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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
2009 Writers League of Texas Agents Conference
Alan J. Porter
Tony Salvaggio
Kit Frazier
Calling Manga Island
Prince Valiant Vol. I: 1937-1938
Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria
Roots of the Swamp Thing
Resurrection: The Insurgent Edition
Recent Books of Interest

Prince Valiant Vol. I: 1937-1938 by Hal Foster (Fantagraphics) Prince Valiant Vol. I: 1937-1938
The most influential adventure strip ever produced, Foster's gorgeous Prince Valiant inspired generations of artists. While the Sunday-only strip has been reprinted several times, this edition contains for the first time images shot from Foster's own color engraver's proofs. Published at the strip's original dimensions and complete with an introduction by Hal Foster biographer Brian M. Kane and the insightful 1969 Hal Foster interview with Fred Schreiber, the hardcover Prince Valiant Vol. I: 1937-1938 finally presents these lush tales in a format worthy of the material.

Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria Written by Timothy Truman Art by Tomás Giorello and Richard Corben (Dark Horse) Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria
After six excellent volumes, Truman, Giorello, and Corben return Conan to his birthplace. Within Giorello's beautifully rendered stories, Truman and famed underground comic artist Corben, creator of the mythical Den, explore the life of Conan's grandfather Connacht. Complete with the appearance of Conan's first love, a meeting with his mother, supernatural nasties, and lots of bloody violence, the rollicking good adventure of Conan Volume 7: Cimmeria offers a new addition to this well-chronicled life.

Roots of the Swamp Thing by Written by Len Wein Art by Bernie Wrightson and Nestor Redondo (DC) Roots of the Swamp Thing
The winner of many industry awards, the basis for Wes Craven's cult film, and the original incarnation of the series that introduced Alan Moore to American fans, Roots of the Swamp Thing collects for the first time in hardcover the initial fourteen appearances of the legendary muck monster. Printed on a non-glossy paper stock, this volume offers perhaps the finest quality renditions of these oft-reprinted tales. As beautifully grotesque as when they first appeared, these Wein and Wrightson stories remain some of the best comic book horror stories.

Resurrection: The Insurgent Edition Written by Marc Guggenheim Art by David Dumeer and Douglas Dabbs (Oni) Resurrection: The Insurgent Edition
Marc Guggenheim, creator of Eli Stone and the writer for the forthcoming Green Lantern feature film, crafts an intelligent story that attempts to answer the question of what happens after the alien invaders leave? Though at times, artists Dumeer and Dabs hinder the excellent script with less then stellar art, Guggenheim manages to weave an intriguing tale that hints at government conspiracies, the aliens, and the fate of humanity. At $6 for 184 pages, this collection should entice even the most frugal of sf fan.

Behind the Curtain

Dark Knight Returns
I recently attended my first Writers League of Texas Agents Conference. Unlike genre conventions, this event focused completely on authors getting agents rather than established writers promoting their wares. Nearly twenty agents presented and offered critiques for the some 600 attendees. As with all these type of functions, the Conference afforded panels with industry experts. For the panel Beyond the Strip: Inside the World of Comics & Graphic Novels, I shared my stories from the trenches along with fellow writers Alan J. Porter and Tony Salvaggio. Overseen by crime novelist Kit Frazier, the three of us bantered about the inner workings of comics for a dozen or so graphic novel neophytes.

The conversation began with the difference between comic books and graphic novels. We unanimously agreed that essentially "graphic novel" is a snobby term for comic books. Salvaggio summed it up well. "People wanted their own words. 'I do graphic novels. I don't do that comic stuff.'" Alan further elucidated, "Graphic novels and comic books are all sequential art at the end of the day. It's just a question of the form. The difference between the 22 page floppy comic book like that [he waves around the latest issue of the Porter-scripted Cars] or [a graphic novel] tends to be a self contained story, usually a couple hundred pages long." I contributed my bookseller's perspective. "In the 80s, when they started collecting comics and creating original stories for bookstores, you couldn't call them comic books, because they would stick them all in the kid's section. Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, they re not kid's comics. The only [comparable] thing coming out at the time was Maus, which many don't like to call a comic book or a graphic novel since it won the Pulitzer Prize. Clearly, it couldn't be a comic book."

Creator of the Calling Manga Island column and co-author of the manga-styled Psy-Comm, Salvaggio explained the comic book life cycle in Japan. "You have these really thick anthologies, sometimes called phone book anthologies, printed on the cheapest newsprint possible. They're so cheap that the ink runs off in your hands. They're meant to be disposable. The stories that were really popular would get collected into what they call tankōbon format."

The lack of graphic novel knowledge afforded by the Conference's attendees was far less than those of our usual haunts. This created some unusual aspects for which to the three of us was a fairly commonplace topic.

A lot of questions centered on the nuts and bolts of comic book proposals and script writing. "The great thing and the bad thing about the comic book industry is there is not standard way of doing anything," revealed Porter. "Every individual editor has their own way." On Cars, his editor makes a decision based on only a paragraph summary. Then the editor will ask for a more detailed breakdown of the four issues, usually only a page long with a few paragraphs on each issue. Disney approves the story based on that one page. Porter adds, "Other people are 'No, I have a very specific way I want it. It can't be more than two pages. I need the character bios. I need an overall plot synopses. I need a breakdown.'" He has sold several stories from only a one line description. "Every editor is different. Everybody does their scripts differently."

I threw in my two cents on the whole non-standard issue. "Unlike in books, every contract is different. In books, it's fairly standard; a similar contract among all the publishers. In comics, it's like they are all reinventing the wheel every time."

Recently, Salvaggio encountered several publishers who want only a one-two sentence tag line for the proposal. "For example, the elevator pitch of Psy-Comm [is] Logan's Run meets Rollerball meets X-men. You want what is unique about it, of course. One-two sentences, but it's nice if you can get it in one. It's actually some of the hardest writing I've ever done." I noticed that "comics are much more of a media industry as opposed to publishing industry. It's closer to film on a pitch than it is in books."

We broke down the assembly line method used for most American comic books, the difference between screenplay and comic book scripts, and why in the digital age, producing your own mini-comics is still important. Several attendees thanked us for the panel and said it was the most helpful and informative discussion they attended all weekend.

My first event in the Twitter-age, San Antonio writer Shannon Morgan tweeted live commentaries and excerpts from the panel. As an additional bonus, I recorded and posted the entire discussion online.

Copyright © 2009 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

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