been a while since I was on, so I decided to post a quick update before hitting the sack. Texas is in full swing, and the first day was not bad. Brisk sales and walk-ups throughout the day, and I had enough time to swing through artist alley. Good buddy/great artist Kody Chamberlain was out dropping the goods (Punks: The Comic) on fans and onlookers, Phil Hester and Andy Kuhn were doing their low key humble thing despite everyone telling them they rock, and Top Cow alums Joe Benitez and Billy Tan are representing for the Cow.
We had a good day with the big man, Marc Silvestri, Mike Choi, Michael Broussard, Kenneth Rocafort, Eric Basaldua and young Phil Hester signing at the booth. Good times had by all, or so it appeared. Fans definitely enjoyed it.
After the show we headed over to the live art + auction benefit Heroes for Heroes (no relation to the Hero Initiative). Marc destroyed a new Darkness piece, Michael tackled the Hulk, Hester rocked Swamp Thing (I wanted to win the auction, but alas I work in comics and money is limited), Eric did Aliens v. Predator, and Filip and Kody teamed for a Blaxploitation jam piece. Mike Choi decorated some wacky doll to look like either a soft venom or a chunky black suit Spider-Man. Filip should have pictures of most of these, so I'll try to get them on here in the coming days.
The night ended with a trip to Waffle House, which was only a mile walk from the hotel, and so worth it. Lest you think this blog is a complete waste, I present a snapshot of the now, showing me giving notes and doing the editorial thing, and Mike Choi doing what he doest best in the background.
More tomorrow, unless the night takes us...
I don’t know what else Becky and I could really do.
Though I have learned some more truths about monthly comics circa 2007:
Doing A Good Book Is Not Enough – You can see what the reaction is from people who actually read American Virgin. And yeah, before the naysayers pop up to post “Well, I hated it,” as they inevitably feel compelled to do – let me just say I didn’t really cherry pick too much here. What you read above is what is out there for the most part. And while I’ve known some creators who ask people to “pimp their rides,” to the best of my knowledge I don’t personally know any of the kind reviewers above – who I thank for their support. They just seemed to really like the book we were doing. But that wasn’t enough.
A Great Launch is Not Enough – Our first issue not only sold relatively well, but it actually sold out a four thousand copy overprint. American Virgin #1 clocked in at around 24,000 units (you never get that from these charts everyone analyzes month in and month out). Our second issue sold out too, and while I thought something would be made of the sell-outs, nothing was. Our bad – a lost opportunity to get some extra juice. And very quickly – despite really great reviews and buzz – and I mean very quickly, we were down to half that amount, and falling. I didn’t worry, because there was a lot of great press about the book and I thought, much like some other launches of the time, we’d get our rebound from the reviews and the release of the collections. But the reviews dwindled off and the second collection never seemed to come out until the writing was on the wall.
Fresh Takes Are Not Enough – I think we’re in an age that really wants fantasy – which American Virgin, obviously, is not. I was delighted that almost every review posted, or email I got, or person I talked to at a convention seemed to mention some variation on the phrase “I have no idea where this is going, but I like the ride.” I don’t want to do comics that are like a hundred comics that have come before them. But when I look at what’s making it in terms of monthlies, the truth is, it’s comics that look like a hundred comics (or movies, or TV shows) that have come before them. The comics I love lately are also dying on the vine because they’re not doing it by the numbers, and I think that’s pretty sad. Still, lesson noted, though not necessarily “learned.”
Letting the Work Speak For Itself Is Not Enough – By and large, I don’t like to get out there and hark about what a great job I’m doing. I always assume that if the work is good, people will notice. But it’s become clear to me that in the age of the super-star creator, it’s important to be yelling about what a f***ing genius you are from every corner. So in the future, when I’m yelling about what a f***ing genius I am from every corner, please remember that I feel as uncomfortable doing it as you must feel hearing it. And when someone posts “Seagle isn’t a f***ing genius” – as they will feel compelled to do - please post a follow-up explaining that I wish I didn’t have to be the person making such claims. PS – Becky Cloonan is a genius to begin with, so please don’t make her yell about East Coast Rising Volume 2, just go out and buy it when it comes out.
Going Out With A Bang Will Have To Be Enough – No, our ending is no surprise to me. I actually called my original editor, Shelly Bond, about a year ago and said, so when are we going to get axed? In actuality, I’m surprised we got this long. So thanks to Shelly, Karen Berger, Vertigo and all my esteemed collaborators on American Virgin over the last couple of years for making it this far. Becky and I have one story left – “69” – and you’ll have no idea where it is going…but you’ll like the ride.
Who knows, maybe if enough of you like it – buy those trades, my friends – we’ll be able to come back some time and do a little more with Adam and the seriously f***ed up Chamberlain clan.
Steven T. Seagle
He's right, of course. Not to shit all over the whole industry, but the fans are scared. Scared of new ideas. Scared of taking chances. Sad, sad state of affairs...
3 down (barring notes), 2 to go.
Troy and I have been on a mini hiatus with our project. We were on a good roll and were pretty close to having most of the main story beats worked out to the point where we could put together a pitch for the damn thing, but we got derailed by life and work. Anxious to get back to that as well, but he's leaving town next week so... I think we should (and need) be able to get that locked down before Wizard World Texas in mid-November, so that's my goal. Once we land a publisher, I'll be able to discuss more.
I don't know what I want to write. I'm in a funk, and I want really loose assignments. I've still got what I think is a really solid screenplay floating around in my head, I just need to commit it to paper, and I've a few comic concepts I dig but I'm not sure I want to spend the time to develop.
I've been in a funk of late, and it has me questioning whether I want to write about what I thought I wanted to write about or write about what I know (which is basically all the themes I always right about). Melancholia and angst pretty much cut to the heart. I really just wish I had some kind of direction. The good news is, the two comic projects which have borne fruit have been very different. The thing with Troy, also quite different. It's not like things are getting stale, quite the opposite, I just feel lost and bogged down creatively. I want to know where I'm headed.
If anyone wants to have me write anything for them (publishers with money) or develop something from a nugget (artists with talent), let me know. I'm in a weird place and seemingly only getting weirder.
For now it's just one box of old American Lit books, but eventually it will be comics, DVDs, and who knows what other trinkets I can dig up. I wonder what dignity fetches these days.
Anyhow, if you want to help me make some tiny bits of scratch and clean my apartment, please help.
Buy My Books.
By clicking this link, you can read about our delays in scheduling and some of what we're doing to fix it. Filip Sablik, our illustrious VP of Marketing & Sales, gives the dish.
Let me just reiterate that we are busting ass, spending every working hour trying to get ahead, get on time, and get things back on track. There are a lot of reasons why things fell behind in the past and are behind now. Thing is, those things are always going to come up. We have to find a way around them. Will we be 100% on time in 2008? Doubtful. Even if we do everything right, there could be a print error or a shipping delay or any other thing we literally cannot control no matter how timely our output is.
But we're trying. It frustrates us not to have regular books out there month after month. More than it does the readers even. It's going to get better. This isn't just hyperbole.
Hang tight. Things are looking positive.
the spam I get on my work e-mail is so much better than my personal one. Not only is there less of it, but man oh man do they know what I want. I mean, for years I searched for the answer. And now I have it. I can have the ability to shoot across the room (always handy at cocktail parties), speak in tongues, and learn about the escapades of Courtney Love.
"Dude, don't let your wife find out about this!"
Is it that hard to figure this stuff out? Good story + good writing + good acting = good movie. Forget formula and stars and marketing stunts... Just make it right, get it out there, and people will respond.
More to the point, this is comics. It's a strange Tuesday night, and there's three of us here at the office right now. An artist is working on backgrounds, I'm lamenting the fact that there is no alcohol, and Chaz is putting together a Previews section. Previews is the bane of my existence. Nothing, save getting books out on time, is harder. Somehow getting together the 6-10 covers we need each month, usually 4 of which are old and done for months, never happens on time. We shoot for a date, and then immediately miss it. It's probably because we're playing catch up instead of getting ahead, so the time we could be using is left to troubleshoot what hasn't previously happened.
Text isn't something I mess with. Along with marketing (shout out to Frutti), we determine what's going to be on sale in a given month. Again, this is set months and months in advance, especially in terms of what trade paperbacks we'll be soliciting since that goes to bookstores as well, but invariably things are changing right up until the last minute. Move a trade up here to have it in time for X. We need that book to coincide with X. It's a light month, so let's move this up a little bit. Whatever the case may be, things happen. And I haven't even mentioned the arduous chore of writing scintillating text for each item on sale to make it palatable to retailers, consumers, and the industry in general. Maybe it's because I don't do the majority of the writing. Thanks, di Beppo.
And then there's the matter of getting pagination and page numbers. Because of the way our Previews section is set up - images on the interior, text on the outer edges, we can't just design the section as soon as we have art and text. So that's another piece in the puzzle.
So knowing full well that text is due by X date, art is due by X date, pagination will be determined by X date and anything else we may need to know. Somehow, this Tuesday night repeats over and over again, month after month, section after section. It's not to say we're unorganized. It's not to say we're not trying. It's just to say that no one smiles upon us during these days, and we're left to wonder if there is any point at all in existence.
Maybe that's being melodramatic, but that's kind of how Previews feels to me. It's like someone stabbing you repeatedly in the stomach with knives you've provided them and then asking if they can buy some of your books.
I don't know. It's 9:30, I'm hungry, and we're still working. This is a typical day in the life.
HOW PRETEND TO BE AN EDITOR AN EDITOR AT HOME
by Stephen Wacekr-Ask a friend to go to her computer and to start sending 250-350 e-mails to you.
-Mark each of them HIGH PRIORITY.
-Find 17-23 people, each of whom you need to make happy. Pretend they’re all under contract to you and ask them too call with very legitimate questions and concerns… many of which have to do with money so you feel even more pressured (If at least one of them only speaks another language…all the better!)
-As the e-mails are “ding”ing into your mailbox, spill coffee on your shirt (VERY IMPORTANT EDITORIAL RULE I LEARNED THE HARD WAY #459: Don’t put original art on your desk when there are any drinks around…or fountain pens…or me.)
-Next, have someone play an assistant editor who’s generally more on the ball than you are and ask them to compile a couple dozen questions that another department needs answered so they can work on a budget.
-Answer one e-mail while being spoken to.
-As more questions are asked by the assistant, answer the phone.
-Grab a pile of papers and pretend it’s 32 pages of the greatest super-hero in the world and you have 20 minutes to make sure there are no mistakes before it has to go to the Bullpen to be composited for the printer.
-Open an e-mail pointing to an internet thread asking for you to be fired.
-Ding, it’s another e-mail, you failure.
-Try to start reading a script.
-Read page one 14 times as various calls and e-mails keep “ding”ing.
-If things are going right in this simulation, you will get interrupted by a…let’s call him Schom Krevoort who will remind you of a meeting in 10 minutes to discuss a very important spreadsheet.
-Read page one again. It’s a great page one.
-Make wish for a future filled with one page comics.
-Leave for meeting with list of three major things that must be done today, so other people can do their jobs.
-Don’t forget to call British talent early. They’re 5 hours ahead.
-Receive final proof of issue going to press right now.
-Find glaring error in it.
-Weep like Warren Ellis at a pub with no Wi-Fi.
-Wonder if you’re any good at this job in the first place.
-Be told “you could act like a man” Don Corleone style by Tom…I mean Schom.
-Artist just called. You forgot to send paper, ya idiot.
-Read that page one again…dip into one panel of page two.
Get asked by a comic news site to answer 457 questions, most of which assume you’re a dullard to start.
-Spend 5-10 minutes discussing old comic story you liked with the 34 people you share an office with.
Have an awesome conversation with artist or writer you’ve admired for years. Learn something new about your Editor-in-Chief when he was breaking in.
-Remember why you love this job.
-Ding. Ding. Ding. Ding.
-Notice you misspelled your own name up at the top of this. Good editing, creep.
That's not to say I'm sick. I was a bit sick last week, coughing up stuff, but I'm mostly clear of that and am now of sound body and mind. There's no alcohol or drugs coursing through this bloodstream. And yet, something is wrong with me.
My full-time gig takes up a lot of time. There's the fact that on an average day I wake up between 7 and 8, and from that point on barring a run or passing out in the shower, I'm checking e-mail pretty much constantly for the next 12-15 hours. All while fielding phone calls, pulling out my hair trying to juggle blown schedules, requests for umpteen different things, proofing, yelling at people who say they've uploaded when the files clearly aren't there, bugging people for scripts, reading scripts, making notes, planning the future, talking to my bosses, taking meetings and more. These are just a few of the many things I, as an editor, do on the day-to-day tip.
Then there's the freelance stuff I'm already set to do. I wrapped my one-shot a couple weeks back, but I still have my OGN that became a mini that added an issue bringing the total up to 5. I've written almost two issues. Issue two is in flux, but then after that I should proceed steadily toward the finish line ably abetted by my co-writer, David.
Then there's the thing I'm putting together to pitch with Troy. We're meeting only about once a week when one of us isn't out of town, but the goal is to have that thing totally pitchable and probably be under way with script by the end of July. We're not pitching at SDCC per se, but having it ready by then would definitely not be a bad thing.
But here's where I'm sick in the head. Last week I had an idea. I should write a screenplay, I thought. Yeah, and I should do it by my birthday or, failing that, by the end of August. So on top of my ridiculous schedule, my freelance commitments, my project with Troy, balancing a social life and exercising, I'm going to find time in my day to write a feature-length screenplay in the next 60 days. Well, less than that considering July 2 is almost spent.
And to drive the point home, I'm not coming at this with an idea from the green folder. I haven't pulled anything out of the file on my writing e-mail. I haven't even thought of an idea, sparked to it, and been off to the races. I am very much, out of my ass, trying to write something with a sub-60 day time limit and have it done. Now, I'm not talking about a final draft. I'm talking about a first draft. A version I'm happy with could be months or years away. But I need to accomplish something, and I need to make sure I'm writing every day.
So far the longest script I've written happened across two nights and somehow managed to get up to about 47 pages. Sadly, I can't confirm this, nor can I confirm how bad it is, because I can't seem to find the damn thing anywhere. I'll look through some old hard drives when I'm done here. Anyhow, that was during my sophomore year of college. A little over a year ago, I finished school. I decided the next thing I was going to do was write a TV pilot. Well, I managed to get Pilot Season off the ground at TC, but no such luck on my own endeavors. I have an idea, I even have some early notes somewhere, but ostensibly I've done nothing.
So here I sit, a month and a half from another birthday, with nothing more under my belt that I can really and truly hang my hat on. So it's time to suck it up and be a man. Or at least make the most of my free time. What little time that is.
Anyone has any ideas for what I should write about... Please feel free to share.
We got here. We checked in. We checked out the convention center, which the front desk tried to tell us was a mile and a half away, but was closer to a half a minute walk. Our boxes and booth weren't there yet, so here's hoping it all shows in time for me to set up prior to the show tomorrow.
Met up with Marz, and saw the sights. We went to the Space Needle (but stayed down on earth), and the Gehry designed Science Fiction Museum, but didn't make it past the gift shop. Then we went via monorail down to the wharf, and Pike St. Market, where we went to a comic shop (go figure) and ate dinner at a French restaurant. I had cassoulet, which had all sorts of meats I shouldn't be eating, but it was pretty damn good.
After that, we took the monorail back to the needle, and walked back to Marz's hotel. A quick drink with Aaron Lopresti and Frank Cho later and we've retired to our room at the Silver Cloud. Yeah, we have a giant plasma TV hanging on our wall. It's nice. Unfortunately, all the con folk are at the hotel we left from... Why they're not closer to the show, I don't know. But hey, at least I can roll out of bed whenever I want.
Anyhow, like I said, not much going on.
And yet, a simple aphorism from the always affable Rob Schwager has kept me on the straight and narrow:
Don't murder anybody.Comic books aint worth possibly getting buggered in jail.
He just might be on to something.
Honestly, my output, my commitment, and my work has not been there of late in terms of my writing. I've been so beaten down by work and life, that I didn't care about anything anymore. It got so bad, that after I tried to quit and then rededicated myself to the project because I was an idiot, I then did nothing. I tried to do many things, but the work wasn't coming. The words weren't there. So I made an alternate plan, calling for more assistance from the mighty Wohl, and saying I would get him X, Y, and Z. All I got him was E, for excuses. It was so bad that he had to light a fire under my ass, giving me a drop-dead of Thursday morning (a few hours from now) for getting what I promised in, or he would assume he should proceed without me.
Maybe some would call that dick, but I call that good editing. He knows I want to work on this book. He knows I want this under my belt. And he definitely knows how jazzed I am to be working with my artist. If anyone doesn't know, I'm on the book with Kody Chamberlain, and it's called Wight and Associates, out this Fall. I'll put up the promo piece here on the site, but it already appeared in the Zero-G Preview book. Anyhow, David threatened to take away what I wanted. And even though it took me until 2am to get it to him, I think it's in under the gun, unless there's a catastrophic e-mail failure or something.
Seriously though, tonight was probably the last night I expected to get any work done. I was tired, I was sad, I was uninspired. But I got off my ass and I wrote. And that's what writers do. They write. Simple as that.
It's a bad premise for a comic. It's not visually appealing, there are too many characters, and the writer isn't experienced enough to make it work. He tries. He tries straight writing, beat breakdowns, whatever. There's no way to get around the fact that he's also spent hours staring at what is essentially a flashing cursor (although Final Draft's cursor often disappears).
The problem is that what I care about is not sucking, not telling a good story. And that's a major problem. Someone could tell a good story with this, it just isn't me, or at least it isn't the me of today. I wrote the original #2 in two days. That's the actual writing, not the thinking about, plotting, etc. Now I can't seem to make it any better, despite months having gone by. I think the first draft was done on November 19, the second on February 11. Yeah, I turned in a first draft on #3 in between as well, but shit...
Why can't I just hack this thing out and get it done? Why can't I make a single ounce of fucking progress. I'm tired of not getting any closer. Why does nothing inspire me?
So now I need a new script that I can be happy with and that can let me move on to the next one by late Thursday night. The good news is, I've completely written the script twice before. This will officially be my third draft, but between all the treatments and revisions on that, I'll call it my unofficial fourth. So the good news is, I know how it starts, and roughly how it ends. The bad news is, it's been gutted. A scene I've had problems with in every version is now gone, leaving me with four empty pages before a pivotal scene happens after the now missing scene.
All in all, after throwing out everything I had problems with, I have eight pages of script already written. I may need to finesse to make fit with the new version and surrounding scenes, but I'm just over 1/3rd of the way there. Problem is, I'm 2/3rds out and a little unsure how much of the now missing scenes can be reworked and salvaged versus what I need to go completely original with. Made some notes tonight, but it's more pre-planning than planning. I think I can get it worked out in my head during the day tomorrow (or at least I hope), then get to some typing and maybe knock half of what's left out tomorrow.
The interesting thing is two of the new ideas I had today. One will strengthen the overall story, and the other, I'm not sure about... Could be a complete waste or a nice expansion of the narrative. It could go either way based on execution, which is exactly what I'm blanking on. Oy...
This isn't going to be easy. And it may not be great. But it will be better than it was (which I'm told wasn't terrible), and it will be done on time. I'm going to get some sleep now to ensure that this happens.
Most of the time I want to do gritty, hard-edged character-based stuff with a crime, con, or lay person caught up in something bigger vibe. But I often end up back with the really small, character-based relationship bullshit. Ostensibly every story I've ever written is about the end of some relationship we barely see, getting the hell out of dodge, and trying to cope with moving on. And every character is me at some stage of my past life or an imagined stage of my future.
I don't really have anyone I can pattern myself after. I alternate between wanting to be the serious Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson with smaller casts, anyone who is my flavor of the moment, a Kasdan, or today, Scott Frank. Is there a way to marry what I want to do, these intelligent crime stories wrapped with the shiny but tarnished bow of the anti-romantic comedy? Is merging the two how I finally come up with something original?
It's part of what has me torn about my latest spec non-project. I feel like from a character-based perspective, it's the best idea I've had in a while. The problem is, the B story, which is actually the A story of each individual episode is giving me problems. The setup is clever, ties into my even more clever title, and gives me worlds of possibilities. But all I can come up with, beyond the pilot, is incredibly dull. I see parts of the pilot so clearly. I see the set-up and the emotional arc and several potential endings that all serve the same purpose, but I have no idea what makes up the bulk of what's beyond that. This isn't a movie idea. It's not a done in one (or two hours, as it were) deal I can just tell and walk away from. It's a process for the characters, who will essentially never become whole again, no matter how close they get. This is the static nature of television. Now what's the story?
So I'm torn. And I don't know where anything is headed, or if anything will ever get written again. Other than blogs.
Considering I'm unpublished, not very good, and not in the position to set myself up for future work by bailing on my first real gig, that probably wasn't the smartest of moves.
I've been really bummed since getting back from New York for a lot of reasons. It's been a tough two weeks and I've done a lot of reevaluating of my station in life. I think for the past several months, I put my eggs all in one basket. I decided to go full steam ahead with comics, and dedicate everything I was doing to it. Sure, I was going to work on those spec pilots in the background, but in 2 months it will have been a year since I graduated, and I haven't written so much as a title page for any of them. Hell, I'm barely watching movies as it is.
It would be fine if comics were the be all and end all of my universe. But the more I read, the less I like. And while my career is going great - no 22 year-old should be in the position I'm in - it's not the career I want for my life. I want to be a writer. I don't want to manage schedules and traffic art and be a babysitter. I'd be in a better position as a writer if I could finish anything. The problem is, I'm not writing what I want to. I said yes to two opportunities because I thought they were what I wanted so I could use them as stepping stones, but instead they've both become albatrosses. Artists hard at work telling stories I've grown out of favor with, and me scrambling to try and come up with something that will live up to my expectations and their skill.
I need to figure out what the hell I'm doing with my life, and I need to figure it out fast. This is a crisis. I need time to write, and time is the one thing I don't have. If I had money, I could have time, and then maybe I would actually write. I just wish I had something could believe in. Right now I don't believe in much. Not myself, not my ideas, and certainly not my writing. But I know all it would take is the right sentence. The right turn of phrase or combination words and I could kill myself all over again to make something happen.
People are defined by how they react to crises. How will I react to one of my own making? Who will I disappoint with my decisions?
It's going to be an interesting rest of the week with 2 books set to go out, and no editors physically at the office. But at least we have Internet, so when I can hang out in the room, it's like a virtual office. Kind of weird not being there for pages coming in though.
I'm still hard at work on my top secret project with my Top Secret artist. But there's a book available at the show that spills the title, if not the creative team. Be on the lookout for that...
But anyway, I'm having problems with the script. I rewrote the second issue and felt like I had worked through some issues. Problem is they were all minor ones. The major ones I couldn't exactly get a handle on are still there. Having reread it with new notes, I definitely see that now. But to help me get this thing on the right track, I've started reading Syd Field's Screenwriter's Problem Solver. It's incredibly repetitive, but I think it's helping.
The end goal is to create a script I'm proud of so we can all have a book we're proud of. And of course, I want to do it in a way that actually allows me to finish working on it and move on to other projects a better writer for it. I'm trying to get there...
I lucked out and got Mr. Vonnegut.
Kurt VonnegutFor years, this unique creator of absurd and haunting tales denied that he had anything to do with science fiction.
You wake up to a stack of e-mail you know is going to make you late for work. Work e-mail of course. You don't have time for the personal variety. One of those e-mails is from an artist's agent, and uses the words please, soon, talk, and serious stuff. It's going to be a long day.
Storms get weathered, conversations get had, and days go on. This one went on and on, spiraling into a debilitating headache that began on the nearly hour-long drive home (total time of commute today - 100 minutes) and ended while trying to pack up my belongings for the move.
You run the production meeting and take a look at the schedule. Maybe it's just because I'm Jewish, but New Year's doesn't seem like it would take that much time away from work. People keep talking about these holidays, but you were at work... The schedule is a dangerous mistress.
Another artist sends you an e-mail claiming there's no way he can do the work by the given time. He can either hack it out, or it will have to go in FedEx tomorrow. He can't get it done in time. You come up with an impassioned plea, illustrating the marriage of art and commerce in the comics industry, and how once again a couple hours on either day of the weekend could have avoided this problem. Or waking up earlier. By the time you push send, there's another e-mail in your inbox telling you that he's finished, and that the pages will go out today.
Wash that down with a thought-dead project roaring back to life for another round of revisions. The time spent managing the project has taken more time than than some entire series do. You're not complaining, it's just a bad to day to have yet another thing back on the plate.
At least one of your superstars came through today, and the marketing requests were dealt with in an extremely expedient manner.
Oh, and those people who told you to make X, Y, and Z changes, and you explained which could and couldn't happen. They've given you the same corrections and more. It's like talking to yourself, and you wonder if there's any way to be more clear than addressing issues point by point.
Some days start out bad. Others end that way. My middle was gooey and delicious. Well, for leftovers anyhow. At least yesterday I watched Scrubs. Stupid Tuesday...
I've only been in this game for 3 years. I've been reading comics for almost two decades (I know what the first one I bought was, but not the first one I ever read...), but I'm still a relative rookie at this. But I've got determination and panache, and that coupled with guile is what's gotten me this far. Well, that plus accumulated contact info from coworkers, freelancers, the Internet, and my own travels.
So I claim yesterday as a victory. Not only did I call an industry legend and not get turned down about a project, but another damn good artist sent me an e-mail that helped make my day. He basically admitted that I had convinced him to work for me, and that he was resigned to doing it at some point soon, since he could tell it was bound to happen sooner or later.
I don't know about you, but in a world where I do nothing but complain about exclusive contracts and sweat over blown deadlines, this one gets chalked up in the win column.
One of the new artists is here. I mean physically here in my apartment, currently calling the couch home. In the absence of proper Kung Fu, he opted for the director's cut of Kingdome of Heaven. More power to him for going Ridley on his first night in Los Angeles.
It's been a very long day. I had some good chats with artists today, including a major cover artist. Spent a lot of time on the phone somehow. I don't like the phone. Talk to me on e-mail where I can answer a question and let us both move on with our lives. Otherwise, we're just wasting time with pleasantries when bidness can be getting done. Hell, when I call people I'm the pleasantry type, but when they call me I feel as though we don't need to waste our time. Certain people I don't mind, but I guess it's the ones I do that seem to take forever on the phone. My mom doesn't count. She's allowed to monopolize my time.
C.B. Cebulski is good people. If I haven't linked Chesterfest off to the right, I really need to.
So I'm writing this graphic novel, right. I was 3/4 of the way in, and have notes on the second and third parts. I could easily have made the notes, turned in my voucher, and moved on to the final chapter of the book. Problem is, I'm fairly happy with the first script. I like how it begins, I like how it ends, and I like some of how we get there. The rest, not so much. It's full of plot for plot's sake, lack of character development, and way too many one page scenes. I'm still finding my rhythm as a comics scribe, since screenwriting is so ingrained in my brain. I lose the ability to think visually most of the time, since instead of a moving shot, every narration, every line of dialogue, every instance of a comic has to be spaced out and described. I write a lot of "Angle on the schmuck" type of descriptions.
Back to my problem. I could get the scripts polished and done. Hell, I could do it in about an hour tops, and likely before I went to bed tonight. But then I'd go to sleep knowing that my first substantial published work was nothing more than a hack job. I gave up on it when things got tough. So weeks after I meant to (the notes were a little slow), I spent the weekend trying to get things right. I'm retooling the story, replacing a major subplot, and trying to pace it better. But it's not going. At all.
My new subplot isn't a subplot at all. I've done plot graphs to try and figure how each story breaks down, and I've tried to work more intrinsically from character. I know who this guy is, the one who is the focal piece of my new subplot, but I have no idea if he has a story. See, the idea behind it is basically the same idea as the main plot. And that's when I start realizing, my A story is barely there. My A story is strung together by the pieces of B and C, and my D is just a love story. It's the only thing I know how it actually plays out. And hey, look, A and D come together at the end and it all makes sense from a character perspective so all must be well. Do I need four storylines? No, of course not. But do I need four main characters with three or four other major ones? Apparently so. Since this isn't my baby or my call, I can't make wholesale changes.
What I want to do is throw it all away. Remove one character entirely (yes, the first issue is already underway with that character in it). I think the tiny part of A that bleeds into B/D should become A entirely. Put mystery at the center of the book. B should be separate. Treat is as an actual subplot, not something that ties into the larger story unnecessarily. C... Still a problem. It gives me something to do with two characters, but there's really nothing there. At all. Over an hour in and I've got jack for anything. D... Well, at least some things stay the same.
It's easy to please other people. It's much harder to please yourself. Right now, I'm the measure of displeased. And I just want to be done (I planned and was supposed to finish by the end of 2006, so many days ago). But I'm not getting any closer, and this story is barely getting any better. I've made one major tweak other than the partial gutting that makes the story stronger, but nothing else is coming along.
I'm just working through my inability to write out loud, so pardon me for being a waste of words right now.
I don't take days off. Sure, I don't go into the office on weekends (well, some weekends) and I certainly work less hours, but not a day goes by that I don't check e-mails, make phone calls, or deal with problems. Is it wrong for me to expect the same of the people I work with?
If the work doesn't get done Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday provide a means to catch up. Makes sense to me. But I guess that's the problem. I hold people to standards that are too high. I want them all to be at least as smart as me or work at least as hard as I do. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but that's not going to happen. When it comes to work, I put it before most things. I sacrifice for the greater good. That doesn't mean I'm not selfish, but it does mean my heart's in it. I'm all in, 100%.
So when I need pages done or things drawn or whatever, I expect it to get done. I don't expect excuse after excuse or "I don't work on the weekends." That's not good enough for me.
But that's the problems with expectations. The higher they are, the harder they are to meet. Sometimes good things happen. Most times you're stuck holding the phone, trying to clean up the mess you did everything to keep from happening.
Say what you want about Mark Bagley or his work (which I'm a fan of), but that guy gets it done rain or shine. There are no excuses that could keep him from coming through when it counts. I need a Bagley, I need a Hester, I need a Romita Jr. I need people to step up, be accountable, and get things done. That's the only way to succeed.
Let's let the failing stop now.
Holidays are a funny time for artists. The rest of the world has holidays off, so why shouldn't they? As a person I absolutely believe that they should. And for some, the holidays are the normal ones (X-mas Eve and proper, New Year's Eve and proper), but for others they extend for weeks or even months. The problem is, this is comics. Comics, for better or worse, despite physical improbabilities and impossibilities are a monthly business. One month you pick up issue X of a comic, and the next issue Y. The letter columns used to say "See you in 30!" They don't say it anymore. Largely because the vast majority have eschewed letters columns in favor of editorial or advertising content, and also because it's hard to say. The level of quality needed to elevate books beyond adequate or hack is possessed by quite a few artists, but only a tiny fraction can kick ass and take names without ever missing a beat or having the quality suffer. Working for a company founded by a legendary artists that has produced many soon-to-be legendary artists and other modern masters, it's hard to ask the talent to balance the speed (commerce) with the artistic vision they have. It gets done, but without months of prep, it's often not done monthly.
Part of my headache for the past 36 hours or so has been taking a look at the schedule. It's been a bit like an old cartoon where a character is in a small boat and a tiny leak springs. He puts his finger or a bucket or some other item over the hole and congratulates himself. Only to be struck by another stream of water. Again and again our intrepid hero finds a way to plug each hole, but more and more spring up. It's always the case with editing, but I'm without any sort of safety net right now. It's a crucial time for a number of things, and I'm doing everything I can to stopgap and plan ahead and mend. It's taking a mental toll if not a physical one (Hey, it's 11pm and I'm still awake. That's a victory). But I know at the end of the day, there's only so much I can do. I can't do what I ask my artists could do. I have to rely on them to come through, to have faith that the schedules we shoot for will be met, and find creative solutions when they're not. I'm experimenting with more and more ways to do things. I'm looking for better calendar and spreadsheet options to manage my days. I'm doing a lot of things more than once as I get my bearings.
And through it all I struggle with the same problems. Lack of talent, lack of reliable talent, lack of affordable talent, disgruntled talent, too much talent at the wrong times, etc. I could kid myself and say that I can find a way to get out of the hole forever. But it's not possible. There's always something. Call it Murphy's Law or SSDD. I like my job. Right now I wouldn't trade it for any alternative. I'll find a way to make things better, and in the future I'll have even more ways to deal with each thing that goes wrong. Right now I'm still figuring it all out.
And speaking of taking weeks off, I really need to get back to my OGN. I've seen about five pages of it so far, but I really need to get all my revised scripts done and approved. I still haven't even written a first draft of the ending. Yeesh. This coming from the guy who bitches about unreliable talent. At least my artist isn't waiting on me, right?
Alright, I'm going to hop on ComicSpace and deny a bunch of people I've never met. Then I'm going to read a pitch. Then I'm going to sleep. But not before I check my e-mail one last time...