The Way of the Word

8. October 2011

I (Heart) Christopher Lee – Postscript

It’s not a secret that I’m a huge fan of Christopher Lee.

I even made some cartoons about it:

I (Heart) Christopher Lee
Meeting the Legend

If you wish, you could refer to the strips’s backstory, which I explained in a different post here on this blog. Essentially, the strips are a spoof of what might happen if I ever got the chance to meet Christopher Lee.

He was in Hamburg last Sunday. Presenting his new movie.

AND NOBODY TOLD ME!!!!!!!

Translation: considering that he’s 89 years old, this was probably the only chance ever to meet him, AND NOBODY TOLD ME!!!!

(slinks into a corner to cry)

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26. July 2011

Rory Williams is Badass

Within a short time, Doctor Who companion Rory Williams (otherwise known as Mr. Amy Pond) has shown himself to be the most badass character of the 21st century. Or any other century. I’m sure even the Doctor is at least a little bit afraid of him.

15. September 2010

Made of Fail Backstory: Christopher Lee

Two things you need to know about me:

One is that, among other things, I work as a freelance entertainment journalist. (If anyone wants to hire me, my rates are competitive.) As such, I write for movie magazines, and I’ve met and interviewed my share of celebrities. I like to think that I’m pretty good at it.

The other is that I’m a big fan of Sir Christopher Lee.

Knowing these two little factoids, you probably understand that Craig, in the two-part Christopher Lee-joke, (I (heart) Christopher Lee and Meeting the Legend) is much less an amalgamation of several people as usual. He is, for all intents and purposes, yours truly.

Except for one thing: I’ve yet to get the chance to meet and interview Sir Christopher. So wait, if Craig is me in this one, and Made of Fail is usually based on true stories, how come…?

Simple: MoF is not based on true stories, the strips are inspired by true stories. That means that what happens here didn’t really happen, but it makes fun of people and events. In this case, I once joked to someone that if I ever got to meet Sir Christopher, it might be difficult to keep my inner fanboy in check.

I’m usually good enough at that — I kept my inner fanboy in check when I interviewed Danny Trejo, for example. But Sir Christopher Lee… He’s a class in himself. That means the Christopher Lee two-parter is spoofing my own worst-case scenario of what might happen if I ever met him.

Two more things before I go. You’ve probably noticed that I cut Sir Christopher off at the neck. The reason for that is that, as I’m sure regular readers know, I suck at liknesses. I had considered using a photo, but then I remembered that Sir Christopher is very tall — and decided to build a joke from that. The Maud he talks at in Meeting the Legend is a bow to Maud Adams. Back in 1974, she played the assistant of Scaramanga, the villain in the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun. And Scaramanga was, of course, played by Sir Christopher Lee.

22. August 2010

Made of Fail Backstory: Curses, Foiled Again!

Today’s offering introduces a new semi-regular character: Evil Mastermind. Unlike almost every other evil mastermind in fiction, EM really is a criminal genius.

I mean, how many other villains in movies, TV, novels and comics do you know who actually know to quit while they’re ahead? Who somehow acquire a billion dollars so that they need to set their masterplan in motion, which usually essentially boils down to becoming insanely rich. Those masterplans usually fail, and the evil mastermind loses everything.

The CM-logo on his chest was based on the original name: Criminal Mastermind. I like the character, though, and I had the thought that I might want to reuse him, specifically for those strips where I need someone to be evil, but for whatever reason don’t want to use Mefisto. In order to fit him in with the rest of the gang (Amy, Ben, Craig, Don), I decided to change his name to Evil Mastermind (preserving the alphabetic order — I’m weird that way).

His look, by the way, is based on the classic supervillains of the 1960s. Dr. No and Donald Pleasance’s Blofeld, to name just two of them.

Actually, you can expect to see him again fairly soon. I have plans for Evil Mastermind. Evil plans…

25. July 2010

Made of Fail Backstory: Amy’s Writing Gig

Today’s Made of Fail strip marks the conclusion of a 5-part storyarc. Which became a 5 part arc by accident, as I had planned things a bit differently.

By the way, clicking on any of the links in this post will take you directly to the strip under discussion.

The arc kicks off with Ignored. Wherin I spoof the ages-old wisdom that if you’re unhappy with what’s going on, you are supposed to make yourself heard by writing in. That wisdom doesn’t take into account that once you’ve been identified as someone who constantly complains about something, people will ignore you.

The story arc that followed was originally intended to run independently, at a much later date. But because of Marvel publishing the O.M.I.T. story in Spider-Man, and the end of BND being announced, I decided to run it a bit sooner than that. So how did Ignored become a part of this story arc? By virtue of working flawlessly as a lead-in. Be honest: if you didn’t know better now, wouldn’t you think that Amy’s implied constant letter writing resulted in the events that  follow?

The one that follows is The Deal. Where Amy gets the chance to put her money where her mouth is and prove that she can write a better Spider-Man. Amy, like the entire cast, is an amalgamation of various real people. Some of whom are very vocal (to the point of being OCD) regarding the current direction. And yes, I’m almost surprised that Quesada and Wacker have never come up with the idea of telling the one or two loudest complainers to do better.

You might wonder why I clipped and pasted headshots of Joe Quesada and Steve Wacker into the strip. It’s simply: I can’t draw. I originally got those pictures for the purpose of visual reference. Then I tried to draw their likeness. I failed so totally that I decided to do what I had already done twice during season one, and just paste the pictures into the strip. If I could draw better, I’d have drawn them instead.

Writing the Best-Selling Spider-Man Comic is my nod to how difficult that task is. It’s one thing to sit on your couch, read all those Wolverine and Deadpool guest appearances, and complain about crossoveritis. The problem is: apparently, those things work. (Even for Made of Fail, the Wolverine/Deadpool guest appearance got more readers than usual.) So if you’re a guest writer on a book that goes downhill, and you need to come up with something that’s guaranteed to boost sales, what do you do? Do you take a chance, or do you at least consider doing the tried-and-true formula stuff? Just to be on the safe side?

Amy’s first idea regarding the new love interest goes back to the strip that introduced her back in season 1. Looking at that strip, I don’t know if my drawing has improved, but it has at least evolved.

Writing… also has guest art by J. Kevin Carrier, who writes/draws the webcomic Glorianna. I was again borrowing an trick I had used before by getting a guest artist to differentiate the main story from the, well, fantasy stuff. Amy’s story vs. what goes on in her mind.

Oh, and if anyone would like to read a story that introduces Spider-Man’s new love interest, guest-stars Wolverine and Deadpool and has Black Widow and Black Cat mud-wrestling, write to Marvel. I’m sure they’ll be happy to oblige. Actually, the only thing of the above they haven’t done yet is the Black Widow/Black Cat mud-wrestling. They’ll probably slap their foreheads saying, “D’oh, how could we miss something that obvious?”

Writer X’s Advice hearkens back to the last time Spider-Man sales tanked. It was the time of the Clone Saga and the Mackie/Byrne reboot. At about the time Howard Mackie disappeared at Marvel, they had a “Writer X.” It was widely assumed that Mackie was Writer X, and that Marvel had done the stung to show people that Mackie wasn’t a bad writer, that the readers were just biased against him. When I worked on that strip, I also realized that that had been the first time Marvel had tried to get rid of the Spider-Marriage. Might there be a connection?

By now, the current story arc has made sure that I will never be working for Marvel. But what about DC? Shouldn’t I burn that bridge as well? Enter The DC Exclusive Contract. Yes, that is supposed to be Dan Didio. Yes, that is how things turn out when I try to draw a likeness. Didio is easier to draw than Quesada and Wacker, though, so I gave it a shot.

5. July 2010

Workblog: The Mad Pulper Project

his is basically the fault of Danny Bowman and Kristine Kathryn Rush. I won’t say what Kristine contributed, but Danny, who published pulp novellas, said in an interview that the decreasing attention span of readers makes this the perfect time for shorter fiction.

Mate, in this day and age where most people have the attention span of a retard with sunburn I believe that short, punchy and unpretentious novels are the way to go, trust me.

This put an idea into my head. 12 months. 12 novellas, each between 25K and 30K in length. 12 different genres. Go in, tell the story with no punches pulled, go out. I would write them, package them and self-publish them as cheap entertainment for the Kindle.

Wait, I hear you cry, isn’t Jens totally opposed to self-publishing? Isn’t this hypocritical?

Yes I am, and no it’s not. Writers don’t need to self-publish, and if you need to self-publish you’re not a writer. I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m a complete failure and a total loser.

Maybe it’s just a manic phase of my depression, but right now I find it liberating. Because if I weren’t coming to terms with it, I wouldn’t even think of doing this. And it occurs to me that, unless the idea were submitted by a writer of, say Stephen King’s or John Grisham’s standing, no publisher would take a chance on this kind of experiment.

12 novellas of up to 30,000 words. I’ve already noted down the ideas. None of them are new ideas, they’ve lurked in my files for years. Some of them even almost made it to publication. They cover everything from fantasy to horror to action/adventure to spy fiction.

12 ideas. 12 short novels. 12 months.

Now, there are problems that need to be resolved. One is that I’m not exactly a fast writer. But I can work around that by working ahead. If I’m not ready to start publishing them in January 2011, for example, I can hold off publishing until January 2012. Or simply use this as an exercise to become faster. I could work on several of these in parallel, so that I can switch stories if I get blocked on one of them.

The other problem ties into this: lack of time. My non-paying working time is already taken up by my webcomic Made of Fail. I might have to stop working on that to make a go of this 12 stories project.

The third problem is covers. The stories will need covers. I’m not good enough to draw them myself. I can’t afford to pay artists for them. I don’t expect to make money with this. (Heck, I’m not doing them for the money. There’s no money in self-publishing. I’m doing them for their own self.) That means I need to figure something out.

23. June 2010

Made of Fail Backstory: The Forest for the Trees

We have a nice scandal here in Hamburg. I’m afraid I can’t find a link in English, so you’ll have to take my word for it — or have this German text translated.

Bascially, the story is this: the Hamburg borough of Wilhelmsburg is going to host the Internationale Gartenschau (IGS) in 2013. That means, of course, that they are going to build an event park in that borough. Theoretically a good thing.

If only…

The problem is that they want to set the park up in a forest. The forest had been created in 1983, from funds that had been freed up when Hamburg did not get to host the IGS. There are 4,500 trees there. The IGS plans to chop down about half of them to build their event park.

Let me repeat: the International Gardening Show plans to cut down over 2,000 trees in a park/forest, in order to build a park.

If that isn’t Made of Fail, I don’t know what is.

13. June 2010

Workblog: Made of Fail – Sales Pitch

Today’s Made of Fail (Sales Pitch) is loosely based on a true story. Yes, really. As bizarre as it seems.

It was inspired by an article in a local daily newspaper. According to that article, a man had written (and apparently self-published, or published through a vanity press) a book with erotic stories. He was deeply in debt and figures that if he could sell 30,000 copies, he would be in the black.

The problem was that nobody was buying his book. Par for the course in self-publishing. So he decided to engage in some promotion.

His idea of promoting his book was to get in touch with the acquisitions dept. of a major German supermarket chain. He told them that unless they bought several thousand copies of his book to sell in their stores, he would inform the press of — honestly, I have forgotten what it was.  It was something utterly trivial that everyone already knows anyway. It was roughly on the level of the threat Craig uses in today’s strip.

Of course he was arrested. That was last year. Early this year, that man was tried in a local court and convicted.

To think that people wonder where I get my ideas…

A word about using S-Mart, which is probably trademarked by Sam Raimi. Yes, that’s the supermarket chain where Ash from the Evil Dead movies works. I used them once in season one, as a sign on a store window that Don walks past, as a little nod to the movies. I like them a lot. When I cast about for a name for the supermarket chain that Craig calls in today’s strip, I decided to use them again. I figure they are used to dealing with all kinds of morons, and I hope Sam Raimi won’t sue me. It’s meant in good fun.

2. June 2010

Backstory: Made of Fail – I Quit!

When I do a Made of Fail strip, I try to stay away from politics. There are several reasons for that. One is that what’s important and topical in my country might be totally incomprehensible in yours. Another is that there is simply too much Fail in politics; I would be unable to keep up. The third and most important is that I prefer “personal” fails. They are more universal, and therefore funnier. The neighbors with the noisy sex life? I’m sure everyone can relate.

That said, sometimes I simply can’t resist to use something political/topical for a Made of Fail strip. The airline security fail a few days ago is one such things. The situation made the news all over the world, so I felt everyone would get the joke. There are a few topical Fail strips coming up that I believe I managed to make comprehensible. If not, there’s always this Backstory blog post to explain things.

That said, today’s strip is a topical strip about a very recent event in German politics: on Monday, Germany’s president Horst Köhler resigned from his office. Basically, he said something about war that’s pretty much known by everyone with a brain. Public reaction as, “Don’t diss the troops!” To which his reaction was to step down because, basically, “I don’t get no respect and I don’t need the grief.”

Wow. Talk about classy –not. Rather, talk about a political personal Fail. Which is why I felt the need to interrupt the two-parter I had originally intended to conclude today and bring you a parody of presidency fail.

By the way, due to technical reasons, the above link is a dynamic link. If you’re reading this after Wednesday, June 2, please use the date-select on the webcomic to find today’s strip. Thank you.

I conceived of and produced I Quit within one single evening session. By my standards, that’s fast — I usually need at least two evenings to produce one strip.

31. May 2010

Novel in Progress: Revenge of the Walking Dead

The manuscript had been at 188 pages. I deleted those chapters that involved Christopher Price, and was left with 96 pages. Which is about 1/3 of the originally intended total length.

Over the weekend, I contemplated what I had. I can replace Christopher Price’s part in this story. But… Being an outsider, he had to learn a lot of the background. Which means that I had him run around a lot during the first half, learning about Hoodoo, and introducing the reader as well. Now, I can have other characters do that, it’s not a problem. I’ll lose one of my favorite chapters — the one where the villain fools Price (and hopefully also the reader) into thinking that he’s the good guy of this story. I’m not sure how to salvage that moment. Okay, on the one hand, it was too expository anyway. But I liked trying to fool everyone, which is the part I want to keep.

In total, after looking through the chapters that survived the deletion, I realized that I have to write an almost completely new novel based on some of the ideas in the, let’s call it original work. I have to go back to outline and proceed from there. I also need to figure out how to do that while writing and drawing Made of Fail at the same time.

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