Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fall Round-Up, Part 4: Marvel Movies & DC TV

The Bible says "the meek shall inherit the Earth," but seeing how pop culture now turns on anything and everything that was considered "nerdy" when I was a kid, I think it should have read "the geek shall inherit the Earth." Because I'm pretty sure we have.

It's a fantastic time to be alive if you are a comic book fan specifically (and a sci-fi or fantasy geek in general). When it comes to the two big staples of pop culture (television and movies) the technical wizardry of special effects have finally caught up with the imaginations of all the great writers and artists of comic book past. Right now Marvel Comics own the cinemas and DC Comics are cleaning up on the air waves.

Sure, there is the general nerdy stuff that is going great guns. Star Wars will return to theatres next year with the original cast. The last in the adaptation of the classic The Hobbit novels landed recently. Star Trek's reboot is inching toward it's 3rd film in time for the 50th anniversary of that franchise. But comics have taken off. San Diego Comic Con is far more about Hollywood promoting their films than comic anymore and the new all time box office champion is Marvel's The Avengers (which was incidentally helmed by Joss Whedon, who already had the cred of the geek set with Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and Serenity).

My area of comics is the Bronze Age mid-70s to early 80s stuff. It was really the ideal time. Comics were maturing and telling stories more sophisticated than the kid stuff that permeated the Golden and Silver Ages, but it was still safe enough for kids to read. We had not yet hit the mid-80s Dark Age of comics when The Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns would forever make adult comics mainstream. I have nothing against adult comics. In fact, I've penned most of my original stuff as hard "R" which we have toned down for www.adventuresinpulp.com, but (to quote my favorite comic book writer's blog) I digress. I was fortunate, the decade of my childhood was a time when the definitive version of the characters had become part of the culture.  Even adults who never picked up comics, knew who Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man were. My love began with the one-two punch of Saturday mornings featuring the Super-Friends cartoon and a live action Shazam both of which would wreak havoc with my little brain. Re-runs of the 1966 Batman tv show would cement the idea that a cape is synonymous with justice. To this day I still have an affection for the live action stuff of the 70's but upon retrospect it was lacking in a lot of ways. While Bill Bixby, Nicholas Hammond, and Linda Cater would make indelible impressions on my psyche there were still painful to watch adaptations of Captain America starring Reb Brown and a simply awful Dr. Strange tv movie. Even as a kid I knew the Incredible Hulk would appear at specific times because the show was a strict formula and I could see the wires pulling Spidy up the side of the building. Nostalgia is a great love potion but it isn't blind love. The era wasn't a total live action loss, the late great Christopher Reeve would make me believe a man could fly.

But today... things are different. Sure the comic industry has some issues, they are writing more for older audiences instead of trying to gain new readers with all-ages books, and by all ages I mean ALL ages, not simplistic silly kiddie books, but a book an adult can enjoy AND not think twice about handing off to his children. An overall lack of respect for history and continuity by editors and publishers. The almost pathological need to make their characters darker as if that is the only way to make them more relatable. Too many events, too many deaths that don't matter except to short term sales figures. Writing for the trade collection instead of the writing for the need of the story. Yup. Lots of problems with the actual product. But not the adaptations. Since the 70s we had a lot of hit and misses. Tim Burton and Mr. Mom showed us a more accurate film version of Batman than the old tv show and a new animated series that was the most accurate version of any comic to date. Superman got triple pumped for almost two decades with a live action Superboy series and Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman that immediately followed. Each ran four years, less than half a decade later a prequel series called Smallville ran for ten seasons. The Flash got his first live action show with mixed results and comic's first family the Fantastic Four got an ok duology of films with much the same result as did less likeable Ghost Rider. Film versions Punisher, Catwoman and Constantine are best forgotten. While Blade, X-Men and Spider-Man exploded on to the big screen to great success. Daredevil came and went some hated it and some loved it.

It was better than the 70s but there were as many misses as hits. Since then, things have gotten even better, and today, TV and film versions of our favorite heroes are really clicking along. That may be the understatement of the year.

Four color heroes have virtually taken over cinema. With Disney, Warner Bros., Fox and Sony announcing 28 films over the next 6 years and 6 new tv shows in the works, the comic book geeks of the world can declare, "we came, we saw, we conquered." And it is not just that the films and shows are being made. It's not just that they are making ridiculous amounts of money. They are actually good. Sure, with that many landing, there will be some dogs but the overall outlook is good if we look at where the winners are now.

Let's start with Marvel, because their success is what has spawned this current influx of live action super heroics. Marvel comics decided that they were really unhappy with what was being done with their properties and decided. Let's just do it ourselves. With X-Men and Spider-Man rights tied up with Fox and Sony, they decided to take a C-list character and a director know for small independent films and comedies and put forth a great comic book movie that just happened to be a great film. Iron Man is now considered an A-list character.

Iron Man kicked box office ass and took names. Immediately they started planning ahead with a sequel and three sister films, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger each established the founding members of The Avengers, while Joss brought them together for that record breaking film I mentioned to wrap up "phase one" of their collective universe. Hit after hit after hit. Only Incredible Hulk struggled at the box office and that was probably due to the fact not enough effort was made to let movie goers know it was completely unrelated to the previous box office disappointment put out by another studio. General audiences loved the movies. Comic fans loved the movies. Critics loved the movies. They kicked into high gear with "phase two." Iron Man 3, Thor 2: Dark World, Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy and the first two seasons of the tv series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (with only Avengers 2: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man left to wrap "phase two") have all landed with big box office (or high ratings). In the middle of every thing the house of mouse upped the anti by buying Marvel. Now, beyond their pedigree they have the considerable power of Mickey behind their films. The only stumbles seemed to be Iron Man 3 which disappointed some fans with too much emphasis being on series star Robert Downey Jr. rather than Iron Man and new director Shane Black choosing to over look a library of classic tales to settle on the recent "Terminus" story and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. which premiered to such fan fair that absolutely no show runner in the world could have put out 22 satisfying episodes. The former made enough money that any criticisms are laughed at and the later ramped up the action in the run up to the spring finale and hit like gang busters the following fall with a heck of a batch of episodes to start of the second season. They are not just pumping out capes and tights tales either. The subject matter is varied. The second Captain America (also a much too recent a tale in my opinion) crushes it as more of a spy thriller than a super hero flick and my personal favorite Guardians of the Galaxy shocked all the nae-sayers by taking D-list characters and turning in a sci-fi adventure that is possibly the greatest since the original Star Wars. Marvel has no signs of slowing down with "phase three" ramping up. We have Captain America 3: Civil War, Thor 3: Ragnorok, Guardians of the Galaxy 2, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Inhumans and the two part Avengers 3: Infinity War all in the early stages. (Of course that doesn't even count the next wave of X-Men and Spider-Man sequels from Fox and Sony)

On the flip side Marvel's distinguished competition: DC Comics which is owned by Warner Bros. has owned cinemas for years with Superman and the Batman franchise both of which petered out with less and less enjoyable sequels. Both got reboots. First Superman with Superman Returns helmed by X-Men superstar director Bryan Singer. It was a good film that really would have worked better two decades earlier as an alternative to Superman III with an aging Christopher Reeve in the title role, but as a reboot seemed, predicable and out of place. They would try to launch a Green Lantern franchise which was stillborn with unfairly horrid reviews hampering the box office (although I still say Ryan Reynolds would have made a better Wally West version of The Flash and Nathan Fillion should have worn the ring as Hal Jordan). Next Christopher Nolan dusted off the Dark Knight for a stunning Batman trilogy.

Between Nolan's success and Marvel's virtual appearance of unstoppable hit parade Warner Bros. turned to Zack Snyder (who had adapted The Watchmen to mixed responses) and Nolan to reboot Superman again this time with an eye toward building toward a Avengers-esque franchise for the Justice League. Man of Steel met with mixed reactions. It was a good solid story, but the take on the iconic character was too dark. There was a lot to like and a lot to build on, but it was not near the level of success as Marvel was putting out. That's hard to admit since I have always been more of a DC guy, but DC is showing confidence and they are moving forward on the Man of Steel sequel titled Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice which is filming back to back with a two part Justice League film. Putting Superman and Batman in the same movie is in essence a license to print money. Regardless of the actual quality, it will break records opening weekend. If it's good it will break a lot of records. If it's great, watch out Avengers. Warner Bros. does have one advantage: They can use their A-list characters. Justice League with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, Green Lantern and Cyborg (I love Cyborg but I am sorry, he should be in the Teen Titans not the Justice League). If they just threw in Green Arrow, Hawkman and the original Shazam Captain Marvel. it would be a clean sweep, where as Marvel can't even use their super-star characters Spider-Man and Wolverine in the Avengers since their rights remain tied up with other studios.

On the small screen however, DC has been kicking but and taking names. While Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was struggling with unrealistic expectations, DC took a show they benefited from lowered expectations to build a little empire. Arrow, based on DC's Green Arrow, started out as a guilty pleasure. The show initially suffered from CW mandated young love BS that boiled down to I-love-you-I-hate-you-I-slept-with-your-sister-I-love-you-rise-and-repeat-another-variation-at-nausem. The flashbacks were too much like the cult classic, Lost. They didn't even use the characters' name in the title or on the show (Green Arrow) opting for "The Hood." There wasn't even a mask. The lead seemed cast for his abs and ability to do the salmon latter and parkour. But there was something there and it was a hit. The higher the ratings the more control the showrunners had so it became more comic book-ey and less CW-ey. Toned down was the over emphasis on love triangles and built up were the super-heroics. Gone was "The Hood" moniker for the hero and he even got a mask. It went from a guilty pleasure to a show I tout as my favorite currently on tv. They launched a spin-off, The Flash, with just a few episodes on the air so far it has hit the ground running (pun intended) and may even supersede its parent show as my favorite on tv. While Arrow gets better each season, the success of that show let the showrunners have virtual free reign with the scarlet speedster and thus has dodged a lot of the initial growing pains Arrow suffered through. Arrow didn't just spur a spin-off, but a lot of interest in DC properties. Gotham premiered on Fox, to great reviews and ratings. A little uneven at first, they had problems deciding on tone, over the top campy at times and hard core gritty NYPD Blue-like police procedural, but is settling in nicely. Constantine made a late debut on NBC and reminds me of an attempt at a blending of Supernatural and Doctor Who. I'm enjoying it, but it feels a little familiar. CBS is in talks to do a Supergirl series and TNT is reportedly working on Titans (based on Teen Titans) so it doesn't look like DC tv is slowing down anytime soon. The last time I was stoked about a TNT show was when they did a spin-off to my favorite tv series ever: Babylon 5 called Crusade. Network interference and pre-premiere cancellation still has me bitter toward the network. Ironically, DCs Teen Titans (particularly the Marv Wolfman/George Perez era of The New Teen Titans) remains hands down my favorite comic ever. If TNT screws that one up too, my siege on Atlanta will make Sherman's look like a square dance.

Marvel isn't content with DC ruling the airwaves, the Captain America/Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. period piece spin-off mini-series Agent Carter will premier in January and they announced the Netflix exclusive series Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist and The Defenders mini-series. Likewise, Warner Bros. is not content with just the small screen and has ramped up films for Cyborg, The Flash, a Green Lantern reboot, and Wonder Woman to spin out of the Justice League movie.

I haven't even mentioned Image Comics/Robert Kirkman's success with The Walking Dead adaptation as it dominates ratings. Like I said, it's a great time to be a comic book fan if you like to see live action super heroes. We have inherited the Earth and the future is bright.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fall Round Up, Part 3: All Kinds of Pulpy Goodness

A major page in our current story, Jigsaw World, went up this week at www.adventuresinpulp.com. We just have five action packed pages left in Chapter One at which point we will take a break and start our fourth short story, Ashes of the Immortals, before moving on with Chapter Two of Jigsaw World. As I have pointed out before, Jigsaw World is unlike our other tales for several reasons. First, it was written and plotted to be an ongoing print book so I know the pacing has been much slower than our first three tales.  Your patience will be rewarded with a great story. I really do believe once the ball gets rolling and we starting getting Dan into and out of action, the vibe will be like one of the classic Flash Gordon series. The first story arc is four, 22 page chapters although, since we have decided to go digital, I may condense or expand (while the whole arc is plotted and outlined only the first 44 pages have actually been scripted). Once chapter one is concluded I will start a writer's commentary as I have done with all the other tales to date. I look forward to showing how this particular story came together. Pictured the framed original art for page 17 that my partner/artist Matt Childers gave to me as a gift.

I have often said that, as a writer, Adventures In Pulp was a big opportunity for me to experiment with form and style. Up until now all of the stories have been full script mode. Our Ashes of the Immortals short story is going to be different. With Jigsaw World, Dick Ruby and the Case of the Little Green Men and Hawk and a Handsaw, I created each one and gave Matt a full script. When we did Four Horsemen, Matt and I developed the characters together, then I went off and plotted and provided a full script. The plan with Ashes of the Immortals is going to take a alternative approach. Matt came up with the idea for Ashes of the Immortals; I developed his creation and plotted out the story beats. From there Matt is drawing the pages from the outline and I will go back and script the text based on his images. I know this sounds much like the old "Marvel Way" of doing comics. Truthfully, no one actually does that anymore. It became known as the "Marvel Way" because it was pioneered by Stan Lee.  But few know it was only out of necessity. He was writing almost everything they had, and just didn't have time to do full scripts. That was our  plan, at least initially. Matt has been hammered with outside work and our intent was that we would have Ashes of the Immortals completely ready by the time Jigsaw World wrapped Chapter One.  It looks like that's not going to happen, so I may be scripting as he finishes them. This reminds me of a thing Harlan Ellison used to do. He would do a personal appearance and would bring his typewriter and write a story while fans watched. As he finished each page, it would be put up in the window for all to see. No revisions. No edits. No tweaks. No backs-ies. That's a stressful way to write. He made it look easy, but then he is a true master. He loved the challenge. Out of necessity I may be embracing the challenge. Our grand experiment just got a little more grand and a little more experimental.

Speaking of how busy Matt has been, his Army of Darkness short story can be seen in the new Oneshot 1992.1 by Dynamite Entertainment and arrived in stores this week. In celebration, he is doing a contest. Buy a copy of the oneshot and tweet a picture of you with the comic with the hashtag #AshRocks and you will be entered in a contest to win a FREE original sketch of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness hero Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) by Matt. For more info go to his website www.matthewchilders.com.

As with all the tales at Adventures in Pulp, we fell in love with our experimental one-offs and later decided that they would all, in essence, be back door pilots. We would love to do more of Dick Ruby's cases. We would love to do more adventures focusing on our Sterling City heroes. We would love to see how the Good Witch and her Four Horsemen would fare in their new world and see how they would each get back home. Ideally it would be for a publisher.  That would give us more money and time to produce stories, but that means they have to notice us. If you like any of our stories at Adventures in Pulp, then please make some noise. Tweet about it. Post positive reviews and links on Facebook. The ideas are here, some are even already written. For example I have God is a Bullet, a 22 page done-in-one tale set in the Hawk and a Handsaw universe scripted. Also for that universe (as I said in last week's blog), I have an old Green Arrow idea that I am considering reworking into a Blue Quiver short story. We also have two new original stories each with a completed 22 page script to kickoff their respective lines. The first is called Destined about a war between science and magic as well as a hard sci-fi series about a team of interstellar bounty hunters called The Outer Worlds. But that's not all. I worked up a complete timeline for Matt to reference for any future Dick Ruby cases. For the first time ever, never revealed before, are some select excerpts (I had to delete a few things to hide some spoilers):

Personal Data:
Born in Brooklyn, New York:  June 22, 1917 Richard Reardon Ruby
Attended Cornell University: 1934-1938, graduated with a degree in criminology.  
Played professional baseball: 1939-1940 (minor leagues) 1941 (majors)
Enlisted in the Military Dec. 8 1941  Honorably discharged  Apr. 3 1943
Started detective agency: Dick Ruby Investigations October 1943
The Case of the Beating Behind the Backstop
The Case of the Phantom of the Ball Park
The Case of the Mafia Monsters
The Case of the Crossroads Contract
The Case of the Mummy’s Mistress
The Case of the Mole Men Under the Mountain
The Case of the Chicago Sky Pirates
The Story of the Denizens of the Desert
The Case of the Hollywood Hell-Hounds
The Case of the Vegas Vanishings
The Case of the Time Displaced In-Laws
The Case of the Haunted Honeymoon
The Case of the Troll Under the North Avenue Bridge
The Case of the Great Lakes Ghost Ship
The Case of the Thanksgiving Theft
The Case of the Christmas Creature
The Case of the Cursed Cruise to Bermuda
The Case of the Time Traveling Vampire
The Case of the Rock and Roll Reaper
The Case of the Werewolf and the Rookie Detective
The Case of the Deadly Demons
The Case of the Retirement Community Clones
The Case of the Aliens Under the Ocean
So we have a ton of stuff waiting in the wings over at www.adventuresinpulp.com we just need fans who want to see it. If you love our site, convince a friend or ten to check us out and make some noise.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall Roundup Part 2: Top Cow & Darby Pop Writing Opportunities

While the first installment of my "Fall Roundup" was Xander centered, my second installment requires I remove my "poppa" hat and put on the much more expected writer cap and discuss seizing those rare outside writing opportunities.

You see, the problem with being a self-publishing do-it-yourselfer is the lack of market penetration which naturally equals lack of money making opportunities. When my Adventures In Pulp artist partner Matt Childers and I sell copies of Jigsaw World or our Dick Ruby and the Little Green Men/Hawk and a Handsaw flip book at conventions, we are mainly trying recoup the price of printing. We think of it as promotional. We love the work and have developed a wonderful cadre of loyal fans, but we want to reach more eyeballs. The best way to do that is getting a medium to large size publisher to print you and put you out there. More people will probably see Matt's short story in this week's release of Army of Darkness 1992.1 Oneshot by Dynamite Entertainment than have seen his work all year at www.adventuresinpulp.com. They have a name, maybe not as big as Marvel or DC, but a good solid respectable name.

Bottom line: If you want to work in comics and want to be read, you have to break in with a publisher. It's easier for artists. At almost every major convention the publishers have portfolio reviews and, truthfully, it only takes a glance for an editor to see if the artist has it or not.

Writers have it harder. Much harder.

Most big publishers don't take blind pitches or unsolicited scripts. They MIGHT look at your stuff if you have an artist attached, but even then, it's rare and hard to get read. After originally doing Jigsaw World as a pitch, Matt and I started Adventures in Pulp as a way to experiment and try different styles and genres while putting out some one off stories that could serve as backdoor pilots. I would love to take Det. Dick Ruby (or any of our other characters) to a full time full length monthly series. I have at least 22 more "cases" planned out for him to work.

But I have to make a name for myself before I can get that luxury unless I just give in and write solely for the readers of the website. That means I have to look for every opportunity to put my work in front of editors, sometimes I send them copies of our books or links to the website, or just hand them my card at a con. Truthfully even on cons, it's hard to get their ear. One editor told me he doesn't talk to writers because "anyone with a keyboard is a writer." He started out as an artist, and for years I wanted to tell him that was like saying anyone with a pencil is an artist but he's also one of those artists who also tries to write (with less than stellar results). But he has worked his way up to a position of power. So I bit my inner cheek and soldiered on. Another editor I approached wanting to pitch stories told me not to believe the idea of "the bullshit Hollywood pitch" and that he could only get a real idea of what a writer's abilities are when he reads their script. Had it not been so depressing, it would have been hilarious to watch him visibly pale when I pulled multiple scripts from my attaché case. He immediately back pedaled. All of a sudden scripts were not enough. He thought I was a want-to-be and not smart enough to come prepared with actual writing samples. The truth is that they don't want to read new stuff. They know writers. Some editors are writers themselves. You really have to break out in the independent market first. You have to establish yourself.  Until then, they don't know you and they don't want to know you.


Once in a blue moon we get an open submission opportunity or a chance to get my writing in front of editors. These are so very, very rare and I always take advantage. 

My first shot was back in 2008 or 2009 (the memory is the second thing to go at my age). Viper Comics put out a talent hunt for writers.  To be considered, I had to submit a complete script for an 8 page short story featuring a character NOT published by them. It was odd, but they wanted to see how well we could work with an established character before being handed one of their characters. I did a nifty little tale about Green Arrow. It was a straight forward action piece where he was trying to foil a bank robbery while having the internal debate as to whether he was getting too old to be a costumed adventurer. I was pretty proud of it. Back then Oliver Queen was a 40-something grandfather (his ward and surrogate son Roy Harper aka Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow had become a father). He has recently been rebooted and de-aged to match his tv counterpart so I could never hang on to it as a pitch for some future Green Arrow anthology. It was a fun first attempt. I have thought about re-writing it for Blue Quiver (pictured right), a character Matt and I created for our "Hawk and A Handsaw" universe of heroes, but alas it was lost in a fatal computer crash a while back. I always liked the contrast of action and self reflection and the fact that I was able to squeeze in action, character, humor and the history of the character into such a limited page count, so I may just re-work the concept anyway.

It was years later in 2012, Matt Hawkins, an editor at Top Cow Productions, an imprint at Image Comics, threw open the door with the talent hunt. They had just re-launched their universe that includes Witchblade, The Darkness and Artifacts. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the line of books they publish, it mostly revolves around a shared universe of 13 artifacts that imbue the bearers with super-human abilities (more or less). Dubbed "Rebirth," they listed the rules and restrictions and put out a list of characters from which to pick. Writers had to put forth 8 fully scripted pages along with a detailed outline for the rest of the story that would be a oneshot or a mini-series. I dove in with glee and produced a full 22 page script and an outline for a three issue mini-series titled "Fire and Ice Rebirth." They were looking for artists as well and Matt and I threw our lot in together. Matt penciled 8 pages from my script and off it went. I was really proud of the work, I loved the titular character (Glacier Stone bearer Michael Finnegan) and found him imminently redeemable. I had a great mix of character and action as well as several twists including a jaw dropper of a climax. My theme of opposites (hot and cold, good and bad, heaven and hell, love and hate) appeared perfect for my plotted story which followed Finnegan's first confrontation with his nemesis, Gloriana Silver, the Ember Stone bearer (both pictured above in our title page) after discovering that The Darkness bearer, Jackie Estacado, had remade the universe with an altered timeline. I absolutely loved it.

They didn't go for it.

It pains me that it is sitting in a drawer (and hard drive) forever unread, save by Matt, my wife and Mr. Hawkins assistant (a likeable fellow by the name of Siike Donnlley). I absolutely love that story, but that's the business. I did get something even more rare: constructive criticism.

In 2013, they did it again. They made a few tweaks, but it went squarely in my bailiwick. A full script for a done-in-one tale. Having already pulled a full script the first time, I dove in again. This time I switched up my writing style. While "Fire and Ice Rebirth" was a "cinematic" style with no narration and was driven completely by images and dialogue, my new tale "Saints and Sinners" was a story where I used mostly captioning. The framework of the story took place between panels of the initial days of the "Rebirth" storyline in The Darkness issue #101. In my tale, Jackie is relating directly to the reader two historic tales of previous Glacier Stone bearers. I did a lot of historical research and actually wove two interconnected fictional stories around two real historical figures using actual historical events. The main characters were Gorm the Old (pictured right as depicted by August Carl Vilhem Thomsen) and Ivar the Boneless, two Viking warrior kings. Unfortunately Matt and I had to part ways on this, since artists now had to draw from one of the provided scripts. But again, I was proud. It appeared unique, character driven, and historically accurate. There was action and since I was in essence telling two complete tales in one issue, it moved like a sonuvabitch. Again, I absolutely loved it.

They didn't go for it. Again.

But, again, that's the business. J. Michael Straczynski once said making a sale as a writer is like getting struck by lightening and winning the lottery in the same day. Yea, it pains me that it's also sitting in a drawer (and hard drive) forever unread save a few eyes. But that's the game. That's the life you choose.

Top Cow will be doing it again this year (albeit a little later this year than in previous years), and I have started noodling ideas. Hopefully, I will end up being ineligible since another publisher followed suit this year. Darby Pop Publishing who gets printed via IDW Publishing announced in September that they were opening the door on their property, Indestructible. The requirements were that the done-in-one story be a full scripted issue and had to focus on the fallen character of Stingray. I found out about it almost a month later when Matt gave me a heads up. Unfamiliar with the book, I had to do "research" (i.e. I bought and read the first trade paperback reprinting issues #1-4, pictured left) and I immediately fell in love with the book and the characters.  The book has a lot of humor and some deeply flawed characters. The idea of doing some comedy was a welcome challenge since the short stories at www.adventuresinpulp.com are too compact for a lot of levity (you have to have a cliffhanger every 5-7 panels since it is a weekly web series) and the proposals for Top Cow ran much darker (although "Fire and Ice Rebirth" had an obscenely hilarious howler exit line in the prologue). Win or lose, I defy anyone to top my opening scene which takes place at a doughnut shop. I won't say anymore than that since Darby Pop won't announce the winner until Nov. 17th. I don't expect to win. Not because I don't believe in my approach and script, but because you can never expect to. Write it up and send it out and forget about it. While "Fire and Ice Rebirth" and "Saints and Sinners" were both, in my opinion, stronger overall, but I worked hard to come up with something different in structure, that was both dark but funny and character driven for Darby Pop. I'm proud of it and hope someone working on the Indestructible line does as well. It's titled "Random Stanzas in the Poetry of Lies and Self-Deception." If not ,there is always that next Top Cow entry as well as my continued work at www.adventuresinpulp.com. I know either way I will forever think well of the editorial staff at Viper, Top Cow, and Darby Pop just for giving writers a chance.

As they would say in Galaxy Quest: "Never give up, never surrender."

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Fall Round Up, Part 1: Xander - Baseball, Wrestling, School and Halloween

Writing a blog is kind of like being Sisphus.

You want to cover lots of stuff but the longer you go the bigger the boulder gets. When you actually get around to it and cover (sometimes inadequately) the things you want to cover and get that big boulder to the apex of the mount, the next thing you know, the boulder is back at the bottom of the hill and you have a whole host of other things you want to touch on.

For my first round-up, I have to go all proud poppa again. Anyone who follows me on twitter @BrettTHarris knows that when I am not promoting my webcomic www.adventuresinpulp.com or making the occasional nerdy observation, I am usually touting the awesomeness that is Xander Harris (genius, athlete and all around awesome kid, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer's sidekick). So for this entry I go into obnoxious parent mode. Those of you with kids will understand, those who don't... um, move along, nothing to see here today, but come back soon because I'll be discussing things like Marvel Studio's movie domination of theaters and DC Comics' control of the airwaves on the small screen, my experience working on my recently completed "Indestructible" script for Darby Pop/IDW (as well as past Top Cow scripts) and discussing "Jigsaw World," Chapter 1 which has 6 pages left to go over at www.adventuresinpulp.com.

But today is a Xander day.

I have nicknamed Xander's team "Mean Green," because, it's ironic. They are green but far from mean. Overall a great bunch of kids, we had a few behavior issues and issues with kids not paying attention but overall they were supportive and kind to each other, something that could be an issue with some kids in the spring. In the spirit of the "instructional" nature of the fall season, the players are all moved around to get experience. It never gave anyone time to settle in (as you can see with our 1-6-1 record) but no one was stuck in a single position and hopefully got to try something new. For example, while Xander got several innings in at his old standby as catcher, he also got time at First Base, Third Base (pictured at left), Short Stop, Center Field and finally some much needed time as a relief pitcher (pictured above). Defensively he was great. He never threw the ball away and stopped everything hit or thrown his way on the infield. On offense he struggled a little at first which was a surprise since he was making such great contact during summer All-Stars. But he moved from being a contact leadoff hitter to a heart of the order batter, which required a different approach. He made a great comeback after the first few games of the season and started hitting for power. Every hit he got was a multi-base hit (including multiple triples and his first homerun on 9/25) slugging an amazing 857. I wish I could take credit, but it really has been his work ethic.  He puts in the time, and it shows.

Speaking of work ethic, Xander is setting his own study schedule doing his homework first, this is a major thing. With practices and his long commute, time is at a premium in our household. He makes the effort to make school work a priority and it shows. His first report card for the year came in with straight As. He was even recently offered a position in H.O.T.S. (Higher Order Thinking Skills) an elite math club for 5th graders that gets the kids ready for Pre-Algebra courses. He has also worked in time for a large role in the school play (pictured at right as Col. Samuel Patton of the Union Army) and being part of the school Musical Troupe. He even got to spend two weeks working on the school news broadcasts as both an anchor and weatherman. He's also is a member of the safety patrol and running club.

Wrestling was my thing, so I have avoided pushing it on Xander.  We moved him around trying everything, football, soccer, basketball, swimming, and baseball. He locked on to the latter because he had a natural eye for the ball. Not a lot of natural athleticism mind you, but that you can get around with hard work (see his work ethic above). If you are going to excel at baseball you gotta have that eye for the ball. We were completely ready to join an indoor workout facility for winter and go and work out 3-4 times a week, but Xander wanted to try wrestling. Naturally, I'm all for it. I played just about everything growing up, but wrestling was by far the hardest. It was also my favorite. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I gave up every other sport just to focus on that one. I hope he likes it, after two weeks he has run hot and cold picking some things up quickly and other times struggling. He will probably get the stuffing beat out of him this year, but if he sticks with it, it will keep him in in amazing condition and make him even tougher than catching as a baseball player will. This is something I can really help him with. I was a good wrestler, far better than I was at baseball (who am I kidding, I sucked at baseball). Pictured above: On top, me in the District Championship finals in 1991 and bottom Xander from his second day of practice Oct 21.

For such a happy kid, Xander's tastes run to the dark. He loves older horror movies and tv shows. He has to be the only 10 year old who has watched the original silent Lon Chaney "The Phantom of the Opera" movie multiple times. He has worked his way through all the Universal and Hammer classics. He loves vampires, werewolves and zombies. (He once talked me and his mom into going to a local cemetery and doing a test run on a shot for shot remake of "Night of the Living Dead." He loves it, so naturally he is all about Halloween. He loves planning the costume and usually does a classic character. At right you can see his innovation at combining his Union Army costume from his school play to become a Civil War Zombie for Halloween this year.

Yup, it's been a busy fall, full of baseball, music, math, monsters and grappling.

Here are some past Halloween photos in order: Last year Frankenstein's Monster. My personal favorite the Wolfman '12 The Mummy '11, Dracula '10 and just to show he still has his dad's geek infested heart Capt. Rex '09 from Star Wars: The Clone Wars (although I joke that he looks more like Rick Moranis as Darkhelmet from Spaceballs).