Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bad to the Bone

Good eeeeeevening, Meat-Heads!

Let's talk VILLAINS.

I struggled for a long time with what kind of antagonist to provide my characters in Dead Meat. I didn't want to settle for the usual "inner-group turmoil" that is so prevalent in undead-based stories, nor did I want the monsters to be the explicit threat, so I had to I had to think about villains. What makes a good villain? Well, Eric here apparently conforms to the classic idea of a big, black cape and a big, black top hat, but what really makes a good villain beyond visual depiction? When you get into dealing with comic books, especially classic ones, you usually come across a pattern with villains: they're usually the tonal opposite of the hero--the flipside of the coin. Batman, who will never kill, has The Joker, who kills with absolute joy; Professor X and the X-Men, dedicated to the acceptance of mutantkind among humans has Magneto, dedicated to the ascension of mutants as the dominant species; Superman, modest and dedicated to helping people in the name of truth, justice, and the American way has Lex Luthor, dedicated to (depending on his incarnation) vanity, greed, and world domination (and for some reason real estate scams), just to name a few.

What do all of these villains have in common? They all believe what they're doing is RIGHT. For me, that's what makes great villains: total belief that what they're doing is the right thing to do. Let's look for a second at arguably the greatest villain in the history of fiction: Darth Vader. We all know the gist of him, light sabres, force-choking, "I am your father," etc, etc, but let's take a step back and look at what his actual motivation as a character is. Below I've included a clip that's really the complete summation of what Darth Vader is about:

Oops...wrong clip. I meant this one:

So what is Darth Vader about at the end of the day? Peace. He's after essentially the same thing the rebels/jedi are! The major difference, however, is that his concept of how to achieve peace has been horribly horribly skewed, and what makes him dangerous is that he totally believes that his method is THE method. He believes it so completely that he is willing to destroy anything in his way to achieve it, even his own (::SPOILER ALERT!!!ONE1::) son. What makes him EXTREMELY dangerous is that his method is attractive. There are moments in the Star Wars saga in which Luke feels drawn to the dark side, and I feel this is what makes for the best villains: a villain who not only is convinced that he himself is right, but who also comes close to convincing YOU he's right.

Then again, when you strip all of that crap away, what is Darth Vader if not a guy with a big, black cape and a big, black top hat? Maybe that's the secret after all.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Friday, October 22, 2010


It seems even poor Eric here knows what it's like to get trashed when you're just trying to get ahead, dear Meat-Heads (I know, I know I know, I'll play myself off the stage)!

So to follow up from my last post, what happens when you've put all your time and effort into your comic, packaged it in an accessible format, sent it off to some potential publishers, and are firmly, yet kindly (hopefully) slammed with rejection? Do you give up? Do you throw in the towel? Well as far as this blog is concerned, it can best be summarized by Dr. Peter Venkman:

(You can stop the video at 1:42...unless you just feel like watching Ghostbusters)

As I stated in posts previous, I am pretty late to the game in terms of the genre that I chose to set my story in. It's overflowing with all sorts of stories about walking corpses, etc, but I'm behind the story enough to not let that stop me. Also, as far as some publishers are concerned, my art is not quite their cup of tea. These things, and I'm sure other factors, made Dead Meat less than appetizing for major publishers. That's fine! I understand! Luckily, we live in the 21st century, and it's possible (as I've said before) for someone to take the project they love and publish it independently as they see fit!

What I'm getting at here is that acceptance and recognition from big name publishers is nice, but it is by no means the end of the world, nor is rejection for that matter. If you believe in your project, then don't let someone else tell you it's not good enough, or that you can't do it.

As far as being "not good enough" goes, art is art, and what's great to someone is inevitably going to be crap to someone else. This is just how it goes. However, if you see areas of weakness in your own work, producing your own comic is a great way to get better. Why just sit on your thumbs waiting for someone to come to you and give you work when you could continue to grow as an artist while also producing your own story? No matter what your level of expertise, as blues-guitar master Albert King once eloquently said to one Stevie Ray Vaughan:

"You gon' be better than what you is."

As long as you keep working, keep drawing, keep creating, you gon' be better than what you is. SO JUST DO IT.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's in the Package????

Awwww--Eric brought you all a present!

So in my mind, when I first started thinking about Dead Meat, I imagined this epic, on going series running at least 60 issues (which in comic book terms is FIVE YEARS), with many characters coming and going, tons of plot lines, and a scope wider than the Panama Canal. This is all well and good, but if you're trying to get your book published by a company, and you come at them with this massive, overblown, multi-year commitment, and you just look like a psychopath. Think of it like approaching someone for a date: if you were to go up to that guy or gal you have a crush on, and you say to him/her "I've been thinking about this relationship for a long time, and I want to get married to you and have kids, and buy a house," he/she is going to run screaming in the other direction! Now it's fine to have all these grandiose ideas (as long as you're not REALLY a psychopath), but for the love of sweet Krejci feed do not TELL them that! The same goes for your comic: you can have these grand ideas of having a long-running, Eisner award-winning mammoth of a book, but you need to package your product in a way that is non-threatening to a potential publisher, and will seem like way less of a commitment if they decide to take a chance on you. You want to ask him/her out to the school formal or to the local competitive sporting club match or whatever it is you kids do these days.

With Dead Meat, I approached my packaging as though I were creating the pilot episode of a television series. One story, over 6 issues, self contained, that could either serve as the jumping off point for a series, or could end the story in a satisfactory way right there. It was enough breathing room to introduce characters, concepts and the world, but it was short enough that it's a little less intimidating. This "pilot episode" concept is also very beneficial because it leaves you with a product you can adapt to many different formats. It could be the first 6 issues of an on-going series, a 6 issue mini series, or a graphic novel. Having this sort of wiggle room really opens you up to more options in terms of getting your work out there, and getting your work out there is the name of the game!

However, since I'm publishing this story of mine all by my lonesome, that means I don't have to apply ANY of that advice to my own work! GET READY FOR THE MOST EPIC EPIC YOU'VE EVER READ--BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

No, actually all of that stuff does still apply to Dead Meat because in addition to publishing it myself, I still write my stories in 6 issue chunks to later produce as graphic novels. So there--I didn't just waste your time!

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Toni, Tony, Tone

Welcome, Meat-Heads!

Tone. Ugh. What a bastard. Tone, in the simplest terms, is not the content of your work, but the attitude with which you approach your content. Take a torture scene for example. The way torture is approached in something like 24 is drastically different from the way torture would be approached in something like Reservoir Dogs. One is very tense, visceral and dark, the other quirky, twisted, and actually practically bloodless. What differs between these two scenes is the tone. The choice in tone that you make is very important, as it is going to inform the things your audience takes away from your work in a big way.

For me, finding the tone, or attitude, of Dead Meat was something I struggled with quite a bit. Originally, when I was still attempting to "write my friends," my tone was light, jokey, not very serious, and at the end of the day pretty lame. It felt very self-aware, and I decided that wasn't the approach I wanted to take, as I didn't really feel like I had a lot of stories to tell like that. Honestly, I felt like if I went with that approach, I would have been creating characters I would eventually start to hate--and not in the good "love to hate" kind of way. They'd just be annoying to write, and probably annoying to read as well. It was about the time that I started to re-design the characters that I really sat down and tool a look at what sort of tone I wanted to present for Dead Meat. I decided that there was a certain feel that I wanted my characters and my world to have. I wanted bleak, I wanted feudal, I wanted pessimistic, and I wanted my characters to reflect that so when characters with a more hopeful outlook were injected to the world, there would be more of a contrast among the characters.

This brings me to the most important aspect of tone as far as I am concerned, and that is consistency. Tonal consistency is incredibly important, because if your tone is all over the place, it can be very distracting and confusing to an audience. If we head back to the torture scene example, if you take the 24 torture scene and insert it into Reservoir Dogs it would seem very very out of place, and the same thing vice versa. However, a tonal shift can work to your advantage sometimes if you're using it to get across different points of view or something like that, but for the most part tonally consistency is something you should really try to get.

For instance, I was once working on a project that was completely lacking in tonal consistency. It would have a scene of visceral, straight horror, then the next scene it would have characters cracking jokes that were not in line with their established character traits, followed by flashbacks that were meant to be absurd, and then another scene of straight horror--it just serves to create confusion.

There's a lot more once can say about this subject, and many discussions to be had (and I encourage them), but to me, tone is a line on which to hang your ideas, and make sure that, as crazy as they might be, they don't feel out of place. This line can be very important as far as your relation to the audience goes, and in the end, the relationship to your audience is the most important thing.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Welcome back, Meat-Heads!

So I wanna jump forward a bit here in the evolution of things, seeing as I'll be heading to the New York Comic Convention this weekend. Now you might ask yourself (as I have asked myself on occasion), "but don't have anything to sell! What're you going to a comic convention for?" Well, that's a very good question, and to get an answer, you have to understand what comic conventions actually consist of. In the public's mind, a comic book convention is a bunch of nerds walking around in costumes that took way too much (or way too little) time to create, and lines upon lines waiting to get an autograph from a washed up "celebrity." Well yes, that is what comic conventions consist of, but it's not the ONLY thing they consist of.

Conventions are fan magnets, and what draws the fans there in addition to celebrity appearances and sneak peaks of stuff is the creators of the content they enjoy so much. This is fantastic for a person who isn't on "the other side of the table," so to speak, and is just walking the floor, as these things are filled with artists and industry professionals to talk to. Of course these people are there to make some money and sell some art or other products, but they are also, for the most part, very friendly, and will more than happy to chat with you for a bit. If you're an artist yourself, this is fantastic, as many of them will also gladly look through your portfolio and give you some tips if you ask nicely. On top of artists, there are also many small-press and independent comic companies with booths there, many of which feature someone in charge of the company and production. This is also a great resource, as you can pick their brains about what's working, what's not, and what sort of stuff they're trying out for their own company. This very well may give you some ideas as to what you might want to try with your own company and product when it's ready.

Most importantly however, all of these things add up to one main goal: getting your work seen by people in the industry. Regardless of whether or not you leave there with a million great contacts and job offers, getting your work infront of people's eyes is what really matters, because this is a VISUAL art, and you can't be successful in visual arts if no one sees your work.

I'll be back next week--until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

p.s. I'd also like to introduce you to Evolution of An Idea's new mascot: Headless Eric. He's going to accompany most of my posts from now on. Go easy on him, he is a simple fella.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why Comics? Part 2

Welcome back, Meat-Heads!

Ok so I covered the more abstract reasons to do comics, and that's all well and good, but in terms of practicality, why comics? Well basically what it comes down to is the two things that make this whole world go around: money and control. Creative arts have this sort of unfortunate crutch in order to get any success (and we're talking success in the broadest sense of the term--i.e. being well paid for what you do and having many people see it--not some sort of "personal" definition of success), in that you have to get your stuff seen/published/whatever by the biggest names in the business, but the biggest names want proven talent--stuff they can bank on--so are many times not super willing to take any chances. They have the money, therefore they control who sees your work. Along with that, many times, comes control of the content and almost certainly editorial control, etc etc.

Now, up until about 10 years or so ago, this is how comics worked: the major companies would solicit books through a major distributor, who would then sell the books to comic book stores, leaving any book that was published by an independent company or person to try incredibly hard to get their books picked up by the distributor, or to fend for themselves, going store to store hoping to get dedicated sellers. For anyone looking to self publish, what you had to look forward to was dollar after dollar sunk into printing costs, after putting so much work in, only to end up with 100 copies of your first issue sitting in a box somewhere in your basement because you went broke trying to get the book off the ground. In this case, you kept your control, but blew all your money.

But then came the internet.

The internet has revolutionized the way an independent, self publisher can go about getting his or her product out there. Now, with web comics, you can instantly make your comic available to millions of people with the click of a button. Though getting a website and stuff like that can cost money, there ARE ways (through blogs very much like this one) that you can publish your book independently, online, for zero dollars out of your pocket, other than what it costs to produce the art! In this case, you control the money, because you're not spending any, and you also get to maintain all the creative control of the project, and you get to reap all the benefits down the line when millions of people discover your book and become loyal, merchandise-buying Getting the people out there to find, read, and stick with your book is another beast all together, though.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!