Hipsters vs. Rednecks Update #1

I spend a lot of time thinking back to when I was a young man reading comic books. I think about what grabbed my attention, what kept me coming back week after week and what enthralled me about the characters that I like to this day.

For me, it all comes down to fun.

I think comic books should be fun.

This will be evidenced in early 2015 when I unleash my sci-fi/comedy comic book UNIT 44 through Alterna Comics. Aside from that, I noticed that a large majority of projects that I wrote this year had something fun about them. None of the books were gritty, or dark, or took themselves too seriously. In fact, the more I wrote, the more “out there” I got with my story ideas, wrapping them up with lots of over the top exaggeration and laugh-out-loud humor (subjective, of course). This increasing desire to write something that would just be a ton of fun for readers lead to my latest project which has gone into production: a 24-page one-shot called HIPSTERS VERSUS REDNECKS.

What I love most about this upcoming comic is that when readers ask, “Hey, Wes, what’s that book about?” I’ll be able to refer them directly back to the title, ’cause the name says it all.

In comics, I find that if you want to do humor, you need an art style to support it. Mainstream art just doesn’t go with funny words. For UNIT 44, artist Eduardo Jimenez’s style is nothing like my other projects…it’s brighter, more expressive and has a cartoony look that perfectly suits the vibe of the story. I knew that if I was going to write a comic about Hipsters and Rednecks fighting one another, I’d need to take the same approach and I linked up with the talented artist Tyler Kelting, who’s drawing style is a tad left of center.

Tyler is the writer and artist of the self-published comic MY FRIEND DEATH, which has this raw, indie comics vibe that reminds me of so many fun books I read in my youth. Tyler read the script I’d written, had some laughs, and agreed to draw the book, so off we went, aiming to have it available sooner rather than later. I’m grateful that he saw the humor in the script and is willing to spend some hours of his life to co-create this book with me.

So, with all that said, you’re probably wondering what the comic book is all about, huh?

How’s this grab you?

In a post-apocalyptic world, two factions have risen to power—the hipsters, who control the thriving city of New Brooklyn and the rednecks, who will do anything to get inside. After letting a stranger into the walled city, oblivious hipster Pete Hughes must survive a deadly redneck onslaught, and when the dust settles he’ll never look at the world the same way again.

Now imagine that narrative paired with a bunch of jokes about both hipsters and rednecks. How could you not want to read that?

We’ve just gotten started, but here’s some early preview art from Tyler. More to come!

YIP_HVR

 

Innovation Update #22

Last month I celebrated a year of my web comic INNOVATION, in which I team up with a new artist for each 4-6 page installment as I weave a tale about R.D.S.L., a mysterious technology corporation who is innovating the world…whether we like it or not.

I’m lucky enough to know quite a few talented writers and artists and I thought it might be fun to invite some other folks to play in the Innovation sandbox and tell some original stories. I asked some pals if they’d be interested in writing a one-shot using the setting of world I’ve created to tell one-and-done stories, and thankfully, the idea was met with much enthusiasm!

To date I’ve posted 14 chapters (more than 60 pages) of the main narrative, but in November I decided to offer our readers a fun one-shot story written by Brad Burdick with art by Djibril Morissette-Phan. Enjoy their contribution to the Innovation-verse by reading their 6-page one-shot “Infatuated.” Click here or on the image below to read it for free!

If you dig the comic be sure to support both creators by reading their other comic book work. I appreciate both Brad and Djibril for taking the time out of their busy schedules to contribute to this super fun project and for those who are regular readers of the web comic, you might just enjoy seeing what types of things are happening outside the walls of R.D.S.L.

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Housekeeping!

I imagine that as a housekeeper in a hotel, my day would be utterly ruined by walking inside a room to tidy up, only to find a decaying body inside.

It always bums me out when I surf onto my own blog and see that it’s been weeks since my last update, or in this case, nearly a month. I don’t want to be that decaying body that people check in to look for. I want to prove that I’m alive and well, so I’m taking that opportunity now.

At times I find myself doing so much writing and reading that the last thing I want to do is write or read about myself. However, comics is an arena in which presence equals productivity, so I thought I’d fill in the gaps on what’s been happening throughout the radio silence that has occurred over the past few months. Thankfully, it’s all amazing things.

For whatever reason, September, October and November were months filled with crashing waves of inspiration and motivation and I found myself churning out more writing then had come in the prior six months. Needless to say, it was awesome.

  • I wrote three issues of of a 5-part comic books miniseries I hope to put into production this year.
  • I wrote a complete 96-page comic series that I’ve found an amazing artist for, and look forward to self-publishing in the coming year.
  • I wrote 50 pages of another series and presented it to a dream artist who has agreed to come along for the ride.
  • I wrote a 24-page one-shot about zombies.
  • I wrote a 24-page one-shot about hipsters.
  • I wrote half of an action/comedy video game that is currently being built for release on the PlayStation platform within the next year (I will also write the other half of it).
  • I wrote a 3-part script for a choose-your-own-adventure style game that will be released for iPhone and Android smartphones within a month.
  • I’ve written more than 40 pages of a sequel to one of my published comics.
  • I’ve read some amazing comic books and non-fiction books.

I don’t know what’s in the water, but it tastes amazing. My eyes and fingers have been busy, so forgive me for not paying more attention to my blog, but I trust we’re all glad that I’m not rotting on the floor.

I feel like I could have come up with something better than the “rotting on the floor” analogy, but I’ve also come to remember that they can’t all be winners.

A year in Innovation

Milestones are always fun. Today I get to celebrate one!

In November of 2013 I launched my black and white sci-fi webcomic project, INNOVATION and today I’m celebrating the 60+ pages of free comics that myself and a whole slew of talented artists have brought to the internet.

INNOVATION is the story of what happens when scientists at a Google-esque facility begin innovating our world…whether we want them to or not. As technology advances toward flawless operation in the fields of robotics, physics and quantum mechanics, the only thing that can’t be counted on are the humans who created it.

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The project received a shot of adrenaline to the heart in July of 2013 after I had written five short stories. These stories, while all separate, leaned toward the world of sci-fi in genre and each had a fun twist at the end. There was a moment where I decided to tie them all together and create a small universe of my own design. I took these stories, Curiosity, Intelligence, By Design, Compliance and another that, believe it or not, has yet to be drawn by an artist and created the connective tissue of Radical Development Scientific Laboratories, Inc. (R.D.S.L.) to tie them together.

There I was with five stories that stood alone but also interconnected creating a larger mythos in the background. From there I decided, based on those initial comics, which characters would best tell the story and begin writing each of their arcs while they intertwined with one another on occasion. The goal was that each 4-6 page short comic could be its own standalone sci-fi tale, but if someone hunkered down and read them all, they’d get a much larger tale. Because I planned to work with a different artist on each short, I made the decision to run the strips in a non-linear fashion. This forced me to ensure that each story was self-contained and gave me a major “moment” to work toward at the end of each comic. This isn’t rocket science, I know…but simply an interesting gestation process.

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As the shorts were drawn I started creating a reference library so incoming artists would have character and location designs to work with in order for everything to have a consistent look. For artists who hoped to one day work on licensed, pre-existing characters, I figured this was a great place for them to test their chops.

At first glance, the world of INNOVATION can look confusing, but what I’m hoping for (and I know this can be asking a lot) is for readers to begin putting the puzzle pieces into place as they read the comic, figuring out the timelines and identifying where the beginning and ending are. I think of Innovation like this:

We have a handful of characters that we established early on in our series including the robot, Sondra, who is struggling with some serious personality issues, R.D.S.L. CEO Edison Kircher, his right hand man, Mr. Faust, the mischievous android Cygnus, the lowly lab rat Lee and a mysterious guest to the facility that I’m calling The Visitor.

In my brain I think of all the characters in a line, as seen in the scientifically-accurate design below.

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From there, a thread extends from each character that goes backward and forward in time (because our story is non-linear).

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Wherever those threads happen to intersect, that’s where our little sci-fi stories take place.

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I figured that if media-lovers are giving more of themselves to long and drawn out mystery shows, then this webcomic might scratch a similar itch. After all, people watched LOST on TV for, like, six years. (They only liked it for four years, but that’s beside the point.)

What’s INNOVATION about?

Admittedly, at first glance, it might be difficult to pick up on what the series is actually about. That’s kind of a loaded question, really. Every character has a goal (whether those are clear yet or not) and everyone has somewhere they started and somewhere they will end up. Throughout the shorts there are various items that all show up and will all be equally important as we race toward the story’s conclusion.

At it’s heart, Innovation is about technological advancement. In our real world we’ve seen a huge leap forward in the world’s technology in the past 5-10 years. And as we’ve learned throughout history, science can be used for good or bad. A drone aircraft can collect or deliver information and intelligence, and just as easily drop a bomb. It’s all in how we as a world use these breakthroughs and advances.

Ultimately, once the first story arc is complete, I plan to collect it into a PDF where readers can view the entire story in order and then they’ll say, “Oooooh! I get it.”

Is it possible to get it without reading it in order? You better believe it. (I’ve spent hours on maps and diagrams that prove to me this is true.)

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While I planned for the story to run indefinitely, I didn’t want to meander too long, so I’ve chosen an end point for the first arc. While future stories are currently planned, the project requires a steady stream of artistic contributors and those who might be interested in participating with a 4-6 page short to keep the story going are encouraged to get in touch. The first arc will run somewhere between 26-30 chapters, so in our first year, we reached the halfway mark, and I think that’s pretty awesome.

A huge thank you goes out to the artists who have already contributed to the project: Mike Hatfield, Stan ChouDamon Threet, Ken Perry, Crisuadi Crasmaru, Jay Hernandez, Paul McCallan, and Harpreet Brar.

If you’re unfamiliar with this comic and for some reason you’ve read this far, I hope it piques your interest. For a full list of INNOVATION chapters, click here or on the image below. If you have been following along with our scientific exploits, thank you. There’s more to come.

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Unit 44 Update #12

U44_Issue3_CoverBack in August I reported that my sci-fi/comedy comic book UNIT 44, with artist Eduardo Jimenez had been picked up for publication by Alterna Comics. It was an awesome day. I remember it well.

Since then, Ed and I have been hunkered down makings things happen in order to get the book to your eyes sooner rather than later. Ed has been drawing his heart out, penciling, inking and coloring 2-3 pages a week and tossing them back my way so I can letter them up with my snarky dialogue and silly jokes. In short…it’s been awesome.

Thanks to the financial and emotional support of the 94 amazing people who supported our Kickstarter campaign in August/September, we are officially closer to the end of the project than the beginning. Earlier this week we completed work on the third issue of the series and we’ve started work on the final 22 pages.

With just one more installment to go to complete this 4-issue miniseries, we’re eyeballing an early 2015 release, more than likely on a bi-monthly schedule. Issues will be released digitally via ComiXology with a physical and digital trade paperback to follow. More on that as we nail things down!

When I initially thought up the silly idea about inept Area 51 employees who forget to pay the rent on the facility’s off-site storage unit, leaving the secret contents to be sold at public auction, I never dreamed it would become a reality. So that’s pretty cool. I can’t wait for you to read this hilarious and irreverent comic book.

Innovation Update #21

Before October scooted by, I wanted to ensure I posted a new episode of my ongoing sci-fi web comic INNOVATION!

Chapter 14 is now online with five amazing pages drawn by newcomer Harpreet Brar. He takes our mysterious visitor to the R.D.S.L. facility and gives him the what-for! Who is this mystery man? Answers are starting to fall into place.

Click here or on the image below to check out the last comic, Exposure. As always, Innovation is free to read.

Chap14

The Darby Pop Script Contest

So, Darby Pop publishing, home of some oddball comics including 7th Sword, Doberman and Dead Squad are holding a script contest for up-and-coming writers. They’ve challenged those looking to break into the comics biz to to write a complete 22-page one-shot script for their character, Stingray, who appears in the pages of the superhero-comedy comic Indestructible. The winning script will be drawn up and subsequently published by Darby Pop and IDW in 2015.

While this is the first time I’ve mentioned it here on my blog, I now have time to do so because on Wednesday I submitted my finished script for the contest.

Hot off the heels of placing in the recent Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition, I knew this would provide a fun exercise in creativity, deadlines and working with a pre-established intellectual property. One of my goals as a comic writer has always been to tap into the work-for-hire market and “play with another creator’s toys,” if you will, and Darby Pop’s contest was just the thing to get my brain going. I’d always wondered what would happen if I were given the opportunity to write for characters created by someone else and, boy, did I get a crash course in doing so!

First things first…while I’d heard of the comic Indestructible, I hadn’t actually read it, so my first order of business was to cruise over to ComiXology where I picked up the collected edition of the first four issues and proceeded to dive right in. There’s a chance I may have even ignored several real world responsibilities while I devoured that thing. (Let’s keep that between us, okay?)

Indestructible was created and written by Darby Pop President Jeff Kline with art by Bernard Chang, Salvi Garcia, Javi Garron and Chris Johnson, tells the story of Greg Pincus, a slacker who lives in a world, not unlike our own, where superheroes are not only high-powered crime stoppers, but A-list celebrities to boot. After (sort of) stopping a robbery, Greg is mistaken for a superhero and thrust into the spotlight where he must wrestle with enjoying the perks that come with the celebrity status while wanting to come clean with his friends, family and the world over that little detail…he doesn’t really have powers. Before long, Greg is approached by the League of Defenders who attempt to recruit him to their ranks. Much hilarity ensues.

After reading the first volume a few times, I was taken aback by how funny it was. If there’s one thing I love, it’s funny. The characters were three-dimensional, had strong motives, were likeable and the humor was a nice mix of slapstick and the occasional riff on superhero tropes.

Of course, as I read I made notes and collected information on the aqua-powered female character Stingray, for whom I’d be writing a script. A hero-gone-bad, the femme fatale showed a penchant for nefarious deeds, drugs and had loads of strained relationships with the other characters in the book. In an odd turn of events, she didn’t appear in much of the volume, but her scenes were poignant enough to give a sense of who she was as a character, which was all I needed to get my brain doing it’s creative thang.

The contest rules stated that any characters from the book were on the table to play with and the time period in which the story was set was open, so already Darby Pop was providing writers with very few restrictions, something I greatly appreciated. On my next pass through the book I investigated other characters and heroes, ultimately deciding to set my one-shot before the events of the first volume. The germ of the idea was in motion and the thought of getting to write for a brash, younger and more emotionally-charged group of heroes provided limitless potential.

Over the course of a few nights I did my outline, page breakdowns and on a recent Sunday afternoon, drafted my first issue of the script. A tight outline made all the difference and I found myself in the fortunate position of not having to cut or pad a single scene. As a comic book writer, that’s a personal victory right there. After letting the script sit for a few days, giving me a chance to review it with fresh eyes, I made my edits and let it sit again. This week after a final round of polish and dialogue tweaks I was ready to “send the kid off to school.”

This contest was rather brilliant on multiple levels…it not only gave writers a reason to put on their thinking caps and experience life in the work-for-hire trenches, but it also got people reading their book. I was darn impressed not only with what Kline and company did in the first volume, but with what new writer Ken Kristensen did on the subsequent four issues. Good comics are good comics, and I’m glad I found something else to add to my pull list.

The deadline for the contest is October 22, after which I’ll share a deeper look into how the idea came together, perhaps the outline, beat breakdowns, and if it’s determined that I’m not a winner, maybe even the finished script. As I learned more about the Stingray character, the idea of a broken super-powered human who could play the hero or villain, depending on the day, became such an interesting idea to explore and I thank Darby Pop for holding a contest that’s encouraged writers to write and will judge entries based on what they’re bringing to the table as a “solo artist.”

Though, I don’t envy them having to read all those scripts…

I had such a ball with this project and regardless of which talented scribe is chosen as the winner, it gave me the confidence that I could in fact write for a pre-existing property…and perhaps even do it well.

Fingers crossed.

“In the Drink” now in Print!

I’m excited to announce that The Gathering: Survival anthology has hit the stands published by GrayHaven Comics. If you pick it up (for just $3.50) then you’ll be treated to 36 pages of awesomeness, three of which are a short comic comic called In the Drink, written by me and brought to life by the very talented writer/artist, Robyn Seale.

If there’s one thing that this project has reminded me of, it’s that comics are not a race.

Robyn and I started discussion on this piece in March of 2013 and by June had all three pages complete and turned in to the publisher. Then, as happens in comics…we waited. Anthologies require extra patience as the other creative teams finish their contributions and the publisher finds a spot for the book on its schedule. So 1.5 years later… here we are, bringing In the Drink to your eyeballs.

Personally, I’m super excited about this piece because I did something I never had before…the story is completely silent. No dialogue, no captions…just a title, credits and your imagination to see the story along.

After a brutal car crash a man must fight for survival, no matter what the cost and to make matters worse, he must do so underwater.

Being a silent story, it allowed Robyn to showcase her amazing storytelling chops and I’m proud of how the pages came out. She’ll run you through the whole range of emotions, so be prepared for some feels!

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In addition to our short, you’re guaranteed to read fresh stories by some of the best and brightest up-and-coming talent in comics.

While on the GrayHaven site, consider picking up some of the publisher’s other wonderful anthologies and ongoing titles. I also have stories featured in the Crime, Sci-Fi 2 and Spies and Public Domain volumes, should you need some recommendations.

A big thanks goes out to the GrayHaven team for their support of both independent comics and burgeoning creators. I’m happy to report that GrayHaven will publish another short of mine soon in the Lil Kaiju anthology, which is shaping up to be an amazing collection of talent.

Adrift update #3

Let’s hop in the time machine for a moment and go back to July of this year.

I made a few posts on this site about a competition I had entered…a little thing called the Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition (cue loud, boomy music) where UK publisher Titan Comics was accepting original submissions in an effort to give exposure to fresh blood in the comic book industry.

To enter the contest, artist/writer teams had to create a 4-6 page all-ages submissions from scratch based on the theme “lost in space.”

In that same previous post I mentioned that while I wanted to enter the competition, I didn’t have any ideas for a story. Then, as with all good stories, when I least expected it, an idea struck. Over the course of a morning I penned a humorous 4-page comic called ADRIFT and took to Twitter seeking an artist to team up with. Those fateful Tweets led me to Alex Diotto, artist of the comic book Southern Dog at Action Lab Entertainment. He wanted to draw something funny…and as it turned out, I had something funny that needed drawn. It was a match!

One month later after Alex finished the inked pages, I slapped some letters on those bad boys and we fired them over to Titan Comics and said, “Here you go, have fun.” (Not verbatim.)

Alright…we’re all caught up…we’re jumping back to the present.

A week ago Alex and I got an email from the organizers of the The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (being held in October in the UK) who chose finalists for the contest before letting the editorial staff at Titan Comics make the tough decisions, saying that our little comic was named as one of six winners in the competition. Out of 40 entries, our silly tale of aliens and astronauts made quite an impact on the judges.

Adrift, along with five other submitted shorts, will be available this fall in an anthology published by Titan Comics, available exclusively through the ComiXology platform.

So…I ask you…how cool is that?

Answer: It’s pretty darn cool.

An official announcement of the winners will take place next month at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival on Oct. 17. Hopefully we’ll have more info to share at that time about the release date.

As for Alex and I? We’re just getting warmed up.

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Panama City Creative Con 2014 wrapup

A huge thank you goes out to Jayson Kretzer and the rest of the staff at the 2014 Panama City Creative Con held over the weekend at Gulf Coast State College.

I was fortunate enough to spend the day behind a table meeting area folks who shared a love of creativity of every shape, size and form. For a city without a big comic “scene,” people came out to spend the afternoon immersed in the culture and I appreciate everyone who stopped by my booth to chat or explore the books I had available for purchase.

An extra big thanks goes out to everyone who picked up a copy of Chambers, The Undoubtables, or Unit 44.

The fact that someone would spend their hard-earned money on something I created (along with some talented artists and colorists) means the world to me.

If you missed out on the event, I’ve restocked signed copies of Chambers, The Undoubtables trade paperbacks along with the self-published copies of Unit 44 issue #1 in my web store. Copies are very limited, so get ‘em while they last!

Below is a photo of my booth from the event. It was my first chance to fly the banner designed by Unit 44 artist Eduardo Jimenez. Ed offered to draw the amazing image of our characters Gibson and Hatch to help promote our book. It was appreciated by many and I found it to be the perfect segue into telling passersby about our silly comic.

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