So Hollywood wants to make a movie from your comic book property

I love behind-the-scenes type posts from pros. On his blog, British writer Pat Mills (co-creator of Marshal Law, amongst many others) talks about some of his misadventures in Hollywood. Here’s a snippet:

“Then there was the boss of a media company that’s a household name who ‘definitely’ wanted to do a whole range of projects featuring my characters, including Marshal Law. They were ‘very, very serious’. This time there was ‘definitely no bullshit’. Lots of time-consuming meetings and presentations ensued. This was followed by sending me some really expensive and impressive state of the art gear. It would be relevant for the projects they had in mind for me. So that made me think, wow, they must be serious! Six months went by with no news and no response to my emails and I finally realised it was dead. But I think I won on that one. I got a good price for all that gear at Cash Converters.”


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    Want to be an editor for Vertigo?

    If you’ve ever wondered what the qualifications are for an editor at DC/Vertigo, here you go:

    DC Entertainment – Burbank, CA
    DC Comics seeks an Editor for the Editorial-Vertigo department. Manages a line of editorial product within the Vertigo imprint.

    Performs full editorial function for a minimum of 4 monthly titles.
    Manages the creative process from conception through publication. Ensures that schedules and budgets are met and product quality is at or above Vertigo’s standards. Seeks ways to keep ongoing series fresh and exciting.
    Identifies and develops new editorial products for Vertigo.
    Identifies potential new talent and maintains relationships with current talent.
    Ensures that other DCE staff members have the materials required to maximize service to the product.
    Writes solicitation copy for monthly publications
    Supervise and develop a junior staff member.
    Performs other related duties as assigned.

    BA/BS degree in English, Journalism or Communications preferred.
    3-5 years editorial experience, comic books/graphic novels preferred.
    Ability to manage a creative team.
    Knowledge of comic book industry strongly preferred.
    Knowledge of art (ability to discuss composition, design, etc…) required.
    Copyediting and proofreading skills preferred.
    Ability to meet deadlines required.
    Ability to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing required.
    Ability for some light travel strongly preferred.
    Must have the ability to communicate effectively and tactfully with managers and other levels of personnel.
    Must have the ability to pay close attention to details.
    Must have the ability to organize.
    Must have the ability to work well under time constraints.
    Must have the ability to handle multiple tasks.
    Must have the ability to meet deadlines, manage multiple project elements simultaneously.
    MAC /PC proficiency required.
    Domestic travel up to 5%.

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      Review: The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics

      The_CartoonistAnother library rental, and a very enjoyable one at that, The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, BONE and the Changing Face of Comics is a 2009 documentary about local boy made good, Bone creator and fellow Columbusite, Jeff Smith.

      As you would expect with any documentary, this one charts Smith’s career, from his childhood doodles to his college days, animation career, and self-publishing Bone. Along the way, we’re treated to interviews with Smith himself, as well as a friends and fellow cartoonists like Paul Pope, Coleen Doran, Scott McCloud, Harvey Pekar, and Terry Moore. Oh, and of course Lucy Caswell, of the Ohio State University Cartoon Library & Museum, who was one of Smith’s early supporters and mentors.

      There was a fair amount of time spent on Smith’s seven years with Character Builders, the animation house he co-founded with two friends after graduating college. It was fun seeing snippets of commercial animation from the trio, including an opening sequence for a planned Jack Hanna animal show called Super Safari, as well as ads for Warner Cable (featuring the superhero Warner Man) and White Castle (in claymation, no less!). Smith credits the discipline learned from years of doing animation, both in terms of craft (learning to draw every character consistently and with varying emotions) and business (heeding deadlines, interacting with customers and vendors professionally) as one of the reasons for his success as self-publishing.


      Smith himself talks about his early influences (Carl Bark’s Uncle scrooge, Walk Kelly’s Pogo), as well as the seminal comics from 1986 that opened his eyes to the potential of the medium: Maus, Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. (Quick digression: I was lucky enough to catch a talk by Smith at CCAD about 10 years ago, where he spoke passionately about his love of comics, and incorporated dozens of images from the aforementioned books in his presentation to explain the intricacies of the craft.) Parts of the interview are also set in the Hocking Hills region of Ohio, specifically Old Man’s Cave, wherein Smith talks about the influence of that specific geographic region on his art and the settings of Bone.


      Smith’s wife, and business partner Vijaya Iyer is also featured. In a humorous clip, he explains how he talked her into quitting her promising Silicon Valley job to help him make comics. In another interesting anecdote, talking about the genesis of his new series RASL, Smith mentions coming up with the basic premise back in 2001, and running it by his friends Paul Pope and Frank Miller. At one point, they were going to work together on a science fiction anthology called Big Big, with RASL being Smith’s contribution. Alas, scheduling conflicts kept the project from ever materializing, but that would have been a trip, no?


      Oh, and on a personal note, it was cool to see my local comic shop of choice, The Laughing Ogre, featured in several of the shots in the documentary. Ogre employee Lloyd even makes an appearance in a segment set at the Smith/McCloud talk at OSU’s Mershon Auditorium. Speaking of which, most of that talk (which I had the pleasure of attending) is included on the DVD as a bonus feature. There’s also a mini-feature where Smith discusses his new series, RASL, talking about his research into both the real science and fringe science that makes up the backbone of the story.

      For fans of comics, Bone and/or Jeff Smith, I’d definitely recommend this documentary. It’s professionally produced, well written, and contains good interviews, with some clever bits as well (like incorporating black & white film footage as humorous interstitials).

      (A version of this review originally appeared on my Ferret Press blog, February 2011.)

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        Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #5

        While originally slated to adapt just one of Cory’s short stories for this IDW mini-series, I ended up getting a third issue due to IDW Editor in Chief Chris Ryall’s busy schedule (he had planned on adapting this story himself). So issue #5 became mine, adapting “I,Robot” (Cory’s version, not Asimov’s)


        As per the previous issue, this one featured another top talent doing the cover: Ashley Wood. Interior art was by Erich Owen, and it shipped in February, 2008.

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          Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #3

          After turning in the script for issue #1 (Anda’s Game), IDW liked my work enough to offered me another one of Cory’s short stories: Craphound.


          This time, one of my all-time favorite creators was on cover duty: Paul Pope.

          Paul Friggin’ Pope, covering my second ever paying gig. The book shipped in December, 2007, which made it a great Christmas present for me.

          And the interior art was by British artist Paul McCaffrey, which was a joy to behold:


          Next: I,Robot.

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            Indie Cover Spotlight: Cory Doctorow’s Futuristic Tales of The Here and Now #1

            In honor of my own birthday, I’m going to be completely self-serving by spotlighting my own comics all week on ICS, specifically my first professional paying gig: the IDW adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s short stories in comic book form.

            After the publication of my Lifelike graphic novel, Chris Ryall at IDW called me up and asked if I would be interested in adapting Doctorow’s short story “Anda’s Game” for their new limited series. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity! Imagine my delight when I found out that the cover to the first issue was by none other than the great Sam Kieth:


            The book came out in 2007, and featured interior art by Esteve Polls. I had a chance to communicate with Cory via email and ask him a few questions about what he considered the emotional beats of the story, since there’s always some amount of cutting that needs to happen when adapting prose into comics. He was very gracious with his time, and even more accommodating by telling me that he wanted me to put my mark on the adaptation, and not follow any instructions from him. When the book came out, he was equally pleasant in his positive review of it.

            Next: Craphound.

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              Mark Waid on being a freelancer

              This blog post by writer (and editor, and publisher) Mark Waid has been making the rounds, but I wanted to link to it as well because it’s essential reading for anyone thinking of a career as a freelancer in the comics biz. or, really, any creative medium.

              Don’t let anyone scare you. Don’t let anyone bully you, ever. Some will if they think they can, but you teach people how to treat you. You can be confident and show integrity without being argumentative. And for God’s sake, don’t be so afraid to explore your options that you keep turning in work that makes you wince; no good decision was ever made primarily out of fear. You can always walk away from any monkey house if you have drive and talent. There are still plenty of places in comics to do work-for-hire without being poorly treated, and there are huge opportunities to self-publish and build a faithful paying audience through the web. It’s hard work, but it’ll be better work, and it’ll be the work you’re remembered by.

              There’s really not much to add to this. Right now is one of the lowest points in creative/editorial relationships at the Big Two, especially DC Comics. And while there are a lot more opportunities available at indie publishers and as self-publishers, the money is obviously scarce. It take serious cajones to make it as a freelancer, and my hats off to those folks. It takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and luck. But obviously you can increase your odds of success by going into it with your eyes open to all the pitfalls and challenges.

              By the way, Bleeding Cool has a roundup of various comics industry professionals’ reaction to Waid’s editorial here and more here. Here are a couple of examples:

              “I’ve had the special joy of opening a comic to find the editor made changes to suit random whims. Whee.” — Sean McKeever

              “If I hadn’t already quit Marvel and DC years ago, I’d quit again. There are so many other, better opportunities for creative people out here today.” — Kyle baker

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                China Miéville on Dial H

                Omnivoracious features a short essay from novelist and Diah H writer China Miéville, wherein he discusses his history with the DC Comics property Dial H For Hero:


                “For a long time, Dial H for Hero and its successors have been my comics obsessions. No other title, I’ve long explained to any of my poor friends who’ll listen, combines childlike joy in superhero-creation, a neo-surrealist faith in the aleatory, a post-Vertigo focus on the erosion of identity, and an opening into one of the few utter mysteries left in the history of the DCU.”

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                  Jeff Smith interviewed by fellow cartoonists

                  The Tell Me Something I Don’t Know podcast on boingboing is “an interview podcast featuring artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creative people discussing their work, ideas, and the reality/business side of how they do what they do.”

                  In episode #7, indie comic creators interview Columbus’ own Jeff Smith.


                  There’s a wealth of great material here, including talking about business plans, selling to retailers, and much more. I like his stories about how much resistance there was in the early days toward trade paperback collections and graphic novels from the likes of Wizard magazine and retailers. Well worth your time, especially if you’re interested in the business side of comics and comics history.

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                    What makes a character “relatable”?

                    There’s an interview over at Comic Book Resources with Marc Guggenheim, comic book writer and executive producer of the “Arrow” TV series, and in this bit he talks about the factors that contribute to a character becoming “relatable” for the audience:

                    “The advantage we have as a television show over the comic book version is that we created a whole cast of characters around Oliver to help him be more relatable. Truth be told, in the comics Green Arrow’s basically had Black Canary, and that’s been the extent of his supporting cast — he’s had Roy, but we went to great lengths to give him a sister, a best friend, a mother, [and bodyguard] Diggle. He doesn’t have any of those things in the comics and when you talk about what makes a character relatable, I’d say it’s the people around him,” Guggenheim said. “If I were to tackle the comic book as a writer the first thing I would try to do is give him a supporting cast. That would help elaborate on his character.”

                    Here, he’s referring to the latest Green Arrow series (the “New 52″), which has already gone through 3 creative team changes in less than 20 issues. And I think he’s absolutely right. Whether you like the TV show or not, there’s no denying that they have built up a very strong set of supporting characters, through whose eyes we see Oliver in different lights. This allows them a greater opportunity to explore his different sides, and show his changing attitudes and motivations.

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                      Joe Kelly on his X-Men experience

                      Writer Joe Kelly talks about quitting the high-profile gig of being the writer of the X-Men comic, back in 1999:

                      The final straw was when it was time to do the ‘Hunt for Xavier’ story. We hammered that out and again it wasn’t what they wanted, and we had problems. By the time we’d come up with something we could all agree on it was time to do the next big crossover story, which was this Magneto arc, and we were basically called up and told that the main office was gonna write the overall story for us and we were just going to execute it in the books. There are situations in which that works fine: soap operas and television series do it all the time. Except, that’s how it has to be from the start. To go from, ‘Hey, we want you guys to lend your voices to these books and make them different and unique’, to ‘We’re gonna write the stories for you’, you know you can’t go any lower. We had to quit. It became a self-respect issue. This was a fight that we knew we couldn’t win, because who do you argue with?

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