Monday, December 20, 2010

What've You Got Planned?

Looks like Eric has a bit of a tactical disadvantage to over come here! He really should have planned...a-head (BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)

Anyway, this is it, Meat-Heads!

So after all this time, all this blabbing, what's the endgame here? What are my plans for this magnum opus known as Dead Meat? Well, after a long time and lots of consideration, I decided that I could spend the rest of my life waiting around for this thing to get picked up by a publisher, or whatever, and I'd be doing just that: waiting. I decided it was time to tackle this baby on my own. However, in this day and age it's not as simple as printing up a bunch of copies and going to your local store and begging for them to put your hard work on their shelf. Actually, as far as print goes--it's practically impossible.


Nowadays, anyone can publish their own original content, and become a succes over night! Case in point:

However, it's not quite as easy as that. You still need to network, market, get the word out, and most importantly, you have to come to terms with the fact that, for the most part, people don't like paying for stuff. So that's why I decided to post Dead Meat on the world wide web, absolutely free!
"Surely you can't be serious!"
Well I am surely...and don't call me serious. Wait...scratch that...reverse it.
"But how are you supposed to make any money?"
Truthfully, very slowly. The idea here is to present the product for free, but then to make your money on peripheral things such as merchandise, convention appearances, original art, and then eventually selling hard-copy collections of your book packed with all sorts of extras that will entice your audience to want to revisit your book that they fell in love with all those years ago!

What it comes down to is patience. It's a lot of work, and the reward is slow, and honestly, you really have to love it to be able to stick with it. I said at the beginning of this blog that this was a lot like jumping out of an airplane without a parachute, and I still believe that. This is going to be a learning process for me, and hopefully as I stick with it, it's just going to get better and better, and to be completely honest, I can't wait to start it. I can't wait to finally take this story I've been cradling for the better part of 10 years and COMPLETE it. I can't wait to see where my characters go, and I really hope that the characters and the stories are good enough that people are just as excited as I am to see where they go, and ultimately where they end up.

This blog will continue as the official Dead Meat blog, but this will be the last post here until January 1st, when I officially launch my comic at As of of 12:01, January 1st, 2011, will be your window into the chaos and excitement that is the world of Dead Meat.

I invite you all to check it out, and comment, and make suggestions, and hopefully enjoy the product as much as I've enjoyed the process.

Until Next Time....

Monday, December 13, 2010

(Punny Title About Character)

I'm back from the dead, Meat-Heads! Sorry for the radio silence over the past week or so!

Let's take a trip back to the subject of characters. So when I was coming up with my core characters for Dead Meat, I took a look at some of the things I didn't like about the way a lot of other undead-related media out there, and obviously tried to do something different. Many of them were heavily realistic (well I mean as realistic as one can really be in this genre), and I kind of felt like sometimes characters visually all ran together. Maybe that was some sort of metaphorical comment on linking the characters to the undead, but maybe the artist or designer just really likes drawing people in t-shirts. Who's to say, really? Anyway, it was about this time that I remembered my mantra: "It's a comic book!" and made it a point to inject some individuality and excitement into my characters, and one major influence I drew on was G.I. Joe. I mean say what you want about G.I. Joe, the one thing they were great at was making very distinct looking characters with very distinct attributes:

Each one had a unique look, voice, and personality. It was with this in mind that I started crafting the basis for the concept (I used to describe it as G.I. Joe meets Dawn of the Dead), and as I've stated before, it was a lot lighter and more carefree, not unlike G.I. Joe, but as I got into the meat (BWAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA) of the characters, another pet peeve of mine really started to stick out.

Characters in these post-apocalyptic stories are mostly either people who are dealing with the situation as it unfolds (Dawn of the Dead, The Road), or people who are firmly entrenched in the crappy world that now exists (A Boy and His Dog, Road Warrior), and are usually either really young or over 30. Anyone in between is usually a background character, and not paid a lot of attention to. Now, again, Dead Meat was conceived as a silly story about a group of late teens/early twenty-somethings running amok in the undead wasteland. Well as I thought more about that concept I started to take it pretty seriously, and it really started to appeal to me. I started to become fascinated with the idea of focusing on a group of guys old enough to remember the world before the apocalypse, but young enough to have spent their most character-forming years surviving and adapting to a world-wide 180 degree shift of lifestyle toward violence and death and truly incredible circumstances. They're really stuck in the middle in this weird place, and I thought that really lent itself to exploring some interesting character traits.

Now doesn't that mean that I have to change all my character designs to guys in matching black body suits? Huh? Doesn't it? I thought that was how you portrayed those kinds of changes! Like this:

Nope, that isn't what that means at all! Add as much Dennis-Quaid-Face as you want, but taking a character seriously is not about changing the color of its costume and adding a permanent scowl, it's about taking the CHARACTER seriously! It's more like this:

When Frank Miller revamped Batman, he stripped away all the goofiness that had come to be associated with the character, and explored its dark, brutal core all without having to change him out of his classic costume, pointy ears and all. So what am I getting at? Well I guess what I'm trying to say is have faith in the characters you design, inside and out. Or maybe I'm saying that Bat-Ape was a bad direction to take the character in. Or maybe that wrapping a character in black leather doesn't make it more "real." Or maybe that Dennis Quaid's face only makes one expression. Regardless, just remember that you can take a character (or characters) seriously without sacrificing any of the fun that makes the characters exciting in the process--I mean this is all supposed to be fun isn't it? Right?

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Uh oh...looks like someone's fed up with Eric's shenanigans!

So I want to kind of do a follow up on the last post about violence. I'd like to talk specifically about guns, and their use in drama. This was sort of fueled by a discussion I had with a friend of mine about this past sunday's episode of a certain horror-based television show.

So let's get right to the point: GUNS DO NOT EQUAL DRAMA. There is nothing I hate (HATE) more than when, in a dramatic scene or work, someone tries to ratchet up the tension and the suspense by having a character (or characters) pull out a gun. Now, I can understand why a writer would think this is a good idea, and that is best summed up by renowned screen writer of the Agent: Michael Scarn series:

I get it. Guns are dangerous, guns are volatile, guns have repercussions, and could go off at any time: what a perfect metaphor for a tense, dramatic scene (Why do Western duels work so well? Because we KNOW that someone is going to DIE)! Yeah, well, it's also a very lazy writing crutch beloved by lazy and/or bad writers. I was going to put up a clip from Tommy Wiseau's The Room, which is a tour de force of epically bad writing/execution (or is it an epically executed comedy? Who's to say?), but I thought that would be too easy. So Then I thought about R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet, but that's waaaaaaaay too long to post here, but then I remembered this South Park clip that hits the nail on the head:

It's a shame I can't post the entirety of Trapped in the Closet, as it totally encapsulates trying to manufacture drama through tricks and cliches.

Anyway, so if one guy having a gun is lame, how lame is multiple guys having guns? Really lame, unless you're Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino makes it work because he recognizes what pulling a gun on someone means, and has no qualms about executing everyone in the room in order to display that. Those scenes are never toothless arguments that end in someone caving in order to move the scene along, they almost exclusively end with everything falling into chaos. Assuming you're not Tarantino, drawing a gun on a guy who has a gun, in a room full of guys who have guns is completely redundant, because if the gun symbolizes power, then there is no upper hand because everyone in the room has the equal amount of power! Not to mention, this whole cliche usually happens at a point in the script where you KNOW no one is going to get killed, or even shot, so 9 times out of 10 the audience isn't buying it anyway! If the audience knows it's just lame posturing, then why on earth would the character with the gun in his face feel any different?

As I said previously, guns are now forever linked with the undead, on a count of them being the most visceral, visually explosive way to dispatch them. This is fine, but I think when one is trying to tell a story about character conflict and interactions, guns shouldn't be part of the equation unless your characters are legitimately going to use them. If you've got an hour and a half to kill, do yourself a favor and re-watch Night of the Living Dead. It's a great character study about a group of people with volatile states of mind dealing with the tension of the situation they're in, AND THERE ARE NO GUNS! Ok, maybe there's like ONE gun, but even so, by the time it's taken out and used to threaten someone, it's already very clear that someone might seriously get shot.

In summation, GUNS DO NOT EQUAL DRAMA, and if you don't agree with me I swear to God I will shoot you.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Oh what the hell:

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Hey, Meat-Heads! While Eric really puts his mind to improving his swing, we're going to talk about...


RAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!! (It's amazing how many appropriate clips this movie provides!)

So, violence. Violence, more specifically ultra-violence, has been associated with the the living impaired ever since George Romero fired off the (head)shot heard round the world:

(Warning, not really suitable for work or kids)

This was essentially the beginning of the modern marriage of the undead monster and large caliber firearms, which have lived happily ever since. Along the way, the happy couple gave birth to buckets and buckets of gore glowing in all shades of red to the delight of audiences around the world. The Italians upped the ante with eyeball punctures and brain squishing, a bearded, hobbit-like man from New Zealand showed us the best use for a chest mounted lawn mower, and most recently, the Norwegians painted the mountains red with a snowmobile-mounted WWII-era machine gun. I can assure you all that Dead Meat follows right along in that fine tradition.

However, violence is tricky. I don't think I really need to state that I hate violence, which I do, but at the same time, artistically I do find it effective and actually quite aesthetically pleasing and cathartic in some cases. I think my perception and respect for violence has changed a lot in the past 10 years or so, and as that has changed, so has my approach to how I deal with it in the story. Make no mistake, Dead Meat is violent. It's very violent. It deals with violent people doing violent things to other people and undead alike. Initially, in the first drafts of the story, the violence was a lot lighter in tone, a little more carefree, but as it evolved, I realized that it needed a much harder edge. To tell the story I wanted to tell, I needed it to be clear that a. the world is a DANGEROUS one, and b. my main group of characters are just as dangerous and just as hard as the world they live in. I actually realized that my main group of characters' point of view toward the violence they commit IS actually pretty light and carefree--they kill people who get in the way of their goals as quickly as you'd kill a fly--and I realized that was a very important character trait.

Violence can be scary, violence can be funny, violence can be inappropriate, violence can be cathartic. As you go through your own stories, if they include violence, don't be afraid to really think about what purpose violence serves, and the approach with which you depict it.

With that in mind:

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

p.s. This is another multi-faceted topic, so I encourage discussion in the comments section!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Written Word!

Hello again, Meat-Heads!

It seems Eric here is writing me a nasty letter because it's been so long since I've posted, and I can't say I blame him!

So at this point in the chronicling of how Dead Meat has been shaping up, I've talked about over-thinking lots of things, lots of elements, and how this can get in your way when trying to get things on paper. Well, when it came to actually getting things on paper, i.e. writing my story, I didn't so much over-think it as much as have a ton of false starts. I've talked previously about how story elements changed, plots changed, characters changed, tone changed, etc, and I think it was this state of flux that prevented me from writing anything substantial up until the most recent incarnation of the story. To date, I think I've actually written and re-written what would become the first issue.....maybe 5 or 6 times over the past 10 years. Now I don't think that this is a bad thing, as if it wasn't for all those previous drafts I had done, I wouldn't have gotten to the stage I am now. I think, much like the evolution of art style, all the hacking away I did showed me what worked, what didn't, what I liked, and what needed to go.

I knew from the get go that I didn't want to do an outbreak story. As I said before, the very first incarnation of the story featured my characters as an extermination-type group, much like Ghostbusters. While this idea was sort of fun, I didn't get very far, and I felt like it wasn't very relatable. The next version was completely different, and focused on a young girl named Ashley and her brother Georgie, and was set up like a Wizard of Oz-type story where Ashley and Georgie were thrust into this horror-filled world after Ashley woke up from a coma. The idea here was to have the girl and her brother stand in for the reader who is thrust into a crazy, incredible situation. This concept felt a lot better, because I really liked the idea of having this group of extra-ordinary characters who are just larger than life compared to Ashley and Georgie who interact with them. However, I wrote myself into a corner because I realized that I had so much fun writing writing my characters that I kept trying to find a way to get rid of or ignore Ashley and Georgie, so I could focus on my guys.

This, along with the sheer number of characters I wanted to play with, led me to structure it in a new way, which is how it currently exists. Instead of dumping Ashley and Georgie, I broke the structure into multiple stories that would then criss-cross at certain points. This allowed me to introduce a lot of characters, and in the future would allow me to jump around with who I focus on without feeling like I'm flat out neglecting others.

I think this change in structure and approach has been really beneficial to the project as a whole, because once I determined a structure that felt good and somewhat natural, it really allowed the stories I wanted to tell to start flowing out easier. So at the end of the day, it's one thing to be over-obsessive about perfection, but it's another thing to know when something's not working, and to find a new way to approach. I think being able to recognize when something's not working, and being open to re-working it, is a really important attribute to develop as you develop your writing.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

Welcome back, Meat-Heads--Looks like Eric has quite the decision to make before he starts his day!

Ugh. Sometimes you just suck. I had a drawing day like that yesterday, and it was INCREDIBLY frustrating. I was going to do a woe-is-me, everybody has bad days post yesterday while I wallowed in my distaste with my work, but I thought HEY! When I get over the block, why not talk about it here! So that's what I'm gonna do.

So I was working on this page from Dead Meat #2, and I got to the last panel, and it just was NOT coming together. After slamming my head against the board all day like so:

I realized that the reason it wasn't coming together was because I hadn't taken the time to think out the panel. I mean seriously, look at the breakdown I did for it:

There's a general idea of what's going on, but no thought was given to any of the background, any light sources--nothing other than rough composition and loose stick figures. I shot a couple reference photos, but not many, and tried to hack it together with what I had. This is where I was when I gave up:

It's.....ok? It's pretty boring, and it wasn't really getting across what I wanted. So, I went back to the drawing board the next day literally (BWAAAHAHAHAHAHAHA...ugh...), and worked out a new breakdown for the panel, which looked like this:

See here, the emphasis is a lot more on lighting and mood, and played to more of my strengths, which the other composition did not. I felt that this change was a much welcomed improvement, and I completed the panel and I think the end result is much stronger than the other would have been:

So what did I learn? Well, I didn't so much learn something, as much as have something I already knew reinforced. I always used to brush off doing my breakdowns as something I could do super quick and get to the work. HOWEVER, what might not be the obvious thing is that the breakdowns ARE the work. That's where all your thinking needs to be done, where you plan out what you're going to do. The breakdowns are baking the cake, and the actual drawing is the frosting. Or the breakdowns are the foundation, and the drawing is the...roof... Or...The breakdowns are the...body snatching...and the drawings are the lightning storm that brings your horrible creation to life? Hell, I don't know, you get the idea, leave me alone.

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You got STYLE, kid!

Howdy, Meat-Heads!

Eric just got a brand-new suit, and doesn't he look sharp! With this in mind I want to talk a bit about style. I've been having style issues lately, in terms of how I do things, how I want to do things, and how it seems things should be done. Style can get pretty tricky. We all have an idea in our heads of how we want our work to look, and sometimes after a while you find that your tastes have changed. This can really wreak havoc on how you approach certain things.

As I said a while back, one of my main hangups when it came to actually starting Dead Meat was feeling that I wasn't up to snuff in drawing ability, and in a similar vein I felt stylistically I wasn't at a point where my work felt real. That might be a weird way to describe it, but I think you know what I'm talking about: some times your work just doesn't feel like it's real--like it's a cohesive, competent work--and then sometimes it does. It wasn't until the past couple years that I really got a handle on the way I draw, and the way I like my comics to look. Strangely enough, my current style is sort of an amalgam of a bunch of different avenues I tried out separately. Here's a guide of the visual evolution of the character of Foley from Dead Meat:
Figure 1: the earliest depiction of the character, obviously. Now, some people might actually like that style, but to me, it wasn't what I was looking for. It didn't feel real. It was unrefined, the anatomy is garbage, and the level of skill just wasn't up to my own demands.
Figure 2: This is the first evolution of my style. Up until then I never inked my own stuff, and I think you can see that here--the inking is pretty scratchy and not very intelligent. However, in terms of acting and body language, I think this is a huuuuge jump from Figure 1. I still didn't feel like it was what I wanted though.
Figure 3: This is where everything changed. Figure 3 is when I felt like I broke through the wall. I'm much more confident in my inking, and my discovery of all the ways you can use a white-out pen really rocketed my work forward. This is how I wanted my work to look. This is the first time it felt "real."
Figure 4: This is how it looks today, 10 years after I first started drawing the character. I've refined what I started in Figure 3, and I've also added some ink wash for effect that I think adds a cool look to everything. By the same token, I find myself drifting away from the white-out pen. I still use it a lot, but I'm a little more confident with it now, and don't feel the need to cover the entire page with white-out scratches.

Similarly, even though I'm happy with my current style, I find that it's still changing. The problem now is, I'm not totally sure where it's going, and I'm not sure if I like that. Working on this book has caused me to have to change the way I work a little, to increase my speed, and I get worried that the way my style changes from here on out will be because of time restrictions, and not because of me getting better, but at the same time I do feel that the more I do the better I get, so it's really tough to say.

I'll touch on some of the ways I've specifically changed my process in a future post, but for now, I'd love to hear all of your thoughts on style and change in your own style, regardless of your creative field, so feel free to discuss in the comment section!

Until next time,

Eat Dead Meat!

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!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Comics?

So I said previously that if there's a running theme among what I have to say concerning writing and characters and all that hub bub, it's that it's important to remember that you are creating a comic book/strip, not real life. What does that mean exactly, and why is it important? Well as it pertains to Dead Meat, as the idea and concept evolved, it went through a couple tonal changes as well. Initially I wanted to bring some grim reality to the concept, as the best movies in the genre did so well, seeing as I didn't know of any comics at that point that did such a thing. Then, someone beat me to it. At the end of the day though I'm glad they did, as it made me reassess my whole outlook on what I was doing, the medium in which I was working, and what I loved about it. I remembered the escapism that helped form the idea, and my love of extraordinary, flawed characters put into tense, extraordinary situations--characters who sometimes do things as utterly fantastic as the world in which they exist.

A teacher of mine once told me a story about a famous comic book creator who was once asked why he chose to work in comics. He proceeded to take a blank sheet of paper, dip his brush into some ink, and draw a circle on the paper.
"See that?" he said, "I've just created a universe. I've created all the worlds, all the people, every little tiny detail down to the color of the wings on the bugs, and it's all come from me." He then dipped his brush back into the ink, and with two movements of his wrist, slashed an X through the circle.
"And now I've just destroyed it."
When you play around in reality's world, you have to play by reality's rules. When you're making a comic, something wholly original, the only rules you have to obey are your own.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Publish? No, I Can't Draw Well Enough

So you've got your ideas, you've got your story, you've got your characters, but what's this thing going to look like? I think if you're an artist, this is where a lot of people get hung up on perfection--I know I did. If drawing is what you do, that's going to be the part you inevitably pay the most attention to, and why not? The drawings are the visual representation of your idea, and will be what grabs a reader's attention at a split second glance, or what makes them say "meh," and walk away. This is a HUGE amount of pressure to be under.

Personally, this alone was probably the main thing that was stopping me from moving forward and creating Dead Meat as a fully realized comic for a long while (well that and money, but that's a topic for a different time!). It was what I spent the most time slaving over, refining, re-working, and mostly I think this was out of fear. My feelings about the whole thing are best summed up in a quote from a hero of mine, Marty Mcfly:

"What if I take the [comic] in and they don't like it, what if they say I'm no good, what if they say 'Get out of here kid. You've got no future.' I just don't think I can handle that kind of rejection."

This is a real easy state of mind to wallow in, and it wasn't until I really took a look around me at other people who were out there producing content. The internet is filled with all sorts of comic strips of vary degrees of art levels from stick figures to fully finished comics from industry professionals, and the only difference between you and them is the fact that they're actually DOING it.

Now that's all well and good, but how do you get that nagging quest for perfectionism that constantly says "it's not good enough. It's not good enough" to shut the hell up? Well I'll tell you: you have to realize that you are going to get better. Even when you've reached "perfection" you're still going to have things to learn and ways to improve, so why wait?

My example for the day is the greatest cartoon show in the history of television: The Simpsons.
If you've ever seen the shorts from The Tracy Ullman Show you're well aware that The Simpsons, in its original incarnation was pretty terrible! The drawings were crude, as was the animation, and everything was just generally unrefined. However, as the show continued, the writing, the drawing and all the other aspects like the world and the peripheral characters grew and tightened up, and even now, 20 years later, production of the show continues to evolve as techniques and tools change with technology.

So here I am, gearing up for the first issue of my comic because I fretted over perfection, instead of being 10 years into my story, with art that continues to evolve and change. This is why the subtitle of this blog says "Just Do It." In the age of the internet which we live in, the only thing that's really stopping you from doing this is yourself. Or, as my hero Marty McFly also said:

"If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything."

Monday, September 20, 2010

These Stories Change Every Time I Tell Them

So You've got your world, you've got your characters, so now what? What's gonna go on in this world? What're these characters gonna do?

As I said a couple posts before, I was first ahead of the ball with a certain genre trend, and now that I've spent the better part of 10 years sitting on my duff coming up with reasons not to move forward with it, I've officially MISSED most of the lucrativeness of that genre trend. As you can probably figure out what trend that is (I'm not going to use the word, as that's part of my approach to the material, as I feel like throwing around the Z word at this point unfortunately garners some schlocky connotations and that's not what I want to associate myself with), you might say "hey, Clay, why even bother at this point? Why not pick a different genre?" Well the answer is, I thought about it, but in the end my story REQUIRED that genre. It wouldn't work without that certain ghastly element, and I feel that's something you should consider with any story you're trying to tell. If you're working in a genre, if you're trying to do more than just capitalize on certain trends, ask yourself what it is about that genre that you find appealing, and more importantly, why is it that your story requires that setting?

For example, there's a certain massively popular comic (and soon to be tv) series that has been praised as the "ultimate" example of its genre, and has become the standard by which all other products in said genre are judged against. However, I think all this praise is rather misplaced, as, quality of the actual storytelling aside, the genre which it has "mastered" and "revolutionized" is BARELY a backdrop and practically irrelevant to anything that's going on with the characters. You could take every event and character in that book, place it in any other "disaster" or genre situation, and have practically nothing change.

On the other hand, take Romero's original Dawn of the Dead. Back before he started getting literal with his themes and messages (has anyone seen the first remake of Night of the Living Dead? Is there anything worse than when the girl practically looks in the camera and says "they're us?"), he let the genre he chose (invented?) speak for him. Instead of just using them as a throwaway disaster scenario or an excuse for gore, he actually makes the walking undead work as satire. Look at the creatures independently of the humans moving the story along for a second. In his original Night of the Living Dead the creatures are intensely frightening, as they are this approaching, unknown force that assimilates everything in its path. In Dawn, however, he takes the same monster and skulks them mindlessly toward the consumer mecca of a shopping mall (which was a relatively new concept at the time). Though they're still there to eat people and cause chaos, their main purpose is to act as a commentary (ugh i hate that word, but anyway) on what Romero saw as a mindless generation of consumer-driven people who spend their all their time wandering aimlessly around shopping malls. That specific concept doesn't hold up if you switch in vampires, or werewolves, or Frankensteins, or Aliens, or pod-people, or anything other than what he chose.

In regards to Dead Meat I struggled for a while getting to a point where I felt that the genre in which I chose to work became crucial to my story. Initially it was just an excuse for massive, splatter-filled, escapist violence, but as my characters evolved into more than just gun wielding maniacs, the genre turned into something that was crucial to the story I wanted to tell. Its first incarnation saw my team of heroes wandering the landscape of the walking undead as a sort of Ghostbuster-esque team of hunters who were called in to take out any pesky ghouls who wouldn't stay dead. This concept, while fun, could exist in practically any genre situation--just the fact that I likened it to Ghostbusters in order to describe it shows that the genre isn't crucial to its existence. Its next incarnation was more of a Mad Max-y post apocalypse situation. Again, not essential. Then I added a girl and her younger brother as the central characters who encounter my group of guys in a Wizard of Oz-type manner. See the trend here?

Now I'm not saying any of these concepts are inherently bad, or even that I haven't held on to certain parts of them along the way, but it wasn't until I worked out the current incarnation of my story that I felt the genre finally became CRUCIAL to the story I wanted to tell.

What did I do to make it that way? That would be telling! You'll have to read Dead Meat to find out!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Quite the Character, Aren't We?

So today I want to talk about characters. This isn't "how to create characters," or a step by step process to creating them, but more of a discussion of how the definition of characters you've already created can evolve over time, and how this is something that should be embraced--as long as it's a step forward and not back.

The characters in Dead Meat have changed quite a bit over time, but the one thing that has stayed constant is their basis in friends of mine in the real world. After our viewing of Dawn of the Dead, these good friends of mine were part of the "wouldn't it be cool if..." conversation, so naturally the immediate reaction for me was to base these characters on all of them. This is a fine idea, and a great place to start, but in order to let these characters grow, you have to, as I said in the last post, use this as a jumping off point for something new to emerge.

I find it fairly easy to spot when you're trying to "write your friends" as opposed to writing characters--this usually entails bad jokes, bad dialogue, and references that no one by you and yours will get--and I am guilty of it myself. After creating the characters, who at this point WERE my friends, I started writing a blog that was a serialized, prose account of the "origin" of these characters and world. Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with this if you want your audience to be limited to those in the know, as mine was, but if you want to expand your audience and turn these caricatures into real CHARACTERS, you have let some of that stuff go.

For an example, I'll use the character of Greg. I pick Greg because at the time, I didn't really know what to do with him as a character. Upon his creation, Greg was just another fictionalized rendering of one of my friends: he was part of the team, had his unique character props of six-shooters and cowboy boots, and he flew a helicopter. Aside from that, his presence in terms of the story, was pretty inconsequential and not really any different from any of the other characters. Even his design was pretty boring, in that he was just a dude in a button-down shirt that he wore open. He basically just looked like a normal, real-life guy.

Then I remembered (and if there's a running theme in my discussions of writing and characters and whatever, it's probably this) that I wasn't writing real life--I was writing a comic book. The very first change that I made was I took him off of the team of guys. The second, and probably the most important change, was I put him in a three-piece suit. For SOME reason, after that change the flood gates opened, and the characteristics of Greg as he now exists in the story came oozing out. I say oozing because as soon as I put that suit on him, he turned into a slimy, nasty dude. He became a womanizer, a murderer, and all-in-all he became a total self-centered BASTARD.

Now, this is NOT AT ALL what my friend Greg is like in real life! He's a great guy, and one of my closest friends. However, once again, I'm not writing real life, I'm writing a comic book, and that means that I can take this mold of a character based on my real life friend, scoop out all of real-life Greg from the inside, and use that mold to create a character who lives as a part of the world I've created, and not as one who was just inserted there.

Also, one last thing: if you're basing characters on friends or whatever, don't be afraid of them getting mad when you turn "their characters" into horrible people or someone that is clearly not "them." Those characters AREN'T really them, and besides, if your friends have the same sense of humor as you they'll probably love it and still just be psyched they're "in" a comic book or movie or other fictional venue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

So How'd This Whole Thing Start, Anyway?

So, as I said in the previous post, all of this was started by George Romero's movie Dawn of the Dead, specifically this scene:

Now, obviously Romero is trying to make a statement about American culture and its obsession with violence or something something something, but clearly as 16 year olds all we took away from it was "man, it would be so cool to go around hunting the undead," because hey, we were 16 year old Americans obsessed with violence!

That being said, it was the inspiration of this movie and the fantastical, post-apocalyptic dreams of a group of teenagers that led me to sketch up a bunch of characters the next (or possibly even THAT) night, sparking a concept, and ruining the margins and rear sections of school notebooks for years to come.

Now, the topic of inspiration is a tricky one. Growing up in the age of Puff Daddy, Quentin Tarantino and the Simpsons, one can very easily be of the mindset that appropriating someone else's creative ideas is ok, as long as you cite your theft as an "homage," or "inspiration," or "influence." Many times in the history of Dead Meat I have made the comment "do you know where I got that from?" or something to that extent, and I think it's an approach to creativity that has become all too prevalent these days. In reality, for those of us who aren't Quentin Tarantino or The Simpsons ( I'm looking at you, Diddy), this approach is just a cover for bad writing, or bad art, and really shouldn't be encouraged.


I believe there is a difference between straight up ripping something off, and using it as a jumping off point to create something new and original. Director Francis Ford Coppola says:

"A number of images put together a certain way become something quite above and beyond what any of them are individually."

This applies to the notion of inspiration and influence absolutely. Having influences and drawing from them, even on a very very literal scale, is how we, as artists, grow and progress. It's not a matter of what influences you draw from, it's HOW you draw from them and use them to find your own voice in what you do that is original.

Next time: more on the process of character creation and evolution

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Looking out the airplane door before I jump

I know all creative people have ideas. Good ideas, bad ideas, ideas that we only like parts of, ideas that we give away to others, and that we keep close to the vest and refine. We re-work it, we re-write, re-draw, re-think, going over details and plot lines, compositions and formats until we reach a point in that we believe it's complete. It's done. It's ready to be put into production.

I also know that, as a creative person, that level of perfection will never come. The nature of being a creative person is to be your own harshest critic, and no doubt you will go back and look at changes you made the day before and already be dissatisfied with them. You'll continue in this cycle, and nothing will ever move forward.

Dead Meat is one of those ideas. 10 years ago I saw Dawn of the Dead for the first time. 9 years and 364 days ago I came up for the basis of what would (will?) become Dead Meat. I was ahead of trends that I've now missed, but I've stuck with the idea because I believe in it. I've brought it before the attention of a few comic book publishers, I've published short stories based on its characters in Heavy Metal Magazine, but ultimately I've never REALLY done anything with it. It remained stuck in the idea stage mainly because I believed that producing it as a comic was something I couldn't do by myself.

Finally after all this time I'm going to produce the book myself because in this era of the internet and digital media I CAN do it myself, and this blog is dedicated to following that process. I'll cover the entire evolution of Dead Meat from its original incarnation up through how it exists currently, and into its publication as an online comic book. I'm jumping out of the airplane, and whether or not I have a parachute has yet to be seen.

I invite all of you out there to follow me as I stop worrying and learn to just DO it. Because if I can, that means you can too.