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In our third installment -- art previews and questions answered. 
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All right, welcome to our third newsletter. It's a lazy Sunday here in my office. I plan to spend most of it reading, personally, and waiting for episode 2 of THE NIGHT OF. My coffee cup is still half-full, and Scott Walker is blaring from the speakers, so why not show you some top secret art? 

That FATALE piece above is a poster Sean did for TCAF a few years back, the great Toronto Comics Festival. 

One of the greatest parts of my job has always been getting to see the single issues coming together. Getting to see designs and cover sketches, pencils or breakdowns (depending on the artist) and colors as they progress. Comics is a non-stop grind, in many ways, and we start it over every month, after just a brief sigh of relief that we got an issue to the printer. So it can be hard to not get lost inside that grind. One thing sharing behind the scenes or process stuff does is allow me to take a moment and remind myself how lucky I am to work with the talented people I do, in an art form I've loved my entire life. 

So, here's an interesting one from the archives. Usually when we do covers, I just give Sean a few ideas - "A gun holding a gun, and looking depressed" "A woman holding a knife" and he goes off and does the cover. He'll send a sketch, I'll say "Great" and the next day or the one after that, a cover arrives in my inbox. But FATALE issue 9 was a rare instance where there was some back and forth. 

I can't remember what my one-line idea was, probably something about Josephine, our heroine, as shadows of tentacles encroach around her. This is what Sean sent: 

For some reason, as awesome as that is, I must have given him flack and suggested a major change, because then he sent this one: 

The addition of her lover changes the entire tone of the image.

Which, after a few emails back and forth, then became this: 

And the final cover art, which is one of my favorite covers from FATALE... 

OKAY WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING? 
We just sent the first issue of KILL OR BE KILLED off to the printer this week, and Sean is just a few pages from finishing issue 2. We seem to be succeeding in our goal of staying ahead of schedule, and response to the first issue so far has been really great. I've been telling people from the start that this comic is not going to be what people expect (a lot of people seem to think its our version of the Punisher, which... no) but they seem surprised anyway, which is nice.  The book is out August 3rd, but I'm sure I'll be sending a reminder soon. 

I just got this in the post, Friday, which means VELVET 15 is finally out next week... 


Once again, Steve and Bettie just killed it on this issue, which is the conclusion to the first major VELVET arc. I'm so glad we got to make this book together. This job truly is fantastic most of the time. 
What else can I show you? I guess, I'll give you a non-spoilery tease of issue 2 of KILL OR BE KILLED...

 

That's an early version of that page, actually, because as you'll see when issue 1 hits, we changed how we do the text on the side. 

And here is the sketch for the cover to issue 3:


And the final cover: 

OKAY IT'S... QUESTION TIME!
All right, you guys sent in a ton of questions, so it was hard to pick just a few to answer. But here we go... 

Up first is SAMANTHA N. who asked: 


I know a lot of content creators in nearly all mediums or rather media, whether it be in comics, TV or film, struggle to stay true to the kind of stories they want to tell. I don't think creators, to a certain extent, can escape the influences or expectations of whatever company they work for or their audience. How can a creator combat these influences and expectations and simply write whatever it is he or she wants to without feeling like they're betraying themselves?
 

Well, I think whether you're doing some company-owned character or writing something original, there's always some struggle there. I mean, to start with, even with complete freedom, you don't end up telling the story you set out to tell, most of the time. Most of the time, if you're very lucky, you get close, and you discover some other stories along the way. That's how writing works. 

But you're right that when you're working for a big corporation on their characters, the expectations and influences of editors and publishers and toy manufacturers are all things that can come into play. As can the audience's expectations. 

When a writer or artist, or really any freelancer, goes into a situation like that, a work-for-hire deal, it's important for them to understand they don't own what they are creating, but it's also important for them to lie to themselves that they kind of sort of really do, while they're actually writing or drawing or lettering or coloring. I guess I would say, know that you're lying to yourself, and know what stories you DON'T want to write.

Writers are explorers, so good ones want to tell all sorts of stories, and the struggle is to make sure this is the story you need to be writing right now. When you're on Batman, for example, it's "what Batman story do I need to be telling? That says something to me, that excites me?" That passion is what prevents you from just going through the motions, or hacking it out, as they say.  That passion will also help you say "No" when an editor suggests you do something that you think will make for a bad story.  If you're doing the job right, most of the time editors aren't suggesting story ideas, because they're helping you make something bulletproof that feels vital to them. 

So, I guess, be excellent at your job, and know why you're doing it, and have a line you won't cross. A story that's so dumb you'll say no thanks. 

When writing original stuff, the only person you can actually try to please is yourself, and maybe the artist you're writing for. Because you can't know how people will respond to stories. Ten people can read the same comic or book and come to ten different conclusions about their artistic worth (or lack thereof). So, for me, art and writing is a form of self-expression (and maybe therapy, even).

I try to write things that I need to write. Do I want a large audience to like them? I think that goes without saying, for all writers and artists, but I learned a long time ago that part is out of my control. The part I can control is the words I put on the page, and what they help build. 

Audience expectation, then, is something I think a good writer learns to keep at a distance. And don't misunderstand that as not appreciating your readership. Far from it. You never want to let your readership down, that's the part of audience expectation that drives you. You want the people who have supported your work to love everything you do more than the last thing you did. But some of them won't. Even if you think it's the best thing you ever did.

So, I say, worry about your story, worry about whether it passes your test -- is this a good sentence? Is this dialog any good? Does this have a giant plot hole that would bug me in someone else's story? -- and hope for the best once it's on the way to the printer. Then move along to the next one and try to do it better this time.

 
Okay, up next we have ANDREW SCOTT, who had a few questions in here somewhere: 

Your comments about WATCHMEN in the recent newsletter touch upon many pertinent issues related to how DC has treated that book's creators over the last 30 years. Your quick dismissal of the debate about "legal rights vs. moral rights," though, is perplexing. I don't think such a debate is a waste of time. In fact, I think that's where things get interesting.

DC has a legal right to do what it has done, just as Moore has the legal right to appropriate (and, yes, even sexualize) much-beloved characters created by famous, admired, emulated, long-dead writers in LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN or LOST GIRLS. 

Are both parties morally wrong? I believe so. But why don't fans and creators scorn Moore's decision to create stories about these characters he didn't create, as well as his casual (almost gleeful) willingness to dismiss whatever intentions those characters' creators might have had? Moore is, in many ways, far more disrespectful to those writers and their work than DC or any of your peers/friends who participated in BEFORE WATCHMEN/REBIRTH have been to Dr. Manhattan, Rorschach, and company. None of those estates get a dime from LOST GIRLS, for instance, whereas Moore, Gibbons and their descendants can reap monetary rewards from DC for decades to come.

 

So, first, I would point out that my entire piece about Watchmen was about the moral issues. I dismissed arguing about it because in my mind, the argument on it in Watchmen's case is clearly over. DC owns Watchmen and will do whatever they want with it, and the majority of fandom and pro-dom don't really give a shit anymore. I think it's wrong, and I think DC's actions on Watchmen were immoral. That's kind of the whole point of what I wrote. 

But if you actually want to compare League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Lost Girls to the situation with Watchmen, I think that's a bit of a stretch. I mean, sure they're similar in that they all stem from literary tradition, but in the case of LEOG and Lost Girls (which I'll confess I haven't read yet) that tradition is one that goes back a long time, of authors using famous characters from other authors works in new stories. While in the case of Watchmen, that tradition is the one where comic creators get screwed because they take bad deals. Like Kirby or Siegel and Shuster. 

I asked my friend Jess Nevins, historical literature expert, for the history behind what Moore is doing, and he wrote back: 

Hey Ed -- I'm at a conference, so I'm away from my home computer with all the deep info on it. But, short version:

You've got authors using other authors' characters starting in the 18th century, and the development of the crossover through the 19th century and into the 20th century, most of the time using other people's characters. I talk a bit about it here: http://io9.gizmodo.com/5833704/a-brief-history-of-the-crossover 

By the turn of the 20th century it's a well-established literary gimmick, and of course all of this is before the idea of the public domain came about. I'd say that the difference between now and then is the existence of the public domain, so that now there's the feeling of characters that are fair game and those that aren't.

Moore and O'Neill in LEAGUE are certainly plundering all the fair game characters and some that aren't, but really they're just doing what all these earlier authors did. There's not that much difference between what Moore & O'Neill did in LEAGUE and what Moore & Gebbie did in LOST GIRLS and what, say, Philip Jose Farmer did with the Wold Newton stuff or what Kim Newman did with his Anno Dracula series of novels. I'd say that Moore & O'Neill are just moving the goalposts on what's fair game and what isn't--but, again, Farmer and Newman (among others) did it before Moore did. (Which Moore freely acknowledges).

It is interesting the difference in reaction to what Moore does, in the world of comics, and the reaction in the world of science fiction fandom to what Farmer and Newman did and are doing. Moore comes in for a bit more stick than Farmer and Newman ever have, although they're all pretty much the same.

I know for a fact that if Moore is going to use an author's character and name him or her in LEAGUE, he gets permission from that author before doing so, and if the author doesn't want their character used, Moore doesn't use them. He got permission from Mike Moorcock and Iain Sinclair, among others.

Best, 
Jess


So, yeah, what Moore is doing in League and Lost Girls is part of a tradition that is fun, a kind of literary fan-fiction that's been a part of popular culture as long as the books that inspired it have been, or very nearly.  The authors are long dead, and these books don't claim to be in-continuity or official, they're simply playing with well-known pop icons, sometimes using that iconic status to challenge expectation. 

And you could argue that's what DC is now doing with Watchmen, except that's not what they're saying. They said Before Watchmen was all in-continuity, and they're saying that the new thing is what happened with Dr Manhattan after Watchmen. Officially, this is their stance. Meanwhile the guy who co-created the characters and wrote it, is saying "I got ripped off, I don't want this to be happening!" 


So, to me these situations are pretty different.
 


All right, and finally we have (for those of you still with us) Dan Huntley, who has this to say: 



I know the debate around social media and trolls has exploded again recently with all the Captain America/Hydra stuff.

I find the positives tend to outweigh the negatives of creators being on social media, but my question is with all the backlash around this "issue" that was directed at you have you ever considered stepping away from social media entirely and if yes is this newsletter the first step?

 



I don't know if this newsletter is exactly a first step in moving away from social media, but for me that's really just twitter. It's more like trying to find a better way to reach out to our readers. You can have 90 thousand twitter followers, but only reach a few hundred of them with most tweets. So already this newsletter goes out to ten times the amount of readers that see most of the stuff I announce online. 

As for the trolls and debates and arguing, most of that stuff is just about superhero comics, which a lot of people forget are just one part of the industry. 

 
Okay, that's it for this issue's QUESTION TIME! - Remember to send in your questions to: criminalcomic@gmail.com with the subject QUESTION! and if your's gets picked you'll get a free signed book (my choice). 

And if your question was used this issue, email your address in so I can mail your prize. 


 
And finally, in case you missed it before the last few GAME OF THRONES episodes this season, here is the WESTWORLD trailer. Click on the photo to watch the trailer. 

I worked on Season One, and this show is going to be amazing. It hits in OCTOBER. And yeah, there's something from a scene I wrote in this trailer... but I can't tell you what. 
Copyright © 2016 Basement Gang Inc., All rights reserved.


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