Tools Of The Trade
It’s kind of hard to be a carpenter if you don’t have a hammer. It’s not easy to be a police officer if you don’t have a gun and without a doubt it’s really hard to be a writer if you don’t have something to write in. They call it having the tools of the trade.
I’m a man that has always known his limits. Even dating as far back as grade school, I always found that if I wrote it down, it got remembered. If I didn’t, then the chances of it getting forgotten were pretty good.
Like a good artist is never far from a sketchpad, a writer should never be far from a notebook. I’m talking about the kind that doesn’t need batteries. You don’t have to be one of those types that hauls their laptop to one of those sissy coffee shops and begs others to “know” they’re a writer. If folks see you sitting in some bar with a beer writing with a REAL notebook they’ll probably think you’re a private detective doggin’ em’. Can you imagine Mickey Spillane in a Starbucks with a laptop? I thought not.
Me writing stuff down isn’t some obsessive / compulsive thing. (Aww, maybe it is?.) I just know that when I write things down I remember them better. I like having a point of reference. You can almost always find a notebook and pen on me or within reach. Been that way for a long time.
I’ve got notebooks here at the ranch that are filled with years of ideas, comics and columns that I’ve written. Many of my creation’s (Cobb, Wynonna Earp, Parts Unknown, The Black Terror, The BadLander, Primate) “birth records” are here in these piles of notebooks. It’s the same with other books that I did as work for hire. (Batman / Wildcat, Catwoman / Wildcat, Star Wars, Aliens, The Tenth, Spawn, and Guy Gardner.) All the plots, notes, dialogue and ideas are crammed into these notebooks, large and small.
Through my school years I used your standard Meade school notebooks that we all grew up with. Once I got into college and traveled more I found that I needed notebooks that were a little more sturdy than the average kind you bought at the school book store. It was around then that I started using artist sketch books that were hard cover. Those did nicely, but having pretty bad penmanship, I found that not having any ruled lines my writing looked like a drunk aimlessly wandering the streets. (The apple does not fall too far from the tree there.)
After college when I was working as a construction inspector for the State I found that Field Books that we used on the site were perfect for my writing needs. They were the right size 4 1/2 inches by 7 inches. They were done on sturdy heavy paper, they came ruled or in a grid and they could take a beating. I was always hauling mine along on dirty job sites, fishing trips, the beach, Once on a site in Alum Creek, West Virginia, I even remember inspecting the inside of a pipe that I had to crawl through under a road, when a story idea came into my head. I pulled my notebook out of my inside jacket pocket and using the headlamp on my hard hat to see. I musta laid there in that pipe for 15 minutes writing down that idea. Many years later I went back to that notebook and that idea and it became the basis for one of my Guy Gardner story arcs.
These field books also came in waterproof versions that I really found handy when you’re out and about. They have high grade 50% rag paper with water resistant surface and were sewed with nylon water-proof thread. Like I mentioned, I used field books, duplicating transit books, engineer’s level books and inspection books. The state provided me with free (I hate to use the word stolen) notebooks for my crazy ideas. Even if you aren’t in the construction business or work for the state you can find these great notebooks online at http://www.surveyingsupplies.com or at any good place that sells surveying supplies. Not only can you get hardcover field guides, but now days they offer waterproof covers and other “take a beating” formats.
Some of you out there may also use the famous Moleskine notebooks. I favor these as well. I have put them through the writing wringer and they have always performed to a top notch level. Moleskine is the legendary notebook of such creative types as Van Gogh, Matisse, Hemingway, and Chatwin. They come in all shapes, sizes and formats. I have many and there’s always one shoved in my Jack Bauer bag, jacket pocket or else where in my on my body. They have a little bungee cord to help keep your stuff from falling out and they each have a folder to shove cards and loose notes in.
You can find the Moleskine notebooks at any fine book store like Barnes & Noble, Borders and such. You can go online and find them at http://www.molskines.com. You can’t got wrong with them. They have something for every need.
Another important item that no writer should be without is the Fisher Astronaut Bullet Pen. I can testify that these pens are the iron horse of writing tools. I’ve bought three in the last 12 years and I am just now starting to use the third pen. They are small, bullet shaped in chrome or black. With the bullet shape they do not wear a hole in your pants pocket. There’s no worry about ink spilling and they can write upside down AND underwater. These pens are astronaut tough. They seem to last forever. You can check them out online at a lot of different places. A good place to start is http://www.spacepen.com. You can also google them and find even more places and prices.
If you get these tools of the trade I can’t promise that you’ll write like me, (perhaps that’s a good thing) but maybe you’ll be even better. Plus you just might remember an anniversary or a shapely babe’s phone number. Write it down and see if this works for you.
Scot Eaton-The Juggernaut Of Art
The strong silent type. That’s pretty much sums up artist, Scot Eaton as both an artist and the real life version of The Juggernaut.
Eaton is the guy that comes on a book and makes it a real story. He has pride in his work and never whines when “hot” writers are late and editors force insane deadlines on him. He just squints his eyes and bears down a little harder on the pencil.
Scot has drawn most ever mainstream character you can think of, from Swamp Thing to his current run on Marvel Comics Excalibur with Chris Claremont. Scot knows how to tell a story and make things work. He can make an unreadable story readable. His cinematic eye draws the reader to the action and the characters. He acts as your guide through the maze of the story.
A few years ago Scot did a wonderful 12 issue series that went under the comic book radar and unjustly so. It was called Creature Commandos from DC Comics. It was the best roll of sci-fi action, adventure, horror and super hero that comics had seen in a very long time. Writer, Tim Truman returned to his roots and gave the readers and Scot a story filled with obscure characters that were enjoyable and exciting. Around the same time Scot teamed up with Chuck Dixon to do a two issue prestige Green Lantern Corps. Series that was a mix of Star Wars and The Dirty Dozen only with Green Lantern history. It was an amazing piece of work and a near perfect story. Again, this too was under the radar.
A few suggestions: Start picking up Excalibur with Scot Eaton‘s art. See how a story should be drawn and how a story can be told through the art. See how the Juggernaut SHOULD be drawn. Pick up the two above mentioned back issue series and enjoy them. Learn from them and notice the little things that make comics right.
Do yourself a favor. Nobody else will.
Juggling The Juggernaut
While we’re on the subject of the Juggernaut I also suggest you give the latest issue of Marvel Adventures: The Avengers a shot. It’s got all your favorite Marvel heroes in it acting like? heroes. (I know, what an improvement.)
It also has the Juggernaut pissed off and throwing down with the Hulk. The story has hero interaction that makes you like the characters (thank you, Tony Bedard) and a story that stands alone very nicely. Maybe that because it says “All Ages” on the cover unlike the invisible tag that you may find on the regular line of Marvel Comics reading: “All Of Us In The Office”.
If you wanna see what comics can be, then pick up Marvel Adventures The Avengers #7. Don’t let this go under the radar.
Running A Low Orbit Under The Radar
Who says anthology books are dead? I’ll tell you who, it’s the folks that don’t know how to market and promote one.
I’m not gonna let this one go under the radar. Nope. I just won’t have it. The book I’m talking about is Low Orbit Anthology from Image Comics.
It’s new, it’s out and you should be looking for it. If you enjoy animation style art and nicely done coloring then this book is for you. It’s a square bound prestige format book that collects some very stylish art in various story telling styles. It’s all done by guys that you should keep your eyes on. Folks like Jonboy Meyers, Mark Andrew Smith, Sean Galloway, Ryan Odagawa, Michael Woods, Allison Strom, Nick Bradshaw, Scott Kester, Alina Urusov and a few other very talented folks.
I’ve known JonBoy Meyers since he was a hard-at-it construction worker in the Colorado area. He is a shining example of how to have passion and never give up. Every time he puts pencil to paper he grows. His story in Low Orbit is called Riot Grrrl. It’s filled with action, humor and eye popping panel layouts. The only thing missing is the soundtrack.
The art and colors in this book by everybody are amazing and a true feast for the eyes. I also tip my hat to Image Comics for putting this book out and letting this group of of young wolves run.
Unlike most anthology books Low Orbit has something for everyone. At a cover price of $6.99 you will not walk away unhappy.
Busted Knuckles Manly Cover Of The Week
Marvel Adventures: The Avengers #9
I’m a true believer in the fact that the best bad guys in comics were invented by Marvel Comics in the 1960’s. I’m sorry, but today’s writers have yet to really pick up this torch and run with it.
They tend to mock villains like The Grizzly, The Kangaroo, Paste Pot Pete, Stiltman and others by saying that their names and powers are corny. Gee? let’s see? Silver Surfer, Batman, The Thing, Spider-Man? those names and powers are no more corny than the bad guys that I mentioned. It’s make believe, fantasy, pretend stories. Understand that and keep the snarky remarks to yourself. I can’t help it that you got your milk money taken away from ya as a kid. Better yet, make up new bad guys that can stand the test of time instead of tearing down old ones that have lasted decades.
This week one of the best covers to be done in many years is on the shelves and showcases a great Marvel bad guy?Modoc. The big headed bad guy in the flying chair that hands out mind blasts like they were candy at Halloween.
Look at this cover, it screams action figures!! All the Avengers are strapped in the flying chairs and have heads that look as big as my ego when I pass a mirror.
Jut look at Captain America on this cover. It makes you kinda wish he was like this all the time. What a great face! Kids would love these characters as action figures. Credit on this is gonna have to go to artist Jaun Santacruz and writer Jeff Parker. I’m guessing they are the guys that came up with all this great stuff. Once again we get a standalone story that is nothing but good super hero fun. Trust? Modoc isn’t the only “Big Headed” bad guy in this story. I won’t spoil it for you.
I wanna hear that you ran out and bought this issue and had as much fun as I did. I wanna see the sales of this comic rise in the charts and know that I had a part in it. I wanna have a really big head and zoom around in a flying lazy-boy chair giving out “Beau Blasts” to all heathen non-belivers of the Beau way of manly life. I WANT IT ALL! (A great Modoc quote from the old days.)
Art by Melanie Espinola
Go buy this book today and hand me the remote. My stubby arms can’t reach it in this chair.
Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week
Jane Badler was the original “Bad Girl” in the sci-fi TV series V. She killed men, she enslaved women and she ate rodents. There are no words to describe just how evil her character, Diana on the show was. The best thing was that she did it all in a sexy, big 80’s hair, ray gun blasting way that made you come back for more every week.
I used to tune in every week just to see what kind of new evil she could commit. What a gal to take home to mom and dad, eh?
On a personal note, back when DC Comics was publishing the V comic book Robert Greenberger was the editor on the book. I ‘d written in a letter of comment on the book as a reader. In the letter (which was published) I mentioned that they only thing that would make the series better for me would be a photo of Jane Badler. I signed it with my full name, Stephen Scott Beau Smith.
Well, a month later I got a package in the mail. In the envelope was an autographed photo of Jane Badler FROM Jane Badler! Over the years the autographed, written in red ballpoint pen, has faded a bit, but my memory of her kindness and Bob Greenberger’s thoughtfulness has never faded. Show me an editor today that would go that far out of the way for a reader.
On that note, enjoy this week’s Busted Knuckles Babe Of The Week-Jane Badler!
There’s something that I’d like to have your thoughts on. I’m wondering what kind of Beau Smith merchandise that y’all would like to see available for purchase on my Flying Fist Ranch website. I get emails and letters every week asking when I’m gonna make stuff available to buy. Some of the things requested so far have been signed comics, prints and scripts as well as T-Shirts and hats. I’d love to hear from all you knuckleheads what you’d like to see on my site.
So send me your ideas and want list and let me see what I can do about it.
The Flying Fist Ranch
P.O. Box 706
Ceredo, WV. 25507
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