Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reading and Writing Comics

Joe also wanted to know:

Do you think that getting into comics has enhanced your like for them or pushed you away from them? I know this may seem like a weird question but for example, i am a massive video game player, and i was recently talking to my friend (who back in the day also played ALOT of video games). He decided to become a video game designer. Through him learning how to make them and what not, he said he cant play games, it bothers him and it has become something he doesnt like.

I think simply being a storyteller has spoiled fiction for me in some ways, no matter the medium. Unless I really suppress the writer within me, it's generally not hard for me to figure out exactly how a novel will end within reading the first couple of chapters, or a movie from watching the opening ten minutes. With absolute accuracy, I was able to predict the whole mystery of the astronaut and Amy Pond's baby an entire season before that resolution was revealed on Doctor Who. This isn't bragging, in fact I wish it weren't the case, but because I know what happens behind the curtain when writing a story, figuring out what's going to happen in other people's stories isn't hard. Unfortunately, it makes it difficult to enjoy even the best fictional entertainment to its fullest. I try to suppress this ability as much as possible, but it's always there.

This is why I mostly read non-fiction. 

As far as my enjoyment of comics goes, if the work is good, and interesting, I can still enjoy it. I particularly get excited when I see someone really embracing the strengths of the medium, and creators who experiment with what comics can do. I like to come across interesting storytelling techniques as well as ones that don't work, because they both shed light on ways that the medium can be used to present a story.

I still read comics pretty regularly, but most of what I read is collected archive material, and collected series by people whose work I really enjoy. The bulk of it is material that is outside the type of stories I write myself. Because I don't have a comic book store nearby, I really only read comics in book form, which is how I prefer it anyway, because then I can read an entire story at once, and not lose track of the nuances as I would by reading it in serial form. My working in comics does not take away any enjoyment I get from reading them. Like any other medium, I enjoy a good, well told story, and don't have any interest in material that I don't find satisfying. There are some comic books I just have no interest in in the same way I wouldn't watch a movie starring Adam Sandler, or read a novel by Danielle Steel.

Superhero Movies

Joe asked:

1. If you were to make a movie on a superhero, how would you go about it? Do you feel you should 100% go by the comic or put your own little spin on things as long as it doesnt mess with the original story too much. I ask because for fun (and possibly out of boredom) I thought about making a script for a Static film and wasnt sure if i wanted to go the comic route, the cartoon route, or a mix of the too.

I think the biggest thing to keep in mind before starting to adapt a superhero comic, or any other property for that matter, is that the bulk of the movie viewing audience who will come to see this movie has not read the comic books it's based on. You need to take what's in the comics and distill that into something you can use that will present to this audience everything it needs to know in order to enjoy the movie, and not clutter it up with excess material that will only serve to confuse and possibly alienate them.

Since the comics themselves are no longer necessarily true to the source material, with the various reboots, writer and artist interpretations, multiverse personifications and so on, you need to decide what is to the core of the character you are writing, and how that will translate to a solid, entertaining story for the screen.

The Adam West Batman was just as true to the source material as was the Michael Keaton Batman or the Christian Bale Batman. The first just applied a camp comedy sensibility to it, the second a gothic operatic twist and the third a more real world application. Sadly, while it may have been the most artistically satisfying of the three, the recent trilogy which presented Batman as a more realistic character, made it the least able to play in a shared universe with other DC characters. This Batman didn't face any super powered villains, or fantastic weapons. Superman could not exist in this Batman's world, nor Green Lantern, Flash, or the others. By trying to make those other characters bend to fit in this Batman's world is not being true to those characters or their own micro worlds within the DC Universe. A Justice League set in this Batman's world does not lend itself to credibility, but a Justice League incorporating the previous incarnations of Batman would work just fine as there was enough of a fantasy element to make it credible.

Green Lantern, which I have not seen, by trying to incorporate the expanded Green Lantern mythology, rather than focus on one hero, was probably great for the fans of all of the Green Lantern comic book titles, but overwhelming for the moviegoer unfamiliar with the character.

Spider-Man, in the Sam Raimi movies strayed from some of the source material; organic webs, a superhero character who in the comics has probably been most successful at hiding his secret identity, removing his mask constantly, but was still, at heart very true to what Spider-Man was all about, as was the more recent incarnation, which made Peter Parker less dorky, but kept his webs artificial.

The Hellboy movies were very true to the spirit of the comic book series, but were increasingly incompatible with the work that Mike Mignola, the character's creator, was doing in the comic book series. While Guillermo del Toro took great liberties with the Hellboy movies, he still honored the source material.

I think it really is about deciding what it is at the core of the character that you want to translate to the screen and picking a story, and a villain, who will support that. Cosmetic changes can't and shouldn't affect that, whether it's straying from traditional costume designs, or changing a character's race, or gender. To be honest, this is exactly how I go about writing superhero comics, too.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Japanese Superheroes

Lostphrack asked me: You've occasionally used Japanese yokai in your works, and you've talked a little about your fondness for Godzilla in the past as well. 

I was wondering if you had any interest in Japanese superhero franchises like Ultraman or Kamen Rider?

I've never seen Kamen Rider, but based on some of the vinyl toys I've seen that were made in the likenesses of the characters from this show, I'd really like to. I've watched some others, including a few incarnations of Ultraman, Kikaida, Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, Iron King, Red Baron, Gatchaman, Mirror Man, and Space Giants, are all series I've seen. I've also seen sporadic episodes of others, and would like to see more. There's a crazy inventiveness that's unique to Japan that I love about these programs, but I find they are best enjoyed in small doses, as the plots themselves tend to be repetitively formulaic, which can make them tiresome if you watch more than a couple at a time. 

I really admire the character design and concepts for the shows more than anything else, except for the monsters which are like nothing else. I do have a comic book project that I hope to do one day that's a love letter to these shows. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The X-Files Classics - Volume 3

The X-Files Classics - volume 3 is now available at a comic book store near you. Published by IDW this hard cover collects a number of stories originally published by Topps in the late 1990s. The bulk of the stories in this volume were written by me with art by Charles Adlard, Gordon Purcell, and Josef Rubinstein. There's an additional story written by Kevin J. Anderson as well.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Long Live the King!

The folks at Benevolent Monster Productions who made the excellent documentary, Beast Wishes, about Bob and Kathy Burns, are raising funds to produce a new film, Long Live the King,  about the enduring legacy of King Kong. Among the many great incentives being offered for investors is my original cut paper collage portrait of King Kong (shown above). The piece is one of a kind and measures 8 1/2" x 11". Even if you are not interested in obtaining this piece you should still go check out the campaign, see what else is offered, and pitch in some money if you can. The campaign for Long Live the King can be found here.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Mad Scientist #28

Issue #28 of Martin Arlt's excellent magazine, Mad Scientist, is now available for pre-order. This issue contains one of my cut paper monster portraits. The full contents and ordering information (only $7.00 - shipping included!) can be found here.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

1000 Monsters!

For the past few years I've been digging through my image files and posting pictures of monsters at the rate of one a day on my companion blog, The Grim Gallery. Today marks the 1000th post, meaning there are now 1000 monsters to look at over there and all for free! Visit the Grim Gallery and dig through the archives and see how many monsters you know.

Above image by Pete Von Sholly

Monday, February 03, 2014

Ask Me Anything #36

As always, the first Monday of the month means it's time for "Ask Me Anything."

You can ask me any questions you'd like, whether it's about my work, opinions, influences, favorites, least favorites, or anything else you think I might have an answer for. Questions can be posted in the comments section below, and I'll either answer them there, or in a separate post sometime later in the month.

Please take the time to view the previous questions so that we don't wind up with a lot of repetition. I've been asked a lot of good, thought provoking questions in the past as well as some really banal ones, all of which I tried to answer. You can see the previous questions by visiting Ask Me Anything  #1#2 ,  #3#4#5#6 , #7 , #8#9,  #10,  #11,  #12 , #13#14,  #15 , #16#17 , #18 , #19,  #20,  #21#22,  #23#24#25#26#27#28#29#30#31#32#33#34, and #35.  Answers not found following the questions can be found in the archives section for each associated month under Ask Me Anything.

Now ask away. 

Sunday, February 02, 2014