Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

INTRODUCTION TO SCRIPT BOOK

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.

INTRODUCTION

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.

David Hopkins,
June 14, 2009

COMICS THIS WEEK

Here are the comics I ordered this week from Zeus Comics.

INVINCIBLE, VOL. 10: WHO’S THE BOSS by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley (Image Comics). I’ve said this before, but INVINCIBLE is my favorite super hero comic. Actually, nowadays, it may be the only super hero comic I read — unless you count UMBRELLA ACADEMY. Kirkman’s work is always enjoyable. I love how he sets up future storylines and slowly builds the plot over several issues. I love how his characters truly talk to each other. They work stuff out. They have mature, sensible conversations. Read most comic books (mine included) and the interactions sound like bad community theater. “Stop that!” “I will not!” “You better or you’ll be sorry.” “You’re acting like Dad.” “How could you say such a thing!” Ugh. In contrast, Kirkman’s dialogue is patient and intelligent — note the beautiful scene between Mark and Eve during their first real date.

PLUTO: URASAWA X TEZUKA, VOL. 3 by Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media). Between PLUTO and MONSTER (I’m on vol. 6 right now), I absolutely love Naoki Urasawa. This guy can tell a story. Every chapter is a seminar on how take your reader by the throat. I’d consider Urasawa a perfect recommendation for people who swear they don’t like manga. And yes, 20TH CENTURY BOYS is next on my reading list.

JUST READY FOR THE NEXT THING

Yesterday, April encouraged me to organize the boxes where I keep my comics, the comics I sell at conventions and store signings. While “encouraged” may sound like a euphemism for “she told me to do it,” April has good reason. Until then, I kept these boxes under my desk and scattered throughout the office — with another box in the living room closet. Not a great system. Now, everything is conveniently stored in one location, and I was able to compile it as efficiently as possible. I have an entire box devoted to extras (copies of DEAD@17 ROUGH CUT VOL. 1-2, WESTERN TALES OF TERROR #2, SILENT FOREST TELEVISION PARODY SPECIAL, the two VIPER FREE COMIC BOOK DAY issues, and copious amounts of KARMA INCORPORATED #2-#3).

It was fun looking through these comics, stuff I haven’t read in quite awhile.


It’s encouraging to see what I’ve done since 2004, when I first printed SOME OTHER DAY. At the same time, I’ll admit I have a few frustrations.

Staying as vague as possible, due to events beyond our control, there are some books that should be here that never made it to print. There were some proposals that never got picked up. More than putting another comic in print, I hate the missed opportunity to collaborate with those artists. (Is that vague enough?) Also, while I’ve enjoyed writing short stories, I wish I had more full-length comics, more graphic novels. Lastly, I haven’t been able to work with nearly as many publishers as I would like.

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m pessimistic. I’m more hopeful than anything, and just ready. I can’t keep doing what I’ve done. I need to challenge myself, move forward, take the next step, the leap, the plunge, and all those other cliches. However, yesterday, I took some time to enjoy where I’ve been, and clear out some space under my desk in the process.

COMICS THIS WEEK

Here are the comics I ordered this week from Zeus Comics.

ECHO #12 by Terry Moore (Abstract Studios). I was a huge fan of STRANGERS IN PARADISE, and it’s exciting to see what Terry Moore can do now that he is free to start over with a new story and new characters. Terry has always done comics his way without any restrictions. I’m curious to see where this cat-and-mouse thriller leads. I’ll admit the “power suit” is a little Image ’90s-esque, but he makes it work.

THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY: DALLAS #6 by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá (Dark Horse). I read the first issue, but I’m behind on this series. Next week, I’ll sit down and plow through #2-#6. The debut series took a lot of people by surprise, inventive and disturbing. It’s nice to see Gerard Way is here to stay. That rhyme was un-intentional.

LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (VOL. III): CENTURY #1 by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill (Top Shelf Productions). Highly anticipated would be an understatement. Black Dossier was interesting, but not really the follow-up I was hoping for.

CLOAK & DAGGER: CHILD OF DARKNESS, CHILD OF LIGHT HARDCOVER by Bill Mantlo and Rick Leonardi (Marvel). I’m most excited about this book. About freakin’ time. This limited series is what hooked me on comics — now collected in one lovely hardcover. Hopefully, it will allow others to appreciate how well Mantlo’s story holds up.

MY CATCH-22

I’m a relatively nice guy. I don’t scheme or plot against people. For the most part, I don’t wish anyone ill. I am concerned about what people think of me. (It’s not anything superficial. At least, I don’t think it is. A good reputation is the reflection of a life well lived.) My students would say I’m fair and level headed. However, I am an absolute bastard when people ask for advice about being a writer. I’ve blogged about this complex before. It’s true. I have little patience in this area. I turn into the suck-it-up-and-deal-with-it drill sergeant father. I don’t need anyone to reassure me that I’m not too bad. I’m the one inside my head, and I can tell you: It’s bad. I got another email this week soliciting help from a wide-eyed aspiring writer. I over-stepped my bounds in my critique, once again. Read more

STAR TREK AND MY THIRD DATE WITH TREY

Trey Garrison called me on Saturday. He had a pass for an advance screening of the new STAR TREK movie. I got to be his “and guest.” This would be our third date. Trey and I first met when he read my essay in MAN FROM KRYPTON. He liked it, and invited me to write for D Magazine. We had lunch at La Duni to discuss, and it just happened to be Valentine’s Day. We had another meeting to introduce me to Tim Rogers, and set up the comic with D Magazine. The meeting happened to fall on my wedding anniversary. Obviously, the universe was telling us something. We arrived at the North Park AMC an hour early with Joshua Warr, his friend, and my friend (who I happen to see everywhere) Jennifer Meehan. Already, the line wrapped around the lobby. We had decent seats when it came time to rush the theater in an organized manner. Trey bought some snacks, while I saved the seats from the slower guests still looking for a place to sit. Trey and I shared nachos. While waiting for the movie to start, Mark Walters from bigfanboy.com gave out some free swag. Trey, Joshua, and I all got matching Star Trek ball caps.

Let’s talk about the movie. Read more

I LOVE YOU. WHY CAN’T YOU BE MORE LIKE OAK CLIFF?

I live in Arlington, and it’s almost time for City Council elections — a good time to email my representative in Place 5, Lana Wolff. I feel uninformed and disconnected from these officials. And it’s a shame, because they have a huge impact on us.

I thought I’d share the email I sent to Mrs. Wolff a few hours ago.

Dear Mrs. Wolff,

I realize you may be very busy with the upcoming election. I am one of your constituents. I have lived on Ravenwood Drive for the past five years. I’m an English teacher at Martin High School. I fully intend to vote, and I wanted to make you aware of my concerns for Arlington. I contacted you with similar concerns in 2007.

1. Developing business in central Arlington. We have the Arlington Highlands along I-20, and the new Stadium along I-30. I’m worried about the economic health of central Arlington, especially with the growing troubles at the GM plant. We cannot abandon this area to economic ruin.

Oak Cliff has done well with the Bishop Arts District, developing what was previously an impoverished area. Central Arlington may not be able to attract the popular franchise retailers, nor should it, but it would be a wonderful place for artsy/locally-owned establishments. Bishop Arts District could serve as a model.

2. Public transportation. Arlington is too big to not have some form of public transportation. Without it, Arlington is disconnected. We do not reap the benefits of commercial growth, if people cannot move easily throughout the city. Making Arlington more friendly to bicycle commuting would be a great improvement (http://bikefriendlyoc.wordpress.com).

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, David Hopkins

So, I guess the general statement is that I love Arlington — but if I could move to Oak Cliff, I would.

I FEEL LIKE SUCH A TRAITOR.

I’ve come to a grim realization. Some of you arrived at this point well before I did, and some of you will never admit it.

After reading Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata, Buddha and Astroboy by Osamu Tezuka, Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo, Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma, Bleach by Tite Kubo, Ranma 1/2 by Rumiko Takahashi, Solanin by Inio Asano, and Pluto by Naoki Urasawa, I can see that the American comic book industry, as it currently exists, is screwed.

One thing is for certain, there is no stopping manga. And in the words of trusted TV personality Kent Brockman, “I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

The topic is nothing new. In fact, it may be a worn out discussion by now. Other people have responded to this issue over and over. I’m just crossing the line with my head bowed. Here are my eight reasons. Read more

NUKING CYLONS FOR FUN AND PROFIT

I wrote this a week ago, and forgot to post:

When the series finale to Battlestar Galactica aired two weeks ago, I was worried when everyone started twittering and blogging their resentment at how it ended. I don’t watch the show when it first airs; I watch it on DVD, and I didn’t want anything spoiled. So I rushed through the Season Four, Part 1 on DVD — and then downloaded the remaining episodes from iTunes. Thus, at around 1 AM, I finished Battlestar. In true hypocritical form, now that I’ve seen it, I feel perfectly okay with blogging about it myself. I would recommend not reading this blog post until you’ve seen it yourself. (Josh Howard also has a good commentary on the finale.)

I’ll admit when someone tells you “You need to watch Battlestar Galactica,” the last thing you want to do is watch something called “Battlestar Galactica.” I can’t think of a more geeky pairing of words. Fans, step back and listen to yourself: “Battle. Star. Galactica.” This is the burden we bear: great series, geeky name. In contrast, the show’s concept is very cool. Humanity has been wiped out by robots (aka cylons), and the surviving remnant of the human race is looking for a new place to call home, while being chased by the cylon forces. Add to it some interesting scenarios: A prominent scientist, a traitor responsible for naively giving important security codes to the cylons, is among the survivors. Many of the cylons look like humans, and can live among the humans undetected. The education secretary, by way of constitutional succession, is now the President. She’s also dying of cancer. The fleet is protected by a recently retired “battlestar” vessel where most of our main characters live. What I like best about this series is the procedural stuff, i.e. how are they going to survive out in space, produce food, find fuel, rebuild the government, manage the balance of power between the military and the government, deal with unruly citizens, religious zealots, mutiny, and a host of other social issues associated with people trying to survive on a journey. Think Noah’s ark, Moses and the Israelites wandering in the desert, the Trail of Tears, and Grapes of Wrath. Read more

IN DEFENSE OF ALAN MOORE

Despite the subject line, Alan Moore doesn’t need anyone to defend him. Moore speaks his own ideas and opinions clearly. Unlike Andy Warhol or Salvador Dali, there’s little need to spend your time interpreting what he’s all about. Moore is fairly what-you-see-is-what-you-get. However, last Friday, Paul Milligan and I got into a friendly debate/discussion/bar fight over recent statements made by Alan Moore. The argument could be broken down into basic point/counter point. Paul: “Alan Moore is a genius, but he’s a douchebag.” Me: “Alan Moore is a genius. He is not a douchebag.”

The douchebag camp presents two bits of evidence (1) Alan Moore makes anti-American statements even though the American comic book industry helped launch his career. (2) Alan Moore willingly accepts Hollywood’s money, then he continually complains about Hollywood.

The non-douchebag camp (me) offers this in response: (1) From interviews on Fanboy Radio, Indie Spinner Rack, and various ones throughout YouTube, he comes across as a kind-hearted, even fatherly, individual. (2) I really want to believe he’s not a douchebag.

I’ll admit the friendly debate did not go my way. It ended with me plugging my ears and saying, “La, la, la, I’m not listening. La, la, la” until Paul gave up. Now that I’ve had a few days to think on it, I’d like to elaborate.

Concerning the anti-American statement:

“And I wonder—perhaps this is being too simplistic, I don’t know, but I wonder if the root of the emergence of the superhero in American culture might have something to do with a kind of an ingrained American reluctance to engage in confrontation without massive tactical superiority. I mean—does the term 7/7 mean anything to you at all?

During the 7/7 bombings over here, it was announced a couple days later that as soon as the first two trains had gone up, all of the American forces that were in London were recalled to safe distance outside the M24 orbital motorway. After a few days, when they realized that it was safe to go back into London, they realized also that it looked kind of bad, sort of rushing out of the capital at the first sign of any trouble when the main reason for the bombing was England’s support of America in the Iraq war.

It does seem to me that massive tactical superiority might be a key to the superhero phenomenon. That, if it’s a military situation, then you’ve got carpet bombing from altitude, which is kind of the equivalent of having come from Krypton as a baby and to have gained unusual strength and the ability to fly because of Earth’s lesser gravity. I don’t know, that may be a simplistic interpretation, but that’s the way I tend to see superheroes today.”

In another interview (cited here), he says…

“America has an inordinate fondness for the unfair fight. That’s why I believe guns are so popular in America – because you can ambush people, you can shoot them in the back, you can behave in a very cowardly fashion. Friendly fire, or as we call it everywhere else in the world, American fire.”

Alan Moore admits his own understanding may be too simplistic, and he does have a legitimate complaint about the 7/7 bombings.

I’d be the first to point out that if we’re digging through America’s culture and history, we could just as easily point a finger at our paternal origins, the British Empire. Massive tactical superiority? (ahem) We learned it from watching you.

But this isn’t really the point, I don’t want to debate the cultural impact of our military history. The issue is Alan Moore’s critique of America. But why focus on the statement he made to WIRED? What about the statement he made with Watchmen itself? Watchmen is one huge frickin’ critique of America. Why should the interview make him a douchebag, but the comic book make him a genius? While we’re at it, Huckleberry Finn is a critique of America, so is Grapes of Wrath, Crucible, and the Great Gatsby.

A critique doesn’t automatically make him anti-American or a douchebag. It makes him a writer with an opinion. To dub him “anti-American” is too broad a stroke. Unless we can quote him as saying something a little more hostile, I see his statements as pretty standard from any politically-minded European.

What about his apparent hatred of American-based publisher DC? Is he showing douchebag levels of ingratitude? I’d say it’s okay for him to hold a grudge. From always reliable Wikipedia:

Moore says he left DC in 1989 due to the language in his contracts for Watchmen and his V for Vendetta series with artist David Lloyd. Moore felt the reversion clauses were ultimately meaningless, because DC did not intend to let the publications go out of print. He told The New York Times in 2006, “I said, ‘Fair enough,’ [...] ‘You have managed to successfully swindle me, and so I will never work for you again.’”

Of course, when Jim Lee sold Wildstorm to DC, Alan Moore was working for DC again whether he liked it or not.

To his credit, he loves Top Shelf.

I guess whenever someone achieves his level of acclaim we expect them to be so gosh darn grateful. All the time. Isn’t that why people love the Oscars? To see successful people gush their humble appreciation for every single person who ever helped them along.

The Hollywood issue. The argument goes like this: if you directly or indirectly benefit from Hollywood, you have little room to complain. It’s hypocritical. Here’s a quote from Alan Moore:

“Originally I was content to just simply accept the money, that was offered when people had adapted my comic books into films. Eventually I decided to refuse to accept any of the money for the films, and to ask if my name could be taken off of them, so that I no longer had to endure the embarrasment of seeing my work travested in this manner. The first film that they made of my work was ‘From Hell’ Which was an adaptation of my ‘Jack the Ripper’ narrative… In which they replaced my gruff Dorset police constable with Johhny Depp’s Absinthe-swigging dandy. The next film to be made from one of my books was the regrettable ‘League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’… Where the only resemblance it had to my book was a similar title. The most recent film that they have made of mine is apparently this new ‘V for Vendetta’ movie which was probably the final straw between me and Hollywood. They were written to be impossible to reproduce in terms of cinema, and so why not leave them simply as a comic in the way that they were intended to be. And if you are going to make them into films, please try to make them into better ones, than the ones I have been cursed with thus far.” – From the BBC2 show The Culture Show (9 March 2006)

I don’t know. I can sympathize with Moore. I have little interest in Hollywood. If I wanted to be part of the movie industry, I’d write a screenplay, but instead I write comic book scripts. Still, if a producer offered me money, I’d probably take it. From one standpoint, it can’t take away from what I’ve done with the comic — but then again, if it’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it might feel like a slap in the face to have them ignore so much of the source material. These Hollywood types are always convinced they know how to best adapt a comic book or novel. In the case of a comic book writer, it’s not just you turning down or accepting the option check from Hollywood. You have a publisher, and you have an artist — both with gaping mouths, wanting to be fed. The pressure to say “yes” must be tremendous. He got his money. He requested his name be removed from the credits. If he wants to complain about a movie, why not? Just because you vote a guy into office, doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything he does.

Is Alan Moore a douchebag? Maybe this blog did more to prove Paul’s point than mine? (“La, la, la, not listening…”) I call it THE LENNON FACTOR. John Lennon was a genius. He was quirky and outspoken. He had an awesome beard. He’s also been accused of being a douchebag. However, in my heart of hearts, I think it’s too easy to label him as such.

Paul, we may have to agree to disagree on this one, especially if you’re right.

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