Friday, 11 September 2009

Amusing anecdote by Simpsons scriptwriter Matt Selman at
True Tales of Conversational Vengeance
Alright, I thought. A New Person. No problem. I'm no misanthrope. Just pretend to be a nomal person who's good at small talk: look people in the eye. Listen to what they have to say. Don't just talk about yourself. Ask questions that show you've been listening. Laugh even if they aren't funny. Don't be a misanthrope.
In my memory, my New Person looked like a blond version of the actor who played Young Sherlock Holmes in Young Sherlock Holmes. So Blond Young Sherlock Holmes and I attempted conversation.
ME: I'm a TV writer.
BYSH: (IMMEDIATELY) I don't watch TV. Really, I don't even own a TV...
(link thanks to Bob Morales)

Steven Grant on where ideas come from
"Ideas" seem to have a mystical quality for most people, but the only reason there's anything at all mystical about them is that people assume there must be something mystical about them. Every idea is a juxtaposition. That's it. A juxtaposition of existing concepts.
When you were a baby you were putting together huge ideas on a second-to-second basis, as you were absorbing and figuring out the world to the point of being able in some small measure to cope with it. Didn't matter that probably none of those ideas were new – the only time it didn't matter – it only matters that you had, have, it in you. That you're here now is proof of this.
Past infancy, your ability to concoct ideas is mostly connected to your upbringing...
I once heard an explanation of how jokes work, that they are a conundrum set up in one context and then resolved in another. It was a perfect description of something I already seemed to know but couldn't have explained. A brilliant flash of astonishing simplicity. On another occasion I was curious as to what 'lateral thinking' is. I picked up De Bono's book and tried to figure it out. It all seemed to be a complicated way of jumpstarting ideas. Useful to store away in case I ever need one. Going now to the Wikipedia page on the subject i find the text close to impenetrable:" Harvest tools that are designed to ensure more value is received from idea generating output." Sounds like battery eggs to me.


Monday, 7 September 2009

The new adventures of the Spirit

I've been waiting a few years for this one as it has periodically been on again and then off again, and finally this Wednesday, Fate willing, it will be here. I'm referring to Will Eisner's The Spirit: The New Adventures. This is entirely coincidental as I had no intention of devoting so much time to the venerable old chap as I have been doing here of late.

I've never been fond of the idea of lots of different artists taking a crack at an old comic strip. The best characters in the old days were like an artist's signature while the characters of today are well, meh. Do what you like with the modern lot, for I don't care a button or a fig. But you can't go messing with the grand old ones. When I first heard that Eisner was letting us whelps muck around with the Spirit, I thought it was a bad idea, and to an extent I still do. But then Neil Gaiman asked for me as the illustrator for the script he'd submitted, and Moore and Gibbons had turned in a real genius job for the first issue of March 1998, three connecting stories and all tipping a big fedora to the original. Gibbons has always been good at pastiches. He had elsewhere done very acceptable ones of Dick Sprang and Will Elder. Also, this was a reunion of the Watchmen guys! We were all off to Grandad's house to leave his 78s lying around.

For the second issue, April 1998, in which the 10 page Gaiman/Campbell piece appears, Eisner himself provided the cover, but it was the only issue for which he did so. (click to see all the covers). And while it was neat to see him put his mark of authority on our story, Eisner's late comic book covers always look too much like the Marvel formula to be entirely enjoyable. And also, somebody is always biting somebody else's clothes.

As for the stories, I was hoping he'd be in there messing around, fussily changing faces and stuff. I was so disappointed he was having a hands-off relationship with the series. I was looking forward to being his humble ghost. I tried so bloody hard to make my pages look like Eisner. It never works out that way of course. But I thought we should all at least be trying. My version of this book would be one in which only an expert could tell who drew what. I think we should all totally subvert our personalities and the best effort would be the one that Will would think he'd done it himself. I flatter myself to think I got close in a few of the details:

That's from a second story I drew, an eight pager that we packaged entirely here at Campbell Industries and that appeared in the seventh issue, Oct 1998. It was the first time we'd done computer colouring, apart from two Bacchus covers, and there are a few technical missteps, including making the Spirit look a bit green, which was my fault because I started interfering after Mullins and Evans had finished the colouring. Hey, maybe the technicians at Dark Horse have even fixed that problem. Fingers crossed. Or maybe they've been as hands off as Will was. This second story is titled 'The Pacifist.' The splash page shows a bullet coming straight for the Spirit, in a frozen image, as the narrator begins his story of anti-violence. We turn the page and find that it's the bullet talking. And for all we know, all of them could all be conscientious objectors. So this sentient bullet proceeds to narrate its entire life story that brought it to this fateful moment. Neil Gaiman was visiting when I mentioned this story idea away back in 1998 and he said he thought it sounded like a great Spirit yarn, as at that point it was just an idea I hadn't decided what to do with. He even suggested the name of the villain, The Black Russian, which is the name of a popular cocktail, and apt since the villain needs to get his gang, a daffy bunch drawn mostly by Pete Mullins, drunk.

Marcus Moore, who worked on the script with me, wanted to give the villain a dog named Herov, but we decided that was pushing the joke too far.

All in all I thought I did well with Commissioner Dolan:


Sunday, 6 September 2009

covers: Bacchus #54

While rummaging through my files I came across a lost Previews cover sketch (only a photocopy I add, anticipating a request to own it). I wasn't always particular about filing these. They were sketches made to be printed along with the solicitation in the distributors catalogues two months before the book was due to come out, and the solicitation and drawing would have to be done another month in advance of that, making it three months in advance altogether (or four?... it's been a while). At the beginning, when we (Campbell Industries) had ten distributors we'd photocopy a dozen of these and hand-color with felt-tips or coloured pencils the ones that were to be sent to colour catalogues. If there was a colour version of the one below i can't recall it. When we started we usually had a black ink version of the cover that would be used, but after a while we were always rushing and making do and I'd have to just guess what the cover was going to be about. On this one I had a good idea of where I was headed but it it still had to be worked out. It's one of those occasions when the sketch had its own particular quality that wasn't repeated in the finished work or anywhere else. (Bacchus #54, August 2000).