor. Sure the parody is there, the satire is there, but actually funny is missing  (although I did get in a funny sequence in the bonus pages that would be in the print version). Again, character and humor are the first to get chucked overboard when trying to hit that cliffhanger every 4-7 panels. Overall, I think this "world" of heroes would work better in a longer form with a sense of humor like the Giffen-DeMatteis-Maguire version of the "Justice League" of the late 80's. But I'm pretty happy with what we did, it just never jelled like "Dick Ruby" did. I am very proud of the fun twists and turns along the way. At the very least Matt and I showed we can do super-heroes. I just hope we did not alienate any readers who turn to online sites as an alternative to costumed crime fighters. I really do think we managed to put out something different from the standard costumes and capes book.

            So to start: We introduce two doctors, the traditional stuffy old guy and the wide-eyed ingenue. Pretty much as scripted. Matt gives us a great establishing shot of the facility echoing a haunted house from a classic horror film and gives the old guy a monocle. Both of which are just inspired choices. I did go a little far with my description of Dr. Peters suggesting a "Hitler-stash," but Matt reigned me in and went goatee (and monocle). Thank goodness. If this ever gets made into a movie, I want Felicia Day to play Dr. Felicity. Maybe we could find a way to put her in a monocle as well...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Non-Ending Ending



            This being our first story, I scripted this page to be a single panel splash page with titles, etc. But when Matt started to draw it he called me and said, "A single panel page seems like a cheat for a weekly comic. A reader waits all week and only gets one panel, I think we should do more than that." I hadn't thought of it that way so, after he told me what he had in mind, it was fine by me. The dialogue played out the same. The only difference from the script was that Matt decided to hammer home the fact that the cop was an alien with the in-between-eye transformation. Since I had just played that beat with Betty in my initial script, I described it as "his mouth has morphed to display the sharp teeth." While we had also played that beat earlier, I thought it would be more scary. Again apples and oranges. His way worked just as well.
            From the beginning I knew I wanted a dark ironic ending. We had no intention of doing another Dick Ruby tale, so it could be assumed that, the aliens killed our dear Mr. Ruby and everything he went through was for nothing.
            Somewhere during the process I really started to like the guy.  Add to that, characters become real to me. I have to know them completely. While the ending was exactly as planned, (minor details like the mouth/eye aside) I will admit I did cut a line of description to leave a possible dangling plot point for a future story. I had already figured out what happened next. I also figured out who he would marry, when he would retire and his child's name. Not just what came after this case but what came before. I know what got him to start his detective agency. His whole life came to me in a blinding flash. Since writing the story, I have come up with at least 22 other story ideas as well as a spin-off. Dick Ruby is alive and well in my head. Fates willing, maybe we can tell more tales of Mr. Ruby.  Until then you'll just have to assume he died a painful death in the police station on January 4th 1948. Or maybe he didn't, and he will live on in your imagination.
            Either way if you want more of Dick Ruby cases let us know!
            You can follow us individually on twitter @BrettTHarris and @mattcdrawsalot. Adventures in Pulp also has a twitter account @AdventureinPulp (no s). Our next new story "Four Horsemen" will start on March 20, but until then Matt will be posting some designs for characters many will only appear in pages exclusive to the print editions of "Dick Ruby/Hawk and A Handsaw." Both of us will continue posting commentaries over the next few weeks.
Tomorrow: Commentary for "Hawk and A Handsaw" Page 1

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Big Climax, Little Boom.



            There is not much to say on this one. On the first page we establish that the tale begins with a dame and ends with a bang on top of the Empire State Building. We played fair. No cheating. Here it is.
            Originally scripted as only three panels: Ruby firing. The big boom and the aftermath.

            Matt played my panel one out over three panels. I absolutely love the expressions he puts on Dick's face. Then, brilliantly, instead of having a big panel with a big explosion he pulled back with a small boom. It seems counterintuitive but works amazingly well. The aftermath he breaks up into two panels as well, which gives us a nice post climactic breath. So here we wrapped the meat of the story and I wondered if anyone would come back the following week for the single epilogue page that would button everything down.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Trope of the Villain Monologue: My Biggest Worry



            So here, we arrive the to build up to the big climax and the reveal of the "Big Bad." The last page reveal would leave many readers skeptical. I had to nail this. Here is the problem: If I over explain, I run the risk of insulting the readers' intelligence. If I under explain they might feel cheated. I had solid reasoning. How much to I layout? Luckily, Pulp style is big and over the top more often than not. It doesn't matter if its noir, sci-fi, fantasy or adventure. I have some leeway. Not much, but some. Hopefully just enough or an arch monologue that would explain everything without coming across as too spoon fed.

            First, the "femme fatale" is a traditional trope. I deliberately had Matt avoid the sultry raven haired depiction and requested he go with a blonde girl next door looks for Betty. That was my first act of misdirection.

            Now, let's say you want to set up an online business. The first thing you would do is test security of your website. You would hire someone to try to hack the site and see where you are weak. Logically, I figured if you are planning an alien invasion, and you had a security breach, say a government official (Eugene) then you would want to test and see how vulnerable your plans are. You would bring someone in and put them on the path to get them started. At each level you might help them along, especially if you also needed a fall guy to explain the disappearance of the already mentioned "breach." (Betty puts Eugene's journal in Dick's hands, and whenever he was stumped, they helped him along appearing the sewers, allowing him to escape when they captured him, holding him right at the Empire State Building). Their intent was if the figured out too much on his own they would change plans. If they had to help him along (which they did), he would be blamed for Eugene's death. A plan within a plan. Sure Dick exceeded expectations by killing the sewer aliens and getting the weapon but that's where Betty got over confident. She still sees his threat assessment as minor, even admitting she was only giving in to her "security chief" to prove what a great leader she is. In her mind, it was all silly but methodically planned. Hopefully I spelled out enough for readers to buy it but not too much as to insult them. Every time I made an artistic decision I would take a step back and ask myself, "How would the aliens react be if Dick did X instead of Y." It had to be air tight. To hit that note story wise I had Betty say she figured he would see the aliens, run away, tell authorities, and not be believed.

            The big shocker was the obligatory act of needless violence. The murder of Eugene. I had her do it just to up the evil ante and because it would play as arch. A needed tone for making the monologue go down. Over the top actions always help make over the top dialogue go down better. Remember my motto for pulp: Go big or go home and have fun. None of this would work if some of it wasn't tongue in cheek. Matt even gets in to the spirit by adding such non-scripted touches as having Betty's alien tongue licking the doomed Eugene as she caresses him just prior to the neck snap as well as Eugene's tearful reaction.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Taking Big Chances On A Big Reveal



           Not much to say here. Initially Dick would see Eugene Lucas before seeing the aliens but Matt ditched that panel to move us along a little faster. Then he divides up the reveal and blasting of the second alien into two panels. He goes a little farther back on the next to last panel, so he can add an extra panel to go close for more impact on the big reveal (initially it was scripted as a single panel).

            The biggest issue here is the big twist. The reveal was one of the last plot points I put in during the outline process. Originally, it was just a generic queen alien, but I found it lacking. Bringing in a new character seemed anti-climatic and I felt I needed it to be someone previously introduced, but the only person I had was Betty Lucas and that didn't make sense. Or did it? Once I put that twist in place everything fell into place. I came up with some logical character reasoning (more on that in the page 12 commentary) and everything worked so I re-wrote the outline and started scripting. It all hangs together but I know it would be a big leap for the reader and the reasoning would have to be airtight to work. They would have a week to mull it over if they were following it live, doubt might build up in their minds. There were some other issues that worried me, but again I will address that tomorrow. Either way it would be a pivotal moment. If I did it right: success. If I screwed it up, the whole tale goes down the tubes.

            Note that Matt gives us some great throw back Kirby-esque tech including some "Kirby Crackle" and, let's face it, anyone who loves comics has to love "Kirby Crackle."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slow Down, Pay Off, a Warm Winter and a Fez



            We slow down for a minute to start the build up to the finale. This was around the time I pointed out to Matt that it was January in New York. You'll note that Dick is trying to keep warm without his jacket and a little boy is wearing a pretty heavy coat.  Beyond the date, I never mentioned weather or any cold imagery in the script so, in retrospect, I should have scripted specific elements to remind Matt to keep it cold looking.

            Matt added an additional panel stretching out the recovery of the weapon which gives the moment added weight.

            Another set up from page six plays out here. On page six I had Dick say, "I realize I've grown a tail. I manage to lose it on the way to my office, making only one quick stop along the way." The stop was to hide the weapon. I hoped it would go under the radar and that readers would think the reason he did not use the weapon in the office when the aliens came after him was because they got the drop on him but in actuality, he didn't use it because he didn't have it with him.

            One of the very few times Matt deviated from the script and it didn't work for me was in the last panel. Originally scripted as: "Close on Ruby in as the elevator doors are closing." I wanted to end the page with a beat that Dick was now determined to turn the tables. He was going to stop re-acting and start acting. I wanted to see the determination on his face. To be fair to Matt, I should have been more specific and less vague, but I must confess that I was spoiled by how intuitive Matt is to emotion when he was drawing "Jigsaw World." So naturally once I had a close shot on Ruby and the accompanying dialogue the way it read, I assumed he would get it, but the fault is mine not his. Like I said on the page three commentary, if there was no change to the intent of the scene (it's still there in the narration), and the change didn't effect the plot, so there was no reason to request a change of the artist. It's a collaborative medium. That was his take on the way to close out the page. Please don't think I'm dismissing what he did, ending the page with Dick in motion creates an urgency that virtually propels you to the next page. Apples meet oranges.

            Matt and I are both fans of "Doctor Who" so when I saw the elevator attendant wearing a fez and a bow tie, I immediately called him and said (in an absolutely horrid Matt Smith voice): "Fezzes are cool."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nuyk, Nuyk, Nuyk and All Roads Lead to the Empire State Building


     Again, I'm pretty glad we manager to keep the action rolling. My original script description for panel one reads: "Ruby striking the MIB in the eye with the thumb of his now free hand. Of course, the "man in black" alien and "green" alien are still switched to keep continuity with the last page, but I guess Matt decided Dick was a "Three Stooges" fan since he goes for the "Moe Howard-two-finger-eye-poke."

     Matt does add two additional panels to the layout: If I recall correctly (and I may not) he said the first one (panel two) was to make the action flow more smoothly. The second (panel four) was added to hammer home that the fact that all MIB were aliens in human form since we missed that beat on the last page. (I absolutely love that panel with the human head with a grotesque alien mouth as well as the black post-contact "spray").

     I had revised the third panel describing the action as: "Ruby throwing the chair at the alien. Perhaps position him like a baseball player swinging a bat." This was so it would tie into page one. I forgot to send it to Matt, so his copy only read: "Ruby throwing the chair at the alien." It worked out pretty well - I guess there are only so many ways to chuck a chair at an ET.

   Finally, I get to pay off  "the rule of three" I planted along the way. The obvious first one was on page one with a direct reference to the Empire State Building.  Next on page three, Dick goes into the sewer on 5th Avenue near 33rd Street. Empire State Building of course sits between 33rd and 34th on 5th Avenue. On page six, the radio reports the sewer collapse near the Empire State Building.  So now we show it and Dick knows he has to go... I thought I used some good reasoning to bring New York's most iconic building into the story. Sure the tallest building doesn't mean much when they could have gone to Mount Chimborazo, but I didn't want to do a story about a gumshoe in the Andes. Besides Roswell is closer to New York.