Sunday, April 15, 2012

300 Posts

I've been posting so infrequently, I've almost forgotten how to use this thing. This is my 300th post on the blog and it's appropriate because I've got a lot to cover.

First, I want to announce that I'll be setting up at the Boston Comic Con next weekend. We usually only do Heroes and Baltimore and some local cons but things came together so well I couldn't resist. I've never been to the Boston con and have only driven by the city itself on my way somewhere else so this is very exciting. The organizers of the Con contacted me through Craig Rousseau and said they wanted to have an auction that will benefit, at least in part, the Scholarship. They also offered to donate table space to us so how could I say no? This will be the first time I've flown to a convention for the scholarship fund and it kind of stung a little (remember, I pay all overhead out of my own pocket) but it's being offset because I won't have to pay for a hotel room thanks to Craig who's letting me stay with him and his family in their house. Todd and Sharon are coming down too so we're going to have a blast. My only regret is Suze won't be coming because she's got some family stuff to take care of. Anyway, if you're in the area, please come by to see us. We'll have limited inventory because of the whole flying thing but I'm bringing all the best stuff!

I want to thank the organizers of the VA Comic Con also. We set up there a couple of weeks ago and they have been so gracious to us every time we do. They give us a great spot by the entrance and we always have fun. So, thanks guys! And I'll see you next show.


The divider is because the rest of this is personal stuff about me so if you're here for the Scholarship stuff...all done.

Suze and I went to the SXSW Film/Interactive/Music conference last month and I think I had one of the best times of my life. Going to Austin, TX has always been on my Bucket List, ever since I first discovered Ain't It Cool News and they started posting about this magical place called The Alamo Drafthouse. I won't go into nauseating detail because I'm tired (long weekend) but I will say I had some of the best BBQ I've ever had and went to one of the most amazing comic shops I've ever been to. I love my local comic shop and it suits my needs to a "T". Not to mention it's run by some of my best friends. But...damn. Austin Comics was a curve buster. I don't think many cities would support such a place. Because of limited luggage space, I could only buy a few books but I could have easily dropped $1,000 in that place without scratching the surface. They have EVERYTHING. I also went to an amazing bookstore called Book People and a fantastic used music/movie store called Waterloo. We were fortunate to be hanging out with a coworker (Suze was on the company dime while I had to pay my own way...sigh.) who was very familiar with the area and the conference and so he played guide. We saw a lot of great movies and if you've followed my Twitter account, you'll know we saw CABIN IN THE WOODS, THE RAID: REDEMPTION and IRON SKY before their wide release. Along with seeing the people behind the movies. Like live DVD special features. The highlights of the trip had to be the 90-minute panel discussion with Joss Whedon, going to Mondo (where I bought a STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN screen printed poster) and meeting Harry Knowles. Honorable Mention goes to literally running into actor/director Matthew Lillard in the convention center. (His film FAT KID RULES THE WORLD was wonderful, winning an award at the conference.) Austin is a great town and I can't wait to go back.

I mentioned a while back that I was dealing with a sick relative. That relative is an aunt on my father's side. I was her closest relative geographically so Suze and I were checking on her one or two times a week. She has Alzheimer's and it was a while before our family realized it. We're not close so we didn't stay in touch much but once we realized the situation, Suze and I decided to make sure she was okay, stopping by often and bringing her food and toiletries. Her disease was very advanced and it was often frustrating, scary and just plain tragic. (Alzheimer's just basically steals who you are.) Getting help for an Alzheimer's patient is very difficult and my father was working as hard and fast as he could from where he was to make it happen. Thanks to his efforts, she's in good hands now and though things will never be "good" for her again, at least we don't have to worry about her wandering off.

The last thing I want to post about is THE HAND ME DOWN HORROR. As I've mentioned, my workload has been pretty crazy lately at my job and the scholarship seems to be taking more of my free time than I expected. Plus, the SXSW trip didn't help any. (And, yes, I'll cop to watching a little too much TV at night when I eat dinner.) So I've only been able to get, at most, one evening a week to draw uninterrupted. For me, drawing is not something I can't just turn on. I have to really psyche myself up for it. In the last 4 or 5 months, I'd only managed to draw 5 or 6 pages of layouts and the last page I worked on was a huge disappointment. With my erratic schedule, the artwork was inconsistent and although the characters were really coming to life for me, it just wasn't living up to my expectations. And I started to get frustrated. I love this story and I want to get it out there. And if I try to draw this thing, it never will. That was a hard realization to come to but it finally sunk in. So I took a look at the alternatives. As I saw it, there were three.

1) Hire someone else to draw it. There were two reasons why I couldn't see doing that. One, I'm a control freak and nobody would be able to draw this the way I want it drawn and two, I just can't afford to hire anyone to do anything.

2) Convert it into a screenplay. Ugh. I don't quite understand the format, don't want to buy Final Draft and, again, likely nobody would ever see it.

And then there's 3) Convert it into a novel. This last one appealed to me for two reasons.

First, Both Todd Dezago and Rod Hannah have read the finished comic book scripts. Todd told me from the beginning, when I sent him my basic idea, he thought I should write it as a novel instead of a comic script. (I told him I didn't like my own prose enough for that and that was only half-true. Mostly, I had conceived it as a comic and was being stubborn.) Rod told me he liked the story but felt like there could be more. Like there were scenes that needed adding. It needed to be longer. I agreed because I felt the same way all along.

When I wrote the comic book scripts, the story almost got away from me. There was so much...stuff I needed to go into. One character in particular shows up and does the "monologuing" thing (think INCREDIBLES) and I wished I'd had space to be a little more artful about it. Plus, there were character relationships I wanted to develop that I just didn't have time for. The book went from the original 4 issues to 6 issues and then finally 8. I could have done 12. I'd ended up cutting out a lot of stuff I wanted to do just because I couldn't draw it all. I also had to worry about how to end each page with a mini-cliffhanger, each issue with a major one and keeping dialogue to a minimum and panel count per page down. With those last two, I failed miserably. The thing that bugged me most was that I love these characters and really wanted to explore what made them tic. And that wasn't happening.

The second reason the novel idea appeals to me is that the year before Mike died, we'd talked about doing something like that together. He'd read my less than charitable review of a book I'd read and emailed me that if I felt that strongly about it, I should try to write a better book than the one I'd read. He knew I could do it. And he wanted to work on it with me. He'd read everything I'd ever written (poor guy) including all the short stories I wrote a young punk. But I gave him all sorts of reasons it wouldn't work out and now I wish I'd just shut the f*** up and done it. I would, in fact, give anything to be able to do that now.

So...I'm writing a novel.

I know I sound like a magpie, every shiny new thing and all. But I think this is for the best and I'm only doing it after a LOT OF THOUGHT. I'm about 30 pages into it (6,500 words) and I'm having the time of my life. It's certainly not going to be the great American novel but I'm happy with what I've written so far and I think it's better than several published novels I've read in my life. Best of all, I have a passion for it that I didn't have when I faced the drawing board. I think I've been trying to force myself into a roll I'm not built for. Writing is just as hard as drawing; don't let anyone tell you different. But I think I'm a better writer than I am an illustrator and I look forward to writing this book in a way that I never looked forward to drawing it. These characters are really coming to life for me now, especially since I'm not constrained by the limitations (and I mean that in a positive way) of comic structure. Writing comics is hard. It's harder than writing any other storytelling medium. There are so many things you have to keep in mind while you're doing it that screenwriters and novelists don't have to worry about. (TV writers maybe have an inkling but...still harder.) Doing this has freed me up to think about character and theme and story without worrying about all that. I have such respect for guys like Todd and Mark Waid all the others who manage to work within the framework of comic book story structure and turn out brilliant work. It's not that I don't want to do that some day. But this story really needs a different format.

I'm really cutting loose now. Every night, I can't wait to hit the word processor. No psyching up required. I'm in heaven. I'm going to write this thing and then submit it to every publisher I can think of and if they won't publish it, I'll do it myself, either through print on demand or digital download.

I feel a little guilty because I promised a comic book. But not too guilty. Because giving up the idea of drawing this thing has taken such a load off my mind. And being able to really explore this world I've created has given me a new excitement. It's hard to express. So I hope you'll forgive me.

And wish me luck.