Going Ape

Well, news of my secret comics project has hit the internets.

POTA Cover 01a

And here’s the blurb for that first issue:

Get your hands on these damn dirty Apes! Beginning an all-new series that takes place before the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie in the continuity of the first five films! Ape society has reached a new golden age. But there are ripples of dissent in both the ape and human ranks. Tensions will rise and soon all will be caught in chaos! And amidst all this uncertainty, what is the fate of The Lawgiver?

Yes, that’s a lot of exclamation marks, but that’s how we roll in the comics industry. I’ll be handling story and script, Carlos Magno will be doing the art, and Ian Brill will be editing. It’s an ongoing comic, and the first issue comes out in April, with covers by Karl Richardson and Chad Hardin.

I’ll be able to talk more about this soon, but I can say we’re going to show people a Planet of the Apes they’ve never seen before — the coolest, meanest Apes we can make — while respecting everything that’s come before.

I’m stoked. I mean, Stoked!!

Written by Daryl Gregory, art by Carlos Magno, covers by Karl Richardson and Chad Hardin.

Get your hands on these damn dirty Apes! Beginning an all-new series that takes place before the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie in the continuity of the first five films! Ape society has reached a new golden age. But there are ripples of dissent in both the ape and human ranks. Tensions will rise and soon all will be caught in chaos! And amidst all this uncertainty, what is the fate of The Lawgiver?

Written by Daryl Gregory, art by Carlos Magno, covers by Karl Richardson and Chad Hardin.

Get your hands on these damn dirty Apes! Beginning an all-new series that takes place before the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie in the continuity of the first five films! Ape society has reached a new golden age. But there are ripples of dissent in both the ape and human ranks. Tensions will rise and soon all will be caught in chaos! And amidst all this uncertainty, what is the fate of The Lawgiver?

Big Week for Dick and Drac

I write to you from the 27th floor of the Westin hotel in lovely Seattle. Last night, Jack Skillingstead and Nancy Kress, Seattle’s science fiction power couple, hosted a lovely dinner, with guests that included Ted Kosmatka (awesome SF writer), and Patrick Swenson, the proprietor of Fairwood Press, who will be publishing my short story collection in the fall. I drop these names not to impress you (though really, you should all be jealous that you didn’t get a slice of Nancy’s gingerbread cake), but to remark on a nice bit of synchronicity. You see, Jack, Ted, and I all have work appearing in a comic book series that’s out now. Lemmee explain.

Each issue of BOOM! Studios graphic novel version of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep includes an essay about Philip K. Dick and his influence on the field. Issue 16 has my piece, “I Am Horselover Fat”, about all the techniques I stole from him. #17 has Jack’s essay, “Truth, Art, and Grocery Money” about key moments in Dick’s life, and #18 has Ted discussing “Philip K. Dick the Shaman.” Did you know that Ted was born on the same day as PKD, only 45 years apart? Me neither. But that, my friends, is only one of the amazing things you will learn when you buy these issues. Oh, and the graphic novels are pretty sweet too. And don’t forget Chris Roberson’s official prequel to Androids, called Dust to Dust, also out by BOOM!

Now, three Impaler-related items:

Dracula: The Company of Monsters #6 is now on sale. In this issue we demonstrate the ups and downs of being undead: (a) Why it’s so handy to be a vampire during contract negotiations, and (b) how  cheesy pickup lines will never work with the hot chick, even if you are a creature of the night. Oh, the fang giveth, and the fang taketh away.

D:TCoM Volume 1, collecting issues 1-4, is now out in trade paperback.This is a great time to finally start reading the comic, Mom. Just ask A Walrus Darkly, who has a nice review of the volume.

Finally, Newsarama has Chris Roberson interviewing me about Dracula, in which he pressures me into revealing exactly how I managed to sneak into the world of comics.

Well, that’s it for now, folks. I haven’t had an espresso in fifteen minutes, and it’s time to get back on track. I love you, Seattle.

The weirdness and wonderfulness of comics reviews

Let’s talk about story, and character arcs, and monthly installments, and reviews.

Way back before I started writing comics — you know, eight months ago — I’d never thought about how odd it is that people review a single issue of an ongoing comic, by which I mean a comic that’s telling a story over many months. As a prose guy, I’m used to people reviewing the complete work — beginning, middle, and end — and evaluating how well the object works as a whole. A confusing middle chapter may be necessary for the ending. An unlikeable character may grow and develop.

Reviewing a single issue seems (at first glance– wait for the second glance below)  akin to reviewing a single chapter of a novel, or the first quatrain of a sonnet. The only questions a reviewer can ask (again, at first glance) are  (a) did I enjoy those 22 pages, and (b) did I want to read more? The reviewer can, optionally, speculate on where the plot is going, opine on whether that alleged destination is anywhere interesting, or reflect on how the new developments change the perception of previous issues.

As an exercise for the reader, please pause now and review this blog post so far.

Everyone back? Cool. Where was I? Oh, right. It seems that the ultimate evaluation of the story’s effectiveness — whether it was worth telling — has to be postponed until the story is done. (If the comic continues publishing… if the readers keep reading… if the creative team doesn’t change its mind and have its mind changed for them by the editors…)

Now don’t get me wrong. I evaluate issues as I read them. And writers know that each issue has to win the trust and commitment of the reader anew. The reader can stop at any time, or more weirdly, start at any time.

And that’s where the second glance comes in. Ongoing comics, it seems to me upon reflection, are a hybrid form, designed to tell a longer story, but by necessity forced to be objects that stand and sell on their own. In that way, they’re more like books in a trilogy. The reviewer is playing the role of play by play announcer or color commentator. They don’t know how the game is going to end, but they can describe what seems to be going well so far, and they can point out things you may not have noticed.

Just this week, Chris Sims of Comics Alliance did a brilliant analysis of Superman #707, Chris Roberson’s first issue at the helm, and he pointed out something on the first page that I completely glossed over when I read it. (Go read his review — you’ll know the moment when you see it.)

As for Dracula: Company of Monsters, it’s still very much in process. Issue #5 is on the stands now, the first trade paperback collecting issues 1-4 is coming out next week (you can order on Amazon), and I’m working on the script for #10. Compounding this, D:CoM is a “slow burn” comic. We start slow, with plot elements falling into place one by one, with an unconventional main character. Evan is not a hero. He’s an ordinary guy, whose main problem is that he’s not yet his own man — he’s constantly being manipulated by strong personalities around him.

A couple of reviews of Dracula #5 came in recently, and both hit on this aspect of the book, which I will call The Problem with Evan. Don McPherson on his Eye On Comics blog says this:

On the surface, this is about Dracula’s resurrection in the 21st century, but in reality, it’s about the human characters and the nasty things they’re willing to do in the name of ambition and self-preservation. Evan makes for an unlikely hero. He’s far from the most ethical man, but his shades of grey are swallowed whole by the blackness of those in his life, even his fiancee, who initially and deceptively comes off as the loyal partner.

Charles Webb over at MTV Geek has been following the book, and he just posted his review of #5, opening with this: “I’m curious how much longer writer Daryl Gregory is going to keep series lead Evan Barrington straddling the fence between between evil and not-so-evil.”

…These two [events in the story] underline the central problem of Evan’s character: he is, for all intents and purposes a jellyfish. Last issue, Dracula had him pegged, that the young executive with some talent but very little ambition and drive “wasn’t anything yet.” Unable to decide for himself, Evan allows others to decide for him; unable to make a moral decision on his own, he quickly finds himself having no clear sense of what the “right” thing to do is.

…Typically, an inactive lead would be a problem for a story, but I suspect that Gregory’s script (based on a story by Kurt Busiek) is pushing Evan towards a point where the young waffler will actually have to pull the trigger on his own.

The entry of the Romanians into the story proper, as well as the enigmatic moves made by Dracula promise to raise the tension of an already pretty tense plot. If only Gregory’s script could push Evan into the forefront of the action as an active participant a bit more… well, then this would shape up to be one of the better 2010-2011 books on the shelves right now.

Alas, my lips must remain sealed. I so want to talk about where the comic is going, but of course that has to wait for at least 7 more issues, when we finish the first main story arc. I will promise you this — the slow burn gets downright incendiary, and I can’t wait for people to see how it ends.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful that there are people out there reviewing ongoing comics, even if they can’t know everything — like what’s happening in issues that haven’t been written yet. So many times a blogger or podcaster has directed me to a good comic I’d overlooked, or taught me something about a book I was already reading.

Besides, what are reviewers supposed to do? Wait until the comic has died from lack of readers until the talk about it? That’s madness, I tell you — madness! So here’s to you , Captains of Reviewer Land — many thanks.

Waiting for Superman

My pal Chris Roberson has been obsessed with Superman since he was six years old. He practically lived in his red, white, and blue underoos. He is also a hell of a nice guy, who, with his wonder wife, Allison Baker, broke me into comics.

And now, in one of those rare, wonderful cases of karmic justice — not to mention truth and the American way — Chris has been tapped to write Superman, DC’s flagship comic. His first issue, #707, is out now. You must buy this, if only to remind yourself that Yes, sometimes good things happen to good people.

 

This Excerpt Best Accompanied by Jan Hammer

Here’s the way it’s supposed to work, people:

  1. Writer uploads excerpt of new novel.
  2. Reader samples, like a perp dipping a wet finger into a bag of cocaine in the hit NBC show Miami Vice.
  3. The jolt is so strong, the product so pure, that the customer vows to trade a briefcase full of cash whenever product becomes available.
  4. Ha! It’s a prop! The bag is full of flour.

Okay, I may have lost control of the metaphor there. I’ve been watching a lot of reruns. All I’m trying to say is that if you want to read the prologue and first chapter of the novel I was talking about yesterday (Raising Stony Mayhall, available June 28, 2011 in Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Borders, and back alleys) then here you go, in high-grade pdf or uncut  html.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go iron my Armani jacket.

Can’t Keep a Good Man Down, Part 2

So out of the blue, Patrick Wolohan of the Stomping Yeti blog, wrote a post outing the cover of the new book. Evidently, the image  had been uploaded to Amazon and I didn’t know it. Which means, I guess, that’s it time to start my Massive Global Marketing Campaign.

First up — what book am I talking about? Well, it’s called Raising Stony Mayhall, it’s coming out June 28, 2011, and the cover that Patrick found looks like this:

RSM cover

Ooh, spooky, yah?

Well, Patrick wanted to know what the book was about. Now, I’m terrible at pithy summaries — at least with my own stuff. I’ll be very curious to see how the Random House marketing people describe this one. But until then, here’s the long, unpithy summary:

It’s the story of John “Stony” Mayhall, the most polite dead boy in the world, who just may be the zombie messiah. Found by the side of an Iowa road soon after the great living dead outbreak of 1968, the undead infant is cared for in secret by Wanda Mayhall and her three daughters. Then the baby does the impossible: he begins to grow. And talk. And wonder things like, Am I the last of my kind? Can my bite really start another outbreak? And, Will I ever get to go to college?

Stony’s childhood ends, and his true education begins, the night he’s almost captured by the government and is rescued by the Living Dead Army. These LDs (the Z-word is so crude) aren’t the flesh-eating monsters he’s read about, and they want their (in)human rights. Stony goes on the lam, dodging government zombie hunters who want to send him to the secret prison called Deadtown. Along the way Stony becomes a kind of scientist of undeath, and he meets walking dead of all stripes: prophets who speak through Ouija boards, billionaire fishstick magnates, assassins made almost entirely of wood, and a lab animal who becomes for two minutes the world’s first undead chimp.

But the biggest threat to LDs and humans alike are the radical LDs who want to start the Big Bite–the second, and final, zombie outbreak. Stony, who has become a reluctant leader of the Living Dead Army, may be the only one who can stop them.

Oh, and one more thing. The reader learns on page one that Stony failed. The second outbreak spread over the globe, and the living survivors are confined to small, armed enclaves. But what Stony did succeed at was just as critical, and much, much stranger.

That’s it for now. Tomorrow, excerpts! Stop back for Chapters 1 and 2.

 

Can’t Keep a Good Man Down, Part 1

Part 2 we’ll cover tomorrow, but today’s good man is Dracula. Okay, maybe not so good, but I like him.

Dracula 5 coverDracula: Company of Monsters #5 is out tomorrow, and Pop Culture Network has a seven-page preview and a five-star review. They open with this:

After the climax of issue number four I was legitimately concerned that this smart and unique monster series would descend into a more stereotypical and uninspired gore-fest. Thankfully that is not what happened. Instead the series provided its best issue yet, featuring plenty of surprises, converging plot threads and a re-ignited storyline…  This has been a series not lacking in surprises but this issue delivered them one right after another.

Yep, #4 ended with Drac laying waste to half a dozen security guards and sucking a main character dry– the bloodiest issue yet. Issue #5 begins act two of the story, with Evan dealing with the aftermath, and the other characters making their moves. It also features several pages of Dracula critiquing the Eden story while conjuring the world’s coolest tree fort. What more could you want?

I’m just happy that people are sticking with the series. I’m working on the scripts for act three, which takes all the initial premises and conflicts to their logical extremes. It’s so much fun. And the trade paperback of volume 1, collecting issues 1-4, will be out later this month, so it’s not too late to hop on the Dracula bandwagon

Have I done enough huckstering? Would Stan Lee be proud? I hope so. No, I KNOW so!

’nuff said.