Originally, this was going to be the “Pulp Fiction” column.
The idea was that over the course of several months, I’d write a series of short inter-connected articles, that could later be spread out like jigsaw pieces, and then violently reassembled out of chronological order. Creating a split narrative, if you will. The rationale being that it’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine writing towards a weekly deadline, so I’m always stressing over little ways to expand the limits of the formula, and build a stronger, more interesting Internet column. For instance, I’m still trying to figure a way to incorporate a musical element into the mix, without rising the ire of every copyright lawyer in existence, or think a way around the rotten tomatoes style “freshness ratings” for your favorite comic writers that was sure to insult somebody.
Following this “experimental” train of thought, this week I’m flipping the script a bit, with the complicated story of how I lost my first and then second artist on my creator-owned project starring Damon Cross. Most of the chapters, even the ones lost on the editing table, proved a bit lengthy, making the decision to simply jumble them into one another, more confusing than necessary. So, I just decided to run the entire thing backwards, starting with an entry from last week and steadily working our way back towards July. Let me know how you think it turned out.
Man…I got that fire.
Yesterday, I was reintroduced to an old friend, someone I’ve been meaning to touch base with these past few weeks, but for whatever possibly legitimate reason haven’t. Thankfully, my man Damon Cross doesn’t appear to be taking it too personally, finding his way back into the inbox, artistically re-imagined by his new artist. This pic was actually version three of the new design, the first one having hair that was a little too wild (but that’s cool, we’ll save the look for Man White) and version two being a little too small in the shoulders. But pass number three? Shoulder span was perfect, goatee was tight, military style belt was on, the whole thing was just working for me, and Damon Cross looked ready to tackle 2005.
Printed out a hard copy, because I have this thing where my mind grafts itself to the last artistic style it just saw, and then that becomes the “look” for any script I’m putting together. So, instead of writing the week’s column (which was Resolve) I’m running through the first issue’s script with this new image of Cross in my head, seeing no reason why this shouldn’t work quite nicely. The unnamed artist is the second guy that’s been attached to this since Clement’s schedule got a little too crowded, and I’ve been deliberately keeping the new artists as far away from his original material as possible. All three different guys have wildly differing styles and approaches, and the last thing I wanted was to encourage competition with Clem’s five original pages, that admittedly, looked pretty fantastic.
I didn’t want someone to sign up thinking that not having Clem’s insane backgrounds was going to send me into an emotional fit. Which is why the look of Cross was tweaked in the first place. Everyone is going to be comfortable rendering something slightly individual, and I’m more than confident that the characters and ideas are strong enough to support multiple interpretations, and right now, I’m extremely happy with the one I’m looking at. Have your first and possibly only sneak peek, as I’m keeping the new artist under definite wraps, for the time being.
Apparently…this was meant to happen.
Ask my boy Nate, but missing a Friday meeting with the man who will hopefully draw Cross had me a little nervous. This would be the first opportunity that I’ve had to actually sit down with one of my potential Cross artists, and provide some additional weight to the e-mails and phone conversations. Definitely one of the most important things that I’m hoping to accomplish this weekend at the convention, so it was an absolute relief that we just happened to cross paths at the Arcade booth, after I’d just left the Marvel Universe panel. We ducked outside after quick introductions and talked for about a half hour, laying out my plans for Damon Cross, short and long term, and what I think his style could bring to the table. The publisher will have to sign off on him as the new guy, but over the next couple weeks, we’ll get some brand new character designs together, and “re-shoot” the first sequence for final approval.
Tried my best to channel my inner Millar, and “sell” him on the partnership, but I think the scripts did most of the heavy lifting, honestly. I really hope that his excitement level remains high in the weeks ahead, because by his own admission, he has a couple things to wrap up before he can even get started, and I’m sure he saw me cringe when he told me his timetable. I suppose after waiting this long, another month or so can’t kill me. Even though it seems like everybody is naming their characters Damon, or things very similar to it, over the last couple months. Ideaspace strikes again. But you know, hard to believe and borderline depressing at how long I’ve been laboring over this character, but hopefully this time next year the first arc’ll be out among the masses, and I can exhale a little bit. If not, someone please do their best to stop me, as this will be getting a bit ridiculous.
Would people buy my comics on a bi-monthly shipping schedule? Operative word there is MY, as plenty of titles are hitting the stands every 2 months, some of them even intentionally, but they’re usually backed by superstar creative talents. The publisher thinks bi-monthly incurs a slight risk, unless the material (meaning the artwork) is strong enough to propel it through eight weeks of traffic. The only reason I even brought it up, was because of the artistic “requests” I seemed to be making of my collaborators. Trying to drop six issues in six months is a logistical nightmare for people working without the benefit of regular paychecks, or for a team packed to the brim with newcomers, and I fit both conditions, naturally.
The more times I repeat the master plan for Cross, or type it into an e-mail, the more overbearing it looks, and I’ve really been considering whether it’s stemming from good sense or impatience. I set these insane goals for myself, and just start running at them full speed, instead of reasonably pacing myself, even though I’ve proven that’s usually not the best way to get it done. So, I’m considering going bi-monthly, at least initially, to provide a slight margin for error, and prevent a situation where my artist is working on the fourth or fifth issue, without having seen dime one. But that means I need that heat, that undeniable talent that’ll keep ’em coming back every 60 days. The new guy looking things over definitely fits the bill, but if he declines, I got nothing.
Something else that might tip the scale, and provide some momentum is the second title I’m aiming to pitch to the same publisher before summer’s end. Purely speculation at this point, but I can get two books running almost concurrently, it could be possible to play them off each other. Preview pages and ads for the other during their respective “skip” months, since project 2 might run into the same concerns as Cross, so that might be a solution. But the thing isn’t even signed yet, so who knows?
See what I’m talking about? Can’t even get one project up and running, and I want to add another into the frame.
Just talking to my mother about the November election, and joked that I probably still wouldn’t have an artist on Cross yet. She told me to stop being silly, but then, she always says that when I get miserably irritable like this. Anyway, I suppose all hope is not lost, as I’ve got another potential looking over the plot and scripts. Think my cynicism is growing out of control, because I’m only moderately excited about it, too many disappointments, compounded on missed opportunities, forcing me to only put stock in things right in front of me. So, we’ll see.
I had this notion of meeting with the guys from _____ at the San Diego convention with fresh new material securely in hand, and now I have to introduce myself with the story of how I lost another artist, this time to the word “fuck.”
Okay, so it’s been two days since I officially lost my second Cross artist, who was actually the first Cross artist, back when Cross looked more like a different black dude named Luke Cage. Somewhere in the middle of my six month Epic journey, a young talented artist named Lee Ferguson became attached to the project, and remained that way when I decided to re-tool several of the ideas into a creator-owned launchpad. This wasn’t the least bit difficult because very early on, Marvel encouraged me to disconnect the pitch from the Marvel Universe to make it more instantly accessible, so I changed some names, pumped up the backstory, and put back in all of the weird stuff they wouldn’t let me do.
Along the way though, Lee’s own book FREAK got approved, which wasn’t good for Cross, as this was a huge 64 page undertaking that he was writing, drawing, and coloring, that would take months to finish. Enter Clement Sauve on Lee’s strongest of recommendations, because he didn’t want me waiting around for 6 months to get this thing off the ground. Clement really loved the script, which I always find strange (that someone would actually get excited over a script I’d written) and the beautifully rendered pages that I previewed in ATR was the result. Went that route to build some preliminary buzz, which it did, but it also led to Clement’s stint on Stormwatch: Team Achilles, and more time for Cross to sit by himself.
Good thing was that WS looked over the pitch for publication, bad thing was that my “polite” ass allowed them too much exclusive time with it, before sending it on to other companies. So, by the time WS finally passed on it, and I got it into ____’s hands, another couple months had gone by, and Clem’s Stormwatch work had garnered him plenty of other offers. The commitments began stacking up, and the official ____ deal arrived in the mail, but I couldn’t even get too excited about it, because I’m looking at all this stuff Clem is lined up to do, and back-end profits understandably can’t make Cross a priority.
Enter again Lee Ferguson.
Lee is just coming off FREAK and between projects as it were, so he became the obvious choice when Clement and I agreed his schedule was getting too packed to devote any significant time to Cross. Ferguson and I remarked the irony that we’d ultimately end up back on this together, and got hyped all over again. I told my friends how cool it was to receive these excited ass e-mails from Lee every three hours, with another idea, promo, or gimmick that would help move the book. Then he read the script for the second issue (which was penned while Clem was attached) and expressed some concern over a scene between Cross and his best friend where the language became a little more “adult” in tone. Nothing exceptionally harsh, but two friends getting together and shooting the shit like friends do.
Very politely, he asked if this could be scaled back and made more PG-13, rather than PG-13 with an occasional R. He had an extremely personal reason for even asking about this, and I respect him as more than simply the “artist,” so initially, while the request seemed a bit weird, I told him I’d think about it. Figured that since the profanity would be confined to a handful of pages over a six issue span, we’d be cool, but the longer this went on, the more discussion was had about it, the more I started to get a sinking feeling, and after that feel a little disrespected by the question in the first place. Not that speaking on the potential audience for the book wasn’t an incredibly relevant conversation to be having, or that his reason for bringing it up wasn’t valid, but thinking about it selfishly, Lee knew the struggle, the hellish process that I went through with Marvel, and after months and months of finally getting a publisher to say, “Yes, we will publish this,” Lee is asking me not to say “fuck” in the book occasionally?
No, he didn’t know about the scene in issue 12, or the arc planned around 25, or the final shot of the final issue, but man, I took the whole thing a little personally, especially after some more deliberation, he decided to bow out permanently. It’s hard not to take these things to heart, because when you create something, and when it evolved out of something very personal and moderately painful, you have this grand idea of its universal importance, and you can’t understand how other people don’t get that. I’m just trying to change the game, give people another perspective and another set of personal priorities to experience, and everywhere I turn people are lining up to tell me, “No.” But yeah, I just lost my first Cross artist for the second time, and now return back to square zero.
With the character design finalized, Cross’ new artist starts laying out the pages this weekend, and should have something nice for me in about a week’s time, but like I said before, I’ll probably keep these to myself, just in case. Thanks for tuning in, hope this wasn’t too difficult to follow, and wanted to update you that Lee and I are cool as a fan. Have been since about three days after he left the book, and I’m sure we’ll end up back together on something else down the road.
Back in seven,