writing


Warning – spoilers in here, so if you haven’t read the end of my Death of Wolverine series (or any of it, for that matter), I would avoid this post, unless you don’t mind being spoiled.

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And there we go.  It’s out – Logan’s gone, kaput, see ya. Reaction so far has been generally very positive to the whole story, which I think is due in large part to Steve, Justin, Jay and Chris, who made the thing look as good as it did. The story’s only about 90 pages long, and each chapter is really its own little mini-story, so a lot of ground had to be covered very quickly. The goal was to make each issue evocative of a particular part of Logan’s life, and pay homage to some of the great stories from his past that I’ve loved.  For those curious, here are the specific influences for each issue, as well as a few thoughts about the decisions I made in them:

1. ORIGIN – although there were a bunch of other Logan-in-Canada stories that played a role too. The other theme was Logan the eternal warrior – he’s fought in just about every war he could reach since he was young.  That’s part of why I included Nuke, the lost super-patriot, as a villain.  I thought he was such a great dark reflection of what Logan could become – or could have become. In fact, I originally included a scene set at the famous Battle of the Choisin Reservoir in the Korean War, which would have been a callback to Logan’s long history as a soldier in numerous wars, but ended up cutting it for space.  It’s a nice scene, though, which develops some of the overall themes of the book (Logan is not and never was just a killer) – maybe it will show up somewhere in a super-director’s-cut version.

2. CLAREMONT’s MADRIPOOR STORIES – Chris Claremont did some amazing things with reinventing Logan during his storied run on the character. The Japan stuff is the best-known, but he also set up the “Patch” persona, who was a tuxedo-wearing, bar-owning one-eyed (not really) fellow who was half James Bond half Humphrey Bogart. The version of Logan we see in this issue isn’t really that close to Patch, but it’s in the vein.  Sabretooth claws out Logan’s eye in this story – another intended homage to good old Patch. Mostly, I just like Madripoor as a location. Super evocative – like an evil Singapore.  I love it.  I wrote the script to this and #3 over the course of a single week early in the summer. I sequestered myself in a hotel and just banged them out in about four days.

3. KITTY PRYDE & WOLVERINE – More Claremont! This story introduced Kitty Pryde’s “Shadowcat,” identity, on sort of a weird adventure to Japan, and introduced one of my all-time favorite villains, the body-hopping demon ninja Ogun. It turned out he hadn’t been used in a while, which meant I got to pick him up and re-establish him, which was a real treat. Ogun will be a big part of my post-DoW plans, especially in DoW: Weapon X Project and the upcoming weekly Wolverines series.  He was actually Logan’s original martial arts instructor – he taught him his ninja skills. And that look! I thought Steve did amazing work here. The suit with the red demon mask on top… just awesome.  Get me an Ogun action figure!

4. WEAPON X – Barry Windsor-Smith wrote and drew an incredible miniseries in 1991 that told the story of how Logan got his adamantium skeleton and claws.  It’s an extremely dark, very psychological adventure, almost more of a horror story than a typical superhero comic. I loved it when I read it for the first time, and loved it just as much when I reread it as part of my research for this project. There’s just nothing else like it.  The script for this issue originally included a scene with Logan making his rebar claws we see him using in the early fights, but again, maybe that’s for the director’s cut.  I could easily have done a 150-page version of this story fleshing out some of the stuff we see, but I had four issues, so the idea was to make sure the emotional beats were there. I think that when you have four twenty-page (or so) issues, you have to use a bunch of shorthand to make stories that work both in and of themselves as well as a larger whole. It’s complicated – you almost never have as much space as you’d like, which forces you to be creative in some of the storytelling. I dig it, though.

And the ending! I think it’s all there on the page, so I won’t get into specifics about the story, but I considered a LOT of different beats for this story, and particularly the end.  A completely different version of the story was set all in one location, sort of like one of the Clint Eastwood Man With No Name films. Logan would have rolled in, met some people under the thumb of local bad guys… that kind of thing. Closer in tone in some ways to the great Brian K. Vaughan Logan mini. Ultimately, I stepped away from that because it didn’t seem grand enough. It would maybe have been the sort of Wolverine story we’d seen before, with the main difference being that this time he wouldn’t make it out.

What I will say about the way this story ends is that I didn’t necessarily want it to be on a “stage,” if you know what I mean. Logan doesn’t die saving the world (in one sense he sort of does, as Cornelius was intending to screw over the planet, given enough time, but it’s not the typical doomsday device thing…) He dies saving three people. No one knows he did that – probably not even the people he saved. That doesn’t matter.  We know what Logan did in his life (we’ve read the stories), and so does he (because he “lived” them). He has absolutely nothing to prove – to himself, or to us as readers. He’s realizing this at the same time we are.  This time, as his writer, I didn’t want to save the world in the traditional, seen it before way. Instead (and this will sound grandiose, I know), I wanted to save Logan’s “soul” – preserve it, almost. We saw him at his very best at the very end – that’s the story I wanted to write.

I hope you enjoyed the ride.

 

 

 

I thought I would take a few minutes to type up a quick update on current and future projects, and possibly justify the fact that this blog exists in the first place.  Here’s the rundown on recent news related to my work:

1. Superman / Wonder Woman – My final issue on this title will be #12, which will hit in October 2014. I’ll be followed on the book by Pete Tomasi and Doug Mahnke, who are wonderful talents – it’s in good hands.  I LOVED working on S/WW – handling two of pop culture’s biggest icons from a perspective that hadn’t been seen all that much before was a challenge, but I know it made me a better writer. It also taught me a great deal about how to handle online skepticism – in a nutshell, I’ll listen to anything anyone has to say once they’ve read something I’ve done, but focusing on opinions (good or bad) before the work is out in the world doesn’t help me at all. (For those who don’t follow the comics world religiously, there was some negativity about the concept when S/WW was announced, the expectation from some camps being that it would just be silly pandering, or that Wonder Woman wouldn’t have a significant role, or or or. Hearing those complaints largely die away as the book’s run continued was a pretty wonderful thing.)

Man, what a great book this was to work on – let’s see:

–Superman and Wonder Woman (just by themselves that’s great)

–Superman and Wonder Woman romantically linked

–Getting to work on the Doomed crossover event with Greg Pak (and Scott Lobdell at the start) – telling a new Doomsday story and then going even bigger… it was intense sometimes (lots of pages in this event), but never in a particularly negative way

–Working with Tony Daniel and the other amazing artists on the book – I was still brand new (basically) when I got this book, and Tony was a 20-year veteran of Big 2 comics work. I learned a lot about how to build and navigate a relationship with an artist on S/WW, and I think it’s some of Tony’s best work (I think the stuff in Issue 6 IS his best work, but I’m also very biased.)

12 regular issues, an annual, my part of the two Doomed specials, plus the Wonder Woman and Superman / Wonder Woman Five Years Later issues – that’s roughly 18 issues worth of material in the S/WW galaxy. Not a bad little run. Someday I’d love to come back, but we’ll see which way the wind blows.

P.S. on this one – the last three issues (the WW – S/WW 5YL issues and then #12 are some of my favorite things I’ve done on the series. The 5YL issues are basically a two-part elseworlds dealing with Diana as the God of War, and #12 has a huge callback to something innocuous from #1 that I think regular readers will love. It’s hard to end a series run, especially this one, but I think you’ll like how it goes out.)

2. Death of Wolverine – First issue out NEXT WEDNESDAY. I’ve mentioned before that I’m considering a social media holiday for September, and I’m still thinking about it. Not because I’m afraid of negative reactions – I’m confident in the book – but just because I think there will be a lot of discussion and speculation, and since it’s all been written for months, it’s sort of silly for me to participate in it.  A few things that are worth mentioning, I think:

–It’s a real ending for Logan. It’s not a fakeout, or a trick. The title is what happens. It’s about how we get there, and how it happens.

–He won’t be back in a month or two. I guarantee it.

–It looks absolutely incredible. Steve McNiven (pencils), Jay Leisten (inks) and Justin Ponsor (colors) (along with Chris Eliopolous [letters] and Mike Marts/Katie Kubert/Xander Jarowey [editorial]) are doing A+++ work. It’s incredible to see how well-realized these scenes are.

For the rest… well, you’ll find out next month.

3. Swamp Thing – we’re about to enter the Machine Queen arc, which will run through Issue 40. The first trade of my run (starting with Issue 19) is out now, and if you haven’t had a chance to check it out, I would love it if you did. If you’re a longtime reader, it’s probably closest in tone to my 27 series from Image, but more plant-y and less rock & roll-y. In this next arc, we’ll see our boy Alec Holland fighting a bunch of evil robots – and there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

4. Inhuman – Issue 3 came out week before last, and Issue 4 will be out tomorrow. Then two more in September, all with art from Ryan Stegman. I’m aware that we need to build a bit of momentum, but we’re all aware of that, which is why we’re making sure to put out a bunch of issues quickly. By the end of September, you’ll have gotten the same number of issues on the shelves as you would have if the books had hit monthly from April. Give it a spin – it’s a book that is designed in part to add cool new characters and scenarios to the Marvel U, which will become increasingly intertwined with big events as things go on. Plus, it’s just cool superhero action with a sort of “royal intrigue” theme, which isn’t something you can really get anywhere else in the MU at the moment.

5. Letter 44 – going strong. The first trade seems to be going gangbusters – get it here – and the second arc is almost completely drawn and will hit shelves monthly through December (Issue 13). I believe we’ll take our customary skip month and then come back swinging with Issue 14 in February 2015, with the second trade to follow not too long after that, probably March or April. Thank you for supporting this book – fun high-concept or not, creator-owned is always a risk. It’s looking like we’ll be completing the series as originally planned, around Issue 35, and that’s an amazing prospect for a comics writer – to know that I’ll actually get to end a series the way I want to is a rare thing.  Actually, I’ve been lucky with that – I got to end my Thunderbolts run as planned, S/WW is going out the way I want it to… could be worse.

6. She-Hulk – oh man, She-Hulk. I hear more about this series than almost any other. Again, sort of a risky, weird book considering the overall landscape, and I’m glad Marvel’s willing to put it out. I’m even more pleased you guys are reading it. The first trade hits in October, collecting issues 1-6. I just finished the end of Issues 8-10, which is the arc in which She-Hulk and Daredevil go up against each other in court. Man, that one was challenging, and I’m glad it’s done – but I can’t wait for you to read it, either.

7. Red Lanterns – moving into the big Godhead crossover with my fellow Lantern writers Rob Venditti, Van Jensen, Justin Jordan and Cullen Bunn – amazing Kirbyfied cosmic action, which will send Guy Gardner in a cool new direction. I’m also very proud of the Red Lanterns 5YL script, which sees Mr. Hothead as a blissed-out Blue Lantern. I love all those 5YLs, honestly. Swamp Thing is sort of a like a weird, creepy fairy tale, and as I mentioned, the WW- S/WW stories are a big two-part Elseworlds. Read ‘em all!

8. Other stuff – so much! I’m finishing work on my first video game script. I’ve got the post-Death of Wolverine stories (Logan Legacy and Weapon X Project, which link together as one 12-issue maxiseries sequel to DoW that will hit between October and November). Two very big new, unannounced series that will probably be discussed at NYCC. Fan Expo in Toronto this coming weekend, Baltimore the weekend after that, and then NYCC in October. Something else for the late spring (dream project for little-kid Charles). Some amazing stuff for summer and fall 2015, including two new creator-owned things with artists I adore.

Another very big, game-changing announcement (for me) will probably hit in the next week, at which point I’ll probably be doing another blog post… but that’s Next Week Charles’ problem.

 

Despite my best efforts – well, not my best efforts – those tend to go into the scripts – I haven’t updated here since April. Still, it was the end of April, so it could be worse.  And yet, it could be better, because this is just going to be one of those “here’s all the places I’ll be at this convention this weekend” posts, which will only be interesting to those of you who are going.

BUT IT IS A POST. IT IS CONTENT. I AM MANAGING MY BRAND.

Sort of.

Anyway, here we are, San Diego Comicon 2014. I expect this to be a pretty insane show all around – SDCC is always like being dropped into a giant blender filled with sharks that are also gummi sharks, so you want to eat them as much as they want to eat you. (Note – if that metaphor doesn’t completely work for you, it might be because you’ve never been to SDCC.)

It’ll be busy, especially with some high profile things like Death of Wolverine just around the corner, the release of the Letter 44 Volume 1 trade, and other exciting tidbits.  Here’s where you can find me over the course of the weekend:

Thursday, July 24

5:00-6:30 PM – Signing at the Oni Press booth. I’ll be signing Letter 44 Vol. 1, as well as the con exclusive variant cover of Issue 8 (which is gorgeous, see below):

 

LETTER44 #8 GABO VARIANT - 4x6 COMP WEBAs mentioned, the collection of the first arc will also be available, a week before it’s out on store shelves, as well as a con-exclusive Letter 44 “Mission Patch” that I believe comes free with purchase to everyone who gets a trade.

Letter-44-patchSo, get all of those.

Friday, July 24

11:15 – 12:15 – DC Champions of Justice panel, room 6DCE – just what it sounds like. Come see me dish on Red Lanterns, Swamp Thing, the September Future’s End event, and who knows what else! Lots of great DC folks on this panel – should be fun.

12:30 – 2 – Another signing at the Oni booth (see above).

3:00-4:00 – Signing at the Marvel booth.

Saturday, July 25

10:00 – 11:00 – the famous Writers Unite panel, hosted as always by the incredible Jim Zub, room 25ABC. This time, it’ll be Jim, me and Fred Van Lente (writer extraordinaire) sharing our tips and tricks about breaking into the business, writing in general, and other extremely useful bits and bobs. This is, I believe, something like the tenth time I’ve done this panel – and I do it because (a) it’s fun and (b) I think it’s some pretty good outreach. Breaking in is hard, and we need talented folks in the business. Come check it out!

11:15 – 12:30  – DC Superman panel, room 6DCE. Again, just what it sounds like. Superman! We’ll talk Doomed, Future’s End and beyond… I love Big Blue and so do you. You know you do.

2 – 3:30 PM – Signing at the Oni booth.

3:30 – 4:30 PM – the Nerdist Writers Panel over at Petco Park on the 6th Floor. I’ll be on the panel with some serious luminaries: Ben Edlund, Jill Thompson, Chris Roberson and Heath Corson. I’ll certainly be the least interesting person there – I’m probably looking forward to it more than you are.

Sunday, July 26

12:30 – 1:30 – Marvel Next Big Thing, room 6DCE. This will be all about the next big thing to come from Marvel. I do believe something fun will be announced here with respect to a certain soon-to-be-deceased Canadian X-man, so swing by.

2 – 3 – Signing at the DC Booth.

3 – 4 – DC Secret Origins panel, room 6DCE.

That’s the scheduled stuff. In between I’ll be all over the place, hopefully taking a few minutes here or there to relax a little – but honestly, this ain’t that kind of show. If you see me, come up and say hi!

 

 

I’m currently putting some finishing touches on the lettering pass for She-Hulk #1, out in just about a month from Marvel Comics.  Some amazing pages have been released online already, so I do not feel bad re-releasing them here. Here you go  – pages 2-6 from She-Hulk #1, with pencils/inks from Javier Pulido and colors from Muntsa Vicente.

she-hulk1-1-625x948 she-hulk1-2-625x948 she-hulk1-3-625x948 she-hulk1-4-625x948 she-hulk1-5-625x948I love Javier’s storytelling. It’s just fantastic. Everything you need to know is right there. It’s not the photorealistic superhero art you sometimes see (hell, you often see), and I think that’s its strength.  The art here perfectly fits the story I’m telling, and Javier is just a killer asset. I’m so happy to be working with him (and Muntsa, who really gives this stuff the pop sensibility it needs.) I’ve been saying all along that She-Hulk is a fun book, and now hopefully you’ll start to get the idea.

Now, to post up something that hasn’t been released online yet – an unused script page from this issue. I’m not going to say where it would have appeared (other than to say that it clearly wasn’t within pages 2-6). This doesn’t really spoil anything – it’s just a fun little look at the tone of the story, and a quick snapshot of the way I script. Hope you enjoy!

SH1 Unused PageReally looking forward to reactions next month – Issue 1 hits February 12! Feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter, as always!

I’m getting one question more than any other these days – whether it’s phrased as a comment (e.g. “I don’t know how you…”) or a straight up query (“How do you…”), people want to know how I’m managing my workload. I’m way overdue for a post here in any case, and it seems like this will be a good opportunity to talk about the projects I have happening right now as well as reflect a bit on the insane year that has been 2013. So, this, then, is…

…HOW I DO IT.

I am currently writing seven monthly titles – Superman / Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns for DC; Thunderbolts, She-Hulk and Inhuman for Marvel; and a creator-owned title called Letter 44 from Oni Press (read the entire first issue for free here!) That essentially means I’m generating 140 pages of script per month, every month.  My pagecount for 2013 is 1116. If I stay on this path, my pagecount for 2014 will be something like 1680. Every script that gets turned in also (usually) requires at least one rewrite to incorporate editorial notes (those are thankfully pretty quick, most of the time), art review and then a lettering pass, all of which have their own deadlines. There’s also a PR component, represented by interviews, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, convention appearances and store signings.

In addition, I’m running a law practice – it’s small, but that doesn’t really matter as far as workload. (Small aside, for years, while I was breaking in, I never mentioned the day job. I was concerned about negative associations with that profession, and intimations that it was somehow easier for me than it might be for others who didn’t have massive student loans and 80-hour work weeks to contend with… seems silly in retrospect.)

There are other things I do that take up time as well, but I don’t know that you actually need my minute-to-minute itinerary.  Suffice it to say that my ass is BOOKED UP.

It is extremely important to me that the work doesn’t suffer in quality because of obligations towards quantity. That’s obviously very important on the creative side, but also professionally crucial on the law side. I’ve always had to handle significant workloads, ever since graduating from law school, but these days it’s on an entirely different level. Here are a few strategies I use to hold things together and make sure the books remain entertaining and deadlines get hit:

1. Decide. This is ultimately the most important point. I considered this path carefully, and I have decided that I can handle it, and I will do what is required to make the preceding clause true. We all have much more time and focus than we think we do. We’re capable of amazing things. We just have to decide to do them.

2. Organize. I make lists constantly. I have a to-do list that appears in several different places (phone, email, whiteboard, desktop), which I update as new obligations hit my desk. (The idea being that I’m constantly being confronted with reminders of the next set of tasks on my plate). I have a stack of different-colored moleskines, each assigned to a different title, so I can quickly grab whichever book I need and all of the notes remain in one place moving forward. Everyone will have their own system, but I think that it is crucial to have a system. I have a good memory, but if I can offload mental processing power that I would otherwise use trying to remember what I have to do next, or what I’ve already done, so much the better.

3. Recognize. The world is constantly vying for your attention. That’s the entire purpose of the adspace that invades our consciousness during almost every waking moment. Try to eliminate distractions, to the extent possible – shut off your internet and phone when you’re working, write longhand first drafts, all of that. Beyond involuntary timesucks, there are the ones we choose – video games/TV/Netflix, screwing around online, getting hammered or high, just generally bumming around. “Wait,” you’re thinking, “that shit is what some would call fun.” Yup. I haven’t cut out the good times, but see (1) – I try to restrict that stuff to what I need, instead of what I want. This is where I might lose people, but it’s one of the most honest answers to the “how I do it” question. I do it by deciding that I want to do the truly important stuff well instead of spending time on stuff that, ultimately, doesn’t matter.

4. Say No. I turn down things all the time. You might not think so, based on the workload, but I do. I just said no to a gigantic project, because I didn’t think I could do that without compromising some of the other work I’m doing. I turn down(some) interview requests, store appearances, convention appearances, social stuff, even clients – this goes back to (3) – I know what I want to achieve, and if I can’t draw a relatively straight line between [x] (a potential obligation) and [y] (a goal), then I just say no. Hmm. It’s possible that I’m coming across as a bit psychotic, but it’s not really that bad – I love doing the work, otherwise I wouldn’t be so focused on trying to do it well.

5. Run. I’ve learned that, despite points 2-4 above apparently being concerned solely with locking my life down as tightly as possible and micro-managing the hell out of every second of every day, that’s not great for mental health or creativity. So, I put myself in situations where my brain can just do its thing, away from the lists and schedules and rigor. I run every other day, usually for about an hour. I often set myself a question at the beginning of a run (what will Red Lanterns 30 be about? How should the final battle between Swampy and Seeder play out?) and then by the end of it, I often have my answer. It’s not a conscious thing – it’s about letting my mind just work, and the exercise tends to let that happen. I don’t know what the equivalent would be for others, but this is a crucial part for me – without it, I’d have cracked in half a long time ago. Plus, it’s, you know, healthy.

6. Pre-Write. I don’t often sit down to write without having a pretty solid idea of what’s going to happen on each page of a script. I do this by outlining issues in several phases ahead of time – usually in those multicolored moleskines I mentioned above. My first pass is just a general splorch of every idea or plot point that I think might fit in the issue. That isn’t always done all at once – it can happen over several days, as I have new ideas. That gets refined into a second pass that starts to look like an actual story outline – it’s a list of the plot points that need to be in the issue. Then that turns into a page breakdown, where I say that pages 1-3 will cover scene X, with points A-D covered, and sample dialogue. From there, I script. So, I’m almost never sitting and staring at a blank page. If nothing else, I can type in the page breakdowns to the script, so I have, say, 50% of the finished product that I can shape if I have to. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you don’t have all of your good ideas at once. Your subconscious needs time to work on a story, to build on existing ideas, and getting your first version of those ideas down (somewhere, anywhere) frees up your mind to find the next iteration of those thoughts.

7. Sit Down and Don’t Stand Up. When it’s time to script, sit down and don’t stand up until it’s done. I usually write a full script in a day, most often in 3-5 hours. I often go somewhere that isn’t my usual environment, like one of several local coffee shops or bars (bars, I find, are better for pre-writing, while coffee shops are better for scripting, but each to their own), but your mileage may vary.  The point is that I try to put myself in a situation where I can just do that – turn off phone, turn off internet, etc. (see (3).) This one might not work for everyone – some people write in chunks and it works just fine – but this post isn’t about how they do it, it’s about how I do it.

8. Decide. Seemed important enough to put it on the list twice.

So there you have it. More or less, how I do it.  I expect that this will evolve – I don’t know that I’ll always be writing seven monthly titles – I’m doing it now because I don’t want to drop off books that I don’t feel like I’ve “finished,” or where I might be letting people down if I did. However, several of the books I’m writing do have planned endpoints (for me, not necessarily for the books), and so I think I’ll move along to new projects here and there in time. Seven is a lot. I’m not pretending it’s not.

Now that you’ve slogged through all of that, here are a few more general thoughts on the books I’m working on, in no particular order:

1. Superman / Wonder Woman – This project made me nervous, initially, but that’s one of the reasons I knew I should do it. I also really wanted to write Superman and Wonder Woman, and the idea of getting to explore emotional beats with them that might not otherwise be available was a huge attraction as well. The reception has been fantastic, better than I could have hoped – I’ve heard from a lot of people who thought they’d hate it, but have been won over, and that’s one of the best things a writer can hear.  Tony Daniel is doing some of the best work of his career (in my opinion), and I am incredibly excited with the way the first arc (which runs through #6) wraps up. I’d never really done gigantic-scale superhero action before this series, but I think it will read as epic and very emotionally satisfying. I hope!

2. Inhuman – I’m applying many of the lessons I learned on S/WW to this series. Epic scope with many strong character beats. The great thing about this series is that it’s not going to feel like anything else Marvel’s doing, and it’s going to be able to utilize surprise in a cool way because so much of it is new. Plus, of course, Joe Mad – I’m so lucky to be working with the artists I’m working with these days. Speaking of that…

3. She-Hulk – …Javier Pulido.  The man is brilliant. If you missed it, Axel Alonso tweeted a few pages from She-Hulk #2 that will explain what I’m talking about. In the script, that’s just a page of two folks chatting, but Mr. Pulido brings it to life like nobody’s business.  And if he can do that with a conversation page, wait until you see the action stuff. She-Hulk is an incredibly fun, funny series, and I’m really looking forward to it showing up on the shelf in six weeks or so.

4. Letter 44 – this is my first creator-owned project since Strange Attractors, and I could not have asked for a better reception. The first issue sold out, the numbers are very healthy on subsequent issues, and fingers crossed, we’ll get to tell the whole story as planned.  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, and you enjoy any of my other books or cool real-world sci-fi in general, I urge you to click on the link to the first issue above. It’s about a Presidential conspiracy to cover up a manned mission to the asteroid belt to meet aliens who have set up residence there, and it should appeal to fans of anything and everything.

5. Red LanternsGuy Gardner now has a ‘stache! DC has been incredibly cool about letting me turn this book into a revenge saga based around sort of a space biker gang.  People seem to dig it, and we’re really just getting rolling.  The pieces will start to fit together soon, and you’ll be able to see where I’ve been heading since my first issue (#21). There’s a definite plan in mind here, and it’s going to be big.

6. Thunderbolts – man, this book is fun. I love the lineup, and I love being able to write stories in essentially any tone. You want grim, write about Punisher. You want tragic, write about Red Hulk or Venom. You want idiotic, write about Deadpool. I can do ANYTHING!!! There’s an upcoming arc written with sort of an Indiana Jones-esque feel to it, to which I say “Yay comics!”

7. Swamp Thing – my first book in the Big 2, and where I think I’m doing some of the most creative work of my career so far. Swamp Thing has always been a book about risk-taking, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s followed me on the Avatar’s journey after Scott Snyder stepped away with Issue 18. Swamp Thing has made a bunch of 2013 best of lists, which is hugely due to the incredible work of artists Jesus Saiz, Kano and Javier Pina and the colors from Matt Wilson. Just stunning work. There are amazing things on the way in Swamp Thing in 2014 – we’re just going to grow from here.

Beyond those projects, I also have some new creator-owned stuff I’m working on, including sort of a jam project, as well as an epic I’ve been working on for years, and more. It’s truly astonishing to me to think about where I was just a year ago (no Big 2 work announced, although I had the Swamp Thing job by then) and where I am now. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to read, review or talk about my work in 2013, and I’m looking forward to great things in 2014. Happy New Year!

Wow, this has been a week and a half. Superman / Wonder Woman #1 hit last Wednesday, then we had New York Comicon, and today, the first issue of my new creator-owned series Letter 44 is hitting the shelves, published by Oni Press.

The book is a science fiction series about a newly-elected President (sort of an Obama-analogue) who discovers that the previous Prez (sort of a Bush) covered up the discovery of an alien construction project in the asteroid during his term. Now it’s the new guy’s job to deal with it, as well as take care of a crew of astronauts sent up to investigate three years before. Something like 24 meets 2001.

Here’s the cover:

Image

and here’s the cover for the super cool variant edition:

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The incredible art on the series is by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, a FANTASTIC talent and wonderful guy whom I had the pleasure of hanging out with all weekend at NYCC. Colors are by Guy Major, and letters are by Shawn DePasquale, with editing by Jill Beaton at Oni.

I actually did a fun post a little while ago about this project, back when it was in its earliest stages. Now that the book’s out, you might enjoy putting together some of the dots.  Advance reaction has been very strong, with Bleeding Cool calling it the next Saga (I don’t know about that, but hey, why not?), and strong orders. The first issue is priced at only a buck, and a bunch of awesome retailers have been getting behind it in a big way (shout-outs to Larry’s Comics, A Comic Shop, Double Midnight, Friendly Comics, Third Eye, ACME and so many others that have been helping to push the book.) If you don’t have a shop near you that’s carrying the book, you can order it directly from Oni here, or you can get a digital version for your i-readers and e-pads and whatnot here.

The series will hit monthly – I’m so happy that it’s finally in the world, and I hope you’ll give it a spin. Go Space!

We’re coming up on New York Comicon, the very first New York Comicon since New York Comicon happened last year.  Much has changed for me since the last New York Comicon last year. (I’m just going to keep typing New York Comicon as many times as I can.)

At NYCC (couldn’t do it) last year, I was a guy a few of you had heard of, but most of you hadn’t.  I had a well-received Image series called 27 in 2010-2011, and prior to that I had a book come out through SLG called Strongman.  While I had deals for two other creator-owned projects (Strange Attractors and Letter 44), neither had arrived yet.  I knew a lot of creators (which remains one of the best things about being a comic book guy, and I suspect always will be), but I didn’t have much of a foothold in the mainstream comics world.  That was fine.  I figured Strange Attractors and Letter 44 would come out, and maybe the next thing after that, and maybe by then my profile would be high enough that I would start having conversations about Big 2 work.  No rush.

And then I was introduced to a DC editor who asked me to pitch on Swamp Thing.  I ended up getting that job – it all locked into place around the beginning of December last year.  Still, it feels to me like NYCC 2012 was where what I’ve been calling the “crazy year” started.  As of the announcement yesterday that I’ll be working on a relaunch of She-Hulk for Marvel with the incredibly talented Javier Pulido, I have six ongoing titles, five with the Big 2 and one creator-owned. SIX.  I say that not in a “holy shit, look how awesome I am” sort of way but more of a “holy shit what is happening???” way.  They are, listed in the order I began to work on them:

Letter 44 (Oni)

Swamp Thing (DC)

Red Lanterns (DC)

Thunderbolts (Marvel)

Superman / Wonder Woman (DC)

She-Hulk (Marvel)

That is a wide spread of material. Realistic sci-fi/political thriller; supernatural weirdness with strong horror overtones; aggressive space opera; street-level antihero super gang; superhero epic with a romantically involved lead couple; and a superhero legal drama.

None of those are like any of the others, and that is, frankly, one of the only reasons I am able to handle this workload. My Red Lanterns mindset doesn’t take up the same headspace as my Superman / Wonder Woman mindset. So, ideas don’t really bleed across books, and I can snap myself into whichever one I need to focus on at the time.  I’ve also become a pretty lean, clean, writing machine. Not a lot of fat in my schedule right now.  Part of that is, of course, my increasingly-mentioned day job, which I discuss in more detail here.  In the abstract, it might sound a little intense and focused and miserable, but in truth it is only the first two things.  Who wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible doing something they love?

It all seemed to happen very organically.  I could draw you a road map on the way one gig led to the next, which you might find a little bit surprising.  I can tell you that there’s a LOT that goes on behind the scenes that never gets out there, which is as it should be.  Still, the tricks to doing well in mainstream comics seem to be the same as doing well in life in general – be cool, do your best, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, and help people out when you can.

Another tip – work with great people. The artists, editors, colorists, letterers I get to work with… holy goddamn.  They are magicians, and yet they are mostly humble about their incredible powers. It’s awe-inspiring.

Now I find myself in a strange position.  I have the storytelling platform I have always wanted.  It’s not necessarily about going higher for me right now. It’s about going deeper.  Seeing if I can get better, seeing if I can find new angles.  Navigating the weird waters of having a wide audience – especially one that feels very free to comment on my work to me directly (follow me on Twitter!) Figuring out how much of myself to put out in the world (or in the stories), and how much to hold back (you don’t get to have everything!!)  Thinking about things like the creative impulse, and where it comes from, and how in the world to sustain high-level work over a career.  Thinking about the next round of stories I want to tell.

Strange Attractors came out in May, Letter 44 hits next month (and people seem pretty excited about it, which is awesome), and so I’ve been thinking a lot about the next stories of my own I’d like to tell.  Here’s what I’m mulling over right now:

–A battle of wits

–A common cause

–A story in the water, that will be very hard to draw

–The circus

–A terrifying Thanksgiving

Who knows if any of that will come together, but it’s nice to think that it could.

So that’s where things are these days. Amazing what a year can do. My next post will be all about New York Comicon (got one more New York Comicon in after all – no, two!), which is just a few weeks away.  See you there!

 

 

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