Wednesday, July 21, 2010

PAGE SIX - A Story in Pictures - Part Three

Previously, we saw several different early versions of both script and art for SHADRACH STONE, page 6. Again, here’s the final lettered and colored version:


Once we had enough art in, I sat down and created balloon-placement guides for the letterer. Balloon guides are time-consuming; sometimes the writer draws them up, and sometimes the editor, but I like doing my own when I can. It shows you things you might not otherwise notice, even just looking at the script and art together. Balloons don’t fit the way you think they will, or dialogue just looks wrong with a face or body language.

The numbers on the dialogue correspond to the balloon indications on the guide.



As you can see from the different script versions, I changed my mind a few times about Shadrach’s father’s dialogue in panel 4. On film, I would have trusted an actor to get across the emotional effect without any words; but that’s tougher to pull off with still images. Looking at it this time, I decided I’d overwritten it somewhere along the line, and that something shorter and more suggestive would work better.

Here’s the first lettered version of the page, courtesy of Jason Levine:

Shadrach Stone-01_06_letd

I wish I could show you the final composited version, but I haven’t seen it yet.

And that’s The Saga of Page Six. Multiply by 102, and you have SHADRACH STONE!

PAGE SIX - A Story in Pictures - Part Two

Last time, we saw two early script versions of SHADRACH STONE, page 6, and Jon Proctor’s original version of the art for that page. Here it is again, with the lettering I did in order to present it to publishers:


Now -- once we started working with Penny-Farthing Press, Jon decided to redraw most of the art using a less chiaroscuro, more traditional-comics look. This was his own choice, though both Penny-Farthing and I gave him a few notes. Behold the new page 6:


Meanwhile, I received some notes from Penny-Farthing and revised the script slightly. Since Jon had already redrawn that page, I was able to match it to his art. For instance, I moved one of Shadrach's lines from panel 2 to 3, mostly for space reasons.

The blue text is changed from the previous version. (There's no industry standard for revisions, but I like to keep track.)


I also decided we needed to, uh, get to know Shadrach a little better in panel 5.

We all liked Jon’s new version, but I asked him to revise panel 5 so we could see Shadrach’s face. He did, and the page was then inked by Jeff Dabu and colored by Jon.


What’s next? Find out in part three…

PAGE SIX - A Story in Pictures

Part One

This is going to be another multi-part post…taking you through the evolution of a small piece of the SHADRACH STONE graphic novel. Pull back the curtain, Dorothy…

As I described previously, I wrote the first version of SHADRACH STONE in teleplay form. Here’s page 6 of that initial script, which features ten-year-old Shadrach Stone pulling some shit on his father and on Mr. Carly, the owner of the local five-and-ten-cent store:


When I converted the story to comic book form, most of this action wound up, coincidentally, on page 6 of the first issue. Here’s what that page looked like:


Note the differences in pacing. In the teleplay, we briefly see Mr. Carly right before Shadrach’s father starts speaking. In comics, that would be too awkward a beat; it would draw too much attention away from the confrontation between Shadrach and his father. Of course, on film, an editor would have to make the decision whether or not to show the minor character at that point. In both media, a script is a guide to the finished project, not a set of unbreakable dictates.

Here’s the first version of the art Jon Proctor did for this page:


As you can see, Jon was employing a high-contrast, very designy approach to the art at this point. He did intend to color it, but with the photographic backgrounds, it almost seems intended for black and white.

As part of our presentation to publishers, I lettered this page. Sometimes when I did this, I would make changes as I went along; but this time, I stuck pretty close to the original dialogue.


After we contracted with Penny-Farthing Press to publish the book, things changed. A lot. In fact, that page won't appear in the actual book, not in the form you see above.

More on that next time…

Ripples, Part Three, or Where Did SHADRACH STONE Come From?

Part Three: Old Publishers, New, and the Tricky Business of Comics


After we decided we definitely wanted to work together, Jon Proctor and I worked out an arrangement, and he started drawing the book. We exchanged a lot of notes about how best to publish SHADRACH, which we thought of, at the time, as a four-issue miniseries. Self-publishing was an option, or we could complete the first issue and then approach Image.

I put out feelers to a few other publishers in the meantime, but it’s tricky to place an original, creator-owned series in this market. There’s a tradeoff between rights and money that makes it tough to satisfy the needs of both the creators and the publisher.


At the same time, I entered into an agreement with the now-defunct Virgin Comics to freelance-edit a few titles for them in partnership with the SciFi (now SyFy) TV network. We showed them SHADRACH, and SciFi was interested; but in the end, our visions for the series didn’t mesh. I’ve enjoyed working with both Virgin and their successor, Liquid Comics; but on balance, it’s probably a good thing that deal didn’t come together.

Jon drew issue #1. Then he drew issue #2. I got very busy with various projects for Marvel, Teshkeel, DC licensing, and the Virgin/SciFi editorial work. And all the while, a steady stream of SHADRACH pages poured in from Jon, crying for my attention.

Then, at the 2008 New York Comicon, I met with the owners of Penny-Farthing Press. I’d done some of my earliest professional writing for them -- a book called ZENDRA -- and they published my original series PARA, which is still in print. They’re ambitious but realistic, extremely professional to work with, and their production values are absolutely impeccable. And when I described SHADRACH to them, they got it immediately.


Penny-Farthing made a deal with me and with Jon, who decided to go back and reimagine his style all over again. I’ve always loved his work, but he’s completely stepped up his game -- his work on SHADRACH STONE is the best of his career. It’s taken a while to get to this point -- drawing and coloring 102 pages doesn’t happen overnight! -- but we’re extremely proud of the result.

In September, you’ll see the fruits of our labors. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this blog for more exclusive art, behind-the-scenes stories, and How A Bill Becomes A Law. Or, at least, how a crazy, ambitious idea about lies becomes a graphic novel.

Ripples, Part Two: Where Did SHADRACH STONE Come From?

Part Two: Art, Artists, and Why Comics Are Special

Continuing The True and Terrible History of SHADRACH STONE, the Graphic Novel...


While I was developing SHADRACH, Axel Alonso at Marvel had shown me Jon Proctor’s work. Jon and I almost did a Wolverine story together, but not quite. Jon was working away on a book called The Black Diamond with Larry Young, and I was struck by his sharp, design-oriented layouts and gorgeous color sense -- some of the best color work in the business, I think. Jon and I met briefly at the San Diego Comicon in ’06 at Larry’s booth, and talked about pitching something together to the new Marvel Comics Presents title.

In subsequent emails, we got talking about different kinds of comics, and I mentioned I had a few Marvel ideas and one original one. Jon replied, “I'm interested to hear about the less Marvel-y project.”

Poor bastard.


Jon loved SHADRACH. He jumped on the idea and started producing sketches and sample pieces. Meanwhile, I set about converting the script from teleplay to a comics script. This is a much trickier process than it sounds; despite appearances, the two media are very, very different. Comics is all about compression, and about isolated images that add up to form a story. Screenplays and teleplays unfold at a more natural, less staccato pace; it’s much easier to convey a range of actions (Adam walks to the door, grasps the knob, looks around furtively, grimaces, and pulls it open). A lot of the action had to be reblocked, and the dialogue had to be trimmed and refocused.

But I know comics better than I know teleplays -- and there are things comics do better than any other medium. Captioning, for instance, is a powerful tool that can provide an off-kilter perspective, or even an entirely parallel narrative, to the story unfolding in the panels. The same effect can be achieved on film using voice-over, but it’s tougher to pull off. It often seems forced.

And I realized I could add another level to the story: a series of mythological images accompanied by narrative captions that would introduce each chapter, recur at odd times, and then pay off at the end. That sounds pretentious and confusing, but it’s really a simple technique. And it doesn’t interfere with the main story, which is a very linear narrative of Shadrach's odyssey.


While I was noodling around pretentiously with the sequential art form, Jon pumped out some beautiful preliminary pencilled the shot below, showing early versions of Shadrach and his girlfriend Vida. We started feeding off each other’s ideas, the way the best comics collaborations often work.


We were off and rolling…somewhere. But where?

Find out in part three...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ripples in the Substrate: or, Where Did SHADRACH STONE come from?

Part One: Lies, Damn Lies, and Dick Grayson

Note: Part of this entry appeared on an earlier incarnation of this blog. So if you think you’ve seen it before, you haven’t slipped into an alternate reality. Or maybe you have…


I’d been playing with the basic idea for SHADRACH STONE for a while, letting it simmer on the back burner. I don’t think of myself as particularly skilled at the art of Hollywood-style pitches, but I’d run this one by several people: The biggest liar in America winds up dead center of a national tragedy, and finds himself inexplicably drawn toward the center of the disaster while everyone else runs away. He undergoes a mysterious trauma, which changes him profoundly. Afterward, he can no longer abide lying in himself or in others -- which destroys his career in record time. (I’m omitting one important detail here, to avoid spoiling the story.) The pitch always held people’s interest -- which told me I was on to something.

The trouble was: I had a powerful “origin,” but nowhere to go after that. In my initial notes, Shadrach opened up a sort of psychic detective agency with a former priest known only as Father. I tried merging SHADRACH with another story called Flicker, which had been in development with Humanoids, as Shadrach’s first case; but that was never a good fit. (I’m slowly developing Flicker, separately, as a series of prose novellas.)


Then, in mid-2006, DC asked me to revamp Nightwing. They’d been struggling with what to do with the character since Infinite Crisis; it was felt that Dick Grayson wasn’t important enough, and needed to be at the center of cosmic forces. I sat down and devised a whole cosmology centering around Nightwing himself, including a secret organization called Force Majeure that had been watching him for years. Editor Nachie Castro liked it, and I wrote one script.

DC elected to go in a different direction with Nightwing, which is of course their prerogative. But I felt like I’d stumbled onto something kind of special, a weird mix of street-level adventure and the sort of cosmic comics I’d loved at 1970s Marvel, which had, in turn, inspired some of the Vertigo books I used to edit. It played to two of my favorite genres.

Plus I had a hell of a lot of notes on Force Majeure.


Where Flickers was a bad match with SHADRACH, Force Majeure was perfect. The group’s peculiar vision of the universe gave the whole project a forward momentum that made the whole thing take off. Most of all, the new element really allowed me to explore the meaning of lies -- the damage they cause, both to victims and perpetrators -- in a dramatic, allegorical setting.

I had a number of comics projects ongoing or in the works, and I wanted to try something different. So I decided to write up a TV pilot for SHADRACH STONE. I deliberately kept it cheap to film -- probably too cheap, as I discovered when I converted it back to comics. More on that next time.

I probably would have shopped it around in that format first, except that something else dropped into my lap. Something with the suspiciously Biblical name of Jon Proctor.

To be continued...

Mike Carey Says...

Stuart Moore was my editor on a book called THE STRANDED when he first mentioned the core idea of SHADRACH STONE to me, so I know that the planning for this book took place over a long time: I believe it must have overlapped with the planning for my own book, THE UNWRITTEN, and that pleases me for a number of reasons. Stuart and I seem to share some of the same obsessions. And we both make a living out of telling lies.

Okay, that’s not what we tend to call it, but all the same, that’s what it is.

From the introduction to SHADRACH STONE by Mike Carey, acclaimed writer of THE UNWRITTEN, X-MEN LEGACY, LUCIFER, and the Felix Castor novels. Thanks, Mike!


Next time: Beginning The True and Terrible History of SHADRACH STONE, the graphic novel. Miss it not!

Comicon San Diego!

Both Jon Proctor and I will be attending Comicon! As of this writing, I’m scheduled for a signing at the Marvel booth on Friday at 10 AM, so if you’re actually conscious and on the floor, please stop by. Otherwise, you’ll have to catch us roaming the hall like wraiths passing over from mainstream to indy comics, of both worlds and yet of neither. Say hello and we’ll tell you a lie.


All art from SHADRACH STONE, our graphic novel, coming in September 2010. Scroll down or go here for more information.



It’s an original graphic written and created by me, and pencilled, colored, and co-created by Jon Proctor. Inks are by Jeff Dabu, and the book features an introduction by Mike Carey. Publication date: September 2010. List price: $19.95.

SHADRACH STONE is a paranormal adventure story, a sociopolitical allegory, and an occasionally nasty character drama. But mostly, it’s about lies. The lies we tell ourselves to get through the day; the lies our leaders tell us so we’ll fall in line. The lies that become our accepted truths, and the ones that flare and turn to ash before the pure light of truth.


In the modern world, lies flourish in little dark corners. Just turn on your computer, or your radio, and watch or listen as thousands of pundits, bloggers, and paid shills craft little worlds before your eyes. These worlds aren’t real; often they’re in direct conflict with the reality. But as long as someone believes them -- as long as the tenets they’re based on aren’t challenged, within a reader’s or a listener’s mind -- they live, in a way.

Fortunately, it’s also become easier to debunk lies. The world is much smaller than it used to be. We get real-time video from Afghanistan, instantaneous reports from Somalia and Gaza and 178th Street in the Bronx. If you open your mind -- if you stop blindly trusting people with obvious agendas -- you can shake off the lies.


Shadrach Stone is a liar. As a Manhattan literary agent, he’s made a very good living at it. But he has no idea how special he is, how far-reaching the effects of his mendacity.

For good or ill, Shadrach is about to come face to face with the real world. Then, like all of us struggling to deal with the 21st century, he’ll have to change.

And so will the entire world.


As I write this, Jon Proctor is just finishing up the color art for SHADRACH -- but he and I have been working on this book for a long time. In this blog, I’ll post notes on the history and progress of the book, along with “process” entries on how a comic is made. Jon’s enthusiasm for this book means he’s thrown off dozens of sketches and full-color pieces over the course of our development period, so I’ve got plenty of cool stuff to show you. Jon will be posting, too, with his own brand of behind-the-scenes info.

I’ve been an editor and writer for Marvel Comics, DC, and several other companies. My new monthly title, NAMOR: THE FIRST MUTANT, is about to debut from Marvel, and I’m very excited about that. But SHADRACH is all mine and Jon’s. That makes this book very special to us. Hopefully we’ll be able to show you why.


I’ll put out little alerts on Twitter and Facebook when I update here. I’m stuartmoore1 on both Facebook and Twitter, so sign up to follow or friend me now. I promise inside info, stupid jokes, and only a few, well-chosen lies.

Thanks for being with us. And remember: