Getting Graphic- My New Adventures With Comic Books

The very first comic book I ever owned was The Avengers #162. Who’s on the cover? Ultron, baby! I was in elementary school and I’m pretty sure my dad bought it for me while he was out on the Oregon roads selling veterinary supplies. Probably stopped in for snacks somewhere and picked it up from a revolving wire rack. I do remember having it with me when we went on a very rare family vacation to Crater Lake. So maybe I got it myself when we stopped on our way from Eugene down to Crater Lake. Doesn’t really matter.

What does matter is I still have that comic book. In fact, I have all the comic books I collected as a kid. I was among thousands and thousands of kids in the Eighties that heard the horror stories of grandparents throwing out our parents’ comic book collections, depriving us of our multi-million dollar inheritance. Of course, just like the trillions of people that have said they attended Woodstock, the Baby Boomers all seemed to have owned the first appearances of Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and God. But their moms tossed them in the trash.

Despite the obvious exaggerations of a generation, there were countless comic books lost to the landfills that would collectively be worth millions today. So I kept mine. As did every other kid my age which makes those Eighties issues pretty much worthless. Sure they are worth more now than what I paid for them, but I haven’t done the inflation math to really prove that. Despite their low monetary value, they have HUGE sentimental and cultural value to me. And I wanted to share that with my kids (that I knew I would eventually have).

I stopped collecting comic books when I hit high school. I like to say it was because I discovered girls, but I had always known about girls. The truth? I no longer had the money to buy them. I had also developed (and still struggle with today) a “completion complex”. I just made that complex up, but it does describe what I was going through. Basically, it meant I had to own every single part of a story. And since my main title I collected was The Avengers that presented a problem. Why? Because The Avengers all had their own individual titles with story lines that interwove through The Avengers story line. This meant that I had to buy at least ten different comic books titles just to have the complete story.

Head went assplodey!

I just couldn’t handle it so I quit altogether. I boxed up my collection and walked away. I’d be lying if I said it saved me money. I, of course, figured out new ways to spend that money. Girls are expensive.

So there is my condensed history with comic books. And it was going to stay history except that I had kids. And kept all my comic books. AND Hollywood actually started making good comic book adaptations. AND graphic novels began to be recognized as actual literature. AND I started writing professionally.

AND I still love comic books.

Which leads me to the point of this post: I am getting into comic books. As in, I am writing comic book scripts.

In order to do this I needed to read some comic books as research. I have the first few volumes of The Walking Dead (of course). I have been checking out tons of graphic novels and comic books from the library (currently ripping through the Fables volumes). Plus, my kids have started buying them. My son (14) is all about The Walking Dead. My daughter (almost 11) is into The Walking Dead, but she also loves manga and has the first three volumes of the Buffy omnibuses (omnibi?). She also digs the Amulet series and  graphic novels such as the ones by Hope Larson and Gene Yang. Except for my wife, this has become one comic book reading household.

It took me a long time to start writing comic book scripts. Not because they are hard (they aren’t if you’ve got the pictures in your head), but because there is no industry standard script format. Take a look at scripts by Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Frank Miller, Art Spiegelman, Mike Mignola, and others and you will see a different format used. That kinda makes me a bit cooky. But I had to dive in and try.

So I created my own format template based on Dark Horse’s format (which seemed to be a happy medium between all the formats I’d seen) and dove in. The great thing about writing a comic book script is you have no limitations. If it is in my mind then it can go on the page. Unlike, say, a screenplay which always has budget and “reality” limitations.

I am currently adapting my first novel, DEAD MECH, into a comic book series. Not a graphic novel. No, I want it to be an ongoing series. This will allow me to expand on the story and go beyond where the novel ended. It’s pretty exciting. I also get to “fix” issues I may have with some plot points and character portrayals in the novel. Adaptations are just that: adaptations. Not a rehashing of the exact same thing. Kinda exciting. And fun.

Getting a hang of the comic book script format has opened my eyes to the possibility of taking some of the novel ideas I’ve had and turn them into graphic novels. Which is great since I can write a twenty page script in three days whereas writing a full length novel takes months. Plus, with comic books the script is not the end result, but the beginning. There’s still all of the art to come!

Which makes me wish I could draw. Because right now I just have words on paper and no art to go with them. I have submitted my script to several comic book publishers, but the reality of it getting picked up and produced is pretty small. Not because the script sucks, but because I’m just another writer. Most publishers, like Image or Dynamite or Top Shelf, are looking for completed team works. They want a fully realized product that they can just produce and distribute. They aren’t looking to coddle newbies through the process.

It’s almost as bad as the world of literature publishing. Except now novelists can upload their novels to a few ebook retailers and they are in business! If my script doesn’t get picked up I can go that route also via Comixology and Amazon. Oh, wait, but I can’t draw. Bummer.

That leaves me waiting and hoping that Dark Horse will call later today and say they LOVE my DEAD MECH script and want to publish it immediately! Or it leaves me playing with the idea of finding a team and publishing myself. It would have to be crowdfunded, of course. I don’t have a few thousand dollars hanging out. With the popularity of comic book projects on Kickstarter I think it can be done. With some serious work and planning.

But, is that the route I want to go? Once I take that path there is no turning back. I become a comic book publisher. A creator/owner publisher, but still a publisher. Which turns my brain to the possibility of publishing other titles. Ideas I have and maybe ideas others have. Which is an exciting prospect. And one that could prove to be quite profitable if successful. If successful…

Why even entertain the idea? Because comic books have a growing future whereas novels have an always uncertain future. Let me break it down as I see it:

Novels are being published at a rate of five trillion every second of every day. Five trillion! (Not an actual statistic). Why so many? Because of self-publishing. Let’s forget the fact that 90% of those self-published novels are pure crap. That doesn’t matter. What does matter is that means readers have to sift through a trillion trillion trillion new novels just to find mine. Ugh. Doesn’t mean I won’t keep writing novels. Just means ugh. There is also the fact that “literature” frowns down on “genre”, which is what I write. Even my local bookstore won’t return my emails to stock my novels. Noses are up in the air. And there are hundreds (dozens now?) of bookstores run by elitist snobs that think they are the only ones that understand what a great book is. Ugh.

Now, switch to comic books. Sure, there are a ton of self-published/indie published titles out there. And not all are good. BUT (see the huge but?) it is not so easy to self-publish a comic book as a novel these days. Even with Comixology and Amazon’s platforms, you still have to have a team. This means that the words/story/idea has to be vetted by more than just one person. When that happens quality tends to go up. Less crap to wade through and more quality to rub shoulders with. Very cool. AND comic books are all about genre! Yay for genre! DOUBLE AND comic book stores don’t stick their noses in the air! Sure, each owner has their own preference of what they like or don’t like, but that is an ongoing debate. In fact, debating the merits of one series over another is part of the comic book zeitgeist. The snobbery is inclusive, not exclusive. Even if noses do get turned up, the eyes are still watching, waiting for a response. In bookstores once the proprietor’s nose is up it is “Good day to you!” time.

I am generalizing, of course.

Here is the other good part of comic books: the print versions will always be available. Always. Why? Because comic book readers also tend to be comic book collectors. And they love holding those comic books in their hands so they can be carefully read once then bagged and boarded and stuck in their protective boxes. That means there is always a comic book store market to be filled as well as the new, growing online market. What the ratios end up to be is still a mystery, but I think we’ll have a picture soon. And lest we forget licensing! How many blockbuster movies have you seen or will be seeing that are comic book adaptations? Now, how many blockbusters will be novel adaptations? Unless the novel is a young adult adaptation with a strong female protagonist, and a brooding male love interest, then the movie ain’t gonna be breaking any records. Comic book adaptations not only break records, but they set records. Or die miserably (we mourn you Scott Pilgrim), it happens.

Wow, I didn’t expect this post to go on so long. How’s about I wrap it up?

Basically, I am saying that my love of comic books didn’t ever go away, just got put on hold. And I probably wouldn’t be reading so many now if I wasn’t writing them too. Gotta read what you write, right? I am also saying that you shouldn’t be surprised if I dive headlong into comic book publishing. Or possibly get picked up by one of the Big Guys. Who knows?

So, there are my thoughts on comic books these days. Have any thoughts also? Share them in the comments! Want to consider being a part of a comic book team? Shoot me an email ( Excited about there being a DEAD MECH comic book? Let me know via email, Twitter, Facebook, or the comments below. Any and all feedback on this subject will be appreciated. I’m just getting back into comic books so other perspectives are most welcome!


Posted on May 22, 2013, in Getting Graphic, What's Up.... and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Getting Graphic- My New Adventures With Comic Books.

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