Bloodstains On The Looking Glass

A ribald old-timey revue, featuring the Scots Flying Monkey Battalion and Shakey Pervy Pete, the Inelegant Dinner Guest.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bugs Are So Creepy!

This post is from my message board (You'll All Be Sorry) at in response to a very nice guy who asked whether or not I could read over his pitches (if I understood his request correctly). I actually do have a couple tips in that regard, but first, a little bit about an industry secret, which is, within a few moments, we probably know if you have a shot or not, and it's not because we're geniuses with amazing talent radar.

Here ya go:

While I can't read people's pitches (just not a good idea legally, I've been told often), I will say that I am regularly suprised by the demeanor of people who want to pitch at a comics company.

I hate to reveal an industry secret, but it is very easy to spot those who are likely to have a shot and those that aren't. Those that aren't aren't listening. If you tell them that a 48-part epic that includes every hero in the DCU from Anthro to Zatanna is not a good first pitch, they don't listen, so convinced are they in their own brilliance. If you have advice about storytelling, they are certain in doesn't apply to them.

They are often vaguely hostile and insulting. I've had letters from these people where they start off with, "I'll be honest, I don't follow your work..." which is fine, except, why in the world are you asking my advice?

They often overwhelm you with everything EXCEPT a readable, exciting and concise presentation of a strong idea. Please do not bring me folders and folders of material featuring the backstory of the guy pumping gas in page three. I not only can't read it, I don't WANT to read it, and no one else does either.

Being an editor is a hard job. Yes, they DO want to find exciting new talents. But if you fail to present yourself as a sellable and professional commodity, it's your own fault if you get no shot. I'm sorry, but that's true in ANY industry. No one's TRYING to keep you out. There are many, many resources out there...use them!

I had an editor tell me the true story of a current industry superstar who COULD have been a superstar months or years sooner, but his pitch was so completely unprofessionally produced that it was essentially unread. But this writer was so clearly of the group that was going to make it in somehow, that he found another way in and pretty soon companies were knocking on HIS door. Very few roadblocks will deter those that conduct themselves well, don't give up, are willing to do what needs to be done, AND have talent. It will not be handed to you, so don't even have that expectation. This creator was talented and dedicated beyond reason, so the notion that he might NOT make it in was never really in doubt. He cut his own doorway.

In some ways, I was incredibly fortunate, and I know that, in that I didn't have to hassle editors or pitch at conventions, etc. etc. But on the other hand, I wrote a column that meant for two years I gave up my weekends, worked my ass off on research and trying to improve constantly, for (at first) no money at all and then very little money. It meant staying up all night some nights after a hard day of work when the next day ALSO was a full day of work. And it allowed editors to see not only that I could write some in different styles, and could make people laugh, but also that I could follow a self-imposed deadline (truthfully, I was better at that last when there was no real JOB attached, somehow). It showed that I wouldn't quit even when the only real reward was some people might laugh a little bit.

I used to be really a bit tender about how I broke in, because I felt bad that I got in over some folks who had taken the classes and gone to the seminars and had hassled editors, etc. etc. But enough pros I respect have said that EVERYONE finds a different way in, and I've gained enough distance to see what a ridiculously massive amount of effort went into my silly column that now I'm more comfortable with it. Deserved or not, I didn't blow my shot when it was given to me. I put everything I had into every assignment whether it was Deadpool or an X-men backup or a Simpsons single page Sunday strip. I never intended to have this career and I didn't have a master plan...but that's not the way YOU should approach it, not if you want in. You should have a master plan and when a pro or editor advises you to relook at it, you should dang well relook at it. If you do, you will instantly set yourself apart from the guy who wants Marvel to get Bryan Hitch to draw the epic saga of his City Of Heroes character.

I hope that makes sense. I want to be encouraging. But I do not want to encourange those who are unrealistic and hostile. I want to encourage those who have a goal and some idea of how to go after it.

Good luck!


PS. When I have a bit of time, I will post some actual tips for those who are serious about trying.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

One Other Thing...

...A while back I teased out that I had ghost-written for Bill Jemas.

This sent people scrambling to their collections of MARVILLE and...jeez, I'm drawing a blank. Honest to god, I can't remember what else he wrote. Anyone with a better memory help me out here?

Anyway, it wasn't Marville. Or any other comic.

At the time, I was a humor columnist on Jonah Weiland's, doing a comics parody thing weekly called You'll All Be Sorry. It was strangely popular even with the people I often made fun of, and a couple companies, including CrossGen, paid me to make fun of them a little (although, true story, they objected to a page I wrote that had Mark Alessi as the unholy ruler of a snake-worshipping cult. Why, I can't imagine).

I'd spoken to Bill a couple times, once after I'd really slammed him in my column (in a relatively unrealistic way...the main gag was that he'd been left in the snow to die by Joe Quesada. Not true, to my knowledge). And whatever else you may say about the man, he had a sense of humor about being poked at. He thought it was really funny and told me personally.

To be honest, in fact, I had pretty much nothing but positive exchanges with Bill. I liked that he was willing to do things that no one thought would be commercial, just to see if they were wrong. And he was a big supporter of Gus Beezer, if I understand correctly. When my first couple Deadpool issues came out, he sent me a very nice personal note about them.

So, while I do understand a lot of folks didn't like him, I didn't really see that side personally, and we always had a very cordial relationship.

One day out of the blue, he asked me to write a bullpen like page, ostensibly from him, based on a solid comedy concept...he said that even when he did something that was almost completely positive for fans, he was so disliked by fans and the fan press, that someone would find a way to twist his motives so that it was evil. So his gag was, what if he made an announcement that he was giving away free cookies, how would the usual suspects find a way to make that seem evil?

I thought that was pretty funny, so I wrote up some things, and I think he used most of it (don't really recall...I do think it actually made it into Marvel Comics as a fake bullpen page, or maybe on Newsarama or something). I think I did two such gigs for Bill, and he reworded them...he had some solid comedy chops, truth be told. I think he was looking for some inspiration and structure to bring them out.

Anyway, that was my 'ghost-writing,' mainly about cookies. It had one funny bit in it:


Uh, see, Bill is like the bad cop, and I’m the good cop -- I mean, he likes to shake things up. Uh, he’s probably kidding about the whole cookie thing, I bet. It’s more than likely a joke. I’m 90% certain that he’s just kidding. Oh, forget it. You guys grab him and I’ll stun him with this shovel.

Mystery solved!

Now, about the actual Marvel COMIC that I ghost-wrote a little while later... ;)



Tuesday, September 12, 2006

About The Post Below

Sorry for the typos, I was sleepy.



I've grown to hate this sentence.

I believe it's totally the wrong approach, and on top of that, it's damn smug.

Yes, it's true, a lot of great comics don't sell very well. It's equally true that a lot of not very great comics sell very well indeed. If you look at the 'buzz' on the net, it's darn near an axiom that the comics the internet claims to adore are at the bottom of the Top 100 charts, if they appear on that chart at all.

Almost every writer, even the elite of the elite, has had a personal project, a book they really believed in, tank hugely. These may be mere blips in their career, but they're significant blips. What they say is, no one is failure-proof, in commercial terms. And make no mistake, some of these ARE great books, worthy of much higher sales.

So when a good book tanks, it's inevitable that a well-intentioned pro (or reader) will say, in exasperation, "Why aren't you buying this book?"

Some will shout it, some will whisper, some will write in in blood from their own scalp in letters ten feet high. And I wince a little, every time I see it.

First, I've usually been a manager or business owner. I've had employees, and my thinking was always if they screwed up, ultimately, it was my fault. Either they weren't trained properly, or they weren't overseen with enough zeal, or they were improperly motivated, or they shouldn't have been hired in the first place. They may have gotten a talking to, but I got the blame, and deservedly so. Now why, in a sales environment, would a mistake that ultimately was MY fault, be blamed on the customer?

The answer is, it shouldn't. If we didn't sell, if we didn't close a deal, it's easy to blame the customer, but it's also usually wrong. And it's counter-productive in every way that counts.

Comics readers are a dream prospect, to keep the sales analogy going. They're educated in the product, and they're motivated to purchase. Usually, their desire to buy outstrips their available funds, in fact, and that, my friends, is a great position for a seller (be he or she a retailer, creator, or publisher) to be in. In fact, with the repeated customer (impulse buyers are quite a different issue and not as relevant to this conversation), the interest level is high enough that the main problems are;

1) Competition from other books the customer might like just as much or more, and
2) Enough suitable, profitable venues to supply that customer.

(Insufficient numbers of readers will be discussed in a bit).

I don't like to think of what I do as a business. I don't obsess over numbers sold, or chart positions, and most pros I know feel the same way. They're writing to tell stories. They draw because they love it.

But it is a business, both in real terms (we need publishers and retailers and distributors and all that comes with that just to keep the stories on the shelves) but also in the more abstract way we relate to the readers, the way the stories go from our brains to those of our audience. We want our work seen, and usually, by as many people as possible.

But if we make a book that isn't appealing enough to be picked up off the that really the customer's fault? Is it right to imply that a book's failing is solely because of the readers?
To me, it goes back to that thing, that it's wrong to blame the customer if they don't want your product. This is true both of individual creators and even large publishers, and trying to guilt a reader into buying a book is a bad move because;

1) It rarely works, and
2) It's chicken.

Let's look at number one, first. How many books have had their sales improved by this tactic? Manhunter is one of the PAINFULLY small number of books that have gotten a repreive by word of mouth, Spider-Girl is another. In both cases, however, the grass roots campaigns to save the book were almost uniformly positive. They stressed that readers would ENJOY the books, rather than said, "Why aren't you reading this book? Are you an asshole of some kind? Is your taste so terrible that you can't be reading this book I love?"

You show me an attempt to gain new readers that takes the above tone, and I'll show you a failed attempt to gain new readers.

Time and again, I see well-meaning pros ask this question, unselfishly, with the best of intent, about books they love. And time and again I see a vaguely annoyed and insulted audience clicking off the 'I'll never buy THIS book' on their mental pull charts.

Hmm. 'Mental pull charts.' That is a gross phrase, somehow.

The second bit is more difficult. It's chicken to blame the readers. Readers support books they love. Something in YOUR book didn't hit them hard enough to make them pick it up, or once they read it, to KEEP reading it. Maybe your book is exactly what you meant it to be and changing it would destroy it. Maybe you don't care if it sells even a single copy. There's nothing at all to be ashamed of in either fact, I applaud you. Commercial concerns shouldn't be the be-all and end-all of any artistic endeavor, obviously, and all of us have projects we'd do whether or not anyone bought it once it hit the stands. And not every book is a Wolverine/Spider-man/Batman/Vampirella crossover book, thank God. Some are quiet little books about mouse guards and torso killers and Seattle slackers, beautiful and perfect, and with devoted followings, and critical acclaim and probably great groupies, too.

But when you do the less commercial book, you know the deal you're making. It may be huge, it may outgrow comics and be a huge mainstream hit. But it's just as likely that the audience will be a small subset of the already not-huge comics audience. And you did it anyway because it was important, the art had value, the story had personal meaning. And you knew it was probably not going to sell Spider-man numbers, and you were fine with it.

So a book you put your heart into doesn't sell. For me, it was probably Rose And Thorn, a book I was dearly proud of, with a great deal of personal meaning. Adam Hughes covers, great interior art by Adriana Melo...we did our very best on it, but everyone knew it was likely not going to do JLA numbers. But we all believed in it and I think we all felt it was a special comic.

When it didn't sell through the roof, there were quite a few well-meaning readers (and a few pros as well) saying the PHRASE. While I appreciate the effort, I think it has the opposite turns people off. No one's in this hobby for guilt. They're here because they love the format, love the characters, love the stories. It doesn't make me feel better, nor did it raise sales a whit, to finger wag and blame the people who passed the book by.

And ultimately, we who worked on Rose and Thorn WANTED to do a more personal project. I'm still delighted with the results, and the fact that it wasn't top ten (or top fifty) doesn't detract from that in the slightest.

If you love a book and it could use more readers, I suggest you consider telling people why it's great, what it is you love about it. Imagine someone suggesting you try a new restaurant by saying, "This restaurant is going under...why aren't you eating there?" It's just not appealing. It may feel good momentarily to say, but ultimately, it just bugs the hell out of me to blame the readers when they WANT to support comics. It's we who, somewhere between our computer and the comic shop, didn't give them something they felt intrigued, compelled, or horny enough to buy. Can't blame marketing, can't blame the weather, can't blame video games, because none of those things stopped a thousand other books from selling like crazy. I know some pros who are seemingly above such petty things as even the simplest of marketing, even the most basic methods of getting the word out, AND YET still manage to blame readers for their books not selling. Not everyone is good at (or cares about) message boards and interviews and the like as others. I myself often feel very uncomfortable talking about my own work. But if you can't do any of that, and your book fails to capture much interest, how ridiculous is it to blame the reader? It's like trying to sell a car by posting a FOR SALE sign at the bottom of a deep lake.

So again, if you care about a book, whether it's your own or someone else's, instead of trying to blame the last person genuinely responsible (the reader), why not extoll that books virtues? The internet is fantastic for putting words in front of eyes. If you're going to bother writing the "WHY AREN'T YOU BUYING CRAPMAN?" line, consider instead saying something that moved you about the story or the characters or the art. That's what, I believe, got Manhunter a well-deserved's what kept Spider-Girl going against all odds.


Oh, and buying a book in trade is TOO supporting a book. Sorry, had to say that out loud.

That's it, sorry for rambling.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

If You Only Listen To Me Once This Year...

...I hope you'll check out The Makeshift Miracle, in the currect Diamond catalog. I just got a chance to read this thing and HOLY SHIT, IT'S GREAT!

This is the kind of book that makes you think trees might be doorways to something wonderful. It's just that good.

I loved it!


Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Please Help!

Early this morning, the Texas home of award-winning writer/artist Lea Hernandez, my friend and co-creator of the graphic novel Killer Princesses, caught fire and burned. Half her house is now gone, and the rest is smoke-damaged. In addition, she lost at least six of her family’s beloved pets, two dogs and four cats. If you knew Lea, you’d know how devastating that is.

She’s lost a great deal of her family’s possessions, including irreplaceable art. She doesn’t yet know the full accounting of what’s been lost at this time.

Most know Lea as the brilliant creator of such works as Rumble Girls and Cathedral Child. She drew the Marvel Mangaverse PUNISHER book, and has drawn for TRANSMETROPOLITAN, among many other accomplishments. She is also the co-founder and original editor for GIRL-A-MATIC, one of the most important venues for female-friendly comics created to date.

She’s also my friend, and it’s entirely possible I wouldn’t have a career in comics if she hadn’t asked me to write Killer Princesses for her to draw.

And finally, Lea is one of the last great firebrand hellraisers in comics.

Lea has two (wonderful, amazing) special needs children and right now they need a place to stay and some clothes to wear. More than that, they need
some help, and fast, in the form of donations to her paypal account. Lea’s a proud person so I’m going to ask FOR her. This is important, and a great chance to do a wonderful thing for a creator who has consistently enriched this industry we all love so much. Please, take a moment and send WHATEVER YOU CAN to Lea’s paypal account and help make this time a little bit less painful for someone who would do the same for you if the positions were reversed.

If you’re a retailer, I ask that you set up a donations jar. If you’re a creator, I ask you to think of how devastating this would be to your career and donate what you can. If you’re a reader, I’m asking you to take a moment and hit the paypal link. You’ll be doing something heroic and you’ll feel great about it, I promise.

Read what Lea had to post on a neighbor’s computer while wearing her pajamas at:

Donate (PLEASE) to her paypal account at:

Finally, if I understand the story correctly (as told to me by Lea’s good friend and current Girl-a-matic editor), it was Lea’s daughter hearing the smoke alarm that allowed the family to get out in time, so for God’s sake, do everyone you love a favor and CHECK YOUR SMOKE ALARMS.

Thank you so much for helping. Really, any amount you can send will make a difference. That’s all I can say.

And also, if you have a blog or a myspace account, please spread this around as best you can. Every little bit will help and every eye that sees this might be someone who donates.

Sincerely and gratefully,

Gail Simone

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Scripty Sample-y

I get asked for script samples's the third of three short stories from Bop #86, and a personal favorite of mine. The idea was to spotlight three completely distinct elements of the book in seven pages each. This was illustrated by the very talented David Lopez.




Well, it’s my lucky day to work with three great artists on this book! David, any panel layouts are just suggestions, and if you have a better, more dramatic way to do this, feel free. Just as long as the basic actions are conveyed.


Current Huntress costume

Helena Bertinelli’s mobster look from the BATTLE WITHIN arc

Don Sigiorello, same arc.


PANEL ONE: Big panel, 2/3 page. Huntress, inside a formerly perfectly normal middle-class American two-story house. But a hardcore gang has moved in, and they’ve trashed most of the inside. There’s spray-painted graffiti on the walls (gang-style stuff), a twin-size bedspring mattress is leaned against the wall. The few furnishings have liquor bottles and ashtrays and crap on them, and the whole place is pretty disgusting. The ONLY area that’s nice and clean is the bigscreen tv and stereo components. In comparison to the first two stories, this one’s going to be a bit brutal. Think European crime comics, or Dark Knight with a uterus. Finally, the big living room has a staircase heading to the second floor.

In the center of this squalid setting is Huntress, in full fury, kicking a machine gun wielding gang member in a flying kick to his head. She’s PISSED OFF.







HUNTRESS CAP: This is my favorite time.

PANEL TWO: Outside the house, which has overgrown grass and weeds on an otherwise perfectly lovely suburban street. The street is lined with trees, and it’s Autumn, so the leaves are falling. The gang member’s machine gun is thrown through the front window hard enough to send glass shards flying everywhere.

THUG (off-panel, inside house): Wait. NO. DON’T.

HUNTRESS CAP: The leaves are falling.

HUNTRESS CAP: Gotham’s weirdly oppressive humidity becomes

bearable for a few brief weeks, preceding a cold that makes you feel

like your BONES are rotting from the inside.


PANEL ONE: The machine gun, laying on the lawn where it landed, in the overgrown weeds. It lies next to a chubby, unblinking baby doll missing an arm and a leg.


HUNTRESS CAP: It wasn’t easy getting him to TALK.

HUNTRESS CAP: Not easy stuff at all.

PANEL TWO: A ten year old Caucasian kid, with sunken, troubled eyes, close up. This scene is all flashback, David, so whatever method you like to use to convey that is fine. He’s in a nice school room, and he’s talking with Helena, who is a teacher in her civilian identity, but we don’t see her yet. Corey’s wearing a Green Lantern shirt, blue jeans, and looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulder.

HUNTRESS CAP: Last semester, Corey was one of my best students.

COREY: C’n I GO now, Ms. Bertinelli?

HUNTRESS: Happy, smart, and FUNNY in a way beyond his


PANEL THREE: Helena, looking down on him from her desk.

HELENA: Corey...

HELENA: I want you to know--I’m not exactly LIKE the other


HELENA: If you tell me what’s wrong, maybe I could HELP.

PANEL FOUR: Back to the ganghouse, inside, Huntress is holding the first thug by the shirt with both hands. He’s missing a front tooth and is barely conscious. At the same time, she’s moving slightly out of the way of another Caucasian gangbanger who has a samurai sword and has swung it at her.


PANEL FIVE: She kicks him, almost not paying attention, smashing him face first (and sword flying) straight into the bigscreen tv.

HUNTRESS: Sit down and shut up.

HUNTRESS: I’ll get to you in a MINUTE.

HUNTRESS CAP: Something in my tone must’ve, I don’t know...

HUNTRESS CAP: ...opened Corey’s floodgates. Because he

started talking.


PANEL ONE: Silhouette, Helena and Corey as Corey talks, in the classroom flashback.

HUNTRESS CAP: Through tears he tried his best to hide, he told

me that his brother Ricky had been recruited by some local gangbangers with ties to the worst of Gotham’s drug retailers.

HUNTRESS CAP: Here in the suburbs, maybe five blocks

from my school. From MY students.


PANEL TWO: Corey hugs Helena, who is surprised.

HUNTRESS CAP: Then he does something most ten year old boys

have FORGOTTEN how to do...he hugs me.

HUNTRESS CAP: Says he knows I can’t help.

HUNTRESS CAP: “But thanks for LISTENING, Ms. Bertinelli.”

PANEL THREE: Helena watches Corey leave the room.

HUNTRESS CAP: Ten years old, and he already knew that the

Gotham mobs run the cops, even out here where the leaves

fall so fetchingly.

HUNTRESS CAP: “I know you can’t help,” he said.

PANEL FOUR: Huntress leaps to the side as bullets come stinging down into the floor nearby where she had been from the staircase behind her.

HUNTRESS CAP: “But thanks for LISTENING, Ms. Bertinelli.”


PANEL FIVE: Huntress leaps at the gun-wielding man, who is wearing only a white muscle shirt, brief underwear, and a black stocking cap on his head. Unlike the others, he shows no fear, even though he’s clearly in for a PUMMELLING.

HUNTRESS CAP: This is my favorite time.

HUNTRESS: I have a MESSAGE for you, sleazeball.


PANEL ONE: She smashes her fist brutally into his face. Helena’s not really the kindest of people, to be honest.




HUNTRESS: Are we clear on this? He’s OUT.

PANEL TWO: The thug, incredibly, smiling, even with a bit of blood on his teeth and one eye swelling shut.

THUG: Nah. We like Ricky.

THUG: He stays.

HUNTRESS: What did you...

THUG: He stays.

PANEL THREE: Huntress, holding him up by his shirt, points her crossbow right at his face.

HUNTRESS: You have no IDEA what you’re saying.

THUG: Yeah, witch, I do. I’m SAYIN’I don’t matter. You shoot me, they put someone else in charge.

THUG: Hey, how ‘bout, soon as you leave here, I go round to Ricky’s

house, and beat the crap outta his momma with a double-size BRICK, how would that be?
PANEL FOUR: The thug, up close, grinning.

THUG: I’m SAYIN’ next time I see you face, maybe Ricky’s

DADDY bidness burn down, with him IN it, could be.


THUG: Now get out my house, less you gonna find a pair

and SHOOT.

PANEL FIVE: Huntress’ eyes narrow.

HUNTRESS CAP: He means it.

HUNTRESS CAP: I forgot the rule.

PANEL FIVE: The thug, suddenly alone.

THUG: I’m SAYIN’ we both know you a PUNK, skank.

THUG: And you ain’t WELCOME.

HUNTRESS CAP: You can’t threaten a man with nothing to lose.


PANEL ONE: Helena, in her apartment, still in her outfit, but taking off her mask, a look of concern on her face.

HUNTRESS CAP: I’ve made it worse.

HUNTRESS CAP: I may have put Corey’s family in real danger.

HUNTRESS CAP: “I know you can’t help,” he said.

HUNTRESS CAP: He was right.

PANEL TWO: Huntress stares at the phone.

HUNTRESS CAP: Babs got me this teaching gig, when no one

wanted to hire me for the thing I love most in the world.

HUNTRESS CAP: She knew what it would mean to me.

HUNTRESS CAP: Damn. For Corey’s sake--

PANEL THREE: Helena, holding the phone.

HUNTRESS CAP: -- this is no time for pride.

HELENA: Barbara? I need some advice.

HELENA: No, not from you.


PANEL FOUR: Don Sigiorello, in his nightclothes, smoking a cigar, hurriedly packing clothes into a suitcase. This is his bedroom, and he’s a mob boss, so it needs to have that sort of old world elegance that costs a fortune.

HUNTRESS CAP: See, I thought I could BE her. Emulate her

methods. Go ‘undercover,’ with my own team , only using my own

family LEGACY as our entrance fee.

SIGIORELLO: Damn, damn, damn!

HUNTRESS CAP: Instead of beating up a thug in an alley, I envisioned putting whole MOBS away for GOOD.

PANEL FIVE: Sigiarello acts in surprise as Helena speaks, she’s been sitting in a chair in the shadows all along. She’s sitting in a chair next to an antique vanity. Helena is wearing a black powersuit and skirt, and looks every bit the elegant mafia princess.

HUNTRESS CAP: Only it’s tougher than it looks, way more

COMPLEX, as well.

HELENA: Hello, Don Sigiorello. You can stop packing.

HELENA: You’re not going ANYWHERE.

HUNTRESS CAP: And I finally have to admit it--

HUNTRESS CAP: --maybe there’s a REASON why Oracle and

Batman have to be the way they are.


PANEL ONE: Sigiorello grabs a pistol from his suitcase.

HUNTRESS CAP: Maybe because, if they acted like PEOPLE--

SIGIORELLO: KNEW you were bad news, Helena. Friend of your

dad or not, the penalty for trespassing here is DEATH.

HUNTRESS CAP: -- they wouldn’t be able to do their JOBS.

PANEL TWO: Helena checking her lipstick in the big vanity mirror, opening her mouth wide. In the mirror, we see Creote is holding Sigiorello up by his gun hand, apparently crushing it.

HELENA: Yes, but death for WHOM, Don Sigiorello?

HELENA: You’ve already met my friend Creote, of course.


PANEL THREE: Helena stands in front of Sigiorello, who is on his knees, holding his bloody hand.

HELENA: Here’s how it’s going to be:

HELENA: Right now, the Gotham mobs blame you for the debacle

with the drug shipment from Singapore, the one that nearly

bankrupted the families.

HELENA: They’re on their way now to slit your throat on your own

billiard table.

PANEL FOUR: Helena picks up Sigiorello’s gun.

HELENA: I can save you. I’ve already made arrangements.


HELENA: We tell them your driver, Freddy, gave the orders without

your permission.

HELENA: I have forged documents in his handwriting under the front seat of his car. Bank statements, plane tickets. I can guarantee

your name will be cleared.

PANEL FIVE: Helena, smiles.

HELENA: In return, you will do me three favors; one, you will

close off the supply of narcotics to the Highland Hills area completely.

HELENA: You will shut down the gangs there. You will

offer our protection to the family of a young man named Ricky

Campbell. Anyone touches them, answers to US.

HELENA: And finally...

PANEL SIX: Helena faces an angry Sigiorello, who is still on the ground. She kneels slightly.

HELENA: Within one month, you will announce me as your

new CAPO.

SIGIORELLO: WHAT? I can’t...they’ll NEVER...

HELENA: Hush. Because you knew my father, you get one

small chance.


PANEL ONE: David, this panel is 2/3rds of the page, and it has to be EXTREMELY similar to the layout of the last panel of page ten of issue #82 of Birds of Prey, the scene where Sigiorello warns Helena.

Only this time, it’s the exact opposite. Helena is in control, warning Sigiorello, and she has her hand on his chin, making him meet her eyes, like he did to her in #82. This time, Sigiorello looks upset and scared.

HELENA: But if you fail...

HELENA: ...think of the very worst thing. The WORST thing.

HELENA: And then, think HARDER.

PANEL TWO: Inside a nice BMW car, Creote driving, Helena grabbing her cell phone. Helena’s smiling. It’s night, and they’re in the same clothes as the previous scene.

HUNTRESS CAP: Maybe it’s not such a bad thing, admitting you

need help once in a while.

HUNTRESS: Thanks for the back-up, Creote.

CREOTE: I enjoyed it, actually.

HUNTRESS: Hang on, got someone ELSE to thank.

PANEL THREE: Helena, on the cell phone in the car, smiling.

HELENA: Bar...Babs?

HELENA: Yeah. It went swimmingly. Thank you.

HUNTRESS CAP: Your family’s safe, Corey. That’s what counts.
PANEL FOUR: The car drives off into the night.

HUNTRESS CAP: So let’s see what OTHER impossible things

we can accomplish together, Oracle.

HUNTRESS (inside car): One last thing--that jacket Zinda’s

holding for me?

HUNTRESS (inside car): I’ll TAKE it.

Just To Clarify...

Some people have seemingly read my screed below as another bash against fan-fiction.

Nothing could be further from the truth, except for perhaps something that was very far from the truth, indeed.

Not only do I have nothing against fan-fiction, I think it's a vital and often hugely entertaining part of various genre communities, and I find the creators who rage against it to mostly be pretty silly. I submit that fan-ficcery is likely to create sales, rather than lose them, as it helps to build a sense of belonging and participation that cannot be manufactured by publishers. I LIKE that it's an end-user-driven process, and hat's off to those who engage in it. To me, it's a compliment.

I also think it makes swell practice for aspiring writers, particularly genre authors. I think it's crucial to know when to put fan-fic away, if one is genuinely trying to get one's work published. Fan-fic can be a set of training wheels sometimes (I say this not condescendingly, but as a simple observation of ficcers I've watched in the past), and it's important to know when to take those wheels off.

Also, I don't get why fan ART is somehow okay, but fan WRITING is obviously the work of morons and regression cases. Our industry should be grateful for readers who are dedicated enough to want to share their own visions of stories and characters we publish. Alas, the self-hate and contempt that riddles comics on every level is at work here.

I do have to add here that I no longer read any fan-fic. The major companies (as well as common legal sense) strongly suggest that it's not a good idea. But if you want to write your own stories based on my work, it's certainly fine with me (although the publishers may disagree).

It harms no one, delights and satisfies many...I don't get the controversy, frankly.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

Next Week On This Blog...

...a very surprising thing Joe Quesada did that almost no one knows about.

You'll be surprised, 'cause it's surprising.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Best Writing Tips I Ever Got, Part Two

Okay, I was GOING to post about a tip I got, an unintentional one from Dan Raspler, that changed EVERYTHING about how I look at story. He didn't mean it as a tip, it was sheer exasperation.

It's awesome. Trust me.

We'll get to that.

Instead, I'm going to talk about something else, something that's probably more vital. If I had to convey ONE idea to new writers, this would be it. I'm not wise, I'm not the smartest person on Earth, and I can't seem to waterski properly. But this much I know is true.

Okay, just like all of you, I started comics when I was young, and I would sometimes become frustrated with elements of a story. A character might have their dignity taken away, or behave in a way that I felt lessened them. These are characters I love, how DARE they behave in ways less perfect than I envisioned for them?

Naturally, I immediately blamed the writer. Again, how DARE they ruin this character? It's obvious that they hate Scuba-man (or whoever) AND their audience (me) and why was I still giving them money, anyway?

Later, years later sometimes, it would turn out that oftentimes, I couldn't even REMEMBER most stories I'd read featuring these beloved characters, but, again, oftentimes, I could remember quite well the ones that made me mad, or upset, or distressed. In hindsight, these were some of my favorite stories.

I got a lightning bolt to the head one day, while reading an interview with the brilliant musician, Laurie Anderson. I'm just typing here with no thought of order, so bear with me, and see if it knocks you on your ass like it did me.

First, a sense memory experiment. Think of the most expensive perfume or cologne you've ever smelled. You may not have loved it, but you can smell the wealth, the complexity. You know someone put it together with care and thought.

Now think of the cheapest, Wal-mart-iest crap fragrance of any kind...that crazy ass sickly sweet lavender bath shit your grandma uses, or those nightmarish lilac perfumes they ought to sell at gas stations.

Why does one grab your attention, make you snap your head up, and why is the one that's pure sweet, and imitating a fragrance that's one of nature's most beautiful, almost unbearable?

Here's why. Because, at the center of the expensive perfume, underneath the 'good' scents, there's a bad scent, intentionally placed. A smell that if that was all you got in the bottle, would likely make you throw up. There's a deliberate element in there designed to slap you right across the goddamn chops, and before you can be appalled, the 'good' mix of scents takes root.

On the other hand, all Wal-Mart thinks you want in your bath ball is an overpowering floral smell. And it turns out, we don't really want that.

There's a lot of science in scent technology, obviously, and it goes beyond me, but one thought is, in nature, it's the bad smell that warns you, that grabs your attention, or perhaps, if you're lucky, makes you want to mate, you dirty bastard. That scent is the one that attacks your animal brain in a way endless bouquets of gardenias never will.

Laurie, never the easiest or most pandering musician, applies that theory to her music, thus:

" "A few years ago, Brian began collecting little perfume bottles, just because he liked them. Then he began mixing the scents, making these incredible combinations. Now occasionally he goes to a big factory to do it. So when we did our last record, rather than sitting around afterwards talking about how we mix that, or who played bass, he took us all to a perfume factory, where we made a perfume. The secret of a really good perfume, Brian taught us, is that at its very core is something very, very stinky - civet - because the purpose of the nose is danger, to alert you. After that happens, then you can put on the pleasant smells. But first - wake up! So that's one of the things we've paid attention to in making this record, that at its core is something that's repellent, because those are the things that interest me."

I read that and felt like I'd been shot in the face. Of fucking COURSE. Of COURSE you have to have that element, that note, that scent, that makes the reader say...holy CRAP, what is THAT?

As a writer, I can assure you, that reaction is a thousand times better than someone saying, "well, that was nice!"

There's an old sales joke about the difference between a pig and a chicken in a ham and egg breakfast. The chicken is involved, but the pig is COMMITTED.

Same with writing. How many stories have you read, where in the end, you felt that the writer was pandering to you, giving you exactly what the message boarders say they want, giving you the empty calories of, "Here, this is what you asked for. I've written it just as requested."

Does anyone really want that? Lavender foaming bath balls, stinking so bad you have to leave the house, that's what that is.

I'm a writer. It's my job to lie and cheat and deceive you. To trick you, to upset you, to make you feel bad at times, to make you dislike the characters we both care about so much. Anyone can give you an X-men issue full of 22 pages of fastball specials and Wolverine killing robots. It takes a writer to have Wolverine do something stupid or awful, and let you feel a little bit of that, and still (hopefully) bring you back.

This is my number one complaint about/piece of advice for fan-ficcers. Of the few pieces I have read, there was often quite a lot of talent there, but just as often, the story was all about providing that dream crossover, that hoped-for battle between two beloved characters--in short, they were event stories, written to scratch an itch, certainly, but with little concern to the bigger issues that make a story more than a fun fight scene or superpowered orgy...the things that make a story something that engages the mind and emotions and heart.

A perfect example is Marc Andreyko's Manhunter. This book hasn't sold in the numbers it deserves, but the people who DO read the book (including just about every pro I know) love it DEEPLY. They love it with ten times the white hot fury that a whole raft of better selling books engender. And why? Because Marc is a WRITER, and Kate, the Manhunter, is flawed to pieces, makes stupid mistakes at least once an issue, and is vastly more real than any number of caped stiffs in the Top Twenty. And that makes his stuff more interesting than a great many fairy-laden webcomics, superhero trappings or not.

It can't all be flowers. I often hear would-be writers pitching their dream DC or Marvel project, and I can't get away from the cloying scent of lilacs in abundance. Yes, we want our heroes to triumph, but if there isn't also the possibility, of failure, of temptation, then I submit this question to you--what in god's name is the point? If you truly love your readers, you will do them the very great favor of poking them with an ice pick, just a little, when they reach down to smell your roses.

I can't tell you how many times, at the beginning of a story that is deliberately set up to make the reader think CONCEPT A, I get letters saying, "Hey! You did CONCEPT A! You've ruined this book!" Then, when the story shows that CONCEPT A is in fact PLOT TWIST B, and not CONCEPT A at all, well, let's just say I live for that shit.

Readers are smart...they know who has come through for them in the past, and who left them hanging. Even if I don't care for a Grant Morrison first issue at all (pretty rare occurance, to be frank, as I love Grant), his history with me says that he's likely screwing with me, messing deliberately with my expectations, putting the smell of the wolf urine in the middle of the lovely garden of floral scents. The thing is, you have to keep that promise with readers. If you go dark where there previously was light, you have to make it work, you have to be truthful. That's the difference between stories you damn well know are mandated because of a corporate crossover, and those that are tended by a gardner who cares.

This is why I don't usually lose my noodle if CreamSodaGirl has a story arc that seems wildly out of character. Because, in the end, most of the best stories I've ever read made me unhappy or uncomfortable at some point. You can do formula stories, full of fanservice (I have a different definition for this word than me, it's not about boobies), but in the end, I think you've likely cheated your readers out of their hard-earned money, in which case, shame on you.

By all means, when you write your stories, pick some flowers. Pick the prettiest, the most aromatic, if you like. But keep in mind, you might want to carefully place a wasp's nest just in the shadows.

Hey, this is very BEING THERE!

Let me finish with the same warning. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I just showed up in this chair one day and started typing until I found sentences I like. My advice to you is that you never, and I mean EVER, take my advice. Go, write, be, have lunch, dawdle, write some more, write, write, write some more, and ignore the crazy Oregon redhead.

But you might give some small thought to putting a rabid rat in your next birthday bouquet.


Friday, March 03, 2006

Was I Bill Jemas' Ghost Writer?

I might've been, a little bit.


Discarded Futurama Script

I was in love with Futurama when I wrote this, and the book was being written by a guy who wrote for the show and was doing a great job on the comic, so it was a bit of a longshot. But I had a story idea I thought was funny. The problem was, I scrunched a 22 page idea into this short, short script, and it ended up never getting used. I still think it's pretty funny, but it should have been a full script.



By Gail Simone

PANEL ONE: This is a large panel, of a huge restaurant floating in space on a big round platform. It’s obviously busy, as many ships are docked to the huge dome that encases it.

The restaurant has a mammoth Neon sign, with a robot version of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee in neon:


Authentic Pre-Armageddon Italian Cuisine

and faux Italian accouterments. The Planet Express Ship is docked where we can see it, and our beloved crew is getting out. (If space provides, it should be parked at a handicapped docking port). This includes Fry, Farnsworth, Leela, Amy, Zoidberg, Bender and Hermes. Everyone is happy, except Fry, who is holding his back as if injured, and Bender, pointing his cigar at Fry angrily. Space providing, we might see a few other patrons entering or leaving, like:

1) A family of two headed mutants, pushing a hovering baby carriage, where the baby has two lollipops.

2) Two robots holding hands, obviously in love, in a tux and prom dress.

3) Anthropomorphized human/dog versions of Lady and the Tramp, both still chewing the same piece of spaghetti. Like, fur covered humans with dog faces and Lady and the Tramp coloring.

LEELA: Having a good time on your birthday so far, Fry?

FRY: Well, all except for that ROBOT MASSAGE. I think my SPINE is slightly dislocated!

BENDER: HEY! I spent TWO WEEKS learning SHIATSU for that massage!

AMY: I heard this place was really busy. Good thing you made reservations in ADVANCE, Hermes!




The gang inside the foyer of the restaurant. A snooty robot who is quietly ignoring Hermes is behind the little greeting podium, yelling at a flabbergasted Hermes. The robot is labeled “Snoot-Bot 3000”. The podium has a small sign saying:


18 to the fourth power

(NOTE: Please don’t write out the words...I didn’t know how to do a little fourth power sign!)

Hermes, getting his angry bureaucrat groove on, as the Snoot-Bot points to a room full of cryo-chambers, several of which have people in them already. A sign above the entrance says, WAITING AREA. One of the cryo-tubes that is occupied might say, “Smith, Party of two.”

HERMES: But we’re hungry NOW, mon! What are we s’posed to do until a table open up, I ask you?

SNOOT-BOT: Well, you COULD write a sonnet or paint a lovely landscape...

SNOOT-BOT: Or you could use our complimentary cryo-tubes. I’m sure it’s not any of MY concern.

PANEL THREE: The crew, sitting around a table with a candle in a glass in the middle. A violin-playing robot minstrel hovers nearby. Everyone has a child’s birthday hat on his or her head. Leela is talking to a waitress and holding a menu. Note, we must see a pair of small salt and pepper shakers, metallic and futuristic.


LEELA: Now, this ’spaghetti’ doesn’t have any OREGANO in it, right? I get UNPREDICTABLE and sometimes DANGEROUS reactions from oregano.

BENDER: I’ll have the beer pasta, the beer breadsticks, the beer salad with beer dressing on the side, and to drink...uh......hmmm... coolant.

FRY: Wow, party hats and crayons! This is just like when I almost graduated from High School!


PANEL ONE: Leela, choking, and holding her throat. Farnsworth is skeptically drawing on his activities placemat as the rest of the gang looks concerned.

CAPTION: Soon...

LEELA: ack...hukk...>choke!<

FRY: Leela!

AMY: She‘s choking!

ZOIDBERG: Someone call a doctor who isn’t in the middle of a nice meal!

FARNSWORTH: I must admit, this maze IS many, many twists and turns!

PANEL TWO: Leela, on the ground, still holding her throat. Zoidberg is kneeling by her, running a small hand-held instrument over her.

FRY: Help her, Doctor Zoidberg!

ZOIDBERG: According to this medical scanner, she’s already DEAD!

BENDER: HA! Serves her right for not being a ROBOT!

AMY: Um, Doctor, that’s a salt shaker.

PANEL THREE: Zoidberg, salting his arm and licking it with those drippy mouth things, as Fry tries to help Leela sit up. Leela is talking to the smiling and clueless waitress. Visually, for the next bunch of panels, Leela has little swirly spots and designs around her head to indicate that she’s not right, mentally.

ZOIDBERG: Yummmmy! Salted shellfish! >shllluurrpp<

LEELA: Waitress, are you CERTAIN they don’t use oregano in the food here?

WAITRESS: Oh, no. We use only OREGAN-OH’S! brand spice replacement products. They’re synthesized to be 1000% more potent!

LEELA: Uh-oh.

PANEL FOUR: The crew, getting off the PLANET EXPRESS ship back at their base, Leela and Fry in front. NOTE: They still have their party hats on. Leela still has the “dizzy spots” around her head.

CAPTION: Later, back at home...

FRY: Uh...Leela, I don’t mean to pry, but...

FRY: Why did you kick that waitress in the head?

LEELA: What are you TALKING about, Fry?

PANEL FIVE: Leela kicking Fry in the head. He makes a stunned face as he gets a good head-kicking, because of the pain caused by the kicking, which is to his head. Hermes is agape. Bender looks suddenly amused an interested.

SOUND FX: paf!

LEELA: I NEVER kicked any waitress in the head!

FRY: Ooof!

HERMES: Leela-girl! Whatcha gonna do a thing like kickin’ Fry in the head-bone for?

PANEL SIX: Leela kicking Hermes in the head.


LEELA: I didn’t kick Fry! I don’t know what you’re TALKING about.

HERMES: OW! Dang it all, woman!

ZOIDBERG: She’s HITTING everyone with that sorry excuse for a FLIPPER!

PANEL ONE: Leela kicks Zoidberg in the head while Bender holds his gut and laughs. Leela has her arms crossed and is looking away. We want to convey that she has no knowledge of what her foot is doing.


LEELA: Oh, you guys are just trying to tease me. I’m not kicking ANYONE.

BENDER: Oh, man, this is rich. She doesn’t even KNOW she’s killing you meatbags! hahaha!

PANEL TWO: As Fry and Hermes struggle to rise to their feet, Zoidberg is laid out cold. Farnsworth is scratching his chin, party hat still on. Leela is kicking Bender in the head, repeatedly.

SOUND FX: klang! Klong! krang!

BENDER: Aaaaaaaah! Quit jerkin’ my circuits!

FARNSWORTH: Fascinating! Apparently, her severe intolerance to that particular SPICE has caused her unique cellular structure to react VIOLENTLY without her brain’s consent!

FRY: Yeah, AND she’s kicking us all in the head!

PANEL THREE: Farnsworth pointing at Leela, while Fry looks nervous, rubbing the goosebump on his head.

FARNSWORTH: Fry, go distract LEELA while I come up with an ANTIDOTE!

FRY: But...but...her foot! My head! Remember?

FARNSWORTH: I need Bender to set the TRAP. Go, boy, GO!

PANEL FOUR: Farnsworth and Bender walking away. Bender is rubbing his dented metal skull.

Fry and Leela are OFF-PANEL here.

FRY: Leela, would you just...


FRY: OW! Now STOP i...




FARNSWORTH: Oh my, yes.

PANEL FIVE: Leela has just kicked Fry, whose face is black and blue, and who has a dopey grin on his face, as he clearly has no idea where he is anymore. BENDER pokes his head around the corner. IMPORTANT NOTE: Bender has a claw trap device on the side of his head. It’s held on with metal straps around Bender’s head. We see the metal straps, but not the claw yet, as he’s hiding it from Leela. Remember she still has the dizzy spots.

FRY: Heh. You’ve kicked me so much, I don’t even feel it any more.

LEELA: Oh, I have NOT. Quit LYING, Fry!

BENDER: Ohhh, LEELA! Could you come here for a minute?

PANEL SIX: Leela is in an almost manga-esque panel, as she leaps through the air with a spinning back-kick towards Bender’s head. Bender is smirking.

LEELA: I’m getting pretty ANGRY about all this TEASING about all this supposed KICKING I‘m supposedly supposed to be doing...!


PANEL ONE : Close-up of Leela’s foot as it’s caught in the claw trap on Bender’s head.


SOUND FX: klick!

PANEL TWO: Leela, standing on one leg, the other caught on Bender’s head claw-trap. We see the backs of the heads of the rest of the gang. Fry is clearly out of it, grinning through his bruises.


FARNSWORTH: She’s trapped! Hold her down so I can inject her with the ANTIDOTE.

FRY: I have noticeable swelling in my brain!

FRY: Happy birthday to me!

PANEL FOUR: Leela’s face as everyone leaps at her.

LEELA: Eeeps!

PANEL FIVE: A big cartoon-like cloud of battle-dust, where we see bits of the characters as they stuggle to hold Leela down. The word balloons come from the dust cloud.




PANEL SIX: Leela is in her bed, with the gang standing around her. They all (except Leela and Farnsworth, and Bender of course) have bandages wrapped around their scalps, and Fry has two black eyes. Bender has big dents, but the claw is removed. Fry is whispering into her ear...


LEELA: I’m really sorry about the kicking thing, everyone. I guess I shouldn’t eat Italian food at all!

FARNSWORTH: That’s solid advice for ANYONE, actually, but I’m glad the antidote worked, and you’re totally CURED.

FRY: Hey, Leela, now that you’re not kicking me in the head anymore, how about you and I...

FRY: whisper whisper whisper!

PANEL SIX: Fry, turned away, smiling, not noticing that Leela is about to kick him in the head, her foot inches away from his skull.

FRY: Heh. Yeah, she is so INTO me!

LEELA: (black scrawl)

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER: It’s well-documented that over 80% of Italian restaurant food is now safe for human consumption--enjoy some today!