Other Nexus Graphica Columns
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Simon Spurrier on Some 6GG History
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Recent Books of Interest
Super Stories of Heroes & Villains, Claude Lalumière, ed.(Tachyon Publications)
This is a big fat collection of stories (and an essay or two) about those "superheroes" we so often write about here, but not
in multi-hued, multi-paneled form, but rather, as big fat collection of prose. A couple caveats before
proceeding: Tachyon, of course, published the great "Ape" anthology that my columnar partner Mr. Klaw edited, so they're
a very familiar publisher to us here at N.G. central (plus they're located in San Francisco, home of my Giants,
so what, really, is not to like?) The other is that this book is actually so massive -- clocking in at nearly
400 pages -- that I didn't have time to read it stem-to-stern before press time. But what I have delved into, I've
liked a lot: Many takes on the whole idea of a "hero," from, say Chris Roberson writing about a pulp-style hero
(with a terrific fictional California setting), and what happens when you face the new version of "you," in A Knight
of Ghosts and Shadows to Steven Barnes & Tananarive Due "science-hero" themed Trickster, to Kurt Busiek's Clash
of Titans (A New York Romance) which anticipates Astro City and how costumed heroes would be perceived -- and
used -- in the "real" world, to oh-so-much more. I liked that the stories seemed to comment in a meta way on the
idea of superheroes, and that may the best reason to pick up a copy for yourself: Not only are the stories fine
in their own right, but they will provide a certain illumination you can take back with you when you've returned
to the 8-paneled page.
Delilah Dirk and The Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff (First Second)
Some old fashioned derring-do is on display in Cliff's labor of love. We follow the adventuress Delilah Dirk and
her companion Selim, as they make their across Turkey, and the Mediterranean, in what appears to be 1800s. The
material's origin as a web comic is evident in the episodic nature of the story. Or rather, the light, lively and
engaging book is made up of separate tales without a specific throughline. There's some pursuit, there's a nemesis
or two, but mostly we're on a series of adventurous peregrinations with the sword-wielding Ms. Dirk, and her
tea-brewing companion, Selim. It's a great book for mid-grade readers getting into graphic novels, or for any
studio development types looking for attachable material for female action/adventure stars. And since this book
kind of serves as a long set-up of how the two main characters meet, bond, and eventually adventure together,
one is left looking forward to an even meatier second installment.
Six-Gun Gorilla #1 by primates Simon Spurrier (words) and Jeff Stokely (pictures) (BOOM! Studios)
This first issue of a six-part run, the series starts in Heinlein-esque territory, as grunts and recruits spill
onto a dusty planet fighting for resources. Some of these recruits are "Holeheads," who sign up for some money
to beam back their glorious-yet-meaningless deaths back home, through implants in their head, to an ennui-riddled
audience of Earthlings. Towards the end of this first part, there appears to be a Simian-with-no-name, which is
to say, a Silverback Gorilla in a poncho, wielding six-shooters. In future issues, we will learn more about
the titular six-bullet paladin. He will have, as a human companion, a Holehead who has somehow -- even
accidentally -- survived. It's a good set-up, and I'm looking forward to more, but I'm even more fascinated by
the history that writer Spurrier credits to geek researcher non-pareil Jess Nevins, wherein the original 6GG,
as I have just now dubbed him, appeared in British pulps in the 30s as a "non-ironic" Western hero. But then
public domain rolled around, and here we are, updated and off-planet, no less. Saddle up!
The Selling of It
Copyright © 2013 Mark London Williams
So last time I columnized here, I wrote about a re-delving into comic writing work, as I finally did some script
breakdowns for the Barnstormers idea I've had since before they were a story-within-a-story in my Danger Boy books.
The conceit, as you may recall, was that a group of out-of-work movie monsters (in this world, the monsters
are real) band together to form a barnstorming baseball team in 1930s America. Difficulties ensue.
This column is something of a sequel to that one, though this time, instead of talking about my intimate reacquainting
with overlays of action on a page, using information in one section or subplot to comment on another (and hopefully
compress and quicken the comic storytelling overall), and how I tried not to make artist Doug Potter go too crazy, I
am here instead to talk about the next part of this process, once the writing's done, and a critical mass of drawn pages are done...
In other words, the selling of it.
Now, if you're writing for hire for one of the big publishers, that's not an issue. Or really, even if you're known
for writing a successful run on some "caped continuity" somewhere, you will already have doors open to you on the
comics publishing and distribution side.
But if you're a writer with a book series that's been called a "cult favorite" (meaning, I'm grateful for its adherents,
but we didn't get that Harry Potter breakthrough), with a few other fiction credits to your name, and you're an artist
who also has his fans and advocates and steady though-could-always-use-more work, where do you set up your next project
when you're "bootstrapping" it?
That's where it gets interesting, given the options. There is, of course, the "front door" approach -- i.e., I send a
batch to my agent and she tests the waters -- or tells me to test my own damn waters, thank you, since she's busy
trying to place the YA zombie novel I just handed in.
To be clear, Doug has only finished the first five pages of the 12-page script I gave him for that "pilot episode,"
and he wants to get back to Two Trickster Tango (I've included a couple pieces from that project here, as well), an
illustrated fable for grown-ups, with the Native American Trickster, Coyote, paling around Depression-era California
with the Jewish Trickster, Elijah (that ol' shape-shifter of Passover fame). What is it about me and the 30s?
Or for those I've quaffed a cocktail with, me and tricksters?
That one will be a harder sell, because of the subject matter, and the format -- it's like a picture book for grown
ups. And traditional (prose) publishing, in this age of the tablet and eBook, isn't exactly known for Big Chance
Taking. (Though of course, as a media industry, it's the "Brave and the Bold" compared to studio filmmaking).
That brings us back to the comic. Since it's "creator-owned," we could take it to some of the indie
houses -- Image, et al. -- and see if it flies. There are enough finished pages of artwork, along with the script, for
a publisher to see if it's their particular cup of tea. Or ghoulish broth.
If the material just didn't jibe with a publishing house, then, once upon a time, that would have meant the main
option left to Doug and me would be to print up a batch ourselves, and go the indie comics route ourselves. Which
would also mean working the small publisher tables at various cons.
That still happens, of course, but often -- if one is thinking of producing physical print-runs outside of the publishing
biz -- there is usually a crowdfunded start to the process: We could Kickstart or IndieGoGo the thing.
But even before crowdfunding or eBooks took hold, comics had a solid DIY niche with web comics. Comic readers are used
to finding, and reading, various web strips, serials and sagas on their screens (which of course now could be on the
exact same device they'd read their prose books or comics on). Indeed, one of the books I review this month, Delilah
Dirk, started life that way, and it's certainly an honorable route toward publication now -- aggregating your audience
as you're steadily producing the work.
Of course, when you're putting installments up on the web for free, the next question would be how you "monetize" it,
if there were some hope that your singing could snag you supper. That's one thing that traditional gatekeeping in the
media biz was good for -- you could at least make a living (or presumably could) once you were in.
Now, the opportunities are spread wider, but financing your muse -- in this most reductive and mercantile of historical
moments -- is another question entirely.
It becomes a labor of love, but then, isn't it always, when you're actually acting on something as idiosyncratic as an idea for a new story?
I'll keep you posted on Doug's and my "Pilgrim's Progress" in further editions. Meanwhile, I'm packing up for a summer
jaunt beyond the borderlands, and for the first time since this column began, will have a chance to report on what
comics reading and vending is like in other countries.
Though I'm likely to miss Comic-Con, for the first time in many years, because of it!
Regardless, it is still summer. And still time to play ball! Monstrously, or otherwise.
Mark London Williams wrote the Danger Boy time travel series,
and a contributor to the fiction anthology Magical Mayhem
Info on his work can be found at marklondonwilliams.com.
His horror novella for adults, Ghostdance: Showdown at Carthay Circle was recently released on eBook platforms.
Mark gets Twittery @mlondonwmz.