May Projects Update!

Wow, time really does fly. It's been a busy May and it doesn't look like there's any letting up. Here's the run-down of what I've been up to comics wise and what's coming up!

  • As announced earlier this month, Over, the online graphic novel I've been working on since the beginning of the year, will debut this coming Monday, June 1. Over is a romantic comedy about the ridiculous lengths creative people sometimes go to get over a bad breakup.
  • Since I've committed to an aggressive three-times a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday) update schedule, I've been hard at work on pages this month so that I can maintain that schedule. Once I knock out a page tomorrow, I will have hit my target of having at least 7 weeks' worth of content finished prior to "going live."
  • Speaking of going live, I've also been hard at work at polishing the Over website. The url is www.overcomic.com. I'll be putting the finishing touches on it this weekend, adding a few "cold open" pages of content, and then kicking off the comic with the first page on Monday. Hope you'll check it out.

ICE: Interrogation Control Element
  • Still no word from Zuda whether ICE does or does not "meet their editorial needs at this time." Technically, they still have about 37 days to make a decision, according to their policies and procedures, however if I haven't heard from them by the 20th of next month, experience has shown me that it's going to be a pass.
  • If Zuda passes on ICE...yeah, I'm going to be bummed. Last year, I made a calculated effort to take three cracks at submitting to Zuda. I was confident after getting Super Seed in, that all I had to do was partner with some great artists and produce stories that I could market effectively and I was a shoe in. Well, neither CounterTERROR or Tears of the Dragon made it past Zuda editorial, which did surprise me. If they pass on ICE, it'll be even more of a shock. But, it's out of my hands at this point. Damian, Paul and I produced a high quality submission that we are all proud of. Zuda's decision won't effect that in the slightest.
  • The topical nature of ICE is undeniable, and the torture/terror/prisoner debate continues to stay front page news. If you didn't catch this clip, it's really worth watching.

Tears of the Dragon
  • I've been doing a lot of research on castles of late, so that I can give enough reference information to Koko for this next batch of pages he's working on. Some of the best books on castles for my purposes are actually illustrated children's books, so I certainly got some looks from the librarian on checking out a stack of books from the kids' section. But this is what I do for my craft. ;)
  • Expecting to see pages from Koko any day. He received a shipment of art supplies from me earlier this month, and is working on professional comic book art paper for the first time, and enjoying it.
  • Still on track for a Tuesday, July 14th update. You will definitely hear me use the phrase "Tears of the Dragon Tuesdays" this summer. I'm all about the slogans and taglines.
Creating Comics! The Art + Craft

  • You caught the launch of my new column at Comic Related this Monday, right? Of course you did.
  • Seriously, I'm grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the fine things the folks at Comic Related are doing. It'll be a good venue to reach out to a broader audience than my blog or other social networks reach and hopefully share some advice with prospective and aspiring comics creators.
  • The column will run every Monday for at least the next six months and hopefully longer than that. So head over and post a comment if you like what you read.
Other Stuff
  • I'll be submitting a revised course listing for my Creating Comics! adult class. I also plan on doing a better job of advertising my class to help ensure it meets the required enrollment numbers.
  • I've started researching and plotting work on a new superhero book with a cool historical hook. Not ready to announce it or give any more details about the story in specifics, but I have high hopes that this could be a big breakthrough book for me. Why? Well, it has a number of great things going for it. A short, catchy, clever, memorable title that evokes the subject matter? Check. An evocative and intriguing one sentence pitch? Check. An opportunity for strong visuals and even stronger characters? Check. A great artist attached? Yup, I've got one interested. What I'm working on now is trying to figure out who the main protagonist should be and narrow in on the major theme of the book. Right now, I have a strong idea with a lot of sizzle that'll get an audience to take a look. What I have to do is fill out the substance and decide what I'm trying to say by writing this book.
  • I'm trying to line up and schedule my convention appearances for the rest of the year. I'll be posting some updates on that in the coming weeks.
Alright, that's about it. You're caught up. Now back to the grind!


Creator's Toolkit #7: The Comic Book Script Archive

The Comic Book Script Archive is a very cool link and resource for aspiring comic writers and fans who want to read original comic scripts.

I'll definitely be using this as a resource in my Creating Comics! classes, and probably be reading a few myself.

Worth checking it out.


On the Screen #5: Star Trek vs Terminator Salvation

Two big budget classic sci-fi reboots are battling it out for your box office buck this weekend. Terminator: Salvation will be the big winner in sales this Memorial Day, but Star Trek is continuing to do well, fueled by great word of mouth and strong reviews. I've seen them both, and am going to give you my take. In a head to head contest, it is no contest...Star Trek is a far superior film and a more enjoyable trip to the theaters.

First a note: I wanted to love Terminator, and I'm not a Trekkie. I never really got into the old TV show, and while my step-father was a huge fan of that show and The Next Generation, it was always take it or leave it for me. And while I saw most of the Star Trek films, I was never all that blown away by them. But Terminator...I've always been a huge fan of the series. I first saw the original in an edited version, sneaking up past my bedtime watching on pay cable...which makes every movie better. And T2...what a flick! I've been saying for years that the two most influential movies of the 90's were Pulp Fiction and Terminator 2. Cameron's film set the bar for every special effects heavy blockbusters to come afterwards, and set it high.

Furthermore, Terminator 2 was the first R rated movie my step-father ever took me to. I was 12 at the time, and remember fondly lobbying my mother with a series of reasons why she should let me go see it. (I believe I had to promise to close my eyes at any overly violent parts and agree to watch two G-rated movies to counteract the "effects" of T2. Gotta love mom.) But anyway, my step-dad and I went to it and we both loved it. He passed away almost a decade ago now, and silly enough that trip to the theater is one of the fond memories of him I carry with me to this day. So, note to all you recent fathers...you never know which moments it will be that your kids are going to hang on to. Do your best to make them all special, got it?

Okay, now, the reviews. The running theme of this post is that Star Trek got it right and Terminator Salvation didn't. Here's how:

The Two Protagonists Problem

Storywise, Star Trek is a perfect example of "The Hero's Journey." It's the story of James T. Kirk, first and foremost. The story moves, in swift and entertaining fashion, from the tragic circumstances of Kirk's birth, to him as a fearless yet reckless child, to an underachieving young rabblerouser, to a man who fulfills his destiny to sit in the Captain's chair of the U.S.S. Enterprise. There's no question, not for one second, that this is Kirk's story. Sure, there are other main characters, all of the popular ones from the classic series are there. And yes, Spock gets a lot of screentime (we even spend time with him as a child) and he has a hero's journey of his own. But Spock's main purpose, as it has always been, is to serve as that cool headed, completely rational counterpoint to Kirk's passion and bravado. Star Trek doesn't have schizophrenia. JJ Abrams knows whose movie Star Trek is.

McG, I'm afraid, does not. One of screenwriting guru Robert McKee's rules of story: Have only one main protagonist. Terminator Salvation has two. And as a result, neither character lives up to his or her full potential. Any Terminator fan went into the theater expecting for the first time to watch the story of John Conner as an adult, leading the resistence in the post-Judgement Day future. With mega-star Christian Bale as the lead, he clearly had to be the protagonist, right? Well, not really. Bale splits screentime with Sam Worthington, who plays Marcus Wright, a deathrow prisoner who wakes up 15 years after he was executed to find himself alive in the wartorn apocolyptic future. And the problem is, Worthington's story is far more interesting than Bale's. Worthington's character actually arcs...Bale's not so much. John Conner simply isn't given that much to do, and as a result, Bale's performance is largely one note. But, because Terminator fans are so familiar and invested in the John Conner character, it's kind of head scratching to wonder why we're spending so much time watching this other guy. For you sci-fi writers, keep this in mind...Two protagonists = one problem.
Lighten It Up
Good drama contains successive moments of raising tension, and then releasing it. Wax and repeat. Fundamentally, comedy is the same way. You put characters in an impossible, humorous situation and then watch the trainwreck ensue and the punchline delivered. Tension raised, tension released. Star Trek was not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination. But it was funny. Great directors and writers understand that the higher the tension and higher the stakes at play in action movies, the greater the impact of a well-placed gag or joke. Your audience needs room to breathe a bit, and a chuckle inbetween one perilous scene of impending doom to another goes a long way. Go ahead. Name a great action movie. Any one. I'll bet somewhere amidst the explosions and the life-or-death stakes, there were some good one liners. And Star Trek delivered them. Simon Pegg practically stole the show as Scotty.

Terminator Salvation, on the other hand...There was not a single moment of levity in the entire flick. Not one! The movie made the mistake of taking itself too damn seriously. Sure, I get that it's a post apocolyptic future with most of humanity wiped out and killer super-machines trying to murder the few who are left. Not exactly vaudevillian stuff. But one of the themes the movie was struggling to get across is that there's a difference between man and machine. And, one of those great characteristics of humanity is our ability to laugh in the face of danger, and make light of even the most perilous situations. This movie left some funny on the table, and as a result, we were never drawn as fully into the characters' plights as we could have been if we just liked them a little more. And the strange thing is, the early Terminator flicks understood this. Arnold's deadpan lines and lack of understanding of human culture made for some funny comedic moments. And that contributed to a better film.

Antogonists are Important

Now, Eric Bana's portrayal of Nero, the main villain in Star Trek, is not going to win him any awards. But at least Star Trek had a main villain. There was a reason James Cameron had Arnold play the Terminator and waited until the very end of the first movie before he completely removed his skin and went all machine. Simple fact is, it's easier to root for (and against) humans than generic killer robots. In Arnold's Terminator, we had a classic villain...unstoppable, unemotional, unrelenting. But who is the main villain in the new one? Well, it's Skynet. It's a computer. Now, sure, there were some cool new Terminator machines in Salvation. There were killer airships and killer motorcycles and killer robot eels and killer giant robots. But, there's nothing behind it, no big main villain, and without a human face to hate, well, it leaves the audience yawning.

Look at The Matrix. The Wachoskis understood this. The enemy was the machines in that movie too, but they created Agent Smith too give us a cold hearted bastard to root against. Salvation could have used an Arnold (and not the weird CGI Arnold they pulled out at the end of the movie), a Robert Patrick, or (uggh) even a Kristanna Loken.

There's Making the Old New Again...

Star Trek has always worked because, at the very heart of it all, it's a story about the power of friendship. And that, my friends, is a timeless theme. Star Trek paid homage nicely to the original, with cameos and lines and such that longtime fans would remember. But it felt fresh, a testament to both the screenwriters and the director. (And a hot young cast didn't hurt, I suppose.)

...and Then There's the New That Seems Old

Unfortunately, Terminator Salvation, as a movie, has nothing new to say. There are no timeless themes present in this flick. It's largely a soul-less movie. And as a result, even their efforts to pay homage to earlier films fall flat. Yes, I did like the fact that a teenage Kyle Reese's first lines in the film were "Come with me if you want to live." In fact, Anton Yelkin the young actor who played Reese (and also, played a young Chekov in Star Trek) did a pretty great job of sounding like a young Michael Beihn. But Bale uttering Arnold's most famous line from the first two films later on in the film just seems kind of tired. And furthermore, the revelation of what Marcus Wright actually is just wasn't that interesting. (Especially to Battlestar Galactica fans. Clearly John Conner has never heard of a Cylon.)

In sum, Star Trek delivers, Terminator Salvation does not. See 'em both? Love to hear your take.


Creating Comics! The Art + Craft at Comic Related

Hey all. Just wanted to give you the heads up that this coming Monday, my new column, "Creating Comics! The Art + Craft" will debut at Comic Related, a popular comic culture, news, and reviews website.

Though I'm a relatively new to the Comic Related community, I've been checking them out ever since I was interviewed by Eric Ratcliffe, one of their most prolific columnists, at the Boston Comic Con. I've found on the site a nice combination of interesting articles and reviews, podcasts, comic previews, webcomics, and an all-around positive community, with a keen interest in supporting and promoting independent books and up and coming talent.

After completing my recent series on Writing Process here at my blog and getting some solid feedback from readers who said the series was an enjoyable read and both helpful and inspiring, I decided it was time I gave writing a regular column to a wider audience a shot. Luckily, Chuck Moore, the main man at Comic Related was enthusiastic about bringing me on board as a regular columnist.

So, hey, look forward to a weekly column from yours truly over at Comic Related! Hope you'll check it out over there and leave me some comments!


Tweet Tweet

I'm a relatively new Twitter user, but yes, I am a tweeting. You can follow me @tylerjamescomic if you so choose. (Or, if you look to the left of this blog post, you'll see my Twitter feed featured on this blog, and can follow me by clicking on the Follow tab.) It took a little while for me to understand the hows, and more importantly the whys of Twitter, but I totally get it now.

I've been a Facebook user for years now, and the concept of the "status update" from your friends was a familiar one. But as I've heard it described recently, Twitter is also tool to get status updates from your friends, except all your friends can be celebrities if you want. And that's totally what it is.

While I'm following plenty of my close personal friends, it's definitely cool to follow big name artists and other creators I look up to. It's oddly interesting to know what Jim Lee had for breakfast, for example. Last week was the big annual Marvel creative summit. Monitoring Tweets from Brian Bendis, Jason Aaron, and others is about as close as I'll get to being there (for the time being, anyway.)

I also figured out how to rig it so I can text in Tweets, and did some of that while tabling at the Boston Comic Con. And then, I figured out how to hook it up so that my Facebook status would automatically be updated when sent a Tweet. Which means I can also update my FB status via text message. Technology is so freaking cool.


Tears of the Dragon #18: Exclusive New Wallpaper

Hey there.

New Tears of the Dragon wallpaper available over at the new Tears of the Dragon Website. The site itself is under construction and won't go live until July 14, 2009, when Tears starts its regular weekly updating schedule.

But, as a gift to those who joined the Tyler James Comics Facebook Group recently, I've made some exclusive new wallpaper available.

But wait, that looks familiar. Yes, it's similar to the wallpaper displayed here before, with a few additions. The new image features the awesome Tears of the Dragon logo designed by Andrew Jarvis. You'll also notice that the fearsome dragon, Sythic, is now gray, and that's how he'll appear in the comic.

If you'd like to grab this exclusive wallpaper two, click here. The password is dragontears.

Also, if you haven't joined my Facebook Group, please do.


Over #1: New Online Graphic Novel Debuting June 1!

Announcement time! After months of alluding to it on my blog, I'm officially announcing the upcoming launch of Over, a romantic comedy graphic novel that will be debuting on the web June 1, 2009.

This is a project nearly six months in the making, one that began as a graphic novel, transitioned to a screenplay, has gone through more than four script rewrites, and has now been translated back into a graphic novel. The story is finally at a point where I can say with some confidence, "Yup, this'll work and I think people will like it."

Over marks my first return to handling both penciling and art chores on a book since the third issue of Super Seed was completed more than a year ago. (Wow. That's crazy.) I'm absolutely loving drawing again, and I better, because Over will be my most ambitious project to date.

When Over goes live on June 1, it will run on its own website, and update with a new page every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I also have a ton of original blog content to add to the Over site, so I hope to make it a fun destination for your weekly web-surfing. Expect to hear more about the project in the weeks to come leading up to its launch, but for now, here's a bit more about what's in store...


Story and Art by Tyler James

Breaking up is the easy part…

Struggling to get over the woman who broke his heart, indy comic book writer Felix Hughes makes a graphic novel recounting every painful detail of the breakup. Convinced he’s created a work of staggering relevance and romantic brilliance, Felix expects the book to bring him fame, fortune, a visit to Oprah’s couch, and possibly even his ex-girlfriend back. Unfortunately, the graphic novel is completely unpublishable, and threatens to destroy his relationships, his career, and his chance at finding love again.

Join Felix and a cast of oddball characters, including Tony Tuttle, his irascible publisher and the Editor-In-Chief of Blam! Comics; Skate, his cocky artist partner on the hit fantasy comic “Fire of the Pendragon”; Gwen, Tony’s adorably flaky assistant who hangs on Felix’s every word; Jinx Jeffers, the only bum in this small New England town; Troy, Matt and Sootch, the neighborhood boys with whom Felix starts a war; and a dog named Stan Lee.


Free Comic Book Day Tomorrow May 2!

Yup, you heard that right. Free! Every year, comic shops around the nation hand out tons of free comics on the first Saturday of May. This year, there are more than 40 titles being given out for free...pretty much something for everyone.

I'm planning on stopping by a number of shops during the day. I'm especially looking forward to The Avengers book by Brian Bendis and Jimmy Cheung. I heard Bendis glowing the other day on how this book has the best work of Cheung's career. I'm a big fan of Jimmy's work and think he's a phenomenal artist, so it's a must have.

The other blockbuster book dropping tomorrow is Blackest Night #0. Now, I'm not a huge fan of the DCU, and don't know if I've picked up an issue of Green Lantern since I was six years old. However, all indications point to this series being a blockbuster. I haven't read a ton of his work but Geoff Johns is one of the most respected writers over at DC. Likewise, I haven't seen much of Ivan Reis' work, but it looks pretty good.

Resurrection #0 by Mark Guggenheim, from Oni Press, looks interesting. And I'm definitely down with seeing what's up with The Savage Dragon these days.

Dark Horse is putting out a free Aliens / Predator book which could be fun. (Those comics always were better than the movies.) Arcana Studios Presents contains four stories in one, and has some Koni Waves written by a friend, Mark Poulton. Very cool for him to have his book get a high profile national distribution.

There's also a Wolverine book that coincides nicely with this weekend's big movie release. And, for the kids, there's Disney/Pixar's Cars #1, which I've heard is actually pretty great.

So, in short, hit up a comic shop this weekend. Take at kid along with you. You can't beat free.

To find a participating Free Comic Book Day shop near you, use this store locator.