You're staring at your computer screen. You've just finished Part II of this "Secret Origins of ArchEnemies" series, and you can't help but think to yourself, "A Part III. Really? I was going to cut him some slack when he went to two parts. But three??? Isn't that a little..."
The word escapes you.
TWO MINUTES AFTER THAT
"SELF-INDULGENT! Hah! Take that mental block! You've been PWNED!!!"
No, trust me. That's exactly what you thought.
But self-indulgent? Me? Pfft. Observe:
FIVE MINUTES FROM NOW
You: "Oh, now I get it. Why, this series could go on for five or six more installments, and I'd be thrilled!"
See. I told you so.
24 HOURS FROM NOW
I'm on an airplane. Why am I on an airplane? Think. Focus.
48 HOURS AGO FROM 24 HOURS FROM NOW
My friend Dan IMs me.
(I'd write something like, "I heard the tell-tale ping of Instant Messenger..." but I've been keeping my speakers muted so that I'm not aurally assaulted by random song choices every time I visit a new MySpace page.)
My friend Dan is covering WonderCon for Zap2it.com, and he's asking me--for the third or fourth time--if I want to go. I've turned him down before because honestly, who goes to WonderCon?
THIRTY SECONDS LATER
I've done some checking. Turns out everyone goes to WonderCon. In particular, Dark Horse goes to WonderCon, and Dark Horse doesn't do very many cons. They're doing the New York con in a couple weeks, which I'll obviously be at because a $2 subway ticket is a lot cheaper than a few hundred on Delta. They're doing the San Diego con in July, which I'll obviously be at BECAUSE IT'S THE FRIGGIN' SAN DIEGO COMICON AND EVERY COMIC BOOK CREATOR ON EARTH IS REQUIRED TO GO TO SAN DIEGO EVERY YEAR TO RENEW THEIR "I AM IN SOMEWAY RELEVANT" CARD!!!
(And for the Colbert fans in our audience, yes, the above statement is more truthy than facty.)
I'm doing the Philly con 'cause I'm from Philly, and I like to represent.
And I was going to do the LA con 'cause it's LA and that's the second most important city on Earth...
...but Dark Horse won't be there and that's fewer ins for me, so screw it! I'm going to San Francisco.
And it's very short notice, but I should be able to at least sit in on a panel or two, and that'll probably be cool--
48 HOURS FROM NOW
Yep, it's cool.
--and hopefully I'll make some contacts or convince some people to pick up ArchEnemies or meet Frank Miller or do whatever it is that people do at conventions.
I just need to hustle and have fun and try not to focus on the fact that I have no day job, the bills are piling up, and I'm spending wads of cash I don't have.
TWO YEARS AGO-ish
I have no day job, the bills are piling up, and I'm spending wads of cash I don't have. Ah well. It won't always be like this!
I'm trying to put together five pages of pencils, inks, colors, and letters for my ArchEnemies pitch. Five pages. That's a week of work, right? And that's nothing, right?
Let me tell you, even if you're paying your creative team, even if they're super-talented, and even if they're super-into-the-material, putting together a pitch can take forever.
Problem one is that, assuming that they are in fact super-talented and in demand, these other creators will have other work that they need to get done. And it'll be work with a more concrete deadline than "We'll pitch it as soon as it's finished."
And if they don't have other work lined up, they're going to take the extra time to make sure that their work on this pitch is perfect. (Pitch perfect?) That's nice in theory, except it sets up a wholly unrealistic standard for your future work to rise to.
One week of work per creator stretches to a month each or longer, and suddenly your quick pitch turns into a six month project.
Problem two is that coordinating the assembly of a comic--even five pages of a comic--is hard work. That's why the major publishers employ editors. They're not just their to double check your spelling. They're also their to make sure that everyone meets their deadlines, everyone sends the appropriate boards or files on to the next person, and that everyone gets paid.
And editors generally have production teams and sometimes marketing teams to work with them. People who help them make sure that files are formatted and compiled correctly. People who help to craft the marketing language that will "sell" the book.
But for this five page pitch, it's just me. And I have never done this before. As a result, there are a number of embarrassing missteps during the pitch production process (the PPP). I'll only mention three here, because mentioning any more than that would crack my fragile ego into pieces:
First, and I list this as a misstep because I CLEARLY should have known this and planned accordingly: Staten Island is a vacuous hole.
(A quick side note to native Staten Islanders: I'm just kidding! Buy lots of copies of ArchEnemies!)
Staten Island circa 2004 is the home of our inker, Joe Rubinstein. And though it's been a month since Yvel finished drawing the first five pages, Joe hasn't started inking those pages because--and I'm not faulting Joe's logic here--I haven't paid him yet.
But it's not for lack of trying. I've actually mailed Joe's check three times now, but for some reason the U.S. postal service can't find Joe's house. Now, you may reasonably ask the following: "Drew, you live in Manhattan, which is one of the five boroughs of New York City, and Joe is living on Staten Island, which is also a borough of New York City. Wouldn't it be possible for you to, you know, go there and hand him his check?"
Dude. It's Staten Island.
(A second quick side note to native Staten Islanders: Still kidding! See what a special relationship we have? Say, isn't Krypton Comics a great store? What about the Jim Hanley's on New Dorp Lane? Why, I bet those would be great places to stock up on ArchEnemies!)
Eventually, I break down and pay ten or fifteen bucks to overnight it via FedEx. FedEx gets it done. Lesson learned.
Second, once the pencils and the inks are done, I waste one whole month staring at the scanned pages, trying to figure out how they should be cut and/or resized for the colorist and letterer. To be fair (to me), I'm actually spending the bulk of my time in an an exhaustive, exhausting twelve hour a day teacher boot camp, so that I'll be ready-ish to stand in front of a classroom in September.
I waste my off-hours creating entire Excel spreadsheets to try to understand the ratios between comic book board, trim space, bleed space, lettering safe borders, and the final printed page. At night, I dream of screaming children and fractions floating through space.
Eventually, I just have to let go, still not quite understanding the alchemy, and trust that the colorist and the letterer that I've chosen are smart enough to figure it out for themselves.
And they are.
Third, when September hits, I'm teaching full time, and I'm going completely nuts from that. By week two, I have the colorist on board and ready to go, and I decide that I absolutely, without-a-doubt MUST get the pitch out that week, or I will go absolutely, without-a-doubt nuts.
And that, my friends, is the worst kind of nuts.
Unless you don't like pistachios. I don't like pistachios.
My Top 5 Worst Nuts List (my T5WNL) is:
- 5) Styrofoam packing nuts
4) The expression "Aw, Nutz!"
3) Stale donuts
2) "Absolutely, without-a-doubt nuts"
And when you're trying to put a pitch together, opt for the pistachios over the absolutely, without-a-doubt nuts.
By the end of the week, coming home from classes emotionally drained, spending hours obsessing over lesson plans for the next day, and finally turning my attention to the colored pages that are coming into my inbox, I'm starting to go a little loopy.
I'm not communicating with Yvel properly. I'm not communicating with Rick, our colorist, properly. And for some reason, I don't have Yvel and Rick talking directly to each other. When it comes time to make decisions, I make them quickly and unilaterally, in the interest of time.
Again, we've spent months getting the pages to this point, and the only reason there's an "interest of time" in the first place is that I'm getting tired and frustrated and cranky.
I have Rick make a few changes to the art to simplify the coloring. Obviously Yvel's not happy when he finds that out. Then when he sends me the files, I make a couple minor tweaks to the coloring to appease Yvel. Now it seems like nobody's happy.
Ultimately, I wind up apologizing to several people, probably sounding pretty incoherent as I do, continually stressing the same message: "It's done, and it's good enough, so let's just get it out there."
SIX MONTHS LATER
Was it good enough? Maybe. Maybe not. Certainly, Image wasn't breaking down our door to publish the thing.
Had my impatience, right at the end, doomed the whole enterprise?
Maybe. Almost. But then fate intervened. And by fate, I mean Joe.
MARCH 31, 2005
Joe Rubinstein contacts me. He has a friend who has a friend who works on the HBO show Entourage, and THEY NEED MY HELP!!!
Anyone who's familiar with the show knows that the last season of Entourage was all about the main character, Vincent Chase, starring in a fictional Aquaman movie. Yvel drew Aquaman. Busiek's writing Aquaman.
Aquaman is my useless superhero good luck charm.
Joe gets a hold of me and tells me that a friend of a friend of his works in the art department on Entourage. They're filming an episode that's supposed to take place at the San Diego Comic-con, and they need creator-owned artwork for the backgrounds.
"It would be great exposure," Joe points out. And I figure, "What the heck?" I contact the guy and send him the link to the webpage that I created to host our ArchEnemies pitch. I CC Joe on the email.
Joe emails me back a few minutes later. "The webpage is great. Do you mind if I send the URL to a few people I know?"
What? Am I going to say no?
We don't hear back from the Entourage people, but we do hear back from lots of other folks: Comic book publishers. Entertainment companies. IP lawyers. Some of the offers are very tempting, but it's clear that most of these people want to option the property and maybe make a comic at some point down the road. A few are very upfront about the fact that they want the rights, and they want those rights so that they change anything and everything.
And then I hear from Philip Simon at Dark Horse. Philip likes the pitch, but he wants to see more. So I send him the full first issue script. The script that I firmly believed to be the greatest thing I had ever written. The script that I was sure was going to make me a star.
And he was sold.
Awesome. Brilliant. Fantastic.
Now Philip and I just needed to win over everyone else at Dark Horse.
Obviously, Philip and I have won over everyone else at Dark Horse.
TWO WEEK FROM NOW
How did Philip and I win over Dark Horse? What changes did I have to make to the script? How did pre-production go? Will I have choked at this weekend's Wondercon?
Two weeks from now, you've read Part IV of our continuing series, and you can answer these questions for friends at cocktail parties.
THAT NIGHT, AT A COCKTAIL PARTY
Your friends are very impressed.
Drew Melbourne is a freelance writer living in NYC. When ArchEnemies #1 comes out on April 5th, it will be his first published comic book story. The sixth worst type of nuts is the phrase "Deez Nutz" used in rap songs. Seriously. Make it stop. For more on Drew, read DrewMelbourne.com.