Tuesday, October 30, 2007

T plus Three Years

I’ve probably inflicted this story on you before, but what the hell…

Tiina and I had been officially going out for a few months at the time. I’d moved from Calgary to Edmonton, because the romantic commute bus fare was killing us, and established myself as slightly above the dog and far, far below the cat in the hierarchy of T’s household.

We were at some cafĂ©, talking, and somewhere along the way, she mentioned something she’d seen at goth-culture emporium Sanctuary.

T: They had this wedding dress/straitjacket combination.

A: Neat.

T: If I—I mean, we—er, if I ever got married--hopefully it’d be to you, but I’m not pushing, this isn’t me pushing—

A: OK.

T: I want that to be my wedding dress.

(Pause as A mulls it over. Then:)

A: Well, if you get to wear a wedding dress, I want—I’m assuming you’re getting married to me, here—I want to have a black bag over my head and be forced down the aisle at gunpoint by my—whatever they call the groom’s bridesmaids—

T: Groomsmen.

A: Right. Well, I want them to be dressed as stereotypical Colombian drug smugglers, greasy hair, five o’clock shadows, mirror shades—and they’ll force me down the aisle at gunpoint. And then when it’s time for me to say I do, they take the bag off my head, rip off the duct tape over my mouth (I’ve got duct tape over my mouth) and I’ll say “I do.”

(Pause as T considers the possibilities.)

T: OK. If you get to do that, then I get to do this…


There followed a lengthy discussion over the various ways Tiina could simultaneously marry me and get disowned by her parents (who probably hadn’t given it much thought but we assumed would be pushing for a three-hour long Greek Orthodox ceremony.) The exact details of this conversation are lost to the mists of time, but if I recall correctly, different options considered included monster trucks, faked electrocutions, open flame, and a crucifixion.

As we finished our soy chai lattes, we looked at each other, expressions of resignation on our faces.

T: You know what this means, don’t you?

A: Yeah. Now we have to get married.


We’d pretty much settled on Hallowe’en as the day of the wedding.

But Grandma was dying of cancer, and it was pretty obvious she wasn’t going to last till October. I briefly toyed with the idea of holding the wedding sooner, but someone—I think it was Mum—talked me down.

We kept aiming at Hallowe’en, till we realized that that year it’d land on a Sunday. As most of the people I’d be inviting would be coming up from Calgary, that seemed like a sure way to ensure a lot of people wouldn’t be able to stick around and help us celebrate. So we moved the date to October 30--Devil’s Night.

Or, as T didn’t realize at the time, the anniversary of one set of her grandparents’ wedding.

Or, as I also didn’t realize it at the time, the anniversary of my Grandma and Granddad’s wedding.

Maybe it was a sign.


I’m pretty sure Grandma was the first person to see our rings.

We got them from a jeweler who’d set up shop in the main lobby of the Misericordia Hospital, where Grandma was staying. I chose mine because it had moving parts—it was like a Happy Meal toy.

I was seriously worried about the ring—I’ve never been comfortable with personal adornments. I mean, they’re fine for those who like them, but that’s not me. I hadn’t worn a watch since grade five and hadn’t liked it then, never pierced anything, even putting a necklace over my head leads to an instinctive constricting of the throat.

As it is, to this day my engagement/wedding ring is the only piece of jewelry I’ve ever been comfortable wearing.

Definitely a sign.


My wedding is probably the coolest thing I will ever be involved with in my life. I’ve certainly no pressing desire to try and coordinate anything remotely resembling it ever again. (T’s a different story. If you’re ever invited to the anniversary party we hold on a boat, don’t come. Trust me on this.)

It was a lot of stress, but it came off about as well as it could, I think (with the possible exception of the extended family’s attempt to line dance to Zorba the Greek.) The lightning effects seemed to work, the nieces and nephews weren’t too scared of me to chase me down the aisle (primarily because I spent fifteen minutes in the staging area letting them kick me), I choked someone during the ceremony, the wedding cake bled when we cut it…

And in the end I was married to my perfect woman.

For all that I abuse the readers of these blogs with my incessant whining about the unbearably awfulness of my pitiful existence, getting married to Tiina is the best thing that ever happened to me. If the success of a marriage is the only measure of the quality of one’s life that matters, then I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

And I have been for three years tonight.


Monday, October 29, 2007



1) Get on the bus as early as possible. I guess Greyhound’s charging extra for the right of first entry these days—I usually settled for getting in line early, because I’m cheap.

2) Buses tend to fill from the front back or the back forward, depending on the age/disposition of the other passengers. Select an aisle seat in the middle of the bus. Don’t just sit in it—consume it, sprawling yourself over as much space as possible.

3) Put all of your stuff on the window seat next to you. The more stuff the better: a jacket’s an absolute must, bookbag’s good, food, a pillow, a laptop case…anything that will give the impression that the seat, if it’s not already occupied, is certainl in active use.

4) Put your walkman/Discman/iPod/whatever the hell kids use to listen to music these days headphones in. Turn music up loud enough that it can be heard by other passengers. This emphasizes the idea that you will be an unpleasant person to sit next to for the next several hours, which is precisely the impression you want to give.

5) Pretend to be asleep. This and the previous step will encourage prospective Nitwits who think they might want to sit next to you to look elsewhere.

6) If someone is rude enough to wake up the sleeping person with the loud headphones, immediately launch into a loud, protracted coughing jag. If you can manage to cough something out of your mouth that requires a Kleenex or other handkerchief-style technology to wipe away, so much the better. If you don’t have a Kleenex and have to wipe away with the palm of your hand, better still. Make sure to wipe your hand on the pantleg that will be closest to the person that sits next to you.
NOTE: Be careful with this one. On occasion I’ve coughed to hard I actually hurt my throat and ended up coughing when I didn’t want to.

In all my years traveling Greyhound, this sequence of actions only once failed to ensure that the seat next to me was the only one available before it got sat in (on a couple of occasions, passengers selected the floor rather than sit next to me.) And in that case, there was only one other seat that could have been chosen. I still wonder what that guy did to keep himself clear. Anyway. This brings us to:


Because if they don’t suffer, they’ll never learn.

1) First, crank the headphone volume up. If you have a variety of music to choose from, select that which looks most likely to irritate The Nitwit. Something in the speed metal vein is generally a good bet.

2) Seeing as The Nitwit’s already woken you up, REALLY get into the music. Sing quietly along with it, especially the ruder lyrics, while contorting your face in the most disturbing ways possible. Bob your head back and forth to the beat. Or faster than the beat. Air guitar/drumming is not out of the question.

3) Once you get tired of this, pretend to fall asleep (but don’t turn the headphones off.)

4) After you’ve been “asleep” for awhile, slowly and systematically begin to intrude on The Nitwit’s personal space. The leg you wiped your hand on moves onto their side of the seatset. You start listing to the side, eventually putting your head (with headphones blaring) onto their shoulder. It’s vitally important this be a slow, subtle thing, though. Too much too soon, or too deliberate, and they might break the sequence prematurely.

5) When they finally can’t take it anymore and feel they have to wake you up, wake up with a start. If you’ve got a cup of coffee, spill what’s left of it on The Nitwit.

6) If you didn’t spill something on The Nitwit, at first act irritated at being woken up.
If you did spill something on The Nitwit, be terribly apologetic. And by terrible, I mean terribly loud—don’t take off or turn down the earphones.

7) Most people are polite (stupid, but polite) enough not to wake up the sleeping, loud, intrusive jerk next to them until they really can’t take it anymore. By the time The Nitwit’s asked you to stay on your side and turn the music down, they’ll be seething with anger at your many trespasses against them. This is why it’s important that, once you’ve been informed of your impositions, you be graceful. Apologize with as much sincerity as you can muster. Immediately pull back and refrain from doing any of the stuff you’ve been doing for the last hour. That way, The Nitwit’s left with no out—they’re still pissed, but they have no legitimate target for their anger.

The only time I had to resort to this sort of behaviour, I got off the bus ten minutes later, for which I’m sure My Nitwit was very grateful. If your trip still has a ways to go, your read of The Nitwit’s personality will be critical. If they’re talky, put the earphones back in, but quieter. Snore loudly, occasionally breaking into a coughing jag. Don’t cover your mouth—you’re asleep, after all. If they’re clearly consumed with hatred of the person sitting next to them, engage them in conversation. Tell jokes that aren’t funny, screw up their telling, and then laugh uproariously at your own patently unfunny offerings.

The possibilities are endless, which is how the bus trip should seem for The Nitwit.


It’s been years since I took a Greyhound bus anywhere. If you live in the Calgary/Red Deer/Edmonton/For MacMurray corridor, you are frankly insane if you even consider taking a Greyhound bus. Red Arrow’s where it’s at, man. Costs a little more, but it’s got big seats (including ones that don’t have any seat next to them), seat reservations for all passengers, plug-ins for laptops, free pop, coffee and cookies in the back…

If I ever have to ride in a Greyhound again, it’ll be too soon.

Now if I can just figure out how to make this work on planes, I'll be onto something...


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Time Keeps On Slippin', Slippin', Slippin'

Wow. Time flies when you’re semi-conscious…

This week managed to breeze by, I suspect largely because I spent most of it regretting--I mean, recovering from the 24 hour comic slog. In trying to relive my art college days, I forgot two things: 1) I’m not as young as I once was, and 2) I’m not as drunk as I once was. Both of these things left me borderline crippled through Sunday and Monday…

I haven’t had the nerve to actually look at what I did in any detail since last Saturday. I’ve got a feeling this is the 24 hour comic I’ll be most embarrassed by. Which will take some doing, as my second one was complete and utter nonsense.

But 24HCBD07 is over and done with, and it’s time to look to the future.


Oh, dear. I don’t like the look of the future. Let’s stay here in the present, where it’s nice and cozy.

As you can probably guess, I haven’t gotten a lot done this past seven days. Fortunately, a lot has been happening anyway, so the world’s at least semi-interesting and I’ve got something to blog about.



Manager 1 talked to Big Producer yesterday about The Project That The Co-Writers Did That Big Producer May (or May Not) Be Interested In. This was the day after what sounds like a reasonably in-depth conversation between Co-Writer and Big Producer. Big Producer told Co-Writer he (BP) would write a four-page outline of where he saw The Project going in motion picture form. This seemed like a Good Thing. Better for Co-Writer than me, though, as Co-Writer was seeing The Project return to his original vision for it, rather than the one he had his arm twisted to accept--the one that brought me on as co-writer.

Which means there’s an outside chance of me getting fifty percent of something big (if this happens--and it almost certainly won’t--it would be big) I had little or nothing to do with. Unless we get the comic version of The Project out. Which I really want to do, because it’s something I’m proud of.

Anyway. Manager 1 talked to someone at Big Producer’s Company (not actually Big Producer, which was who Co-Writer talked to), and got a slightly different impression of the situation, that being that, while Big Producer is interested in The Project, Big Producer isn’t putting as much into moving The Project forward as he might. Manager 1 really likes the idea of setting something up with Big Producer, but doesn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket.

What does all this mean? I’m not really sure. I plan to leave this in Manager 1’s capable hands, in the hopes that it will move forward at a pace slightly less glacial than the one I’ve come to associate with Hollywood…



I can’t believe I actually have a Cops reference in my blog. Someone put a bullet in my head, stat.

Manager 2’s enthusiasm for THE SPOOKY KIDS seems to have dimmed somewhat, as the realization sets in that it’s “a little dark” and therefore a tough sell to the North American young adult book market. To the best of my knowledge, we’ve only had two of a possible twelve publishers pass on it so far, so we shall see.

In the meantime, he’s become fairly enthusiastic about the prospects for BadBoy, which is great, except that he needed something I didn’t have--an outline for a first volume of a potential series of long-form comic books (aka “graphic novels”, a term I’m trying to avoid just ‘cuz.) I’ve got a proposal for an animated series version, an outline for a movie version, a script for a first issue, an outline for two issues…self-contained long-form comic with potential for sequels? Um, no.

Until a few minutes ago, anyway. I just sent an outline of that very thing off to Manager 1 and The Future of Comics (II) John Keane. Having done that, I’m now worried that it’s crap. It’s hard to gauge how good something I’ve written is at the best of times, never mind after I’ve been staring at it for several hours straight.

Oh well. This is why I’ve got People--so someone can tell me when I stink.



A few years back, I was a submissions editor for an online comic company called UnboundComics.com. I actually rather enjoyed that job, though I’m not entirely sure why… Something about the raw nature of what shows up, combined with the outside possibility that I might stumble across something Really Cool, appealed to me, I guess.

This might explain why I’m spending so much time at zeros2heroes.com. I was actually tempted to pitch something of my own on the site, until I realized that just putting a pitch up there requires one to agree that “all development, production and exploitation rights in the Submitted Material are exclusively available to Z2H.” I asked about that on the Z2H forum, as it seemed to go against one of the premises of the Comic Creators Bill of Rights, but haven’t gotten a response yet. Then again, compared to other posts, it hasn’t had a lot of readers, yet. In any event, if I did take part and managed to win, I’m pretty sure one or the other of my managers would kill me for not consulting with them beforehand. At the end of the day, I’m not really Z2H’s target demographic, anyway.

In spite of this, I’ve been reliving my submission editor days reading some of the stuff on the website. And there are a couple gems among the, uh, less gem-like and the fanfic. It’s always neat to see an interesting idea coming together (for me, anyway.)

Still. Got to pull back a little. Damn site’s almost as addictive as e-mail.



Of course, thinking about what I might pitch to Z2H led to me thinking about an old idea at some length. The beauty of pitching this one to Z2H was that it was something nobody but me really seemed to like much. So putting it out in the public eye wouldn’t have bothered anyone (this was before I read the submission agreement.)

And, in thinking about it, I started to like it all over again. And so I started to bat it around in my mind--as a possible comic, as a film spec, as a pilot spec, as an animated series…

And I think it could very well work as any one of those. But this isn’t the damn time to be developing something new! I’ve still got THE KIDS spec to finish, and then there’s THE HOLIDAY MEN to get back to, and I’ve got to find an artist for ERSATZ and I really should be figuring out how to make MERLYN CO. work if I’m going to be developing something, Manager 2 was interested in that one, after all…

Someday I’ll run out of stuff to work on. And THEN I can work on this.



Did I mention that during 24HCBD I actually took my pants off for half an hour and nobody noticed?

I don’t know if this should utterly depress me or not.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

24 hours = six days

At least, it does when you're a decrepit geezer like myself. I'm still not feeling entirely human after the 24HCBD slog. Body's still sore, brain still feels like it was sucked out my nose and replaced with a cement-like substance. On the upside: more than $2700 will be going to the Alberta Literacy Fund. Yay team.

The weather's not helping my general condition, yoyoing as it is from 22 degrees this afternoon to a high of 5 tomorrow.

This didn't stop me and T from going to listen to Gilbert Bouchard and a bunch of Unitarians and/or university students discuss various aspects of vampire and zombie mythology at the U of A this evening. It was an entertaining, occasionally frustrating discussion that had the floor thrown open to the peanut gallery earlier than I'd have preferred. Gilbert's an entertaining speaker whose thoughts are worth listening to even when he's wrong, wrong, wrong. The desperate desire to appear clever and erudite made some of the audience participants' input absolutely intolerable. If I never have to hear how the myth of the vampire is tied to giving a loved one a hickie so that you can control them again, it'll be too soon.

While I was out, my Scott O. Brown, originator, co-creator and co-writer of THREADS, had a conversation with a fairly well-established film producer about the project. We'll see if that goes anywhere.

The only place I'm going is to bed.


Friday, October 19, 2007

24 Hours in the life of a former art student

It takes place at Happy Harbor tomorrow, starting at 10 AM. If previous 24 hour comics are anything to go by, I'll be pretty much completely off the grid for the weekend and probably actively ignoring the grid for a good portion of the next week. You can call or e-mail, but don't expect an answer until Monday the 29th or later (you might get one earlier, but don't expect it. That way you'll be pleasantly surprised.)

Moved all the stuff needed to ensure being stuck in a confined space with thirty other people while trying to create a 24 page comic story on the fly is as comfortable as possible--comfy office chair, drawing table, slippers. Also several gallons of latex paint, a variety of brushes and pens, and twelve large pieces of poster board.

Making a 24 Hour Comic takes me back to the best times of my art college days, when I and my studiomates would stay up all night painting like madmen. The other three books I've done have been pen and ink--this one's going to be different, to say the least. The plan is to glue pages of tomorrow's Edmonton Sun to the poster board, paint out non-photographic details and photographic ones I don't like, and build a comic around the images remaining. There's all sorts of artsy philosophical meaning I could claim for doing it that way, but mostly...it's an excuse to act like an art student again.

In an effort to not start out from a position of weakness, I had the insomnia traditionally reserved for the night before a 24 hour comic attempt LAST night. Hopefully, this means I'll get some decent shuteye tonight. If I don't...yuck.

Previous HH 24-Hour Comic events have capped out at sixteen participants. This one is looking to have around thirty. Come midnight tomorrow, we are gonna smell Baaaad...



The Spooky Kids: Yen Press rejected the book for much the same reason as Scholastic--too dark. Artist and Publishing Manager getting a little edgy about it being too graphic for a North American audience. I'm waiting to hear back from the dozen other editors who're looking at it before making that call. Publishing Manager is looking into possible European publishers.

Done To Death: With a writers strike looming in H'wood, the Multimedia Manager is looking to get this as packaged as possible so it's ready to pitch as soon as the strike's over. An actor who'd be PERFECT for Andy is looking at the book. They're trying to find a screenwriter who'll add to the package. Meanwhile, Publishing Manager is getting ready to take the book out to a few comic publishers, as well as some smaller traditional horror publishers looking to catch the graphic novel wave.

Unnamed Spec Pilot: Multimedia Manager's talking with a packaging agent today. I have no idea what that means. Spec was sent to showrunner last week, haven't heard of a response, if any.

BadBoy: Publishing Manager thinks this is an easier sell to the North American market than the Spookies. John Keane's got nine sequential pages done. I need to retool/rework previous outlines intended for various media to come up with a synopsis for a story that works as a single volume but doesn't eliminate the hook, so the possibility for sequels is available. This is going to be tough.

The Night Beat: I'm seriously considering pitching this at Zeros 2 Heroes, just to see what would happen. Need to read the submission agreement first to make sure there's no "once you submit, you're ours" clause like there is with Zuda.

Unnamed spec screenplay: Supposedly getting notes for this soon. Multimedia Manager wants to get it polished and ready to pitch as soon as strike is over.

Ersatz: Had a Very Good Artist interested, but he couldn't find the time, at least not for the next year. Sigh.

The Kids spec screenplay: Still picking away at a first draft. Taking a long time, this one, but I've been distracted.

The Holiday Men: Pure Spec and thhe 24 Hour Comic event at HH are taking their toll on Nick's output, but the scripts for the first two episodes are in and they are a Metric Buttload of Fun. Seen Nick's first page inked, and he's really bringing his A-game to the project. That boy's come a long way from his old ACCA minicomics.

Threads: I haven't read the document yet, but it sounds like all rights to the piece have been returned to Scott O. Brown and myself. Once that's confirmed, we'll consider our next move for it. But getting it back is potentially huge in ways that go beyond Scott and myself. This is one of the top ten best scripts I've ever written, in my book (would've been top five a few weeks back, but The Holiday Men knocked it out. If I ever calm down and look at THM rationally, it may get back in there), so getting it back is A Good Thing.

I'm probably forgetting something.



That is all.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Some more positives about Z2H:

-They’ve posted their contract online for all prospective CCN creators (and anyone with a internet access) to see.

-They’ve even gone one better, and made that contract VERY simple, compared to what they could have done. I wouldn’t advise signing it without having an entertainment lawyer look at it, but odds are if you’re a would-be comic writer, you can’t afford a lawyer. I couldn’t when I was starting out. I still can’t, but I’ve had enough difficulties with contracts (and with not having contracts) that these days I’ll try to find the money ($150 an hour for the lawyer I go to; I count myself lucky he’s usually got things sussed in an hour). If I can’t afford his fee and I’ve still got to make a decision about a contract, I’ll either pass or sign. If I sign, my automatic assumption is that, at some point, I’m going to get screwed. If I end up not screwed, I’m pleasantly surprised. If I am screwed, at least I’m generally prepared for it.

Well, no I’m not, but that’s another post.

Anyway. Z2H’s contract seems very straightforward, which is to the company’s credit.

-I posted Part One of this discussion on my Z2H blog (as well as the Andrew Foley Writes Things blog, my LiveJournal and MySpace blog), which was read by at least one person involved in the company. Their response was friendly, not defensive at all--to me, this is further evidence that the company is run by people who have decent heads on their shoulders when it comes to business--a double-edged sword, to be sure, but I’ve been involved with companies who would have come out swinging in response to any perceived negativity. Which is the worst possible move, in my book. They’d be better off not responding at all, but passion drives people to do stupid things sometimes. Z2H’s people come off as nothing if not passionate, but the reaction to my comments shows that passion is tempered by a professionalism that is sadly lacking in the lower echelons of the comic industry.

-In addition to that, in responding to my post, Matt Toner indicated that the creative contract/agreement for CCN was not written in stone and was in at least some regards negotiable. My experience is that “we’re willing to negotiate” tends to be, well, let’s be charitable and call it a distortion of the reality. However, the activity on the recently opened Z2H forums does seem to show the company has some flexibility when it comes to creators’ concerns. I doubt the Big One is going to be something they’re willing, or even able to bend on. But the willingness to discuss things, and to some degree in public, to boot, is commendable.


Full disclosure time.

I consider myself to be a professional writer/editor. I know a lot of other writers, a few other editors, and some artists, and we’re all looking for work. I didn’t attend Comic Talks’ Professionals panel with no agenda. I would have if Jessica Leigh Clark hadn’t been on it, because I had friends on it. But Ms. Clark was on it, and I’m not so far ahead in my career that I’m not going to try and find work (well, paying work, anyway) wherever I can.

So I’ll admit, I had some hope there might be some kind of opportunity for me at Z2H, and if not for me, for others I know.

The procedure for writing submissions was going to be detailed online with the introduction of Z2H’s Pitch Engine (which seems to be a little behind schedule.) But by the time I got to talk to Ms. Clark, I was well aware of the contest aspect of Z2H’s process, and more or less realized my ego would prevent me from taking part in CCN, unless it paid its writers well.

Still, maybe there was hope for some editing work, for me or, if not me, for those editors I know who have substantial comic editing experience? Regrettably not, as Z2H’s “virtual studio” requires its editorial staff to be on-site in Vancouver.

OK, then, what about artists? Ms. Clark had already exchanged cards with Fiona, so she was covered, but there are a couple other people whose names I routinely put forward whenever a paid art job appears. Like Fiona, they’re great artists, they’re professional, and I like them. I get a vicarious thrill out of seeing them make progress in their chosen field.

As with the Pitch Engine, Ms. Clark’s advice was for artists to put their work online at Z2H, so the community could see it and support it (or not.) Which I’m reasonably sure the community would, if these guys could be convinced to make that effort. But unlike me, these guys are, unquestionably, professionals. I haven’t talked to them about it yet, but I strongly suspect that, like me, their reaction to the notion of having their work judged by a community of strangers would not be overwhelmingly positive. Then again, a paycheque is a paycheque, so we’ll see.

This was all more than a little dispiriting for Ye Olde Blogger. What I was looking at was a set-up that could allow professional creators to do something great, but which put all creators on the exact same level. After years of effort to get to where they/I got, they/I are being told that to get involved with Z2H in a professional capacity, we’d essentially have to return to square one and work our way up all over again, this time not just having to appeal to editors, managers, and publishers, but a group of people we didn’t know as well.

This stung at the time, and still does, a little. And that sting may be affecting my perception of several aspects of what Z2H is offering, and how they’re framing their offer.

I’m about to start dissecting the way Z2H presents itself. I expect--I hope--my own interpretations, presentations, and speculations will be likewise dissected by any parties who are interested enough to still be reading this. I’m trying to be even-handed and fair, here; I may not succeed. Ultimately, it will be up to those readers who are interested in pursuing a relationship with Z2H to decide whether what I’m putting forward are legitimate concerns or paranoid ramblings.

Or both. From where I stand, paranoia is a legitimate response for any creator who finds him or herself navigating the murky waters of intellectual property.



Awhile back, an established comic creator told me I should stop being so self-deprecating and instead act as though the existence of my genius was an irrefutable fact. Because that’s a more effective way to get ahead in the comics business.

He’s probably right (he’s also terribly humble and he’s got sufficient talent and recognition that he doesn’t have to be, so what’s good for the goose may not be ganderrific.) But I have difficulty presenting myself as the Second Coming of Bill Shakespeare. It’s not true, obviously, but that’s not really the issue. I’m a writer, a writer with a boring life, so if I don’t outright lie, I’m certainly not averse to taking artistic liberties with the truth when it entertains me to do so. No, the real problem is that I can’t do it with a straight face.

Anyone who claims to be a Great Anything just proved to me they aren’t. People who are Great don’t need to say that’s what they are, because there are enough people around who will do it for them. I suspect Fiona Staples is more than a little embarrassed that I’ve dubbed her The Future of Comics (I). I happen to believe it’s true, and I’ve no problem blowing the horn for others, loudly, when I believe in them. I’ve heard it said that the best advertising is word-of-mouth. I can afford that kind of advertising, and I’ve got a big mouth, at least when it comes to supporting those I think deserve it.

As a general rule, in a competitive situation, it’s the extroverts who get ahead. For decades, the entire advertising industry was based on proclaiming a specific product was the best thing ever. As the audience becomes more media literate, irony and surrealism have an increasing role in advertising (I have no conscious idea what “When you’re sleeping, Robert Goulet messes with your stuff” was promoting, but the idea still makes me laugh.) It’s a natural tendency to want to accentuate the positive when talking about something you’re trying to sell, be it a comic, a website, a publishing agreement…whatever. I can understand that.

But I question the effectiveness of that strategy, on the most subjective of grounds: my own response to people blowing their own horn. That response being to wonder what the hornblowers aren’t telling me.

Ms. Clark made a very impressive case for what Z2H was offering. She wasn’t telling me everything. Did I ask the wrong questions? Did she finesse her answers to accentuate the positive? Almost certainly. Did she lie? Absolutely not. Am I an idiot who doesn’t understand what he’s hearing? Quite possibly. For whatever reason, the impression of Z2H I came out of Pure Spec with was not a wholly accurate one.

Is the impression Z2H tries to create on its website wholly accurate? I don’t think so.

I’m not saying they’re lying; they absolutely aren’t. But they are presenting a picture that, if one doesn’t examine the contract offered closely, is misleading. They’re doing what good promoters do; they’re accentuating the positive.



The problem with presenting something as overwhelmingly positive is that, in the final analysis, almost nothing is. Which ultimately can have a few effects: people could feel they’ve been misled and turn against those they perceive as misleading them; they could decide that, while this isn’t as great as they’d been led to believe, it’s still pretty cool and/or has real-world applications that make it worthwhile; there’s the smug swine who never believed you and were waiting to tell everyone they knew it all along; heck, there’s probably one or two who will honestly believe the refrigerator is a must-have item for any igloo.

My personal feeling is that there is a danger to being relentlessly, single-mindedly positive when promoting something. Which is why, when I try to push myself or my work on strangers, while I might accentuate the positive, I generally go out of my way to acknowledge the negative (or, if I’m being really PR-minded, acknowledging “what some might perceive as being negative”) as well.

By doing that, I’ve deprived attackers of a source of ammunition and gone some way towards keeping discussion on my message. Having acknowledged a negative, any time someone tries to use it against me, I’ve got an instant defense, while never appearing defensive: “Yes, I acknowledged that over here, but it’s not relevant to the discussion.” If the guy continues to hammer at something I already mentioned, he looks bad and I get sympathy and maybe a couple sales.

I’m really not as Macchiavellian as that last sentence would make me seem. But I will take a sale pretty much any way I can get it.

If, however, you don’t acknowledge the negative and someone brings it up, you’re on the defensive (even if you never publicly appear that way.) You have to explain why this negative wasn’t mentioned earlier; you have to convince people you weren’t trying to hide something; you have to do a lot of things you wouldn’t have had to do if you’d brought it up in the first place. Or you can just stay silent, which will be taken as an admission of guilt, but is often the best position you can hope for at that point, from a tactical standpoint. At least that way you aren’t wasting resources fighting a losing battle.

Thanks to the internet, Those Who Do or Would Create Comics is a small, fairly tightly-knit community with more than its fair share of cynics (idealists who’ve been kicked by reality once too often). It’s pretty much a cosmic certainty that, with a business plan as ambitious as Z2H’s, sooner or later some marginal creator with an axe to grind is going to show up and start parsing every word he lays eyes on, looking for hidden meaning and inferring sinister intent at every opportunity.

And sure enough, here I am.

To Be Continued



RemandCentre asks if I’ll be using any of Z2H’s creative tools. The short answer: It depends.

I’ll certainly be looking at what they’re offering to see if any of it’s useful to me, and if so, whether the advantages are sufficient to get a natural-born luddite like myself expend energy figuring out how to make them work. I can’t see the Pitch Engine offering me much, but the Page X software sounds like it has some potential.

My big concern with this stuff is would-be creators missing the forest for the trees. When I was a kid, I wanted a full-size drawing table and a tabouret, because that’s what my artist idols had. Neither would have made me a better artist, and the energy expended on badgering my parents to buy me utterly ridiculous tools I didn’t need could have been put to much better use improving my craft. At the end of the day, all that matters is the work, but I know I’ve occasionally forgotten that when something shiny caught my attention. And there’s a lot of shiny stuff on the internet.

So, we shall see.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007


This weekend at Edmonton’s annual Comic Talks panel series at Pure Speculations 2007, I had the opportunity to attend a discussion featuring the Creative Director of the online media company Zeroes 2 Heroes, Jessice Leigh Clark, as well as colourist and Newsarama blogger Stephanie Chan and two of my favourite people, The Future of Comics (I) Fiona Staples and artist Devon Jopling (who was on the panel in her role as a seller of Comics, Books, and Stuff.) While I would have attended panels featuring Fiona or Devon regardless of topic, I was really there to try and get a better sense of what Zeros 2 Heroes (which led to interest in getting an understanding of what their new initiative, Comic Creation Nation: Canada), a “virtual studio” I first heard about at Canadian Geek, was all about. Having seen the panel and talked to Ms. Clark a bit…

…I’m not sure what I got was a wholly accurate representation of the company’s agenda or its soon-to-be-implemented practices.

Before I get into all that, I want to highlight a couple of positives about the company, because I don’t relish the Negative Nellie Naysayer role I seem to have been identified with in some quarters.

First up, and, from where I stand, the most compelling reason for a writer to get involved with CCN, is Paul Dini’s participation as Editor-in-Chief of the project. Even if his role is largely that of a figurehead designed to lend some credibility to a project (as the EiC of at least one company I’ve worked with indisputably was), to me that looks like some pretty heavy credibility, certainly in the film/television space.

Another positive is the split of profits between creator and company--with each getting 50% of the gross profits. Meaning, as soon as your property brings in a dollar, the creator (in this case meaning just the writer, of which more later) gets fifty cents. This is almost unheard of in the comic world (I’ve never heard of it happening before), but as Ms. Clark put it to me, Z2H Media can’t lose in the proposition. They’re not expending their own money on the project, but Telefilm Canada’s, so it’s not like they’re losing anything by cutting the creator in as soon as the starter’s pistol goes off. Which isn’t to say they couldn’t have more or less ensured almost all their creators would never see a penny by only giving them net or adjusted gross profits and gotten away with it, so kudos to them for that.

From what I can tell, they are a bunch of savvy businesspeople. Which, as we’ll see, is a double-edged sword, but I’ve been involved with lousy businesspeople and in retrospect, given the choice, I’d rather have worked with Z2H than some other companies I’m legally unable to name. And one I am, but won’t because I’d probably still get sued and I have a faint hope of getting paid by them one of these days.

Hell, let’s toss that in as another positive: I’d bet up to five Canadian dollars that Z2H will not become known as a publisher that fails to pay its creators what they’re owed promptly. Unless Canada’s dollar is still worth more than the Americans’, in which case, make it five US$. I’m not made of money, y’know.

There. A few good things about Zeros2Heroes Media. And that’s the end of my thoughts on the company, right?

Sure. Because I’m the Feelgood Blogger of the Year. Riiiight.



I’d have to go back and review the tapes of the panel, but the general impression I got from Ms. Clark’s statements on the panel were along these lines:

-Writers post their pitches online, along with a brief script sample, and “the community” votes on which projects should proceed forward.

-Artists undergo a similar procedure, only they post a portfolio. Then, when the community gives them the thumbs-up, they produce a few sequential pages, which are paid for regardless of what happens next. If those pages garner sufficient support in the community, the artist will be assigned to a project, either one of those Z2H has taken on for a corporate client or one of the CCN “books”.

-Artists who do original work for the company (ie, not the first portfolio they show, which would presumably feature previously created work) will receive payment for all that work. Letterers and colourists and editors are likewise compensated for their efforts. I didn’t hear anything mentioned about what writers get paid, for good reason, because they don’t, at least not until the “book” brings in money.

-What the writer DOES get out of CCN is ownership of all their rights. Now, again I’d have to go back and review the recording to see if Ms. Clark specified as to whether that was “all rights in regard to the comic Z2H will produce” or “all rights to their intellectual property.” The former is true; the latter, as far as I can tell, not so much. But the *impression* I (and Tiina, who was also present) received was that the writer retained all rights to their intellectual property.

-In any event, a “winning” CCN writer would have the final say regarding the execution of their comic. Ultimately, the writer’s desires trumped those of every other party, including the company, editor, and artist.

-The winning writer would also receive a professionally drawn, coloured, lettered and edited comic, which would be “published” online on Z2H’s platform.

-If it was popular enough with the community, this comic would then be published in print form.

So, in short: I create a pitch, it gets voted on. If I’m “elected”, I create a script, and *it* gets voted on. If I pass muster with the community at that point, I get to write a script that will be edited professionally, but I’ll retain the right to ignore editorial suggestions if I disagree with them. I’m pretty sure I get artist approval, too. The comic is then put online, and if the community is sufficiently supportive of it, a print version will be produced and sold.

This scenario would be repeated for fifty books, “until the money runs out.”

By the end of the panel, I had several questions about CCN and Z2H. I put them to Ms. Clark, who patiently answered them.



(This is to the best of my recollection, it is certainly paraphrased if not utterly distorted. Take it for what it’s worth.):

Q: Does the creator really get to have control of their property?
A: They have control of their comic, yes.

Q: Even if they disagree with the editor?
A: We hope they’d work with the editor, but yes, they have the final say on their comic.

Q: Aren’t you worried about people “stuffing ballots”?
A: No, because not every vote is considered equal. Z2H’s community is built on a social credit system; for instance, the opinions of those who’ve participated in the community for several weeks will be given more consideration than those who signed up the day of the voting.

Q: You realize by letting the writer have final say you’re almost certain to produce at least one really, really crappy comic, right?
A: Yes, but I’d rather produce nine crappy comics to get to a tenth that wouldn’t have a chance of being picked up somewhere else.

Q: You said you were looking for artists and editors to handle fifty projects. What are you looking for in them?
A: Artists should put their work online at Z2H, where the community (and our editors) can see them. The first thing we require of editors is that they be based in Vancouver.

I thanked her, wished her luck, took some literature, and went on my merry way.



Only the way wasn’t so merry. Something about Zeros2Heroes wasn’t sitting well with me, but I was damned if I could figure out what it was. I spent much of the rest of the day (including several hours at the costume party) mulling over exactly what my problem was with a company giving creators the rights to their work and paying at least some of them for doing so.

I mentioned my unease to Tiina, who suggested it sprang from the fact that Ms. Clark had “said everything you wanted to hear.” There was something to that, but it wasn’t entirely the case; for one thing, as great as she’d made Z2H out to be, I *hadn’t* heard everything I wanted to hear.

Ultimately, I wasn’t really happy with the reasons I came up with. They cast me as an elitist snob who sees himself as above the common man (or common online comic fan, as the case may be). Which I probably am, but it’s still a hard pill to swallow when I’ve got to face it directly.



The first issue with Z2H in general and CCN in particular that I managed to articulate was, it’s designed as a contest. As an (occasionally) professional writer, that doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t mind putting my work in front of an editor and getting rejected. It’s a different thing to accept the judgement of a nebulous “community”.

Ballot-stuffing has been eliminated, but the risk of work on Z2H being judged by the popularity of its creator rather than its actual merit still exists. And in a world where “Arrested Development” can’t get enough viewers to survive while “According to Jim” lumbers on, I’m not at all sure quality will be rewarded, or even recognized, by the masses. DC apparently sees something in this, as Zuda has a few slots reserved for creations the management likes, even if the community doesn’t. Z2H doesn’t seem to have a comparable arrangement.

“It’s research, it’s market-driven,” said…someone I talked to about it, I forget who.

But I don’t think it is. Support of a community for something read for free online may or may not translate into support for the same product when it costs three bucks. If internet communities could really be trusted to vote with their wallets, CIVIL WAR wouldn’t just have bombed, Mark Millar and Joe Quesada would have been hung from lampposts so children could throw rocks at their bodies.

What it does do is generate content for a website for very little cost up-front, and create the impression of a thriving online community, which is at least partly based on those whose participation has less to do with interest in the site than in currying favour with others in that community so that the odds of “winning” improve (Ms. Clark made the case for the importance of networking inside the community to improve one’s chances quite eloquently in the panel.) It’s also something else altogether, but I didn’t discover that until this afternoon, when I read the Z2H’s CCN contract. I’ll be coming to that later.

Incidentally, I don’t think that last paragraph is a bad idea at all, from a business or community standpoint. If the conversations that result from the community are of a positive nature, who cares how people got drawn into it?

I was also disturbed by Ms. Clark’s admission that Z2H was willing to consciously produce comics that were poorly written. The will of the community and, later, the writer, overrides the opinion of publisher and editor--people who presumably have a better sense of the craft of comics than the new writers CCN’s aimed at. Does the comics world, online or otherwise, *really* need more mediocrity knowingly introduced into it?



Maybe my problem wasn’t with the contest, but with myself.

Perhaps, instead of being uncomfortable with CCN, I was actually uncomfortable with the odds of my own writing skills winning over the Z2H community. Maybe the notion that, at this point in my career, I shouldn’t have to win over a group of strangers with (for the most part) no track record, that it’s demeaning for anyone at any stage of their career to have to enter a public contest to prove their creative worth, was in fact my self-serving rationalization, an excuse that allowed me to save face by giving me an out from competing.

I have to admit, it’s possible this was the case. I wasn’t consciously trying to claim the moral high ground with all this, just to work through my own feelings on what Z2H had to offer creators who I honestly don’t think always get the recognition or success their talent merits. I wanted to be able to throw my support behind CCN and Z2H. Or so I told myself.

For whatever reason, by the time today rolled around, I was reasonably sure I wouldn’t be participating in CCN. I was, however, going to write something very much along the lines of this post, because that’s what blogs are for (wherever you might end up reading this, it was done first for my online public navel-gazing activities.) And I was planning to tell several friends and acquaintances of mine who are no less talented than I am but are, for a variety of reasons, lower on the professional totem pole that, from what I could tell, compared to things like DC’s Zuda initiative, and Platinum’s Comic Book Idol, Z2H was making a better offer in a lot of ways.

It was because I was planning to do that that I went to the Z2H site a few times since Pure Spec, looking for more information to give people whose careers I thought might be well-served by taking part in CCN. And this afternoon, I got a LOT more information.

I don’t know if it was there before, but this afternoon I found and read the Z2H contract, Z2H’s description of what’s in that contract, and a point by point comparison between Z2H’s arrangement with its CCN winners and the Comic Creators’ Bill of Rights that was put together by Scott McCloud, Dave Sim, and numerous others 20 or so years ago.

Which opened up a whole OTHER can of worms…

To be continued.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Pure Spec 2007/Comic Talks III was a load of fun, and now I feel like crap. I think I've contracted the cold all PS's organizers had over the weekend.

Much to mull over, possibly in public, when I'm capable of thoughts that don't involve painkillers and the sweet release of death.


Junji Ito's GYO isn't as good as UZUMAKI, but it's still very good. I really dislike reading books right to left, though.


Scholastic has rejected THE SPOOKY KIDS on the grounds that it's "too grim and gritty."

It's a fair cop.


Tony Lee and Dan Boultwood's pulp superhero send-up THE GLOOM joins The Chemistry Set (chemsetcomics.com) October 19. Which is very cool, as that's probably the thing of Tony's I've most wanted to read over the years (it only had two of its intended five issues come out before the original published collapsed.)


Friday, October 12, 2007

Hey, Something...

...feel free to happen any time now.



First draft of the second episode of THE HOLIDAY MEN is done and off to Nick Johnson.

Nick Johnson's penciled the first page of THE HOLIDAY MEN. Which made me laugh out loud for three solid minutes the first time I looked at it. And another minute more when I looked at it again a few hours later. Now we just need to see if Nick's actually able to manage the two-pages-a-week schedule we need to make the Official Announcement.

T's working on the promo images for THM.

John Keane just delivered the seventh page of BadBoy.

No word from Unusual Project 1's publisher. Question: Are there ANY publishers in the lower echelons of the comic industry that don't suck? Answer: Doesn't look like it.



This weekend T and I will be attending the first sci-fi con we've gone to solely as fans since I invited her down to Calgary to take part in comics panels for Con-Version. Nick Johnson and the rest of the Vicious Ambitious crew will be there, as will The Future of Comics (I) Fiona Staples and Devon Jopling. Should be fun, not having to do anything but enjoy myself.

So why am I nervous?


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Context is for the Weak



I quite like the "DIY" goggles/wrench/work gloves aspect of this approach, but I think I'd still like to see her in a lab coat, at least initially. Maybe to distinguish her from Alicia a bit we could show her being a little less pristine--grease smudges, slightly dirty lab coat (maybe even with burnt patches at some point,implying something happened--actually, hold off on that one, I think we can use it as a gag later on)?

I have been picturing her more as a brainy, precocious type--someone with an ego which springs from knowing she's the smartest person in the room. Which isn't something precluded by this design, admittedly.

OK. If you can give me the lab coat, I think I can take this and eventually, I think, embrace it. It's not where I was coming from, but it's a valid point from a design POV and it adds to the character without subtracting/contradicting it. Go for it.

(If this mail seems a little abrupt, I just woke up and am typing this before getting out of bed.)



i'd still like a lab coat...



i yam what i yam.

i'm tired.

and hungry.

this is a dilemma i must do something about.

but what...?!?!?!



love it.

i feel like an irregularly shaped tuber. as opposed to the tubers with standard shapes.

need to eat more than sleep, i've decided. nowthe hard part...getting out of a nice warm bed and venturing into a bitterly cold kitchen...maybe i should put clothes on first. but i'd just have to take them off again when i go to the office...



Monday, October 8, 2007


At around 3:00 this morning I was unable to sleep. After a few weeks turning it over in my mind, I finally found the missing element that would make the new spec pilot script work. I was so excited I couldn't actually get to sleep without medicinal assistance.

Woke up late, spent (Canadian) Thanksgiving afternoon at the in-laws. Came home, ready to get to work. Or at least, ready to think about getting to work. And then, without warning...

...I discover that an American network called F/X is already doing a show far too close to what I was planning for comfort.

As far as I can tell, the existing show comes from an entirely different philosophical place than my spec would've. The execution, from what I've gleaned from Youtube and Wikipedia, would be vastly different. But on paper...not the same show, but too darn close to bother writing the spec.


Oh well. Back to THE KIDS. And THE HOLIDAY MEN. And...

And I really wanted to write that spec.



Friday, October 5, 2007

All Shook Up

Andrew thinking about stuff on the way to visit his Granddad this afternoon:

"What could I have possibly said that pissed XXXX off THAT badly? (check mirror, signal, change lane) And if he was that mad (red light, brake, stop) why didn't he tell me about, why did I only hear about it through back channels? (green light go) Man, it's frustrating knowing someone's pissed off at you (why's the guy in front of me slowing down?) and not being able to talk to them about it because you're not allowed to tell him you know he's mad at you. (oh, he's making a left turn, ok, gently apply brakes, no problem) God, this is so high school. I hate this, I really fuc(that car behind me is coming up onmealittlefastwhyisn'theslowingdownhe's


Minor fender bender. No apparent damage to either car. Neck's a little sore, but I'm pretty sure it'll pass. Exchangef insurance info with the guy who hit me. Realized the pink slip in the glove compartment says insurance ended in August even though money continues to be withdrawn from the appropriate account.

Mood's in the toilet. I'm going to be revisiting that 30 seconds in my mind every couple minutes for the next week (and that's if I'm lucky--I still dwell on the time I didn't break my ankle jumping off my bed seven years ago).

Didn't go visit Granddad. Went and got Data from his latest trip to the vet's and took him home.

No place to go but up, right?

Have you ever read this blog before?

When I get home I call the insurance company, tell them my pink slip is out of date. Put on hold and made to wait fifteen minutes...

...so I can leave a recording a message and they'll call me back.

This is why I strive never to leave my house and/or talk to anyone who isn't married to me, a direct blood relation, or walks around on all fours and has no opposable thumbs.


Thursday, October 4, 2007


Separating business blogging from the rest of my online journal activities is driving me buggy.

So, against the advice of people who're probably smarter than I am, I'm going to start cross-posting all material that appears on the other blogs (LiveJournal, MySpace) here, as well. Which will mean an increase in postings here, but probably also mean a less focused blog. C'est, as they say, la vie.


Derek McCulloch, writer of STAGGER LEE, is bringing his Stagger Lee 101 tour to Edmonton tomorrow. A signing will happen at Happy Harbor tomorrow at 4:00, followed by a lecture at the library at 6:00.

My review of STAGGER LEE can be found on the Happy Harbor website.