Time Bomb

Two hours to air time.

Since the last time I mentioned Cinema Smackdown, I’ve become a staple on the show and have lost track of how many episodes I’ve done. You can pick through the archives at CJLO to try to figure that number out.

This week at 2:00 PM (Eastern), we’ll be talking about the catastrophic box office returns for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the unfathomable reality we now live in, where a Star Wars movie can flop. Expect rants and recriminations as you listen live.

Work on the ebook editions of the Longshot Trilogy continues. If I ever said anything remotely neutral about Kindle Comic Creator in the past, I take it all back. As software goes, it’s a colossal piece of shit. But it is getting the job done, even as I fight it to the death every step of the way. We’re still on schedule to release this week.

That’s it for Longshot talk today, but to round out yesterday’s discussion of the back-cover history, here’s the full scan of “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” from 1896.

The Evolution of a Back Cover

I thought I’d take this moment to look back at one of the most iconic gags of the entire Longshot Comics series—the back cover.

When I first conceived of the joke, the priority was to get a scan of a public-domain Victorian drawing that would be a match for the contents of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. In the pre-web, early-scanner days, this wasn’t a simple matter. Thankfully, I was already collecting antiquarian books, and a volume from 1896 led me to a page from the story “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” illustrated by E. W. Kemble. He is, I’m sure, still rolling over in his grave twenty-five years after first being unwittingly recruited for my often crass and puerile project. Scanner time was provided by a friend who lingered in university and had access to the computer lab where such exotic equipment could be found. I remember what a marvel of technology it was to see the scan from the book combined with a scan of a magnifying glass I owned to create one image that would be a key selling point for my epic experimental minicomic.

The original minicomic was an 80-page photocopied booklet that instantly caused waves in the comics industry. I was unconvinced anyone would ever buy it, but it was soon selling faster than I could produce new copies (painstakingly by hand). That original back cover was instrumental in putting across the whole premise to an audience who had never seen anything like it before.

When it came time for a new full-sized, widely distributed edition for Slave Labour Graphics, everything had to be reformatted and redone. That included the back cover, which was now going to be printed large enough to actually read the mock-up text of the comic page. I wrote a short extension of one of the scenes that could be read and understood around the edges of the magnifying glass, which, in turn, was rescanned at a higher resolution to go with Kemble’s drawing.

The subsequent German translation of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers didn’t attempt to recreate the original back cover for their editions, however the Italian version went above and beyond to mimic everything I had done with the book to date (and then added lots of footnotes to explain many of the historical references and cultural in-jokes throughout). Although they didn’t have access to the Kemble sketch, they managed to find something very close.

It was back to the scanner for the latest edition (which also required a complete redo of all the artwork). With technology leaping forward, everything I needed on the software and hardware front was now standard issue in my home office. The newest reformat made the old magnified page obsolete, but it was a relatively simple matter to grab an actual page from the interior and make that part of the joke. The original magnifying glass was pressed into service to help me read all the tiny text I was transcribing, while the printed version was replaced by licenced art from a stock photography site.

The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers and The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers now also feature the iconic gag, but with pages from their own volumes, and original Victorian illustrations from other artists and antiquarian books. Shout-out to V. Gribayédoff and F. H. Townsend who, though long dead, are probably similarly miffed about their work being subjected to such an indignity.

Join me on my brand new Patreon page for more Longshot Comics material as we approach the release date for the entire trilogy.

Dot Dot Dot Ellipsis

Barring any late-stage hiccups, the entire Longshot Comics trilogy will be available to order through Amazon next week.

Yes, it’s done.

I thought I’d take these closing days to look back at the history of the Gethers saga, and the process of dragging the (mostly) Victorian and Edwardian shenanigans into the 21st century.

And what a process it was. Over 11,000 panels later, I have to admit it was more work than I could have possibly imagined. Despite worming my way through this routine before, the technology involved has changed enormously over the last 25 years, and everything was new and unfamiliar again. With improved tech comes higher expectations, and there were times when it was touch and go whether I could force various platforms and pieces of software to perform the way I needed them to perform in order to do these latest greatest editions justice. Compatibility issues, glitches, and bugs conspired to set fire to all the hoops I had to jump through. Let me take this opportunity to extend a special “fuck you” to the fine folks at Microsoft and Adobe in particular. Next time you need someone to stress test your shoddy coding or gouging business practices, put me on the payroll. I’m sure I can supply you with some handy, enlightening notes.

At this 11th hour, it’s now Kindle Comic Creator’s turn to tweak my balls for sport. This time last year I was still looking into the possibility of taking the project to an outside publisher rather than doing it all myself like it was 1993 all over again. One of the deal breakers was that my preferred publishers don’t do ebooks. That’s an essential market for me. Most of my sales come through Kindle copies of my books, or page reads from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Although I do recommend Longshot fans opt for paperbacks when the day comes, I wanted a quality ebook option to exist. Thus Kindle Comic Creator. It’s a decent enough piece of software, but not without its quirks. Like its habit of arbitrarily closing on me for no other reason than I had the audacity to move a page. I think it does it for shits and giggles. There’s some AI algo out there that’s having a laugh every time it gets to inconvenience me for another 30 seconds. Well laugh it up, asshole. We only have to do this dance for a few more hours.

Longshot Comics goes dark for one of the mining sequences.

Roland utters his last line of dialogue in The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers.

If you’re chomping at the bit for Longshot material, or if you just want to help support my efforts here at Eyestrain Productions, I now have a Patreon page. Patrons at various levels will get access to exclusive material, including new and expanded versions of the old Longshot short stories, some of which are spectacularly rare. For instance, were you one of the handful of people who bought the Longshot Comics t-shirt that featured an original 120-panel tale on the front and back, circa 1997? I bet you weren’t. But that’s the sort of fun stuff that’s going to be cropping up on the Patreon page in the coming days and weeks. Back me at the Collector tier and you can even receive signed paperbacks of the whole trilogy for less than you’d pay on Amazon—not to mention other upcoming novels I’m eager to get back to work on.

The Grind

To give you an idea what my days and nights have looked like for weeks, here’s a typical setup on my desk as I continue to typeset the new editions of Longshot Comics: Books One, Two, and Three. You’ll note from the computer screen that I’m currently transcribing the most torrid sex scene to ever appear in a Longshot Comic. Those dots can get up to some really nasty shit.

Astute fans of the series might recognize the magnifying glass as the exact one that appears on the back cover of the Slave Labor Graphics edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. Now I’m using it to help my old eyes see what the hell I’m doing with all this tiny text. The new editions will feature 40 panels per page with larger text in order to torture readers less. Novel as the overwhelming grid of panels was for everyone who ever cracked an issue back in the day, that was born of a 24-page limit for standard comics. I had to squeeze all 3840 panels into this format in order for the book to be cost effective. These days the same configuration is impractical, if only because the Kindle Comics algorithm can’t even recognize that many panels on a page. The paperbacks will be done first, but yes, there will also be ebook versions for those who want to spare a tree.

Also on the tree-murdering front, I just got my copy of the latest Sherlock Holmes anthology from MX Publishing. My story, “The Adventure of the Old Boys’ Club,” is featured in this, the ninth volume. What tickles me even more is that I’m in a book with a forward by Nicholas Meyer. With all due respect to Lee Child, who wrote a forward for the last one, I’m a bigger fan of Meyer. He not only wrote one of the finest Sherlock Holmes stories of the last century (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), but also single-handedly saved Star Trek from oblivion (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan) after the collective yawn that greeted the first movie, and adapted and directed the wonderful H.G. Wells/Jack the Ripper adventure, Time After Time.

Okay, that was my break from the grind for the day. Back to it…

Too Many Plugs, Not Enough Sockets

Despite my recent diatribe against unprofessional publishers, I continue to have good experiences with a few I’ve worked with in the past. Most recently, my story “Crocodile Tears”—heretofore an exclusive for newsletter subscribers—has been published in Betty Fedora Issue Four. This will be of particular note to Necropolis fans, since it prominently features professional moiroligist and funeral livener-upper, Tracy Poole.

There’s also my latest Sherlockian adventure featured in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part VII. The Eliminate the Impossible chunk of the series also encompasses Part VIII.

That leads us, naturally enough, to the Kickstarter for Parts IX and X, AKA the 2018 Annual. My next story is confirmed for Part IX. The Kickstarter has been backed for a long time now, but it’s winding down, so if you want to take advantage of reduced prices and early shipping, now’s the time to do so.

Then there’s the latest multi-author giveaway I’ve entangled myself in. This is a big one, with not only a shit-ton of free funny mystery novels up for grabs (Sex Tape included), but also a new Kindle Fire for one lucky winner. You have until Monday to enter.

On the current-project front, it’s been very same-old. I get up in the afternoon. I have breakfast at an entirely inappropriate hour. And then I work away most of the night on Longshot Comics. I’ve picked up the pace in an effort to get it done at last. Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers is effectively complete. I’m just waiting for what I hope will be the penultimate paperback proof copy to show up in the mail. They’re stacking up on my desk, with copious Post-It notes to remind me how I tweaked the art on this page versus that page. This will be, fingers crossed, the one that allows me to make a final decision on percentage of contrast against sharpness in which piece of software moving forward.

Typesetting on Longshot Comics Book One: The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers is nearly done. Longshot Comics Book Two: The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers remains dreaded unexplored territory.

As 2018 is the 25th Anniversary of the original minicomic edition of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers, the entire trilogy will be published/back in print/available as ebooks this year. Hopefully in a month or two at most. I can’t wait to work on something—anything—else again.

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.