Sunday, December 20, 2009

2009 - The Year That Was

2009's not quite over yet, but since I'll be out of town with my family for the holidays, I'm doing this post a little early. I made a post at the start of the year that looked ahead to 2009, so I thought I'd see how things shook out.

Right off the bat, I notice that the super-hero book that Yildiray Cinar and I were planning to do never happened. You can probably guess why: Yildiray has been getting work from DC. It started with a couple fill-ins, and led to the Ravager co-feature in Teen Titans, and when that wraps up he's got a big gig lined up. I can't wait until it's announced, because it's the perfect fit for him. I'm hoping to work with Yildiray again, but chances are very slim that it would be on a regular series that we co-created. What's more likely is that I'll twist his arm to contribute to a short story or something like that, in between his DC work.

It's painful to see that Jon Sommariva and I still haven't wrapped up GEMINI. We managed to etch out one issue in all of 2009. Not good.

The crime mini-series that I mentioned with Koray Kuranel is still in the works. He's drawn the entire first issue and is working on the second. I don't feel bad about this one not being out yet. It hasn't been solicited, so we're not late. There's no schedule we're trying to keep. Koray has a busy career as a storyboard artist, so this comic book project is just something he's doing for fun in his spare time.

DYNAMO 5 #25 marked the end of the series as a regular, ongoing series. And it also marked the departure of Mahmud as the regular series artist. But as co-creator of the book, Mahmud will still be involved. He'll be drawing covers and character designs, and he sees all the art for the book as it comes in. As readers of this blog know, the book is far from dead. Julio Brilha is hard at work on DYNAMO 5: SINS OF THE FATHER, an all-new 5-issue mini-series that will debut this summer. It features the Dynamo 5 kids in their new super-hero identities, and the story stems from an important battle in Captain Dynamo's life, which we'll see in flashbacks. And there are lots of cool guest stars.

I also got my first work for DC Comics in a long time in 2009, writing a short Batman story for their latest Holiday Special. My editor on that story was Eddie Berganza, the very first DC editor to ever give me work, way back in 1998 (I think -- it might have been late 1997). It was great working with Eddie again, and I hope to get a chance to work with him again soon.

I contributed to a few Marvel comics in 2009, starting with two stories for their "War of Kings" cosmic event. These two stories (focusing on Lilandra and Crystal) were originally published online, and then collected in the 2-issue WAR OF KINGS: WARRIORS mini-series. My editor on those stories was Ben Morse, an assistant editor in the Digital Department. Ben's a great guy and my stories (along with two written by Christos Gage) were the first stories he actually edited. You couldn't tell, though. Ben handled himself like a veteran editor. And by that I mean he rewrote my story and didn't return my calls. No, no -- I'm kidding, of course. On both counts. Working with Ben was great, and hopefully that wasn't the last time.

Ben actually commissioned me to write another story that hasn't been announced yet. It's too bad he had to pass it off to another editor, because it features characters Ben and I are both especially fond of, and it would've been fun to see it through to publication together.

The editor who ended up with the story is Daniel Ketchum, who I had never worked with before. Daniel's a great guy, and very easy to work with. As this still-undisclosed story takes shape, Daniel also hired me to write a short X-MEN Christmas story which will be published as part of Marvel's Digital Comics line next week.

2009 also marked what I hope is the start of my screenwriting career. In the past six months I've written a movie screenplay, a pilot for a proposed TV series, and started work on a second movie screenplay. I should clarify that these are all specs -- meaning, no one paid me to write these, and for now, at least, no one has bought them. But I'm represented by Circle of Confusion, the same Hollywood management company that reps guys like Robert Kirkman, Ed Brubaker, and Brian Michael Bendis. So these guys know what they're doing, and with any luck we'll see some interest from production companies in the stuff I've written. And while I'm clarifying things, I should also clarify that my interest in screenplay does not mean I'm leaving comics. It just means I'm interested in diversifying, and broadening my horizons.

So that's 2009 in a nutshell. In a few weeks, I'll post my plans for 2010...

An Early Christmas

I'm flying back to visit my family in Pennsylvania tomorrow, but I thought I'd offer a little early Christmas present to you guys before I left.
Here's a glimpse at DYNAMO 5: SINS OF THE FATHER #1. That's the title of the next D5 arc, in a new mini-series format, on sale this summer.
The art is by Julio Brilha and the color is by Ron Riley.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dynamo 5 on Playstation Digital Comics

Yesterday Playstation announced its Digital Comics Service, and I'm proud to say that DYNAMO 5 is among the first offerings. So far, the first four issues are available. The first issue is free, all other issues are 99 cents.
You can read all about Playstation Digital Comics right here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry X-Mas

I mentioned in an earlier post that I contributed a Marvel holiday story this year (in addition to my DC holiday story that's on sale now), and now I can give a few more details.

It's an 8-page X-MEN holiday story that will run exclusively on Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. The story goes live on December 23rd. I hope to soon be able to post a page of preview art, but I don't have any to show at the moment.

I imagine the story will see print at some point, whether it's as a bonus story in a Trade Paperback, or as part of an anthology, but there are no plans currently to print it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Evolution of a Writer

I was asked recently about two novels by two of my favorite authors: CHASING DARKNESS, by Robert Crais and NOW & THEN, by Robert B. Parker. And while I don't remember the specifics of each book (Parker's series books, especially, tend to blur together -- and more on that, later), I have been meaning to write about these two authors, and how they relate to one another, for awhile now.

I discovered Robert B. Parker in high school, and his writing literally changed my life. CEREMONY was the first Spenser novel I read (after watching the TV series, SPENSER: FOR HIRE) and it opened my eyes to modern writing. Up until then, any prose I read were stuffy and boring English assignments. But Parker's prose was light, smart, fun -- the works. And it painted such a complete picture. And for far, far too long, I (unfairly) judged every other prose writer by how they compared to Parker.

Case in point: Robert Crais. Crais' first novel, THE MONKEY'S RAINCOAT, was published in 1987, which is just about the exact same time I was discovering Parker. It wasn't until years later that I became aware of Crais, and even then, my first impression was that he was a Parker rip-off ... because he was.

Parker had Spenser, a wise-cracking ex-boxer. Crais had Elvis Cole, a wise-cracking martial artist. Spenser had a strong, silent partner named Hawk, who operated by his own moral code. Cole had a strong, silent partner named Joe Pike, who operated by his own moral code. Even the writing styles were similar. And this prevented me from enjoying Crais, so I didn't really get into him until years later.

Somewhere in one of my desk drawers are some old magazine articles written by Parker, aimed at writers. Stuff about how to write a series character, how to plot, etc. It's fascinating stuff, both because of the actual advice, but also because of how Parker seems to have changed his approach over the years. For instance, in one of these articles he advocates writing an outline before actually scripting the novel. At the time he wrote the article, he also outlined his novels. More recently, however, he seems to have changed his approach. I've seen him interviewed numerous times where he states he no longer outlines. Something about how he's been doing this so long that he doesn't need to outline anymore. And you know what? It shows.

Parker's gift has always been his dialogue. It's always fun, light, and zippy. And he can say more about a character with less words than pretty anyone. But his plots have always been kind of light, especially for a "mystery" writer. The mysteries are far from complex, and more and more over the years, they follow a basic formula. Somewhere in the first third of the novel, Spenser (or his other series leads, Jesse Stone or Sunny Randall) basically deduce the identity of the bad guy through little more than a gut feeling, and spend the rest of the novel following the guy around, waiting for him to make a move. Sometimes, Parker's heroes will make themselves targets, to draw the bad guy out. And in the end, the bad guy will either be killed, or the hero will blackmail the bad guy in such a way as to put him out of business. But the bad guy is rarely simply arrested. 

To me, this gets frustrating because Spenser (or Jesse, or Sunny) is never, ever wrong. Like I said, in the first third of the book, Spenser IDs the bad guy, and that's that. No doubt, and he's never wrong. I like a confident hero as much as the next guy, but an infallible one? Not so much.

Which brings me to Robert Crais. To date, Crais has written 11 Elvis Cole novels (plus one focusing on Joe Pike, in which Cole is a supporting character). His second Joe Pike novel comes out next month. His first 7 Cole novels were very Spenser-ish. Written in the first person, featuring the same kind of wit, with Cole and Pike doing their best Spenser and Hawk impressions. But even from the start, Crais' books had much stronger plotting. The mysteries were more complex. The villains' motivations and plans were more original and involving. 

But in the 8th Elvis Cole novel, L.A. REQUIEM, Crais blew the doors off of everything he set up previously. Think of it, in comic book terms, of a "bold, new direction." While it's still a Cole novel, the book switches POV numerous times, and works in numerous flashbacks, all to flesh out the tragic backstory of Joe Pike. While the Cole books had been getting better and better all along, L.A. REQUIEM represents a quantum leap forward, and almost transcends the PI genre. I don't mean to overhype it -- it's still simply a thriller novel (albeit, very well done), but it doesn't seem to follow the same conventions of the typical (re: Parker) PI novel.

Parker routinely turns out three or four novels a year. 2007 saw NOW & THEN (a Spenser novel), HIGH PROFILE (a Jesse Stone novel), SPARE CHANGE (a Sunny Randall novel), and THE EDENVILLE OWLS (a Young Adult novel). Compare that with Crais, who releases a book a year -- if that.

I've had the pleasure of exchanging emails with Craigs a handful of times (he's a comic book fan), and he confirmed that he thoroughly outlines each book. I don't mean to imply that outlining is definitely better than not outlining. I, personally, never write anything until I've got a decent out of where the story's going.

I realize I may come off sounding too hard on Parker in this post. I still love his books, simply for the chance to revisit and spend time with the characters he's created. And his light prose style is second to none.

But Crais, to me, is the example of an author who continually strives to improve himself with each book. Not to get faster, but to get better.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

DYNAMO 5 on the iPhone

DYNAMO 5 has been available on the iPhone from iVerse Media for awhile now, and we just went live with Comixology, too. Both services off Apps that let you read DYNAMO 5 on your iPhone, but they offer different reading experiences because of the way the books are formatted by each company. I know each company has their proponents, and we're happy to be able to bring you the book in both formats.

I'm still a bit old school, myself. I prefer reading comics in monthly or trade paperback format. But I have to admit, this new media is really starting to grow on me. And for a reading experience you can only get on the iPhone, check out Comixology's exclusive Box 13, written by my pal David Gallaher and drawn by Steve Ellis, the team behind the smash Zuda comic, High Moon. David's had a thing for old radio serials for as long as I've known him, and Box 13 is his reinvention of one of the old classics. I highly recommend it. Plus, it's free!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DYNAMO 5 in France

This deal has been in the works for awhile now, but I just learned that that first volume of DYNAMO 5 will be published in France in February 2010 by Merluche Comics.
A great French artist named Guile has done a limited edition D5 print that will be available in conjunction with the book's release.

ALSO on sale this week...

This one slipped by me. I didn't even realize it was coming out already!

DC Holiday Special 2009
Written by Scott Kolins, Sterling Gates, Amy Wolfram, Fred Van Lente, Jay Faerber, Beau Smith, David Tischman, Jay Torres and others; Art by Scott Kolins, Jeff Lemire, Daniel Liester and others; Cover by Dustin Nguyen
It's that time of year! You can't miss your favorite characters bringing good cheer to all. Even Deadman and B'wana Beast find ways to celebrate the spirit of the season!
32 pages * FC * $5.99

Monday, December 7, 2009

On Sale This Week

Noble Causes Vol 9: Five Years Later TPB
Story by Jay Faerber, art by Yildiray Cinar, cover by Yildiray Cinar & Ron Riley

Jump ahead five years in the lives of the Noble family! Doc Noble has rededicated the Noble family to be the world’s preeminent super-heroes, but even as they take a more pro-active approach to fighting crime on a global scale, they still harbor dark secrets and hidden agendas.

Collects NOBLE CAUSES #32-36

136 pages * FC * $14.99