3 Tips for New Writers

The most frequent question I get asked by aspiring comic book writers is: what’s the easiest way to break into comics? It’s also the toughest question for me to answer because quite honestly—there is no easy way to break in. It’s a bitch. Plain and simple. I worked in comics for five years before someone would even consider giving me a comic book to write, and even then, I’m pretty sure very few people actually picked that book up to read. It’s a tight-knit community, the comics industry, but that doesn’t mean there’s no hope. And NO, there are no gender, race, or any other biases you may have heard about keeping you from breaking in. I’ll fill you in on the one unmistakable trait that defines whether a publisher will take a chance on you—if you’re bankable. Will having your name on a book help sell units? We really don’t care if you’re a man, a woman, or a mer-man with superpowers. Take an honest look at yourself and answer that question. It’s not easy to do, but do it. The truth is there are working comic book writers that aren’t bankable yet on their own. It’s that tough. Now, I know your first response is: “Well how am I supposed to be a valued commodity if no one will give me a shot?” But guess what? That’s why it’s called professional comic books. It’s similar in a lot of ways to pro sports. The hard work isn’t in the craft or technique of making comics, it’s in the getting-there part. Here’s three quick tips I often suggest to aspiring writers that are usually completely ignored but can really help you make a name for yourself:

SELF PUBLISH
I often tell new writers to self publish their work first, make a name through their work, and then go to the known publishers and show them that. Often times, inexperienced or unpublished writers will approach a publisher with a complete comic book pitch: concept, art, colors, lettering, etc. And guess what? We don’t want that! A publisher doesn’t want to buy your complete story unless you’re a writer who’s sold hundreds of thousands of copies of something, or maybe have a best-selling novel, or some other tangible project that proves your worth and will help them turn a profit. Remember, there are living, breathing people who work at publishing companies who want to stay working. Taking a chance is not what we want to do. You’re essentially asking a publisher to commit thousands upon thousands of dollars to your work when they have no past work of your own to draw upon. And yes—every new writer I meet believes they are the next Hemmingway. You’re not. I’m sorry. Just because your Facebook friends tell you you’re the greatest, doesn’t mean I can’t read between the lines about how many copies your name will sell if it’s on a book if nobody’s ever heard of you. So go and make a name on your own first. Self publish your own work. Save up enough money and put out a graphic novel. If you can’t afford printing costs, try a webcomic. If you’re really set on having a printed version to show—heck, go beg for money on kickstarter. If you really believe you’re the next Hemmingway, hey that’s fine, then you don’t need a publisher to make your name sell. Go out and publish it and let your work speak for itself.

BE FORTHCOMING TO EDITORS WITH YOUR GOALS
It’s okay to approach publishers at a convention or through email and let them know what you’re looking to become. It’s detrimental to your cause, however, to outright ask for those goals if you’ve never been published. This is where the artists in this industry clearly have the better idea on how to succeed than the writers, in my opinion. Daily, I receive emails from aspiring artists looking for tips, knowledge–anything that will help them get better. The emails I get from writers usually consist of: read my pitch and tell me if you want to publish it. See the difference? I want to help the artist because they’re not asking for anything but to make themselves better. I know they eventually want to work in the biz. They know they eventually want to work in the biz. But, they know it takes a bunch of steps, not a giant leap to achieve those. So, open a line of communication with an editor. Let them know that you’re looking to get better; that one day you want to write comics, and believe me—they’ll know too. But outright asking for it is not the right way to go. Trust me.

WRITE DAILY, BUT ONLY WITH A FOCUSED APPROACH TO THE CRAFT OF COMIC BOOK STORYTELLING

This sounds obvious right? A writer should be writing all the time but somehow they’re not focused on the art of comic book writing. Or more likely, they’ll approach an editor with forty different ideas for comic books, but they’re all just concepts with no real plot or story. Or they’ll tell an editor they also have screenplays, novels, and poems they’ve written. Guess what? We don’t give a shit. We only want to know if you can write a good comic. And none of those mediums are the same as writing a comic. To say you do all the above is a bit pretentious unless you’re awesome at all of them (and this opinion should always be decided by a 3rd party, not your family, friends or your writing partner). If you’ve actually turned a profit in one of those other fields, then it’s worthwhile noting them. Otherwise, an editor just thinks your touting your shit with no real published or sold work to back it up. We only want to see your comic book skills and enthusiasm for that craft. Take a focused approach to the field you want to work in. Practice comic book writing–over and over and over. Find someone who will be willing to help, which brings me to…

CONNECT WITH AN ARTIST

The artist is key in comics. They are the ones who will ultimately turn your vision into reality—both literally and figuratively. This also plays into the self-publishing avenue if you can’t draw. If you can, all the more power to you as you can really complete your entire package minus the lettering and get your work out there. But, if you’re like most comic book writers, you’re gonna be relying on an artist for the rest of the career you seek. So, jump on deviant art or facebook, or tumbler or any other network site and connect with an artist that is in the same boat as you. Someone looking to break in. Chances are, they need a good writer to help turn their art into sequential work. The comic book industry is filled with writers who have set their sails to an artist’s ship, and together you can lean on each other for work opportunities and support. Sooner or later, you will be working daily with an artist so don’t wait for it to happen, go out and recruit on your own. But, don’t be a cheapskate. Save up some money and compensate them. Shit ain’t easy drawing, it’s a lot easier to write so know where your bread is buttered.

That’s a few for now, I’ll try to scrounge up some more tips soon for you guys, till next time friends.

V

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Dead Man’s Run

We’ve got a new series coming out today, Dead Man’s Run. It’s in association with the legendary Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment and features the extraordinary writing talents of Greg Pak and the amazing art of Tony Parker and Peter Steigerwald. I’m really very proud of the way this first zero issue came together and Greg and Tony are really a joy to work with when it comes to plotting and planning an issue. Often, there are varying levels of involvement from the writer and artist on any project but these two really have set new levels of participation as they both are going above and beyond on this one. Tony recently just emailed us an elaborate hell/prison layout design that is damn near close to an architectural blueprint for a real building. He’s that into it! So, I hope you get a chance to check it out, as I have a strong feeling you will enjoy it! Here are covers below, the first by Tony and Peter, and the second by Micah and Peter:

99 + 1 = 100% Accountability For Me


I gotta be honest, I haven’t been keeping up to date on the Occupy Wall Street protests springing up all around in various cities around the nation. I’ve mostly had my head in my work and a few other personal matters so I’ve been a little distant on national and world affairs. Sure, I’ve read a couple articles on news websites here and there about it, and I’ve actually scrolled through the homepage of occupywallst.org (not even sure if that’s the official page or not of their movement), but I definitely haven’t spent enough time and energy to probably give a truly insightful opinion on the topic—but since when has that ever stopped me! Truth is, I can only speak from my personal experience and what I know. From what I hear, it sounds like their heart and cause is in the right place and yes, I do think it’s appalling this apparent 1% that controls the vast majority of us. BUT…

Straight up man, I wish I could blame the reasons for why I’m probably not as well off financially as I should be on some greedy, exploitive CEO off in some massive penthouse suite stockpiling money they don’t deserve…

…But it wouldn’t be the truth.

The truth is, I mismanaged my finances for the better part of my early twenties and didn’t effectively know how to properly balance and budget my income. That’s the real reason. I fucking spent money like a sultan from Dubai.

Spent money on going out, on my car, on my girlfriend, and on other non-essential crap. I once spent 3k on dope rims for my car–a Honda Accord! Really young Vince? Sheesh. Credit cards? Holy crap I didn’t know the damage they could do back then. I basically swiped those like Paris Hilton on speed. I had lots of money rolling in and effectively let it roll on out. It’s the truth. No sugarcoating that shit. But, do I regret it? Not at all. A wise drunk thug once told me a decade ago at a block party in Inglewood: “Bitch, when you die they don’t bury your bank account with your ass.” And while the sentiment isn’t without faults, I’ve always remembered this strange sage advice. I was young and didn’t know any better. I do now. I manage my income and budget reasonably. I don’t try to live outside my means or buy things I don’t need. I don’t buy shit I don’t need like extra watches or shoes, etc. I’ve completely restructured my income and spending techniques in my late twenties and early thirties, and I live comfortable but by no means extravagant. I still spend a lot on myself but for things that matter…and of course, I still spoil my little chihauaha Chugs–she’s fucking adorable, what?

And I kinda like it like it like that. Life’s about more than material shit and wealth. Those things don’t impress me anymore. A dude with a boat–who gives a shit? A celebrity with a dope house–happy fucking mortgage to you. It ain’t about the wealth of fortune it’s about the wealth of life my homies. And for that, I don’t need a handout.


That’s not to say I disagree with the Occupy Wall Street movement at all, or what they stand for, but my momma always told me to take accountability for my actions (or maybe she didn’t, but I’m sure I’ve learned most valuable insights from her and pops, right?), so I have to be honest and say that although I’m certainly a part of the 99%, I can’t entirely blame the 1% either for my past mistakes. Most are on me.

That’s all I have time for now homies, ‘till next time.

Despicable V

Yo, it occurred to me the other night while I was writing and watching Kung Fu Panda 2 for some background noise that I might actually enjoy computer animated films more than live-action films nowadays. I watch more animated films than live action that’s for sure. At first I shrugged this thought off because that just seemed silly, but the more I thought about it—it hit me. The shit is true ya’ll. And not only that, but I think I might actually like computer animated characters more than some real life actors (Save for a select few: Hugh Jackman, Jamie Chung, Andy Serkis). Is this a bad turn for me? Who knows. But, one thing I do know is I like me some Buzz Lightyear and Woody, and Toothless, and Chicken Little or Po the Panda, and that girl from that Tangled movie that I haven’t seen yet but still know that I’ll probably love it anyway. Hmm…but they’re all fake right? What makes them more appealing to me than real life? Does this make me crazy? And then earlier today, like a beacon of light from the heavens, an answer came to me in the form of two billboards that have popped up recently in my neighborhood. I think they prove my sanity better than any words will….

They’ve been advertising this new (old?) remake/new version/homage/whatever the hell it is about the new Three Musketeers movie and…I gotta be honest my homies. It doesn’t look great to me at all. Apologies if you do think it looks good, but I guess this is where we’ll have to diverge on our paths of movie trailer enjoyment because all I see is a bunch of dudes dressed in period-piece boring outfits running around throwing cheesy one-liners out every five seconds in the trailer. Oh, and did I mention Orlando Bloom? Because if I didn’t–Orlando Bloom. Orlando Bloom. Orlando Bloom. Now I get that that a lot of ladies really like Bloom because he looks like a store mannequin or a nice piece or porcelain china, but he’s quickly become unwatchable for me as an actor. Add him to the generic story we’ve seen dozens of times before and those terrible outfits and you’d think I hate these types of movies. BUT you’re wrong. And luckily, there’s…

Puss in Boots. Okay, total disclosure: The Shrek movies kinda annoy me, what with their pop culture references and the fact that they break into a song every few minutes, and Shrek is kind of a dick. But I will say this cat movie spinoff looks a helluva lot better to me than the live action Musketeers, and yes I’m comparing them both because they both have that same-period feel so tough luck to their genre. But the cat wins out in my book. Tell me I’m wrong? And if you do, I won’t hold it against you…but I will think you have a thing for Orlando Bloom or fine china. But seriously, Puss in Boots doesn’t even look all that exciting either, but I’d still see this movie 10 times out of 10 over the Musketeers remake. So maybe I’m not entirely wrong about my love for computer animated movies over live action. They’re just more charming in my book.

Till next time friends,

Charismagic Character Designs

Many of you might already be reading Charismagic and enjoy Khary Randolph and Emilio Lopez’s work, but you might also not know that the two are some really amazing character designers as well. Part of the fun of working with high-level talent like these two as a creator is being able to provide them with a tiny morsel of script or description and seeing what they’ll come back with. So, I thought it’s about time to gather up most of the character design work these two have produced for the series into one post so you can bask in the awe and wonder of their work. As you can tell, I’m a fan of their work–and you should be too.

HANK

As you can see, we went through a few variations on the facial design for the series main protagonist but his frame and figure mostly stayed the same throughout his design. I always like to refer to real life people if necessary so an artist has a visual cue they can use as a starting point. For Hank I mentioned John Cusack only younger as a point of reference. Khary’s first pass at the top was a bit too young so we scaled it back and ultimately landed on the final headshot you see in the last piece. I really like how he captured the more masculine, mature look but with a youthful spark in his eyes. I knew we had our leading man.

SUDANA

Probably even more important than Hank’s design is our female lead who graces the majority of our covers. Sudana’s design had to be perfect and for her look we went the opposite direction. I mentioned to Khary and Emilio that I’ve always had a bit of a celebrity crush on the actress Mila Kunis and her captivating looks, but I wanted someone a little older with an intensity that was palpable on her face. Suffice to say, THIS is why you bring in an expert like Khary who nailed it on the first pass. Sudana’s design as you can see has pretty much not strayed from the original designs, only slightly. They knocked this one out on the first pitch.

SPARKLES

Who doesn’t love talking black cats? I know I do, and I knew Sparkles’ design had to be just perfect to uphold the legacy that is the talking gato so I scoured the internet for a few different shots of pitch black cats with blue eyes that I thought might give the guys some inspiration, and again (notice the theme here), they came back with a picture-perfect Sparkles right off the bat. Although I think her face has rounded out slightly from this first design, this is pretty much consistent with her look now.

SUPPORTING CAST

HECTOR

SAMSUN

SERK´E

DURA

If you’re up-to-date on your Charismagic issues you’ll notice that last design for the wolf-like creature hasn’t appeared yet, so now you have something to look forward to for next issue, which is out in only a short couple of weeks! I really hope you’ll check it out and know we’ve put tons of thought into each and every character’s design exclusively for your enjoyment! 🙂

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Vince’s Pre-Approved List of Film & TV Remakes and Sequels…Part 1

In the car ride back from the gym this morning, Mark and I were discussing how terrible we think the new Footloose remake looks. And since this weekend will also give us the release of The Thing as well, I think it’s time I talk remakes and unnecessary sequels. I watched the trailer for Footloose on my phone and although the sound was barely audible, lemme tell you—it looks every bit as bad as a movie about a town that outlaws dancing and a reckless teen breaking all the rules to get his dance on would be. But since you know how I do, I’m a glass-half-full type of guy so instead of hating on these remakes or listing the recent bad ones or upcoming remakes which we can’t stop from coming, I thought I’d provide Hollywood with Vince’s Pre-Approved List of Movie & TV Remakes and Sequels. In some cases, I even provide a suggestion for plot and casting. Yes, I go the distance people. Hollywood, you can thank me with movie premiere tickets. Let’s get right to it gang…

GREMLINS 3: Seriously, who doesn’t love Gizmo and his mortal enemies, Spike and the Gremlins? Gizmo looks like a creepy, furry rat creature from hell yet still he defies the odds and penetrates our heart’s defenses (Yes, I just said furry and penetrates in the same sentence). And can you even remember who the human actors were in the first two movies? Didn’t think so. But, there’s one thing I do know—Howie Mandel is the voice of Gizmo and he’s still very much around, and I guarantee he would take the job. It’s a merchandising fest waiting to happen. Speaking of furry creatures…

ALF: Fuck, really? Do I have to sell this one to you guys? An anteater-looking alien who eats cats, and crash lands in suburbia from a planet destroyed by nuclear war called Melmac? Where do I sign up? And, apparently I’m not the only one who agrees because according to Wikipedia, Alf ran for 102 freakin’ episodes so there’s a rabid Alf fan base out there salivating for his return. Also according to Wikipedia, in the show’s final episode: Alf was captured by the always devious U.S. Military so his ultimate fate remains undecided. But I say–not anymore! Let’s free our favorite furry alien Alf and return him to primetime superstardom where he belongs. We can scrap Falling Skies to make room if necessary.

E.T…IN THE MIDDLE EAST! Staying on topic leads me right into my next suggestion. We bring back our original favorite alien who rides a bicycle and points a creepy finger–E.T! Now, clearly, this sequel needs a fresh change of scenery and a new cast, so what better place is there to crash land E.T’s ass back onto than say—Iran or Syria. Might I suggest that as a plot: ET’s alien race is now addicted to the Reese’s Pieces he smuggled back onto their alien ship, and now they’re strung out over the classic hard shell chocolate treats and back in our orbit in search of more. But of course, instead of landing safely near a convenient 7-11, they land smack dab in the middle of Tehran and a hotbed of radical Islamic extremism. This shit just writes itself at that point. We bring on Shia Le Bouf and film it entirely in Palm Springs and call it a day.

BAD BOYS: Let’s face it. Will Smith is just not that great by himself in a movie (yeah, don’t go droppin box office numbers on me, I’m talking quality here). But pair him with a Tommy Lee Jones, a dog, or an alien invasion (More Alf and E.T. support), and then you’ve got a multi-million dollar franchise waiting to cash out. Now, on a much darker note, I’m pretty sure my man Martin Lawrence needs this even more than ever as Big Momma’s House is all I gotta say on his side of the coin. This is a pride thing for him. So, let’s do this and bring these two homies back together, and in the process we return Michael Bay to his roots before Hasbro stole his soul and replaced it with an energon ATM machine. And on the topic of money…

SPACE JAM 2–BECAUSE, SHIT, WE NEED SOME KIND OF BASKETBALL RIGHT?: It’s getting scary people, this NBA lockout is now affecting our actual regular season games. It’s time we be proactive and find a solution and I say—screw these dudes, we don’t even need actual human basketball players. I turn to Bugs, Daffy and Porky Pig, all of whom will work endless hours entertaining us for no pay whatsoever. I’m no bigwig, corporate CEO, but even I know cheap slave labor when I see it, and these Looney Tunes are our human rights-free answer for these greedy real life athletes and team owners with their tired arguments. Added bonus: imagine the hilarity of scenes with Elmer Fudd and Dirk Nowitzki together. Pure. Gold.

COOL AS ICE: Juuuust kidding, had to check to see if you’re still with me my homies. That’s all I have time for now, but I’ll add to this list as I see fit, and I welcome your opinions and suggestions on potential Film & TV remakes as well. Clearly, I have a love for furry pets, aliens and black men with guns. ‘Till next time, pals! Enjoy the new Charlies Angels coming soon on ABC.