August 2011

Writing a novel is the marathon to the comic script’s 100-yard dash.  Actually, that metaphor’s not completely accurate – let’s say a comic is more like running a 5K.  I’ve written two novels – a historical fantasy set in 400 AD China called The Land of Ten Thousand Things, and a sort of genre thriller set in present day NYC entitled The Oracle Year.  Both were written before I dove into comics writing in a serious way, and both sit on my hard drive, not doing anyone a bit of good (although I did learn an enormous amount from both projects.)

Back at C2E2 in Chicago this past year, a friend suggested that I chat with another author, David Liss.  David is a writer of historical fiction himself, with several novels under his belt.  He also writes comics, with a growing list of titles for Marvel, including Mystery Men and the latest Black Panther book.  David and I hit it off a bit – he checked out 27, I checked out his work, and he was kind enough to send me a copy of his novel The Whiskey Rebels.  I jumped into it a few days ago, and holy crap is it good.  It has that sheen of detail that only comes from extensive research, and the characters are believably flawed, very human and immensely likable (or despicable, depending on which side of the bad guy/good guy divide they fall on).  I’m not quite finished – in fact, I’m only a third of the way through, but reading David’s book has reminded me of how much fun I had writing my own novels, especially The Land of Ten Thousand Things.

LoTTT was my somewhat naive attempt to do something extraordinarily difficult: write a historical novel set in a remote culture and a remote time period.  It’s the old cliche that if I had known how hard or time-consuming it would be before I started I probably wouldn’t have begun.  It didn’t entirely come from nowhere, however – I lived in Asia for a while growing up, and I studied Chinese language and culture in college.  So, I had the background to make something not entirely inauthentic, although I can’t remember the last time I researched something so intensely.  When I was deep into the first and second drafts of the novel, I could have told you details about ancient China that… well, truthfully, they probably would have made your eyes glaze over.  I, however, loved all of that.

This particular novel had an interesting life cycle, although at the time I probably would have used the word “tortuous.”  It came within a whisker of being published, but didn’t quite get there.  The last draft I have on my hard drive is dated September 11, 2004, though, and I’m thinking that after seven years, perhaps it’s time to take another look at LoTTT and see if something might be done with it.  I know many more people in the industry than I did a decade ago, and perhaps the market has become more receptive to this sort of book.  I think the biggest thing holding me up is that I would have to actually read the manuscript again.  I’m halfway convinced that reading what I thought was good in my 20s is going to make me cringe today.  Still, that’s probably just a chance to revise.

If I do decide to give it a polish and take it out again, I may go the traditional route, or perhaps just self-publish it for nook and Kindle and see what happens.  After all, I certainly know artists who could put together a gorgeous cover for me… mainly, it just seems silly to have something that complete, that took around four years to create, doing nothing.

Maybe next time we’ll talk about the other book, or the screenplays, or the fully-written comics projects I’m sitting on in the hopes my profile will grow enough to get them made one way or the other.  Still, I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth – I’m lucky to be in the position where I have hopes that they might actually see the light of day someday, after all.


Here’s some news:

I just saw the finished cover to 27: Second Set #4 last night, and it’s fantastic.  I think my favorite of this batch is the cover for #2, but they’re all really good.

Renzo Podesta has finished issues 1 and 2 of Second Set, and is hard at work on Issue 3.  So far, he’s taking his work to an entirely new level – it’s the best stuff I’ve ever seen from him (and I’ve seen a lot.)

The 27 trade is available everywhere, and apparently doing well.  If you haven’t picked it up, there’s a link to the right where you can grab it off Amazon.  The Amy Winehouse thing gave it a real boost (and that last post about her death has gotten far and away the most traffic any of my posts has ever seen), which I feel weird about.

The Strongman series saw some very interesting developments at SDCC and in the weeks following.  I don’t want to be purposely vague, but hopefully I’ll be able to report some fantastic news about that soon.

The full creative team for Strange Attractors has finally been assembled and is hard at work.  I’ve seen some early pages and I’m very, very happy with how that project is going.  I’m holding off on saying too much about it, but this is a story I’ve had under my belt for a long, long time, and to see it slowly coming to life after several false starts is really something.

Remember that long post I put up a while back about a project I’ve had in development since January?  You know, this one?  Well, that deserves another chapter.  Basically, various great artists have shuffled on and off the project, and now, finally, hopefully, I might be able to get that one out into the light of day soon.  Putting together a new project is never easy, and this one’s been harder than most.

I’ve been traveling a bit – SDCC, obviously, as well as a relaxing week in Canada.  I’m headed up to Fan Expo in Toronto in a few weeks, where I’ll be signing and hanging out all weekend.  I’ll be on the Image panel on Saturday afternoon as well, so if you’re going to be there, try to say hello.  I’ll be looking for you.

Other biggest thing recently was that my little band played a show opening for one of my current favorite bands, Dawes.  It’s the highest-profile thing we’ve done in a while, and I was stone-cold nervous about it, in a way I haven’t been for a show in a while.  Practiced so much my hands felt weirdly arthritic the day before the show, but then once we got onstage (after playing a completely separate three-hour party gig, natch), it all went really well.  I’d like to be able to post some MP3s from the performance, but I totally boned up the recording, so now it will just have to live in my memory and the somewhat crappy-sounding videos I put up on my Facebook page.  The main thing that came from the show is a burning desire to get back in the studio, whether that’s my home studio or an actual real-deal recording studio.  I’ve got an album’s worth of solid material that I’d like to lay down with a full band.  That, however, is mondo expensive, particularly when I have comics to make.  I should do more, though.

Golly. I think that’s about it for now.  I have other things I could say about the state of the world today – London riots, looming double-dip recession, larger-scale problems we don’t seem to be doing much to be solving – but this isn’t really that kind of blog.

Until next time, then.