Moved to Tears

The first person on earth has now read Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers. It was the gentleman translating it for the Italian edition from Prospettiva Globale. “Moved to tears” was the verdict. “A few times,” no less.

And yes, it was intentional. There are plenty of jokes throughout, but it also gets into the feels by the end. Dots and toilet humour can, when played correctly, conspire to make you cry.

Work continues to march along. It’s still too early to give you a solid release date for Book Three or the reprints of One and Two. The covers, at least, are just about done, but there remains a lot of heavy lifting to be done for the interiors of the first two volumes.

I am reliably informed that December is a terrible time to publish anything new, so I expect early 2018 is going to be it. Appropriate really. Next year marks the 25th anniversary of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. If that makes you feel old, think how it makes me feel. That’s right, old and tired.

In the meantime, Raw and Other Stories is being offered for free to the wider public for the first time ever this weekend. It’s part of October’s Mystery and Thriller sale, which is full of fun free ebooks for you to grab while the grabbin’s good. Follow the links, click, tap, swipe, or do whatever it is you crazy kids get up to with your devices, and get reading.

Dead Trees

A two-month break is a long non-blogging stretch at Eyestrain Productions, but rest assured it’s been all work and no fun. After the not-so-subtle hinty post in July, I can now officially confirm that Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers exists. In some form. Just not a purchasable form…yet.

The Italian edition is off for translation, and work on reprints of Book One and Two continues.

The proof is in the dog-eared proof copy. Finnegan expresses as much curiosity about Book Three of Longshot Comics as any other long-time reader.

And then becomes its first critic by shoving pages off the table.

Meanwhile, paperback editions of Necropolis and Raw await my final seal of approval before being made available through Amazon.

And my contributor copy of Part VII of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories has arrived. My story “The Adventure of the Mind’s Eye” bookends this edition with Jack Reacher author, Lee Child’s foreword. Retail copies are available at the end of October, but you can pre-order now.

Proof of Life

Filmography is entering the final stretch as I continue to tinker with the formatting. It currently only exists as an eBook on my Kindle, but it will be available through Amazon before the month is out. Preview copies will go out to those who expressed an interest in the coming week. You can still get on that list by dropping me a note through the contact page.

kindlefilmographyMeanwhile, my next novel, twice the length of Filmography, is undergoing final proofing before facing the same process.

anniemanuscriptAs you can see, my proofreader’s cat, Annie, is enjoying my manuscript to the full, and I can’t think of a more ringing endorsement. If only such a sentiment could be expressed in an Amazon or Goodreads review.

In other news, Rich Johnston has dropped another Longshot Comics reference on Bleeding Cool, leading to the latest round of queries: Where can I get a copy? When will it be back in print?

Soon.

Soonish.

Really, I’m going to get to it right after I’m done with shoving these novels out the door.

I need a staff.

Everybody Out of the (Dead)Pool!

I went to see a movie called Deadpool last night. Maybe you’ve heard about it. Despite the title, it’s not about callous assholes predicting celebrity deaths. Imagine, instead, if Bugs Bunny were an insane, mass-murdering, sex-obsessed superhero who knows he’s in a movie and breaks the fourth wall constantly. That’s pretty much it. Plus it’s a Marvel movie that seems intent on bridging multiple studio continuities. And why the hell not? It’s not like they’re paying all that much attention to their own continuities these days. Once you start recasting and throwing around time-travel plots willy-nilly, it all comes crashing down sooner or later.

Ryan Reynolds returns as Deadpool. Yes, returns. You may remember the character from the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, or the better liked proof-of-concept short that helped sell the studio suits on the idea of producing an R-rated Marvel movie again. The last one attempted was the universally ignored Punisher: War Zone which, because of its pitch-black sense of humour and excessive violence, has since become a cult film in certain circles. Well, Patton Oswalt seems to really like it at any rate.

Being that this was a premiere, we were instructed not to text, Twitter, Facebook or blog about the movie before its actual release date. To which I say: fuck that. What’s the point of freebie advanced screenings if not to generate buzz? Somebody failed their Marketing 101 course.

But this wasn’t the only silly draconian rule we were subjected to.

“No phones!” we were instructed as we entered. “Phones off!”

As the last holdout on Earth who refuses to get a phone, cell or smart, even I thought this was ridiculous. Concerns about piracy abound (though the joys of watching a movie shot from a phone escape me) and phones during a movie are obnoxious, but it was an hour before the screening. Of course people are going to pass the time diddling around with their phones. These demands were flatly ignored, everybody got their texting and browsing done and, for the first screening I can remember in a long time, I didn’t see anybody’s devices on once the film began.

Had I the option, I might have thrown a couple of my own rules into the mix. Ones like: DO NOT READ THE CREDITS ALOUD.

It’s a funny, irreverent movie. So there were funny, irreverent credits at the start. The guy behind me read EVERY – SINGLE – ONE out loud, punctuating each with a hearty laugh. Dude, the audience was full of comic-book geeks. They can all read. We’re happy you’re a big boy now who knows his A-B-Cs, but kindly shut the fuck up.

Here’s another rule for people who apparently don’t know how cinema works: STAY UNTIL THE END.

“Do these people really think there’s not going to be anything after the end credits?” I said as I saw the first hundred people streaming out of the theatre the moment the movie “ended.”

I’ve never understood people who lack the patience to sit through credits – especially in this day and age when half the genre movies include some extra scene at the very end. It’s like they’re at a sporting event and want to beat the departing crowds if the game is a foregone conclusion. I have seen people walk out of a film in the last few minutes BEFORE the credits roll because, I guess, there’s nothing but boring resolution stuff left. INCIDENTAL NOTE:  I remember seeing people do that during Aliens in 1986 when the survivors made it back to the ship. Because, hey, they made it off the planet. It’s all over, right? Idiots.

Anyway, yes, if you see it, there are more jokes during the credits. There are more jokes after the credits. Stick around, or do you really need to feed the parking metre that bad?

Oh right. A review. I guess you want some early-preview critical assessment.

It was okay. I was amused. I laughed a few times. And I wasn’t too creeped out by the cosplayers in the audience. None of them tried to shoot or stab me, which was nice. You can’t always expect that level of civility at the movies these days.

Because of the R-rated content, there wasn’t much studio support for this film. It almost didn’t get made, and when it did, it was for a relatively low budget. By relatively low, I mean for a Hollywood-studio superhero movie. That still means it was shot for more money than the ten most expensive Canadian films ever made combined. So, uh, yeah – go support this tiny little indie film that makes funny at the expense of its own inexpensiveness, because we need to support more ultraviolent mainstream blockbusters.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say.

THE END

Wait! I have one more joke to tell!

What do you call Batman when he skips church? Christian Bale!

See, you would have missed that hunk of gold if you’d already left. Aren’t you so glad you stuck around to the bitter (real) end? Lesson learned.

References

Just when I was announcing my Red Baron book on Amazon, I got hit by some other social media news I needed to link to. Rather than confuse the issue, I waited until today to add them to the blog. In brief:

My interview about “When the Trains Run on Time,” my story for Playground of Lost Toys, is up on Colleen Anderson’s blog. She made a nice introduction which enlightened me to the fact that my submission had an uphill battle getting into the book. She’s not normally drawn to time-travel stories, so it’s always good to know you won somebody over despite working against their tastes.

Rich Johnston created a spike in traffic by referring to Longshot Comics as one of his favourite comics of all time on Bleeding Cool. Rich and I endured the Eisner Awards together in San Diego over twenty years ago, and his occasional Longshot reference keeps drawing attention back to my venerable dot-comic. Yes, I need to get it back in print. I know, I know. I beat myself up about it regularly.

I’ll also take this moment to mention that last year Steve Requin posted an old comic page of his on Requin Roll. It referenced my Couch Potatoes strip from Angry Comics. That’s me and Dave making a cameo in panel two. I’ve had this bookmarked for a long time, and this is as good a time as any to point it out.

Now that those links are preserved for posterity (or until they become broken), I’m getting back to work.

Rogue Gallery

So apparently I’m an internationally renowned artist. Again.

Longshot Comics will be making an appearance in Talking Pictures Blue (Voices Rising) at the Songwon Art Centre in Seoul, South Korea this coming month, from June 12 to July 12.

I just wish someone had told me.

The only reason I know about it is that it came across my Facebook feed today. Nobody linked me to it, sent me an email, gave me a call or, you know, comped me plane tickets and a hotel stay overseas. It just sort of came up. I would have scrolled right past it if I hadn’t recognized some very familiar word balloons I toiled over twenty-two years ago.

songwon

The bottom right hand corner called out to me from the morass of Facebook updates about babies, pets, politics and the dumb meme-de-jour.

To quote the mission statement for this particular exhibit, “With its point of departure in the world-wide image industries of the 19th century, this exhibition focuses on a mythical structure in contemporary thinking about mediatised images: According to this myth, artists’ pictures must ‘talk’ by themselves, or they will be considered secondary, derivative, or even irrelevant.” There’s plenty more where that came from.

So, uh, I guess if you’re in the Buk-Chon neighbourhood in the coming weeks, drop by. Take some pictures. And email them to me so I can know what I’ve gotten myself involved in this time.

My Twitter project, 140 Fantastic Characters, wrapped up recently and is now collected on its appropriate sub-page. This past week has seen the next leg commence with 140 Super Characters – just in time for summer blockbuster season when we get swamped with superhero franchise films and news about what other superhero franchise films will be clogging up screens by this time next year.

It, too, will be collected on its own page bit by bit. Or you can read the daily thread by following me on Twitter.

Twenty Years Ago Tonight

Sometime in the wee hours of June 4, 1994, following yet another local comic jam at Gallery Stornaway, I stepped outside into the streets of downtown Montreal and began my long night-bus commute home to the west island. It had been an unusually successful evening. I’d finished one entire page of comic art, contributed to a handful of others, sold some minicomics for quick cash, and scored some girl’s phone number. Not bad, considering I nearly didn’t go.

I’d been to many comic jams before, but no one had officially invited me to this one that Friday evening. Nevertheless, I read I would be in attendance in one of the free weekly papers, so my reaction was to shrug and conclude, “I guess I’m going.” The jam was only a few hours away. Luckily, I was already in the city.

A picture of that evening ran the following week in The Montreal Mirror. Faces visible, left to right: Leanne Franson, Bernie Mireault, Rick Gagnon, Mike Stamm, Shane Simmons

A picture of that evening ran the following week in The Montreal Mirror. Faces visible, left to right: Leanne Franson, Bernie Mireault, Rick Gagnon, Mike Stamm, Shane Simmons

My solo page that night concerned one of my favourite topics: dead celebrities. Kurt Cobain had blown his head off only a couple of months earlier, so I thought it would be funny to pair him with fellow self-inflicted head-wound celebrity, Del Shannon, who had committed suicide in similar fashion in 1990. Was this in questionable taste? Of course. But it’s never “too soon” in gallows-humour land. The final panel referred to the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, from choking on his own vomit during a drug overdose, and Mama Cass, from choking on a ham sandwich (actually a long-standing urban myth, she died of a heart attack).

GPMConverIt was while I was inking this affront to both music and basic human empathy that I encountered a fan of my work. I let her see the page-in-progress. She didn’t know who Del Shannon was, but I took her phone number when she offered it anyway.

Five years to the day later, I married her.

Twenty years later, we’re still married.

Comic book artists don’t get nearly as many groupies as musicians, so we have to make them count.

 

The Five Most Unkillable Characters on The Walking Dead

I hate how trendy zombies have become. What used to be a tiny niche of a horror subgenre has become an overexposed industry. Zombies have become tedious in much the same way Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyer made vampires tedious. Admittedly, zombie romance isn’t that prevalent (although it certainly exists) and I’ve yet to see a single flesh-eater sparkle in the sunlight, but the ghouls have gone from horrifying and nightmarish to mainstream and cuddly.

That’s the downside. The upside is that there’s so much zombie product being churned out for all forms of media, the law of averages dictates that at least some of it turns out to be excellent.

I’ve been a zombie advocate for many years, dating back to where there were scant few examples of this now-ubiquitous trope. In the days of my youth there were only four viable entries in the cinematic niche of flesh-eating reanimated corpses: Romero’s Living Dead trilogy (back when it was only a trilogy) and the branching sequel Return of the Living Dead (the best of the zombie comedies until Shaun of the Dead arrived many years later).

And no, do not talk to me about Zombi 2 (the Italian pseudo-sequel to Dawn of the Dead – which was released in Italy as “Zombi”). Sure it had a classic injury-to-eye moment, but that’s pretty much the only thing in the entire movie that wasn’t stupid and worthless. One good gore effect does not a good zombie film make.

These days, in the midst of this glut of new material, some projects stand out amongst the fad’s cash-in fodder. The Walking Dead, now in its fourth year on AMC, is at the head of the pack – an ambitious, epic tale of survivors (who frequently fail to survive at all), derived from the hit comic book series of the same name. Fans have been left hanging since the mid-season climax late last year, waiting for the second half to pick up from the wrenching events we last witnessed. That’s the thing with The Walking Dead – you’re compelled to keep watching, even though you know awful horrific things are going to keep happening, often to a character you like.

WDdontlookbackAs a professional screenwriter, I always watch shows with a mind bent on figuring out who might live or die, who’s guilty of a crime, or which couples might pair up. I don’t do this by examining evidence and making sound deductions. I do it by observing character arcs and determining who has been played out, built up, purposely sidelined, or creatively cast. It’s a talent and a curse. I’m rarely surprised (Games of Thrones’ red wedding only elicited a shrug and a “meh, figures” from me rather than the intended horror and disbelief, for example) but I do still derive pleasure from watching a magic trick well performed, even when I know how it’s done on a technical level.

Since The Walking Dead has a reputation for being an anybody-can-die-at-any-time kind of show, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is and make a few predictions. Here are the five most unkillable characters, according to me. Rest assured, if you like them, they are in no imminent danger. Unless I’m full of shit.

Number One: Carl. You can’t kill Carl because he represents hope for the future. He walks the road to hell like a post-apocalypse Daigoro to his father’s Ogami Itto. We may be seeing the story unfold largely through Rick’s eyes, but his experiences ripple down to his son. Whatever lessons Rick learns along the way, are ultimately Carl’s to benefit from and to carry into the post-post-apocalypse period, some time currently unforeseeable, when the dead stop walking the Earth.

Number Two: Daryl. When he made his first appearance in season one, he looked like trouble. I had him pegged for the first live human who would have to be murdered for the safety of the group. But removed from the bad influence of his brother, he started to come around. Then he got awesome and quickly became a fan favourite. Although the TV series isn’t married to anything that’s happened in the comic book source material, Daryl’s ultimate fate is wide open because he’s one of the few major characters created exclusively for the show. As long as fans keep cheering on the crossbow-wielding hick, he’s safe. And why would they stop cheering him on? I mean, the dude TOOK OUT A TANK single-handed in the mid-season climax. He’s a goddamn superhero.

Number Three: Rick. Killing off the main character would be problematic, but not impossible. It’s highly unlikely they’ll ever get rid of the character, except perhaps in a series finale. The only thing that could do Rick in before that moment is a bad round of contract negotiations with Andrew Lincoln’s management. If an actor becomes too expensive, the writer’s room will be given the task of disposing of him quickly and brutally. Money is king in Hollywood, and nobody is indispensable if they threaten the bottom line.

Number Four: Michonne. I won’t discount the possibility of her going out in some heroic blaze of glory in a future season, but right now she’s far too awesome to dispatch. I’m not making a serious romantic prediction here, but I feel I should point out that if Daryl and Michonne hooked up, they could repopulate the world with a warrior caste of asskickery. I also think they’d make a cute couple because Michonne has melee encounters covered with her katana, while Daryl can lend support with ranged combat. Oops. Sorry, that’s my video game/RPG geekiness leaking through. This is supposed to be about zombie geekiness. I’ll try not to mix my poisons.

Number Five: Judith. This is going out on a limb because she might already be dead. The last we saw of her was a blood stain in a stroller. But I’m betting she was ushered to safety by her entourage of little-kid bodyguards. The show has been pretty uncompromisingly ballsy, but I don’t think they have it in them to kill off a baby. Not at this moment, at least. As for the comics… Well, we’ve already seen that the original comic books make the TV show look like a Disney cartoon. For example – if you haven’t read the graphic-novel collections – let’s just say that the dispute between Michonne and The Governor was over rather more than a single poked-out eyeball. Killing Sophia was an early indication of the series’ big brass balls, but I know there are some suit-and-tie executives behind the scenes, wringing their hands as they count all the money, worrying that bumping off a baby will alienate too many TV viewers and adversely affect ratings. I’m sure there’s a memo or two circulating the production office to that effect. Whether this is a note or a decree will be confirmed soon enough.

Are these predictions bold or safe, daring or banal? I don’t know. I’m probably just shooting the shit because I like good zombie material and I want to help alleviate some of the viewer anxiety people experience when they watch this sort of thing and fret over their beloved characters who never seem to be free of mortal peril and gnashing teeth.

I know how it feels. I guess I still haven’t recovered from that day I first watched Roger and Flyboy take a bite for the team.

Ad-Dressed

I was outside at 3:00 am last night, pacing back and forth on my stoop in the middle of a winter wind storm, quietly whistling the Mothra song to myself (don’t ask) as I tried to shake off a headache with a combination of fresh air, Advil and tea. It’s in moments like these that I worry some insomniac neighbour will spot me, get creeped out, and summon the police. I make no apologies for being an eccentric, which is challenging because, being Canadian, I feel compelled to apologise for everything.

For the better part of an hour, I walked back and forth on the same stretch of ice, trying not to slip, soaking up the drizzle, and thinking about work. Not the paying kind of work – the stuff that holds me under contract to produce pages on a deadline – but about the work that matters. The work I do for myself.

I still have a tremendous backlog of material that needs to be scanned or edited and then put into the posting queue for Eyestrain Productions. Plus there remain many other projects in various unfinished states that I want to wrap up and get in front of people – specifically, you. Yes, you. Since you’re the target audience, I don’t want to dick around with the middlemen anymore. Visits are up, the number of website followers is on the rise, and I see little benefit in sitting on stories, hoping to place them with some anthology, printed or online, for peanuts. I’ve grown weary of the gatekeepers. My interest in submitting stories to editors who don’t understand my sense of humour, or pitching films and television series to development executives who are – let’s be polite here – short sighted, has waned.

To that end, there’s a new short story called “Special” online. Getting people to read internet fiction is always an uphill battle, so let me entice you in the most cynical way I know how: this one involves cosplay sex. Yeah, it’s a bit pervy. Can you feel the irresistible pull? Don’t resist it, you’ll hurt yourself.

In no way should this be construed as being based on my own experiences signing shit in San Diego and at other comic-book conventions. My time on the bourse floor was never so interesting or rewarding. But there was plenty of inspiration to be had, much of which inevitably filtered down into this story. As usual, you can decide for yourself where reality ends and where my particular brand of bullshit begins.

The Morbidity Before Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve, and is there ever a time when it’s more appropriate to give a gift? Especially if that gift is the wrong size and colour and can’t conveniently be returned to the store for a cash refund? Well I have a very special gift just for you (and whoever else in the world happens to have an internet connection – but really, this one’s expressly from me to you). That’s okay, you didn’t have to get me anything. I’m hard to shop for. An envelope stuffed with cash will do in a pinch, or you can always go hunting for my well-camouflaged donate button, hidden and misnamed at the bottom of my About page where no one will ever stumble across it, even accidentally. No pressure, no guilt.

The present? Oh right, the present. I wrote you story – my new-to-the-public short story, It’s the Thought That Counts – a heartwarming family history that begins, conveniently enough, on Christmas Eve.

Crickets? Do I hear crickets? It’s freezing cold and the snow is ass-deep out there. It seems terribly unseasonable for crickets. I’ll have to look into that.

Before you go diving under the tree for another gift-wrapped box with your name on it, hoping against hope that the next present in line will be way more awesome – something along the lines of socks, underwear, or a tie perhaps – take a closer look at what I just gave you, you ungrateful asshole. It’s free internet content. Okay, it’s not a YouTube video of a cat trying to act cool after pulling down the Christmas tree on top of itself, or your adorable second-cousin’s nephew belching “O Holy Night” after downing three Red Bulls in less than thirty seconds. It’s a bunch of text, which requires much more intellectual heavy lifting to appreciate than a video you can stare at and zone out to. Reading is hard, vegging to viddies is easy. But engaging with the written word is so much more rewarding. And after all, how likely are you to find something as troubling and morbid as one of my stories by randomly surfing YouTube or following the links of your Facebook friends? Well, I guess that depends on your friends. But if you’re looking for some more of that Eyestrain-brand gallows humour for the holidays, it’s only a click away, right here, right now.

Mood-setting clip art in the sidebar aside, the story is, admittedly, a solid block of prose. If you want something with more pictures – of a sort – you can also check out The Awfuls under my new Comic Strips section. I stealthily threw that up on the site a few weeks ago and never made an official announcement here. More strips will follow just as soon as I can be bothered to dig them out of deep storage and fire up the scanner.

When looking for some well-earned time away from your family, their awkward drinking, and their baseless alcohol-fuelled accusations this holiday season, feel free to seek a brief respite here at Eyestrain Productions. Because I’m not going anywhere. The gears of western commerce may have ground for a halt for the Christmas-to-New Year stretch, but I’m still working away late into the night – even though I’m owed money and everybody who can sign their name to my cheques has gone on vacation. The chains to my desk remain locked and my bony fingers still scratch away at the keyboard, day after day. Who has the time for such trifling things as seasonal cheer?

Call me Scrooge if you must, but I’m really only one gimpy kid away from being Bob Cratchit.