I’m working on a KARMA INCORPORATED script book, which will print through Lulu. It should be ready in time for Dallas Comic Con. This book will have the complete scripts for volume one POOR MR. WILSON and the unreleased volume two VICE AND VIRTUE. It’ll be the only place where you can read what happens in VICE AND VIRTUE. I completed chapter four just for this book. As an extra, I included the script for “50 Miles to Marfa” and “The Heist and The Heart Attack,” short stories from PopGun. Paul Milligan is working on the cover. He’s done some great cover work for our friend.
I finished the book’s introduction yesterday, and decided to share it. If you notice any glaring errors, by all means, let me know before I print.
I was bored one Saturday afternoon. I had an idea for a comic book and decided to create a “teaser” using some film editing software. White text on a dark screen with rain pouring down, Mr. Blue Skies by ELO as the music.
“Stuck in traffic. Girlfriend left. Milk went sour. Toilet backs up. Lost your job. Flat tire. IRS audit. Flight delay. Lost your wallet. Dog ran away. Computer crashes. What if it’s not all coincidence? KARMA INCORPORATED. Let us ruin someone’s day. A new comic book by David Hopkins. Currently in production (if nothing goes wrong).” +
I didn’t have a story, characters, or an artist. It was just an idea. I watched the trailer about 50 times. Then I asked Melissa to take a look. “Cool. That’s your best idea so far. You should go with it.” Like all great advice, I didn’t take it. Not at first.
Instead, I worked on a proposal for Viper Comics called Rocket Science. Think 1950’s alien invasion with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as our only hope. I took the proposal to the San Diego Comic Con. While there, I talked with my friend Paul Kilpatrick at Antarctic Press. He asked me what I was working on. I casually mentioned Karma Incorporated. He said, “That’s a cool idea. Could you email me more about it?” Uh, sure. Then only a few minutes later, Viper rejected Rocket Science. However, I was so excited about things with Antarctic Press, I said, “That’s cool. I think Antarctic Press is interested in another story I have.” This got the attention of Jessie Garza at Viper. “Really? What is it?” I explained Karma Incorporated to him too. His response was almost immediate. They wanted to publish it. Do you have the first issue written? “Yes.” I lied.
Once home from San Diego, I emailed Paul to say Viper wanted Karma Incorporated. I thought it’d be a good fit there. All was copacetic. Then I wrote the synopsis and first issue within a week. It wasn’t perfect, but I could always edit later. The challenge was to find an artist. On August 5, 2004, I emailed Tom Kurzanski. I sent him my “teaser” video, told him Viper Comics was interested, and asked if he would like to illustrate Karma Incorporated. Tom and I were already working on an adaptation of Antigone, which we’d later publish with Silent Devil. Tom emailed me that same day and said yes.
Let me take a moment to say nice things about Tom. More than any other person, I owe Tom my break in comics and helping me become a better writer. It takes a brave person to undertake a project with an unproven writer. Without him, Karma Incorporated would still only be an idea. He didn’t fight the script, but allowed me to see it just as I wrote it, which helped me understand how a script works. He gave dramatic and visual depth to scenes I could only vaguely visualize. Tom read each script and gave me notes. He wasn’t only the artist; he was the editor. These notes were invaluable. I especially remember the countless rewrites on the epilogue. You don’t learn anything from a first draft. By your fifth and sixth draft? You’re tired, angry and grasping for words, and you’re a writer damn it. If Tom was going to illustrate my story, he expected it to be good. I was lucky in that Tom’s style mirrored the type of quirky stories I hoped to write, something with range and something distinctive.
Within a year, we had a comic book on the shelves. Sales were low. Reviews were generally positive. (My favorite was from Needcoffee.com: “We’re enjoying the hell out of this book: it’s funny, it’s got a nice trace of bitterness, and we have no idea where the hell it’s going.”) We had a few bona fide fans. People wanted more Karma Incorporated. I certainly wanted more Karma Incorporated.
I started work on the follow up immediately after writing the first series. Whereas Poor Mr. Wilson was about the aftermath of a job gone horribly wrong, a story about them getting a dose of their own medicine, Vice and Virtue would be about the job itself, the planning and the execution. It would be their biggest target, the mayor of Dallas. I added a subplot with Terry, hinted at in the first series. The third chapter was entirely devoted to this storyline. I gave Malcolm a larger role, which was important. Vice and Virtue upped the stakes.
We lost momentum during this process. It took a year for Viper to approve the second series. While waiting, Tom and I shifted our attention to Antigone. I also started work on Emily Edison with Brock Rizy and Astronaut Dad with Brent Schoonover. And for personal reasons, there were other delays. The delays became an albatross. So much so that I doubt Vice and Virtue will ever see print.
I realize “never say never.” Indie projects tend to have a timeline all there own. There will certainly be more Hopkins/Kurzanski collaborations in the future. The best hope for more Karma Incorporated could be on the Hollywood end of things. Viper Comics is pretty aggressive in getting their properties optioned. (Did anyone see the Middleman on ABC Family? Incredible.) Karma Incorporated has always had people interested in it for a TV series. I had an hour-long phone conversation with one writer/producer. His take would be very faithful to the original comic. Perhaps I’ve said too much? Anyways, such a development, if it were to happen, might bring Karma Incorporated back. Might.
Until then, I decided it would be nice to make the Vice and Virtue script available to people who are curious about where the story was going — or for people who just like reading comic book scripts. Vice and Virtue was a series intended to wrap things up. However, it opened some doors to future stories. There’s a great long-term antagonist in Mayor Kathy Graham. She’s Professor Moriarty to Marsha’s Sherlock Holmes. There are still things left undone. You haven’t met Marsha’s son Carson who is only briefly mentioned. And other things, I wouldn’t want to spoil.
In a perfect world where I have thousands of faithful readers and limitless resources, where would the series go after Vice and Virtue? Volume 3 would be an origin story. I would start where a certain flashback in chapter 3 of the second series left off. Each chapter would focus on a single character and how they joined Karma Incorporated. The story would show Marsha and Terry putting everything in place. Volume 4 would deal with the personal lives of each member more — their respective families. Volume 5 would bring back Mayor Kathy Graham and the FBI hunting after Susan. Also, I’d finally insert a storyline I planned from the first issue — a budding, albeit awkward, relationship between two members of Karma Incorporated. Volume 6 would mark the return of a main character who disappears at the end of Vice and Virtue. Once again, I don’t want to spoil anything. After you read the script, you’ll know.
I also included two short stories in this script book. These stories are part of the PopGun anthology from Image Comics, “50 Miles to Marfa” and “The Heist and The Heart Attack.” Len and Stag, two grifters, attempt a bank robbery in west Texas. It felt like a good fit, certainly written with the same mindset for mischief.
Thank you Paul Milligan for designing the cover. Thank you A.C. Hall for teaching me how to format my Word documents to be book ready. Thank you Scott Hinze for teaching me the word “Schadenfreude.” Thank you Tom Kurzanski and the incredibly talented Marlena Hall. Thank you Viper Comics, Scott Agostoni, Mike Werb, and Ice Cube. Thank you to anyone else who has taken an interest in Karma Incorporated.
June 14, 2009