Campaign Under Reconstruction


So we've been working rather a lot, the two of us. I've written enough words to be repurposed as a proper paperback novel, and JD... well, JD's drawn more pages than 90% of anyone who reads this sentence. Things rusted are turning again, and that shower of oxidized iron flakes is a remedial baptism, baby. Schkade and Smith versus the Future. I think we can take him. 

This fall, you know who you're voting for?


The cruel and hungry Voice From Nowhere

Light hits matter and what's left is an absence, a non-entity, which we call a shadow. It's a thing that exists only in our minds, and it collects our fears. A devil of our own creation, an evil that lurks in our hearts, and a total fiction besides. Hell is other people. The power of the shadow is that, on a very basic level, it reminds us we're nothing but electric meat. Every intangible is our own projection on a world of energy and matter. The meat transgresses against itself -- but also it polices itself. The meat evolves and betters. 

At the edge of divide between is and isn't sits HIM, mankind's Darwinian helper. HE, a hole in the world, swollows up the wicked meat, the fat and gristly meat that holds the rest back. We are what we make ourselves and we can be great. The cruel and hungry Voice From Nowhere is here to add by subtraction. 


60% in the can

I plugged the last leaks in the chapter three script today. That means, barring future edits and revisions -- which are totally going to happen all over the place, to my patient partner's chagrin -- AVERY is over halfway written.

This particular chapter was tough and rewarding, like a college Astronomy course. It was full of lines like this:

CAP: Lysol --

CAP: --slathered prostitute perfume thick on every surface --

CAP: -- It’s very clean in here --

(That's from AVERY, not the Astronomy course)

This was also the most experimental part of the book, full of hallucinations and scary rooms, and it'll give JD some succulent design challenges to sink his canines into. Art is months away, of course, but I'm always thinking ahead. That's why I've got three scarves in my car. 


Back From Texas

I am.

And here's a -- mostly -- uncolored cover JD just conjured up, before the tints and hues and the expertly rendered title and credits are all laid over it. Au natural, baby.


Wire from the Front

Time is on some side other than mine, so:

I made it exactly halfway though the third chapter this week, which puts the whole five-part project at exactly half scripted. Seeing as this places the script at least two full installments ahead of the art, I'm fairly comfortable with this. The rest of the week was spent organizing an upcoming trip to the land of my birth and plotting a new project that I tried to put down, really I did, but the damn thing's crawled inside my head and laid eggs.

Stumptown is in ten hours. I might even spend some of them sleeping. 



Fearsome Jack and Handsome Bobby

Today I found myself with little to say, so I went out into the city and I listened for a while. Then I moved some words around and prepped the way for tomorrow's progress.

Today was a stable and mucking day.


Six hour round trip, made eight by an amusing mishap


Day three. Today I drove both to and from Seattle, to meet with JD. I also wrote what I figure will end up being about four pages worth of material when all’s done and said, and I talked to my dad.

Figure I count today as a win.


The distilled sweat of my brow


Day two. A panel from today's labors:

4. The bastard city shrinks in Avery’s rear view mirror. The tiny white blip of a private jet flies over the city at an upward angle.

CAP: Pa was right -- which is more or less my entire childhood --

CAP: All I see in my rearview is a fat grey puddle, steaming into mirage.


Twentysome pages in ten days or less


Every sky is sunny and blue outside the window of a 747 at cruising altitude, but then we dipped down into clouds that darkened as we dove and then gave way to the green and grey of Portland on its mercury river -- well, San Fran is as mighty and fine a city as you’ll ever see, but for better or worse, the place my brain recognizes as home has shunted decidedly north.

There are two chapters of AVERY in the can, each the length of a standard comic book issue. Today, I started production on the third -- figuring out roughly how the story breaks down by page count, checking my scrap file for any viable bits of dialogue, and drinking quite a bit of black coffee. My ambition -- nay, my plan -- is to have a solid draft done by Stumptown, on the 16th of this month. Ten days. No sweat. And, if only to keep myself honest, I’ll be logging my progress on this blog. Exactly what form this log blogging will take, I’m not quite sure. A daily tally of completed pages? A posting of especially juicy excerpts? Just as long as it’s not a bunch of IOU’s, I’ll count it a win. Of course, the real win would be seeing the thing finished. I don’t write for the hell of it, man, I’m working for the weekend. Just like everyone else, I am reliably informed.

So, day one. Everything’s planned. There’s a one-page scene from the scrap file I’m going to use as page four. Ten days to go and I’m off to a good start, as I reckon things.



Mighty Bold Talk


God damn, I’m getting better at this.

My scripts are tighter. My dialogue is sharper. There’s less fat and more sizzle, less Walking Dead and more Mad Men. Two issues down on the writing end and I do believe I’m building muscle. Writing’s not a chore, not something I have to lash myself into doing, not these days. It’s become habit—even better, it’s become routine. Even when I’m catching up on Justified, Hulu shares the screen with an open word document. It’s a weird feeling, and it tingles. This high school hobby is becoming a job.

This weekend will find me in San Francisco, flashing my face at WonderCon. I’m there to remind the companies we pitched AVERY to exactly who we are, and also to touch base with some of the nice folks we met at Emerald City—not that the two groups are mutually exclusive. I’m there to show we’re taking ourselves seriously, but not awfully seriously, and the men and women with the money should regard us accordingly. It’s just a little thing, but I’ve got the travel money and the darling Great-Aunt Nina I haven't seen in forever, so why not? It’s been a long time since I enjoyed the agony and ecstasy of California public transit.

Meanwhile, though AVERY’s future is still in the waiting place, JD and I may have rustled up a paying gig on the sly. The next few days will tell, but I have a good feeling about this. I’m reliably informed the editor in question has an excellent eye for talent.


Sequence from THE LONE RANGER, by Brett Matthews and Sergio Cariello. Dan-recommended. 


Six Pages of Preview

Written by DAN SCHKADE
Penciled and inked by JD SMITH
Colored by JON CAIRNS
Enjoy Responsibly

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The Weekended


Schkade and Smith, Seattle

I drive the three hours from Seattle to Portland and then I sleep for twelve. I wake up to find person or persons unknown have parked their car inside my skull. I down a bottle of water and refill the bottle from the kitchen sink and repeat. I take a daily multivitamin and I chase it down with a fistful of cashews and a little plastic container of applesauce, which I eat with a serving spoon because it’s the first one I grab and in my current state I am unpicky. I check my mail and I watch Californication — a show that reminds me that I like LA, screw the haters — and by now I am something resembling a human being. I’ve spent the last three days inside my superpersonality, the Dan+ version of myself that makes friends and shakes hands and takes care of business of all kinds. I’m a writer; that setting doesn’t come standard. I’m worn, man. But in that nice way.

Emerald City Comic Con was very good to us. Nothing solid as of yet — this was never meant to be the final chapter — but the irons are in the fire now, and a couple of those fires are hotter than Huston. We’ve got heavies interested not just in AVERY, but in Schkade and Smith, comic creators. Something will come of this. Something soon. My mind has settled back into its human Dan.0 state, but I still know that much. And that’s pretty exciting. Special thanks to Batton Lash, who helped us find editors to charm — same kind of help he’s been giving me, pro bono, since I first stuck my toe in the sea of comics. As nice a man as ever I’ve met. He bikes to work, you know.

The real treat was working with JD in person, teaming up as a two-man organism designed only for pitching. I, the tall dark glad-hander with the catch phrases and the corduroy jacket and the spiels about atoms and destiny. He, the blonde-quaffed blue-eyed indie artist ideal whose tasteful stubble and neck-scarf keep warm his rapier wit. Together, we made the Butch and Sundance of aggressive self-promotion. The Briscoe and Greene. The… Danny Rand and the chromatically-challenged Luke Cage. It was great doing a con not only with a product to sell, but a partner to hawk it with. A true-blue business associate. It was rad. Let’s do it again sometime.

Now comes the time of the emails and penciling and the writing, writing, writing. Because artists are writers, see. That’s the thing everyone has to understand. Writers are storytellers.

It’s a month ‘till Stumptown. A lot can happen in a month. Ha. Who needs fear? I’ve got a career to start.




My hotel room has a kitchenette with a refrigerator that hums and vibrates and smothers any sound from the outside world. I move my tongue from one side of my mouth to the other and the noise is loud, exaggerated, like in a movie. I imagine my room to be floating in empty space like Hartigan’s Sin City prison cell, and I’m the only man for miles around in a building full of people.

One o’clock tomorrow, I pick up JD and we head into Seattle. Emerald City begins at two. We’ll be there every day, all day, with our ware to hawk — six completed Avery pages and a full plot summary, printed and pretty behind a frosted plastic cover. I made five. Kinkos helped. The idea was to have a sexy half-sandwich sample of our comic, an existence proof of what we could do, with the whole plot summary as a promise of what was to come. It’s publishers we mean to prove ourselves to, editors, anyone with clout who can get us paid for a job well done. And getting paid, well, that would make us professionals in earnest. That’s been the dream for years. Since I was ten, at least. I don’t know about JD. You’d have to ask him.

Driving up from Portland, I felt for the first time the uncertainty I often tried to exorcize from my colleague. For all my Stan Lee catchphrase bluster, it finally hit — this was happening. We were trying. I was trying. Which brings with it the very real possibility of failure. Uncertainty, sure. Try naked terror.

…but, I’m made up of atoms, stolen from peanuts and celery sticks and re-appropriated for fingernails and optic nerves. I’m an impossible quirk of reality, an intricate after-effect of the Big Bang, an unfolding electrochemical reaction that could go off in any one of a set of directions more numerous than the distinct geometries of every pebble in El Paso. The past stopped existing when it stopped being the now, and the future is a fool’s mirage. It is our intent that creates meaning in a universe that comes with none of its own — which is the whole point of it, as I understand things — and I’ll be darned if I’m going to spend one more precious bit of now on so silly a game as fear. Me, I’ll fit myself with that healthy sense of self-delusion that allows men to achieve beyond the flimsy barriers of the possible. You shouldn’t put much stock in “possible”, anyhow. It changes too often.

So I’m going over my notes. Preparing my pitch. Readying answers to the questions I foresee, honing my mind to handle on the spot the questions I don’t. Remembering my eight-grade speech teacher... Bear in mind, they’ll likely be sitting down. Only gesture with one hand. Speak strongly but not aggressively, smile softly and not too broadly, open your eyes and play up your central Texan accent, with the long vowels and all, yeah, that always goes over well. You’re white and straight, at least sound like you’re from someplace with a story. Which you are, but you know. Be yourself, but an informative version of yourself. Kind of like a comic book character.

The fridge cuts out and I can hear someone coming down the hall — a young man by the sound of those boots and the lightness of that step. I hear the traffic out my window and the television from the floor above. Couldn’t tell you which show. You never can.

I rub my eye with my knuckle and when I pull it back there’s an eyelash stuck to it, so I make a wish and blow.


Comic Books For People Who Want To Make Comic Books

DS, with JDS:

Disclaimer: Scrooge McDuck or Spawn, it’s all comics. Shy of Scott McCloud, there’s not a whole lot of good universal reference material for the medium. But if you’re like us and you want to write comics with heart and humor as well as gunfire, uppercuts, and masks, here’s what we got.

Of course, there’s some required reading everyone should’ve taken care of before class. Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, at least one of the Sandman books… I’d put The DC Universe Stories of Alan Moore on there too, which includes Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow? and The Killing Joke, as well as some other solid yarns from the dawn of the modern age of comics.

That’s the funnybook GED. JD and I both threw together lists of what we think ought to come next.

JD’s List

All-Star Superman:

Perfect, the most optimistic Superman story ever written, despite being about his last days on earth. Every bit of jaded annoyance I have toward superheroes and the tired revolving doors of the genre goes away when I crack it open. The no-nonsense and well-composed art helps too. Quitely isn't trying to show you what an amazing artist he is, and that's what makes it amazing.

The first 20 issues of The Amazing Spider-Man:

A little dense and a little silly, but ultimately the blueprint for all young superhero drama to follow it. Not a story about a primary-colored fighter who can lift cars over his head, but a trefoil boy and his brushes with victory and heartbreak and goblin-masked rogues on jet powered broom sticks.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life:

Rough and uneven, but more earnest and funny than most anything I've read. Later volumes get more polished and technically proficient, but this is worth a read just for its verve.

Alex Toth’s Zorro:

I'll admit that this is on here mostly because it's one of the very few easily trackable volumes of Toth's comic work, but it showcases his skill with boiling a scene down to it's raw essentials and then making them shine. The fact that it's done around sub-par scripts makes it twice the feat.

Batman – Year One:

I'll admit that I wish David Mazzucchelli stuck around and drew superhero or detective stories instead of going indie on us, and I'll probably burn for it, but this mini series was amazing. The illustration is in the school of Toth, but the strong impressionistic streak makes every scene stand out visually. I hear that Miller guy wrote some pretty good words too.

Darwyn Cooke’s The Spirit:

It probably shows something odd in the industry that short, fun, easily digestible one off stories are something to be lauded as a breath of fresh air, but that's what these are. Cooke's visual style carries a lot of the weight, but as a whole it's a good example of revitalizing a classic without needing to start throwing the ‘gritty’ word around.

Calvin and Hobbes:

It's a testament to these strips that I read them so often as to forget how much they've influenced me. Life, death, humor, friendship, childhood and growing up in 4 panel snippets. And it all feels natural.

Honorable mention… Preacher:

Vulgar and awful pap, until it reveals a genuinely sensitive eye to religion and love and every universal theme you can think of. It's contrast of the sick and the disturbed to the gentle and thoughtful says something about human nature in general.

Dan’s List

New York – the Big City:

A character study of the city that never sleeps, told in the form of dozens of short human vignettes. Eisner does remarkable things with silence, sound, tightness and space, systematically proving there’s no scene that has a right to be boring. There’s so much acting and set design in these pages that it’s not a graphic novel so much as an exhibition match.

The Punisher – In the Beginning, Up is Down and Black is White, Man of Stone, and The Long Cold Dark:

Garth Ennis plays it straight with this somber, poetic, extraordinarily violent series of Frank Castle stories. The entire run is worth a read, but these four arcs in particular form an overarching storyline, throwing a slew of memorable, sometimes disturbing, characters against the grim stoicism of an aging Punisher whose life is beginning to gain a terrifying perspective. The end of the last volume is one of the very few comics that has moved me to tears.

Daredevil – Born Again:

Born Again can be seen as a companion piece of sorts to Year One, which is arguably the better comic. Born Again is not half so beautiful and focused—The narrative jumps all around Daredevil’s supporting cast, following a whole mess of narrative arcs in each chapter, each of them echoing Matt Murdock’s own journey from ruin to redemption—and the full-page spread where Matt’s redemption evidences itself is one of the greatest thrills in comics, in eighties fiction as a whole. Year One is an experience, but Born Again is an opera.

Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol:

Cliff Steele and Crazy Jane are, absurdly, one of the great love stories in comics. Over a six volume run packed with mind-expanding Dadaist weirdness, the relationship between a human brain in a robot body and a woman with sixty-four metahuman personalities is a fascinating, uncomfortable, and disarmingly sweet thing to watch evolve.

Elektra, Assassin:

Classic Miller, with Sienkiewicz at the height of his powers. Some books create a certain atmosphere, but some—like this one—create a whole psychological state. You get a paranoid runner’s high off this book, and it’s dense enough to be your supply for a week, in moderation. It’s also a bit of a what not to do in terms of pacing near the end, though it snaps it off beautifully on the last page.

Top Ten:

A 90’s-style cop drama with superpowers. It’s a long line of great character moments in between two covers (and there’s two volumes of this, plus a prequel). Gene Ha’s incredibly intricate, Easter egg-laden art is just icing.

Batman and Robin #1-3:

Much as I’d like to put Morrison’s entire Batman-related run on this list, these particular issues—joined by Frank Quietly, doing some of his rawest work to date—represent the best superhero comics of this young century. With Dick Grayson as a joking daredevil Batman, Damien Wayne as an edgy ten year-old Robin, and a flying, eco-friendly Batmobile to carry them into action and danger, Batman and Robin is a forward-looking pop-pulp mystery adventure that stands as a blueprint for superhero fiction both modern and future.

Sandman Mystery Theatre:

Great for two reasons. One: the well-written, adult relationship between Wesley Dodds and Diane Belmont. It’s one of the most realistic ‘my boyfriend has a secret identity’ romances out there. Two: a gritty, unglamorous, utterly human depiction of 1940’s New York. Two point five: early 90’s Guy Davis.

Honorable mention… Peter Milligan’s Human Target:

Very similar to Ennis’ Punisher in terms of atmosphere and characters, combined with an overarching theme of identity and questions about same in the twenty-first century. The last great Vertigo series—so far.

You also probably ought to read some Fantastic Four comics. Mark Waid, Alan Davis, or go back and grab the original Kirby and Lee. Fantastic Four. It is the world’s greatest comic magazine, after all.

Go forth and create.


She's got your hero right here


I’m saddened by the death of Dwayne McDuffie, not because I knew him personally or passingly or at all, but because of what he represented to comics as a whole, which I know somewhat more intimately.

Dwayne McDuffie wrote quality comic books. He built stories like they were automobiles, not fast food value meals, and he made them to last. He wrote characters instead of costumes, problems instead of powers, and stories instead of marketing ploys—or, at least, in addition to. He was progressive without transgression, real talk without tough talk. I’d put the titles he either created or helped create for the Milestone line—Static, Icon, and Hardware, just off the top of my head—among the best bona fide true blue no bullshit comic books of my lifetime. Those stories were full of little victories and little setbacks against the backdrop of the lightning-slingin’ heroes-and-villains street brawls he’d reimagined for the new decade. He wrote like pain hurt and life mattered, to steal a line meant for Raymond Chandler, and if there were a top pick for successor to the mantle of Ditko and Lee, he’d be mine.

Right now, near as I can figure, the baseline for quality writing in the mainstream of the medium is Geoff Johns. This is wrong. Johns is a talented writer and businessman who always delivers an entertaining way to do a new thing with an old costume. This is wrong. This is just good enough at best, destructive at worst. The baseline, the bedrock, the bare minimum a comic book should be—Dwayne McDuffie. The gold standard. Surpass him if you can, but never fall short. If you respect yourself, your craft, or those who’ve come before you, never fall short. 

The medium is now shy one of its finest architects. Time for us all to step up. 


T-minus two weeks


We’re cooking with gas now, oh yes we are.

Emerald City Comic Con sits pretty on the first weekend of March, grinning at us like a mirage. Here, we pitch the project to potential publishers. Cue montage.

JD’s got six pages of appetizer inked and clean. Jon Cairns is turning out some color work you can taste as much as see. Fonografiks is showing me how little I know about lettering a comic book. Humbling, is what it is. I didn’t even know Gotham was a font.

Rough colors, page two

What I do know is we’ve got a book with teeth. It's the book I wanted to see on the shelves but didn’t, so I went wrote it myself. It’s old school and new and different and familiar, and a good pulp novel besides. A game changer? A winner, at least. In my heart I believe this. If anyone can explain the benefit of believing otherwise, feel free.

Emerald City. I’m trying not to read too much into the name. 


Slow Days


Writer's block is a myth, dating back to the Lethargy Cults of ancient Athens. A writer by definition is one who writes, and if you find that for some reason you are unable to do so — well, the algebra isn't hard. The professional creator creates and creates every day, because that's the job. But there is such a thing as a slow day.

The slow days, the grey days, the stable and the mucking days. It's not like you don't produce something, ‘cause you do — it's just that you're a little less magic than usual. Usually you’re John Constantine, but you find yourself stuck being, say, Harry Dresden. Which still does the job, mind. And maybe that's the work you redo later. Some days all you can do is lay down some foundation while Lights Out plays noiselessly in the background.

These are, of course, the days that make those other days so high and holy. 


This ain't no high school team, Meat


Planned for five chapters at twenty-plus pages a pop, writing AVERY is a brand new beast for this Texan. My main previous effort, spooky crime comic The Private Files of the Fowl, updated at a rate of one page a week. Those pages were scripted on Sunday, penciled on Monday, inked on Tuesday, Lettered on Wednesday, and then uploaded Thursday night, when all went to plan (and it very rarely did). Every now and then I’d do some B-side stories with artists like Nick Foster, Lee Gaston, and a person I may have mentioned once upon a whenever named JD Smith, but these averaged to six pages, and never exceeded fifteen. I’ve scripted single issues for friends and the occasional paying client, but a full miniseries/graphic novel/long-form visual narrative? Yo’ mamma. Jogging around the park does not a marathoner make.

But I’m Dan Schkade and I’m mortally terrified of people thinking I’m a wuss, so I broke out Denny O’Neil’s DC Guide to Writing Comics and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. And so far, no one’s called me on it. This is me knocking on wood.

One chapter down and a second in the workshop, I’m starting to notice things. On this project in particular, I’m noticing it’s not as funny as what I’ve written in the past. With the Fowl, I had a very weird and witty leading man who wielded the moral right like a crowbar, and his stories tended to be designed around giving him scenery to chew. 

The Fowl, al la Dan Schkade
Avery, a la JD Smith

AVERY’s lead (Avery) is the Fowl’s equal and opposite. Just as clever, but quieter, sitting inside his head and watching the world spin. He bends with the plot, as opposed to the Fowl, whose presence always warps events to the bizarre. Avery is a small man, physically and professionally, where the Fowl is big both in business and build. The Fowl solves the insoluble because it’s a thing to do — Avery does it for money. And while the Fowl can always rely on Krav Maga and a smoking .45 to see his enemies dispatched, all Avery can do is tense his abdominals and wait for the punch. But Avery has a life plan and a hope, which is something the emotional dilettante known as the Fowl never quite got a hold of. Avery, he wants to build something. He’s harder to write, but I’m getting more out of it. I want to build something too.

Both comics have a supporting cast made up entirely of fashionable psychopaths, so that’s fine.

More generally, I’m discovering the liberations and limitations of long-term scripting. Doing a weekly comic, you find yourself plugging leaks with duct tape and bubble gum just to get it out on time, and maybe later you sneak in and fix things properly for when future readers peruse the archives. But this thing… I’ve got months. Months to write it and doubt it and change it in a million little diamond-shaving ways, which I’ll change still again later on. I’d written half the first chapter before I realized it was ass-backwards tripe and had to throw the whole thing out with the used coffee filters. I came to understand that when good enough isn’t, there’s going to be waste product. And I didn’t really get cooking until I realized this was the way it’s meant to be. You can’t hang onto something just because you spent X days on it, any more than you can stay with someone just because you’ve been together for Y months. If it’s right it’s right, and if it’s not, axe that turkey. You can eat it while you think up something better.

First time was the toughest. It meant having to confront the fact that Dan Schkade isn’t always right the first time, which by extension means that for years I’ve been pumping out substandard work with the Fowl. That’s three years of mediocrity. I’ve got some making up to do.

Right. Back to writing the things I’ll eventually throw out so I can write the better thing.


Always Stretch Before a Run


So this is… September, 'round about? We’d been designing and ruminating and eating our creative spinach all Summer. Though our webcomic workloads meant actual production wouldn’t start ‘till December, the time had come for the project to bear something resembling fruit. 

Thus: a test page, something to prove (to our respective readerships and prospective publishers, not to mention ourselves) this thing had veins in its teeth. This scene doesn't actually appear in the story, serving more as an excuse to bring out some of the main characters and let them talk at each other. It’s certainly a first effort, with all the 20/20 hindsight that entails, but it was also the small step and giant leap we needed to reaffirm our confidence in this thing called AVERY.


 Shackled to a scanner meant for mere mortals instead of comic book artists, JD draws his pages in two parts — observe the break in the equator of the page — and assembles them on the computer. Clever son. Bet he could break out of prison, if it came down to it.

JD colored this one himself, setting a paradigm for the book’s actual colorist to follow later on. Neon Noir, JD calls it. A matte Joel Schumacher, like. The grey brown orange palette of gritty, realistic crime fiction is for suckers — we want our book to leave after-images in your retinas after you set it down, like luminescent fingerprints. 

(click to enlarge)

And scene. 

Taking a drive around the block like this did loads for our understanding of how the book was going to work, page-to-page. Kinks to work out, sure, but I couldn't have asked for a finer zero to start from

That said, the work we've churned out since leaves this page hacking in the course brown dust. 


Blueprints for a Bastard City


This was my first drawing of Avery. Bottom right. He had come from an early idea of Dan's after the first few notes were sent and we knew what kind of book we were doing. He looked a bit too young, I thought. Like a kid playing detective. The hat was silly. Try again.

Shortly after the concept phase I found some kind of genius rambling from Dan about how we would reinvent the pulps in my yahoo inbox. It lined up pretty well with the opening blog entries. I figured he had that part basically covered, even though I wasn't quite sure how at the time, and I knew I'd have do something different with the visuals for the rest to matter. I didn't want to fall into the nostalgic rut of tracing frames out of the Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep like so many before me, and I didn't want to hit the modern grit of newer crime comics like 100 Bullets or Criminal. To be honest, from the standpoint of somebody who'd have to draw over a hundred pages of it, the idea of those routes bored me.

I can draw the "normal" things well enough, in my own estimation, but I see normal every day. I like super heroes for their hyper reality. Skyscrapers that go onto forever and shadows that swallow everything but the whites of your eyes. Gotham is red hot hell on pavement and Metropolis is as close to utopia as you're liable to get, minus the giant robots. But, this wasn't a superhero comic. I'd have to close off my need to make things bigger and slicker and weirder.

Then I remembered...why? Why confine excitement to the super heroes? Out of some need for an indie maturity? Hell, Frank Miller had already done it in Sin City. This wasn't the same thing, but the seed of the idea was there. My co-conspirator in comicking had had a similar thought, and we ran with it -- started swinging pictures and music by eachother. Punk Rock, Daft Punk and Blade Runner. Neon. A radioactive bastard city. It was enough to make everything feel new. Enough to feel like the things Dan was talking about in that e-mail.


Robert Deniro in Taxi Driver.

Dan sent me a couple photos to throw into the potpourri of our main character. I threw in some Al Pacino for flavor. Our detective would be short and tough. There would be no silly hat. He was outside stereotypical noir detective designs, and thus good enough for this thing of ours.

Once that was passed, I recalled that David Bowie would be in it. The early outline said he would be called by another name, but I knew that for all intents and purposes that that was who I'd be drawing. There was some early reference for his agents, but it didn't fit the kind of comic that features the thin white duke. An early version is up with the first picture, but he turned into something like this.

Music should be a stronger streak in the visuals of his team, I thought, and things were punked up for it. The girl shaved her head and got mascara slashes under her eyes. "A knowing grin" becomes a smile that stretches like rictus. H, the boy, is now 6'7" and handsome like an alien. He likes sweater vests and polishing his shoes. After those two the look was set and new designs and twists of the script came-a-coming...

And the proto-sketch, just to have it here.

That's probably enough for now, isn't it? I'm not much of a blogger. I draw comics, and another page of one of them is awaiting inking.