Happy Ape Day

Planet of the Apes 01 Cover CHey there, April 27! So nice to see you. What’s that you have in your hand? Oh, the new Planet of the Apes comic! On sale now, you say?

But wait, what’s that you’re hiding behind you back? Oh goodness, it’s Dracula: Company of Monsters #9, and Volume 2 of Dracula: Company of Monsters, the trade paperback collecting issues 5 thru 8!  Also on sale today? Let me take a look at those…

Dracula: Company of Monsters 09  Dracula: Company of Monsters Volume 2 Cover

Wait a minute, why are you holding that gun? What do you mean my rhetorical device has become labored? Come on, April 27, I thought we were pals! Just put down the — Aaagh! For the love of God,  I have children!

The Frostburg Effect

Well, it’s been a productive week here at the Rancho Del Daryl. Going in reverse order, on Friday I finished the final revisions on Dracula: Company of Monsters #12, and I’m really happy with how we used all our ideas — mine, Kurt Busiek’s, and those of our editor, Dafna Pleban — to hit the right notes in this last issue of the arc. It’s been such a great experience working with them on this book.

Then on Thursday I finished the first draft of Planet of the Apes #3, which features some very nice set pieces that Carlos Magno should have a blast drawing. Four words, people: Apes With Gatling Guns.

But back on Tuesday I played the Visiting Writer at Frostburg University, with Andy and Sydney Duncan as my hosts.

 

Andy Duncan

Andy is simply one of the finest writers in SF, and the best readers I’ve ever heard. I once had to follow him in a reading, and it was intimidating.

Sydney Duncan

Sydney, his wife, is one of the organizers of the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. and I met them both when I attended my first ICFA a couple years ago. They’re both faculty in the Frostburg English department, and they invited me in to talk to a creative writing class (taught by  Brad Barkley) and to do a reading.

Plus they fed me! I had a lovely dinner with the Duncans, Gerry LaFemina (also a member of  the English department, who runs the Center for Creative Writing, and who paid for my dinner, despite having to miss dinner himself so that he could help a friend with a dead cat– it’s a long story), the poet Nina Forsythe and her mathematician husband Robert, and Keith — a retired member of the English department whose last name escapes me. Sorry, Keith.

Frostburg’s a lovely town, and I was jealous of their independent bookstore, Main Street Books, whose owner Fred sold books at the reading. (Well, not very many. Sorry about that, Fred.) I read my story “Unpossible”,  as well as the short-short “Digital,” which is about a man whose consciousness moves from behind his eyes to the index finger of his left hand. Thank God people laughed.

What I most enjoyed was sitting around in the afternoon at Sydney and Andy’s house, petting various dogs and cats, and talking about writing, Clarion, and teaching. They told me about the Harry Potter Effect they’re seeing — almost all their creative writing students are writing YA, and by that they mean fantasy YA. One of the students in Brad’s creative writing class told me that they’re all writing genre fiction. This is a complete turnaround from just a few years ago.

The students in the class asked a lot of questions, but here’s one of the most interesting. We were talking about cliches and genre conventions, and the student asked me, If you subvert all the cliches, isn’t that a cliche in itself? This started us talking about the use and abuse of cliches. I said that you always had to be aware of cliches, but they could also be used for effect. I wasn’t sure where my line was, of which cliches I’d allow in to a story and which I’d rule out, though I could talk about some of the cliches I’d intentionally subverted in my own work. But I couldn’t articulate what my line in the sand was, what I would allow or not allow. And I didn’t differentiate between the different kinds of cliches. Were we talking about genre conventions, plot conventions, cliched characters, cliched language…?

I wish I’d given them a better answer. I’m going to think more about this.

Apes #1 — Cigars, everybody!

So what’s the gestational period for an ape?

It can’t be long, because an entire planet of ‘em took about five months, from script brainstorm to publication date. The official date for Planet of the Apes #1 is now set at April 27, 2011, and there’s a five-page preview (as well as a few covers) at http://robot6.comicbookresources.com/2011/04/preview-planet-of-the-apes-1/ Take a look at how that Carlos Magno draws apes!

I’ve been doing a bunch of interviews, as a forum chat, a podcast at Wordballoon (not out yet), and a few minutes with Sohaib at Fictional Frontiers (not out yet either — I’ll post a link when they’re up) .

Here’s a sampling:

Interview with MTV Geek

Interview with Pop Culture Zoo

Archive of the chat on the POTA Yahoo Group (thanks to Rich Handley for collating and posting this. You can also see my interview with Rich on the site.)

Oh, and to skip ahead, here’s the cover for #2.

POTA's first albino gorilla, everybody

Gorging on FreakAngels

I just had a very 21st century reading experience that has messed with my sense of time–and got me thinking about THE FUTURE. [cue echo effect]  In the space of a few days, I read every episode of FreakAngels, the free webcomic written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Paul Duffield. It’s a quirky, engaging, surprisingly warm story about disaffected twenty-somethings who happen to be powerful telepaths. Six years ago they destroyed the world, and now they may be building it back. It’s lovely.

But before you go read this thing, some facts about my own freakish reading experience are in order. Namely:

  • An episode comes out once a week. There are six pages per episode, each equivalent to a printed page.
  • There are now 130 episodes. That’s 780 pages.
  • The first episode came out February 15, 2008. It’s now April 4, 2011. That’s 1144 days.
  • Missing that many days without reading a page of a wonderful, talked-about comic is called Coming Late to the Party.
  • The first 48 episodes covered 24 hours in the character’s lives. This is what they call in comics decompression.
  • I could not stop reading. But as good as FreakAngels is, I could not have read so many pages, so quickly, while sitting at my computer. That would cause what doctors call Ass Compression.
  • My orgy of reading, my graphical immersion, was made possible only because I had an iPad. This is what’s called Getting Jobbed. As in Steve Jobbed.
  • The story is not finished.

You see the problem. I now have to wait around like the proles, killing time for 7 days to get 6 more pages of story. This is like going back to TV before Tivo. How do people live like that?

I can’t offer any advice here. You should definitely FreakAngels. But now? Or later? Ellis seems to be in the final stages of the story, so maybe you can afford to wait. But given the previous statistics, finishing the “final stages” may take two years.  Hmm.

But business-wise, I’m intrigued by a few things. First is the business model. Ellis has said it’s like television: you can watch it for free, but the DVDs (in this case, the printed trade editions) will cost you. FreakAngels also sells merchandise — t-shirts, coffee mugs, computer bags, you name it.

Second is the fact that it’s a creator-owned comic, but unlike a lot of webcomics, it’s backed by a publisher, Avatar. They’re providing the web space and publishing the trades. For all I know they also put up money to pay Ellis and Duffield and the other folks who help with the coloring and keep the site running.

Third is that it’s a web comic, but my iPad made it such a pleasurable reading experience. I carried it around like a book, and never shut down the web window, so I could resume where I left out.  The art also works for the web. One page at a time, and no two-page spreads, for example.

That said, the experience wasn’t seamless — I was frequently zooming in and zooming out, and my ipad’s wireless connection made some pages load slowly.  (Anyone else have a feeble experience with the iPad with your home network? It’s the slowest device on my network.) If there was a free app that did page caching, and removed all the navigation items while I was reading, I would have had an easier time.

[Note to self: Write tutorial to teach webcomics publishers how to do caching.]

More importantly, though, thanks to having a tablet, I’m looking for web comics now. I didn’t have time to read them before, because I spent enough time camped out in front of my PC. But now I can read them anywhere. So if you have a favorite webcomic, please tell me about it.

–d