Letter 44


I have four books out today, which is pretty incredible – in fact, it’s moved me to type up a blog post for the first time in a good while. It’s been a very, very busy spring, and the idea of adding words that weren’t strictly necessary to the total I needed to produce felt a little crazy. I’m good with workload – it’s part of the Charles Soule Brand, I’d say – but there were a few moments here and there when even I, gentle reader, yes, even I felt like it might be nice to take a damn break for a minute or two.

But breaks don’t get you four books out in a single day. Those books are:

Daredevil #7 – featuring art from Matteo Buffagni, colors by Matt Milla, letters from Clayton Cowles and a story covering the second half of my Elektra tale. That deadly Greek assassin-lady has always been one of my favorite characters in all of the DD mythos, and it’s been amazing to write her in the title where she debuted. I even own a copy of that issue – #168, part of Frank Miller’s run. I’m looking forward to hearing what people think of the way the issue ends, in particular. Elektra expresses a sentiment that I think is completely in line with her character, but isn’t something we see said all that often. Biggest thing to know about this issue is that it’s far from the last planned appearance from Ms. Natchios in the title. She’s a big part of the overall blueprint for the story I’m telling, so stay tuned.

Here’s the cover for the issue, by the incomparable Bill Sienkewicz:

DD7 Cover

Letter 44 #25 – We made it to issue 25! That is an incredible landmark for a creator-owned series these days. Or, it seems, almost any title that doesn’t have a superhero or a movie or both associated with it. #25 is part four of the big “Saviors” arc, which is itself the fourth chunk of the main series.

Art here is by my good friend Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, with colors by Dan Jackson, letters from Crank!, and they created one of my absolute favorite covers for the whole series so far:

letter44-25-marketing_preview-1

Poor, poor Mr. President. Also, the reference for this image was from a self-portrait I took in April, flames and all. April was a tough month.

Obi-Wan & Anakin #5 – Man, I sure do love writing Star Wars stories. Obi-Wan & Anakin is the second of three tales I’ve been lucky enough to create in the SW Universe. My Lando series with Alex Maleev and Paul Mounts was first, and then I got this gig (with Marco Chechetto (art), Andres Mossa (colors) and Joe Caramagna (letters)), and I’m also doing a Poe Dameron ongoing with Phil Noto.

This issue is the final chapter (it was always conceived as a miniseries), and I am so proud of the work we did here, and sorry to see it go. It was a bit of a challenge to write a story set between Episodes I and II, which contain some elements that are, let’s just say divisive within Star Wars fandom. That said, I think the characters that George Lucas created are incredibly strong, and it was my job just to dig in and make them tick. Plus, writing a story set in a period when the Jedi were ascendant – just awesome.

Obi is one of my favorite characters in all of the Star Wars mythology, and getting to give him some lines was a huge thrill. Not to mention Sheev, aka Darth Sidious, aka Emperor Palpatine, aka good old Uncle Palpy. I think the Emperor is my #1 favorite guy in all of Star Wars so far, and I’ll write him any chance I get. There’s also another cameo in this issue, one of the most challenging to write dialogue for – but I think I did okay.

The cover!

OWA5 Cover

Uncanny Inhumans #9 – One of the really fun things about writing Uncanny Inhumans is the way the characters (and there are a bunch of them, all different from one another) let me take sidesteps between different genres from time to time. It doesn’t all have to be huge superhero action – although there’s plenty of that. Issues 5-6 were sort of a farce. Issue 7 was a detective/crime story. Issue 8 was a romance. And now, Issue 9 is a melodrama, set against an epic Marvel Universe backdrop, with a cast of thousands. In a nutshell, the story revolves around the reaction of Crystal, sister of Queen Medusa of the Inhumans, when she learns that Medusa has been secretly dating her ex, Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four. I’ve wanted to write this one ever since I decided to put Medusa and Johnny together, and it was so much fun to do.

Art is by Kev Walker, colors by David Curiel, letters once again from Clayton Cowles, all of whom did a great job with a tricky script. The cover here is by my friend Mahmud Asrar:

UIH 9 Cover

So those are the four books out today! It’s pretty amazing, and I feel very lucky to have such a diverse slate of titles. The stories in those comics call for four very different types of writing, and it’s nice to be able to stretch my muscles that way.

I thought it might be a good idea to also quickly update you on other things I’m working on, just to give you an overview of the entire Souliverse (which is not a thing, except that these stories do all come from the same place, I suppose…)

DAREDEVIL – as mentioned, there’s a big, huge plan in play. You’ll learn more about the overarching idea in issue 9, although there are still many things to be revealed. Ron Garney (the amazing artist with whom I launched the title) will be back with Issue 10, to draw the entirety of an important arc called Dark Art. Here’s the first cover for that story:

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Serious new villain being introduced in this story. After that, another story with a familiar bad guy, then a big story in which we’ll look at how Matt got his secret identity back, and after that… well, the trap will snap closed on Daredevil. Big stuff to come.

POE DAMERON – Phil Noto and I are moving along nicely! He’s just the best guy, too. So great to work with, and he knocks it out of the park every time. I can’t say a ton about upcoming storylines here, but I will say that I was really gratified by the reaction to the introduction in issue #2 of Agent Terex, the series’ main bad guy (so far). He’s more or less an evil version of Lando Calrissian, and man, does he have some cool moments coming up.

I wish I could show you some upcoming art from the series, but I really can’t – so instead, I will give you the greatest gift of all, my own portrait of Poe, done at a recent signing at Acme Comics:

Ci_uZWHW0AAqHO5

Incredible, I know.

Daredevil/Punisher – a miniseries I’ve been working on as part of Marvel’s “Infinite” line, which is published first as a digital comic optimized for reading on ipads and similar screens. The reading experience is super cool – each swipe is a transition that changes the image on the page, either to add some element of motion to the existing image, change the dialogue, or bring up an entirely new panel. It feels very cinematic. It is also being published as print comics, however, so you can read it that way too – Issue #1 is already out, and I think #2 will be out at the end of the month. Should run to four issues, I believe, and six of the eight digital parts have already been released. You can get those here.

Layouts on the series have been by Reilly Brown and Mast, with interior art from Szymon Kudranski. It’s a fun story, about Daredevil trying to get a truly bad guy to JFK Airport before Punisher can kill him. Why is DD trying to put this scumbag on a plane? Will Daredevil and Punisher discuss the limits of vigilante justice? Will Blindspot have cool invisiblity moments? Does a billy club get stuck in a tailpipe? Answers: you’ll find out, yes, yes, and duh. Here’s the awesome cover to #2, by Reilly Brown:

DDPUN 2 Cover

UNCANNY INHUMANS – So, we have #9 today, and then #10, which is an issue featuring Reader, one of my favorite new characters that I’ve created for the MU. His superpower is to make anything he reads become real – but he’s blind. So, he carries these little Braille tabs around on his belt, which he uses to fight. He also has an amazing seeing eye dog named Forey. That dog was stolen from him in Issue 7, and now he’s going to get him back, come hell or high water.

This is one of the most narratively complex stories I’ve ever attempted, with lots of fun bits and easter eggs related to Reader’s power and how it operates – I really hope everyone checks it out. Kev Walker went above and beyond for this one, for sure. The cover:

UIH 10 COver

Once that story’s complete, we move into a huge story connected to the big Civil War II event – my part of that will be the Inhumans vs. Tony Stark, and it’s gigantic, with massive ramifications for the entire Inhuman world (and the Marvel Universe as a whole.) End of #11 is one hell of a moment. I can’t believe I got to do it.

After that… stay tuned. Once Uncanny goes big, it doesn’t let up.

LETTER 44 – As many longtime readers know, Letter 44 was always planned to end at #35. I’m working on the final chunk of issues now, and it’s some sad business – not just because of the story elements, but also because it will be about saying good-bye to a story that’s been a constant companion for years. Letter 44 is the type of sci-fi epic I dreamed of writing when I was 12, and the idea that I actually got to do it still blows my mind. The book has brought me many new fans, trips to far off lands, the chance to work with Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, the opportunity to make connections at NASA and other space-y places… and I will miss it very much when it’s gone.

The current Saviors arc runs through #27. Then we get another of those focus issues that have appeared every seventh issue, looking at the backstory for Manesh and Kyoko. And then… it’s off to the races. Everything falls down. We’ll see if anything stands back up.

NEW CREATOR-OWNED THING – When one door closes, another opens, I guess? With Letter 44 in its wrap up phase, I thought it was time to dive back into creator-owned waters with a new series. You’ll learn much more about it later this year, but the upshot is that I’m in active production on a title that I can’t wait for you to see. The artist is one of my all-time favorite collaborators (and people) in the business, and I just think he’s a stellar talent all around.

The story is set in the present day (mostly). It has some fantasy elements, but it’s not a fantasy, really. It’s a big tale – we’re aiming for the fences, for sure. It’s scary, and funny, and kind of mean. Way too early to show you much, but I can give you this:

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STRANGE ATTRACTORS!! (emphasis added) – Boom! Studios is re-releasing my creator-owned graphic novel Strange Attractors in five serialized installments starting this June. This is just fantastic, from where I’m sitting, because it means that a story I love, originally published in 2012, has a chance to access an entirely new audience. The book tells the story of two geniuses, one young and one old, who discover that all of New York City is about to be destroyed by a huge catastrophe. They believe that the only way they can save it is to connect all of the city’s many systems and bits of infrastructure into a huge, massively complex machine/engine. The story’s about what happens when they turn it on.

I LOVED working on this book when it came out – I’m a long-time New Yorker, and this is absolutely my love letter to the book. You can see a big interview I did about the re-release here, as well as some nice coverage from Bleeding Cool here.

As you’ll note in those stories, this isn’t just a double-dip. I also wrote an entirely new story that will run alongside the main tale, with art from Soo Lee (also a New Yorker, as are most of the people who worked and are working on the book). That’s called Antithesis, and the idea is to cast sort of a reflection on the original story… make it more complex, in essence.

The first issue is out in early June, and I really can’t wait for you guys to check it out. Here’s the amazing variant cover for Issue 1, by my very good friend Ryan Stegman:

StrangeAttractors_001_B_Incentive-600x911

I have a number of other things in the works – a massive, unannounced thing for Marvel that will be taking up a ton of my time over the summer, some additional creator-owned work, and more. One of the biggest things on my plate is my novel, a project I’ve been working on for quite a while called The Oracle Year. I think it’s done, though, and man, I hope you guys get to see it one of these days. Time will tell!

Thanks for reading, both my books and this way too long post. See you at the comic shop!

 

…2015 is shaping up to be!

2014 was beyond anything I ever could have expected (among other things, I killed Wolverine,) and I could fill up a hundred posts talking about it, but at this point, I’d like to look ahead, and talk about some of the things I have coming up. I am currently working on ten comics projects very actively (as in, scripting them for publication,) with five of them already announced, and others still out there in the pre-solicitation wind. Some thoughts on the current slate:

1. Letter 44 – scripted through Issue 20, and Issue 13 just hit stands. The response to this book continues to amaze. I mean, it’s a densely plotted sci-fi/political book, with a bunch of characters. (In case you don’t read it – yet – it’s about a US President who discovers that the prior administration found evidence of aliens hiding in the asteroid belt, and sent a manned mission out to see what’s there, but kept it all secret. It’s his problem now.) The first collected edition came out (available here!) in July with the second slated for March (pre-order here!) and more to come. I was privileged to visit NASA at Kennedy Space Center twice this year (thank you to Ed Stanton, one of the engineers on the new Orion spacecraft, for inviting me down and being incredibly gracious with his precious time to show me around – the NASA visits will get their own post soon.) A lot of what I saw down there made it into the third arc of L44, which will start with Issue 15 very soon. The series gets HUGE in that arc. Like World War Three huge. If you like your sci-fi based in real-world ideas with a healthy helping of craziness on top (think District 9), then Letter 44 is the book for you. Oh, and yes, the TV show at SyFy is still in-process – the process is just slow. A tease of that third arc:

Inset panel from Letter 44 #15, incredibly drawn by Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque!

Inset panel from Letter 44 #15, incredibly drawn by Alberto Jimenez Albuquerque!

2. She-Hulk – my final script for the first story arc is in (Issue 12), and I’ve seen pages. Javier Pulido is bringing it in a big way, and the story itself is designed to bring together everything I’ve been talking about in the series so far. I’m extremely proud of it, and if you’ve enjoyed the series so far, I think you’ll like hope it wraps up. (If you haven’t tried it yet, you can get the first trade here.) And as far as a She-Hulk Season 2…

…I have a new, green Moleskine notebook in which I’m jotting down ideas. (I use dedicated, color-coded notebooks for each series I write.) That doesn’t mean anything, really, but if I were lucky enough to get the opportunity to write a second season of She-Hulk, I’d be ready to go. For now, though, here’s a cool detail from one of Javier’s layouts from issue 12 – look what he conveys in just a few lines:

A lovely leap from She-Hulk #12, laid out by Javier Pulido.

A lovely leap from She-Hulk #12, laid out by Javier Pulido.

3. Inhuman – well, you may have noticed that Marvel Studios announced an Inhuman movie for 2018, and the Inhumans are starting to be a huge part of the Agents of SHIELD television show. Some huge new Inhuman-related things are very close to being announced on the comics side as well. It’s pretty exciting to be steering that franchise – I love the characters, as I hope you’ve seen (get the first trade here!) In particular, I like that Medusa is the lead – she’s a hell of a character, and we’ll be putting her through the wringer. In fact, here’s a panel from Issue 11, drawn by the amazing Ryan Stegman:

Reader and Forey by Ryan Stegman - these poor fellows are in a tight spot!

Reader and Forey by Ryan Stegman – these poor fellows are in a tight spot!

Between Ryan, Joe Mad, Pepe Larraz and the other artists on Inhuman since it started, I think we’ve been lucky to have one of the best-looking books on the stands. I know what’s coming up for Inhuman, and I can tell you that tradition will absolutely continue. As we move forward into issues 13-14 and after, you’ll see that I’ve been working towards a big master plan finale for what I consider the first big “season” of Inhuman. If you read, say, issue 5 and asked yourself why I did something or another, well, this is why. It’s fun to write big, long-form books, and that’s how I see Inhuman. Lots of smaller, self-contained stories building up to a huge endpoint.

4. Swamp Thing! – Another series I will be very, very sad to see go. This year I ended my runs on a number of books – Thunderbolts, Superman-Wonder Woman and Red Lanterns. It was strange to set their notebooks aside, and none will be stranger to put away than the green book I’ve been using for Swamp Thing. This was my first series at the Big 2 (Marvel/DC), and in many ways, everything I’m working on today comes from it.

Panel from Swamp Thing #40, with art from Jesus Saiz. GORGEOUS.

Panel from Swamp Thing #40, with art from Jesus Saiz. GORGEOUS.

The finale of my run will come with Issue 40, which will hit in March. We’ve been given some extra page-count to really wrap things up in a huge way, and we’re going out big. I wanted to make the conclusion feel as epic as possible, and to tie up plot threads and themes from my entire run. When all is said and done, I’ll have written Swampy for the equivalent of twenty-nine regular issues (counting Annuals as two, and including some specials and extra page-count issues), and while I think I could have written it for even longer, I’m going out the way I wanted to. I signed an exclusive contract with Marvel comics earlier this year, and although that will keep me away from DC’s characters for the time being, both Marvel and DC were awesome about carving out some extra time to let me finish my Swamp Thing run the way I wanted to. (First collection of my run here! The second is here!)

5. Wolverines. I’ve been working on a weekly series following the way the Death of Wolverine affects the Marvel Universe with my pal Ray Fawkes since the summer. We’ve got almost the whole thing scripted (which, to clarify, just means the first big chunk of story – it sort of builds to a point, if you know what I mean, but there’s no reason it won’t keep rolling past that,) and it’s absolutely hogwild. We’ve created a series where pretty much anyone you can think of from the Marvel U shows up. The tone is kind of weird, crazy fun – lots of zigzagging and odd left turns in the stories. That said, when all is said and done I think it will feel really tightly plotted (because it is!) First issue hits next Wednesday, and then we’re off to the races. I’m really looking forward to this one – it’s almost like a dark, crazy Saturday morning cartoon.

And now, the new stuff…

6. Big creator-owned thing. I’m ready to start another creator-owned series. The last one I started was Letter 44, which began back in 2013 (and I was working on it for long before that.) It’s time. While I have a few things in various stages of completion, there’s one that’s pretty much good to go. I have an incredible artist attached, the scripts are done but for some tweaking, and now it’s really just about locking down the details. When, exactly, this will hit shelves I don’t know, but I think it will almost certainly be this year, and I can’t wait.

Here’s a tiny tease of a character design from said incredible artist:

You'll see this fellow again soon. Art by...

You’ll see this fellow again soon. Art by…

7. The Nervewracker. I don’t get (as) nervous as I used to about taking on legendary characters – I mean, as long as I have a take I think I’ll be okay. But it’s a different story with this one. I’ve loved this character forever, and some of the best writers and artists in the business have worked on the title. I don’t know how it will go, but I’m certainly going to give it my all.

8. The Oh My God! This one is another Marvel book, and it’s for a character I think is actually a bit under-explored. I get to break some new ground here, and that’s always fun. Redefining expectations, you know? If I do my job right, people will hopefully want much more of this person, and I’d be more than happy to tell those stories. (Moleskine color – light blue.)

9. The Tricky One. Another big book, with a pretty challenging central idea. The themes to be explored are complex, and even the logistics are tough. I just finished my first script for it, and turned it in – I think I’ve got a fun take on it, but I suspect people will have a bunch to say about this one.

10. The Romantic One. A mini-series, about a couple I’m excited to write in a new context and a new way. I’ve had this story for a while, and I’ll write the first issue soon.

That’s the slate at the moment – and while it might not seem like it, it actually leaves me with what I would consider an open slot. I plan to fill that spot with something cool soon – maybe another creator-owned book, maybe polishing the novels I’ve been working on forever and finally getting them into the world, maybe something else for Marvel. I wrote a good chunk of a video game in 2014 which will be released soon, and I’d like to do more of that.

Mostly, I want to keep busy, and it looks like I’ll have no problems there. Thank you for your support in 2014, and I can’t wait to share the new stories in 2015!

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 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:

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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!

 

 

As I’ve talked about incessantly on this blog, my new ongoing series from Oni Press, with art from Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, colors by Guy Major and letters from Shawn DePasquale, will debut in San Diego this weekend with a special con exclusive black and white variant edition of Issue 1.  The in-store version won’t hit until October, so this is a chance for a very early sneak peek at a series I’m very proud of, and that I hope will run for a good long while.  It all begins here.

Here’s the solicitation text for #1, which is in Previews now (so you can ask your retailer to stock it!): There’s something up there. As newly elected President Stephen Blades reads the letter left for him in the Oval Office by his predecessor, he learns this stunning secret: seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate, and they’re nearing the conclusion of their epic journey. Don’t miss the first chapter in this thrilling tale of real-world space travel, intrigue, and secret histories!

A few pages of the SDCC exclusive have leaked out, so I feel comfortable sharing – check it out:

The cover for the con exclusive variant!

The cover for the con exclusive variant!

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A page from inside the issue!

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And the page right after the last one!

More to come.  SO MUCH MORE TO COME.  However, not every shop carries indie books, even ones from awesome publishers like Oni, so if you want it, make sure to ask your retailer to carry it – otherwise you might miss the beginning of the ride!)

(See you in San Diego, some of you!)