Monday, August 11, 2014

On Depression

Depression isn't like anything.

It really isn't. If you haven't experienced it, it's literally unimaginable. You can't think yourself out of it, even if you 'know' intellectually, what's happening to you.

It doesn't matter how much success you have. It doesn't matter how much money you have. It doesn't matter how wonderful your friends are, or how much you love your family.

It will tear that away from you. It will take you away from you. It's that bad. It's worse. I was lucky enough that it never got so bad that I wanted to die. But it got so bad I didn't care if I did.

It's been fourteen years, give or take, since I got help for it. I am still terrified of it coming back. That's not exaggeration - it's maybe the thing that I am afraid of most, and number two isn't a close competitor.

The best description of it I ever read was in Hyperbole and a Half, and these are a harrowing but worthwhile read:

So, I hope he's found some peace he didn't get in life.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Comic Book Economics

There was this:

Which I’ll quote a bit of:

“If Rocket Girl dips into the 8000s, we’ll start thinking about when to wrap it up. If it stays above 12,000 we can do it forever. At 12,000 copies I can make as much writing Rocket Girl as Hulk; Amy Reeder can make as much penciling/inking/coloring as she would on Batwoman. 8000 vs 12,000 is a significant difference in percentage, but it’s not a huge amount of readers.”


One thing you should understand about Image books is that, for the most part, there’s no advance money. Which is why single issue sales matter.

Kyle, Felipe and I have Spread coming out on July 9th. Spread is an ongoing book. The earliest we’ll see non single issue money from that is March 2015, when we’ll start getting digital money. We won’t start getting trade money until September 2015.

Which means that for a minimum of nine months from launch, the only money that is coming in is those single issues.

I can and do work on multiple books, so I have flexibility there. For Kyle, and for almost all artists, if he’s the artist on an ongoing book, then that book is all he’s doing. If it’s a monthly ongoing, there’s not much day job going to be happening either.

So single issues matter, because that’s effectively the only way for many books to pay the artist to, you know, live.

You’re under no obligation to buy books you like in a format you like. And you might think that floppies are a drag on the industry. But the reality is that single issue sales will determine the futures of a lot of books.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Fuzzy Edges

A little while ago, a fan asked me what Luther Strode was actually capable of, which I answered.

Which lead to this:

Now, I'm glad that people are invested in the character, but it does make me aware that I should have given a caveat, one that is implicit to a writer but should probably be made explicit when you answer questions like that.

Which is this: Character abilities are fuzzy around the edges.

For instance, you know what, say, Jack Bauer, Rambo, and Jason Bourne all have in common?

They're superhuman.

No, they are. No one alive can do what they do the way that they do it.

But you probably don't think of them as superhuman. They're just....heroic. Action movie stuff. And if they started going beyond the fuzzy limits of that, it's going to seem wrong to you. You'd accept, probably, them getting shot in the shoulder and then heroically winning a fistfight against the bad guy. You would not accept them having a greande explode in their pants and then tear the bad guy's head off with their barehands.

Now, Luther is explicitly superhuman. So tearing a bad guy's head off is fair game. But you probably would look askance at him surviving the grenade thing.

When I answered those questions about Strode, the answers I gave are indeed the rules of thumb I use when I write the books. Luther is about twice as strong and twice as fast as the peak human ability*, his senses are about twice as sharp, and then there's the healing, the ability to see weak points, and the ability to read body language.

The key phrase you should be focusing on there is 'rule of thumb' because, as I said, these abilities are fuzzy. I have a sense of what is an action Luther is capable of  and what he isn't.  And the point of knowing those things is to tell a story with the kind of mood and world we want.

What I don't do is say, Marvel Handbook style, that Luther is capable of lifting x weight, and then calculate the physics involved. Getting back to my Jack Bauer et al thing, the writers there did the same thing - they have a set of things that those characters are capable of that feel right and real for the world that they exist in.

Which gives us limits that, hopefully, don't strain suspension of disbelief so far. But at the end of the day, that's there to service a story and not create a mathematically precise fight simulator. Sorry.

If you're wondering, Luther is not the strongest, fastest or quickest person in the Luther Strode world, but you're still not going to see people throwing cars at each other.

*Which, incidentally, is pretty fucking strong and pretty fucking fast - that's being able to run at 70 mph and lift a thousand plus pounds over his head or squat a ton is way more powerful than most people think it is. we just don't have a real context for how fast say Usain Bolt really is.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Growing The Base

So, Eric Stephenson’s speech.

(Note that headline is misleading as fuck – really, Rich? But we’ll get to that in a bit)

Some context: This was a speech to retailers that went to the ComicsPro meeting dealie. So when he’s saying we, he means the retailers and Image. He’s not speaking for or to other publishers, and he doesn’t mean fans. This is actually important to remember.

Now what he mostly talks about is growing the comics industry. Not making more money, as such, but actually increasing the number of people who buy and read comics. This too, is important context.

So when he talks about 4.99 and 7.99 issues, for instance, or shipping more than one issue, what he’s saying is that those tactics are designed to bring in more money from existing fans. Likewise, variant covers and new number ones are designs to get people who are reading comics to spend more money.

Now I don’t think (and I could be wrong) that this is meant to be a blanket condemnation of those things in and of themselves. Indeed, Image does some of them. What he’s condemning is doing those without doing anything to grow the comics reading base.

Because they don’t.

Don’t get me wrong – comics is a business. Even in my creator owned work I keep an eye to maximizing the amount of money I squeeze out. I am actually kind of amazed that ways Marvel (and  Marvel seems to better at this than DC) has found to maximize their revenue. They understand who is reading their books and how they purchase them, and designed their business to get them to buy the most product.

But all of the above – expensive comics, variant covers, double shipping, reboots, hell, events – are things that only service people who are already reading comics. They are not things that are bringing new people to comics, and focusing only on getting most milk with the minimum of moo without breeding new cows is not good for the long term.

(I will push a metaphor until it breaks, yes)

So I agree with him there.

(I may also be wrong – the music industry analogy sort of sounds like he’s down on the whole practice. Hey, I’m not a mind reader. Not until I reach level 99 in Jordanology)

I got into comics because when I was a kid, comics where everywhere. I grew up in a rural county in Pennsylvania with a current population of around 40,000 people. As you might guess, there weren’t any comic shops around.

But every grocery store and every convenience store and what not had comics. I could go three miles down the road and but Ninja Warrior and Thrash at the AP. I got into comics because when I was a toddler my mom grabbed Popeye comics for me to…well, look at, I couldn’t yet read…when she was shopping.

I understand why comics aren’t, for the most part, in any of those places now. I do. But the truth is that thirty odd years ago, comics were infinitely more discoverable than they are now. And that’s a problem.

Where Stephenson and I part ways, to a certain extent, is on licensed comics.

A tangent: I said that Star Wars headline was misleading as fuck. And it is. A lot of people are reading it to say that Star Wars comics, and licensed comics, aren’t “real” comics

He isn’t.

He’s saying that people reading those comics are reading them because they can’t get the source material. They read Star Wars comics, but what they want is more Star Wars movies.

I don’t necessarily agree with that, but it’s a different notion than implying he was saying they weren’t real comics. He wasn’t. He said that The Walking Dead TV show isn’t the real thing either, but what he meant isn’t that it’s the original source material.

Now I’m going to thread that tangent back into my main point. Stephenson is of the mind that people that read licensed comics want that thing, and aren’t interested in comics per se, so licensed comics don’t do anything to grow the comic market.

I don’t think that’s precisely true. For one thing, I think that people that read licensed comics are, by and large, comics readers who happen to like that property. Again, this doesn’t really grow the market, so no disagreement there, I just think he’s mischaracterizing them.

Now some of the people who are reading those licensed comics surely are people who just want that property. And again, selling comics to those people doesn’t really grow the market as a whole.

But I do think that some of those people must start buying other comics. I mean, that has to be a thing that happens. But I also don’t know that it amounts to much, growthwise. So I don’t entirely disagree with him.

I do agree with overall thrust, which is that the comic industry needs to devote more time and energy to expanding their base.

If I were a retailer, I would give free comics to kids. Not just kids that came into my store, but I’d give out free issues to kids in schools. I would make sure every school and high school and library in my area was stocked with trades (and if I could, I’d make sure they all had plates that said who donated them).

If I were a publisher, I would do the same thing. I would make digital comics that kids could read on their game platforms or computers. I would make sure they had an interest in comics, not just toys or characters.

Yes, all of this would cost money. But it’s a relatively small investment against future gains.

But that’s me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Conventions

MGA Con - March 15-16 in Macon, GA

Awesomecon – April 18 – 20 in Washington DC

C2E2 – April 25 – 27 in Chicago

Wizard World Atlanta (maybe) – May 20 – June 1 in Atlanta

Heroes – June 20 – 22 in Charlotte NC

Baltimore - Sept. 5-7 in….yeah, I think you got this.

NYCC – October 9 – 12 in the Big Apple

Saturday, January 11, 2014

An Infinite Joy

He killed Edwards again this morning.

It wasn’t fancy, this time. He just put the gun up against the back of the man’s head and pulled the trigger. He’d gotten a little bored, again, with coming up with ever more elaborate deaths for Edwards, so he was spending some time back with the basics.

He watched the reactions of the people on the street, interested. The man who had the bullet that passed through Edwards’s head lodged in his neck. The woman walking by who was splattered with Edwards last thoughts. He wondered what their lives would be like, after. Seeing that.

He wondered, briefly, if this Edwards had killed Rebecca. They didn’t always. He’d been at this a long time, if time were the right word, and he moved to branches where sometimes it wasn’t Edwards. She was still dead, though. She was still always dead.

He heard a siren and he put the gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.

He woke up in his bed. More or less. Depending on how you defined him. It was morning and the sun was shining and the sky was clear and blue. It always was. He wondered how many times he would have to do this before that changed. Maybe it never would.

He turned on the television, which was the same, and watched the news, which was also the same. If he killed Edwards a thousand more times, the news might be different. It might not be.

The gun was on the nightstand. He’d planned on using it on himself, last night. Not last night, not really, but because today was always today he still thought of it as last night, even if last night was a very, very long time ago. Just as today was always six days after the funeral.

It took him a long time to realize that every day was not the same. Not exactly. Things changed, every time. So small you couldn’t see them, but the added up. His theory now was that he was moving through these days, all the ways this day could have been, not just repeating it.

That was the theory, anyway. In practice, it didn’t matter. Just like it didn’t matter who or what had done this to him. He thought this was supposed to be a punishment. He imagined this was the rock he was pushing up the hill, ever and always, for ever.

He imagined this was meant to be Hell.

Maybe it should have been. Maybe he should learn. Maybe he should suffer. But he thought of Rebecca and he thought about Edwards. And knew this wasn’t hell. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. He still felt, for a split second, when Edwards died, an endless and infinite joy. He put the gun in his pocket and smiled. It didn’t feel like a gun day, today.

He thought today it would be fire.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

New York Comic Con 2013 Schedule

Thursday Oct 10

At the table!

Friday October 11

11:00 – 12:00 Image Booth Signing – with Tradd and Felipe!

 Saturday October 12
12:30 - 1:30  Avatar Uncut - -  RM  1A23
3:004:00  Image Booth Signing – with Tradd and Felipe!
4:15 – 5:15 Skybound Panel RM 1A08

Sunday October 13th
12:30-1:30pm SIGNING (DCE SIGNING AREA Table EE1)
2:30-3:30pm Green Lantern – Lights Out! – Room 1A22