There’s something about pitching that makes my brain crawl.
Besides the general performance anxiety that accompanies the whole thing, one realizes the whole principle relies heavily on the art of condensing. Distilling a story down to its purest essence, to its high concept, is probably the most difficult aspect of the writing process. Ideas are easy, especially in the uncontrolled form that the Story Engine produces when something new is burning itself into the consciousness. Characters are assembling themselves at a rapid rate, sparking distinct motivations and personalities, which evolve into strange things called ‘arcs’, and then things just get blurry. Dialogue snaps, scenes materialize, and a magnum opus awaits.
Now, boil this all down into a disposable form that’s impossible to ignore. Something that an editor can peruse without having to vacuum more than a few minutes from his/her day. And in this frame strike lightning.
Though there are examples of successful pitches/proposals littering the web, most exist in a state of individualistic splendor. Similar concerns can be found in sample scripts, but things usually come in two distinct flavors: full-script and plot style. Though every scribe approaches their scripts in a unique way, there’s a certain rhythm that all full scripts share, separating themselves from the plot approach that offers its own tempo.
Pitches lack rhythm, appearing in greatly differing lengths and styles, with few definite templates. Which may offer one reason why I’ve been fumbling through the process for the last several years. Scripting was easy, found an old Flash piece by Mark Waid, and spent subsequent years altering the form and those like it into something I found usable from a personal standpoint. I still haven’t developed the maturity to script directly into a document, preferring to script by hand and later transcribe, as the formatting distracts me from the actual ‘writing’ process. Which subsequently is the thing that saw my first batch of pitches clocking in at nearly twenty pages.
Rob Liefeld probably doesn’t even remember the twenty page Youngblood pitch I handed him at a Chicago Convention years ago, on the heels of Alan Moore’s revival
of the concept when it was at Awesome Entertainment. My aversion to smart odds next led me to target Acclaim Comics during their very last revamp with a series of pitches that offered what I believed (because apparently that matters greatly) inventive takes on their key properties. I’d even identified Mike Marts and Omar Banmally as two editorial talents that I could learn some things from, and possibly pester into eventually offering a shot, but before I could frighten Marts off with a double digit pitch, he started working
at Marvel. I consider him lucky.
Over the years I’ve gained a greater degree of control, and though the hard drive is stacked with those that got away, many of the failed attempts didn’t crack two pages. I’m telling myself this all relies on precision and patience, qualities I find in the work of writers like Jeph Loeb, Greg Rucka, and Brian Azzarello. The preceding excel at creating maximum effect with what appears to be minimal effort, but it only appears that way. They’re surgical in their wordplay and the result is work that equates simplicity with complexity. It looks disposable, but it’s impossible to ignore.
I can only hope that I’m becoming more difficult to ignore in my old age.
Over the next several weeks we may just find out, because, well…there’s a very logical reason that I chose to pen this particular diatribe. No further comment at this point,
but let’s say…I needed something to pump myself up before getting back to work.
Should leave now…stories are calling…brain crawling sufficiently…
P.S.- I apologize for the abbreviated piece, but efforts were sidelined by a slight food poisoning incident that devoured the latter part of the week and a great deal of stomach lining. Please forgive. And enjoy New Hotness in all its long-windedness…
Ultimate War #1- (Mark Millar/Chris Bachalo)
It would’ve been so easy to fuck this up. Despite the evident popularity of the two Ultimate franchises, the term “crossover” brings to mind terrible visions of the early nineties, when concepts were married with reckless abandon in pursuit of quick bucks that often sacrificed storytelling in the process. Thankfully, Millar and Bachalo get it right. Instead of some transparent plot wrapped around pretty artwork, the conflict driving this meeting seems a foregone conclusion, a confrontation destined to occur, aiding the assertion that this isn’t your typical ‘cross-over’. And Bachalo’s art happens to be gorgeous, and in some places simply warming up for the massive property damage likely to occur before the tale closes. What more do you want? Magneto’s not taking anymore shit, the Ultimates are readying for war, and the X-Men, well the X-Men are…well that would be telling wouldn’t it? Just read it.
Alias #17- (Brian Michael Bendis/Michael Gaydos)
Well now. Greg Rucka, in the last Wizard (I buy the year ender) commented on what he believes Bendis’ greatest strength is…his plotting. The latest Alias offers fairly solid evidence for this theory, considering that the usual fluid dialogue, and a surprisingly strong portrayal of J. Jonah Jameson is clearly overshadowed by two clever plot twists. The first is the opening which only strikes you as clever once you consider how nonchalantly Bendis slides it in there (pun intended). Presenting the situation with minimal fanfare paints a natural picture that forces the scene to ring true, however unorthodox. The second is the revelation of a dark secret in Jessica Jones’ past that knowing Bendis, has been a strong influence throughout the series, though we haven’t been told what it is. And then to make matters even worse, he’s causing us to wait another long month for the answer. Bastard. J
Gotham Central #1 (Ed Brubaker/Michael Lark)
Every so often, a title’s spin-off will actually be worth the price of admission. There’s at least a half dozen Bat-books published on a monthly basis, and I’m confident in predicting that with four months under its wings, it’ll be one of the best. The premise is simply ‘Bat-Man meets NYPD Blue’, except that the characters introduced here would prefer to have little to do with the vigilante. Dispelling the romanticized notion that every cop in Gotham is appreciative or even receptive to having a masked lunatic intrude on their investigations is the first delusion to hit the door. The realization that other masked lunatics are highly dangerous to people not wearing costumes is also hammered home. Brubaker’s case is helped immensely by the artistic stylings of Michael Lark which creates an appropriate ‘noirish’ atmosphere that envelops any great crime story. Impressive debut on all fronts.