Archive for January, 2007
Filed Under adventure, jungle, tarzan
I’ve been watching the old Tarzan the Tiger serial the last couple of days. I can’t watch serials in big chunks, because all the cliffhangers and recaps start getting repetitive after a few episodes, but if I can watch an episode at a time and then come back later for the next one, they’re a lot of fun.
There are some problems with Tarzan the Tiger though. First of all, tigers don’t live in Africa, so his nickname is dumb, but they also show a tiger responding to his Tarzan yell at one point, so maybe they just don’t care. Kids in the ’20s probably didn’t know any better. Still, it’s dumb.
Worse than that though is Tarzan’s goofy headband and the fact that he wears fur loafers when he’s running around the jungle. I’ve also been watching Johnny Weissmuller’s Tarzan the Ape Man
and Johnny didn’t need no loafers. Johnny was damn near naked, as Tarzan should
be. Tarzan the Tiger (Frank Merrill) wears one of those over-the-shoulder furs too. That and his cute, little, bob haircut make him look kinda frilly. He does carry a rope though, like Tarzan does in the books, so that’s pretty cool.
Jane isn’t any big shakes either. I’m only three episodes in, but she started the serial off by whining that Tarzan’s plan to steal a bunch of gold from the lost city of Opar was too dangerous and nagging him not to go. She did manage to escape from some slave traders all by her lonesome though — and exchanged her harem outfit for some hot, jungle-girl furs in the process — so she’s not all bad either.
It’s still way too soon to pass judgment on this thing, but even with the silly Tarzan and his shrewish wife, the story is good so far. I also like that — unlike Johnny’s version — this Tarzan is the educated Lord Greystoke from the novels. I’ll probably post again about it once I’m further in.
Filed Under comics, fantasy
A long time ago I posted about a manga series based on the Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. It was scheduled to come out “in early 2007.” That was later narrowed down to March, but the series has now been pushed back to November 13th due to what its editor calls the “extremely collaborative” nature of the project.
That’s too bad because now that I’ve seen the cover art I’m even more excited to check out the book, which is going to be a prequel to the movie.
Filed Under comics, scifi
Okay, the Pulp Strip du Jour idea didn’t go over how I’d planned. There was just too much going on last week to let me stay focused on it. What should have been Friday’s strip though was Travis Charest’s (WildC.A.T.S.) Space Girl. His ink work on it is fantastic and he knows how to create imaginative settings and express action.
It’s too bad I was so late in posting this one, because I really was saving the best for last.
Filed Under kill all monsters, le corsaire, writing is hard
I haven’t done a project update here in a while, but someone asked me in the comments on the LiveJournal feed for this blog what I’ve been up to, so I’ll share it here too.
A little over a year ago I put aside a pirate novel I was working on called (tentatively) Le Corsaire. I wasn’t really happy with how it was going, but I wasn’t sure why, so I decided to focus on other stuff for a while.
One of those things was the Robots vs. Monsters comic I’m doing with Jason Copland, which has been an educational experience for me. The editor on that book, Jason Rodriguez, showed me that I was holding myself way back on the action. I’d wanted to make sure that the story was strong, but I’d sacrificed a lot of the coolness factor to do it. Once I realized that I was doing it on the comic, I understood a big piece of what was wrong with Le Corsaire.
I’ve always been pretty comfortable writing dialogue scenes. I think I’m good at it and they come pretty easily. Action, on the other hand, I have to stop and think about. Folks who’ve read “Completely Cold” tell me that they like the action in it, but I’ve got to choreograph that stuff out in my head. I imagine the entire fight or chase scene in slow motion and describe it as it’s happening. I think it works out okay when I’m done, but it’s a long, slow process and I don’t particularly enjoy it. As a result, Le Corsaire tended to jump from dialogue scene to dialogue scene while skipping over most of the action. In fact, the place where I put it aside was right before a big pirate attack that I just did not want to have to choreograph. It’s a crucial scene, so I knew I couldn’t skip it, but I didn’t want to have to write it either, so I stalled out.
What I’ve learned from Robots vs. Monsters is that I can have fun choreographing and writing action. I don’t need to let it overwhelm me. So, I’m picking up Le Corsaire again with the intention of having the first draft done by the end of May. I’m going to have to re-work a lot of what I’ve already written, but now I know how to make it the book I want it to be. I mean, who ever heard of a pirate story without any action?
I’ve also figured out the other thing that was bothering me about Le Corsaire when I put it down. I was working too closely to my outline. Or maybe it was that my outline was too detailed. Either way, I wasn’t leaving myself enough room for sudden inspiration and it was taking a lot of the fun out of the experience. This time, I have a basic idea of where the story is headed and I’m just going to write in that general direction and see what the journey looks like once I get there.
As far as Robots vs. Monsters goes, it’s almost completely inked. I wish I could share some of Jason’s stuff with you here, but you’re gonna have to wait until it comes out. It’s awesome though. It’s got giant monsters, giant robots, airplane dogfights, a hidden jungle city, and a flawed, but sympathetic hero with an impossible goal to achieve. And did I mention unbelievable art? Oh, and a new name. This is subject to change again, but for now the working title is Kill All Monsters!.
It’s weird how things work, but as I’ve been thinking over the problems with Le Corsaire and changing titles on the comic like I change clothes, I’ve also been running across posts on writing blogs that deal with a lot of these same issues. If you’re interested, here are the links:
On the need to start stories with some action, instead of boring backstory.
“Splat splat splat. You’ve got a big fat wad of information in the first part — a dreaded prologue I fear. First of all, no one talks like that. Shorter sentences will help. Second, you’ve told us there’s a corpse, then you go back to Boston to let us know that Zoe is on her way to Sydney in six months?? I KNEW that. Get to the story. Prune ruthlessly.”
Another opinion on where to start your story. (Just to show there’s never any, one, right answer.)
“There is/used to be a thought that you should always start the story where the action is — which lead to a lot of stories being started in the wrong place. Like, in the midst of a heated argument or at a really sensitive scene — which sounds like it would be ok, but more often than not we are interested in heated/sensitive scenes because we feel a connection with the character. If that’s how your story begins, it is often harder for the reader to get that connection right away — even if it’s a scene designed to make the character seem more sympathetic. Usually you should back up the story a little bit — and start earlier.”
On balancing dialogue with action.
“…have you mistaken dialogue for action or scene building or for characterization? Remember, there has to be a balance. It can’t be all dialogue at the sacrifice of the other stuff. Some folks are great dialoguers. Don’t rely on your strength to carry a whole novel.”
“Decent titles take a while to cook up, so I generally use place-holder or working titles until I read a couple tons of poetry, hit the Library of Congress Online Catalog a few million times to see if any of my title ideas have been done before, and settle on the one I want. It doesn’t have to be the title, just a title.”
Filed Under scifi, star wars
Comics journalist/creator Chris Arrant posted a link in his blog to this article that reinterprets the original Star Wars trilogy in light of the prequels. I just did something like that myself, but this writer is a lot more coherent than I was.
I don’t think that his conclusions are necessarily the inevitable ones, but I like them. Especially since they make my two favorite Star Wars characters, Chewie and Artoo, into the real heroes of the Rebellion.
Filed Under writing is hard
I hate thinking about the business side of writing, but I’m also an overly organized twit and this article about planning your writing year has good advice about setting goals and whatnot. It’s all customizable, but I especially like her advice about creating an agency/publisher submission list while you’re still writing your novel, and her suggestion for an annual “New Endeavor Goal.”
“This is optional. In my business plan, I include one new endeavor goal and one outrageous goal every year. A new endeavor goal, for example, can be anything from writing in a new genre to publishing a promotional e-book. Outrageous goals are things that are usually beyond my means and/or present capabilities, like buying the Hope Diamond or running over to borrow a cup of sugar from Stuart MacBride. I almost always nail the new endeavor goal (six out of seven so far), and almost never the outrageous one (one out of seven to date), but it adds a nice incentive for me to work a little harder and budget myself a little better. One can only depend on so many job offers for work as a jungle-combat mercenary.”
She also has a suggested budget for the year that includes stuff that I ordinarily don’t think about like printer paper and Internet access. Well worth reading.
Filed Under link du jour, pulp
Another link from my friend Joe. This one is a blog by Ron Fortier called Pulp Fiction Reviews. It’s exactly what it sounds like, only Ron reviews modern day, pulp-inspired novels, as opposed to ancient stuff you’ve got to scour used book stores to find.
Ron knows what he’s talking about too, by the way, when he reviews this kind of stuff. I’ve mentioned him a couple of times before
in relation to pulp projects he’s written, but he’s also written pulp comics like The Green Hornet
Filed Under captain nemo, cephalopods, sharks, steampunk, submarines
I’m learning that old, silent movie adaptations of books are generally a lot more faithful to their source material than modern ones are. That’s not true of Lon Chaney movies for some reason (at least, not Phantom of the Opera or Hunchback of Notre Dame), but it is of Peter Pan and I understand that it is of Tarzan of the Apes. And it pretty much is with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Jules Verne’s novel has some great, pulpy elements to it like the submarine, its unhinged captain, the giant squid, and Atlantis. But I don’t call it a pulp because, except for a couple of scenes, it’s not at all fast-paced or exciting. It’s a long, overly descriptive, chore-to-read travelogue. And unfortunately, the 1916 silent adaptation of it suffers from some of that as well.
Not only was underwater photography brand new in 1916, it was pretty much unheard of and 20,000 Leagues was the first movie to ever use it. They were pretty proud of that fact and even used film time to introduce the guys who developed the technique (and helped shoot the movie) before getting into the actual story. Because of that, there are some long underwater shots of nothing but fish and coral beds that reminded me of how tedious the novel is. I’m sure they were captivating to movie-goers in 1916, but they don’t hold up today.
The shark scenes do though. Sharks are always cool and there are some shark scenes that I can’t figure out how they pulled off without someone’s getting killed. Stuff like deep-sea divers shooting at sharks and having the sharks charge the divers before being driven away by the guns. If that was trick photography or a special effect, Stephen Sommers needs to take notes from these guys. Actually, that’s the way it was for a lot of stuff in the film. There’s some pretty cool stuff in it, even by today’s standards. (Not the octopus though. It was better than the one in Bride of the Monster, but just barely.)
The reason that I said 20,000 Leagues is “pretty” faithful to the novel is that it also incorporates the events from Verne’s sequel The Mysterious Island. I haven’t read that one yet, so I don’t know how faithful the movie to it is, but it’s an interesting experiment in that knowing the end to Verne’s 20,000 Leagues, I’m sure that Mysterious Island can’t take place after it, so it has to take place during it. The film tries to harmonize the two and that’s an experiment I always find worth exploring, even if it doesn’t end up working all that well. Where it goes wrong here is that even though Captain Nemo appears in both stories, his supporting cast is different in each. So, the movie starts out talking about Professor Arronax and Ned Land, but it just drops them a third of the way in to start telling you about the Mysterious Island characters. It’s not an easy transition.
They should have just called the movie The Mysterious Island, because that part of it is a lot more interesting and exciting than the 20,000 Leagues stuff. The reason I haven’t read The Mysterious Island yet is that I was so disappointed by 20,000 Leagues, but seeing this movie has encouraged me to give it a shot.
Three out of five sharks
Filed Under adventure, comics, pulp
The reason I’m doing this pulp-strip-a-day thing is because not only did Steve Canyon start this week, but also my pal Joe sent me a link to Captain Spectre. I haven’t been completely through the archives yet, but I definitely appreciately the Commando Cody/Rocketeer inspiration.
Looking forward to digging more into this one.
Filed Under writing is hard
Yesterday I briefly mentioned the subject of writing for the audience and promised that I’d go into more detail about it. There’s not a lot of detail that needs exploring. Basically, the idea is that you write for yourself and then hope that other people like it too. You never ever start the process by trying to figure out what the readers want first.
Not only will that cause you to fail artistically, it’s a stupid task because readers don’t know themselves what they want. Oh, they think they do. But they don’t. That’s why I love the attitude that the Grey’s Anatomy writers take towards their fans:
“…we read your comments – maybe not all of them but a lot of them – and sometimes we use them as a jumping off place for discussion in the room. Like, ‘A lot of fans don’t like this character right now. Why is that?’ … Our discussions that are prompted by your feedback often lead us down interesting paths, but they never end with us going, ‘Yeah, some of the fans don’t like that, we should just stop it.’ Ever. Because it’s our to keep you on the edge of your seats, it’s our job to inspire you to write us in a feverish rage, it’s our job to sometimes piss you off and hopefully, always, to keep you coming back for more. “