Monday, November 11, 2013

Must be nice...

I tell people that my upcoming graphic novel, Patriot-1, is the story I've been telling my whole life. Playing with G.I. Joes, or creating my own characters with those same G.I. Joes, there was always one character that was representative of the main hero. Later, as I became a writer, that character still existed in some form. In 2006, it finally took the shape of the tentatively-named U.S.Avenger before evolving in the more realistic, less cheesy Patriot-1.

I've told many more stories in the 7 years since. Westerns, zombie romps, the superhero fare and more starts and stops than I can count. Oh, and there's that little detail that the past (almost) 4 years have been spent writing about professional wrestling sports entertainment in some form or another for my day job.

But Patriot-1 remains the single most important story for me as a writer. Years of development, three artists attached, four rewrites, 2 publisher rejections of it in previous forms - this story is the true tale of being a writer, especially in a world where everyone and anyone can be a "writer."

I was trained as a screenwriter. I still consider myself a screenwriter and I have the bachelor's degree that says I am a screenwriter. I haven't written a full-fledged screenplay in a couple of years mostly because of the shift in focus to my one true love - comics. But that doesn't mean I don't ever have the itch... (especially whenever Marvel puts out a movie) to write for film and TV and pursue that avenue.

But if there was one thing I learned as an intern in Los Angeles during college, it was that I had to forge a different path. As a creative type, I have to do things my way or I fall into a depression of sorts. My parents call it "being stubborn," my wife calls it "being Kevin," but it's a condition. I couldn't do the assistant thing, I couldn't do the struggling Hollywood thing... I had to do it my way. More power to you if that's the path you chose. But as much as I loved Los Angeles and that life, I needed something more. And with a beautiful wife supporting me, two one year old babies climbing all over me and parents who are happy to see me doing what makes me happy so long as I have a regular job and good health insurance... I've done it my way. Right or wrong, it was the only way to satisfy the creativity beast.

Patriot-1  is coming in the spring. Possibly sooner digitally. I got a little personal a moment ago because it directly relates to what I'm trying to say here. Patriot-1 is a cinematic experience. Those aren't my words. Those are the words of my editor, a friend who has read it and two of the three artists that had been attached. The editor even told me once, "it reads like a screenplay."

In my personal opinion, Patriot-1 is one of those books that readers would say "when does this movie come out." People would talk passionately about who plays the characters and what not because it is written that way and it is presented like a full-fledged action movie.

That was my intention. Yes. I think Patriot-1 has potential to go that far. That's how much I believe in this project, story and characters. After all, I do my own lettering to ensure the best wordsmithing. I'm 99.9% sure it will be self-published in some fashion under my TJ Comics imprint, but those who know my comics know I put quality first.

So when I see news like this: Robert Kirkman's Exorcism Drama 'Outcast' Lands at Cinemax I want to lose my effing mind. Not because I think Kirkman is a bad writer, quite the contrary... but because he's had one bonafide cross-media hit in The Walking Dead and then this Outcast and previously Thief of Thieves get picked up by major networks BEFORE THEY ARE EVEN RELEASED.

I mean, good for Robert Kirkman. He's written some stuff I've absolutely loved like the earlier Invincible stuff and Marvel's The Destroyer MAX series. His Marvel Team-Up book is criminally underrated and I like that he has forged the creator-owned path. But even with that, like any writer, all of his stuff isn't totally my bag. That's fine, that's how it is for everyone.

Yet I just can't wrap my head around this notion that a comic book series gets optioned before it's even released and tested amongst the rabid niche of comic book readers. The Walking Dead is one of the industry's best selling books right now, but single issue sales are nothing compared to what Chris Claremont and John Byrne's X-Men used to sell.

I'm sure Kirkman pitched the comic as a TV series to studio execs... that's how it's supposed to work, but seeing as how this is the third one, I'm not sure I believe it. Does his name have that much clout because of The Walking Dead? There are so many other creator-owned books out there ripe for this sort of attention, but obviously Kirkman knows the right people, has an exceptional talent agent that needs to contact me or is just a really good schmoozer.

Seriously though, Patriot-1 is already film or TV ready. The first 40 pages of the book contain no less than 20 pages of pure adrenaline-filled action. I kid you not.

While I do hope it reaches cross-media franchise levels, the least I could hope is getting some gigs writing my favorite characters for Marvel or DC.

So Hollywood friends and friends of friends... let's chat.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Asgardian Epiphany

I saw Thor: The Dark World last night and I can honestly say I enjoyed the hell out of it. The movie was visually gorgeous and I didn't expect to laugh nearly as much as I did.

I wasn't laughing at the movie - though it is an absolutely insane film for all the stuff that happens in it - I was laughing at the well timed humor, usually from Kat Dennings.

I agree with the biggest criticism of the film - Malekith, the villain, was kind of weak. He was cool looking and very Star Trek-esque in villiany, but yes, it wasn't the film's strong point. But after both end credits scenes rolled... (spoiler alert: I am in LOVE with Guardians of the Galaxy right now), I realized something with Thor 2.

Marvel has told us who the bad guy is in their entire franchise. It's Thanos. We get it, he's not coming for a while. But to the point, everyone else, with the exception of Loki, is filler. Killian from Iron Man 3 was more a plot device for Tony's evolution, Malekith actually advances the plots of Loki and Thanos, and Winter Soldier will no doubt advance the character evolution of Captain America.

The coming villains are important to each character, but in the overall scheme they don't matter. And that's what really occurred to me after seeing Thor.

I told a co-worker that I genuinely hadn't had that much fun at the movies in a long time. The movie felt like a comic book. It was dramatic, action-packed, funny and entertaining. This viewing also came with the knowledge of the Marvel/Netflix deal.

See the thing about the Marvel movies that I love is that they aren't trying to reinvent the genre, they are taking the genre and expanding on it, and taking everyone for a fun ride. They aren't going to win Academy Awards, but the box office will always reflect their success and there will always be those who have their issues with them. But the fact of the matter is at the end of the day, the Marvel movies are fun.

They don't take themselves too seriously, but when they do, the results have a direct effect on the character.

Call it formulaic, call it a cash-grab. I call it just a good time at the movies and that was what I got out of Thor 2.

I liked Man of Steel and I'm very middle of the road on The Dark Knight Trilogy. But those movies take themselves WAY too seriously. I think audiences are past that. The comic book film genre has evolved to the point where the fantastic rules out and being completely based in realism isn't necessarily what's going to drive audiences.

Don't get me wrong, Batman needed it after Schumacher and Superman definitely didn't hurt from having a more serious tone... but the genre has moved beyond it.

Thor: The Dark World is a lot of fun. It's a good comic book flick and it's definitely an entertaining movie - and at the end of the day that's what really matters.