Free read: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT_Cover_thumbSince it’s always been a goal of mine to one day write licensed comics for various publishing houses, I made a New Year’s resolution for 2016 to write a few in my free time, set in worlds I enjoy, featuring familiar characters I dig.

After previously tackling the Battletoads in a 5-page comic (you know, that Nintendo video game from 1991?) I decided to turn my attention to the property that quite possibly had the biggest impact on me as a youngster.

That’s right… the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Regardless of how you might feel about recent movie interpretations of the classic characters, the bottom line is that the turtles have been on television in some form or fashion since I was three years old.

I watched the shows, bought the toys, loved the original movies (yeah, even the one with Vanilla Ice), and the mutants even served as my gateway to comics. I spent years picking up copies of the Amazing Adventures series at the drugstore from the spinner rack.

Oh, yeah… my parents even took me to meet the creators of the turtles, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Not only did I meet them, Laird actually drew a sketch of Leonardo in two of the comics I brought along. I should probably track those down, huh?

Not only do the turtles mean a lot to me, but they mean a lot to artist Ed Jimenez, who I teamed up with for this comic. Remember Ed? He’s the crazy talented (crazy and talented?) guy created a little comic called Unit 44 with me. It came out last year. It was awesome. You should read it.

Ed gave me a list of villains he wanted to draw to choose from for the short, and what was intended as a five-page story quickly became six, and finally stabilized at eight as I wrote. It was just too much fun. I couldn’t stop. Ed and I strayed away from tackling a classic villain like Shredder and instead, went for an oddball character that just recently was reintroduced on television.

Not only do the turtles mean a lot to me and Ed, they also mean a lot to colorist Kote Carvajal who volunteered to bring his creativity to the pages. While I thought Ed’s pages and my writing were pretty good, Kote took the short to a whole new level. Wait ’til see it.

And while I’m fully aware that the turtles are well-represented in a licensed comic book right now, I wanted to bring my voice to the awesome foursome. So this is our little stamp. Our half-shelled homage to some of the best characters ever created.

So what are you waiting for? Click here to read my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, Blood in the Water, for FREE!

If you enjoy it, do Ed, Kote and I a huge favor and share it with a friend! Let’s throw it back and soak in some nostalgia.

Free Read: Battletoads!

Since it’s always been a goal of mine to one day write licensed comics for various publishing houses, I made a New Year’s resolution for 2016 to write a few in my free time, set in worlds I enjoy, featuring familiar characters I dig.

The trepidation I have with licensed properties is that I figure a publisher will say, “Hey, Wes…come up with stories ideas for this character that starred in a TV show you never saw,” and I’ll be all, like, “Can’t… too stressed.”

Well… let my clarify… I felt like that once upon a time and then a publisher actually asked me to pitch ideas for a pre-existing character from a property I wasn’t remotely familiar with… and it was all kinds of fun. I didn’t get the job, but man, was that good practice.

I’m also of the mindset that practice makes perfect, so I made a list of properties I dug from the 90s through today, writing short comics around them and then finding artists who share an equal love and are willing to help put them down on paper to release to readers for free.

That catches us up to the present.

So today I’m releasing the first of those shorts in the form of the Battletoads (yes, the notoriously difficult video game from 1991).

Check out what artist Loch Ness, colorist Andrew Pate and myself created as the ‘Toads star in our 5-page short, Turbo Tunnel Trouble. Click on the cover to ch-ch-ccheck it out. Or the link in the sidebar. Or the link in the published work section. C’mon… I’m making it as easy as I can here!

If you’re familiar with the Battletoads, then you’re more than likely familiar with the Turbo Tunnel (stage 3, for those keeping score at home) which was the most ridiculous, frustrating and painful level ever constructed by a human brain. Loch and I commiserated over the difficulty of the game and decided to show our love the only way we know how — through the majesty of comics.

Do us a solid — if you dig it, share it up on the social media, maybe tag someone who you know is a fan of the game. Let’s make it a Throwback Tuesday.

Enjoy!

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.

Interview: Thinking Outside the Longbox Podcast

A few weeks ago I sat down with Gabe Llanas, one of the hosts of the Thinking Outside the Long Box Podcast and we spent an evening chatting comics, Star Wars, Kickstarter and other miscellanea.

Specifically, I was on the show to promote my sci-fi/comedy comic book Unit 44!

Gabe gave me the chance to explain how the project came together, the inspiration behind the narrative and the process of funding the book through Kickstarter before landing at Alterna Comics.

I appreciate Gabe and his co-hosts having me on the show and for all the great questions he asked. Hopefully you have as much fun listening to it as I did recording it.

The Thinking Outside the Longbox Podcast is available on iTunes and Stitcher Radio. You can listen to the podcast online here: http://www.stitcher.com/podcast/thinking-outside-the-long-box/e/totlb-020-ccbe-special-39831178

Note: Each of TOTLB’s shows runs roughly three hours, and while there is much hilarity to be found, those who want to get in, listen to me yammer and get out, can jump forward to the 2 hour, 15 minute mark where my interview segment begins.

Support the show!

If you like what you hear, check out the show archives and tell a friend about it!

Interview: Alterna Podcast

For those of you who were clamoring to hear another podcast interview with me, I was recently a guest on the Alterna Podcast with host Tim Browning!

As the official podcast of Alterna Comics, who published my irreverent sci-fi comedy series Unit 44, together Tim and I dug in on the genesis of the project, how I linked up with the talented Eduardo Jimenez (who provided art, colors, talent, moral support, laughs, etc.) and some of the classic comic tales from my personal library that helped to inspired the story.

I think it was a pretty darn good interview, myself. Even my pal Doug said it was one of the most coherent interviews I’ve ever given, so you know it has to be good.

You can download the podcast on iTunes/Stitcher under the Casual Heroes radio show, or keep it simple and listen online here: http://alternapodcast.com/2015/06/24/unit-44/

It’s guaranteed to keep you entertained for at least 40 minutes!

I really appreciate Tim for not only reading the series and sharing his honest feedback, but giving me the platform to reach a wider audience.

Once you’ve given it a listen, surf over to ComiXology and pick up issues #1-4 of Unit 44!

unit44feature