1.28.2007

Kurt Vonnegut *

I took the "Which Science Fiction Writer Are You?" test.

I lucked out and got Mr. Vonnegut.

I am:
Kurt Vonnegut
For years, this unique creator of absurd and haunting tales denied that he had anything to do with science fiction.


Which science fiction writer are you?

1.23.2007

Rotten

Some days just start out bad.

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...

1.20.2007

Mentions of My Tyranny

There's a mention of me in the interview up about The Darkness Levels series on Broken Frontier.

A Good Day

That's what yesterday was.

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.

1.17.2007

Shot Down, Put Up

Some changes didn't take. Things that went up, had to go down. It's hard when we don't make announcements. Wires get crossed, and intentions are off.

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.

1.15.2007

Brain Crippled

I've been sitting here for over an hour working at one thing. Well, two things if you count making some additions to my ever-expanding, newly renovated Amazon wish list.
My Amazon.com Wish List

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.

1.07.2007

Does Mark Bagley Work Weekends?

There's no work ethic in the comics industry.

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.

1.04.2007

What a Week

As of tomorrow, I'll mark the end of my first official week in my new position since we were technically closed last week, even though a few of us spent the whole week working (and really, when do I not?). It's been trying and satisfying and I'm realizing one can never have too many pens, sticky notes, or enough time. I'm trying to squeeze every hour out of every day, and in the end I have to learn to just step back and be an alcoholic. Not turn to drink, but to accept the things I cannot change.

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...

1.03.2007

Animator vs. Animation I & II

Forward to me by Edgar Delgado of Studio F fame. It's pretty clever stuff.

Part I


Part II