Indie Comics Spotlight: Scout Handbook

Scout week concludes with the cover of a one-shot book featuring character bios, maps, weapons, and other facts about the setting of the Scout series, New America.

Scout Handbook was for completists only, but Tim truman’s setting for the two Scout series was so rich and fleshed out that it bore a closer look.

DC Comics pitch: The Spectre

This is the second (and last) pitch I made to DC Comics, after their “New 52” relaunch. The first was for a more ethnically diverse take on Blue Devil, which you can see here. Several factors led me to abandon any further attempts at pitching other ideas, including a lack of response on their behalf, my time being spent on my various creator owned projects (chief amongst them being Persia Blues), and frankly, the fact that the publishers isn’t exactly open to new writers right now.

Ironically, this pitch was for a character I wrote in my one and only gig at DC to date, The Spectre. That was back in 2010 for the DC Universe Holiday Special 2010.

Now, I won’t claim to be the world’s biggest Spectre fan, and I haven’t read all of his various comics series, but I do like the concept a lot and see enormous storytelling potential in it. Also, the various Spectre series have had some fantastic covers, as you may have noticed if you follow my “7 Covers” feature on my other blog.

The character was created by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily way back in 1940…

…and like most other venerable comic book characters, has undergone numerous changes to its status quo. There have been 4 ongoing Spectre series over the decades, plus a handful of minis. In 2001, recently “deceased” Green Lantern Hal Jordan joined with The Spectre and became its host, transforming the former “spirit of vengeance” into a “spirit of redemption.”

And most recently, prior to the reboot, murdered Gotham City homicide detective Crispus Allen is forced to become the new human host for The Spectre.

I liked this latter iteration of the character. Writer Will Pfeifer wrote a fantastic and highly underrated 3-issue mini-series (with the unwieldy title of Infinite Crisis Aftermath: The Spectre) which explored the moral ambiguity of The Spectre’s motivations in a story that was at once metaphysical and grounded in reality. It was this Crispus Allen version of the character that I wrote in the Holiday Special, and it was this same one that I used as the foundation of my pitch:

The Spectre

A “DC New 52” Treatment by Dara Naraghi

(The Spectre © DC Comics)

Logline

A supernatural police thriller on the gritty streets of Gotham City, featuring homicide detective Crispus Allen, who after a near death experience finds himself bonded to a delusional spirit of vengeance.

Tags

Crime, Horror, Mystery, Occult, Religion, Psychological, Mystical

At a Glance

GCPD homicide detective Crispus Allen is many things – a loving family man, a stoic citizen, an atheist – but above all he is an honest cop in a dirty city. One night, while investigating police corruption and its ties to a street gang dealing in venom, he is gunned down from behind by dirty cop Antoine Frey.

Critically wounded but still alive, Allen undergoes a surreal out of body experience wherein he is confronted by mystical entities beyond comprehension, and an angry spirit known as The Spectre. The spirit offers the detective a bargain: his life will be spared if he agrees to bond with it and carry on its mission as “The Wrath of God.” Desperate to be reunited with his wife and sons, Allen agrees.

Waking up in an intensive care unit, Allen finds his wife praying by his bedside. Elated at his recovery, she relates how his wounded body was found by a homeless man, Jim Corrigan, who called for help. Allen undergoes many months of physical therapy, determined to return to the force and continue his investigation of Frey.

But what Allen believed to be hallucinations during his near death experience become all too real when The Spectre materializes during one of his investigations. Now, torn between his oath to serve and protect, and The Spectre’s gruesome form of justice, Allen struggles to make sense of his new situation while trying to protect his family, career, and above all, his sanity. Meanwhile, Antoine Frey bids his time, with order to take out Allen for good.

And to what lengths will Jim Corrigan, Allen’s savior and new street informant, go to protect his own secret? The former human host of The Spectre, his mind succumbed to insanity after decades of witnessing the spirit’s extreme brand of justice. Upon discovering Allen’s wounded body, he saw his chance to rid himself of his personal demon by offering a more suitable host, a deal The Spectre could not refuse. When Allen eventually discovers the truth, will he still see Corrigan as the man who saved his life, or instead condemned it to a new kind of hell?

Tone/Themes

At its heart, the series will be about the study of opposites: Allen’s methodical, logical mind and science-based forensics vs. The Spectre’s unpredictable nature and inexplicable magic. The “lone wolf” Jim Corrigan’s inability to retain his sanity as former host for The Spectre vs. Allen’s success due to his grounded personality and family support structure. And finally, free will vs. predetermination.

Crispus Allen is a heroic, complex, strong African American character, and I feel it would be a disservice to relegate him to the role of a disembodied spirit, unable to interact with others around him. There is a wealth of story possibilities to explore with him front-and-center: as a police detective in a morally grey environment, a husband grappling with issues of faith and spirituality, and a father trying to raise his sons well. I want to portray a strong family unit as a positive light in Allen’s life. Other topics explored will be religion, duty, obligation, sanity, and the vagaries of the criminal justice system.

Finally, a dark conspiracy of money and greed will provide the backbone of the street level crimes investigated by Allen, one which will lead him to Gotham’s elite politicians and captains of industry.

Powers

The Spectre is incorporeal and unseen by everyone (including Allen) until he wishes otherwise. Able to instantaneously travel to any spot in the world, he will often take Allen with him to mete out “god’s wrath.” And much to Allen’s frustration, he is able to render Allen intangible at will, taking his human host “out of the equation” when it comes to delivering justice.

The Spectre is able to prey upon the fear and guilt of criminals in such a manner that they believe he is physically punishing them in gruesome ways, such as an arsonist finding himself lit on fire. But in fact everything is happening only in their minds. The subconscious acknowledgement of their own guilt fuels The Spectre’s powers, and the depth of their guilt determines how real the physical effects of their punishment become. Of course the delusional Spectre is unaware of the true nature of his power, believing himself to be an emissary of god. Seeds of doubt will be sown when he notices that the truly delusional criminals or those lacking a conscience are essentially immune to his wrath.

Characters

Crispus Allen – A man of upstanding moral character, and a deep sense of duty to his family and friends. Unfortunately, the world he lives in is one of moral ambiguity, deception, violence, and fear. Allen’s daily struggles against his environment, as well as his own personal demon The Spectre, will provide the moments of adversity, drama, and triumph of will that define a good heroic story.

The Spectre – The self-proclaimed “spirit of god’s wrath,” it is actually a delusional soul unaware of its role as a pawn in the grand cosmic game of control waged by the Lords of Order and Chaos. Coveted by both, yet controlled by neither, The Spectre is at once a source of law and order, and calamity and madness. If a deeper tie to the New DC universe is desired, it can eventually be revealed that The Spectre was originally a religious zealot who lived during DC’s “dark ages,” as depicted in the Demon Knights series. Perhaps a gruesome death at the hands of The Demon led to its current state.

Antoine Frey – A dirty cop deeply entrenched in a vast conspiracy of vice, money, and the depraved fantasies of the rich and famous. He does the dirty work necessary, and in turn is handsomely rewarded and protected by his benefactors. The lynchpin of Allen’s investigation, he will be a recurring foil.

Dore, Jake, and Mal Allen – Crispus’ wife and two sons, and a source of moral and emotional support for the detective during his darkest hours. His moral compass remains true due to the love of his family.

Jim Corrigan – A homeless man who saves Allen’s life, and later becomes his informant and friend. Unbeknownst to everyone, Jim was the former human host for The Spectre, but as a loner “tough cop” he did not have the support structure to help him deal with the horrors he witnessed. His eventual nervous breakdown led to the loss of his job and home. He feels a deep sense of guilt for having burdened Allen with The Spectre.

As with my Blue Devil pitch, I didn’t go off in a “radical new direction,” although I suspect that’s probably what DC was more interested in. And frankly, I liked having a strong and noble minority character as one half of the The Spectre equation. I kept some familiar callbacks to the character’s previous incarnations, most notable in the reuse of the “Jim Corrigan” name, but tried to spin the series off in a different direction. But alas, the pitch went nowhere.

I’d be curious to see what form The Spectre will take when they eventually introduce him (her? it?) to the “New D52” DC universe. Until then, I’m happily plugging away at my creator owned properties.

Indie Comics Spotlight: Scout: War Shaman #16

Scout week continues, with a look at the second series starring Emanuel Santana, Scout: War Shaman.

This second series started in 1988 and ended with issue #16. It featured the further adventures of the Apache hero, plus his two young sons. There were a couple of spin-off mini series between the first Scout and this volume as well, plus a special handbook, which I’ll spotlight tomorrow.

Indie Comics Spotlight: Scout #11

This week I’m going to feature Tim Truman’s kick-ass series from the mid-80s, Scout:

This post-apocalyptic series was set in “New America,” a country heavily sanctioned by other world powers, and featured a Native American protagonist, Emanuel Santana. Published by Eclipse Comics, it was an action comic through and through, but with a lot of heart and a heck of a lot more nuance and politics than what you’d get from an action movie of the same era. Plus, Truman’s fantastic art.

Comfest starts today!

It’s the start of the 40th annual Comfest, Columbus’ long-running community festival.

Comfest is the largest all-volunteer run community festival in the US. 3 days. 6 stages. Hundreds of bands. Hundreds of vendors. Food. Fun. And it’s all outdoors, and all FREE!

For the 8th year, I will have a booth, selling copies of my comics and graphic novels, as well as the PANEL Collective anthologies and books. Hope to see some of you there!

Indie Cover Spotlight: The Crow #2

Wrapping up our look at 90s indie powerhouse Caliber Press, here’s one of their most successful and enduring publications:

The Crow was written and drawn by Detroit native James O’Barr, first published in 1989, and became a pop culture phenomena. To date, there have been 4 movies, a TV series, and novels based on the character, not to mention numerous comic book series from Kitchen Sink, Image, and now IDW. And, Hollywood being what it is, there’s a “reboot/remake” movie in the works as well.

Indie Cover Spotlight: AKA Goldfish

Caliber Press week continues, with a look at one of Brian Michael Bendis’ early works.

AKA Goldfish, published in 1994, along with other crime titles like Fire, Jinx, and Torso, established Bendis in the indie ranks and led directly to his work with Marvel Comics.

Indie Cover Spotlight: Caliber Presents #9

This week we’ll be looking at one of the great indie publishers of the 90s, Caliber Press, out of Detroit, Michigan.

Caliber Presents debuted in 1989, and was their anthology series, introducing many of the creators and properties that they would come to be known for, including James O’Barr’s The Crow. This cover is by Guy Davis, featuring his Baker Street characters.

Pixar tips on storytelling

Here’s a nice collection of tips, tweeted by Pixar story artist Emma Coats, on “story basics.” A couple of my favorites:

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.

The return of A1

A couple of days ago, I featured the old British anthology series A1 as part of the Indie Cover Spotlight feature. In a happy bit of synchronicity, Bleeding Cool is now reporting that editor Dave Elliott is bringing A1 back, some 20+ years later, via Heavy Metal magazine.

Frankenstein, by Alex Horley

Creators include Andy Kuhn, Alex Horley, Toby Cypress, Ron Marz, and others.

And dig this: there’s also a new story from Mark A. Nelson, another great artist who has been absent from the comics field for a long, long time. Also, one whose work was also featured here as part of ICS.

Bandits, by Mark Nelson

Indie Cover Spotlight: Vox #5

Obscure indie book week concludes with a look at the cover of Vox #5, from Apple Comics:

This science fiction series came out in 1989/1990, and featured a John Byrne cover on the first issue. This cover is done by artist and co-creator Aaron McClellan. Angela Harris wrote the series, which lasted 6 issues.

Indie Cover Spotlight: A1 #3

(sorry, I missed the update yesterday…)

I’m not sure if this particular book counts as “obscure,” but I’m relatively certain it’s not a household name either: A1 issue #3:

A1 was a British anthology, published by Atomeka Press, and edited by Garry Leach and Dave Elliott. Each issue was square-bound and usually clocked in at 100 pages or more, featuring such amazing creators as Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Dave McKean, Glenn Fabry, Grant Morrison, Moebius, John Bolton, and Brian Bolland.

Mr. Bolland, by the way, provided the cover to this issue.

If you’re a fan of anthologies, or the 90s wave of British creators, you owe it to yourself to track down the back issues of A1. There were 6 issues of the series published, plus a one-shot titled The A1 True Life Bikini Confidential . Apparently there was another 4-issue series published in 1992 by Marvel’s Epic label, in full color, and an A1: Big Issue 0 from Image in 2004, though I haven’t seen those later books.