Last week, I re-published the first chapter of the writer’s commentary I wrote seven years ago for my first published comics’ work Youngblood: Genesis #1, and today I offer the conclusion to that frantic four day period. There are also some final thoughts after the piece, which details some of the things that happened after the script was turned in. Thanks for the support, and hope you enjoy.
Originally published as “Ignition” on June 23, 2003-
Okay… here’s what I’m looking at.
Continuing where last week’s Write Where U Stand left off, I have a long day ahead of me. Thirty pages of script need to be revised, cleaned, and transcribed into a Word document. And I’m not finished. Ambi. needs to make a similar move from the notebook to the word processor. And I’m not finished. The plot for PROJECT X needs a handful of revisions. And I haven’t started. All due the following day, and I have a quick shift at work, and it’s a holiday.
Yeah, yeah, I know…it sounds like fun to me too 🙂
Let’s see how much…
DAY 4- 7:00 AM- 9:00AM
I’m not a particular fan of early mornings. My fragile constitution seems to operate far more comfortably when it’s allowed to stay conscious until two or three in the morning, and then leave bed around nine or ten the following morning. This is how things are supposed to work in my ever so humble opinion, and once again I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate any and all persons capable of existing and thriving within the dreaded 9-5 time slot and those even earlier. You people are simply a credit to mankind. But I’m drifting…
Anyway, I’m up at seven because that’s the only way this is going to work…and it’s going to work. Showered and ready to roll by 7:30, and I have about five more pages to draft in the script that come out relatively easy, though I did neglect page 30, but that’s okay because I know exactly what goes on it. Promise.
I actually finish with some time to spare and grab breakfast before getting ready for work, which expects me at 11.
10:00 AM- 11:00 AM
I tried to get out of working today (because I knew things were becoming due) but thought it unwise to make a case of it, especially considering my level of employee freshness, and the fact I’d been excused from a store meeting that began at 7 that morning. Small price to pay I think, and after arriving with thirty minutes to kill, I spit a large portion of the column’s unfinished section into the notebook while sitting in the café. I’ll probably only need another half hour with this to wrap it properly. Maybe I can steal some time.
11:00 AM- 3:00 PM
I am quite notorious for using any idle time to scribble down a note here and there…sometimes even whole columns if things slow to an appropriate crawl. But that was at my old Barnes & Noble, this is the new deal with a cast of characters I’ve just started to decipher, and more importantly…new managers that I have to feel out before they’re allowed to find me “neglecting” my duties to jot down lines of opinionated nonsense. At this point, I’m willing to risk it, but I’m actually too busy to get anything down. Imagine that.
Using my lunch break, Ambi. is finished, and if I’m lucky I won’t feel the urge to change every word I’ve written as it migrates from written word to printed word. We’ll see.
4:00 PM- 6:00 PM
Off work and have decided to start the marathon by transcribing the column, because it’ll be a good way to get my board nice and warm, and there’s less chance of becoming incredibly frustrated if my progress stalls. Maybe this is an indication that my scripting technique is immature or underdeveloped, but there’s a stop and start aspect of the process that’s harder to handle than just flowing. Writing Ambidextrous is like freestylin’ and scripting requires one to write to the beat. If that makes any sense.
The column goes down without much problem, and I actually come up with a couple transitions that should be more effective. I give it a quick proof and save it, intending to come back whenever the script demands a break, tweaking it ever so slightly along the way before releasing it upon ace editor Craig Lemon. If I do my job right, then he’ll have nothing to do before posting it.
Now onto the Green Destiny…
6:00 PM- 7:00 PM
Doing something a little different this time because the clock is ticking, and it makes no sense to blankly stare at a page or line that’s not hitting its correct note on my first pass. I’m the type of stubborn bastard that believes if I view a page for just long enough, the solution to whatever problems it’s presenting will appear from magical ether and save my confused ass…but that’s not really how it works recently. I’ve found that if I just grit my teeth and outright skip any panel or section refusing to make sense, and move on to the next, then somewhere along the way I’ll have a brainstorm that completes the equation from earlier, and the time wasted is kept to a minimum.
My recent relocation has left me without a desk, so I find a tall box (something that still hasn’t been unpacked yet) and set it next to the area of the couch designated my “workstation” and get to pounding the keys on the laptop, making two piles next to where I’m sitting. Pile A is for the pages that if allowed will inspire fits of frustration, for which there is no time for, and Pile B is for the ones that end up transcribed somewhat successfully. B should always be more than A, and though I did skip a couple pages, in an hour four pages are resting comfortably in B. But there are also four in A. Too close.
7:00 PM- 8:00PM
Only two pages finished, but something far more important happened this hour that very likely came to be quite relevant later on. It started when I took a break to check the e-mail and surf a couple sites when I find that my boy Chad Thomas wrote to congratulate me on hitting the hundred column mark.
Little background here—I met Chad during the Connections panel at Wizard World Chicago that was specifically designed to pair writers with artists, in the hopes they’d marry and spawn beautiful comics together. I liked Chad’s style immediately. Very slick. Very animated. Good storytelling. Reminded me of Mike Wieringo a bit. So I asked him if he would take a glance at The Reserve, a short 11-page script I was carrying about a dozen of. It actually became a column after I got back.
Anyhow, we exchanged a couple e-mails back and forth, and he asked if he could give life to the story, and make it a sample for his portfolio or something. This was months ago mind you, but tonight, tonight of all nights, Chad drops a line about 100, and apologizes for not letting me know sooner, but he finished penciling The Reserve months ago. It’s been on his website since February. Uhh…what?
So I click this link he leaves, and I, well…this is kind of embarrassing but I, I think I must’ve had some sort of writer’s orgasm…
My words had finally been provided glorious form, and if I needed a sign, a lyrical lightning bolt to strike me down and offer conclusive evidence that comics are a medium I need to be involved in…this was it. I felt like I had arrived people, that my mind was a lethal goddamn weapon, and had just realized that in light of my bravado, my confidence, my determination…that I really couldn’t be stopped. And Chad Thomas had just shown me why.
I dialed up my best friend and sent him the link, and we spent twenty minutes grinning at a story come to life (he helped me with several parts of it), surprised and pleasantly surprised that Chad drew my script exactly as I’d written it, maybe changing a panel or two along the way. That’s it. If I wrote it he did it, even managing to add a couple visual flairs that I hadn’t suggested. It was simply lovely, and I was proud and inspired by the work he did. I’d link it here, but I should get his permission first. Maybe next week.
So this is the mindset I’m in when it’s time to return to the script. Bulletproof, baby.
8:00 PM- 9:00 PM
Six pages down. All fire.
9:00 PM- 10:00 PM
Another three pages down and my intensity remains peaked. Checked the mail and a couple sites to find the Mark Waid news hitting the outlets, followed by the sounds of message boards digitally exploding. It’s a bit disappointing because it takes a special creator to make me care about FF. Grant Morrison. Carlos Pacheco. Mark Waid.
10:00 PM- 12:00 AM
Now, we’re going to complicate things a bit. For the last several hours, it’s been one or the other, the script or the column, and now I’m going to hit both. I’m still rollin’ on the script and by the end of the session, pile B has 22 pages and A has 8. Not bad.
I maximize Ambi’s window and proof the contents a couple more times before saving it one last time, and sending it off to the editor. PROJECT X, I haven’t forgotten about you…
12:00 AM- 1:00 AM
I’m supposed to be altering a tiny piece in the middle, and an even smaller piece at the conclusion. Problem being that if allowed I’ll likely micro-manage the whole thing into oblivion because I keep changing lines. So I’m focusing. Get in, get out, get back to the script. I’m behaving fairly well when I have my first brush with fatigue, eyes becoming heavier than they’re supposed to be. I raid the kitchen in search of a caffeine injection, and the best I can manage is the two-liter of Coke in there. Take a closer look at the bottle. “Caffeine-free.” Shit.
I make it to the finish line and am satisfied with the result, and now move on to the conclusion of things.
1:00 AM- 3:00 AM
Run through the entire script, attacking details one page at a time and merging the confusing contents of Pile A along the way. Don’t really know how I finish because I’m noticeably tired at this point, fingers hitting the wrong keys on several occasions, as my brain starts to forget how I’m formatting this script. But something gets it done and something gets it sent…now goodnight.
So a few hours after all this, my cell phone rings, but I couldn’t wake up in time to actually answer it. Whoever it was leaves a long message, and when I manage to check it, I learn that it was Rob Liefeld, calling to thank me for turning in such an awesome script. To this day, this was one of my greatest moments in comics, as his words were extremely flattering and supportive, and just the thing I needed to hear at that point in my development. No shame in saying that I kept his message until I had to replace the phone. Like I said before, like any comics child of the 90s, he and guys like Todd McFarlane were gods to me, and to think that years later we’d not only be working together, but that he’d be waking me up from a work induced coma to tell me how great I job I did on the Youngblood script that caused said coma was unfathomable to me. Big victory for me, and one which I’ll always remember like it was yesterday.
Now, if something like this had happened today, I would’ve immediately dropped everything else I was working on, and exclusively focused on the script without hesitation. But my 23-year old self didn’t want to potentially let anyone down, so instead of telling my very kind and understanding columns editor that Rob Liefeld wanted to pay me money to write a script in less than a week, I insisted on not only writing that script, but also writing the column about writing the script at the exact same time. I feel tired and dizzy just thinking about it, but it’s always fun to be reminded how productive and sometimes manic my writing was back in the day. Which is something considering that this script was written in my parents’ den, which was my bedroom for a few months after returning home from college.
This time period will be revisited later on this summer in another More Than Music entry, as I detail what CD was on repeat for the majority of this process, and why it will always be emotionally linked to the first comic script I ever sold. Hope you all enjoyed this brief trip down memory lane…much more in the coming weeks…
Also, check out the first interview I did about this project as an official comic book writer right here.