Friday, August 26, 2011

How I'd Do It: Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange
By Justin Jordan, Age 33 and a Half

Doctor Stephen Strange was an asshole. Great at his job, neurosurgeon, but an asshole nonetheless. Most surgeons, if they wrecked their car and, in a demonstration of the universe's well tune sense of irony, sustained brain damage that prevented them from ever performing surgery, would probably have tried something like teaching at a medical school or lecturing.

But Strange was an asshole who couldn't accept that he could never do the thing he does again. He trie everything to repair the damage; brain surgery, stem cell therapy, illegal and untested medical techniques. He got more and more desperate until he ended up trying things like faith healers and psychic surgery. He didn't really expect any of that shit to work, and it never really did, but he was surprised to find out that some of it wasn't actually fake.

The supernatural existed. Not only was magic real, Strange could do it. He didn't really want to do it, but the talent was there. He agreed to become the pupil of The Ancient one, Earth's Sorcerer Supreme, under the stipulation that if he did the training, The Ancient One would fix his brain.

Which might have worked out, had the Ancient One's former pupil Mordo not killed him after a year of training. Strange is able to defeat Mordo and, deserving or not, gets the mantle of Sorcerer Supreme. In magic, he finds something that can replace the ego kick he got from medicine.

But he's still an asshole. So he takes his story and turns it into a stage act. He becomes a magician and a mentalist, and frankly, he sucks at both of them but he has the advantage of being able to do actual magic.

Of course, the magic he can do on Earth is limited. When he travels to other plane and dimensions, he can use the fireballs and lightning bolts as he sees fit. But if he uses too much of his magical power on Earth, he risks attracting the attention of things from outside reality. That is the price of magic for the Sorcerer Supreme: use too much, go too big, and you weaken the defenses reality has for keeping things at bay.

The public at large views him as something of a buffoon, imagine Gary Busey crossed with Criss Angel, but his act allows him a nice lifestyle with money an women, and provides cover for his actual activites.

He never bothers to actually hide what he's doing - Sorcerer Supreme is how he bills his act - but whenever pyrotechnics do occur in public, it's written off as a publicity stunt. And if what he does can't be explained, well, that's because he's really good at what he does.

The act also provides him with people giving him tips about supernatural goings on, which he does investigate (because the Earth getting eating by demonic forces would be a blow to his ego) and sometimes fight. This can be something as simple as a poltergeist, or as big as a group of rogue architects building design to cause a city to come to life and devour the inhabitants.


The power thing lets me have my cake and eat it, too. If Strange travels to another plane he can do the pyrotechnics. On Earth, he is mostly limited to subtler magics. Basically, magic here results from the flow of unreality into our reality. This happens any way, so you can do magic if you know how.

But if you try to pull too much in, you risk pulling the holes open a little more, and that makes it that much easier for the things outside to slip in and do their thing. So if Strange takes the approach of simply blowing monsters up with magic, he's just going to attract something worse.

This is sort of an extrapolation of the original comics version, where he basically asks supernatural entities for power a lot of the time. He's doing more or less the same thing here, except that doing so makes it more likely said entities could come here, and since these are more Lovecraft style outer gods, this is a bad idea.

He can do this stuff if he's desperate, but he tries to handle supernatural problems with a minimum of magic. He really shouldn't use magic as firepower on other planes, either, for the exact same reasons, but he's enough of a dick that he doesn't realize that.

Liekwise, this lets me combine the camp aspects (although I don't know that I would use the wor camp) with more grounded stuff. He does glam it up for his stage show, and sometimes even fights evil dressed like that (easier to get people to believe that it's all some stunt) but it also gives me the option of having him dress like a relatively normal person when he's trying to investigate something.

Obviously, this take on Dr. Strange doesn't really integrate with the Marvel Universe as it is - I'd consider this the Max take on things, which is appropriate, because I would want the supernatural to be scary and horrible - imagine if when people speak to Dormammu, he speaks back by lighting another person's head on fire. Along those lines.

Strange would still have his place in New York full of occult junk. Most of it is just that, but some of it is real. It's all part of his image as the Sorcerer Supreme. The HQ is actually a fairly poorly done patch on reality, so the dimensions tend to change and Strange can tap somewhat more power than usual there, as well more easily shift to other planes and commune with spirits.

Wong is here, too. He was the physical bodyguard of The Ancient One, managed the Ancient One's life in general; someone has to go buy the rice and fish. He provides the same services for Strange, who is not a great physical fighter, being a surgeon who has shakey hands.

Wong basically serves as an all purpose roadie and manager, which he has adapted to with remarkable ease for someone who grew up in a remote mountain monestary. Hypercompetent at everything except magic, which is more or less the exact opposite of Strange, he's the Kato, basically.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Promo Stuff

The Librarian’s Guide to Life
Page Two

Six Panel Grid

Panel One – The Librarian, seated in a wingback chair, in a study. Fancy books behind him.

One of the questions I get from
students of the Hercules Method
is how to get the girl.

Panel Two – Nerdy Boy trying to talk to a Pretty Girl in the hall of a high school, who isn’t giving him the time of day. Both teenagers, and the boy is slightly pudgy

As you know, women are fickle
and unpredictable creatures who
are unlikely to see your untapped

Panel Three – Nerdy Boy reading the Hercules Method while walking down the hall.

This is why you must tap that
potential so that you may tap…
other things.

Panel Four – The Nerdy Boy has done the Hercules Method and gotten much more muscular, although he still has a bit of the pudge. Here he is punching out the Pretty Girl’s boyfriend, and it’s more than a knockout, it’s a killer. The boyfriend’s jaw is coming off, blood and teeth going everywhere. The girl is in the background, hands over mouth in shock and horror.

Of course, there maybe certain
obstacles, but the course of true
love never did run smooth. It does,
occasionally, run red.

Panel Five – Nerdy boy being led away by the police, as the girl cries in the background.

If you don’t succeed at first, fear
not as new opportunities will
soon present themselves, albeit in
perhaps a form less expected.

Panel Six – The Librarian in his chair. He has a bloody red heart in hand, his hand and finger covered in blood. He’s looking at the reader.

Remember, no can truly give you
their heart, so you need to be
bold and take it.

I recommend going underneath the
ribs at an upward angle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Horns and Hotrods

I had a dream, a while back, that I was Viking warrior (this is strange for two reasons - my dreams are almost never stuff that couldn't happen, and I'm almost never not just me) back from a long war, and I'm a notorious raider and killer, and I take up residence at the house of a young widow, who is being rather forcefully "courted" by the men of the town. I was probably responsible for the death of her husband.

So yeah, that part is basically Viking Shane. What interested me was the look of the thing. I don't when this was meant to have taken place, but what we had has a bunch of men using swords to duel while tooling about in 1950's style hotrods. Hence the title, Horns and Hotrods.

Yes, I know Vikings didn't wear horned helmets.

It was such a striking visual, actually, that if I ever find the right person for the art, some one in the Nate Simpsin vein, I'm damn well going to have a go at adapting into an actual story.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Luther Strode Day!

It was sort of Luther Strode day at Multiversity Comics:


If you're interested in how Tradd works and his influences and inspirations, they did three pieces on him. Read them, they, like Tradd, are pretty awesome.

Tradd Interview

Tradd Art

Holy crap, is there any end to Tradd's stuff?

Non Spoilery Review

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Digital Comics

An addendum to the last post, really, although it's near as long. People talk about digital comics (as in comics that you can download to your viewing device of choice) as something that will save comics. And I think those people are probably right. But we're not there yet.

Digital comics are tricky, because right now you have to serve two masters. Actually, you don't HAVE to, but if you're doing a book you want retailers to pick up you probably should. The thing there is that if you drop the price down low on the digital versions, you risk annoying the retailers, which is something to consider.

The other problem is that on digital comics, if you're going through the traditional digital outlets, is that you are only going to see probably 30% of the cover price, and maybe not even that. So at a buck an issue, say you get 30 cents. If you sold 30,000 copies digitally, you'd be doing okay. But you probably won't sell that many, at least not yet.

Digital comics have a lot of potential, because I think they represent an opportunity to grow the audience beyond what you're going to find in comic shops. It's rant for another time, but I think (and I realize I'm by no means the only one) that comics' biggest problem is that we've become a direct market only thing. If that were the case when I was young, I wouldn't be a comic fan now.

The other great aspect of digital comics, though, is that they allow comics to become more than just produce. Most modern publishing is built around what author Kirstine Katherine Rusch calls the produce model - the business is built around having new product that only lasts a few weeks and constantly needs to be replaced.

This is a little less true of comics than books, because back issue bins are fairly common, but the basic idea is the same. Unless you're actively looking for back issues of a certain thing, you're highly unlikely to just come across them. One of the reasons trades are popular is because they extended the functional life of a book, although they are also somewhat subject to the produce model.

Digital comics (digital anything) allow you infinite shelf space, which means that each of the individual bits you put out have an indefinite lifespan, since there's no out of print or out of stock. So your comic can, hypothetically, sell forever. Print book publishers are just starting to really exploit this, and some authors have discovered it, but comics hasn't really embraced it, although we're getting there.

So digital comics have a huge potential for both discoverability and permanence, but right now it's mostly just a drop in the bucket compared to direct market sales. Unless you're APE comics who can sell 1500 hard copies of a book and 150,000 digital copies.

*This model doesn't apply to the big authors and classic books as much, but it is true for most books, which have about six weeks to sell or be remaindered.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Business of Comics.

If you're doing a comic thought Image (or, you know, self publishing), one thing that you need to consider is price. The Strange Talent of Luther Strode is going to be 2.99 and issue, which is roughly the industry standard. This is something I had to have a good think about.

There is, for any product, a curve with price and profitability. You'd think that the less something costs, the more it would sell, and that's sometime true. It's also sometimes true that when you raise the prices, sales increase.

I mean, anecdotally, I pay the bills doing really unexciting copywriting, and I get more clients every time I raise my prices. At some point, my fees will cause this to go in the other direction, and somewhere further down the line, raising my prices will start to effect profitability.

So, to get back to comics, if you're charging $3.00 for a comic and you sell 5,000 copies, you gross $15,000. If you charge $3.50, you only need to sell 4,000. At $4.00 you need to sell 3,500. The question is where does maximum profit occur, which is what Marvel was trying to figure out when they went to 3.99 for their comics.

There's no formula for this. You have to consider things like popularity of the creators, for instance. Robert Kirkman could raise his prices by .50 a comic and I would bet everything I have (coincidentally, also worth about .50) that he would make more money.

Likewise, you need to consider the retailer. Price your book too high (relative to a bunch of stuff, but including popularity, genre, and buzz) and they'll be hesitant to order, because that shit isn't returnable.

On the other hand, this goes the other way, too. If your cover price is too low, they aren't making enough money on the book to justify the shelf space. It's tempting to price the first issue low as a loss leader, but looking at the numbers, it doesn't seem to work well in floppies.

(It does seem to do the trick with trades, though.)

A .50 difference is a big per unit difference. That doesn't all come to the creators, but it still represents a significant increase if the sales are the same. It could easily be the difference between a book that's failing and a book that can feed at least one of the creators.

When I was thinking about what to price Luther, I looked at the genres (horror and superhero), our popularity (non existent) the story (weird) and then, well, took a guess. I have a feeling that we'll probably make more money at 2.99 than 3.50, but it's hard to say.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Future Stuff

Some of my ideas I'm not actively working on because at this stage of my career, I can't see them selling enough to continue. For instance:

The High

The world is ruled by a secret group of families, gifted with immense psychic powers. They can change your personality at a whim, turn you into a slave in your own body, twist your flesh and rape your mind. They are unseen by the larger world, but The High would follow the people that cross their paths.

There's more to than that - the history of the families, who is really in charge, what it's like to work for powerful and unpredictable people. On a thematic level it's kind of amn extended metaphor for governments and the good and bad of them.

It's also, I think, the sort of thing I would have fancy fuck all of making sales on if I put it out tomorrow. It's a Vertigo type book, and without Vertigo backing, it's going to be a rough go.

Note: This is one of those rare titles I come up with that I actually like and has multiple levels of meaning. It's a reference to both the phrase the high and the mighty, as well as the more drug related meaning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pre - Order Thinger for The Strange Talent of Luther Strode

Color and greyscale. Black and white coming.



Luther Strode is in Previews


art & cover TRADD MOORE
32 PAGES / FC / M
Luther Strode is just your average nerd until he sends away for a bodybuilding course from an old comic book, one that works a whole lot better than he ever imagined. His newfound strength and strange talents make school a lot easier, but they’ve also caused some very, very bad people to take a very, very keen interest in him. Things will never be the same for Luther Strode…if he survives.


And here's a preorder thing for you (or, if you like, you can spread it around)