Brainbot, Jr. in Dark Horse Presents #29

Available today at fine comic book shops everywhere is Dark Horse Presents #29 (free preview here), featuring a 1-page Brainbot, Jr. strip by yours truly and the incomparable Tom Williams. Look for this cover by comics legend Neal Adams:

DHP29

Of course, it would be silly for you to pick up an 80-page book just for our single page contribution, so here’s a partial list of the other talented writers and artists featured in this issue: David Lapham, Andrew MacLean, Caitlín R. Kiernan, Mike Baron, Ron Randall, Steve Niles, Michael T. Gilbert, Patrick Alexander, Steve Lieber, Steve Rude, menton3, and Richard Corben. Not too shabby, eh?

By the way, here’s our Brainbot strip, sans dialogue:

brainbot_nowhiring-lowres

Hey, that’s the best I can do for a preview, without giving the whole thing away. Pick up the book to see where the funny goes!

Brainbot Jr. in DHP #26

Coming this July, is Dark Horse Presents #26, you can catch a short Brainbot, Jr. humor strip by yours truly and artist )and fellow PANEL Collective member) Tom Williams!

BBJ

here’s the official solicitation for the issue, featuring a ton of great talent (and the return of one of my favorite DHP characters from way back in the early 80s, Trekker):

DARK HORSE PRESENTS #26
Ron Randall (W/A/Cover), Steve Niles (W), Andrew Vachss (W), Mike Richardson (W), David Lapham (W/A), Mike Baron (W), Patrick Alexander (W/A), Phil Stanford (W), Jane Espenson (W), Caitlín R. Kiernan (W), Frank Barbiere (W), Dan Jolley (W), Dara Naraghi (W), menton3 (A), Steve Rude (A), Patric Reynolds (A), Karl Moline (A), Steve Lieber (A), Micah Kaneshiro (A), Leonard Kirk (A), Dom Reardon (A), and Tom Williams (A)
On sale July 24
FC, 80 pages
7.99
Ongoing
Meet the Juice Squeezers: a group of elementary-school kids tasked with secretly keeping their small town safe from a horrible, underground epidemic—written and drawn by David Lapham! Learn about a vampire couple during the time of the Black Plague in Steve Niles and menton3’s The Nosferatu Wars! Join bounty hunter Mercy St. Clair on a vacation gone horribly wrong in Ron Randall’s Trekker!
• Plus, new installments of Buffy, Blackout, Nexus, Crime Does Not Pay, Underground, Alabaster: Boxcar Tales, and Bloodhound!
• David Lapham srites and draws a gory all-ages story.

DarkHorsePresents26

Make sure to ask your local comic shop to save you a copy.

Todd Klein likes “Caspian”

Legendary comics letterer Todd Klein reviews Dark Horse Presents #18, and has these kind words to say about the story I wrote, with art by Victor Santos:

“Memories of the Caspian” is an autobiographical tale, something DHP seems to do periodically, and a fascinating one about growing up on the shores of the Caspian Sea, and coming back to it much later as an adult. Fine writing by Dara Naraghi, great art by Victor Santos.

Naraghi_Caspian_sample_low2

Thanks Todd! We have plans for a few more autobio stories, as soon as we both find the time.

“Caspian” Story in Dark Horse Presents #18

I was quite happy with my first autobiographical short story for Dark Horse Presents, which was published in issue #4 (September, 2011). It received some good reviews, and it’s always fun for me to work with frequent collaborator Victor Santos. So earlier this year, I email Victor to see if he had the time and was interested in doing another similar story. The answer was yes, so I sent him a page of script, and then put together a simple 1-page proposal to send to Dark Horse publisher and DHP editor, Mike Richardson.

The pitch went out at the beginning of March, 2012, along with this sample page:

51 minutes after emailing the pitch, I received a simple reply from Mike: “I am up for this.” Hands down, my fastest approval, ever.

So Victor and I went to work. Besides finishing the script, I also had to find many photo references for him. For this, I used a combination of scans of photos I had taken myself during my trip back to Iran in 2009, plus a few I found online. Victor did his usual magic penciling the pages, and we then worked together to tweak each page through the various stages to completion.

I thought it would be fun to share the process from start to finish on one of the pages for you. So here it is, page 5, starting with my script:

Page 5

Suggested Page Layout: 5 widescreen

Panel 1: Wide. Bird’s eye view of a narrow 2-lane mountain road zigzagging across the dry, rocky landscape. (see Ref_photos5.jpg, or lots of good general reference photos for the road to the Caspian here)

Caption: I have equally vivid memories of making the 4-5 hour trip from Tehran to the Caspian, on the long, winding road that cut across the Alborz Mountains.

Panel 2: View of the scenery as it would be seen from the car: majestic mountain ranges in the background, beautiful rock formations in the foreground. Also, if you can manage it, place the funny “car going over the edge of a cliff” sign on the road (see Ref_photos4.jpg).

Caption: The non-Caspian side the mountains is dry and arid, but no less spectacular.

Panel 3: Shot of Young Dara and cousins sitting outside by a roadside café (PhotoRef1, PhotoRef2), enjoying a sandwich and Coca Cola from a bottle.

Caption: We would usually stop halfway at a nice little roadside café for lunch or a snack.

Panel 4: View of the “avalanche protector” structure over a section of the road, as seen in the reference picture in Ref_photos4.jpg.

Caption: I loved seeing the protective structures at key spots along the route, designed to protect the cars in case of a rock slide or avalanche.

Panel 5: Show a line of cars waiting about 20 feet from the entrance to the one-way Kandovan Tunnel (PhotoRef1, PhotoRef2). Note: these pictures are newer, from when the tunnel was widened to 2 lanes. Use them as general reference for the shape of the opening, but draw it smaller, because during my time it was only one-lane wide and cars would have to wait on each side and take turns going through.

Caption: But the biggest attraction of the trip was always the trip through the Kandovan Tunnel.

(The places in the script where it mentions phrases like PhotoRef1 were hyperlinks to pictures or websites with the appropriate photo references for the scene.)

And here is Victor’s rough pencils for the same page:

I didn’t have any changes to suggest, as it all looked good to me. So the next step was to ink the page, and then throw on some colors. Per our last story, I asked that he use a very limited color palette, almost monochromatic. Given the subject matter of this story, we decided to go with blues and greens. Here is the original colored page:

At this stage, I suggested toning down the green, and adding in some blue highlights, as I felt the original art was being overwhelmed by the colors. Victor agreed, and turned in this second version:

Perfect. It was now in my court to do the lettering, which I did using Adobe Illustrator, and the font “Silver Age” from the Blambot site, designed by Nate Piekos:

When lettering my own stories, I tend to do a lot of editing and rewrites at this stage. In the page above, you can notice some changes made to the caption text from the original script, most notably in panel 4.

And just for fun, here are a couple of my photos that I had sent Victor to use as reference:

And finally, here’s the cover for DHP #18, in which our story was published (November 26, 2012):

Dark Horse pitch: The Protest

While I’ve certainly had my share of unsuccessful pitches, it’s fun every once in a while to spotlight one that actually got picked up. Who knows, maybe an aspiring creator can pick up some pointers from reading through these things. So anyway, here’s another of my successful pitches, this time for a short story that appeared in Dark Horse Presents #4 (vol. 2), which was published in September of 2011.

I think I first saw the news about the return of Dark Horse Presents to print in late 2010/early 2011. The original black-and-white DHP anthology that started in 1986 was amongst one of the first indie comics I ever bought. During its historic 162 issue run, the book featured pretty much anyone who’s anyone in comics, and introduced me to so many fantastic creators and characters, most notably Paul Chadwick’s Concrete. Needless to say, I loved the original series, and was excited about the possibility of being involved with the newest incarnation of the series.

There were no submission guidelines for DHP on the Dark Horse website, but I remember reading an article where publisher Mike Richardson mentioned he was personally editing the book. So I drafted a brief inquiry email, introducing myself to him and asking if he would be open to a story pitch. This was in February, 2011. Mike responded promptly – honestly, much to my surprise – and indicated he was willing to entertain a pitch for a creator-owned story.

At this point, I had been collaborating with artist Victor Santos on a couple of successful Witch & Wizard series at IDW, and really enjoyed working with him. So I dropped him a line with an idea for a short autobiographical story, and he was game. He drew and colored the first 2 pages on spec, I lettered it, created a PDF file containing the story summary and sample pages, and sent it to Mike.

Here is the pitch:

“The Protest”

A DHP proposal by Dara Naraghi
Art by Victor Santos

An 8-page autobiographical story set shortly after the tumultuous Islamic revolution in Iran, “The Protest” is a remembrance of my childhood during uncertain times, a school bully, and the unspoken bond between us in the face of a vile school principal.

Synopsis:

After a brief overview of the Iranian revolution of 1979, the narrative shifts to a first hand account of my trials at middle school, navigating a new world of religious studies, unqualified educators, and our class bully, Hassan.

Then one day, our entire school is unexpectedly called into the yard. The principal informs us that we are to be shipped downtown to Azadi Square to take part in a large anti-West protest. As with all things dictated by the system, we have no choice in the matter. As we are lead to the main street where buses await us, my best friend and I talk in panicked whispers. How long will we be at this rally? What if we get lost? What will our parents think when we’re not home as expected?

Into our crisis comes an unexpected savior: Hassan, the bully. “Find a place to hide,” he mutters, before running out of line and directly into the middle of traffic. Cars screech to a halt, horns blare, and the principal and teachers run into the street to retrieve him. In the ensuing chaos, my friend and I make our move. He dives under a parked car, while I duck into a nearby storefront. My heart pounding, I stay hidden in a corner until I hear the sound of the buses departing. Emerging from our hiding spots, we both run home. All the while, I wonder what drove Hassan to help us like that.

The next day at recess, I press Hassan for an answer. He merely shrugs, calling the principal an idiot, and mentioning how he hates it when teachers push us kids around. The incident was never spoken of again. And while he still bullied us around, it seemed to me that it was almost half-hearted. Looking back on it now, I’d like to think helping us out on his own terms, and having earned our gratitude, he liked the feeling. And we, in turn, had gotten a glimpse into the reality of his life, constantly berated by parents and teachers who considered him a failure.

But in the end, we were all just kids, trying to make sense of a world that had turned upside down on us. A victory was a victory, even one where the bully saved the day.

As you can see, I tried to keep the summary brief, since it was only for an 8-page story. Still, I think I could have probably pared it down some more, but so it goes. I’ve never been good at knowing how much is too much and how little is too little. Luckily, it seemed to have worked for Mike. Also, I included a brief “list of credits” along with the summary, to help sell ourselves better. Here it is:

Creative Team Selected Bibliography:

Dara Naraghi (writer)

• Lifelike OGN (creator-owned, IDW)
• Fractured Fables (Image)
• James Patterson’s Witch & Wizard (IDW)
• Terminator Salvation movie prequel (IDW)
• DC Universe Holiday Special 2010 (DC)

Victor Santos (artist)

• Filthy Rich OGN (Vertigo)
• James Patterson’s Witch & Wizard (IDW)
• Mice Templar (Image)
• Roshomon (pitch to Chris Warner at Dark Horse)

And finally, here’s the first of two pages that I included with the pitch:

After about 3 weeks, I sent a brief and friendly follow up email, and then another several weeks after that. I finally heard back from Mike after about 2 months, and he indicated he liked the idea and would like to use the story in DHP. The next step was to sign the contracts and for Victor and I to finish the remaining pages. Once I got the pages uploaded to their FTP, I figured it would be months before we were slotted for an issue. But as luck would have it, another creative team missed a deadline, and since our story was ready to go, we got scheduled on short notice for issue #4.

Aside from being really proud of how this story turned out, I have to say that it was quite a thrill to be published in a series that was hugely influential in my early comic book reading days.

My short stories used in college discussion

I received a very pleasant email about a month ago, out of the blue:

I’m currently a teacher of English at Waynesburg University and a fan of comics. Right now the classes I’m in charge of are looking at the concept of “the outsider” in comics; we’re looking at differing viewpoints in books like “Holy Terror” and “Persepolis”. I recently picked up DHP #4 and absolutely loved your short story…and I was hoping to share it with my class for a discussion.

The gentleman went on to describe how he would like to use my story, and whether I would be OK with sending him low resolution files to use in his PowerPoint presentation.

Needless to say, I was thrilled. Positive feedback on my stories are always appreciated, but to have one re-purposed to facilitate a discussion about multiculturalism is awesome. I gladly provided a digital copy, as well as a copy of the shorter piece I did in the CBLDF benefit book on freedom of religion.

The reply I got was equally welcomed:

I appreciate it greatly – and more importantly, they’ll go a long way in my classes this semester. I needed something to counterbalance the astounding arrogance of Holy Terror. I think this does the job nicely.

Sometimes it’s the little things that really lift your spirits.

Fastest. Approval. Ever.

After our successful collaboration on the short story “The Protest” in Dark Horse Presents #4, I asked artist Victor Santos if he’d like to work with me on another one. He was game, so I put together a short proposal, he did a sample page of art, and I sent the packet off to Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson via email last night.

51 minutes later he emailed me back to say he liked it and wanted to run it.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to beat that record for shortest approval time.

“Memories of the Caspian” will be an 8-page autobiographical vignette about vacationing as a child by the Caspian Sea in northern Iran, and revisiting the region decades later. Here’s a sample page from the story:

I’m off to finish the script now, so Victor can get started on the rest of the artwork. As soon as I know what issue of DHP it’s going to be scheduled for, I’ll post the info here on the blog.

Indie Cover of the Day: Aliens #1

Following through with the Alien theme from yesterday, today the spotlight is on Aliens #1, art by Mark A. Nelson:

Published by Dark Horse Comics, 1988. Even though this mini-series was in black & white, it sold amazingly well and started that company’s long line of licensed movie tie-ins, including Predator, Terminator, and of course, Star Wars.

By the way, Mark Nelson was a fantastic artist, but I think he dropped out of comics soon after this series.

Short story in Dark Horse Presents #4

My autobiographical story “The Protest” will see print in Dark Horse Presents #4, shipping to comic shops everywhere September 21, 2011.

Here’s a look at the official solicitation, and the two different covers for the book, by the talented Ms. Fiona Staples:

…and Mr. Geof Darrow:

Dark Horse Presents #4 – 80 color pages – no ads – $7.99

The hallmark anthology continues with another spectacular eighty-page issue! In this installment, stories by creators Howard Chaykin (The Chronicles of Solomon Kane), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and Sanford Greene continue. Joined by exciting new shorts from Ricardo Delgado and Jim Campbell, Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse, and Filipé Melo, this issue is certain to have something for everyone! Plus, the first chapters of brand-new Beasts of Burden and Criminal Macabre stories! If that wasn’t enough, we’ve included another demented strip by Patrick Alexander and an exclusive interview with Geof Darrow!

And here’s a look at a page from my story, illustrated by my frequent artistic partner in crime, Victor Santos:

Set in Iran, post-Islamic revolution, “The Protest” is a story of growing up during turbulent times, class bullies, and unexpected outcomes.