April 2011

I have a project being nursed along to birth right now, and I thought it might be interesting to track the little thing’s gestation period.  Here’s the timeline:

January 1 – I was away for New Year’s, and the basic idea for the story popped into my head, fully formed.  This happens to me from time to time, and it’s often with the stronger concepts.  I was in Cape May, New Jersey, staying at Congress Hall (gorgeous, old-school place, if you aren’t familiar.)  I let the idea sit for about ten minutes, then gave the bare bones outline to the first person who typically hears most of my ideas.  She dug it a lot, which I figured was a good sign, since it wasn’t her usual kind of story.  If it could win her over, then there was a good chance I had something solid on my hands.

Between New Year’s and the first con of the year (Emerald City in Seattle, the first weekend of March), I didn’t do much with the idea, although I did think about it from time to time.  It didn’t disappear, which again, was a good sign.  It kept popping up in my head at odd moments.  (I was pretty busy with 27 and Strongman 2 in this period, too.)

March 3 – I often use plane flights to do some writing.  I had some work to do on another project, but I grabbed about half an hour on the flight to Seattle to jot down some thoughts and potential plotlines in this little Moleskine notebook I have (it’s the one a little bigger than a deck of cards, with ruled pages.)  I am almost never without that Moleskine, and it’s generally the first place my ideas see print outside my head.

March 5 – I had dinner with Allen Gladfelter, the artist for the Strongman series.  We had been trying to figure out a series to work on after Strongman, and I had an idea for something I thought he’d be good for.  So, we started talking about that, just throwing ideas back and forth.  I still think he’d be great for that first idea, but I have since found out that the idea I was planning had already been done, almost exactly the way I planned to do it, at the very company I planned to pitch to.  Nice.  (By the way, I found that out when the writer of that series told me about it in Chicago at C2E2, just in the course of telling me about his work.  I’m glad it happened, though, because it saved me a lot of work and heartache, and now I can reconfigure the bones of the idea into something else.  Plus, it’s an all-ages series, and those are tough these days.  Anyway!)

While at that dinner, I also told Allen about this other project, the one I’m tracking in this post.  Allen thought it sounded awesome, but he wasn’t sure his style was appropriate for it.  I let that go – I don’t like forcing artists into contortions they aren’t comfortable with – and we kept talking about the other idea.

March 6 – I told my little brother about the idea (he lives in Seattle) and got an ooooh from him – another good sign, and I decided that the moment had arrived to put in some serious time fleshing the story out.  For the next few weeks, that’s what I did (mostly in my head and in the Moleskine.)

March 17 – Allen emails me, mainly with respect to Strongman, but at the end, he asks if he can be the artist on the new story after all.  He can’t get the idea out of his head (that’s a GREAT sign, because he’s seen everything in this particular genre, and if he likes it…)

March 18-20 – C2E2, Chicago.  I semi-pitch the idea to a great company I have wanted to work with for years.  Their reaction – very positive.  “Get me something to look at as soon as you can.”  Of course, this presents a problem, because although I have an artist and several pages of notes I’m pretty happy with, that’s all I’ve got.

March 22 – I had a great, fruitful online chat with Allen that helped to push things forward.  We talked about the look of the main character and some other important story elements, and Allen said he’d get to sketching.

March 23 – Allen gets me the first sketches from the story.  Some we kept, some we’re fiddling with, but this is the first time I saw anything from the story in “real life.”

March 29 – I wrote the synopsis for the story, which will form the basis for the written pitch and serve as a loose outline for where the story will go.  Over the next several weeks, I fiddled with this synopsis/outline in various places, dialing the characters in, figuring out where the issue break points would be, the cliffhangers, etc.  Allen and I talked a few more times, I told a few additional people I trusted about the idea (including a fellow Image writer who had some fantastic suggestions for research.)

April 22 – The pitch script was written in longhand in a larger Moleskine (I write the first draft of most of my scripts these days in Moleskines, each dedicated to a specific project.  This pitch script is only seven pages long, so I stuck it in the back of the Moleskine I’m using to write 27: Second Set.)

April 23 – The pitch script was typed up, which allowed me to make some edits, and then emailed off to Allen.  I haven’t heard back from him yet, so it’s probably terrible, but at least I’m getting things out the door.  My guess, though, is that he was just busy over the holiday, and I’ll hear from him soon.

April 24-25 – I spent a night and a morning in Washington, DC, a location that figures heavily in the story.  I’m not going to say more than that at this point, but I’m very glad I got a chance to spend that time.  There’s no substitute for being in the place where the story takes place.  Crucial, actually.

My next step will be to refine the written pitch into something I can send to editors.  Hopefully I’ll just have to do that once, but I’m not kidding myself.  I’d like to have the whole thing done and ready to go by HeroesCon the first weekend of June.  That’s the goal, anyway.

So that’s how it’s worked out – from conception to near-birth, how an idea came to be.  I think the main thing I notice from typing out that chronology is that I kept testing the idea – giving it in its various forms to people I trust to gauge their reaction, spinning new ideas into the story depending on what seemed to work and the new concepts I developed.  I think that’s the way it works for me.  I like telling stories – out loud, with my voice.  It’s a good way to figure out how to pitch a story, for one thing, and I just like it.

Anyway, hopefully more on all of this soon.  I need to do another art post soon (instead of all these damn WORDS, am I right?)  I have some new Strongman guest-artist sketches, as well as a bunch of artwork from a book of fairy tales I’ve been secretly working on for about a year.  I don’t know what I’m going to do with that, maybe nothing, but the art’s pretty and deserves to be seen.


This is going to be one of those scattershot postings done because I feel like it’s time to post something on the blog rather than any particular impetus.  So, buckle in, folks, and prepare yourselves for a number of small updates on various subjects!

The biggest of the smallest is the release of the cover for the 27 trade, which will be available in stores this June.  The book just hit Previews (the monthly catalog listing everything coming out, used by shop owners to decide what they’re going to stock).  If you’re someone who preorders (tells your shop in advance that you want something), you’ll need what’s called the “Previews code,” which is APR110417.  Here’s the solicitation text: “The dark mysteries of rock and roll royalty’s ’27 Club’ are revealed in this collection of the hit series. All the twists, all the action, all the weirdness, in one beautiful package! Full of extras, including an all-new 12-page backup story, it’s the most exciting thing to hit since the Beatles at Budokan!”  Even better, though, here’s the truly amazing cover, once again by Scott Forbes:

Gorgeous cover for the 27 TPB, by Scott Forbes.

The thing that strikes me about that cover is that it’s going to become the image associated with First Set going forward – each of the individual “homage” covers, even that killer cover for Issue 1 (my favorite) are going to sort of fade in the public’s mind.  Unless there’s some sort of omnibus collection at some point, or perhaps a reprint, that is what people are going to see when they think of 27.  (That, of course, makes the pretty large assumption that people will be thinking about it at all – but you can’t go into these things with a negative attitude.)  I wanted something incredibly striking, that would sum up the book’s themes perfectly, and I think this nails it.  Rock star striking a pose while his stage burns down around him?  Bingo.  I’m very happy with the way the trade’s coming together, and I think people will like it.

Other news – Second Set is coming along well, although I’m a little surprised myself at where it’s going.  One thing that’s been interesting to me has been talking to people at conventions who enjoyed First Set (and believe me, that’s been fantastic).  They seem to have taken some things from the book I wasn’t necessarily expecting, and it’s made me adjust my approach to Second Set.  Only slightly, though, and mostly I’m talking about slight adjustments to character beats here and there – the book will be what I planned it to be from the beginning.

Strongman 2: Oaxaca Tapout is all but complete.  Here’s the exact status, as of this morning: all 148 pages have been penciled, and 129 of those have been inked.  119 have been lettered.  Cover is complete (and has been for a while).  I expect the entire book to be finished, top to bottom, within the next two to three weeks.  Based on the publishing schedule for SLG, the current release date is slated for early August.  It’s not coming out as soon as I would have liked, but I am thrilled with the way it all came together, and I just can’t wait for people to have it in their hands to read.  It’s crucial that you preorder this one, so if you haven’t yet, please click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph and give it a go! And if you only know my stuff from 27, the Strongman series is a set of action/crime OGNs revolving around the adventures of an over-the-hill, 65-year-old luchador (masked Mexican wrestler).  It reads like Sin City, but uplifting.

I’ve seen the first pencils from the unannounced OGN, currently scheduled for release in June 2012.  I think it’s going to be very strong, but there’s not much to say about it other than it’s in progress, and I’ll tell you more about it as soon as I can.

The other fun news is that a Strongman movie might be bubbling up again.  As longtime readers know, a script has been in existence for a Strongman movie for years, which I pull out and tinker with from time to time.  I try never to get too excited about things happening on that front (read Brian Michael Bendis’ Fortune and Glory for a great distillation of why pinning your happiness to Hollywood dreams is a fool’s game), but still, it would be nice if it happened.  This week, there was some interest from someone “real,” who could actually get it done, if they chose to.  Like I said, it’s still incredibly unlikely, but on the other hand, it’s closer than it’s ever been, and I have to admit, I’d love to see Tigre clomping his way across the silver screen someday (even it would be more likely that he would first clomp across a TV screen after going straight to DVD.  I’d take it.)

What else… I had a great time in Chicago at C2E2, although I really think I spent too much time chasing editors and other meetings and not enough at my table.  I did fine, but all the running around turned the con into more stress than fun.  Emerald City was much more relaxing.  Still, Chicago gave me a chance to run into some of the great creators I’ve become friendly with, talk to fans of my work, meet new people, and enjoy Chicago a bit (including, particularly, late-night ribs at the Twin Anchors with two of my favorite people in the world, Gari and Jack.  If you’re ever in Chicago, don’t miss that place.  Fabulous.)

MoCCA in about a week, here in NYC.  I’m looking forward to a con I can just take a subway to.  I’ll be hanging out with my Strongman 2 inker and good buddy Robert Saywitz – if you’re there, stop by and say hello!