Rambling On

Anthony R. Cardno's Fiction and Commentary

Archive for the ‘comic book creators’ Category

This has been a long time in coming, this interview with my friend Win Scott Eckert. I’m not sure how long ago I first became familiar with Win’s work, but it’s been several years at the least. He plays in the playground I love, that giant sandbox where everything in popular culture, from gothic heroines to modern masked men, can interact … and he plays in it so well. His recent stories featuring the Green Hornet and The Avenger stand out, and of course he’s learned the art of finding character connections from one of the greatest such sleuths, Philip Jose Farmer, with whom Win co-wrote THE EVIL IN PEMBERLEY HOUSE.  Here’s our long chat, with lots of illustrations:

ANTHONY: Win, thanks for taking the time to be interviewed.

WSE:  Thank you, Anthony.

ANTHONY: You’re most well-known currently as the lead “banner-carrier,” so to speak, of Philip José Farmer’s Wold Newton Family concept. What was your first exposure to Farmer’s work and how has it influenced your own writing?

WSE:   My mind-blowing introduction to Farmer was his “pseudo-biography” Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, at the tender age of eight. I recently had the pleasure of editing an updated and definitive edition of the book, which is a companion to his Tarzan Alive. Both books follow the Sherlockian tradition, known as “the Game,” of treating their subjects as real people who actually lived (or… still live!). In my new foreword to Doc Savage, I abandon my usual practice of penning forewords and afterwords within the context of the Game (see my pieces in the recent Farmer reissues by Titan Books), and step out from behind the curtain, so to speak. The piece is an unabashed love letter to the book and to Farmer. Which is a roundabout way of answering your question about how it has influenced my own writing. Without Doc Savage, there is no Win Scott Eckert, author–for better or worse.

The definitive, hardcover reissue of Doc Savage is available from Meteor House. It’s a true labor of love, and I hope folks will check it out.

the new, definitive edition of
Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life

the most recent edition of
Tarzan Alive

 

ANTHONY: You had the chance to collaborate with Farmer, completing The Evil in Pemberley House. I know you’ve written in other forums about how that project came to be. I’ve read the book and honestly can’t tell where Farmer ends and you begin, so I’d like to hear a little about the process of completing a novel started by someone else. What challenges did you face and how did you solve them?

WSE:   First of all, thank you for commenting that the transition from Farmer to me was seamless. I take that as the highest possible compliment. I had been reading Farmer all my life, and continue to reread his work, so undoubtedly I absorbed some of his stylistic tendencies through osmosis. That said, I was also conscious of many of Phil’s writing patterns and made sure to incorporate them into the prose when it was natural to do so, as I took over writing where he left off.

The process felt straightforward to me. Immerse myself in the chapters he had written. Study the outline for the remainder of the novel and flesh it out, where necessary. Consult the accompanying notes and follow them as closely as possible. Make judicious changes to bring small details in line with what had been published in his other Wold Newton works, particularly in Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (for the uninitiated, Farmer revealed, in the biography Doc Savage, that the real name of the man upon whom the fictionalized Doc Savage pulp novels was based was Dr. James Clarke Wildman, Jr.; The Evil in Pemberley House introduces us to Doc Wildman’s daughter, Patricia Wildman); in line with this, do not alter Phil’s words, except where absolutely necessary for continuity. This latter point is extremely important to me, and has also guided me when participating in bringing other previously unpublished works by Phil to publication, or when preparing manuscripts for reissue by Titan: do not have the audacity to rewrite Philip José Farmer. He’s a Hugo-award winning author and a science fiction Grand Master!

Once the polished outline was approved by Phil and his wife Bette, I proceeded to write, and sent bundles of chapters to them for their review and comments. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Evil in Pemberley House
is not what you think!

And The Scarlet Jaguar
is not who you think!

The Evil in Pemberley House came out in 2009 and is now out of print although I believe Camelot Books may have a few copies left in stock of both the trade and limited editions. I’m writing a series of follow-up novellas. The first is The Scarlet Jaguarand is “volume II of the memoirs of Pat Wildman,” out now from Meteor House.

 

ANTHONY: Your short stories all feature classic pulp or adventure fiction characters, which means you constantly get to play “what if X met K…” Given free rein, what are your dream match-ups that you haven’t gotten a chance to write yet?

WSE:   I would love to take on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers (Steed and Emma Peel). And of course Farmer’s own pulp hero analogues, Lord Grandrith and Doc Caliban, from his novels A Feast Unknown , Lord of the Trees, and The Mad Goblin. Interestingly, Farmer left a fourth novel featuring Caliban, The Monster on Hold, unfinished.

ANTHONY: And I know I’m not the only one hoping that someone, someday, will finish The Monster On Hold and bring it to print. 😉 You’ve written tales of Zorro, the Green Hornet, Sherlock Holmes, Captain Midnight, and the Avenger for various anthologies, as well as a Honey West / T.H.E. Cat novel (co-written with Matthew Baugh). What’s your writing process like for these stories? I understand it all starts with being invited to participate, but how do you proceed from invite to publication?

WSE:   The “bible” is key. I come into these projects with a high degree of familiarity with the characters, but sometimes the publisher has a particular take to which the writers need to adhere, and that’s outlined in the bible. This is particularly important when there are several versions of a character to be addressed–or ignored, as the case may be. Adherence to canon, and honoring the character, is paramount (of course, even reasonable people can sometimes disagree on the definition of canon), and Moonstone shares these sensibilities, which is why I enjoy working with them so often on their licensed properties. For example, in the thirteenth Avenger pulp novel, Murder on Wheels, Richard Benson loses the ability to mold his face, and his hair reverts from shock-white to black. Moonstone felt that this removed perhaps the primary interesting feature of the character and mandated in the bible that the stories features the white-haired, white skin Benson with the moldable facial features–a decision I heartily endorsed. But this mandate also causes problems for some writers, like me, who also feel that adhering to canon means adhering to a realistic chronology of a character’s adventures. How to tell a story of Benson later in his career and also have him white-haired? I solved the problem in my first Avenger tale with a reference to the recent reappearance of his powers and white skin and hair. A few other writers also wrestled with this and addressed it in a similar way.

 

Two great sleuths
in one fun novella!

Another example is Honey West. The Moonstone version is an amalgamation of the eleven novels and the television series with Anne Francis, which ran for one season. Both have different supporting characters. The Moonstone bible takes the best of both. But I wanted to take it one step further. To guide writing the novella A Girl and Her Cat (co-written with Matthew Baugh), I worked up a Honey West timeline. This is the sort of exercise which helps me get centered for the writing process. Fortunately, the television series (and the Moonstone comic and stories) can be neatly placed in a gap between the ninth novel, Bombshell, which came out in 1964, and the tenth novel, which came out in 1971. Creating a timeline usually reveals gaps which can be filled in. For instance, in 1971’s Honey on Her Tail, it’s revealed that Honey and Lt. Mark Storm have not seen each other in several years. So we wrote their “goodbye” scene into A Girl and Her Cat. In the 1971 book, Honey has given up her private eye practice and is now a secret agent. While we don’t show that career change in A Girl and Her Cat (Moonstone doesn’t care for Honey’s secret agent phase), we do take Honey along the path of that transition.

By the way, Honey West and T.H.E. Cat: A Girl and Her Cat, is due out from Moonstone in January 2014 in a limited edition hardcover. It’s listed for order in the November 2013 Diamond Previews catalogue. The Diamond Item Code is NOV131140. It can also be ordered from Things From Another World at a nice discount!

 

ANTHONY: Well, I pre-ordered mine from Midtown Comics in NYC. And for those interested: apparently the Diamond ordering deadline is December 6th, which is just a few days away as I post this interview. So click those links, especially if you’re a fan of 60s spy/crime/thrillers with strong female leads!

Now, You’ve also annually contributed stories to Black Coat Press’ Tales of the Shadowmen series. Those anthologies are themed rather than focusing on a single character, so how do you choose the lead characters for those stories? How involved in character and plot choice are the publishers?

WSE:   Fortunately, even though each annual book has a theme, the theme is a suggestion rather than a requirement. So, I rarely feel bound by the theme and instead focus on which French characters interest me. The publisher, Jean-Marc Lofficier, is quite ready to suggest French characters, or characters created by French writers, but is equally willing to give the writers latitude, as long as there is some kind of substantial “French connection.” Jean-Marc has plot approval, of course, to ensure that the tale meets quality standards and comports with the generally understood canon of the characters–but again, he also gives the writers a nice amount of leeway.

I’ve had the opportunity to write several stories about Doc Ardan, Madame Atomos, and the Scarlet Pimpernel, among others.

Crossovers, Volume One

ANTHONY: Sadly, you’re not in the current Volume 10: Esprit De Corps … But I am! (Sorry to highjack your spotlight for just a second there, but I couldn’t resist. Moving on…. Your Crossovers: A Secret Chronology of the World, Volume 1 and Volume 2, is a pretty exhaustive look at the history of literary interconnectedness that Philip José Farmer really popularized. In your researches, what connection between characters did it surprise you to discover? And are you constantly looking for new connections to make? (For instance, I recently read Jess Faraday’s The Affair of the Porcelain Dog, which has a number of Holmes connections including a lead character named Ira Adler, and Lester Heath’s The Case of the Aluminum Crutch, featuring a teenage detective named “Sherlock” Jones. You can imagine the paths my brain traveled in both cases.) And to piggy-back on that question: new crossover stories, including your own, are constantly appearing. How often, if at all, do you plan on updating Crossovers?

WSE:   There are thousands of crossovers noted in the books, and it’s very hard to pick out just a few highlights. Turning the question on its ear, the crossovers that really inspired me, captured my interest, and led me down the OCD path of creating a cohesive Crossover Universe, were those found in the writings of Philip José Farmer (such as the Sherlock Holmes-Lord Greystoke novel The Adventure of the Peerless Peer); the unnamed cameos of Doc Savage and the Amazing Five in Dave’s Stevens’ magnificent The Rocketeer (and The Shadow in the follow-up); Ron Fortier and Jeff Butler’s wonderful four-part comic series Sting of the Green Hornet; Cay Van Ash’s Fu Manchu-Sherlock Holmes novel Ten Years Beyond Baker Street; and David McDaniel’s fantastic Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, particularly The Dagger Affair and The Rainbow Affair.

I’m sure I’m leaving many on the table, but these are the ones that immediately come to mind.

I’m always keeping an eye out for new crossovers, and taking note of them. That said, it’s a monumental task that tends to displace all other activities, and I’ve put aside the formal documentation of additions to the Crossover Universe for the foreseeable future, in order to focus on writing fiction.

Crossoves, Volume 2

This is a good a place as any to announce that Sean Levin, a fan and expert on both Farmer and crossovers, and a wonderful and talented guy, has taken over formally tracking and documenting crossovers. He’s following my Crossover Universe framework to a “T,” and doing a better job than I could have ever hoped for. So, there will be Crossoversvolumes 3 & 4 in the future, although I don’t have any further details or information to announce right now in that regard. These books are multi-year efforts, so stay tuned!

 

ANTHONY: Of course! You’ve co-edited three volumes of Green Hornet short stories with Joe Gentile (the third volume was also co-edited with Matthew Baugh), both from Moonstone Books. How do you break apart the editing chores?

WSE:   It’s very organic, a lot of back and forth. We had a lot of input into the bible, including settling once and for all on the 1960s television continuity as the setting for our books. On the first book, The Green Hornet Chronicles, Joe solicited writers and I took the first several passes at copyediting. Joe then took final passes; it was his baby, after all. For the second book, The Green Hornet Casefiles, I took the lead on author selection, although of course Joe had a lot of say. On the third book, I just had too much going on and suggested we bring in a trusted third, Matthew Baugh. Again it was organic. Sometimes Matthew took the first pass, and sometimes I did. Joe once more did final passes. I’m very proud of the work we did on those books, both in terms of the quality of writing and the proofing/quality control processes we utilized. In fact, the third book, The Green Hornet: Still at Large, won the 2013 Pulp Ark Award for best anthology.

The most recent
Green Hornet anthology

 

ANTHONY: Congrats on that! Have you edited or co-edited any other anthologies recently? Are you editing or co-editing any other anthologies in the near future?

WSE:   I co-edited, with my good friend Christopher Paul Carey, the recently-released Tales of the Wold Newton Universe, for Titan Books. The book collects, for the first time ever in one volume, SF Grand Master Philip José Farmer‘s Wold Newton short stories, as well as authorized tales by other Farmerian writers.

I should add what a pleasure it was to work with Chris on the book and our introduction, which can be read online at SF Signal; he’s such a talented writer and editor, and I know he’s going places–big places.

I don’t see any editing projects in my future. If another “can’t say no” opportunity like Tales of the Wold Newton Universe comes along, I would have to rethink that answer, but editing anthologies requires a time commitment of Brobdingnagian proportions, and right now I’m focusing on my own writing.

 

Tales of the Wold Newton Universe
available now

ANTHONY: We’ve established how much fun you have working with all these classic characters. Are you working on a novel or series-recurring character of your own creation? (In other words, what does the near future hold for fans of your writing?)

WSE:   Well, I do plan on at least three or four more Pat Wildman novellas. These would bring Pat through the 1970s and into the early 1980s . . . which, not coincidentally, is about when the unfinished Monster on Hold occurs. The Doc Caliban tales take place in a parallel universe to the Doc Wildman / Pat Wildman stories (see my introduction to the Titan Books edition of Lord of the Trees and my chronology in the Titan edition of The Mad Goblin), but nonetheless there is a tight connection between the two universes. The Pat Wildman books, taking place in the Wold Newton Universe, will lead up to the events of The Monster on Hold in the Grandrith/Caliban Universe.

Of course, I should emphasize there are no firm plans–yet–for The Monster on Hold. But I do have a lot mapped out already. So, fingers crossed it will come together. In the meantime, I plan to have fun revealing Pat Wildman’s next adventures, and I have high-level ideas for at least the next two or three.

Matthew Baugh and I are also deep into mapping out a Honey West / T.H.E. Cat follow-up for Moonstone Books. It’s a caper taking place in Europe in the early 1970s and I can tell you it’s going to be quite sexy and fun. I really enjoy the creative jamming back-and-forth Matthew and I have on these books.

I’m writing a Pat Wildman / Kent Lane short story for Meteor House’s The Worlds of Philip Jose Farmer 5. And I’ve been approached for a short story for a licensed character anthology which is going to be super-cool. I can’t discuss that further right now, but I’m really jazzed about it.

I also plan on writing a Sherlock Holmes novella for Meteor House. It flows out of the already-published short story “The Adventure of the Fallen Stone” (Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook) and will be called The Dynamics of a Meteor. The time-frame for this one is 1919, and will take place shortly after Farmer’s authorized Doc Savage novel, Escape from Loki: Doc Savage’s First Adventure.

And . . . I’m tacking my first comic book script, a Honey West tale for Moonstone. This one is going to fill in a pretty important piece of Honey’s history, and will be illustrated by the super-talented Silvestre Szilagyi, who has done some of the other Honey comics.

ANTHONY: Well, this conversation has wandered far and wide, and could keep wandering, so I’ll bring it around to my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to convince someone who has never read it that they should read it?

WSE:   Which brings us full circle back to the beginning of this interview. My favorite book is Philip José Farmer’s Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life. If you love 1930s and ’40s pulp heroes, fictional biographies, and metafictional mashups such as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula novels (and by the way, both Alan Moore and Kim Newman acknowledge their debt to Farmer and the Wold Newton mythos), then this book (and the companion biography, Tarzan Alive) will be right up your literary alley.

 ANTHONY: Thanks, Win!

WSE:   Thank you very much, Anthony! This was fun.

 

You can find Win all over the internet: on his own website, on Twitter as @woldnewton, on Facebook, Pinterest, tumblr, Goodreads and Amazon and of course at most of the links embedded in the interview.

Note: If you’re interested in Meteor House, you can find my interview with publisher Mike Croteau HERE. And later this week, I’ll also be posting an interview with Black Coat Press publisher J.M. Lofficier, so be sure to come back for that!

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Just a sample of Isa’s gorgeous NAMESAKE art.

It’s a week for welcoming back previous interviewees! Today, I’m catching up with Megan Lavey-Heaton and Isabelle Melancon, creators of the webcomic NAMESAKE. It’s been a while since my last interview with them; we’d meant to do one during their second Kickstarter project, but that sort of fell through. So here they are to talk to us about how that went and what’s upcoming:

ANTHONY: You successfully funded the print version of Namesake Book Two not so long ago. How is the production process coming, and when will the book be available to the general public?

ISA: Production is pretty much over. I re-colored a couple of the pages, polished it up, added an extra story… and then Megan did all the book putting-together part. The toughest part for me is always to design the covers. And I had to design 3 this time. Whew! Since we had the hardcover version coming out with this Kickstarter too. But they turned out great too. The books should be available in August/September if all goes well, but we might open pre-orders before then.

ANTHONY: Are there plans already afoot for collecting book three in print form?

ISA: Book three is almost fully posted online, so as soon as that’s done, plans for the next Kickstarter will probably start.

ANTHONY: What’s your process been like for transferring from web content to the printed page? Did it change at all between books one and two?

ISA: Well, the pages have a pretty standard format, so making the jump from digital to print wasn’t that hard. I perfected my drawing techniques and scanning techniques, and Megan started doing allt he lettering in indesign to make the whole process go more smoothly. Our processes kinda changed about half-way into book one, so book 2 went considerably better.

ANTHONY: Where do we find the characters at the start of book two?

MEG: Emma is still entrenched in Oz at the beginning of book 2. We take a slight detour to check in on Alice and Lewis in the 1800s, then Ben, Elaine, Fred and the Calliope staff in the modern era, along with the introduction of some new cast members who will be very important in the future. For now though, most of this book tells the bulk of Emma’s adventure in Oz.

ISA: And Warrick’s backstory is revealed in book 2. Everyone loves a good tragic backstory.

ANTHONY: How much material will be in the print edition of book two versus the online edition? Any new special extras?

MEG: Book 2 contains Intermission 1 and chapters 6-10. We are about to start chapter 13 in the online edition. We have a book bonus story with Warrick and a Kickstarter-only story with Chiseri and Adora.

 

Co-creator and artist Isabelle Melancon

ANTHONY: Has your collaborative process changed at all since you started Namesake?

MEG: Not off the top of our head. The machine isn’t broken!

ISA: Nope, if anything, we just have MORE fun. Because the story is gradually becoming more engaging and creative.

ANTHONY: How about your individual creative processes?

MEG: I know for me, I have switched to doing the lettering of the pages in InDesign. Makes it vastly easier when it comes to creating the books!

ISA: I started doing more storyboarding and I have a notebook listing important visual details for all characters… to make sure I don’t forget anything! I plan to make character turnarounds too. It’s more of a process used in animation, but it helps not to draw someone off-model.

ANTHONY: Has the story continued to play out according to your original master plan, or has it taken any interesting side turns?

MEG: It’s definitely taking interesting side turns. For example, Selva has become one of the main cast when originally she wasn’t supposed to have much of a role beyond chapter 1. Nose is another unexpected developed character. We still have the master plan, but we’re letting the different stories develop organically and adjust as needed.

ISA: Characters change a lot, but the main plot stays stable. I think it’s nice that characters are kinda “telling” us who they want to be.

 

co-creator and writer Meghan Lavey-Heaton

ANTHONY: What other projects are you both working on?

MEG: I’ll let Isa answer that one!

ISA: We have a couple of things we wish to start. I have a few ideas for graphic novels for kids and pre-teens, because it’s an age group I love to write for. Mostly fantasy stuff. Megan has a few ideas that are really exciting too, but she tends to write more for adults, with police mysteries and diabolical curses. I guess we’ll flip a coin and see who gets to choose first. On the short term, we plan to do a couple of short comics to try different things as a team.

ANTHONY: A slight tweak on my usual closing question: If you could only recommend one of the books your characters are based on/connected to, which one would it be?

ISA: Probably a complete book of Andersen’s works. I love his fairy tales. They are my favorites.

 

 

 

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Neal and Dexter, the Early Years

I’ve interviewed my friend Neal Bailey a number of times here on “Rambling On,” discussing the progress of CURA TE IPSUM, the fantastic “can one man save himself across the Multiverse” webcomic written by Neal and drawn by the incomparable Dexter Wee. About a month ago, Neal started a Kickstarter to publish a print version of Year Two of the webcomic, with lots of awesome perks for backers … and I promptly dropped the ball in regards to having him on here again to promote it. There’s still four days left and the campaign is going strong, so better late than never, right?

 

ANTHONY: Hi Neal! So, what’s new and exciting in the world of CURA TE IPSUM?

NEAL: Hey, Anthony! Honestly, that probably depends on your perspective. For the readers, we’re going into a section of story that’s going to be decidedly exciting. A big paradigm shift in the next few months, and the beginnings of the origin of the Dark Everett.

For me, what’s exciting is winding toward the middle of Year Five (I write… in the FUTURE) and finishing up this Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style novella I’m doing for the Kickstarter. It’s a lot of fun.

Also… HARDBACKS! We will have hardbacks, it looks like, thanks to this wonderful Kickstarter thing. 

ANTHONY: What made you feel now was the right time to run a Kickstarter for CURA?

NEAL: Honestly, going to cons and watching other independent comics make use of it with no ill effects. I used to write for the internet, and if I learned one thing writing for the internet, it was that if you do a thing and ask for money for it, you get nastygrams from people, for some reason. At least, you used to. That has changed now. As the medium grows, people start to understand if they don’t support a thing, it goes away, which sucks.
I was going to do one big Kickstarter, at the end of Cura, and try and recoup something, anything of the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve thrown into it. I saw Kickstarter as a trigger you could pull once, a fundraising tool to get a thing recognition and a printing.

Then I printed my own trades a few times, and realized I couldn’t continue to do it on my own. I debated options. Going two days a week (which would lead to pay reduction for Dex, which I didn’t want to do). Going to companies (I already have, and a few big ones passed on Cura). That’s when I started asking my other friends doing webcomics and they indicated that the model for Kickstarter has shifted. You’re not a fink for doing one once a year, it’s more of a situation like Kickstarter is a Previews for the indie world. People who like indie comics come, see things that need regular support, order it, and keep it going.

I realized I can do Year Two, and if the people like it, then it wouldn’t be the only hurrah. There is a matrix and community of people who will support a thing that you’re earnestly passionate about. That is quite a reassurance for a struggling writer, and I said to myself, what’s the worst that could happen, you fail? Then you just don’t produce the book, you keep making Cura, you don’t go into more debt, win-win. It’s really quite amazing.

Year Two Cover Concept

ANTHONY: With only four days to go, you’re very possibly going to double your original goal. What are some of the perks backers can get if they sign on before the campaign ends?

NEAL: We’ve had two stretch goals so far, the first one is better paper, which I REALLY wanted to get for folks, and the hardbacks, which people REALLY wanted to get from me. I got a lot of messages asking for them. If we reach the $7,500 mark (and we’re darn close as of this writing) folks will have a hardback option.
The stretch goals after that are pure perks for folks. I’m going to set a new stretch goal the minute we hit that $7,500, if we’re that fortunate, but to be honest, I have been so overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that I’ve been floored. Anything after where we are now is just a way to make the book better… it’s already happening! Isn’t that fantastic?

The biggest perk that people will have if we do double our goal, outside of any material thing, is the secure knowledge that it’s setting up Cura for at least another solid year, and guaranteeing that trades will continue to be worthwhile and fought for. There isn’t much squeak between the costs and the pledges, but whatever squeak there is will go right back into the book and the comic. I went bankrupt five years ago throwing my own cash into my work, and I’m so incredibly glad that I have a support net here now to help keep this book going. It makes me redouble my efforts and believe even more in what we’re doing, as shallow as that might sound. It’s amazing what a little validation will do. My life is forever changed.

I’m going to try and manage some postcards and paper dolls, bookmarks, whatever I can manage to throw in as a bonus, depending on the final tally. This is really about the people who made this happen, and I want to reward them as much as I can for their good faith.

ANTHONY: You’re creating a “Choose Your Own Dimension” adventure for backers, right? Tell us about that.

NEAL: I used to collect all of the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a kid, and when I was in elementary I was fortunate enough to have a writer of those style of books come to the school and explain the process. Since then it’s fascinated me.

Once I started doing Cura, early on, I realized that it would lend itself extraordinarily well to a Choose Your Own Adventure style narrative, and I started to write one, but I stopped, for several reasons. Firstly, I wanted to make it a comic, which I hadn’t seen before outside of a book that slips my mind, the title, but it was amazing. I am embarrassed that I don’t recall. That had issues, because Dex is busy, and asking him to do a hundred page comic while he’s already doing Cura and other stuff wouldn’t work. The story is narrative enough and a handful.

I set it aside. I kept thinking about it, but I set it aside, and in the meanwhile fleshed out all of the characters I’d already outlined. Then the Kickstarter came, and Greg Rucka suggested, when I solicited his advice on my Kickstarter, that I ought to do a Choose Your Own Adventure. Recalling my earlier idea, it sounded like it might make a great novella, and so here I am, writing it. It’ll feature almost every member of Cura and Nosce that we’ve seen so far, and some other characters we may never see. You’re every Charlie, and some of the choices you can make are pretty hairy.

I did make one change to the basic formula. As morality tales, CYOA novels seem to reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. I like a more chaotic view of nature and nurture. Sometimes if you do the right thing, bad things still happen, and sometimes when you do a bad thing, there are no consequences. But sometimes it’s as you might expect, and I hope to keep people jumping.

Either way the dang thing is 15,000 words and climbing, so it’s not a minor perk, I hope. 

The Last Supper, Cura Style

ANTHONY: I see this question a lot regarding Kickstarters: you’ve hit your funding goal, and passed it — why should I back it?

NEAL: That goes a bit to what I mentioned before, in my earlier answer. First off, the more books I can order, the longer Cura is supported, in multiple respects. I can go to cons and get physical books into the hands of people who have never seen it, which helps the readership, which feeds the book. I can offset the cost of paying Dex, because I believe in paying my artist even when I can’t afford it (and God, have I been stretched thin the last five years). Most importantly, however, every purchase is a vote of confidence that says this book is a thing worth fighting for outside of my own mind, which is critical. It will make my work better, which will in turn feed what I turn out, which will in turn reward those who buy even when the initial goal is met.

Also, another important factor is that the initial goal is the bare minimum to get the project done, the books alone, and anything after that is where things start to be about extra for keeping the wheels turning. Plus, y’know, perks! Stretch goals. There’s good for everyone if we can keep going.

I can unconditionally guarantee that not a penny beyond the goal will go to anything beyond Cura. Hell, if we made a hundred thousand dollars, after Cura was colored, made into a short film, got an app, got Dex a Syntique, or whatever the heck else could benefit Cura, I’d still take cash from my own wallet and put it into making the comic more.

I am a strange duck, in that I never wrote for profit (shhh, don’t tell editors). I write for love of the characters in the hopes that profit may come, that I may write for love of the characters, on and on and on. If I have a dry room and a pen, I’m good. The cash is all about the book, and always will be. If I needed money for my own fun or amusement, I’d go back to day labor moving cabinets with stoners.

i09.com described Cura as “an emotional crisis on infinite earths.”

ANTHONY: Dexter’s art continues to amaze and astound. Is he creating any special new art for certain pledge levels?

NEAL: Yes! We have just added a new “commission” level at the two hundred dollar pledge. He will make a custom tailored commission. Speaking as a guy who has several hanging in his own house, I can honestly say they’re quite a centerpiece for a geek like me. Plus you get the hardbacks and all the other goodies.

ANTHONY: How about for the book itself?

NEAL: We have an eight-page backup introducing an all-female group of Charlenes who will figure prominently in Year Four and Five. There’s a Filipina, several steampunk inspired designs, a black female Hank (Henrietta), and a few members that will likely surprise you. Let’s just say Mrs. Arntzen doesn’t always die.

The backup has been a lot of hard work while producing the regular pages, but it’s absolutely worth it, and probably one of the best arguments to get the trade or the PDFs.

ANTHONY: The print collections cover Year One and Two, but the webcomic is well into Year Three now.  Has anyone come to CURA from reading the print editions first?  Do you find a different reaction to the story (or characters, or pacing) between print-first readers and web-first readers?  Or even a difference in reaction for people reading it in print after reading it as each page first appears online?

NEAL: Absolutely, in answer to both questions. People have come to print first through cons, and there is a huge reaction when people read it day-to-day as opposed to in a big stream, both in print and digitally.

The comic is written with a very known sense that days are passing between pages. The comic leaps a bit, and I have wrestled with it quite a bit. Some people are annoyed by it, but some love it. I stand by it, in that it is supposed to bring that feeling of jumping around in space and time that these characters are going through. That said, the story is becoming more and more linear as it moves on, perhaps as I learn, perhaps as the ending becomes more and more clear.

Either way, thankfully, I haven’t received any email from anyone calling it a pile of turds. The readership, to a man and woman, have all been incredibly kind and respectful and awesome.

ANTHONY: What is it about the story of Charlie Everett that resonates so well with fans?

NEAL: I’ve been told it’s the fact that he’s optimistic, and also the tension of whether or not he will become the Dark Everett, but I don’t want to speak for the audience and put words in their mouth. Maybe that’s just the things I’ve heard that I want to be true, and for other people it’s that he’s dreamy, or they love tweed, or hey, shout out to the guidance counselors out there who need representation!

That is my tongue firmly in cheek, for the record.

I can speak for myself. Charlie resonates for me because I wanted to write from the age of twelve, twenty long years ago now, and everywhere I went it was like that Dewey Cox movie, a parade of family encouraging me to have a fallback, get a job, stop being such a lazy waste. A relative said, I quote, that I contribute in no meaningful way to my family, doing what I do.

I disagree. And Charlie didn’t. Charlie thought people like that were right for so long, and he cast it off, and even better, he did it for himself. He found hope, he found courage, and through that power. That’s what I see in him, and that’s what makes me love him.

ANTHONY: What glimpse can you give us into the near future for the CURA cast?

NEAL: I’ll be cryptic, and maybe a little scary. A latin demon. Origins. The smell of the person you love the most. Power beyond reckoning in the hands of a madman. The explanation of that moon. Junior’s origin. The House of Cindy. God, now I’m getting creeped out. Soon!

ANTHONY: And a twist on my usual closing question: What is Charlie Everett’s favorite book, and what would he say to convince someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

NEAL: Charlie’s favorite book is Richard III, and he would say that one should read it because even though this man, Richard, in attempting to find his way, becomes a terrible villain because of how he is perceived, he also says one of the most important things any human being ever has in history:

“Shall I live in hope?”

Charlie does, and you should too.

You can follow Neal and Dex on Twitter @nealbailey  @dexterwee. You can find the comic CURA TE IPSUM on the web. But most importantly, you can find the final days of the Kickstarter campaign and donate by CLICKING RIGHT HERE.  If you decide to back, please leave a note here letting me know you did so.

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Concluding Canada Week here, today we ramble on with Gibson Twist, the creator of one of my favorite webcomics, PICTURES OF YOU. POI is part coming-of-age story, part relationship drama, part college comedy, and the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

The Mysterious Gibson Twist

Gibson Twist claims to be a fictional entity. In reality, he writes several other webcomics in addition to PICTURES OF YOU, and yet somehow manages to find time for his wife and his cat.

 

ANTHONY: Welcome to Rambling On, Gibson. How’s things?

GIBSON: Things are ridiculously good. It’s a bit shocking how good. I know it’s de rigueur for people to be unappreciated as they roll a rock uphill, but honestly, I’m riding one of those life-highs lately, and I’m not so much of a selfish asshole not to appreciate that. People love and support what I do, solid home life with someone who challenges and excites me. If it were cool to be happy, I’d be the Fonz over here.

ANTHONY: So tell me a little bit about the genesis of PICTURES OF YOU. Why this story, and these characters?

GIBSON: The first inklings of what would become Pictures of You began during a hangover. It was an earned hangover, I’ll say that. It came after a couple days spent with some old friends, most of us hadn’t seen or spent any time together in years, and we hadn’t all parted on the greatest terms, but all the water was under the bridge and we were enjoying each other and remembering good times, remembering why we liked each other in the first place. Someone tried to climb over the table and ended up in someone’s lap, then we were asked to leave. It was that kind of night.

While I was nursing my hangover with wine, white zinfandel to be exact, I started writing down a bunch of the more memorable times I’d spent with that group, and the others who couldn’t make it. It turned into sort of a project, to document it all. The more I wrote down, the more I realized how much I couldn’t remember, why people had done certain things, who was where when what was destroyed. There were also things that, out of context, made some of us look like bigger assholes than we were, and things where the context took too much time to explain.

I still wanted to tell the story, so I decided to fictionalize the whole thing, from the ground up. I threw everyone into a blender and started building characters, and shaped those characters to the story that began emerging, and as I grew to understand the characters, the story changed as well. They are compossible, as any good story/character realization should be, I suppose.

No one character is a depiction of a real person, but of the collection of them is meant to depict the spirit of the group of people that inspired the story. The story too is just a reflection of what happened in those years, fictionalized to make for a good soap opera.

ANTHONY: I get so caught up in the story that I occasionally forget you started this with a framing device, Peter looking back on the past. So do you have a planned end-point, and an idea of when you’re going to get to that point? Or is the series more open-ended?

GIBSON: The series has a definite end-point, and it’s where everything is going. I spent years drafting the plot, and despite a few variations here and there, the storyline is fairly well set. At the risk of a spoiler, the scene in the Prologue does get reached and even surpassed in the regular story.

ANTHONY: PICTURES is clearly your baby — you write it and you draw the majority of it. What’s your creative process like? Do you fully script before you start the art?

GIBSON: I like to have stories plotted quite deeply before I begin crafting the final product, but the length of Pictures of You didn’t really allow that as much as I’d like. The basic skeleton of the story is there, and I plot more deeply on each book before I sit down to script.

I script each book in full before I begin, with the exception of Book Three for which I’d done a large amount of art before scripting the entire volume. Oh, and Book Four’s final chapter is unfinished, but I know how it wraps up. I do rewrite a lot as I go, most chapters get at least a quick retouch before I begin penciling. Sometimes I’m revising pages as I’m drawing them, and it’s not uncommon for me to rework dialogue during the lettering process. If I have a process, and I might not, it’s to start with the big picture and refine details on an increasingly smaller level as I come to them.

I’m already working on the script to Book Five in my head.

ANTHONY: Once you start a page, what is that process like, from drafting through final art?

GIBSON: Well, the first thing I do when I start a page is to ignore it. I’m no good with blank pages, they are my enemy. Almost invariably, the next step is draw a lot of terrible things that I erase. That is followed by me putting on some music or video for background, and I pencil in probably finer detail than most. This is largely due to the fact that I’m not strong as an artist, and it’s still a struggle for me to produce lines I like. And of course the inks, which are strangely my favourite part of the art.

The pencils and finishes are done on actual paper with actual pencils and actual ink, which seems to be a dying process, especially among webcomickers. I will say I notice people of a certain age are more likely to use paper and ink while people under that certain age are more likely to use pixels. I’ll be honest, while I enjoy paper, I don’t work digitally because computers scare me, and I can’t figure out how make smooth lines with them.

I do colour and letter digitally, which is a fairly painless process, and I’m able to clean up ink blunders there as well, much more easily than with correction fluid or the like. More recently, I’ve been able to go back digitally and clean up let’s just call it bad art from earlier pages, and make them look nicer.

I think the only really interesting or unique thing that I do is that I flip the page around in circles as I draw, to get angles and curves and so on. And I only know this is unique because my wife looks at me weird whenever she sees me do it, and then she pretends it’s not weird. And what I’ve noticed since then is that I flip it clockwise. I couldn’t even begin to tell you why, and I’m pretty sure it’s better for me not to know.

The very complex Michelle Cutter

ANTHONY: What tools do you favor for drawing, coloring, etc.?

GIBSON: I draw on large board, specifically Strathmore 11×17 Comic Pages and I scream myself blue in the face begging people more talented than I to do the same. It allows me to draw bigger, with more space to work, and then reduce later. I have yet to meet the artist whose work doesn’t look better reduced. It pulls all the lines together and makes a lot of mistakes disappear. But yes, 11×17 paper.

I work with non-photo blue pencil leads. Currently, I’m using Uniball’s new “soft blue” mechanical 0.5 leads, which are a dream even if they break more easily and I go through them faster. Before that, I used Pentel’s blue leads, which worked but were not technically non-photo, and I had to scan lighter, which did no favours for the line quality. Before that, for years, I used Prismacolor Col-Erase NPB pencils. I got a great line from them, but was forever sharpening, sharpening, sharpening.

My inking has been done since day one with Koh-i-nor rapidographs and Black India ink (which is not india ink) for paper and film, which I adore. I’ve never been able to ink particularly well with anything else. Before Pictures of You, I tried working with disposable pens, which dried out too quickly or just didn’t give a nice line. I’m useless with brushes or brush pens.

Colours and letters are all done with GiMP, which is a free imaging program. I just can’t afford the big stuff, and I won’t use pirated software.

Would it be strange to admit I’m picky about my rulers? I use the clear plastic ones with the beveled edge. They let me see the page while I use them, and the bevel lets me ink straight lines. I hope someone out there finds that information useful because I feel like an amazing nerd talking about it.

ANTHONY: When PICTURES started out, it was black and white. What brought on the shift to full color, and how did that change your creative process if at all?

GIBSON: Colour came about after doing a little thank you/incentive thing, and I found I was a little better at it than I thought, and I was happy with how it turned out, so I tried colouring some older pages just for kicks, and I was pretty happy with that too. I knew comics with colour did better at drawing audiences, too, so there was also a bit of marketing involved in the decision.

My inking has become cleaner since switching to colour, which is a result of having to colour in all sorts of sloppy hatch marks and broken lines, and I think that’s also moved me into refining the lines that I make, and grow the quality of my pencils as well.

Truthfully, colour made me like the visuals of Pictures of You a lot more. I thought, and still think, it brought a new kind of life to it. I got a lot of static from people, purists, I guess, when I switched to colour, but the simple fact is that my numbers tripled within a few months after. So what are you gonna do about that?

ANTHONY: Between books you run “Snapshot” segments with other artists. How does that process work?

GIBSON: Pretty simply, I ask friends of mine who are fans of the comic, whose work I enjoy, if they want to do some pages for fun. I ask them what characters they’d like to draw and if they have any preference for subject or theme, then I write them a script based on that. I try to find a range of styles, from cartoony to manga, and in one case a photo comic from one of the few people I’ve seen do photo comics really well. It was serendipitous that he bore a striking resemblance to the main character.

It’s fun for me, because I really enjoy working with other artists and don’t get to do it enough. I hope they have fun too. It seems like they do, most of them. Maybe they’re too polite to tell me I’m horrible to work with.

We’re reducing the number of guest strips for next time to three or maybe four shorter pieces. Two artists have already signed on and I’m in love with both of their work. Number three is still a toss-up, mostly on whomever is first to say yes.

ANTHONY: PICTURES is divided into books, with the books divided into smaller arcs. Have you ever started an arc, or a book, and realized it was going someplace different from where you intended? I guess what I’m asking is the classic “have the characters ever taken over and moved the story in a different direction?”

GIBSON: This happened a number of times in Book Three, which might have been inevitable considering its length. Everything ends up more or less the way I intended. The important things, at least, but things happened in different orders, some things had to be scrapped. The relationship between Peter and Kara, for one, was supposed to play out differently, in different chronology, but as I wrote other things and other characters’ storylines, it made more sense to happen the way it has. There was supposed to be more with Devon and Melanie as well, but had to be truncated, and the Devon storyline was changed as a result.

I wouldn’t say it’s ever happened that a character speaks to me, but sometimes the plotted story doesn’t mesh with a character’s personality, and the writing changes to be more true to them. I’m not someone who believes characters speak, but act and react the way they should to what’s happening, and that’s not always the way I planned it. It’s the balance of telling the story you want to tell and representing fully realized characters in their own realistic fashion.

ANTHONY: Peter is clearly the narrator and focal point of the series. Other than him, I think my favorite characters are Andy, Melanie and Wylie (who I wish would get a “front burner” storyline, honestly). Overall, which characters have garnered the biggest response from readers? Who gets the most “fan mail?”

The adorable Wiley Ryan is really excited about the PICTURES Kickstarter

GIBSON: Michelle is clearly the fan favourite. She seems to resonate with both the female readers for being strong yet vulnerable, and with male readers for being good looking and kicking ass. Kara gets a lot of love too, far more so now than in the first couple books when no one seemed to like her much. The most curious and divided reaction is to Mulligan, of course. Lots of hate, a fair amount of love, no one seems to be luke warm about him.

Patrick and Wiley are also up there, at least for the cooing that happens in the comments section. Wiley definitely comes to the forefront in the upcoming books. I get a lot of messages asking what happens to Wiley, there seems to be a consensus that something bad happens to him, but I try to tell people, something bad happens to all of them. Well, except one, but I’m not telling who.

I suspect reactions will change as the books go forward and different characters are brought to the front of the story. Sam and Lauren, for instance, will certainly be given more of their due in the next few books.

ANTHONY: PICTURES isn’t your only webcomic. Tell us about some of the other projects you’ve got going on.

GIBSON: Well, there’s Our Time in Eden with artist Ben Steeves that we’ve been working on for years. I started writing the novel on which it’s based in 1996, I adapted the comic script in 2004, and we started working on the art for the comic in 2006. It’s been incredibly rewarding working with Ben on it, he’s brought a vision to it I never could.

The only other project that’s in development with an artist attached at the moment is Little Earthquakes with Rori making the pictures. This is one we’ve been working on for a while as well, the first version of the plot hit paper in late 2008. I can’t say a lot about it, but it’s going to rival, perhaps surpass Our Time in Eden for darkness. We don’t have any kind of release date for this, as we’re going to shop it around before we post it as a webcomic.

I have a wide range of projects sitting on my Future Projects list, and I’ve been itching to do some more prose work in the near future. It’s hard to say which ones will get worked on first, depends on what artists want to work with me and take a shine to which projects.

There’ve been a couple false starts in the last couple years, projects I began working on with artists who, for one reason or another, had to bail. Which is cool. Finding a collaborator is never easy. They have other priorities, they lose interest in the story, they find other stories, life steps up and demands time. I keep at it, though, there are too many artists with whom I want to work to stop, and too many stories untold.

ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

GIBSON: Favourite book of all time? Comic or prose?

Prose, I’d have to say High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Fantastic read, no one shouldn’t read this. It’s the purest insight I’ve read into the mind of men of a certain age, which is good for men because it’s a mirror into which they can nod, and for women because we’re not as simple as sitcoms would have you believe. The movie was very well done and I watch it often, but the book goes deeper and tells more story than a movie ever could. The irony is that every time I’m asked what my favourite book/comic/movie/album is, I reenact a scene from this book.

Comic, that’s a tough one. If I can include a whole series, Jaime Hernandez’s Love and Rockets would win the prize. Hugely influential on my work, and just enjoyable no matter how many times I read it. If I have to pick a single volume, though, I’d probably go with Jeff Smith’s Bone. It’s hard to choose, since there are so many fantastic books out there that don’t get enough time in the spotlight. Joe Sacco, Evan Dorkin, Eddie Campbell, Chris Thompson, Marjane Satrapi…they all make brilliant comics that I love every time I read them.

 

You can find Gibson on Twitter as @GibsonTwist.  In addition to PICTURES OF YOU, you can also find OUR TIME IN EDEN on the net. Gibson also has a Kickstarter running at the moment to get PICTURES into print form finally. Take a look at it, and consider helping bring one of my favorite webcomics to bookstores.

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Joe Phillips

Today’s guest is artist Joe Phillips. Since 1987, Joe’s work has not only been seen in books from every major comics publisher but also internationally in advertising for a number of products. He’s also a sculptor and animator, including the music video for Air Gold’s “Where The Music Takes You.” Joe and co-creator Chad Prato are running a Kickstarter to build a new clothing line called “Vampire vs. Werewolf.”

 

ANTHONY: Hi, Joe! Thanks for taking some time out for a chat. How are you?

JOE: Good thanks for asking, Any day above ground is a great day right?

ANTHONY: You know I’m fan-boying a bit right now. I have several of your calendars still hanging on my wall even though the years they represent are long past.  So, let’s talk a little about you, first. How long have you been illustrating professionally?

JOE: For over 25 years, I know right. But yeah I’ve been drawing since high school. Doing fan -zines and local papers first then independent comics and working for the big boys.

ANTHONY: What have been some of your favorite projects to work on?

JOE: I did a national ad campaign for Bud Light the same year I drew the illustrations for “the Joy of Gay Sex” LOL lot of crazy projects in my time but MR. MIRACLE for DC was my first time big comic and so it stands out for me.

ANTHONY: I hate the “where do you get your ideas” type of questions, but so much of your work seems drawn from real life … so what inspires you to work on a project?

JOE: My mind is haunted with all sorts of strange things and the voices speak to me to let them out. Sometimes they are profound images or sometimes just a great butt will inspire my work.

Vampire vs. Werewolf

ANTHONY: The project we’re here to talk about today is your Kickstarter for “Vampire vs. Werewolf.”  Tell us a little bit about the project.

JOE: It’s a fun project inspired by all the Vampire and werewolf fever there is in pop culture. As a cartoonist at heart I wanted to do a classic vs match between them, not so much as who would win in a fight but who is cooler. I wanted to do cool t-shirts and magnets and stuff so folks could show their love for their favorites.

ANTHONY: How did the idea for this project come together?

JOE: I was talking to my long-time friend Chad Prater who use to put on comic conventions down in Florida years ago. We have been wanting to do a t-shirt company and needed something fun to do as a first project so we came up with this.

ANTHONY: Tell me about the rewards backers will get if they support Vampire vs. Werewolf.

JOE: The pledgers get t-shirts and stickers as well as really nice prints and magnets. We will be adding new images throughout the pledge time so there will be lots to choose from.

ANTHONY: If the project does get fully funded, are you planning on doing more with the concept? Is there perhaps an idea for an animated webseries or the like?

JOE: How cool would that be maybe a web cartoon series or comic book. I’m open to suggestions.

Werewolf Problems

ANTHONY: The art style for Vampire vs. Werewolf is a different from your better-known work. How did you decide on this particular style?

JOE: Well it comes from my love of cartoons I loved the rubber legs of old black and white cartoons and the new fun stuff like Adventure time and Regular Show. The style came from that school of thought.

ANTHONY: What was your process for creating the art for this project? And how different was it from your usual creative process if at all?

JOE: With this I just open up to all the foibles of being a werewolf or Vampire. you can see my humor in how pretenses the Vamp boys are and how rowdy the wolf pack is. It’s just fun to let go and let them tell me what to draw.

ANTHONY: What else are you working on these days?

JOE: New calendars, new art books and releasing my first novel. Please check my website for more info on upcoming projects.

ANTHONY: And my usual final question: What is your favorite book, and what would you say to someone who hasn’t read it to convince them that they should?

JOE: LOL my favorite book is Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis I laugh out loud every time I read it.

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Joe!

JOE: My pleasure. If we make our pledge goal we can buy the equipment to do all sorts of fun stuff. Thanks for the interest.

 

Vampire Problems

You can see more designs and learn about Vampire vs. Werewolf on the project’s Kickstarter page. You can also follow Joe Phillips on Twitter as @joephillipsart.

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YEAR ONE cover

It’s no secret that I absolutely love the time-traveling, multiversal twists-and-turns of the webcomic CURA TE IPSUM, written by Neal Bailey and drawn by Dexter Wee. When the guys released the first print volume of CTI, I interviewed Neal. When they released the second print volume, I interviewed Neal and Dexter together. Book Three is about to be released, as well as a YEAR ONE compendium with a ton of extras, and so I thought this time instead of interviewing the guys, I’d give them the opportunity to just take over the blog for a day and speak in their own words.

For those who don’t know: CTI is the story of Charlie Everett – or, rather, a multiverse of Charlie Everetts. Charlie Prime, as we’ve come to call him, is prevented from committing suicide by a visit from another version of himself. Charlie Prime discovers that he’s got a bit more natural ability for time\space travel than his other selves, and together with Leo (who saved him), The Nerd, Billy, Charlene and Squirt (all divergent versions of Charlie), they seek to stop The Dark Everett and his partners from killing every Charlie in existence.

Neal, of course, one-upped my thought. I’m proud to be able to post here a small sneak peek at INRICTI, the prose short story that is one of the special features of the YEAR ONE Compendium.  I’ll let Neal introduce the story segment, and then I’ll be back with the links you can click on to order the books!

* * * * *

Hello, folks! First off, thank you, Anthony, for the place to debut a preview for Cura’s first short story.

INRICTI (a play on words for INRI and CTI, for Cura Te Ipsum) tells the story of what might happen if a bad man, namely the Dark Everett, decided to show a preacher what REALLY happened on Golgotha. It’s a long story, and it’ll be featured in YEAR ONE, the collected edition of our first year of stories, which you can find at http://www.curateipsum.com/, along with our third volume. Both are available for pre-order now.

It’s a dark story, and a fairly bleak one, but I had really good time writing it and I hope you all enjoy it.

Here’s the preview!

Neal Bailey

 

INRICTI
For Michael Moorcock


“Death.”

The preacher takes a long pause to examine the faces of his congregation.

“It has power over us, with good reason. There is such terror in the concept of a person we know and love, a person, become a body that rots in the ground. Your grandmother. Your father. A son or daughter.”

Pacing, always pacing when he speaks.

“I often imagine the fear an atheist must have examining death. Consider, even with knowledge of an afterlife, the concept of yourself no longer existing.”

Awkward silence. It drags.

“There’s no sense of continuity without God when flesh goes to dust.” He grabs his arm and pinches through the cloth. “For a non-believer, all we have is a life that can be hard, unfair, and very cruel in the face of the infinite. For us, for me, anyway, I take great solace from the thought of a loving creator. There’s nothing quite like it to quell the horrors of our short lives.”

The pacing stops.

“There is a plan for our lives. Things may spin around and fall apart, but somewhere out there, out between our potential dimensions, the spirit and the flesh come back together. There’s a pattern that flows through all real and imagined worlds born of our minds. Succumbing to the hunger for things you might otherwise have ignored but for cold, hard, logic, that, my friends, is faith.”

The preacher smiles. It is a sincere smile. The congregation smiles with him.

“Let us pray.”

* * *

Now the preacher sits in the front pew looking up at the statue of Jesus to consider. The congregation has been gone for some time. He does this a lot now, like he did on the bed with the pistol. This leaves him more comforted.

Footsteps echo in the empty church. A man sits down next to him. The preacher keeps his head bowed. He doesn’t turn. He keeps his eyes closed. He does smile.

“I presume you wish to speak about something.”

“What gave you that impression, padre?”

“You came across the entire empty church and sat down right next to me. Unless you’re looking for a date, that’s often followed by questions, or solicitations of advice.”

“I may have a few things to confess.”

“We don’t do confessions. You’re thinking of the Catholics.”

“I’ve got more sins than you could listen to in a lifetime.” Something in the man’s voice. Odd. A nasal plastic echo.

The preacher looks. The preacher clears his throat, looking for words. “Are – are we by chance related?”

Sitting next to him is a mirror image. A man very much like himself, so close in manner and proportion they could be twins, but for a few key differences. The other man is ropey with muscles. Older, certainly. Harder. The nose. There’s something strange and artificial about his nose.

“In a sense we’re related, but not really. Do I call you preacher? Or Reverend? Or Father? What?”

Gooseflesh breaks out across the preacher’s arms. “I realize something.”

“Do tell.”

“The front door isn’t open. It’s locked.”

“Let’s just say that I snuck into the bathroom and waited for you to lock the front door. That makes more sense than the supernatural, that I just opened a portal and dropped in here from nowhere, right? I mean, that would require you to believe in something certifiably crazy without any evidence to do so, right?” A derisive snort.

“I checked the bathrooms. Bums like to sleep in there.”

“Perhaps Jesus let me in.” The voice is sarcastic. Mocking. Slow. Deliberate. A nursery rhyme cadence.

“I don’t find that funny.”

“I liked your sermon. You have a way with words.”

“Thank you.”

“I am the wrong person to thank. I appreciate beauty, but in this equation, you’re the cross—” Click. “—and I’m the switchblade.” The blade is dull by the candle light. Well-used. Chipped from too many impacts with bone. Blade side up in a fist that shakes with anger.

“You’d kill a man of God?”

“I’d never kill a man of God.”

“What’s the blade for?”

“For you.”

“I’m a man of God.”

“No!” The fist slams into the top of the pew in front of them hard enough to rock them both. The other hand reaches for his face, gripping the nose. The nose comes off. A scarred cavity. A skull face. The face of death. “There is no God, and I’m your proof.”

The gooseflesh returns, up and down the preacher’s arms. “Are you a demon?”

“Always looking for the supernatural where there is none.” The man stabs the knife down into the pew and begins carving a long C next to his right leg. “I’m not a fucking demon. I’m you. Another you.”

“Your nose.”

“I cut it off to prove a point. Seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s not all fun and games, but it’s great for appearances. As you well know, people like a little smoke and mirrors.”

“Appearances?”

“They call me the Dark Everett, though my Christian name is Charles, like yours. That’s what they do to people who tell the truth. They call them demons, give them sinister sounding nicknames. I’m guessing, given that you’re above ground, you’ve already met with another version of yourself. That’s almost always how it happens. That’s how it’s been happening for quite a long time.”

“I have, at times, been visited by an angel.”

A waved hand. “Oh, go on. Keep trying to explain reality with a superstition. Makes me think of, what’s the expression? That one about suitably advanced technology and magic?” The Dark Everett carves a circle in the middle of his C. “Tell me more about this angel of yours.”

“He is me. Us. Only with a beard. Long flowing hair. He dresses in robes. He comes to my apartment once a week and makes sure I stay alive. For the longest time, I thought it was Jesus.”

“That’s a new one.”

“I thought – it occurred to me that perhaps when we see Jesus, we see an embodiment of whoever we are.”

“Arrogant. Did he tell you that he was Jesus?”

“He doesn’t say much.”

“I’ve heard of about this evangelist before. He’s visited many of us. He’s a slippery little missionary, the fuck.”

“He claimed knowledge of the future.”

“Did he give any specific examples?”

“A few. A baseball score. He told me that God wanted me to be a preacher, and that if I didn’t kill myself, all would be well.”
The Dark Everett scowls. “The Evangelist likes to prey on people in weak states of mind. That’s how he gets his kicks. I get mine solving that kind of problem.” The Dark Everett flips the knife in the air and catches it. Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch. There’s now a rough approximation of the world in the seat next to him, inside the C.

“You sit in judgment of others while you threaten another man with a knife?”

“I’m no prize myself.” That dry rasp in the nose again. It’s chilling. “But I am honest in what I do. If anything, sir, I am honest.”

“Most devils claim they are.”

“In fiction. There are no devils. Or angels. I’m a man, Chuck. Flesh and blood. I always have been. If you cut me, I’ll bleed. There’s nothing special about me beyond a commitment to be better than I am. Even if I were a demon, there’s nothing special enough about your pathetic life that would inspire one to visit you. You got tricked by religion. That’s how it works. It plays off our self-importance. If there were a God, and trust me, there’s not, he wants us both dead.” The Dark Everett makes a pistol with his finger and blows his fake brains out.

“Why?”

“Because every time a Charlie survives, bad things happen.”

“Every time?”

The knife stabs into the makeshift Earth. “There isn’t a one of us across the entire multiverse that’s at peace. Not a one. When we gain the ability to jump between worlds, we end up fucking them up, fucking ourselves up, stealing, fighting, corrupting. It’s in our blood.”

“Our souls?”

“Don’t get cute, Preach.”

“What’s my crime? I help the poor. I give my services for free. I like to think I live an honest life.”

“I just watched you bear false witness. And anyway, you’d change if you got a stone. We all do.”

“And you, casting the first stone?”

“I’m not immune. I deserve to die more than almost any other Charlie, and I will. There’s just some work to do before I go.”
The preacher looks up at the cross. “Did you ever consider that the relentless pursuit of perfection is a defect of humanity, not of our selves? I mean, provided you really are another me. We all make a mess of our lives. That doesn’t mean they need to end. If we learn to forgive ourselves, there can be peace. Does anyone live a life that isn’t, in some way, flawed?”

“Don’t pollute the issue. This isn’t a debate. You’re already dead. I like nuance, and that’s why I’m engaging you, but we’re not talking about spitting out kids we can’t take care of, all whoopsie-daisy. That’s a debatable character flaw. We’re talking about changing the entire course of otherwise normal societies. Genocide and annihilation. I came here today from a place where there’s a man handing out night vision to the highest bidding country in nineteen sixty.”

“Nineteen sixty?”

“Cheap gas is nice and all, but this long hair doesn’t go over very well.”

“I don’t imagine it would.”

“To the point, the man handing out the night vision is me. You. Speak to me of the lightness of our flaws when it doesn’t start wars to the tune of millions of lives.” The Dark Everett wiggles the knife free and draws an X over the world. “That planet is going to spiral into chaos in less than ten years because of one greedy, cheating capitalist who will end the conflict in Vietnam with drones. He’s done it one one world already, and he doesn’t care. And here’s the real trick – he’s one of the good ones. A Charlie Everett is a higher devil. A pox on the surface of infinite earths. Every time he kills a Hitler for a lark, he condemns millions of people to suffering over time, times that he will never have to live through because he can just step away. And we do. I have.”

The preacher stares down at the Dark Everett’s blade. “You can kill me in malice, and I won’t be able to stop you, but you won’t do it without knowing that I believe I’ve made this world a better place. I’m an exception to your rule.”

“You take the stupid and make them believe in magical men who prognosticate and punish. I can’t think of a much greater crime for a man’s soul beyond reality television.” A long, slow sigh.

A fist. An unmade fist. A hand to his mouth. “Can I possibly be so cynical? Can any of me be in you?”

The Dark Everett puts a finger up to where his nose would otherwise be. Flip. Catch. Flip. Catch. “I caught a little anger there, preacher. We can’t skip right to acceptance, can we?”

“I’m past acceptance. You forget.”

“Ah, good. Shall we get on with it, then?” Catch. Brandish.

The preacher looks toward the door. “May I choose where I die?”

“Bargaining. See? You’re on step three. Acceptance is a long way off. No. I don’t allow people to choose the methodology of death. There’s too much room for malarkey and escape. Appreciate the leeway I’m granting engaging in this conversation. It’s more than most get.”

“What made you talk to me, then?”

“I’m trying to decide if your silver tongue is worth a god damn, pun intended, or if you’re just wet meat to add to the pile. Needs must when the devil drives. So far it isn’t looking good for you. You’re not very convincing. You don’t fight with much salt.”

“That’s because I’m trying to listen to you and understand, not fight. It’s my job.”

“Now I’m just bored.” The knife into the pew again. A pistol from the back waistband, held casually in his palm. “But I’ll be kind. Bullet in the head, or slit throat?”

The preacher pales. “I know that weapon.”

“I fucking well know you know that weapon. You were supposed to use it.” Up comes the hand with the pistol, and then the hand with the knife. Pistol. Knife. Pistol. Knife. “Time to choose. Make it quick.” Toying.

“And if I have a better idea?”

“There is no better idea.” The Dark Everett lifts the pistol to the preacher’s temple. The steel is cold. “But look at the bright side. At least you’ll know for sure if you’re full of sh—”

“Crucify me.”

The pistol lowers. Laughter. “Say that again.”

“Why don’t you crucify me?”

More laughter. “Shit. You know, I like that. You mean it?”

“I do.”

The pistol retreats to the small of the back. “You might not be a total loss after all, depending on one crucial piece of information.”

“What’s that?”

“How often does this son of a bitch with the beard and the long flowing hair visit you?”

“I won’t give him up.”

“I know where you live. I’m going to go there and wait for him anyway. The man is already dead, like you. Tell me when your appointment is, I’ll give you your crucifixion, and maybe something more. If not, you make a mess here that some poor janitor is gonna have to pick up. He’ll tell the congregation what your brains look like, because he believes he’s forgiven for it in advance.”

“There’s no way I can persuade you not to kill my visitor?”

“None at all. Philosophically speaking, you’ve already killed him.”

A long silence. “He is supposed to visit this afternoon. What’s the something more?”

“Total, real resolution for your faith. Such as it is.”

* * *

And there you have it, folks. Intrigued? I hope so.

You can follow CURA TE IPSUM as it regularly updates right HERE.

VOLUME THREE collects the first half of the second year of the comic, and makes a nice companion to VOLUMES ONE and TWO if you already have them. The YEAR ONE book collects material previously available in VOLUMES ONE and TWO, with bonus stuff like the complete text of the story you just sneak-peeked. There are a good number of difference combo packages you  can purchase as well, including the chance to get original sketches done by Mr. Wee himself.  So click on this link, check it out. Tell them Anthony sent you!

VOLUME THREE cover

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This is the start of a week of posts related to various Kickstarter projects I’ve backed and hope you will too. None of them are my own (currently, I’ve got nothing I think I should be doing a Kickstarter for), but all of these are important to me for one reason or another. Some of them are projects of friends. Some of them are just projects I think are cool. Most of them are both.

Today, I’m spotlighting Lea Hernandez’ soon-to-conclude project to fund her next graphic novel, THE GARLICKS. Lea is a 25-year veteran of the comics field, has worked for DC and Marvel and has produced five graphic novels before now.

I’m going past tapping 4 people who haven’t pledged (as Lea requests below). I’m reaching out to everyone who reads my Facebook, Twitter and this here little blog. If each of you donated $25, you’d get a really cool set of stuff, and you’d help a single mother of two teenagers have a year’s worth of security to pay the bills and finish a fantastic project. So please consider helping out.

the lovely Lea Hernandez

In Lea’s Own Words, from her latest project update:

 

As THE GARLICKS: Pandora Garlicks, Fail Vampire heads into its final days,  I need your help to make the last big push to get it fully funded, and it CAN BE DONE. (I will also eat a bug*. Really.)

Here’s how:

Everyone who’s pledged, PLEASE tap FOUR people who haven’t backed THE GARLICKS and encourage them to pledge at least $25. (That gets them a signed and sketched in book, a PDF, a sticker, and their name in the book.) That will generate $29,600** in funding, which puts us past goal.

Tell your friends who like Twilight, My Little Pony, want their kids to read more, like vampires, like genre fiction, like manga, parents you know who wonder where the good genre comics for kids are, or people who want to feel good about supporting a single parent entrepreneur.

Please post about THE GARLICKS to Facebook, Twitter, email lists, your blog(s), Tumblr, etc.Tell people THE GARLICKS needs their help to reach its funding goal.

If you’ve got a Big Name pal you can nudge to support THE GARLICKS with a Tweet, Facebook or blog entry, please do. If you’ve got an in at a site like The Mary Sue (who already covered TG, THANK YOU, GALS) or BoingBoing.net, please tell them about THE GARLICKS.

I’ll still be doing my P.T. Barnum thing, too.

Know what else? It’d be COOL to get THE GARLICKS Kickstarter across the finish line in four days. You can say, “I WAS THERE!” You will all be badass Fishbats.

LET’S DO IT! I want to start drawing THE GARLICKS, already!

*I’m not kidding. I will eat a bug. I get to choose the bug, and I will not CHEW the bug, but I will eat one.

**The math: Backers so far: 296. If each of you gets four friends to pledge, we have 1,184 more backers. Get each of them to pledge $25., that’s $29,600.

 

* * * * *

And of course, you can find all the details of Lea’s THE GARLICKS Kickstarter right here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/divalea/the-garlicks-pandora-orange-fail-vampire

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Sometimes I get to interview my friends, sometimes I get to interview folks whose work I’ve stumbled across recently and enjoyed, and sometimes I get to interview my creative heroes. This week, I’m talking with comics creator Jerry Ordway, who definitely falls into the “heroes” category.

Jerry Ordway has been working professionally in comics since 1980. He had a long run as finisher and then full artist on DC’s ALL-STAR SQUADRON, which is where I first encountered him. He co-created the original INFINITY INC, had a eight-year run on the SUPERMAN family of titles, and a fantastic four year run redefining THE POWER OF SHAZAM. He’s also done work for Marvel Comics.

ANTHONY: Hi, Jerry. Thanks for agreeing to let this long-time fanboy pester you for a while.

JERRY: No problem, happy to chat.

ANTHONY: DC Comics recently announced a black-and-white SHOWCASE reprint edition of the early issues of All-Star Squadron. I couldn’t find a contents listing on Amazon. How much of your work on the series will be seen in this first volume?

JERRY: I assume you’ll see the finishes I did on Buckler, as well as those on Adrian Gonzales in issues 1-14, including the first annual. Maybe they’ll include the Justice League portion of the JLA-JSA crossover. Not sure what the page counts is, on those collections.

ANTHONY: You started out inking Rich Buckler, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at a couple of New York Comic-Cons, but he eventually left the book and you shifted to pencilling duties. Was there any pressure to mimic Rich’s style in the beginning, or did the editors just let you jump right in?

JERRY: Well, since I was doing finishes on All Star Squadron from the beginning, the editor felt that my “veneer” so to speak, was the selling point, especially since I was working over Adrian Gonzales’s work from around issue #6(?) until I started pencilling. In fact, I had been wanting to pencil from the start, but doing the monthly All Star book was something DC didn’t want to mess with, or derail. By the second year, Roy Thomas had me doing so many art changes, I was frustrated. I decided to take up an offer to draw an 8 page Creeper back-up in Flash, and quit the book. But Len Wein, the editor told me I could pencil All Star, instead. Not wanting Adrian to lose work was my concern, and he was apparently happy to shift over to Arak, instead of drawing a dozen costumed heroes in a period backdrop:) So, no pressure to have to follow any style but my own.

ANTHONY: I have to say that I think part of my enduring love for the Golden Age Flash, Green Lantern and Starman over and above their more modern counterparts has to do with your take on them back in the Squadron days. Why do you think Jay Garrick, Alan Scott, Ted Knight and even the original Captain Marvel still have such a fan-base 70 or more years after they debuted?

JERRY: Well, I think they are all compelling characters in their own right, of course, but I think in the case of the JSA-ers, that Roy, with some help from me, imbued them with personalities that didn’t exist in earlier incarnations. Roy lived and breathed those characters, and that is what made the JSA characters special in our time frame, via All Star Squad, and also Infinity Inc in the mid 1980’s. That material directly inspired the Goyer and Robinson (later Geoff Johns) material, much as the 1940’s to 1970’s stuff inspired Roy and myself.

Jerry's Tarantula redesign

ANTHONY: You got to redesign some WW2 characters and create some brand-new characters for All-Star Squadron. Looking back, what was your favorite costume design, and who would you like to have (re)designed given the chance?

JERRY: Again, at Roy’s insistence we gave Tarantula new life, outside of being a Sandman clone. That costume is a favorite of mine. Amazing Man was a new creation, though also a fun design, an attempt to design as if it was 1940 instead of 1980. I was never compelled to redesign any of the classic ones, though. I felt I could make them work in the drawing, if they appeared a bit clunky, as Alan Scott’s 1940’s outfit was. That one had every color in the paintbox, but worked fine if you drew it consistent.

ANTHONY: When you wrote and drew The Power of Shazam!, including painting the series covers, you gave the book a look that seemed to sit squarely between the cartoony look of creator CC Beck and the realistic look Don Newton used in the short Adventure Comics run he did. Was this a conscious decision, or just a function of how your own style had developed at that time?

JERRY: Well, I was a fan of Don Newton’s work overall, from his Charlton days on the Phantom, and I also respected C.C. Beck’s vision. To me, the only way Captain Marvel ever looked correct, was when he was on model with the Beck head design. I’ve always tried to make my heroes different in subtle ways, for storytelling clarity, and with Cap, that was the iconic look, much as Joe Shuster and Jack Burnley’s golden age Superman was the correct model for that hero.

ANTHONY: How has your creative process changed over the years? Do you still use basically the same tools, or have you switched completely to digital? And how do you think digital tools have affected the style of newer artists in the field?

JERRY: I work with paper and pencils, ink and pens. I scan work and do digital touch-ups, but the appeal for me isn’t in inking or drawing digitally. It’s a tactile experience, feeling the pen tip on the paper. Digital is an improvement in many ways, allowing for color separations to be done better, and I’ve seen painted work that looks great digitally, but the training is the same, learning to draw, learning to use color, or black and white.

ANTHONY: You’ve worked extensively for DC, you’ve done some work for Marvel. Is there any character out there you haven’t had a chance to work on that you’d still like to take a crack at?

JERRY: I love drawing Captain America, and also always wanted another shot at the Fantastic Four. I grew up a Marvel reader, so those characters connect me to my childhood, you know? But sometimes, you are better off not working on material that you love to much at the start, because it hampers your vision, in a way. I learned to love Superman, as well as Captain Marvel, and I think I did my best work on them because I could be objective about what worked and what didn’t.

ANTHONY: What are you currently working on?

JERRY: I just finished a 6 page Alfred story for the Bat-books, with a Halloween theme, so I suppose that will go into inventory for next year> Also I have 5 pages in the second issue of the new Thunder Agents series, drawing a 1960’s flashback, which was fun. I have a couple of projects lined up, but can’t spill the beans just yet. The first is a new take on a 1960’s era DC book, which is all I can tease.

ANTHONY: You’ve been auctioning original art on e-bay. Is there any piece of your own work that you would never ever part with?

JERRY: I have a hard time parting with most stuff, which is why I’ve been selling prelims and sketches for the most part. Each drawing represents a day or two of my life, you know?

ANTHONY: Thanks again, Jerry!

You can find Jerry all over the web. He’s on Twitter as @JerryOrdway, he’s on Facebook, he blogs on Ordster’s Random Thoughts, and there’s still content up on his website as well.

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