Sunday, August 31, 2014

Current Events Include Waking Up, Finding Out Things...

Currently I’m enjoying a three-day weekend, which has, for me, become an elixir for my weary soul. They don’t come often, but when they do I put up my feet and read comics, books; all that fun crap that I never get to do anymore. My wife got me H.P. Lovecraft’s pre-rendered anthology, and how I’ve longed to read that.

Managing Sequart’s Kirby Week was fun. Being able to experience that from a behind the scenes perspective made me realize just how important scheduling is. I did most of it on the fly, per Mike’s direction, but playing it fast and loose is hardly the best way to operate. Scheduling is all about being surgical and to the point. Certain pieces do better on certain days. Certain authors have more pull. Etc.

Every Friday, I write one of these. (This time around I missed the mark by quite a bit, but better late than never I say.) It’s become my day to feel less interesting. Most weeks it’s business as usual; that’s how it is. When I read Tycho’s posts on Penny Arcade, I’m always mesmerized by his inclinations and commentary on the games industry. Maybe, were he to write about his life, the content would be less… eventful without the constant bombardment of beep-boop news. But the man has a personality. That’s the draw.

Contemplating Tycho’s well of experience, I’ve wondered what my live would be like with such plurality. I’ve met my fair share of minor celebrities, obtained goofy relics, mastered an instrument, and so on. These things come with age I’ve gathered, but I think any cult following I could draw is small. People follow people who do interesting things. The only interesting things I do are write comic books, books, articles, and manage an academic organization. (Well… when you say it like that.) Soon, someday, somewhere, I might have something more stimulating to report.

My ongoing dance with BookBaby continues, however the waltz may finally be concluding, thankfully. I now have a properly formatted, working copy of my book in Epub format. All I have to do is resubmit the proof to them and I can finally say that my book is on the interwebz. I’m curious to see how it does. I’m fairly unknown, but the internet is a big place now; the likelihood of someone stumbling upon my work only increases with every day. Also, I should note, that I’ve been trying to get a job with Apple for the past few weeks. I’ve already worked for them before, so it will be interesting to be a part of the team again. Apple is just one of those magical places, like a prison that protects you from the horrible, evil realms that are the sum total of average American places of employ. People don’t “last long on the outside,” I myself experienced Apple right out of college. I had no idea what gold I had plundered for myself. They say experience though tempers one’s outlook. Experience beat the shit out of me, now I am crawling back, trying to find my way through the mire.

I would wager that as the end of the year draws near I will find more to do at Sequart. My role is expanding as I endeavor to start up the company and push for more exposure and more renown. Hopefully I can make enough money to justify them to hire me. It’s one of those, “write your own ticket,” scenarios. For now, I must find a way to get front row seats…

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Flash in the Night (Part 5)

“So you sailed to Gaupne,” Solomon said. He drew his dagger and propped it up on their table. With a flick of his wrist he spun the handle at his fingertips.

“We did,” Mordechai confirmed. His head nodded slowly. Calmly, he folded his hands over one another and breathed deeply. Breath was as wind passing through pine needles. “I hadn’t seen the city in years. There were people still there, stragglers. Now, they are all gone.”

“That was the price your father paid. He didn’t know it at the time. I don’t think anyone knows the cost of that kind of power. We vowed that it was time to return, but he had changed. What little of your father remained was not enough for—”


Solomon jumped in his seat. Mordechai’s hands unfolded, losing his train of thought. Behind him, a rugged man had called out to them both. His voice was gravel and pitch, as worn as his own leathery skin.

“That’s my table!” the barkeep continued. “Don’t go carvin’ your name into it like you own ’t. Bloody savages…”

Solomon grunted in disapproval, putting the knife away, setting it down on top of wood shavings, beside the groove he was carving. His eyes went low, skulking.

“Why go to the ice flows?” Solomon asked. Mordechai expressed his confusion, at a loss for words. “There’s nothing out in the wastes; nothing of value anyway.”

Mordechai stared blankly to the side, lost in thought. His eyebrows lightened, and eyes opened in recollection. Scooting forward in his seat, Solomon inclined his ears in anticipation.

A candle beside them flickered. It was a slow burn, erupting from a mountain of drizzled wax. Mordechai nudged the candle gentle with the back of his fingers, sliding the dying light before him.

“It’s good warmth,” he remarked. “As fire meets ice there is clarity. They oppose one another. You know the stories? The gods at war in the final epoch burned this land with ice and flame. These people, the people of this land, they teach their children that we walked away from the battle unscathed.

“It’s rubbish, and I don’t believe it,” Mordechai added, pushing away from the table, his feathers ruffled. “That’s what happened to us. Marauders came, the bishop’s men, the very men that sit in this room right now.”

“The Bishop?” asked Solomon. As he said the words, his skin became stale. A cold wind breathed down his neck. He felt the eyes watching him, from everywhere.

“His men ambushed us. Your father struck them down. I found myself caught in the explosion of power. Face down in the snow, I managed to raise my head and I saw him, your father. In his hands was a relic of untold power. It came from the time before. I knew that for sure. But there was something dark about his way.”

Solomon looked away, his lip quivering. A tear escaped, rolling down his cheek. He imagined his father up on the ice flow. A stark, swarthy man surrounded in electric flame, his cortex dilated, open and ready to receive the power that consumed him. Floundering lackeys sprawled out over the ground, begging for mercy as he shut them down to oblivion, he saw Mordechai in his mind. He saw his terror.

“That was when you killed him.” Solomon said in a quiet solemn voice. He grabbed the glinting dagger before him and shoved it back into his cloak.

“He was no longer anything as your father was,” Mordechai confirmed, leaning back in his seat. “And I saw nothing there in his eyes that the relic had spared. So I did what had to be done, before his power was fully matured. I stabbed him. I killed him with a dagger I no longer own. I cut him down before he killed all of us. The Bishop’s men, well, they all fled, what was left of them. But I stayed. I stayed with your father until the end.

“He thanked me.”

Around him Solomon sensed the body’s rise, the lackeys sent to dispatch him for knowing the truth. But he did nothing as they took him, as they pried from him his weapons and possessions, as he watched Mordechai fade away into darkness as the final candle was snuffed.  Solomon did nothing. He was paralyzed. There was something in the drink. But who?

Who indeed.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Writing Comics: On Being Crass

I have been around for a bit, read my fair share of comics. One thing that I have discovered about comics is their fundamental confusion on what is appropriate and not appropriate. A lot of people read comics now. It’s not always about crafting a story that targets children or young adults. Vertigo is one of many mature comics publishers that now provides stronger themes and controversial subjects to their readership, which is primarily those that grew out of the Bronze Age and early-Modern Age of comic book stories. What we as creators can learn from this is that our options are open. We can make a comic for any audience. But making a comic for an all ages audience is by far the most difficult.

Thinking that an all ages comic is something akin to a PG rated film is a bit misleading. First, what determines whether or not a film is rated PG has changed with time. Splash has nudity clearly, but it’s rated PG. Maybe it was just 1984? Who knows… Second, I would also say that those who read comics have already been exposed to mature subjects from other comics, or are generally more keen on heavy subjects like death, crime, and human suffering. Geoff Johns’s Green Lantern is full of blood /gore and sexual elements, and it was a nationally syndicated DC title. So, what is acceptable to some isn’t to others. Thankfully, our market is open.

I’ve struggled with the prospects of doing an all ages comic. I go back and forth, but my main problem is considering how the story could change. I favor stories that are realistic, but not necessarily gritty. “Gritty” is an aesthetic that exalts the use of strong themes (violence, sex, language, etc) to execute a subversive story. While I enjoy Sin City’s film noir edge, there is not really much going on beneath the surface. One could say that the film is about corruption and the decay of urban institutions, but what is depicted relies upon cultural stereotypes. A story that is driven by realism, on the other hand, would depict a pedestrian hit and run because these things happen in the real world. Children watch people die every day, so sanitizing a comic from these themes is disingenuous. My emphasis focuses on the presentation.  

Presenting violence is easy, as there are ways to depict death off panel, but it’s cool to be experimental when it comes to writing the panel descriptions. I like to use sound to depict death, by having a panel sequence be silent and without dialogue or sound effects. Using symbolic imagery is also great. The Walking Dead did a great job of this in the pilot episode by depicting a crow picking apart at some roadkill in the middle of a sweltering Georgian road. It showed the visceral quality of death using fairly sanitized visuals.

How to depict sex is a little different. I actually don’t fancy myself as a very skilled writer when it comes to sex. It was just never a topic that interested me. However, out of a need to depict it in my upcoming graphic novel, I tried to find ways to show the physicality of sex without actually needing my artist to draw it. I like silhouettes because they urge the imagination to work for what is happening in the scene. Also, younger readers who might stumble upon one of these pages won’t be immediately exposed to what is happening. Sound is also a good way of depicting sex without the use of crass imagery. I use environmental audio to depict sex in my writing, like squeaking furniture and fluttering of birds, to name a few.

I would say that Language is the easiest to handle. I just use jumbled specialty characters to illustrate “bleeps,” which I prefer to the actual language. Hearing someone say, “@#$# You!” is way more funny than actually reading, “Fuck You!” To me the elusive wording makes the usage of the language more powerful.
The main rule of thumb I say is to enjoy your writing when it comes to venturing into strong themes. If you don’t feel comfortable with writing particular beats, I would find other ways to depict them. Likewise, if you do enjoy this style of writing, always remember that you need to be aware of your audience’s taste. After all, you do want them to buy it, so be nice.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Piano Problems

I own an upright Yamaha piano now.

Yeah, that just happened. It also explains why I was late yet again to my posting yesterday. It’s been one of those “memory neglecting moments spanning many days, up to a month,” things. Between writing articles for Sequart, resolving pesky Spirit of Orn complications, and driving all over southern California to network and establish relationships with indie publishers, I am beat.

Actually, on Thursday night my wife and I drove to North Hollywood to meet Jason Brubaker, writer/artist of reMIND and Sithra. The meeting was fun, productive, educational, and an opportunity to remember what it’s like sleeping in a car on the way back. I only woke up twice, thankfully, during the two hour car ride home. Day jobs man… it’s hard to have dinner meetings when your clock-in time is 5am.

Being involved in an industry where most of us work two, maybe three jobs to provide for our families (or hobbyist addictions), the balance between satisfaction and cynicism is a precarious thing. I think for the first time in a good while I am alright with my current employment. Generally this is a sure sign for unlikely advancements, at least in my experience. But what do I know. We complain and vent over our circumstances, and when all is overcome and surmounted we are granted our Get-out-of-Jail-Free card. Usually this means we are about to learn the hard way that the grass is always greener out there.

This same trap I’ve encountered while buying things. Retail therapy is the chink in my armor now, as I’ve become aware of my disposable income, and my ability to procure guitar equipment, comic books, and food with it. Salt and vinegar potato chips will be the end of me when, like Achilles, I will succumb to a crippling ankle injury resulting from morbid obesity and accelerated diabetes. Things, though, do not make you happy. I mean, I am happy when I get to watch all nine seasons of The Simpsons because my brother blessed me with a $100 Amazon gift card. (Lo, I say unto thee, there was one card, the card.) But after the honeymoon is over, now you have a bunch of plastic taking up space on your shelf. Take it from the guy who dropped off a ton of old clothes to the local Goodwill a few days ago, get rid of your stuff. Make room for new stuff and then let go of it again, preferably before your closet fills up with dress shirts you last remember wearing to your homecoming dance.

My wife is gone for the weekend, which gives me free reign over the house. This means that I can sleep sideways on the bed, beyond that I am trapped inside my four walls, inconsolable. I can’t make her laugh or smile over Facetime when she left her iPad here. And that makes me a sad panda…


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Flash in the Night (Part 4)

“It’s nothing but scrawlings,” I protested. I pleaded with your father for hours, but he said nothing, only silently packed with a focused look about him. “It will get us killed. You can’t just up and leave.”

He looked at me. His eyes were hollow, staring through my heart.

“We have nothing left here. Go, leave me if you must, but I’m going through with this.”

“Scrawlings!” I shouted, waving my arms like a fool, as if that could sway his mind. “For god’s sake David, your son, he needs you. He needs the money that we promised. We’ve been gallivanting  across the hills of this godless land for two bloody years now, with nothing to show for it. We should never have left England!”

Your father, he dropped his things swiftly. His temper was fire and sulfur, a mad froth of magma that burned everything it touched. Mind you, I once saw him impale a man. I… could never do that.

“This is our ticket home,” he said. He approached me swiftly, grabbed my shirt within his iron grip, and threw me up against a cabinet. “No, I haven’t forgotten Solomon.” He let me go at once and backed away, bowing in supplication.

“Power speaks here friend. Our barbaric cousins thankfully never evolved past that. I’m going to find it, with or without you,”

We didn’t speak for the rest of the night; not till morning. He just resumed his packing. He wasn’t afraid even to leave at daylight, when the Bishop’s thugs would freely roam. But there was no going against your father once he had his mind set.

And if you were wondering what exactly we left Sog that day to take, what would drive a man to kill, well I’m sorry to disappoint you. I forgot. There had always been treasure, something to bring us home to you and your mother. And after years of searching I had lost interest. Every piece of tech or gold had merged together into unnamable infatuation. Your father, he likely remembered.

But as we walked in between the alleys to the bay, I knew we were being followed. And I remembered the boy, the poor child that bled out at our own door. I remembered prying his hallowed secrets from his white, frozen knuckles—brittle as glass, awful things. That was my fate, but it became your fathers.

It was on a glacier to the Northeast, on Nigardsbreen, on the foot of the Jotun.

But your father, he tossed his orders around me. He believed in this there was freedom. My heart hung low that day a little further, as did my eyes. For there were shadows forming on the shoreline, moving shadows, sinister things that I did not see, otherwise I would have jumped into the icy rime, and left him to die all on his own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Writing Comics: On Naming Characters

I had meant to post this yesterday, but something went awry. Maybe I had a stroke, maybe not. Who knows?

I have an odd philosophy when it comes to naming characters. There was a time, back when I first started writing, when I took the naming of characters very seriously. Usually, I would find names with alternative meanings, or a name derived from a descriptive word. I wanted the name itself to have meaning, to tell a story.

This practice isn't carried out by me alone. There are plenty of authors, the greats like Virginia Wolf and James Joyce that followed similar practices. Septimus from Mrs. Dalloway, a character meant to die, has his name derived from "septic" or "sepsis" for this reason. So it's not "tacky" to invest a lot of focus into naming. I just don't take it to that extreme anymore.

I find naming a character with a purposeful corollary a tad contrived, only because this is not how naming works in the real world. Our parents are those that name us, but as we grow older our names carry meanings very different from what our progenitors had intended. I knew someone in high school named Julius, but he was neither noble, nor distinguished. I had already formulated my opinion if him.

So I generally pick names at random. I let them gain meaning over time gradually. That's how it works in reality right? If we get to know people, we come to understand them from particular interactions and experiences tied to them. So, as we get to know the character, so we shall also begin to tie that name to our character. I will take ethnicity into consideration of course. Spirit Of Orn features exclusively names from Old Norse manuscripts because I wanted to capture that cognitive environment.  So be mindful at least to that. There were no Steves or Mary-Beths in pagan Norway in the 800s.

Still, this doesn't mean you can be creative either. Have fun with it, but I wouldn't stress over a name at the end of the day. After all, it's just a name.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stone Pushing Uphill Man

Again I found myself in a position where I wasn’t able to make the deadline yesterday due to unforeseen consequences. The interwebz prevents me from sharing the reason for why exactly; however I will say that I am attempting to procure alternate means of generating funds for sundry life expenses.  Despite the insanity in doing so, I’ve still been able to maintain a proper work-life balance to my surprise.

My ongoing tango with continues. Every day presents a unique learning opportunity in which I find out how much I loathe digital publishing. Don’t misunderstand me though. I love the benefits of digital publishing, especially the low overhead and product delivery systems in place. But the problematic presentation of product, in which text auto formats or randomly breaks on the page is downright infuriating. I will admit that I personally prefer physical printing solutions, which are also not without their fair share of problems and QA, nevertheless the art of page layouts, callouts, and text formatting is still special to me.

Getting the book on Amazon is a hurdle on its own. Actually marketing the book comes next, something I have never done before. My core audience is certainly comprised of Sequart readers, but how many of them will dig my book is another matter entirely. This is the part where I will have to reach out to bloggers and other members of the sci-fi community to elicit support, something that I am not very well versed at.

But life is good midst the chaos. I don’t find myself to be a very interesting person, but interesting things certainly happen to me. My panic episodes are slowly dwindling in any case. I get them still, but they are completely manageable. I get the big ones few and far between, but they are no longer debilitating, which is a pleasant surprise.

I’m busy listening to the new Paul Gilbert album, Stone Pushing Uphill Man. It’s probably one of his best works yet. I am just enamored with the entire project from start to finish. Only one song on the album features his trademark vocals, but that track alone is worth the money paid.

Keep on keepin’ on world!


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Flash in the Night (Part 3)

“Before you were, child, your father and I lived paltry lives, as did many then. We walked under the icy moon of ancient days as did our forefathers. We lived in the southern lands, where the standing cities were planted long ago. None lived there any more, just us. The locals were afraid of the ghosts that lurked there. But your father and I, we knew. That gave us work until the work dried up. Then, to the north we looked.

“You know well about the treasure hunters. They built these places here, you know. So we owe them thanks for that. They took back the wastes and gave us, again, what we had lost so many years ago. But, first and foremost they are nothing but rooks, scavengers, opportunists. Many come to Sog to watch the games, to feel warmed by man’s lust for power and admiration. I’m not the fool to think that is mere coincidence. When a man comes to town, he has coin to spend. And they are there behind him, waiting.

“Our work was charming and innocent, one of the few things that we agreed on. We opened an antique boutique off the road near the water side. As the drunkards came, sauntering in off the road, we would vend them trinkets and pointless baubles. Dolls, powerless machines, crystals, and other rustic things would be enough to amuse an intrigue. I took care to ask questions. Occasionally I would get a good tale out of it. Your father, he was a capitalist. He spoke the language of coin, to my dissatisfaction.

“It all changed one night. The town was empty. The travelers had gone their own way, most to the south. I had seen the crimson skies, the thunder broiling in the distance. A bitter cold was approaching. When I looked out of our shop display, a man in tattered robes, holding his sides, was drawing near. And when he collapsed into our door, your father and I watched the poor boy bleed out silently. In his hands was some wadded paper, incomprehensible scrawlings that I puzzled over.

“We disposed of the body soon after. But in the coming weeks some others came asking for him. They sought the paper, but we remained silent. Myself and David would watch one another as they searched the shop for anything the boy could have dropped. His eyes said ‘silence,’ and I agreed.

“When they had gone, all of them, after some months, David and I unfolded the documents, spread them out over the table in the back room of the shop and poured over them. We were looking for clues. But I was lost in the symbols. They were so strange, so peculiar. They were unlike anything that I had seen before.

“And I feared what they meant, what that meant for us. It meant change, and the overthrow of everything we had gathered. For the blood soaked liniments, upon closer inspection, would lead us to a discovery on insurmountable significance.

“It was our ticket home.”

Monday, August 11, 2014

Writing Comics – Dialogue Tips

Sometimes I feel a tad meta looking these things over, as if I was learning from my own arcana. I’m not an expert, even though I’ve been through the early writing stages of a comic book.  As far as learning experiences go, my discoveries tend to be on the fly. I’ll just stumble upon this new idea that will change my current issue, or force me to go back into previous issues to alter their structure. Dialogue has caused me the most trouble thus far when it comes to these retroactive changes to the script, especially when there are plot changes involved. This can be a daunting task, but still manageable with the proper strategies in place. So, here is what I’ve learned and I hope it helps you along as well.

Tip 1: Dialogue is not static.

When we write characters, we feel locked into a particular mood that tends to accompany a particular character. For instance, while writing the initial drafts of my script for my graphic novel, I was intending the character to grow throughout the story in particular spurts. This influenced my approach to the character tremendously. I felt that the character’s child stages would pass and I would then get more into the adult conception of the character. When this particular strategy changed, so did the character and all essential dialogue that interacted with my protagonist. I had to invest a personality into a character where there was none before. How other characters reacted to my protagonist changed as well. I felt particularly attached to some dialogue pieces in the graphic novel’s first and second draft but I felt convicted that I needed to change it, to reflect the renewed perspective of my supporting characters towards the protagonist. I rewrote 4 issues (roughly 100pgs) by the end of this revision period, which was a bother, despite learning a lot about character development.

My strategy since then has been to treat dialogue as filler, or place holders. After I finish an issue, I will go back over the script a couple of times and with my end perspective of how the issue concludes secured in my mind, I do my round of rewrites. Before I would have been lazy and resisted the urge to go back. I said, “It is finished!” But this isn’t enough. Go back and really try to understand who a character is in relation to his/her surroundings. Don’t be afraid to tweak dialogue to better reflect their habits and quirks.  

Tip 2: Quantity is Not Quality

I’m a big fan of Neil Gaiman. I love his dialogue and how he blends the genres of Novel and Graphic Fiction together into a harmonious balance. To emulate him, when I first began writing my comic, I wrote rather large dialogue lines and created larger-than-life exchanges in the process. It wasn’t until my artist read my initial scripts where he said something along the lines of, “Dude, this is a lot of dialogue…”

I read Alan Moore and Grant Morrison next. Each wrote large sections of dialogue as well, but Moore was punchy and concise when he needed to. Morrison likewise taught me the meaning of layouts and good editing. Morrison typically writes in tandem with his layouts. Normal conversations are short and brief, while large compositions and full blown spreads and layouts tend to include expository text to move the plot along in large breadths. In relation to my artist’s advice and the examples before me in these two writers, I started finding ways to trim down my dialogue lines in each panel. I needed to find the quickest, fastest way to convey a point or an emotion, otherwise I’d be stressing out my artist, who would find the majority of his art covered up with black and white text. And so, through a series of revisions, I collapsed several conversations. I made them shorter. Now they read better. Every dialogue exchange is clean and less busy. I had no precise science of how to go about this. Setting goals for the maximum amount of text per page certainly helps. I never tried that, but it would help remind you about the need to be aware of the constrictions and restrictions when it comes to comic dialogue.

Tip 3: Character Vomit

This one is a little easier to grasp, but I thought I would include it. Revealing what a character feels is good, but try to save most of that for the artist. I found myself writing what I felt afterwards to be “character vomit,” where everything the character feels just comes out all at once. Jack Kirby would do this alongside all the silver age writers. It was appropriate for the time, but today comes off as obnoxious. If you want a character to feel nervous and scared, it’s a good idea to describe that the character looks scared and nervous. Accompanying dialogue, especially dialogue that is short and sparse, will amplify the power of the emotions going on in the panel. In lieu of my previous point, about 75% of my excess dialogue I cut out of my early drafts were emotional cues. The resulting narrative was stronger and helped amplify suspense and action where applicable to the story.

That’s it for my tips, or what I can think of for now. Consider them and try them out in your own scripts. I’m curious to see how they fair.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Friday on a Sunday: On Noah and Black Jesus

Last night it dawned on me that my Friday post was never posted.

I’ve been thinking about this lately, and I realize that my work schedule is interfering with my brain. I work six days a week currently for a brewery, and up until a week ago I was working nine hours a day on top of that. When I say it out loud I feel less angry… Anyways, I’ve attributed the Friday warmth of impending release from my voluntary conscription to blog writing. It’s a shame that yesterday, my Friday on a Saturday, tripped me up.

I have some interesting opportunities coming up, the best kinds, the ones that are uncertain and undefined. I hate it when I see something coming on the horizon but can’t prepare for it, or even do anything about it. I’ve learned to have cautious optimism about everything from a string of disappointments. Mostly, I am at fault for this. What I can tell you all, without compromising anything, is that it would mean a tremendous change of pace.

Yesterday my Black Jesus article went up on Sequart. When I had heard of the dispute and hubbub that it was making I had to say something. Aaron McGruder is a very incendiary fellow, but a fair one. His primary project, a late night show on Adult Swim called The Boondocks, is an indictment of subcultures within the African American community just as much as any other, including whites. I appreciate the egalitarian bashing. Black Jesus is another thing. Much of what I’ve read on the matter is race oriented, as well as Jesus’s depiction as being crass and undignified. Much of what we currently know about Jesus is very muted, as I’ve said in my article, but there are a few gems that have trickled to the surface. Jesus had a sense of humor, renaming Simon as Peter, who was notorious for folding like a deck of cards under pressure. He also spent time with sinners. Blah Blah Blah. You’ve all heard this before.

Something shifted in me though. I wanted to defend the show as a legitimate outlet of creativity, something that is inviolable, God-image stuff. After seeing Darren Aronofsky’s Noah last night my sentiment feels further justified. As a Christian, I like seeing what people think about the biblical narrative. To the detraction of my Black Jesus article, I probably should have watched the show before defending it. I have a feeling, my sentiment of the show would have changed markedly, or at least pushed in a new direction.

I do think I will follow the show, when possible. Adult Swim is being less finicky when it comes to us non-cable folk nowadays. Sorry for the relapse into my faulty posting! These things happen.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Flash in the Night (Part 2)

“How it all began?” Mordechai replied. He hesitated, pressing his fingertips together, rubbing them against one another.

“You and him were close,” Solomon confirmed. “I remember that much. Both travelers and fortune seekers… Pirates was it?”

Mordechai shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The nostalgia pained him. It made his face tight and weary.
“A scoundrel doesn’t revere the past,” Mordechai grumbled solemnly. His wiry hand flashed out and snatched the whiskey chalice. “How much does a man change in life? Too much. Much too much…”

Mordechai lifted the drink to his lips, but froze. He lowered his hand, pointing to Solomon from the rim of the glass.

“I didn’t kill your father. The man I was, the man that I left behind, he killed your father.”

Solomon smiled. He leaned back in his chair, spreading his arms outwards into the darkness. His chair restricted him, made him immobile. Even the arm rests trapped him, making him small and weak. Better to dangle down, at his side, out of view.

“You were telling your tale,” reiterated Solomon. “What happened on Molden?”

“What happened indeed,” Mordechai retorted. His small body blustered and turned red. “Nothing happened. We built a modest fort, our enclave. The boys could see the ships coming down the lane, which to loot, what we could sink without trouble from the king. Your father died on the ice flow.”

“The glacier?”

Solomon felt charmed by the detail. It was one eluding him, one that he had ruminated upon.
Two boys biting their tongues, grinding their teeth, clawing desperately for recognition, these were Mordechai and David, Solomon’s father. Solomon could clearly remember his father beside his brother. They were destined to kill one another, meant to even. The shriveled man before him was a shadow of Mordechai’s original evil. That Mordechai had changed was likely, but what remained was a husk, the sloughed off remains.

“What is it about the tundra that boils our blood? Solomon ruminated. “Did he die like a man? Why?”

Mordechai’s hand lifted up, trembling and shaking.

“Will knowing this change anything?” asked Mordechai. “Why would it be important? A man does not die in…”

“Enough!” Solomon slammed his fist down on the table, no longer willing to stomach Mordechai’s stalling.

A pit plunged deep into his stomach, welling up with frustration. Solomon, like his own father as he knew him, was impetuous. Mordechai’s shaken pallor frame relinquished in his presence. What honor is there in taunting an old man? Solomon forsook the thought. Doubt would not succeed his anger.

“I was told that you knew,” Solomon growled. “I did not ride the barren roads from across the land only to behold your senile wit.”

“I killed your father,” Mordechai confirmed.

“I know,” clarified Solomon. “So why then?”

Caught in silence, Mordechai sat alone in the chair once more flummoxed, not without a bit of humor. He was beside himself with benign ignorance.  Solomon patiently waited, scanning the room for confederates. To his surprise, there was no one, just him and Mordechai. After some while Mordechai shook his head sadly. He wrung his hands cathartically.

“Your father wanted to leave.” he said finally. “But I couldn’t let him go.”

“I loved him too much.” 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Writing Comics - Managing Beats

Last week we introduced the essentials to writing a script for a comic book. It’s been pointed out that scripts these days are taking the shape of modern screenplays. This is because a comic book script has to evoke not only visual but auditory cues the progress the story. I touched on this in my example layouts for the sample script presented there.

I also mentioned something called a “beat,” or “beats” as they are referred to in plural. These comprise the meat of the comic script, as well as the content of today’s post.

A comic beat is a little known asset that has made this style of narrative so iconic. Alan Moore is a master of the “beat,” which he uses to pace his stories and build action through the issues. Think of these as scenes in a play. Within the act are extended conversations and moments of rising action, which likewise occurs in comics. In the comic Justice, Alex Ross depicts Clark Kent watching television, until an enraged Bizarro breaks through the wall and forces Clark into a confrontation. This is a beat within the larger scope of that issue which focuses on the JLA being taken down by various rogue members of the Legion of Doom. This particular beat is only a few panels. Some beats though can extend for a few pages.

The thing about beats is that everyone is familiar with them. They are so common that many readers don’t even recognize them and how they frame the story. As I said before Alan Moore is a master of employing the beat for narrative effect. In The Killing Joke, the Joker arriving at the conclusion of Gordon and his daughter Barbara punctuates the scene. It’s a narrative gasp that causes the reader to stop and pay attention, as well as anticipate the conflict that will ensue on the following pages. I call these “reveals,” a moment where the reader in let in on a secret that the author laid out for them to discover.

I particularly haven’t mastered the beat yet. I feel that their usage in the comic medium can be compared to the way people write their sentences in papers and articles. Being an editor, I see many cases where someone is clearly trying to impress their prospective readers with flashy diction or complicated sentence arrangements. What they don’t realize is that in their efforts to do so, they have made their writing harder to understand. Simplicity and directness is power when it comes to writing. A beat can be employed in a very contrived way, like at the very end of an issue (i.e. the cliffhanger). Few look at them as opportunities to wow and surprise readers though, which is a shame. A beat can end on a pause, or a moment of realization, or even a surprise attack. Each way can elevate the action in a story, or augment how it proceeds. Clearly though, the best use of managing beats and illustrating how they move the story forward is when they are employed in straightforward, direct fashion.  Read anything by Alan Moore and you will see what I mean almost immediately.

Consider the “beat” from now on as a tool for pacing and storytelling. I hope it helps you and your story crafting like it has helped my own.


Friday, August 1, 2014

Taking a Vacation

Last weekend it dawned on me that I didn't get a chance to recap for the Comic Con week. Aside from being loads of fun, certainly productive, I learned so much this year about commerce and marketing.

I was able to give out about 650 free copies of my book, which is an accomplishment altogether. The idea is to build readership when you release free books. Even though the "click through" averages a return of 3-5%, I was able to get about 5.5% in terms of full downloads. That may seem like a small achievement, but it's not. It's huge! Especially in an industry with 11-15% profit margin returns.

My boss and I had many a'heart-to-heart at the Con. Things are moving along and I am glad to see opportunities to expand my role there. My primary goals that I've set for myself are tenable, if not attainable. So I'm looking forward prospectively with optimism.

I was able to work alongside my cohort Desmond during the Con business. We sold merch, laughed, geeked out, etc. we both picked up some cool card games and Comic Con exclusive releases. I got my hands on a Six Gun Gorilla print that was exclusive, signed and everything. Very Cool.

Now I'm up in the mountains for the weekend. Finally I can rest! I hope the same for you out there.