October 2011

Ahh, here we are – Halloween!  I’m looking forward to a fun evening with something from my horror DVD library tonight.  Last year it was Carpenter’s “The Thing,” and the year before that a double feature of the two “Dawn of the Dead” films, both of which really hold up, I think.  I haven’t decided on this year’s entry yet, although I am greatly enjoying “American Horror Story” on FX, so maybe I’ll check out the latest episode and follow it up with a film.  My Brooklyn neighborhood does a big thing for this holiday – they decorate a bunch of buildings, and one house puts on an elaborate pageant with singing, dancing, the whole bit.  I’ll make a point of checking that out as well.

But hearing about my Halloween plans is not why you’re here, I’ll wager – and if you are, come on.  There are better ways to get in touch with me.  No, you’re here to check out the second Halloween short story.  I hope you read “Windows” in yesterday’s post – and if not, scroll down.  That’s the appetizer, and today’s story, “The Water Children,” is the main course.

I wrote this story back in 2006, again for a horror anthology that never quite seemed to appear.  So, that makes this the first time this story has ever been “published” in any real way.  The art this time is from Allen Gladfelter, who draws my Strongman series.  He did it during a break from drawing the first volume of Strongman.

The story is about a tradition in Japan that revolves around “water babies” – spirits of children who were aborted or otherwise did not make it to full term.  Mothers of these children sometimes create little shrines to their unborn children, and visit them on what would have been their birthdays, leaving them little gifts of candy or small toys.  This is done in part because the spirits of these children are believed to inhabit a sort of grey purgatory, neither here nor there, and the gifts and so on are left to comfort them.

In “The Water Children,” you have a woman in this situation, who is desperate to find a way to bring her child back from this place to live with her.  She tracks down a witch who says she can make it happen, and… you’ll see.  I’m very happy with this story.  The art is wonderfully clean and detailed, and I think it manages to be spooky as a comic, which is sometimes hard to pull off.

Anyway, enjoy, and let me know what you think!  Click on the first page, below, to get the whole story:

Click to read all of "The Water Children" by Charles Soule and Allen Gladfelter!


Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, although more for the weeks leading up to October 31 than the day itself.  Used to be different when I was an active trick-or-treater, but I stopped that like two years ago.  You wouldn’t believe how snooty people can get when a guy in his 30s rings their doorbell and asks for candy.  I mean, come on – get in the spirit of the holiday, people!

Anyway, I like that cable is full of month long “Screamfests,” I like that the world seems to be celebrating creepiness, and weird unseasonal snowstorms notwithstanding, October is a gorgeous month in New York City.

To chip in just a little bit to the spoooky vibe, I’ve decided to post two short comic stories I did for anthologies that were never released.  (That, by the way, is a very common thing in comics-land.  Anthology projects are pretty common whenever you have groups of comics creators who might have resources and time to each do a 5-page story, but not a full issue or pitch.  Most of the ones I was involved with fell apart at the publishing stage, but I still think it was a very worthwhile use of my time.  These early stories taught me a lot about scripting for length, keeping things tight, and understanding how to make something work on a page.)  I’ll post one today and one tomorrow.

The first story, “Windows,” is a 6-pager that I worked on with one of my favorite artists, John Rubio.  Rubio is based in Texas, and I think he could be huge in comics, if a project ever came along that he wanted to jump into with both feet.  Right now, he mostly works in illustration and graphic design (in fact, he did the logos for 27 and Strongman).  I was very lucky to get him for this story, as you’ll see.  Incredibly clean art, expressive characters, the whole bit.  Just amazing.  Let’s hope something grabs him one day and we get to see something longer.

“Windows” was my effort at writing a story set in one of the most terrifying locations I could think of: a skyscraper window-washing platform.  The guys who work those are stuck hundreds of feet in the air, exposed to the elements – that’s scary enough.  However, I decided to up the ante a little and add in a little goblin-like creature snapping the platform’s cables one by one.  I don’t think my scripting is perfect here, and I wouldn’t mind adding a few sound effects just to clarify things a bit, but considering that it was the first comic script I ever had drawn, I’m good with it.  Unless you’re one of the few folks who picked up one of the very limited edition short story collections I’ve sold at cons from time to time, this will be totally new to you.

So, enjoy, settle in, and prepare to be mildly unsettled by… WINDOWS:

Click to read the whole story!

27 Second Set #2 hits stands today.  The story starts to take a pretty cool turn in this issue, as we learn more about the main antagonist of the arc – the one-hit-wonder turned witch Valerie Hayes.  For more background on Valerie, check out the writeup at http://onehitwonderz.wordpress.com.

Also, there’s a free preview of the first five pages of the issue here: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=10218.  The cover looks like this:

Awesome, no?  It’s a tribute/homage to yet another one-hit wonder from Scott Forbes… this time it’s the cover to the Buggles record The Age of Plastic, which included their biggest, and probably only hit “Video Killed the Radio Star.”

If you want to pick up either #1 or #2 of Second Set, or any of my comics, for that matter, here’s a great link to get that done.  If you prefer to get your comics digitally, Comixology has just about everything, and should have SS #2 up very soon.

As I mentioned in my last post, I just delivered the last pages for the final issue of this arc, which I’m very excited about.  This one goes out with a bang.

Last Friday, I was asked to run a Q&A on Reddit’s comicbooks thread. As of this post, it has 126 comments, which include people’s questions as well as my answers. I got a bit more detailed in my responses than I expected, which meant that the middle of last Friday was taken up with an awful lot of typing.

However, the questions seemed to focus primarily on breaking into comics, process and so on, and I think it provided a bunch of pretty useful advice. So much so that I thought it would make sense to post the link here, so people can find the thread after the fact. What I should REALLY do is pull out some of the questions and answers and repost them here, and I may do that, but for now you’ll have to check out the thread.

In other news, I just sent off the pages for 27 Second Set #4 to the publisher – so, that’s one more book done and out the door. I made a weird choice on the last page of this issue, and I’m wondering how it will be received. I guess I’ll find out in a few months, eh?

Beyond that, just working to make a dent in everything else on my writing list. Right now, I’m going to put together some additional script pages for Strange Attractors, so the artist can keep rolling. It’s good to be busy.

Well, there was a weekend… and several days beyond that.  New York Comicon 2011 came and went, leaving me with a renewed excitement about comics (mine and everyone else’s) and a raging 48-hour case of that particular malady that afflicts those of us who wander around an enclosed convention center for a few days, shaking hands with hundreds if not thousands of people, while staying up late, drinking every night and not getting enough sleep.  I mostly hear it called “con crud,” but I’ve also heard “con flu,” and back in 2003 they were calling it the “conSARS.”  (I attempted a Twitter joke that we should call this year’s version “CONtagion,” but it landed with something of a thud.)  Anyway, it’s basically your garden-variety intense cold, but it knocked me on my ass for a few days.

I’m back on my game, more or less, and thought I would leave you with a few impressions of the year’s con.  This was my sixth NYCC.  I’ve been going since the beginning.  At my first visit, which I believe was my second comic convention ever (first was in Dallas in 2005), I was carrying with me some early short story materials.  At my second, I had my pitch for Strongman.  At my third, I ALSO had my pitch for Strongman (that’s 2008).  By 2009, Strongman Vol 1 was a month from release, so I didn’t exhibit.  2010 was juuust before 27 #1 came out, so I had some materials to show at the Shadowline table, but not much more than that.  It’s where the buzz really started for the series, though – without that con, I don’t know that people would have been as interested in the series as they ended up being.

And finally, 2011.  I had a signing on Wednesday night at Jim Hanley’s – my first time signing at a comic store, actually.  I’ve always wanted to do it, but I’m so busy most of the time that putting it together was beyond me.  I’ll definitely do it again, though.  It’s more low-key than a convention, and the people who come out are there to meet those specific creators, so it’s a very focused, cool interaction.  The very cool Dave Elliott set that up – I first met him on a train coming back from Baltimore Comicon about a year ago, and since then we’ve hung out a lot.  He’s been in the business for a while and knows everyone, which is convenient when he’s asked to set up mega-signings at comic shops.

I actually didn’t go to the con on Thursday, because I had to spend the day finalizing a pitch for a very exciting new project.  This is one I’ve posted about before, but as ever, things take long than you think they will.  However, everything came together late in the day – too late to hit the con, but just in time to go out for my second night of somewhat concentrated drinking.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s all very… very, and I love seeing all the people I only see at cons (and con parties), but it does take a toll.

Friday was about finally setting up, moving some books, introducing my work to new people, and seeing what kind of magic that pitch might be able to generate.  I’m more pleased than you know to be able to say that things look good.  I don’t want to say any more about it, but as I’ve mentioned in the past, I love telling these stories – that’s my primary motivation in doing all of this.  If things go the way they did this weekend, then I’ve got several more things on the way.  At least.  My active project spreadsheet, which includes the stuff I need to finish RIGHT NOW (instead of writing a blog entry, in fact), currently has eight items on it.  A more typical list would have two or three.  That is not a complaint, however.

Anyway, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…. sort of more of the same.  I don’t want to make a list of every awesome person I hung out with, because that way lies the Curse of Hilary Swank (when you forget someone crucially important in a list of thank-yous) but I will say that karaoke with Jim Zub, Jeremy Barlow and Dustin Weaver in a cramped room while we took Power of Love to heights it had never before seen was certainly a highlight.

Sunday I totally vegged, not that I had any choice.  My body was telling me that comics could fuck off and die for a night – and so they did, and I watched the Walking Dead Season 2 premiere and was in bed by 10:30.

So many great firsts for this con, though – I saw my first person walking around with a 27 t-shirt (the lovely Ryan Closs, who modeled the shirt for me).  I met Blair Butler, with whom iFanboy’s Josh Flanagan and I did an amazing podcast the week before the con all about breaking in and staying in.  I talked guitars, but not comics, with Joe Quesada.  I magically obtained a few issues of 27 Second Set #2 (out October 26) a bit early, and was able to provide them to some excited fans.  I had a guy come up and do a full sweep – he had read Strongman V1 years before, and enjoyed it so much that he bought one of everything else on my table, including a shirt.

Mostly, it was awesome, and it made me feel like I’ll get to do this stuff for a while to come, which is the best possible result.