Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Incoherent Rambling about SAGA #1

A few hours or so ago, I finished reading the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan's new series, Saga. He co-created it with Fiona Staples, who always does great work... but if I'm being honest here, I showed up to the party primarily for BKV. I often go back and forth about who my absolutely favorite comic book writer is, and I almost always settle on either Brian K. Vaughan or Alan Moore. Nick Spencer, Scott Snyder, Brian Lynch, Joss Whedon - they're all up there, for sure, but BKV's work on Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina, and Runaways has completely changed the way I look at comics as a medium and perhaps even the way I look at storytelling. BKV is a master, and this is the first time that I've had the privilege of following one of his comics from the first issue on the day of its release.

Saga gets off to a great start. Perhaps the best start of all of BKV's series. While his other series often take a few issues to fully live up to their premise, I'm already invested in the strange characters that populate the world(s) that BKV and Staples have created. The seeds of many interesting ideas have been planted, and a lot of it hits home in really weird ways because I'm working on a book called Roadkill with Ian McGinty (my Blood Pong co-creator) that has a few similar themes. Romance in the midst of an intergalactic war is nothing new, I suppose, but I'm ecstatic and absolutely relieved that BKV's version is nothing like my own. There's nothing scarier than when the best writer in comics announces that he's doing a new series with a concept similar to something you're working on.

Anyway, that aside, the writing here is as excellent as I'd hoped and (frankly) expected. Especially the stuff with Prince Robot IV. That character (an alien whose head looks like a TV screen - he may or may not suffer from erectile dysfunction) proves that those worried about BKV's normally pop-culture infused writing suffering in this aliens-only story can breathe easy. Vaughan's strength is that all these characters, no matter how alien they get (and man, they get alien as all fuckout), have insecurities that we can relate to... but through the screens of fully fleshed out alien cultures.

It's too early to say "Saga is great and will revolutionize comics," but I think this first issue has come at a great time. Image Comics seems to be attempting to prove that the comics industry has talent, that creator owned books are the future, and that the line should remain drawn at $2.99.

And hell - I'm with it.

-Patrick Shand

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Just" Work for Hire

I went back and forth about whether or not I'd actually write this post, but I think it's pretty important. I've been lucky enough in my career in comics to meet a bunch of awesome and talented people, and I'm grateful for that. I read a comic today that made me pretty mad, though, and it made me decide to write a post about an experience I had with the writer of said book at this past New York Comic Con.

This writer is a really well-known creator of a bunch of wonderful indie books. Books I love. When NYCC rolled around, though, his latest release was the first issue of a series he'd written for a company owned property. I still respect and love the guy's work, so I won't give anymore than that. Anyway, I walked up to his booth, did the whole "nice to meet you" thing, and told him how much I loved his first issue of _________.

He looked at me as if I'd just said "Would you like a bite of this shit sandwich, good sir? I made it myself. Just now."

Nervous that I'd somehow walked up to the wrong table, I laughed and said, "You... you did write that book, right?"

He nodded and said, "Yeah, but it was just work for hire. Did it a while ago. I guess they're putting it out now."

Flabbergasted and a bit put off, I nodded, talked with him for a minute or two more, bought one of his other books, and left. Hoping he was just having an off day, I went online and searched to see if he had posted anything about having written this book. Annnd he did. He did an interview that talked about that book and another property he was writing (one that I love). In this interview, his response was dismissive of the interviewer's question and he even reiterated that both of these projects were work for hire, so that the devout fans shouldn't expect much.


I was let down that a creator I respect would say this about any work of his, much less work that I enjoyed. And as his just-work-for-hire series went on, I noticed the drop in quality every issue. As it went on, the levels of shits not given increased exponentially, climaxing in the final issue, which I got around to reading today.

And here's my thoughts. Some pretty cool blog recently described me as an "up-and-coming comics writer" so I'll go with that. My first gig was my dream gig... Angel. Working in a world that Joss Whedon, my writerly hero, created was more than I could have hoped for - but I only had two pages with which to tell my story. I made those two pages the best damn two pages I was capable of. And after that, did I fulfill my second dream of doing a Supergirl/Stephanie Brown/Stargirl team book? Naw, I got some work for hire. I've been writing comics for Zenescope ever since and, yeah, it's work for hire, but there is no "just" in the equation. I was offered a shot at writing a good portion of their 1000 Ways to Die graphic novel. I'd never seen the show, but you can bet I watched every episode I could before I went to script.

Point is this... if you, as a writer or artist or actor or whatever, can't find it in yourself to care about what you're writing, then don't write it. Just don't write it. I am the last person to say "never write for money" because, let's face it, that's an inherently flawed piece of advice to give to writers. If you're a Career Writer, what you're doing is attempting to make a living out of writing - you write for money. The dangerous thing is when you start looking at work for hire as a "just" instead of a privilege and a challenge to live up to. Thing is, there are hundreds of other hungry, talented writers out there who would love to get their hands on the book you are currently not giving a shit about.

And so help you if you give a fan a weird look for saying they like your work, even if it's something you just pulled out of your ass for a check. The day I do that is the day I stop writing.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

BLOOD PONG: six page preview of my new creator owned comic

Hey all. So, one more post to celebrate Creator Owned Day! Here's a six page preview of my creator owned comic, BLOOD PONG. Frustrated with the modern depiction of vampires as romantic creatures, CHAD and JOHN, two vampires who spend their days playing beer pong with blood, hit the town with a video camera. They’ve decided to make their own reality/horror movie that gives vampires back their badassery.

The art is by the wonderful Ian McGinty (co-creator). We've been pitching it around, so it would be great to get any thoughts or reactions.,

Creator Owned graphic novel: THOMASINA'S HUMAN ZOO (preview)

Happy Creator Owned Day! To celebrate, I'm going to post two previews for upcoming creator owned graphic novels. First, here's a 2-page sneak peak at THOMASINA'S HUMAN ZOO, an all-ages graphic novel created by me and Sarah 'Pickles' Dill!

THOMASINA is a work in progress and will be pitched to various publishers this summer. Leave comments and feedback, please!