What is reality? What makes us human? If your life were an illusion, how would you know it? If your perception of reality was wrong, would that change reality, or you?
These are just some of the questions posed by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick in his numerous novels and short stories. Themes of fractured reality, insanity, and personal identity permeate his writings which include "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" which became the basis for the film, "Blade Runner".
My initial introduction to the work of Philip K. Dick was through Ridley Scott's cinematic interpretation of his "…Electric Sheep?" and after reading the actual book I fell in love with his writing. "Flow My Tears The Policeman Said" was the second Dick book I managed to pick up, and it remains my favorite, followed closely by "Sheep" and "The Man Who Japed", and most recently "Ubik".
There is an unused sequence in the "Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?" novel where Deckard is arrested by another San Francisco police officer and taken to another police station run by androids who retire humans. It's a wonderful turn of the tables on the world that Deckard lives in and further brings into question what is real and who is human in the story.
Another great concept that runs throughout this book is the religion he introduces known as "Mercerism" which centers around an empathy box which believers can grasp the handles of and be transported (virual reality?) to a great hill where Mercer (their messiah) attempts to climb a large hillside while being pelted with stones. With every impact to Mercer's body those who grasp the handles of the empathy box experience his pain and empathize with his continual struggle to mount the hill. No one ever manages to hold on to the handles very long and no one knows for sure if he ever really reaches the top, but the concept of suffering and sharing in the sufferings of the messiah known as Mercer are fascinating to consider.
Dick himself was intrigued by the idea of God and spirituality, often personally experiencing visions from angels and many other drug-induced delusions that may have been fed by his own paranoia and mental illness.
His eight thousand page, one million world journal known as "The Exegesis" chronicles his own personal spiritual experience and is on file at CalState Fullerton. You can read more about this work here:
"Flow My Tears" is my favorite of all of Dick's novels I've read so far because it is his most well-written, having won the John W. Campbell Award in 1975 and nominated that same year for a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award. The story revolves around a wildly popular television star named Jason Taverner who wakes up one morning to discover that no one knows him. What happened to his celebrity? Has the world changed? Did he imagine his life of fame and fortune? How can anyone erase someone with a face and a name recognized worldwide? It's a well-written novel that employs the best of Dick's trademark elements.
"The Man Who Japed" deals with a society obsessed with enforced morality and a man who almost unconsciously desecrates a patriotic monument on the eve of assuming the most powerful media position on the planet. The main character is believable, funny and probably one of the most relatable personalities in any of his novels.
After I read "The Man Who Japed" the first time I considered working up a script for producing it as a graphic novel since it seemed ripe for a modernization and contained enough action and humor to hold any audience sway.
"Ubik" is another great book that suffers slightly from a longer than necessary build up and an unsatisfying end, but the potency of the ideas it contains and the frequency of those brilliant flashes makes it worth the effort. It would make a wonderful film, especially if the action started sooner and the ending were more fully realized.
Not every book by Dick is as satisfying these. For me, the often praised "A Scanner Darkly" was largely unreadable. I have attempted to get through it twice now and it just doesn't gain traction the way his other books do, although the premise is fascinating. Perhaps the movie version will be more palatable?
For the most part Hollywood has butchered Dick's work. Of the nine films based on Dick's novels and short stories, only "Blade Runner" comes close to providing a true sense of the source material while providing an entertaining piece of cinematic art.
"A Scanner Darkly" is probably the most spot-on book-to-screen adaptation of a Dick novel, but the entertainment factor is lacking. It does provide a much more accessible entry-point for this very personal story of drug addiction and its deadly consequences.
"Minority Report" is one of the most offensive treatments of a Dickian concept on film. Spielberg invents a plot point that defies logic and sets up the entire story based on something that could never happen given the rules of this world he creates for us. If you can unplug your brain and enjoy the action scenes and special effects it's slightly entertaining, except for the laugh-out-loud stupidity of handing a criminal's wife his loaded service weapon and his eyeballs as a parting gift. Especially since that eyeball is still keyed into the optical security system of the prison where you're holding that same husband. It's like handing the keys to the prison to the wife and making sure she's armed at the same time. Ludicrous.
To fully experience the genius of Philip K. Dick one must explore the novels and the short stories he authored first-hand. The short story collections "Minority Report" (where you can read the actual story as Dick intended it) and "The Eye of The Sybil" are both excellent places to start your journey into the world of PKD.
I have yet to fully explore every novel or story written by Philip K. Dick but he remains my all-time favorite science fiction author.
Over the weekend I took my sons up to Diamond Bar to visit the massive Frank & Son's Collectors Warehouse.
In the .25 cents bin I discovered this lost gem from my childhood.
When I came across this comic I could hardly believe my eyes. This was the only "Yang" comic in the entire box, and this exact issue is the only issue of this series I have ever seen in my life.
I'm not really sure where I originally got this comic as a child, but somehow I had this 1977 kung-fu comic in my early comics collection. Finding it in that quarter box was like uncovering a favorite childhood memory.
Reading it now, some 35 years later, the artwork is sloppy, the story is surprisingly about evil Russian seal hunters who club baby seals for their fur and our kung-fu hero, Yang, attempts to stop them.
This comic also reminded me of another Modern Comic I owned at about the same time called "Billy The Kid" which I remember loving mostly because I was a nut for cowboy-related comics as a kid.
I suppose the cool thing is how comics can trigger memories and feelings from your childhood. That cover, those colors, the unusual hero, all combine in my mind to pull me back to being nine years old again.
An even bigger surprise was the full-page ad in this comic for a book on Wicca advertising bizarre secrets to getting rich, reading minds and casting spells. I guess I'm glad I was too young to ever read those ads in the comicbooks. Weird.
Four years ago I was writing a variety of original comicbook scripts and juggling a handful of sci-fi projects ranging from short stories to graphic novels.
One of my favorites was a reality bending, surreal sci-fi action epic called "UV:Target." If you could imagine Phillip K. Dick and David Lynch collaborating on a sci-fi comic, with everything from genetic engineering, and the nature of insanity to dreams of dentistry, split personality and fine art thrown in, then this would be the result.
THE STORY Essentially the story plays with some real-world science I uncovered while researching the genetic engineering developments being funded by the Chinese Government right now. From there I investigated the human eye and the entire spectrum of light (of which "visible light" is only a small portion) and theorized that a genetic mutation could be made on the human eye so that it would be possible to see the ultra-violet, gamma and infra-red range of light. What would it be like to see through solid objects? In truth, it make you blind in a way to the physical world but open you up to the world beneath this one, in a manner of speaking.
As I began to craft my main character, Roy the GenAssassin who can see through walls, I also began toying with the idea of introducing a second character named Walter who believes he too is a genetically engineered assassin. However everyone around Walter insists that he is insane and that these are delusional projections of his tortured mind. His doctor urges him to take his medication.
At the same time we wonder if Walter might really just be Roy's imaginary friend as it seems that no one but Roy can ever see Walter when they are together. Is Roy the one who is insane, or is Walter? Which of them is real and which of them is imagined, or is it possible that they are both very sane and something entirely different is going on?
That's the main mystery of the book. It's a very "PhilDickian" story idea where reality and sanity and identity is constantly in flux and open to interpretation. I was watching films like "A Beautiful Mind" and David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" at the time, and a lot of the plays on sanity and reality and imagination informed my script for UV:Target.
I was also inspired by the epic mini series by Bill Sienkiewicz and Frank Miller called "Elektra:Assassin" which employed a lot of surrealist artwork and storytelling to weave an otherworldly tale of espionage, madness and dark magic.
During the early stages of writing the script I also came up with another character named "Claire" and when I discovered that she actually fit into this storyline the whole thing really snapped into place. Claire is able to read minds and can see a few minutes into the future. I can't give away more than that.
The fourth major character was "Cash" who works for the FBI and is determined to find Roy and kill him in retribution for the death of her partner. We also have another recurring character, "Dr. Wong" who is both Walter's psychiatrist and Roy's boss. Kinda confusing, I know.
THE COMIC My artistic muse for this book was Malaysian painter "Adijin". I ran across a few pages he had posted on a message board for his own book called "Siapa?" and those three pages were exactly the art style I knew I needed for UV:Target. After contacting Adijin via email and showing him the first ten pages of my script, he agreed that the match was made in heaven and we were off.
Earlier I had attempted to illustrate the book with a guy named "Flood" (he never told me his real name). His style was very Geoff Darrow inspired and I could have been happy with a book that looked like Miller's "Hardboiled". The problem was that Flood just kept drawing the same page over and over again. I have five versions of the first page. He was hopeless.
Once Adijin was on board I also received an incredible cover image by Jake Parker ("Flight Anthology") of our main character Roy G. Biv. It was gorgeous.
What killed this book ultimately was Adijin's workload on a professional (read "Paying") job for IDW's "Silent Hill" series. After his work on that book he was too busy to finish our book, and I was just flat-out exausted trying to keep all those plates spinning on so many Plastic Animal projects at one time. Plus, I made a conscious decision to lay aside my sci-fi writing in favor of my [Subversive] articles and interviews and so we turned out the lights at Plastic Animal and I began my regular column over at http://www.relevantmagazine.com/ which ultimately became my blog (http://www.keithgiles.com/) and that spawned the weekly e-newsletter [Subversive Underground].
THE FUTURE For some reason, and I admit I don't entirely understand why, I have felt drawn back to those sci-fi stories from the PA years. Most especially the UV:Target story, I think because it embodies so much of what I love about the science fiction work of Philip K. Dick and the film work of David Lynch.
The graphic novel script is almost entirely complete. I've recently worked up a synopsis of the entire storyline and added a new element to Roy's character development which, I think, places Roy in a much more intriguing light.
I've been struggling lately with whether or not to begin writing this story in a prose format. About two weeks ago I was really wrestling with whether or not the time was right to return to this story. Ultimately I decided to keep it all on the shelf and continue to focus on my [Subversive] writings and especially my two new book projects which are only barely releasing in the next few weeks.
It's not quite time to take Roy and Walter out of the box yet.
*NOTE: This was the intro to a spin-off book I considered writing after the first "Digerati" book was complete. Enjoy.
In Saint Petersburg, Florida they take abandoned vehicles to the Azure Lake Scrap Yard where, after the obligatory thirty days, any unclaimed sleds and skimmers are stripped, crushed and stacked into tight little cubes before they get sent to the recycling center up near the Atlanta-Plex.
The Daytona Saloon is a sleaze pit by every definition, but it’s where Stilson usually preferred to meet with new business associates. If they weren’t the kind to show up and drink a beer there, then he figured they weren’t the sort of client he’d want anyway.
Stillson had been waiting for over an hour now and the meager crowd was beginning to thin down due to the gradual decline in the quality of the entertainment. The best girls usually went on before midnight. After that it was strictly the ones who were too old to draw a full house, or too plain to make anyone pay for a second drink.
Near the old video juke a rat caught the business end of a mousetrap. A tiny piece of Velveeta popped out of the rodents mouth along with a small squirt of blood. Stillson was ready to leave when Fisheye, the old wheeze that owned the bar, leaned over to speak to him. It looked like someone had knocked out his right eye in a fight and had forgotten to stick it back in correctly.
He had to shout over the music, “You’re Stilletto, right?”
Stillson leaned forward, ”What you got?”
Fisheye ogled him with that bad right eye for a second and then he slipped a fold of paper across the bar and under his glass.
When he moved down the bar, Stillson opened the folded scrap and read the hand scrawled note; “Change of venue. Try again. The Bridge. West side. 3am”.
He downed the last of his drink and crumpled the note in his fist.
For a moment he considered just going home, but then he changed his mind.
Fisheye came over to take his payment for the whiskey, scanning his right hand with the greasy chrome wand attached to the belt at his waist.
“Thanks for comin’ in”, Fisheye said.
Stillson slid off the barstool and walked out into the cold drizzle of the Florida night. There was a staggered wash of neon forming a haze effect on the street outside. He turned his collar up on the black leather jacket he always wore and made his way to the monorail station down the block.
Bred in a vat and gene-spliced for use in the last world war, Stillson had never seen combat. Instead, his batch of soldiers had been officially classified as “defective” and listed on the manifest as destroyed before reaching maturity. In reality, it had been an inside deal between the lab’s leading research scientist and a representative of an unnamed criminal element who had access to unlimited funds and a need for untraceable goods.
For the first five years of his life he’d grown up on these streets. Running with the other wild boys in packs like dogs. Most of the children in his series died hard on these streets, in ways he had spent most of his life trying to forget. Then Dariija had found him and taken him in, along with six other boys. Later on, he learned that it was Dariija himself who had purchased them from the lab and allowed them to fend for themselves for the first five years. After the strongest ones survived, he simply brought the remaining children into his care. He had raised them, not as sons as much as students. Broken their wild spirits and tamed them with methodical degrees of discipline and regimented doses of Urchin. They were free to leave at any time, but they also knew that anything they endured under Dariija was nothing compared to the streets. Here, at least, they had food and shelter and all they had to do was learn how to kill, which came pretty naturally for most all of them. But especially to Stillson. He had been the star pupil of Dariija’s school. When he had mastered the martial arts and the blade weapons he was ten years old. Dariija had made no sign of preference for Stillson, but the others knew he was better than all of them, and they knew that Dariija knew it too. He stopped working for Dariija when he was fifteen. That was the day he had killed Dariija in open combat.
For the last six years he had been working solo. Sometimes running weapons, sometimes acting as a courier for sensitive equipment or material, other times working as a body guard or even as a bounty hunter on occasion. But, he stayed away from the wet work whenever possible. Not that he had any scruples about killing, but he’d done that most of his life and he knew there were better ways to make a living.
Stillson rode the monorail to Six Moon avenue and got off. The rain had stopped now, but there was still a chill in the air. The internal chip behind his right ear projected the time in the upper right-hand corner of his vision. Twelve minutes to three. Just enough time to walk to the Bridge and meet this elusive client.
He had no real idea who the client was or what the job involved. He had only received the email this morning on his datacom from Ramsey, one of the six he had grown up with on the streets, asking him to meet with the client at the bar tonight. Ramsey was still on assignment in Durango and hadn’t planned on being out of town this long, so Stillson was eager to help him out. He needed the funds.
He was about one hundred yards from the bridge when the skimmer’s headlights flashed ahead of him. It was a Charger, one of the newer ones with the silent runner and extra juice to propel it at speeds well over the legal limits. It was headed for him like a bullet.
Stillson tugged at the rubber Pachmeyer pistol grip on the Hammerhead strapped under his jacket and spun around, pulling the short, ugly weapon out in a single fluid motion. The Charger was a blur now, the headlights blazing down on him like a flare. Stillson kept spinning, kicking up with his left leg to get airborne as the skimmer sailed beneath him. The Hammerhead went off in his fist like a thunderbolt. He heard the satisfying explosion of glass as the double-barreled weapon threw him backward into the sky. The skimmer swerved madly, seemed about to right itself and then clipped the corner of a light pole and spun wildly end over end. As Stillson’s feet touched the ground the skimmer was coming to a stop. He could see now that it was a candy apple red color and that the roof was sheared off in the wreck. A Japanese man, about twenty years old was hanging half out of car where the windshield used to be.
Internally, he heard the soft buzz of his datalink ringing.
He touched a stud below the skin of his right ear.
“You’re in danger…” a woman’s voice said.
“Who are you? Where did you learn my number?”
“From Ramsey. There’s not much time. You’re in danger, someone is being sent to the bridge to kill you”.
He looked at the time pulsing in his peripheral vision. It was 3pm.
“Kinda late. They already tried.”
“Are you ok?”
“I’m talking, ain’t I? So, what the hell is going on?”
“I can’t talk over this link, we need to meet in person. Meet me tomorrow at ….”
“No. I pick the location this time. Tomorrow at the Pink Palace on Six Moon and Wren. Noon. You wear a red jacket, I’ll find you.”
“But, I don’t have a red jacket.”
“Then you better get shopping,” he said and cut the connection. He slid the Hammerhead back into the sling under his jacket and snapped it closed.
I honestly can't close the loop on why I love Paul Pope. It's too much to put into words, but let me select a few things that rise to the top.
HIS ART First, his ink work. It's been said that no one in modern American comics comes as close to combining Japanese manga linework with European style sensibilities as Pope does. The best way to see his work is in black and white. Like the best work by artists Brian Wood and Frank Miller, coloring the art of Paul Pope is rarely an improvement. You could probably add Becky Cloonan to that list. (I just did).
The duo-tone colors of Pope's epic "Heavy Liquid" graphic novel do not detract from his storytelling, and the pages on his "Batman Year 100" are probably the best I've seen in color, but it's the black and white that really allows his art to breathe deep. I can't help but imagine what those "Year 100" pages would look like in their stripped-down glory.
For the best examples of his black and white art I'd direct you to any of his original THB sci-fi series of comics. Those might be hard to find, to say the least, but they're worth seeking out. After that I'd say his recent "100%" graphic novel from Vertigo is worth your purchase. I was lucky enough to have advance pages of the first two issues photocopied and mailed to me by Vertigo for an interview I did with Pople, back when I was still writing for CBR. Those stark, raw pages of "100%" are still preferable to me than the more polished grayscale pages in the final, actual book. If you're still jonesing for more of Pope's black and white work you might possibly look for a copy of his "One-Trick Rip-Off" book from Dark Horse next. The story is loopy and suffers from a "What the hell?" moment of misplaced meta-human ability, but otherwise the art is fantastic and vibrant.
HIS WRITING Pope is also one of those rare creators (again like Brian Wood and Frank Miller) who is able to write and illustrate their work with equal flair. Pope's writing excels on his own original sci-fi series, "THB" where the storyline takes a long time to unfold, the characters have room to grow and the world he creates is as much a character as anything else on the page. Pope has called this his "Dune", meaning it's an epic sci-fi story that he intends to work on for the rest of his career. He's in no hurry to slam it out, although his fans are clawing their eyes out for the next issue to emerge.
The way Pope has balanced his original work and his work-for-hire has been to take on a few high-profile books from large publishers like Marvel or DC in order to pay the bills and alternate an original book into the workflow whenever possible. He's also been blessed to have some of those work-for-hire books double as his original work as with "100%" or "Heavy Liquid".
HIS BEST WORK Those two Vertigo mini-series are probably among the very best work Pope has ever done to date, in this writer's opinion. If you could only afford two graphic novels of his work (and at Vertigo's price tag on those, it wouldn't be hard to believe), you're best bet is to pick up "Heavy Liquid" and "100%" to get the full Pope experience.
"Heavy Liquid" was probably my very first taste of Pope's work, and still one of my favorites. I managed to pick up a copy of the graphic novel at half price through a friend who worked at B&N (it was on the half-price sale rack of all things). It was an amazing story of an addict who stumbles upon an unusual liquid metal substance that when heated and poured into the ear canal creates the most amazing high imaginable. The main character is our pathetic, drug-addicted loser who finds himself being chased by a government agent who wants to get his missing substance back. The story reads like the coolest sci-fi film you've never seen, but hope to one day.
"100%" is more of a love story, set in the same universe as "Heavy Liquid" but with different characters living out their mostly normal lives. The fact that they're in the future is incidental, for the most part, although Pope drops in some inspired ideas of what the future of entertainment, communcations and politics might bring us, but the main story here involves six individuals at various stages of in their lives who suddenly find themselves involved in a relationship. Honestly, as much as I love the sci-fi action side of "Heavy Liquid", I think the satisfaction I felt at the end of the "100%" story was on par with reading the last page of a great novel. It felt right. The characters had become real people to me. Their pain and their fear and their wonder had become palpable, and that's rare in any comicbook or graphic novel you might ever come across.
ON BATMAN His most current graphic novel, "Batman Year 100" is a look at the caped crusader in the year 2039 where America is a police state and anyone with a secret identity is a threat to National Security. One thing that Pope does in this book, which I love, is that he identifies the future Batman as the same person who appeared in Gotham back in the '40's, and continued to fight crime on into the year 2007. Suddenly the masked vigilante is back, as impossible as that sounds, but Pope offers no explanation whatsoever. He simply acknowledges that this same Bruce Wayne appeared on the scene as Batman during World War II and continues to haunt Gotham to this day.
The unspoken message is that no one reading Batman right now, in the year 2007/2008 has any problem with this fact. We know that Batman's origin places him in a specific time period. We know that by now, if he was a real person, he'd be much too old to continue fighting crime, but if we don't require an answer as to "Why" today, is there really a good reason that we'd need to know the answer forty years from now? I love that Pope doesn't avoid the question, but he also doesn't feel he needs to answer the question either. What matters is that Batman is back.
Pope's Batman is also a return to what I believe should always be inherent in any Batman story; the idea that Batman is meant to be a force of nature. He is meant to scare the living hell out of criminals. This is what the "Batman Begins" film did so well. We see people wetting themselves whenever Batman shows up. He drops out of the ceiling, grabs someone in his cloak and floats back up into the darkness where we hear screams of horror and a limp body drops to the floor unconscious. "Let me outta here!" the rest of them shout.
That's Batman. He is a nightmare. He is a ghost. He is Nosferatu, and Pope understands that.
THE PERSON I was lucky enough, back in the days when I wrote for CBR, to interview Pope over the phone, about three different times. He was always a joy to talk to. He took plenty of time to unpack his characters, his stories, and his love for the medium. I felt like I was talking to a good friend and not a comic book artist. He even took the time to provide feedback for me on my "Hard Video" storyline and he and I went back and forth quite a bit talking about our favorite sci-fi writers like Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin and Ray Bradbury.
What I love most about Paul Pope, other than his great artistic ability and his maturing ability to write, is the fact that he sincerely loves science fiction. He reads it, he thinks about it, and he loves it.
At the moment, Paul is working on another original graphic novel called "Battling Boy" which will be released as a two-book, 400-page fairy tale revolving around a young hero who faces off against various demons in the city of Monstropolis. Can't wait.
A recent thread over at a popular comics message board inspired me to write down my own personal comic book projects "Dream List".
These are comics I'd love to work on if I had the chance. Dream Comic Book Projects:
*"I Am Batman" with Ashley Wood/Paul Pope/Various Artists. - I have already written the script on this one. Can't give anything away but I believe this is easily the most amazing, and original Batman story idea ever conceived. If only I could convince someone like Ashley Wood or Paul Pope to take a shot at my script...
*"The Shadow" with Paul Pope - I really love this character. Almost as much as Batman. But his comicbook history is sparse...and lame. I'd love to take on this character. The first arc story would shift between the 1940's and the year 2012 and the present, accentuating the agelessness of the character. The Shadow is fighting a dark society of assassins, with conspiracy theories coming to light and a shocker twist where he discovers that his own "Shadow Network" has grown into a secretive terrorist organization beyond his control.
*UV:Target - "Made In China" Original Graphic Novel with Adijin/David Mack. - If I can't have Adijin, give me Mack! This is the one project from my Plastic Animal days that I just can't let go of. If you could imagine Phillip K. Dick and David Lynch collaborating on a sci-fi comic, with everything from genetic engineering, and the nature of sanity to dentistry and fine art, then I'd imagine this being the result. It's very reality bending. Surreal sci-fi action.
The earliest art by Malaysian artist "Adijin" was breath-taking. I've since begged him to get back on the project, even offered to pay him actual, real money for a page-rate, but he's on to other projects and doesn't seem interested in returning to this painted style artwork which I fell in love with from the beginning. One day I hope to find an artist with the right style who can tackle this project for me and we will release this via Image Comics or self-publish it via Lulu.com or something. Out of everything on this list, this is the one I really believe will one day see the light of day.
*Un-Named Original Graphic Novel with JP Mavinga
*Near-Future story of an Underground Resistance Group under Totalitarian "Big Brother" Government dealing with internal power struggles and a message of hope that should either be protected at all costs, or given away to save the future. Just remembered this story concept from years ago, pre-PA, and realized it would make a great comicbook. Add it to the pile.
*Durango Silver with Geoff Porter/Andre Syzmanowicz. I still drool over Geoff's pencils on this one. It would be great to finish this story one day. Basically the US Government accidentally releases a biological organism designed to "eat" plastic, petroleum, fuel, and rubber. It was programmed to die after a few hours but mutates into a voracious organism that slowly reduces the planet to an Old West version of itself. Our hero, Del Rio, is a Sioux vigilante on the hunt for six people who deserve to die. There's a lot more on this one at the PA website (http://www.plasticanimalstudios.com) The research I did on the plight of the Native Americans was what pushed me over the edge. I really want to tell this story.
*Battle of the Planets - I'd love to do an updated version of this book, with more violence,more internal conflict, more "feature film" treatment. Characters get hurt, bleed, quit, betray, kill, and play dirty. This is not your Daddy's Cartoon. Mark and Jason kick the living crap out of each other in the opening scenes. They've always had a petty rivalry and they finally get it out of their system. Jason ("The Condor") kicks his butt, of course. Princess is captured and tortured. Tiny betrays the team and kills himself. Center Neptune is destroyed completely. The Chief is murdered. Mark goes on a suicide mission to rescue Princess and destroy Zoltar but Jason has to rescue him by posing as a soldier and takes down the enemy by blowing himself, and everything else, to smithereens, allowing Mark and Princess to escape. The team is reformed with Keyop, Mark, Princess and two new G-Force operatives. I'd love to have a secondary sub-plot in this same story arc involving "Agent Zero" - An early, failed attempt to genetically engineer a G-Force operative is discovered in cryogenic suspension at the heart of Center Neptune. Zoltar's insurgent/spy infiltrates the base, (with Tiny's help), and activates "Agent Zero" and unleashes this mega-powerful, and insane, G-Force agent...which is what ends up destroying Center Neptune after killing the Chief and allowing the rogue agent to escape with Princess as a hostage.
*Anything with Kristian Donaldson - Seriously, seeing his artwork on that horrific "Forsaken" project (aptly named?) made me drool at the prospect of doing something, ANYTHING, with that guy. So far he's turned me down cold and hard. Rejection hurts.
*RED LINE - yeah, that race car epic I was supposed to do with Tony Leonard Tomai. The quick pitch is that it's a race car epic set on the Olympus Mons of Mars (a large, flat mountain that dwarfs anything on Earth) with an ensemble cast. What I loved about it was that we have all these characters, each with a very good reason to win this race, but in the end we know that only one of them actually will. What happens to everyone else? It had promise, but now with the failed "Drive" tv series in everyone's psyche most would think we ripped off the premise, which we didn't.
*THE ROCKETEER- Another pulp action hero like "The Shadow". I think I could do something different with him that would be worth reading.
If you want to see the future of American Comics, you won't find it in the local comicbook shop, and you won't see it at the annual mega-comic convention. If you want to see the future of American Comics, it's in the manga section at your nearest Barnes and Noble or Borders Bookstore.
When I go to the comic shop all I see are men like me who are middle-aged, married with children and working a nine-to-five job. At least most of us are. There are still the occassional comic book geeks who are approaching twenty-five, still living at home, with no girl-friend and who works delivering pizza or bagging groceries to afford their weekly comic habit.
What I don't see are elementary-age children. I don't even see Junior High students. I only see adults who started out reading comics as kids and who are now the main demographic of the American Comicbook Industry.
When I go to Barnes and Noble looking for a graphic novel in the sci-fi section, I see elementary-age and junior high students laying in the aisles, stepping over each other to get to their favorite manga, and laughing with one another about something they've just read. I can see those kids reading the Americanized manga which is shelved just inches away from DMZ, Transmetropolitan, Casanova, and Kabuki. The potential is there for these young, new readers to discover the American comicbook product, if only a little marketing muscle could be applied to move those potential customers an extra three feet.
This is the future of American Comicbooks.
Here's what I think DC, Marvel, Dark Horse and IDW need to do if they hope to be in business another twenty years - Partner with large bookstore chains like B&N and Borders to expand "Manga Café's" where children can sit and read their manga, and their American Comicbooks, on actual tables and chairs in a well-designed and themed-out nook of the store. They already do this for their Children's section with giant wooden Pooh treehouse sculptures, favorite character icons along the walls, a Newbury-Award wall of books, and weekly book readings by authors and characters in costume.
Why not do the same for the comicbook/manga section? The big bookstore chains would make these sorts of changes to their store if the major American Comicbook publishers came to them with the idea, and provided marketing support, and helped to drive customers towards the great product that's out there in a way that everyone makes money. It's called a "Win-Win".
I can see it now. A small corner of the Barnes and Noble is decorated in life-size Trigun characters, and Naruto posters. There's a rotating wall display that features Eagle and Eisner Award winning books and best-selling manga titles are featured every-other month. Those publishers who participate in the program can get featured product on the wall or schedule promotions in the Manga Café calendar. Create a blog, launch a MySpace page or a .Ning group devoted to the scene. Create product aimed at this market, and place it in the environment where your best customers thrive; an environment your company helped to build in the first place.
It's in the best interest of American Comicbook publishers to foot the bill and lead the way in this area. Partnering with the larger chain bookstores makes sense since this is where the new customers are. They're already lounging around in there, and your product, your American Comicbook product, is only inches away on a shelf next to the Manga they're hooked on. If you want to get new customers and expand the comicbook market, go to where those customers are. Identify yourself to them. Introduce your product to them. Market it in the places they are already congregating.
You can forget trying to get them to come to you. But, if you started having your creators appear in those Manga Café's to read their books and give away free samples, drink coffee with those manga-fans, and supported their scene, they'd have a chance to discover your books and become your customers too.
There are already American Comicbook creators whose work would have a natural appeal to this audience. The artwork of Paul Pope, Brian Wood, Becky Cloonan, Skottie Young, LeSean Thomas, Fabio Moon, and a few others would be perfect for a bridge marketing effort like this. Imagine a Viz/DC cross-over comicbook illustrated by Fabio Moon or an X-Men/Dragon Ball Z one-shot graphic novel illustrated by Skottie Young. Now we're talking.
It's not even a case of "If you build it they will come" because they're already there and the building already exists. It's simply a matter of aggressive partnerships aimed at expanding the market to a younger audience by inviting yourself to their party.
If the American Comicbook industry doesn't start trying to agressively market themselves to the youth of today, their current audience will soon be dead and in the grave. When we die, the comicbook industry dies too.
Here's to the future of the American Comicbook Industry. Long may she live. -kg
When it comes to British Comicbook writer Warren Ellis I've only read his work on Planetary, Authority, Desolation Jones, and Stormwatch really. I did read a few of his Global Frequency singles found in the discount bin, those were ok, and one of these days I want to pick up his Transmetropolitan trade paperbacks. So, I'm not an expert in Ellis, by any stretch.
Oh, and I did read his first novel, "Crooked Little Vein" when it first came out a few months ago. It was sick, but well-written. Good ending, which I was nervous about really, but he pulled it off.
I currently subscribe to Ellis's own BAD SIGNAL e-newsletter. I have for probably five years or so now. The reason is not because I love his comic writing (it's honestly a little hit and miss for me, really), but because I love to skim his brain for ideas. The guy is seriously a non-stop idea factory.
Want to know a secret? My own little [Subversive Underground] e-newsletters are inspired by his BAD SIGNAL. I always loved the idea that he could jot down a thought, write a bit of prose, or share a link with hundreds of people just by hitting the "send" button. So, this is largely why I felt compelled to create my [SU] e-newsletter. That and the fact that having a weekly article to write for 160 people was great exercise for me as a writer and insured that I would always be writing something of substance.
So, I have Warren Ellis to thank for that, I suppose.
But, why do I fear Warren Ellis? Because he's probably reading this right now. He recently discovered a way to rig up an RSS feed off Technorati that constantly searches for mention of his name in the blogosphere. I wish I knew how to do that. But, this means that he will soon drop by here and look this place over, probably leave a snarky hate-filled comment below this and scamper off to write one of the hundreds of comicbooks he's currently assigned to.
Warren Ellis is watching me. What has the world come to?
Does this mean that I can randomly drop his name on this blog for no good reason and guarantee he'll at least drop by to see what the heck I'm saying about him? That sort of turns the tables on the power struggle now, doesn't it? I think I like this.
Let me tell you why I love Warren Ellis. He is a student of the future. This is why ideas ooze out of his skull twenty four hours a day. He ingests the future and regurgitates it daily like a psychic bowel movement. Let's meditate on that image for a moment, shall we?
Ok. That was fun. But, I love Warren Ellis most of all because he has so vocally championed the notion that comics can be succesful and well-done without capes. I mean, he is evidence that the future of comicbooks is not necessarily super-heroes. That is why I love him.
As a kid, of course, I was addicted to the X-Men. I still have the Dave Cockrum issue I bought from the H.E.B. Grocery in Eagle Pass, Texas with my 35 cents allowance money. It was glorious. I soon was on to the the Claremont-Bryne-Austin run and by then I was hooked on comicbooks. Have been ever since. (Although I wouldn't buy an X-Men comic these days. Unless it was free...and it was illustrated by Paul Pope...and written by me).
But as I've grown older (and the rest of the comic book fan-base has too) I've discovered great books like KABUKI, JINX, THB, HEAVY LIQUID, and a lot of really intelligent, beautiful work that doesn't involve super-heroics or mutants or secret identities or capes.
What I love about Warren Ellis is that he has great ideas. They don't all always live up to their potential, but he is at a great place in his career when he can formulate the idea, make a pitch and have it in production within months.
I envy him.
I wish I had the ability to snap my fingers, spit out a script and a synopsis and have a world-class artist assigned to labor over my ideas.
Still, Ellis and I are also miles apart. He hates Jesus. I love Jesus. I'm not sure what Jesus ever did to Ellis, but I suspect it's more about what those followers of Jesus do and say that pisses him off most of all. And those things piss me off even more. So, we're alike in that respect, I guess. But Ellis is enamored with the detritus of cyberspace, fetish photography, and loads of other stuff I won't type here lest you become tempted to Google them and discover grotesqueries that are best left to blissful ignorance. Suffice it to say, Ellis loves the darkness and I love the light.
And that's…ok. Yin and Yang. Fame and Obscurity. Genius and Wannabe. That's Ellis and Giles.
Still, it must be good to be Warren Ellis. But be careful. He is watching us.
Welcome to my Sci-Fi Lullaby. I am writing this to myself, in the dark of cyberspace. Like talking to myself in the bathroom mirror of my mind.
There is no one here.
This blog is meant to provide a mental relief valve for my musings on science fiction and comicbooks.
Here I will talk about the various science fiction books I have in progress, and about my plans to eventually release a comic book or two based on my ideas and story concepts.
Many of my comic ideas are already cataloged at the Plastic Animal Studios link (www.plasticanimalstudios.com). Those concepts were all in development between 2001 and 2003. We actually managed to produce a few ashcans, finished pages, short comics, and even saw print with one short comic ("Hard Video") in an anthology book ("Prophecy Anthology- vol.1").
At one time I used to write for Comic Book Resources (www.comicbookresources.com) interviewing comicbook writers and artists. I also used to write an opinion column on comics, sci-fi and culture called "Nut In The Shell".
That was a long time ago. Since then I've been focusing on my [Subversive Underground] writings (a weekly e-newsletter on subjects of spiritual formation, discipleship to Jesus, social justice, and house church). I've also self-published a couple of books on missional living and have a few more books on spiritual development planned for later this year.
This blog is not about any of that.
The purpose of this blog is to provide a venue for me to write about science fiction. I might write about other sci-fi authors I enjoy, or about comicbooks I'm writing, or about my own fiction work in-progress. I might also write about comicbooks that I enjoy, other writers I find inspiring, or websites I discover and want to catalog.
Down the road I have a plan to self-publish a few of my sci-fi books through Lulu.com. I have a near complete "Hard Video" book in the bag. All that's left on that one is a last-pass of edits and maybe some polish and that sucker is ready to go to print. But I will wait on publishing that for now since my [Subversive] books have only just barely released and I want to focus on one thing at a time.
I have a second novel-in-progress called "UV:Target" which started out as a graphic novel back in the "Plastic Animal" years, and now languishes in search of a new artist. Still, the story continues to haunt me. I simply cannot get the stupid thing out of my head. It's alive. Yes. It's breathing at the back of my neck and I know I will not be able to rest until it eventually gets written as a novel, or at least completed in graphic novel format as originally intended.
So, I either need an artist or I need to get working on writing this novel.
While I push this to the back burner of my mind, I will randomly post my thoughts on this blog concerning matters of science fiction.
I will often publish original short stories here for fun. I will often ramble ad nauseum about my story in progress. I will often provide an impromptu review of a comic book I have recently discovered, or I might take the time to share my love for authors like Philip K. Dick, artists like Paul Pope, or films that touch something in me.