Sorry about that unannounced skip week guys; got a little buried in deadlines.

Before elaborating a bit, I want to thank each and every one of you that took the time to write in, or post commentary on one of the boards, in response to the last column. It’s much appreciated and will definitely be considered once I reach the “Big Pimpin” stage of the program. Right now, I’m just tryin’ to focus, and build a nice foundation of scripts that cast the illusion I’ve been doing this whole professional writer thing forever. Which likely explains why I’ve been floating between elation and blind panic for weeks now, even though I’m probably not supposed to mention the latter.

At the risk of looking back in a couple weeks and completely regretting this next comment, I’ve been spending quite a few days frantically checking my e-mail, after turning in my first couple FF Tales scripts. Waiting over-anxiously for a response to my work is something I’ve been gradually drawing down to a minimum, over the last couple years, but aggravating as it may be, the possibility that I’ll sit down and pen something less than inspired engenders a certain degree of honesty. Or, I’d like to think it does, at least. What good is a guy who isn’t absolutely terrified of sucking? The second I become supremely confident in everything I’m doing, is the second I’ve gotten too comfortable and stopped trying. And the word comfortable definitely doesn’t apply here.

But a little performance anxiety is a small price to pay here, because bottom line, I’ve got two minis starting in February, shipping from Marvel Comics. While I’ve spent a little time talking up, and excusing myself from columns, due to FF Tales, I haven’t touched on the Shatterstar gig at all, which has been in the works longer than Marvel Age has even been around.

Rob first told me about his developing Marvel deal at last year’s Wizard World, after the floor cleared out and the vendors were packing their displays up. If you remember the post-convention piece I wrote, there was a little section that talked in great circles around a huge, unbelievable project Marvel was putting into motion, that would drop the collective jaws of the industry. Don’t know if the recent X-Force series lived up to my vague description of it as “a bomb being dropped into my lap,” because really the only thing controversial about it, is how well it’s been selling without a significant promotional push. Even when Rob let it slip more than a year ago that he was doing it, he promised me one of the spin-off minis, but for months after that, it just became this distant conversation, while I was still trying to grind my way into Marvel, and get Cross up and running.

Think Marat Mychaels’s first several pages turned up sometime around last Christmas, but the first draft of the script just got turned in a week back. Rob was good enough to pay me for it back in the spring, and hopefully the incredibly long-winded process will benefit the final product, as from an artistic standpoint, Marat’s work here will hopefully calm some of the critics unfairly judging work he did over ten years ago. The storytelling is clean, so much so that I hadn’t realized just how many panels were on some of the pages, until it was time to script them, and the action scenes are incredibly well choreographed. There’s a really cool fight that fills out the middle of the first issue that still makes me smile every time I look at it, the kind of thing that has the visuals and the incredible odds to make anybody respond favorably to it. Much of the first issue is Shatterstar beating on guys that deserve it, and Marat makes it look hot, while I do my thing to bring it all together.

Scripting always initially strikes me as difficult, because it relies on my creation of a slightly artificial reference point. When I’m working full script, I instantly know where everything goes and why it’s there, along with where it’s all going. My fingerprints are all over everything, I’m strip-mining personal feelings and situations for the emotional background, directly quoting close friends whenever possible, and actively placing pieces of myself into the work. Which doesn’t really make any sense, considering I can’t read the stuff when it’s done anyway, being able to see the seams and feeling like I’m talking to myself. Without that intensely personal connection to the material, I have to make one, and for the longest time, I looked at the Shatterstar pages and was completely lost.

 

Youngblood: Genesis was a little different, because I had Busiek’s fairly detailed plot to work from, and all of the specific intent was right there in front of me. This situation was far more open, and there were almost too many possible directions to go into. I wrote myself a little walkthrough, typing out the major plot elements that me and Rob went over at the summer conventions, placing them in a form that could be easily referenced whenever I stalled out, and letting me script it completely out of order if necessary. Which it was, of course, Chuck Dixon’s Ten Commandments of Comic Book Writing, which still remains an all-important personal resource, helped me find my “in” with the character’s overall voice and disposition. One of the central tenets involves finding something about every character to like and dislike, and what really became interesting about Shatterstar was the whole “strange visitor” angle.

There’s always this incredibly romanticized notion of someone who wasn’t necessarily born here (on the surface, meaning Earth, but really meaning the United States) experiencing the wonders of modern humanity, and thereby becoming inspired by it. But seriously, would that really happen? Watching the nightly news for a solid week is more than enough to force a person to doubt the “inspirational” qualities of human beings, so that formed the foundation of how I approached Shatterstar. He’s seen what this planet and these people have to offer, and above all else, he remains terribly disappointed. This is a genetically bred warrior who escaped a world controlled by a despot, to seek help from the legendary X-Men, and for the life of him, he can’t figure out what’s wrong with this place. Which only heightens his frustration, because not only are these foolish Earth people making a mockery of their own world, but he wants to fight almost every guy he meets, because of an altered genetic code and a deep sense of honor. It’s just hard being Shatterstar, ya know?

With that squared away, the actual scripting naturally became easier, and it was just a matter of pushing against the pages, and forcing them to accomplish as much as they can, with the pace already set, and the transitions already set. Dialogue is always the most obvious thing that a reader will notice, but right behind that is how one scene leads into the other, and the ability to keep things moving forward, even when your scene breaks are forcing them to stop. I tried something that I’m still not sure Rob will like, so I won’t mention it, in case it ends up missing from the final cut, but it almost heads in the other direction, making the chapter breaks even more pronounced. There are also a couple other tricks that extend past the dialogue, that I hope will see print.

It’s been an extremely long road for this book, and from a personal standpoint, I think I’m much more equipped to handle it, than I was more than a year ago. We’ll find out exactly how much more on February 23, but as with the FF gig, the aim is to get out there and surprise people, by writing at a level I shouldn’t be capable of quite yet.

As always, more on this whole thing as it develops…

B

Note: Unfortunately, it looks like Ambi. will be scaling back to a bi-weekly schedule, at least until the end of the year, when the schedule gets a little more under control. Also, both of my Marvel titles are available at a 50% discount at Discount Comic Book Service, for anyone interested. I’ve personally been ordering books from them for about a year, and haven’t had any problems or concerns with their service, so if inclined, please check the following link.
http://www.dcbservice.com/highlight.aspx?id=4&h=s&b=16&pid=4

For all you pre-ordering vets, here are order codes for FF Tales, Shatterstar and the Youngblood trade. Please and thank you.

MARVEL AGE FANTASTIC FOUR TALES #1 DEC04 1772
X:FORCE: SHATTERSTAR #1 DEC04 1786
YOUNGBLOOD: GENESIS VOL. 1 TP DEC04 2380

About The Author