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Really, Hollywood, PLEASE STOP!!!

April 6th, 2018 · Uncategorized

This may get me in trouble (and it’s long), but I don’t care.

Hey Hollywood? PLEASE STOP changing preexisting characters and stories to fit new, politically correct and liberalized agendas– PLEASE! It doesn’t work. You’re ruining popular culture to fit the narrative of what you think is going to make you money. And it’s been proven time and time again to FAIL. Yet you keep doing it.

The majority of the people who ingest these types of materials feverishly, the ones who actually pay you on a constant basis to read/watch these characters and keep you alive financially? They don’t want to see it. And not because they’re sexist or racist, but because they LOVE the character they follow for the reasons that they are who they are!

Marvel is struggling in the publishing arena for a multitude of reasons, but I have to tell you, the majority of readers who BUY comics do not want to read Female Thor, Chinese Hulk, or Female 16-year old African-American Iron Man.

**NOW LET ME BE CLEAR**

That is NOT TO SAY these types of characters, archetypes and stories can’t work or stand on their own, but they will FAIL when you take beloved characters that have been around for over 60 years (in some cases) and alter them SO MUCH they no longer even resemble the essence of what made the character so entertaining and popular to begin with.

Those examples above ARE NOT their namesakes. That is they are NOT Thor, Bruce Banner, or Tony Stark. You want an African American super smart teenager who can make all sorts of cool tech? AWESOME! I’m down to read that, really! If it’s good. But if you KILL TONY STARK and this is what comes next, then NO because she’s NOT Iron Man. Tony Stark is IRON MAN.

Sure, take risks with a character, change them, alter them, but the second Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman? He’s NOT Batman anymore. It’s a guy in a Batman costume. Sorry, Dick, I love you and Nightwing is an amazing character (not as a spy, sorry guys I just couldn’t get into that one), but you aren’t Batman and Damon in NOT Robin.

And reboots? In general they do not work. Robocop was a travesty. The Mummy (a reboot of a reboot, btw) with Tom Cruise was so bad it KILLED the new Universal Dark franchise before Russell Crowe could make enough to eat more burgers. Ghostbusters was a complete miss (nothing to do with gender, btw, it was just BAD), Total Recall was useless and even Dirty Dancing had a remake/reboot and OMG I couldn’t even get through it… Yes, I tried. So? Shut up, I liked Glee, too. 😉

There’s a REASON they haven’t “remade” Casablanca or The Wizard of Oz. They’re PERFECT FILMS and there is NO NEED TO. Yes, SFX are amazing now and you can make absolutely anything, but make NEW THINGS. Do please make the continuation of OZ out of the other books, but please keep to keep the CORE ESSENCE of what made WOZ beloved in the first place! It can’t be DARK or EDGY, it needs to have an innocence and child-like essence to it for it to work. Too much deviation at you’re going to LOSE PEOPLE. Even the continuation of the Jurassic Park franchise works because it’s all set in the same universe and follows the continuing story. Why is this so HARD to understand?

Back to gender and race swapping, sorry for the detour, it all seems to be related to me.

The point is, people want their beloved characters to be WHO and WHAT they are. If you, creators and fans, think there aren’t enough African-American, Chinese, Indian, Martian or Atlantian characters out there or your ethnicity or sect isn’t represented fairly?

THEN MAKE SOME NEW THINGS that can stand on their own.

Put the rubber on the road and your talents where your ideals are. Because GUESS WHAT? You have an open canvas to create ANYTHING you want!

Please listen carefully to that point:

You can create anything you put your mind to. MAKE IT. Make a female God story about a woman who comes to earth for whatever reason and has amazing adventures. Make a Chinese Jekyll-Hyde story about a scientist who becomes a monster and tell that story. BUT–

Make it good. Because IF IT FAILS there is gonna be a reason for it. And it’s not gonna be as easy as blaming it on sexism or racism. Maybe it’s not a good story to begin with (not everyone has the next Superman in their drawer), maybe the acting was heinous (ohhh Tom Cruise, you are NOT an anti-hero), or perhaps the character wasn’t believable or relatable enough, or the situation was too outlandish and not resonate to a mass audience (Justice League, anyone?).

BOTTOM LINE IS IF IT IS GOOD, IT WILL SUCCEED.

Firefly was canceled. It had SHIT ratings. But the basis of the characters and their reason for being was a good one. And people held onto it; demanded more Mal and the Browncoats. It took forever, but the Serenity film FINALLY came. It gave us closure to the old and a opened up a new beginning. It was a fantastic film. But not enough people liked it. Why? Who knows… Some of it isn’t relateable to the mass audiences who didn’t even know about the show (many people I’ve spoken to said they didn’t understand the “odd” Chinese/English slang from the show and it really put them off, go figure). It cost $39 million dollars to make and only made $38 million. Fail. Not approachable to a mass audience for whatever reason. And yes, that’s a FAIL because this is a BUSINESS.

And yes, the market is OVER-SATURATED with work (comics, novels, TV, movies, cartoons, internet shows, blogs, etc.) and a BRAND NAME can at least give you “name recognition,” but done badly and changing the core ideals of the characters and situations they find themselves in of those brands is NOT going to work. And it’s been proven multiple times.

You want a female spy character? CREATE A NEW ONE. The ONLY reason to make Bond a woman is for shock value and to sell tickets. An original spy drama featuring a female spy, if it’s GOOD and WORKS on the same levels as other popular spy entries into the genera, would be amazing. And people will watch it. It will succeed. But only if it’s good. You COULD make 007 a female spy if James Bond retired or got killed and you advanced a woman into “00” status. AND NO, BOND IS NOT A CODE NAME, sorry Internet trolls, the Broccoli’s have said no.

Red Sparrow? This film cost $70 million to make and only made $17mil its opening weekend. Epic fail. Why? The majority of people, when asked, didn’t seem interested in it because the trailers didn’t give them anything other than Jennifer Lawrence looking like she was gonna get nude (not enough motivation, sorry Jen, your leaked pics showed us EVERYTHING already) and no concept of what the film was about. I thought this was a great attempt to bring a female spy on screen. BUT even non-comic book fans thought, “Wow the BLACK WIDOW movie finally, but when I saw it wasn’t? Eh.”

And there’s the catch. They ripped Black Widow and made the film BEFORE Black Widow, who is a much beloved, strong, heroic female spy with an amazing back story dripping with emotion, conflict and power, could be made. But what if I said, “let’s take Black Widow and make her a Afghani man?” Would you freak out? And why? Would that CHANGE too much the essence of a character who was made sterile by a Russian Black-Ops organization so she would never be tempted by the emotional need to have children or let a pregnancy stand in the way of having sex for information for The Motherland? According to Hollywood and certain writers, no it would not.

Trying to change the origins and ethos of a character to fit a new “need” that Hollywood thinks will make them money does several things:

1. It cheapens the brand: Once something like Ghostbusters is scarred, it takes a minimum of 10 years for the circle to repeat and for them to try again because Studios are afraid to lose money on a known failure. That movie didn’t work on so many levels, but mostly because none of the characters were actually likeable (though I DID think Leslie Jones was hilarious given the crap she had to work with) and it completely negated one of the greatest comedies ever made. This movie could have been the “passing of the torch” in so many different ways. Venkman says it best when he touts “the franchise rights alone will make us rich beyond our wildest dreams.” Then why not have the girls open A FRANCHISE, BUY THE GEAR (the production design was appalling, so horrible to even look at), and the logo rights and all the things we come to LOVE ABOUT THE MOVIE from the ORIGINAL MEMBERS?? My GOD how many fan-made Proton Pack replicas are out there? MARKET RESEARCH helps, hell even a Google search owuld tell you that!

2. It changes the character so much they might as well have been called something else to begin with: The characterization of RoboCop in the reboot was so NOT what Alex Murphy was about. The original RoboCop, at its core, was a brilliant tale about a man fighting to recover his humanity. This new one was about blowing shit up with CGI starring villains with little to NO motivation (why WAS Sam Jackson even IN that film?). And that’s something else. People needed to TELL A GOOD STORY a long time ago in the dark recesses of the 70’s and 80’s because they couldn’t rely on the crutch of technology (Sorry, EP1-3, you know I’m right) to save them with huge explosions. Plots needed to make sense and characters needed to have real motivations.

3. You’re deleting what makes the character the identity of the character: Bruce Banner is the Hulk. THE HULK. Yes, there have been many other experiments that have created hulking muscle-bound characters and creatures, but BRUCE IS THE HULK. There is ONLY ONE “HULK.” Once you get rid of the elements that made Bruce who he is and how he came to the decisions he made, you no longer have those inner turmoils and conflicts for being who he is. And when he “Hulks out,” he’s NOT going to be the same man fighting to control the same stressors and conflicts that make him a huge rage-beast.

I am ALL for making changes in something that has become stagnant and boring, don’t get me wrong. JUST DO IT WELL.

* Making Cap a Hydra Agent looked to me like a VERY interesting move, and I was long for the ride. I wasn’t sure I liked the execution, or the ending at all, but it was a really cool idea at the onset.

* Making Bucky Cap after Steve died was a perfect progression for him. It wasn’t who Buck was, but it helped to define him as his own man out of time and see the realities of what a “hero” today needs to cope with.

* Dick taking the cowl after Bruce “died” made perfect sense but the way it ended could have been so much cooler (because Dick is his own man, he struggled with it, and that was neat to see because we all thought what if?), but that is a natural progression to these characters. Shoehorning Selina into that role, making HER Batman, would that have WORKED? No, I don’t think so. Because Batman isn’t just a man, he’s a powerful icon in the underworld. And to see Sexy Batman, all in skin-tight spandex does NOT strike fear into the hearts of Criminals, it gives them fan-boy erections (can we PLEASE tone down the amount of Silicone that’s being sold in comics?).

INCOMING MESSAGE:
BEEP BEEP – Creators and Fans – BEEP BEEP

YOU have the ABILITY in YOU to make ANYTHING you want to see. ANYTHING. Write an e-book. Do it on a blog (hello, that’s where The Martian started), write a comic. Can’t draw? PARTNER with someone who has the same sense of story and ideals you do and CAN draw. It’s NOT rocket science (unless you’re writing Fantastic Four or The Martian and then yes, it is, and you better do your research), IT TAKE A LOT OF WORK. But find the motivation to PUT IN THE TIME and SWEAT for your characters and make is STAND OUT. Don’t just come at the industry is “He’s a black hero.” Why? Why is he a hero? In a SEA of Superheroes and action movies, WHY is your character unique? What makes him special? Sets him or her apart from every other character that has come before yours? You better have the answer.

And if you’re new to creating? FOLLOW THE RULES. Do the research ionto how to write a book or a comic. Do the outlines, the character studies. You have to be able to tell me what she eat for breakfast on Tuesdays? What’s his favorite music? If you don’t know these answers, you BETTER. Writers know their characters better than ANYONE. If I grille you on your hero, you damn well better have an answer for every single question I throw at you. Backstory is KEY to motivation and forward progression of people. Because we are all made up of our pasts.

PLEASE! I beg of you all! Make new things! And if you take the time to do the work to make them quality and special, people will like them. But just rebooting Indiana Jones with a female lead to make controversy and sell tickets does what exactly for Indiana Jones? Nothing. And by the way, I’ve seen it, it was called Laura Croft.

Go forward and conquer!

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Been a while–

March 13th, 2018 · Uncategorized

What’s amazing is that work, freelance, writing, designing and all the other things I do are keeping me so busy, I forgot I even had a website. FB and social media have become the new blogposts and where to share the current updates on new and exciting projects. But I have to remember this is still my best outlet for my crazy ramblings!

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“Executive Outcomes” available for pre-order!

May 6th, 2015 · Uncategorized

The graphic novel “Executive Outcomes,” based on the plight of the Sierra Leoneans during their struggle to survive a genocide by rebel warlords of Africa. With only 150 men, a private military company stopped over 200,000 people from being slaughtered.  This is their story. CLICK HERE to preorder from Amazon now!

EO_Cover

 

 

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America’s Army has a new artist–

December 15th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Some of you out there who follow my tumultuous career know that I love military comics. Not just my own (natch!), but other ones as well. GI JOE, for one, and I have always admired the art on the relaunch from IDW back in 2000-whatever. Robert Atkins is not just an amazing artist, but he’s a fantastic guy. I met him at he SDCC where he was introduced as the new series’ artist. Man, I was so jealous of Chuck Dixon then, not just because he’d snagged my dream job, but he was getting an A-Team of people to support him.

Well, lucky for us, Robert Atkins has stepped away from GI JOE just long enough to do a three-issue run of AA for us! He’s starting with Issue 13 and going through Issue 15, but as a special treat, he did a wrap-around cover for AA#12, which hits the virtual shelves on December 17th; this Wednesday! Special thanks and a shout-out to my Project Leader and client, Michael Barnett, for trusting me when I said we should talk to Robert about working with us. Hope you all enjoy the first of three issues.

Here’s a little insight into the arc– It’s not Mustang related, but focusing on a new character we’ve seen briefly before, Captain Carter. It’s a nice origin story with a pretty good payoff at the end. i think you’ll all dig it once we get through the first 9 pages and the action starts, but hey– gotta have a character build up, right?

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America’s Army update now on iPad!

June 5th, 2014 · Uncategorized

Check out the motion comic, new on the iPad!!! It’s been updated to include the motion on Issue 3 as well as new music and amazing sound effects.
Click here or the image to view it now

AA03MotionComic

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2014 WonderCon! Who’s going?!

April 9th, 2014 · Uncategorized

I have a panel with IDW: “Hidden Treasures,” Friday, 4/18/14, 5:30p.m. – 6:30p.m., Room: 213

–and will be signing at the IDW booth–

Signing #1: Friday 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Signing #2 Saturday 11am – Noon

LOTS of freebies and giveaways this year so come and say hey!!

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Crowdfunding? It hurts more than it helps–

December 19th, 2013 · Uncategorized

“Crowdfunding,” by the way, has hurt the independent market for comic creators. I have been told by some publishers, several of which I have worked with multiple times as a creator and work for hire, that my original idea, my new IP project that they really, really liked, was just a “vanity project.” Instead of paying me to do it, they told me to start a Kickstarter. “If it does well, we’ll publish it for you.” I don’t need them to publish it, I can self publish, really, I have an agent that can try and sell it and I have a manager who will promote it. What I need from them is their funds to help me create a book and put it out into the marketplace. That takes money, money they’re no longer willing to put into independent projects unless you’re the writer of a TV show or long-running novel series.

So now, instead of pitching an idea to a comic company and working with them to make a book they’d want to publish, I have to beg and borrow to create something they may just pass on at the end of the day anyway.

If they’re not willing to put and “skin” into the game for the project, then why would they want to help you develop some kind of synonymous relationship to begin with? Their money and access to their team of editors is supposed to be one of the draws of working with a good company, nut just them printing the book and distributing it. Yes, printing and distribution costs money, but this is stupid. If they believe in something, something they really want to publish, why not assume some of that risk? The RISK is what prompts them into doing their jobs: molding the concept, editing it to be what they as a company want to sell, marketing it to the masses, selling it to the stores, and promoting the book to the people.

Without that, you’ll never get the main-stream success you need to survive more than a six-issue mini or OGN. It’s sad, really. It seemed like a good idea at the start for inverters and creators alike, but now that companies see it as a way to get out of paying any up-front costs to creators and artists, it’s become a quickly tightening noose around newcomers and old-times collectively.

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Hey artisits! Don’t work for free!

December 19th, 2013 · Uncategorized

Though many artists need to “get their stuff out there,” I would suggest never working for zero. And by that I don’t mean just money, but I mean anything. “Exposure” is a legitimate concern for many young artists who can’t get their work in front of publishers (and not just the big two), but getting nothing in return for the hours of dedication and hard work it takes to make a comic is pointless and just rude. Especially when the owner of the property has a chance to make a profit.

That being said, artists who have never worked in the industry before shouldn’t expect to make the “Big Two’s” page rates for their work the first time out of the gates. To put it in comics terms, Todd McFarlane was able to up his page rate when he became famous on Spider-Man. See my point? And even some of the known guys are struggling to make real money today. If you ask any penciler what they make when they are working for companies like Dynamite, IDW, or even BOOM!, you might be shocked to see how much it breaks down to hourly (to do this, you take the page rate and divide it by how long it takes you to do a page. Most pencilers can do a page a day – 8 hours straight time, so divide the page rate by 8). This isn’t great, but it’s money. Real money. And being paid “something” is a must. So let’s talk about rights and partnerships and taking percentages over payments…

Many writers/creative people, like myself, aren’t at the penciling standards many publishers need to try and sell a new, unproven product to the public, so we have to rely on hiring an artist. The majority of Writers/Creators out there don’t have gobs of money just laying around, they’re struggling to break in and make end’s meat just like the next guy. This means they have very modest amounts of money they can pay an artist, if any. But what they do have are rights to their property.

Now, I won’t break contractual confidences here, but when I did my first OGN, “SOCOM: SEAL TEAM SEVEN,” I worked with a relative newcomer to comics named Roberto de La Torre (who is now a big cheese at Marvel – good for you Roberto!) and we negotiated a decent page rate we could both live with. It was low, but it was all I could afford and he knew my book already had a publisher attached; he needed the exposure. I’m not a millionaire, but I made a weekly paycheck, and every week I would put money aside to pay him his page rate at the end of the payment cycle. By the time the project was finished, he came out with a check and I got a kick-ass book from Image that had my words in balloons and his art in panels. ‘Nuff said. I struggled to pay him what he wanted because I wanted to keep my rights, those ownership rights.

Why?

Let’s face it; comics have become a springboard medium that comic companies completely understand isn’t about the comic sales. It’s something the industry calls “Transmedia.” Can your idea be translated into different forms of media– like a comic, game, film, TV show, toys, etc. That’s all they really care about because that’s where they make the most money. Telling a good story? Welllll, sometimes, yes, they care, but the real money is in the ancillary products they can make nowadays. And those rights aren’t something to scoff at as an artist partnering up with a writer/creator that doesn’t have a lot of seed money. Every time you see a comic book movie or TV show or game, the creator of that property is being paid (not with Marvel and DC, again – those characters are owned by corporations and not individuals). Those rights ARE worth money.

Work for free? NO. Writer/Creator can’t afford to pay you, then get payment another way. Hell, I paid a guy’s phone bill for three months once so he would work with me. Sometimes you hit the jackpot with a project and it’ll sell to the right people for a lot of money but most times it won’t. Just be happy with the end product, your book, and don’t ever work for “free.”

EDIT: This came to light today–

http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/18/showbiz/walking-dead-lawsuit/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

I rest my case.

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Happy Holidays!

December 9th, 2013 · Uncategorized

Happy Holidays to all of you and yours this amazing winter season. And thank all of you for the continued support!

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays!

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Aging–

September 13th, 2013 · Uncategorized

As I get older, I find myself reflecting more on the past, my strengths and weaknesses and how to better myself. No, I’m not 100, I’m 40 but that’s a long time to be on this planet in anyone’s book, especially with all the stuff I’ve seen and done. I just watched the trailer to “Grudge Match” and I wanted to throw a very specific “thank you” out there to Sylvester Stallone for doing the one thing Hollywood couldn’t do for years: Make the general public remember why we loved these guys in the first place and proving once and for all we cannot just dump older folks to the side.

Ask anyone who Humphrey Bogart was. Or Errol Flynn and you’re gonna get blank stares. They were the shining stars of their day, but as they aged, Hollywood thew them aside for the younger and shiny newbies. We do it today, certainly. But there are those who fight back and prove that agism is a bunch of shit. I almost shit when I heard girls today think Brad Pitt is old. Ungh.

When I joined the USMC after 9/11 I was wold I was too old to defend my country. I was 28. I told the Gunny to kiss my ass and went around the rules, pushing through waivers and meeting with Colonels to prove to them I was worthy of being a Marine. Now, that’s an extreme, but it fits.

We need to remember older generations built us, made us who we are as a country, and respect them. We as younger people generally fear old people because we can’t imagine ever being them. Well, guess what? Unless you OD, get shot, hit by a truck or end up like Wall-E people, you’re gonna. They have a lot to offer and we should never forget their accomplishments. Especially people like Stallone, De Niro, Pacino, Walken, Keitel and the rest of the Hollywood heroes.

Thanks, Sly. You’re one of a kind and I, for one, never counted you out. An artist to the last, you’ve had an amazing career that’s taken chances, seen its ups and downs and I’m happy to have you back.

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