Archive for the ‘Creative Process’ Category

B+E – A Frank Armstrong Story

October 26th, 2010 No comments

The fine folks at Mulholland books are serializing the short story prequel I wrote about Frank, with some original illos by Noel. You can read that here:

While you’re there, make sure to check out all of the amazing content from a slew of my favorite writers, including Tumor’s foreword writer Duane Swierczynski.

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Tumor – The OTHER Original Pitch

March 10th, 2010 No comments

Hey folks, this space has been dead for a while as we’ve been anxiously awaiting the release of the print version of the book. It looks like it’s on tap for next month, fingers crossed. The book’s been done for several months, but, unfortunately, there were some complications with the printer that’s left us adrift till now.

Anyways, while doing some spring cleaning, I came across what was the very first scratchings I made on the concept. These pre-date that other pitch document by quite a few months, actually, and, unfortunately, I’m missing the second page. But, for the sake of completeness and posterity and other stuffy sounding things, click the JPG below to check out the original concept sheet for Tumor.

Categories: Creative Process, Documents, Site Update Tags:

Tumor as Horror

October 31st, 2009 No comments

As it’s Halloween, and I’m waiting for some eggs to cool off for deviled egg making, I thought I should probably update, as it’s been so long.  Well, much to my surprise, I opened my laptop, cruised through Bloglines and found an article over on MTV’s Splash Page about their scariest comic books ever. Halfway down, nestled between the works of some guys named Gaiman and Moore, was this:

“ELK’S RUN” by Joshua Hale Fialkov (W) and Noel Tuazon (A) — Villard Books

This graphic novel mines its goosebumps almost entirely by keeping the story’s momentum in a constant tailspin after focusing early on on the endangered children in Fialkov’s script who become mice in a frighteningly imaginable small-town horror story.

While I was busy fanning myself from my ecstatic yelping at the flattery, I realized something about Tumor that I haven’t actually expressed.  The original concept for the book, at it’s heart, was a horror story.  I tend to spend a lot of time in the early stages of the creative process coming up with ideas that have some sort of personal resonance, for obvious reasons.  It’s a helluva lot easier to write about white you know and fear than it is to pick something random out of a hat (ooh! he’s scared of elevators! let’s do something with that!).

There’s very little that I can think of than being worse than my mind leaving me.  While my hands are the conduit, and my eyes and ears encouragers who with the loss of any would certainly make what I do, and love, much harder to do, at the end of the day, without the ability to think and dream and imagine, I’m nothing.

I’ve suffered from severe headaches off and on for the past several years.  Tumor was conceived before they really took over a good chunk of my life.  I began writing it not too long after.  As many of you probably have never had a true migraine, I figured I’d give a little bit of a sense of what it’s like.

Your brain has purchased a jackhammer which it’s using to drill a hole through your face and it accidentally got a bit of itself in the way.  Literally the only thought capable of passing through your mind is, “Please God, make it stop.”  They’re so terrible that I find myself taking my medication at even the tiniest inkling of one, because while the medicine makes me feel lousy the next day, a migraine makes me feel lousy for a week.

Now, you take that and you throw me in the middle of a murder mystery wherein I may or may not be the murderer… Yowsers.  Probably the earliest version of the script was something along the lines of an even more oblique Barton Fink.  But, as happens with writing, as I worked on the story, I realized that no external force is as strong as the internal struggle that a character has to go through.  So, by having Frank’s ailment parallel to some degree his predicament, being tossed into a world of gray, where everyone is a bad guy including the good guys, really just clicked.

That being said, I think the book still has a bit of the horror style in terms of pacing and structure, but, that’s sort of just the way I write.  I love telling stories where you reveal information in the tiniest dabs you can to continuously build suspense and mystery, and that, more than blood, werewolves, and vampires is what makes great horror for me.

This was a bit more rambling than I intended so feel free to ask any questions below.

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The Origins of Tumor

October 7th, 2009 No comments

Got an hour and a half?  Check out the above embedded flick, D.O.A.  Aside from having the greatest opening of any movie ever, it also served as a big inspiration point for Tumor both in concept and in execution.  Enjoy!

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Chapter Four – Downtown Los Angeles Photo Reference

October 1st, 2009 No comments
Click the image for a looksie at all of the photo reference I sent over to Noel for the extended Library sequence in Chapter 4.

Six Questions with Noel

September 17th, 2009 No comments

Noel is the very definition of a man of few words. But, I figured I’d been hogging the spotlight long enough, and forced him to answer these questions six. If you have more questions for the Man in Can(ada) feel free to post in the comments, and I’ll make sure he sees ’em.

1) So, back with me again, eh? How’s that? Like an old pair of pants?
As Larry David would say: “Pretty, pretty, pretty good” and, yeah, like an old pair of corduroys.

2) You’ve done an amazing job conveying L.A. in the book. How hard is it to capture the look and feel of Los Angeles using just my scripts and the scant reference photos I send over?

Thanks. I didn’t know I’d captured the look & feel of L.A. but I guess it helps referring to Jaime Hernandez’s work. I’ve also been looking at Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s treatment of his buildings & backgrounds. Have you finished his ginormous “Drifting Life” book yet?

I’m about 1/2 way through, and it’s freaking amazing. For anybody reading this who’s a fan of our work, or great comics in general, go check out the work of Tatsumi here.

3) Probably your biggest strength as an artist as far as I’m concerned is your ability to control the character’s ‘acting.’ Everyone feels so real and alive. What’s your secret?
Working in an animation studio (doing storyboard revisions) helps since you had to draw the characters feelings and moods to match the script’s descriptions. Plus having a mirror nearby is a good aid.

4) Because of your loose art style, there’s this really nice balance you have to have between too much and not enough.When do you know that a page is done?
Hmm…well, the best way I can answer that question is describing the way I tackle a page. I’ll do the line work first and from there it’s a matter of clarifying each panel with, say, dark figures or objects in the foreground and adding less detail on the background as it recedes. Of course, I can always look back at “Wally Wood’s 22 Panels That Always Work” as a guide.

5) After doing Elk’s Run with Scott Keating on colors, how hard was it to move over to doing black and white
It wasn’t too difficult since Elk’s Run is the only comic I’ve drawn that’s been colored. Prior to ER and, so far, afterwards I’ve always drawn my comics in b & w.

6) What haven’t I given you a chance to draw that you desperately want to draw?
An EC/pre-code horror and/or sci-fi epic! Hey, I’ll even take a series of short stories since I love those comic book horror anthologies. I was looking at that Steve Niles/Kelley Jones Batman series and wishing so badly I was given a chance to draw those stories in the style of a Grahan Ingels or early Bernie Wrightson.

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Chapter Three – Script

September 15th, 2009 No comments

Chapter Three

Issue Three is where the story really departed from what I initially intended the book to be. While I was in the outlining stage, I was spending most of my creative energy on coming up with what the ‘mystery’ of the book was going to be. I had the characters all down pat, but, desperately needed a maguffin to drive the story.

As it stood, he found Evelyn in Chapter Two, had the seizure and woke up in the hospital as written. But, the difference is that Evelyn doesn’t come back. He’s seen her, he’s seen how scared she is, and he knows that she’s in trouble. The problem was that there had to be some bit of happenstance that led Frank to get back on her trail, and out of the hospital. Everything that would make him run came off as too forced. I spent weeks wrestling with the story trying desperately to find that missing maguffin.

I was in a meeting with a Hollywood Producer type and was talking about the book. As I was pitching the story, I got to the loosey-goosey second act. The producer stopped me and asked where all my story confidence went. I told him that I was missing the maguffin still, and couldn’t get the story to flow properly. He asked a simple question. “Why?” I went on about the necessity of it for the genre, and how it’s the way these things are done, and so on. He stared at me and said, “He needs to find the girl and do the thing he couldn’t do to his wife. Protect her. That’s the maguffin.”

Sure enough, he was right. This was a story about a man being faced to look at his past mistakes and face them down one on one. As he flashes between reality and fantasy there’s one thing that grounds him in the now. Evelyn and the threat that she faces. Once I had that piece of the puzzle, I had the story.

I think that really comes through in the writing of this chapter, and each of the following chapters. I felt a confidence in the story that I didn’t quite have in the first two, because my story had found it’s driving force, and, Frank had found his purpose.

Script – Chapter Two – Cracking the Code

August 18th, 2009 No comments

Chapter Two

So the thing I wanted to discuss about issue two is something so silly and obvious that I think a lot of writers forget to do it. Your script is meant to be a road map for your artist. It’s extremely important that you convey what you’re trying to do in a way that’s clear, concise, and unmistakable for your artist. Your artist spends ten times more time drawing than you do writing. It’s important to make things easy for them to help them work faster, and need fewer redos.

The example in this script, which took me till this script to include, is indicators of the art style for Noel. Obviously the book is drawn in two different styles. For ‘current time’ or ‘reality’ we have a hard line, clean style. For flashbacks/hallucinations we have an inkwash. In the first script, a couple of things happened. First, Noel figured out the stylistic choice that allows us to have these two feels. Secondly, I made sure to point out in detail when I wanted the style to switch.

What become obvious in writing script two was that there was going to be a lot more back and forth, and a short hand was needed. The short hand changed a bit from script to script, but, by clearly marking each panel or page as either IW (ink wash) or HL (hard line), Noel can easily pick the correct paper and tools to quickly move through the art.

Another example of this is my script for Alibi over at Top Cow, with artist Jeremy Haun. While the art was in a single style, the coloring was used to delineate three distinct locales, all running concurrently. So, on the very first page there was a color code, saying that everything marked with an A should be colored with cool blues, everything with a B should be colored in reds and golds, and everything with a C should be colored neutrally.

It has a very techinical feel to it, but, at the end of the day, a comic script is a blueprint. It’s the same as a shooting script for a film. You want to layout in a comfortable amount of detail what you want, while still allowing your collaborators the freedom to contribute to the greater creative good.

Tumor – The Original Pitch

August 10th, 2009 No comments

I normally would hold on to this till later on. But, after looking through it, it’s pretty clear that the pitch and the final book have almost nothing to do with each other. Aside from the core concept, and our lead character, the story, tone, and art are all completely different.

As a pitch, this was a very different experience from my usual pitch. In a general packet, I’ll include a one sheet (which this has), a complete synopsis running three to ten pages, and as much art as I can get together. Generally, ten pages of art is thought of as appropriate. I wrote an early version of the book without doing much research into the medical side of things and with a much inferior knowledge of the city of Los Angeles and it’s history, which are major pieces of how the book functions.

But, what this pitch did right, I think, was it presented the concept and voice of the book in a strong, confident way that caught Stephen Christy’s attention. Interestingly, I’d been dissuaded from working on the book by a few people, and had put it on the shelf. I was meeting with Stephen about some other projects, and as he was flipping through my binder of in progress work, he saw it, read that first paragraph and was instantly hooked. I’m hoping to have Stephen contribute here on the site about his role as acquiring editor, and what drew him to the project.

It was sort of a perfect confluence of events, including my then new agent falling head over heels in love with the project, and making it a personal mission to see it come to life. Along with the kindness of the good folks of Archaia, as well as the exciting deal with Amazon, all of the conditions were right for Noel and I to reteam and create what I think is our very best work.

Here’s the pitch as a PDF document, feel free to post any questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them!

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Foolishly Forgotten

August 3rd, 2009 No comments

So, I write a whole article about the influences you’ll find in Tumor, and forgot probably the biggest one. Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. I’ve had a strange journey with this book. By the age of fourteen I was about as die hard a Vonnegut fan as ever there was. Except for S5. Slaughterhouse always felt like it lacked the humanity of his other books, as well as the humor. Even though it provides some of the key connective tissue for the masterwork that is Vonnegut’s complete works, it feels disconnected from the rest of the man’s oeuvre. I’ve revisited it a few times through the years, and was always taken with the technique but not the substance.

Until this last read, just a few months ago. It finally came together for me. For being such an early work of Vonnegut’s, it’s filled from top to bottom with the maturity that fills even his last works. The man was telling a story that was intensely personal, filled with the worst moments of his life, dressed in the clothes of science fiction and fantasy.

I was working my way through the back half of Tumor when I reread Slaughterhouse Five. I think as you see how the book plays out, you’ll see more of the influence through out.

And so it goes.

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