February 2011


The trade for 27 will be out in June.  It will be called 27: First Set, in a sort of George Lucas-esque revisionist naming to continue the convention we’re setting up with the sequel, which will be called 27: Second Set.  The trade, or “TPB,” as it’s known in the trade (stands for “trade paperback”) will be Golden Age sized, just as the single issues have been, and I think it will be a very nice piece of work.  It’s supposed to be 136 pages.

“But wait, Charles,” you’re saying, “the four issues of 27 only add up to about 92 pages!  Where will the rest of the pagecount for the trade come from?”

Excellent question, my young friend.  TPBs these days often include a bunch of additional material beyond the pages from the actual issues themselves.  We’re going for broke with 27: First Set.  It’s my first opportunity to do a big, packed trade, and I want it to be something special.  Here’s a list of the extras we’re planning to include:

–Introduction by one of my favorite writers, a guy who has given me a lot of support over the years.  He’s answered dumb questions of mine and been a generally awesome fellow since the very beginning, before Strongman was even a glimmer in my mind.

–Extra pages!  The 4th issue of 27 was originally supposed to be twenty-seven pages long, but we had to make some cuts to the pagecount for publication reasons.  However, the TPB doesn’t have those restrictions, so you’ll get the full, unabridged version of the fourth issue – it’s about five pages longer.

–Solution to the 27 Puzzle.  Basically, folks have until June to solve it, and if no one has it by then, I’ll put the answer in the book.  It’s going in in any case, but personally, I think it would be more fun to also be able to introduce everyone to the winner.  We’ll see – Issue 4 is out soon, and it’s possible someone could have the solution the very day of release.

–Covers.  The gorgeous covers by Scott Forbes are a big part of the success of the book, and each will have a beautiful feature in the trade, with a little discussion of the source material that inspired each one.

–Easter eggs. 27 is FULL of little nods to music trivia, and I’m going to take a few pages to go over some of the stuff I think is particularly fun.  This will include a breakdown of which song is referred to in each of the “lyric bubbles” in Issue 3.  Some of those are easy, some of those are harder – but you’ll get the rundown.

–ALL-NEW 12-page backup story.  I really wanted to do something special to expand the 27 mythology, and so I wrote a story that will give a little additional exposure to one of my favorite characters… the devil.  He only gets two pages in Issue 3, but man, he’s fun to write.  And since one of the members of the 27 Club is notorious for having made a deal with the devil at a certain crossroads in Mississippi, it works pretty well.  I just got the unlettered, colored pages for the backup story (which is called “Crossroads Blues,” after the famous Robert Johnson song covered by just about everyone who’s ever picked up a guitar, including me), and I thought I would share one with you:

Unlettered page from "Crossroads Blues," art by Renzo Podesta.

Don’t you love that swirl in the last panel?  This is more fantastic art from Renzo Podesta, the artist for all of First Set (and Second Set).

Trade’s out at some point in June, and I think you’re going to love it.

I haven’t had much to say here in the last month, but with 27 #3 due to be on shelves in four days, I thought I might as well put something up.  I could, of course, put up another installment of Agree to Agree, my ongoing series of posts about the ins and outs of creator contracts, but… nah.  I’ll try to get to that this week, though.

One of the things I’ve been working towards for the entire seven and half years I’ve been breaking in (I just looked, and what I consider the first real step I took towards being a comic writer happened around fall 2003 – wild) finally came through in January.  I’m not going to get into specifics, but if you look at the trajectory I’ve been plotting out ever since Strongman, and you’re familiar with the comic book creators’ world even a little bit, you’ll probably figure it out.  Essentially, it’s the next big step from where I am now, and I’m on pins and needles about it.  Why, you ask?  I mean, if it’s such a Great Leap Forward (hopefully not in the literal sense – the Chinese GLF was a horrorshow), why am I not too excited to sleep?

Well, I am, but there’s more to it.  To try to illustrate, there’s a book I read some time ago that had a conceit which I think applies here very well.  Forgive me for not recalling the title, but if it comes to me I’ll update the post.  Great little sci-fi thriller, which had as its central gimmick the efforts of a team of scientists to invent a sort of device that generated perfect luck for its user.  When you strapped it to your wrist, everything went your way, no matter how improbable.  If you needed to navigate a hallway of armed guards, you happened to walk through it at exactly the moment each guard chose to look up, tie their shoe, sneeze, etc., so you could slip through in that split-second.  It would work over and over again, giving you exactly what you needed.

The gadget worked by allowing its user to select between quantum realities.  There’s a theory of cosmology that suggests that an infinite universe within a matrix of infinite parallel universes must include EVERY variation not just on what’s in them (say, a redheaded Charles, and an Asian Charles, and a green-skinned Charles from Mars), but also on what happens in them.  So, there would be a universe in which a Charles, identical to me in every respect, blinks right…. NOW, as opposed to when I actually am going to blink, which is right…. NOW.  (Yes, I really blinked on cue.)  That would be the one and only difference between those two universes.  Heady stuff.

Anyway, so, back to the gadget in this mysterious book.  At one point, the main character has to break into a heavily fortified facility.  He basically just walks in, selecting universe after universe as he needs them – one where a security camera happens to short out, and then one where a bullet JUST misses him and hits a bad guy, etc.  The problem he faced, which I thought was interesting and will momentarily allow me to bring this post back full-circle, was that the more he used the gadget, the more he felt an increasing certainty that he was just getting luckier, and luckier, and luckier.  It was a psychological barrier that had nothing to do with the function of the gadget.  In an infinite universe, all things are possible, and so selecting the “right” universe each time wasn’t luck, it was actually pretty mechanical.  After using it long enough, he became crippled, convinced that the next time he used it his luck would “run out.”  Good stuff.

So, that’s sort of where I am, except that I don’t have a quantum tunneling device helping me along.  I know it’s not (entirely) luck – years of hard, consistent work play a role, as does getting my face out in the scene as much as I can at cons and so on, and of course, the amazing collaborators I’ve been so fortunate to work with.  I can’t help but feel sometimes, though, that I’m inching my way out on a branch that’s getting thinner and thinner, trying to make my way across some sort of chasm to the fabled “other side” where all of my dreams come true (the ones that haven’t already come true, that is.)

But it’s not like I’m going to stop, either.  Even if I am somehow burning up my cosmic store of luck, this is exactly how I want to use it.

(You know, I originally thought I would make this post a progress report on Strongman 2, which I do believe may be the finest piece of work I’ve ever had a hand in.  There’s trouble in paradise, though – and that’s where this post’s title came from.  Oh well – perhaps next time!)

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