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.