2016 in Preview: Symptoms

Last month I talked a bit about a new series I have in the pipeline, detailing the process which will soon lead to me unleashing the wacky science action/comedy Edison #1 (with Giovanni Capurro and Andrew Pate) on the public. (Read that here.) And while new miniseries are fun and whatnot, I wanted to spotlight a short story which will see release later this year.

I try to be selective with my anthology submissions. There are a ton out there, but you don’t want to over-saturate the market or take up real estate where other creators may be able to shine. I like to pitch or submit to collections that have a cool idea/theme, talented creators involved or are backed by a good publisher. All three? Even better.

2015 saw my work published in two anthologies — the Li’l Kaiju antho from GrayHaven Comics, where my short Monster Day (with Randy Z. Ochoa and Jeremy Treece) was the lead story, and the Lost In Space antho from Titan Comics, where my short Adrift (with artist Alex Diotto) also served as lead.

While both collections were very cool, I wanted to seek out an opportunity to do something that was a little more… how do you say… ballsy.

Enter Symptoms.

Symptoms1

Though I’ve sort of pigeon-holed myself over the past few years as the “funny guy” (which I’m proud of… and is infinitely better than being called the “funny-looking guy”) I like to step outside the box when Mercury is in retrograde and the mood strikes.

Running across a superhero-themed anthology online, I was immediately struck with a vivid idea. Normally I steer as far away from superheroics as possible, as those types of stories seem futile when going up against the established heavyweights that Marvel and DC have to offer. But to build a world, a hero and a different perspective across just a few pages? Irresistible.

It’s like jumping into an icy cold lake, then climbing back out and running inside where it’s warm and there’s hot chocolate waiting. With mini marshmallows. You did it once and survived… so maybe don’t tempt fate.

I had my idea… my take… my view…

I didn’t want to be saving damsels in distress with my story. I didn’t want to pull cats out of trees. I didn’t want a nerdy kid to be emotionally scarred with a distorted definition of responsibility when his uncle dies.

Symptoms is about a hero who finds himself losing his powers.

I wanted to explore what thoughts that might trigger inside the brain of someone who goes from powerful to powerless. From top banana to bottom water chestnut. From extraordinary to ordinary.

I went on an artist hunt, talking with several talented people hungry to collaborate, but the search was over as soon as I met Kansas-dwelling Graeham Jarvis, the artist and author of the popular InstaGram webcomic Wasteland Tales, based on the lore of the Fallout video game series (which I regretfully know nothing about, but I know talent when I see it).

With more than 4,000 readers visiting his feed daily I felt bad asking him to focus his energies elsewhere for a hot minute, but his art was too good and too perfect for what I had in mind. Plus, he was looking for a chance to stretch his wings a bit. How could I say no when he offered to draw the story?

Symptoms2

After jamming out some sketches of giant robots and superhero costumes (necessities), Graeham dove in and delivered a short that punched me in the gut and didn’t apologize afterwards. Since the proposed anthology is black and white, a wash of gray set the tone and we were off to the races. Graeham’s work conveyed the exact vibe I was hoping to present and stuck what I thought could be a tricky ending, leaving the reader to consider the story long after the pages were turned.

We submitted to the anthology several weeks ago and got a rather quick letter of acceptance. I’m pretty sure this is going to be Graeham’s first officially published work. Needless to say, I’m stoked for him. Hopefully we’ll get to high five one day at a comic convention.

I’m jazzed for people to read Symptoms, see Graeham’s art, and I look forward to reading the other shorts chosen for the book. It’s gonna be super.

Stay tuned. This one drops in November.

2016 in Preview: Edison

Following last month’s 2015 in review post, I thought over the next several weeks it would be fun to explore what 2016 will have to offer my readers as far as comic book projects go.

Now, these are the projects I hope to bring to the shelves, but in an industry as unpredictable as comics, they could go sideways at any moment! However, I’m really excited about them, so I’m hoping you will be, too.

Back in October I announced a project that had recently gone into production and as of January is quickly speeding along toward completion.

That’s right. I’m talking about…

Edison

Ah, Edison… another concept that shouldn’t be interesting and yet, it took over ever fiber of my brain when the germ of the idea hit.

With many historical figures taking center stage in 2014 and 2015, I figured I had to either stake my claim on someone or miss out entirely. But if I was going to build a book around an actual human who, y’know, really existed, I didn’t want it to simply be retelling of his or her life… I wanted to offer a new experience entirely. And just because this is how I function — the idea had to be really weird.

EdCredits

You see, I’m a huge fan of science. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m any good at it… I have no business being a scientist. Back in high school I actually hated the subject and got pretty terrible grades. This is most likely because my teacher prefaced every lesson about evolution with, “Guys, I don’t believe this crap, but the school is forcing me to teach it to you.”

What a tool, right? Don’t even get me started on the time we dissected cats.

I also enjoy history. Well, some history. I prefer my history to be right around the time that life was full of possibilities and everyone was basically insane and trying new things. Hence, I had the urge to set a story around the 19th century when civilization was finally becoming…ehm… civil, and as a nation we were laying the groundwork for some of the biggest inventions in history. (Such as toilet paper.)

When I thought of that time period, there’s really one person who everyone knows… and that’s of course, inventor Thomas Alva Edison.

But, I figured, what if a comic book about him focused not on the later, more cranky parts of his life, but on his younger years when he was using his ingenuity to get out of the biggest scrapes this side of science.

That’s right… I wanted to take Thomas Edison but mix him up with the qualities found in James Bond and MacGyver.

The elevator pitch I came up with was something akin to:

One part James Bond, one part MacGyver, inventor Thomas Alva Edison uses his ingenuity and creativity to combat the scientific threats of the late 1880s.

Edison simply sitting in a workshop dreaming up new ideas would not have a good comic book made, but put Edison into bad situations where he has to invent his way out? Sign me up.

This project also gave me an opportunity to do something else interesting… I decided that I wouldn’t restrict the first issue of the comic. Normally, where I might draw the line at 20-24 pages for an issue, I decided to write as many pages as it took to tell the story I wanted to tell and establish the world in which the character lived while introducing a supporting cast (made up of other real inventors) to anchor the story to the times.

Additionally, I wanted to set the story in 1880, making Edison a handsome 32-years-old, but any artist insane enough to hop on this project  would have to be willing to draw clothing, buildings, transportation and household items as era appropriate.

That’s a pretty big wish list.

So I took my laundry list of ideas, stuck them in a blender and in mid-2015 went to town, scribing an action-packed and humor-filled first issue script that I was quite pleased with. At 30 pages I had the first story, the characters, a great cliffhanger and a metric ton of reference photos ready for an artist, but who could I get on board to draw such an insane story?

That’s when I met artist Giovanni Capurro.

As most comic writers do, when we have a new story idea, we tend to throw them out into the aether of social media. I’m writing this new thing, it’s like this… who would want to draw it, haha?

It sounds like we’re just joking when we writers make these types of posts, but what we’re really doing is protecting our fragile and needy egos.

Rather than make fun of me or close me inside of a locker, the Nebraska-based artist actually dug what I was proposing, and perhaps most importantly, Giovanni had been researching the late 1800s for a personal project and was very familiar with the necessary clothing, mannerisms and technology. He shared with me his minicomic Idols, which I read and enjoyed and had a gut feeling he might be a good fit. I heard from other artists about the project, but something about the way Giovanni handled comedic timing in his art kept the artist at the forefront of my mind.

I took the next step, sending Giovanni my script. He read it. He dug it. He wanted to move forward, not blinking an eye at the length.

He did some sketches of our intrepid hero, Edison, which went wonderfully with the visual style I had in mind and within a matter of weeks I was being treated to amazing art in our Dropbox, featuring scenes like this:

Ed_Gio

It was like a comedic noir comic book. How cool is that? After the first six or seven pages were complete, not only was Giovanni confident with the story and style, but we were ready to bring on a colorist to help take the pages to the next level.

That road led me to reaching out to Andrew Pate, a colorist local to the Florida Panhandle, who I’d met over the course of several area conventions and store signings. Not only did he boast wicked sideburns, but he was nice, outgoing and had a genuine love of comics. After tabling next to him on Free Comic Book Day 2015 and seeing some of his coloring work, I knew he was someone I wanted to bring onto a project.

I’d asked Andrew to color of a 4-page short earlier in the year which he did with much skill and soon presented my case to Giovanni on why this fellow who, aside from being capable of big things, could be the ruby to our Staff of Ra.

A test page was completed and Andrew just blew it out of the water.

In fact, even as the pages got crazier and crazier he continued to make them better, never shying away from the nuttiest of scenarios.

Heck, you don’t need me to brag on him, see for yourself what Andrew’s brought to the Edison table:

Ed_AP

At the time of this writing, we’re working on art for the final nine pages of the issue and hope to pitch it around and find a great home for it. If there are no takers, I have a super slick idea for how to release this online. Whichever route we pursue, it’s going to be awesome.

We hope you’ll come along for the ride.

Here’s to the Future.

With CHAMBERS on the books, THE UNDOUBTABLES poised to begin serializing digitally within the next month or two, NEW LIFE halfway complete, UNIT 44 in full-on production, and several shorts in various stages of completion, it left me with a well of new material that was on the verge of going dry.

Sure, INNOVATION is kicking behind the scenes and we’re releasing a new tale every few weeks, but in the comics game, creators always seem to be working roughly a year ahead of schedule. With 2014-2015 belonging to the titles mentioned above, I found myself wondering, “What about 2016?” As I grow older and time continues to move in fast forward, I knew that the year would arrive well before I was mentally prepared for it. Here’s to being proactive.

Looking back on the past month, updates have been sparse across this ye ole website, and the main reason being is because I’m in the process of writing my next comic book series.

I knew I had to get something going if I wanted to keep my name associated with comics, so in mid-April I hunkered down to begin what will (ideally) be my big release for 2016. The biggest problem with writing a new comic? You actually have to sit down and WRITE IT. As it turns out, these ideas don’t manifest themselves as written scripts while I sleep. Lame, I know.

I keep an “idea” file of different zany thoughts that come across my mind at any given time. Some are short, one-sentence riffs while others are full paragraphs and even others are full pages. When I need something new to work on, I go to that file, re-read everything and see what sparks my imagination.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself as a writer over the past year is that I had read enough comics that fell into the categories of “dark and gritty” and wanted to focus on things that were a bit lighter (Hello, Unit 44!). But because readers seem drawn to those dark comics, I thought it might be fun to tackle a subject that could be dark when it needed to, but also be a lot of fun. So, as I took a final scan through the ideas folder, I landed on an idea that will eloquently meld the qualities together.

This idea will take the reader to dark places and find the light within.
It will be funny.
It will  be entertaining.
It will be absolutely, completely bonkers.

It’s also one of the most autobiographical things I’ve written and I’d even go so far as to say that it’s (slightly) based on a true story. In my mind’s eye, I see this impending comic book as the perfect narrative to bring together fans of CHAMBERS with fans of UNIT 44, and I’m all about the unity. Sure, I’m being vague on the details, but that’s because they’re still being worked out. Why would I show you what I got you for Christmas before I wrap it?

So, where am I currently? Before I typed a word of script I spent several days connecting plot lines, building characters and giving myself a general outline to work from. I’ve completed work on issues 1 & 2 out of a (proposed) four issue series. I’ve also revised the first issue four times, with a fifth scheduled. On my past works I’ve done two revisions, maybe three if I’m really trying to get a certain theme across, but this book will likely have more love, care, time and attention put into it than all of my past works combined.

It’s interesting how as a creator, as soon as you put work into the public eye (where you can never take it back) you begin to notice everything that’s wrong with it and you have fleeting moments where you can’t help but feel like a complete hack and an utter jerk for coercing people into reading it. And while I’ll always stand by my past work, the benefit of these fleeting moments is that it shows me just how much I’ve learned. With that learning comes vast improvements to future writings. Everything I’ve learned from the books mentioned above is coming in full effect on this new script and you’ll eventually receive a story that is better for the missteps I have made in the past.

I’ve also been working on this narrative alongside reading The 90-Day Rewrite by Alan Watt, which is a fantastic book that has armed me with innumerable tools that have only strengthened what’s to come. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend this book. It’s like having a person in your corner who will yell at you and make you feel comfortable all at the same time.

So, why am I writing all of this?

For one, I fear that a lack of updates to this website indicates a lack of productivity. For two, because I’m excited about what’s next. Because I’m excited about the future. Because I’m excited that I found something else that I want to say through the comic book medium.

Most of all, I want you to be excited too.