Rewriting History

Returning to work you did decades ago and preparing it for a new release is a tricky thing. As an artist and perfectionist, you have to resist the urge to tamper with it. You have to accept that there are already plenty of fans who enjoyed it the way it was, love it for what it is, and don’t want their memory of it soiled by your compulsion to “fix” things. No, it’s not how you would have done it today, and that’s okay. It’s a snapshot of who you once were as a creator, and that’s worth preserving.

You can’t go and arbitrarily change things, even with the best of intentions. That would make you no better than George Lucas. And the next thing you know, you’re selling your baby to a corporate conglomerate for a measly four billion dollars—barely enough money to keep you in flannel shirts, and certainly not enough to pay for that life-saving chin-transplant surgery you so desperately need.

Revisiting the first two volumes of Longshot Comics, I saw a thousand little things I might have tweaked today. But I was firm in my conviction to preserve them as milestones in my career, if not outright monuments. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a bit of a spit-and-polish. But I kept the editing down to a bare minimum. You would have to be some sort of obsessive superfan to spot the changes. The previously mentioned switch to all-British spelling is the most obvious alteration. Some added commas and slightly rearranged text within individual panels should be invisible. There are a number of word substitutions and trims here and there, but nothing important that modifies content or meaning. Mostly it’s about flow. I also discovered one or two typos that survived the ages. They were corrected. Hopefully I haven’t added any new ones.

So rest assured, even with the new format and the recreated artwork, these are the Longshot Comics of old. I did not paste any windows onto Cloud City. I did not remove anybody’s eyebrows during a grand unmasking. And Roland Gethers still shoots first.

Book Three was a different matter. Two-thirds of the script had languished on my hard drive for years. I’d started writing it after The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers came out in 1997, but petered out, suffering from Longshot exhaustion (a feeling I have become reacquainted with over the course of the past year). I’d open the file and add to it periodically, but it felt like it would never get done. No matter how many lines of dialogue or scenes I wrote, it seemed to be perpetually trapped at two-thirds—well short of the 3840-panel mark I was shooting for again.

Over the years, I turned down offers to reprint the first two volumes, determined that I would only do so when Book Three could be published right alongside them. More than once I rattled my tin cup at the Canada Council for the Arts to see if I could get some funding to incentivize myself. I was met with blank stares and dead air. Critical darling or not, my brand of artsy-fartsy was not artistic enough, nor flatulent enough, for their tastes. It took one of my foreign-language publishers to come at me with an advance to finally light a fire under my ass.

Revising an old, incomplete script, was not a crime against preservation to me. But I still retained a certain amount of material I liked, even knowing that’s not quite how I would write it today if presented with nothing more than a blank page and a vague notion. The end result is a hybrid of who I was back then and who I am now. The mix works, the humour is a few shades darker than ever before, and, unless I’m deluding myself, I think it’s the best book in the trilogy. Chronologically, The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers takes place before the other two volumes, and is as fine a place as any to start reading the Longshot Comics Saga.

So when is this long-awaited release?

Hint: all three books are already out on Amazon in Kindle ebook and paperback as of several hours ago. I’ll be announcing it here officially, with links and covers and all that good stuff, just as soon as Amazon finishes merging the digital and physical editions and adding them to my author page. If you’ve read this far, and are an eager beaver, I’m sure you can find them on the site yourself and be among the very first people on earth to buy copies. Or read them for free on Kindle Unlimited.