Sunday, December 13, 2009

There's a group of 150 Ukranian women* who have retreated from society, choosing to live in the Carpathian Mountains and study martial arts, austerity, and the use of medieval weaponry.

You realize it's only a matter of time before they become vigilantes for great justice. They have distinct costumes and hairstyles. They have the training. They even have a cool name for their League of Fierce Awesome: Asgarda. I mean, look at that last picture, #10, the one with the axes and the swords. That woman could GUT you and wear your skin as a pelt.

THE DAY WILL COME. Seriously, though, does anyone know of a comic book series in which a sect of women finally Aren't Taking It Anymore and rise up in violent revolt against the patriarchy??? Not just aimless, doomed Thelmas and Louises, but an actual organized force like Asgarda.

*Ukraine leads Eastern Europe in human trafficking, particularly women forced into the sex trade.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Follow me to the reckoning of all things.

I've got Mastema on the mind. This is an ongoing thing: I've been semi-obsessed with her story since high school, and have written her in short stories, films scripts, TV scripts, and now in a potential comic book.

Over the course of all this I've written several different versions of her. All of them are hot and vicious and snarky; this is immutable. Beyond that, though...I reread the opening of the film script that I wrote a while ago and was struck by how much more human she was.

WIDE ON the kitchen. It was porn set, but now it looks like a horror film. Dead bodies lie everywhere, including the SLUTTY WAITRESS, the DIRECTOR, and the CAMERAMAN. It's a grotesque mess of camera equipment, nudity, broken limbs, and blood.

ANGLE ON Paul. His own chest is stabbed to bits. He stares.
Oh my God...

By now Mastema's got a neat little row of plastic forks in front of her. She looks up at Paul.

No. No God yet. I need you here.

Who are you?

My name is Mastema.

What happened?

You died. More to the point, you were murdered. I brought you back.




No, not really. I just don't feel like explaining it to you. Did you see who killed you?

Paul's not listening; he's staring at the holes in his chest. Mastema leans forward and SNAPS her fingers at him. Paul jumps.

Paul. Focus.

How do you know my name?

(off his look, irritated)
No, not really. I went through your wallet while you were dead. Who killed you?

Okay, so not a WHOLE lot more human - but she has moments of such vulnerability in the movie version. Basically she's this immortal spirit who's been forced to take human form in order to escape a twisted science experiment, aka Heaven. In becoming human, tho, she has to contend with pesky things like pain and hunger and fear and being stupidly, achingly in love with someone who (at the time the script starts) hates her guts. She looks down on human beings a lot for their many flaws, but at the end of the day she's just as messed up as everyone else.

TV-Mastema was a lot harder, a lot meaner. She had to be: I'd set up a typical TV cast of secondary characters around her (a single main lead would never work in the 14-hour workdays of television), and populated it with similarly cutthroat, duplicitous demons. She was swimming with the sharks, and she had to have more teeth than anyone else around. It was kind of a pointless viciousness, tho: she was very much at the beck and call of the angelic host.

The comic-Mastema that I've written so far is a lot colder than movie-Mastema, and a lot more calculating than TV-Mastema. She has an endgame and she's more than willing to sacrifice other people, including those closest to her, in order to further her goals. And yeah, that ultimate goal is a doozy and worth the sacrifice, but I don't know how much readers are willing to stick with that sort of character...particularly, I have to say, that sort of female character. Which was kind of my motivation for writing her that way, but I have to also be realistic about my audience, here. Walk that fine line and all.

The long and the short of it is: I think I'm gonna try rewriting the Mastema comic to reflect more of the movie-Mastema characterizations. It means scrapping a lot of work, but I think it's for the best - and hey, that means I won't be abandoning the whole movie script that I wrote.

Monday, November 16, 2009

It's no fun unless the world is ending.

As of last Saturday I have "A Teenager's Guide" fully outlined. As my projects are wont to do, it turned out a bit bigger (16 chapters) than I'd expected (12 chapters); I tend to go epic with my stories.

So with Chapter 1 written and polished, the outline done, and a rough draft of Chapter 2 written, I find myself wondering what I should work on at the moment. I'm sort of inclined to poke at another comic I've written called "Nevermore." Glancing to my project list, I realize that I haven't even talked about it here, and the completed rough draft of the first issue has been sitting on my hard drive for months.

Nevermore is the story of Kim Conrad, a God-fearin', gun-totin' lesbian badass who never met a woman she didn't want to bang and is quite handy with blunt instruments. Her best buddy in the whole world is Josh Crosby; they're raising Josh's son Taylor after the death of Josh's wife. Their semi-quiet life gets torn apart, though, by the arrival of the mysterious Grey People. Suddenly, whole buildings are disappearing into thin air, Josh is transformed into a heroin addict who doesn't recognize Kim, and Taylor's nowhere to be found. And what's with all the Edgar Allan Poe references?

The series is a scifi mystery-comedy, as Kim and Josh search for Taylor and struggle to figure out what the hell is going on. Here, have a snippet from the first issue:

Panel 1
Establishing panel inside Josh’s small kitchen. It’s definitely the apartment of a single dad, with space rockets on the curtains and a bunch of appliances to make cooking easier. Still, it’s homey. The fridge is covered with Taylor’s starred homework. Josh is at the stove poking pancakes with a spatula. Conrad sits at the table reading a newspaper.
I like how you offered but I’m the one behind the stove.
If the Good Lord had intended me to cook, he wouldn’t have created other women.
You’re the most chauvinistic person I know.
The irony was too beautiful to pass up.

Panel 2
Josh carries a plate of pancakes over to the table. He looks down at the pancakes instead of at her. Conrad looks up at him with concern. In the background the pan smokes.

Listen, I was wanting to ask you…Taylor’s class is going on this trip in Eastern Oregon next month.
It costs three hundred…
You need me to pitch in? Dude, of course.

Panel 3
High angle, looking over Josh’s shoulder down at Conrad. He rubs the back of his neck, his expression unhappy. She’s having none of it.
Thanks. I’ll pay you –
The hell you will.
I don’t want to just –
If you don’t take it I’ll spend it on hookers. And then I’ll get Chlamydia.
Do you want me to get Chlamydia, Josh? Do you?

Panel 4
We see Taylor from the back as he wanders into the kitchen dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. Josh and Conrad shoot him uncomfortable looks.
What’s Clymidia?
JOSH AND CONRAD (in unison, sharing the bubble):
Uhhh…tell you when you’re older.
So, uh, how’s school?

Panel 5
Josh heads back to the stove. Conrad pushes the pancakes over to Taylor, who settles in the other chair and reaches for the syrup.
Today we have to give a speech ‘bout what we wanna be when we grow up.
Oh yeah? What’re you gonna say?
A clown.

Panel 1
Medium panel of the kitchen. Conrad makes a horrified face at Josh, who silently points the spatula – dripping pancake batter – at her. Taylor doesn’t see.
A clown? Really? That’s awesome!
Or a ‘struction worker, like Daddy –
Construction, Tay
-- or a lesbian.

Panel 2
Small panel. Conradn looks at Taylor sharply. Behind her, Josh stares, too.
What now?

Panel 3
Small panel. Taylor smiles innocently up at them, a pancake skewered on his fork.
A lesbian, like you.

Panel 4
Conrad puts both of her arms up in surrender. Josh looks like he might hit her with the spatula. Outside, brakes squeal and Taylor jumps up.
I didn’t do it. It’s the most awesome thing ever, but I didn’t do it.
That’s my bus!

And then later she fights dinosaurs with a chainsaw. >:)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

ATG developments

Much going on. I've signed a contract with Sienna Morris to have the first chapter out by the end of the year. You can check out sketches and other pieces of Sienna's work here. Besides being totally enthusiastic about my weird little story, Sienna is a fantastic artist who did an amazing series of paintings called Numberism. Check them out!

Sienna is currently doing character sketches and laying out the pages. I'm working on an outline for the whole graphic novel, which I'm shocked I haven't done yet. Usually I write that out first thing, but something about teenagers and zombies has thrown my usual MO for a loop.


I find myself nervous about how not-witty I am. Every writer has hir strengths: mine are plot and pacing. If I designed a car, it would have a powerful motor, airbags for every seat, and would never break down; it would also probably have doors that were different colors from the rest of the body, crochet seat covers, and a bent antennae. I don't know what the antennae would be there for, nobody listens to the radio anymore. But it'd be there.

My point being: witty dialogue is not my strong point. Never has been. Which is a problem because, well, that's very often what sells a story no matter the medium, but especially comic books. Think about the dialogue in a comic book: it's fast, punchy, a snap to every dialogue bubble.

Pardon moi while I fret.


On the plus side, I get to blow up a church.


I used this as a template for writing my work-for-hire contract with Sienna. We made a few changes and I left out big chunks of the more technical babble, but that's mostly it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

So...eaten any good people lately?

Tonight's challenge: figuring out what two zombies say to each other when they make small talk.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Whither goest thou?

I have a meeting next Tuesday with a comic book artist and her troupe of local writers to read through the first chapter of A Teenager's Guide. So it's edit, edit, edit, today.

Despite being at the first chapter, I am contemplating the ultimate ending. There's a lot to consider: the novel's balance between comedy and horror, Max's mental well-being, the physical well-being of an entire town, and the overarching thematic question of whether or not society (as represented by said town) is worth saving.

Pardon me while I dance on the head of a pin.

I mentioned recently that a lot of my inspiration to write comes from rage. Most of the act of writing, however, comes from music. Once I know that I'm going to start working on a project long term, I sit down and create a playlist of appropriate songs out of my library. I literally can't write without the appropriate music to put my mind in the right place.

The playlists can change a lot depending on how the story develops; sometimes I'll hear a new song and hunt it down to add it to my collection, or I'll take one off if the story's tone or events change. But the reverse is also true: sometimes I'll hear a new song or listen to an old one in a new way, and the music itself will affect the story.

There's a lot of stuff on the ATG playlist; right now I'm writing Max's intro to the town of Estacada, and listening to Postal Service's song "This Place is a Prison." Max and Kara's love song is "Modern Romance" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don't know what this entirely necessary connection between music and creativity says about my post-MTV generation, but I can't argue with the facts, yo.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Video: Oedipus, as performed by vegetables.

Warning for potato-on-tomato incestuous sex.

No, really. I love the universe.

It's not so much a call for justice, as a scream.

From a 1979 interview Roman Polanski gave to the UK publication The Tatler, two years after he raped a 13-year-old girl and had gone on the lam to evade justice.

"If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But hell - f***ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f*** young girls. Juries want to f*** young girls. Everyone wants to f*** young girls!"

And the thing is, the thing is - he's right. Look at all the high-power types who have lined up to demand his release. (And how has Woody Allen never been charged with something? He had sex with his DAUGHTER.) Look at the French dignitaries saying that Polanski made a "teensy mistake." Look at us.


One good thing coming out of this hubbub: it makes me want to write. People often ask artists where they get their inspiration; everyone has a different answer, but for me, I get my best stuff from a place of rage. Pure, unadultered fury, usually directed at the injustices of society - criminals who go free, victims who we fail to protect, discrimination that goes unrectified or even unacknowledged.

That's definitely where Mastema came from. As she says:

"Sooner or later, everyone gets exactly what they deserve. I make sure of that."

Pure, clean, uncorruptible retribution. Oh, yeah, I'm in a Mastema state of mind.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Video: Terminator/Back to the Future remix trailer

Delightful. Especially love Marty McFly's version of "IF WE STAY THE COURSE WE ARE DEAD." And the Terminator at the prom.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Humanity vs. Art: The Title Match

Crawling back into the blog after a month of changes - have a new job, a new place to live, the whole nine. I'm much closer to, well, everything now, and how I do hope that will kick things into high gear on the comic book front. I'm about 2 miles away from Dark Horse Comics HQ - at some point I'm going to saunter down and check it out. Life continues.


A fellow online writer, Mary Borsellino of the Wolf House books, related an interesting story today in response to the Roman Polanski to-do. Big name Hollywood types are lining up to show their support of Polanski, who raped a 13-year-old girl back in 1977 then fled the country before he could be sentenced and has spent the subsequent 30+ years jetting around Europe and having awards thrown at him left and right. (For his films, not for raping the 13-year-old.)

Mary brought up a memory from college:
I got into a fight with one of my professors in a postgrad creative writing
class once, because he told his students that art had to come first, above all
other considerations in life. I suggested that I thought not being a shitty
human being was even more important than art. "Then you'll never be an artist,"
he snapped.

To which I would have responded, "And you, sir, will never be a human being. In which case all your great art is worthless."

Let's get this straight: Art does not come before Humanity. EVER.

A child rapist and fugitive who creates wonderful, powerful films is still, at the end of the day, a child rapist and fugitive. If sex offenders everywhere tried their hand at watercolors, should we give them a free pass? No.

Contrary to popular belief, talent does not give you the right to treat the rest of the world like shit. And powerful friends or wealth should not override society's responsibility to protect its women and girls.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Je suis jolie

I have no idea if that's the correct French or not. Apologies to Frenchpeople if I have just butchered your language, but I am jolie, dammit! (The emotion, not the goddess.)

FINALLY figured out how to start "A Teenager's Guide." It does involve a bit more carnage than I had originally intended, and might make the Estacada school system nervous, but eh. It works. I love those moments when I've been thinking and thinking and picking at something, and finally the gears catch, the clutch goes out, and I achieve flight all over again.

I'll be moving in to Portland at the end of the month, and intend to immerse myself in the blooming comic book scene there. My list of places to hang out include:

Cosmic Monkey, particularly their monthly "Drink and Draw" event (where I can hopefully meet artists while they are intoxicated and vulnerable to suggestion, mwahaha)
Floating World
Dark Horse (I hope to find an unpaid job there of some kind, even if it's mopping floors)

I haven't been working on my music as much as I wish I were, but I'll be house-sitting the next five days and will try to use the time towards that purpose.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Two comics

liI wrote and drew these as part of the weeklong graphic novel intensive workshop at PNCA. The comics were written, thumbnailed, penciled, inked, and Photoshopped in the span of three days. Crazy, ne? (Click for larger versions)

This was drawn in the middle of a sleep-deprived night. I do my best stuff when I'm pissed off, so I decided to just go with what pissed me off the most.

On a lighter note: The Existential Amoeba

Friday, August 7, 2009

Breaking the block.

Have been struggling with ye old writer's block for a little bit. So instead I did some research and while I always knew that we had a high proportion of Christian churches in my hometown -- and wanted to use that as Max's introduction to the town -- but I never realized exactly how many: 16. For a population of 2,659.

Kristen is back on Mastema. She sent me a character sketch of the lady herself. YAY.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bump in the road, literally.

My friend Kristen, aka the gal that was beginning work on Mastema, was in a bike accident. She's okay, but the bike was totaled and the end of her middle finger was almost severed clean off. Seriously, they described it as "dangling." O.o Fortunately the medics were able to sew it back on.

So, that puts a damper on those plans, eek.

What I'm reading:
"Understanding Comics," by Scott McCloud, finally. Several people have called this the Bible of comic books and I can see why. I'm about halfway through and while it's been mostly background and theory so far it's still very worthwhile. In terms of actual how-to nuts and bolts, the "Drawing Words, Writing Pictures" book might turn to be more helpful, though.

Friday, July 24, 2009

22 Comic panel cheat sheet

Many years ago, cartoonist Wally Wood and two of his assistants cobbled together a comic-panel cheat sheet entitled "22 panels that always work." I felt I would be remiss if I didn't check it out and then provide the link. Pass along the torch, loves.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Living the trans-life

I'm getting more familiar with cross-dressing, transgenderism, and gender coding. It's fascinating to me how we take some things for granted, without a second thought. For instance: I am wearing pants right now. I'm crossdressing, according to the cultural coding of many countries around the world, and the coding of my own country about fifty years removed. In the 70's, wearing more than three articles of clothing culturally determined to be of the opposite gender was cause for arrest. Yet these days it's widely acceptable for a woman to wear pants.

I don't see many guys wearing skirts, though. Funny, isn't it, how a woman wanting to dress like a man is so much more acceptable than a man wanting to dress as a woman? Or, well, funny perhaps isn't the word I should use.

This is a roundabout way of saying that progress continues on A Teenager's Guide, and I'm getting really into Kara's mindset. A happy discovery for me was the level of her courage: it's easy to say that Max is brave, facing down legions of the undead with a shotgun and a katana...but Kara faces legions of the living armed only with a bra and a lipstick tube. That, I think, is what really draws Max to her and vice versa.

The question of identity also has to play a huge part in the story. Who we choose to be, how we choose to present ourselves, what we share with one another. There needs to be a betrayal of identity somewhere down the road. Kara doesn't believe in Miracles. I'm just rambling at this point so I'll leave it at that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Of Live Areas and Tetrachords

What I'm reading:
"Drawing Words and Writing Pictures," Abel and Madden. A basic how-to of comic book creation, from writing to drawing to lettering. Pretty useful. I have a feeling that I should have read the McCloud book first, since they reference it quite a bit, but this one is still handy on its own. The homework assignments get a little tiresome to flip through; it's obviously been designed as a textbook.

"Music Theory in the Real World: A Practical Guide For Today's Musicians," Michael Perlowin. Oh boy. This handy little book is gently, carefully revealing to me just how much my school system failed at any kind of music program. I cracked it open last night and stayed up way too late getting whacky on my keyboard. Things -- key signatures and harmonies -- suddenly make sense! It's as if someone planned them out! My god! It might be a too basic for people with more training, but for me it's perfect. Definitely recommend this one to all my musical buddies out there.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Go soak your brain

Baths are awesome. They're relaxing, they leave you feeling fresh and healthy, and very often they get my brain going. Case in point: I have a towel wrapped around my head and am still dripping slightly because I just mentally tripped over half the plot for "A Teenager's Guide," and had to write it all down before I forgot. Not only is it fun and funky, it makes Kara's situation and her very existence integral to Max and his parents being able to pinpoint the origin of the zombie outbreak. I love it when my brain does that.

Talked to an artist last night, my college friend Kristen. She sounds like she's really going to do the "Mastema" teaser I wrote! Thumbnail script next week, penciling to follow. Yay!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

You would think that I would have let this go, by now. You would be wrong.

Deciding to move the setting of 'A Teenager's Guide' to my hometown -- I'd originally placed it in Beaverton -- was about the best thing I could have done for the story. I think I'll need to be mindful that I don't scrimp on the visual descriptions: I can see these places in my head, so I might forget that not everyone attended Estacada High and know how the girl's bathroom was painted this very specific shade of stale green, designed, I am convinced, to Destroy All Hope. Other than that, however, it's helping so much. And is somewhat therapeutic. (I can't believe that's the right way to spell 'therapeutic.' It just looks weird.) I've already named one of the villains after an asshole who gay-bashed me in high school, Jordan (GAH), and at the moment I'm deeply overidentifying with Kara, Jordan's favorite target.

I'm just now writing the scene where Jordan snaps Kara's bra and unintentionally-but-not-accidentally rips it. Comic books are by their nature succinct and contained, but I could go on for pages about how awful this is: Kara's transgendered (I am not, but apparently that's not going to stop me from wallowing in her pain) and there's so much mental and physical comfort tied up in that bra. It was originally her mom's; she stole it years ago when she first knew, and smuggled it away with her when her parents kicked her out. She stole two, actually, then cut the padding out of one and carefully, carefully stapled it into the other one. That bra means something to her, and Jordan so casually destroys it. It's an excruciating moment: she's already been forced by the teachers to use the boys' bathroom, she's humiliated, and then she loses this small symbol of femininity that she's managed to gather around herself.

So then of course I had to have our hero Max karate-kick Jordan. IN THE FACE.

Like I said. Therapeutic.

I have an appointment tonight to meet online with Kristen, an old college friend and an artist, who has expressed interest in doing some character sketches and maybe even a teaser for Mastema. Fingers crossed.

Monday, July 13, 2009

*tap tap*

Twould seem proper to start with an introduction. Hi, I'm Rachel. At the moment (my time, not necessarily whenever you've stumbled across this blog), I'm 25 years old. I am a writer in the strictest sense of the term: I write. I've always been a writer. For some time I thought I would go into television, and even graduated from film school in Los Angeles; after time, however, I grew disillusioned with that field. Several people suggested that my ideas are better suited to comic books, being as they are populated with time travelers and demons and shapeshifters and shotgun-toting lesbians and monsters. This is handy, since I was born and raised in Oregon and Portland has become something of a comic-book nexus. Portland-ho.

My primary genre is fantasy, with a bend towards the horrific. It's kind of weird, because as a kid I could never watch horror movies. All the biggest names in the genre, I've never watched. I had awful nightmares all on my own, of things dragging me out of bed and ripping me apart; people say you don't die in your dreams, but I always did. Wait, I guess it's not so weird, then, that I'm drawn to the horror genre. My nightmares have just grown up into serial killers and vengeful demons. The point is, I've never read H.P. Lovecraft or Stephen King and I've never reveled in the delights of Romero or Barker. All the horror I've ever known was internal.

So, here I am! I intend to use this blog to talk about my projects and the process of writing these hairbrained ideas.

At the moment I'm writing the graphic novel "A Teenager's Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse." I originally started it as a prose novel, but it's undergone some major changes and the more I worked on it the more I realized that it would work best in a graphic format. For all the fact that the gen-yu-ine ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE lurches near, I find myself writing out the awkward teenaged romance part first...which is possibly the right way to go about it, because that's really the emotional core of the story. Or possibly I'm just so enamored of Kara and Max both that I can't focus on the zombies quite yet.

What I'm reading: "What It Is," by Lynda Barry. Dramatically and interestingly illustrated, but I feel like the format overpowers the content. You'll find that I have a very utilitarian outlook: I judge an item of clothing by how many pockets it has. As someone just starting out in the field, I can't say the book was particularly helpful; it did contain a few moments of brain-turning -- that feeling you get when your thoughts pivot and find a step that you didn't know was there -- but on the whole it was rather pretty and rather pointless. I had it on loan from the library, so I couldn't do the exercises in the back. There's a chance that I didn't have access to the book's full potential. Still, I wouldn't really recommend it to someone else looking into the field.