Joshua Hale Fialkov

Purveyor of sheer awesomeness.

Joshua Hale Fialkov is the Harvey, Eisner, and Emmy Award nominated writer of graphic novels, animation, video games, film, and television, including:

THE LIFE AFTER, THE BUNKER, PUNKS, ELK'S RUN, TUMOR, ECHOES, KING, PACIFIC RIM, THE ULTIMATES, I, VAMPIRE, and JEFF STEINBERG CHAMPION OF EARTH. He's also written for NBC's CHICAGO MED and SYFY's upcoming INCORPORATED.

Filtering by Category: Writing

Jazz and the Failure of Exclusion

 Louis Armstrong

Louis Armstrong

 Bix Biderbecke

Bix Biderbecke

I've been making my way through Ken Burns' Jazz documentary series.  There's an extended section about Bix Beiderbecke.  If you don't know, Bix was considered the 2nd best trumpeter who ever lived.  Second only to Louis Armstrong.  He was a Iowan farm boy who was inspired by Louis' recordings to teach himself and run away from home to become a jazz player.

In addition to his prodigious talents, he also had an epic drinking problem.  One that would eventually kill him.  But, before that, the documentary talks a bit about how hard a time Bix had because of segregation.  That because he was white, he couldn't go and play with the more advanced black players, and was constantly hitting a wall because he needed to be challenged, and he just wasn't by the white players of the day. 

It's such an interesting, backwards way to think about the race problems of the day, that I've been chewing over it for days.  That segregation hurts both sides that have been split apart.  That the sum is that much greater than the individual parts. The idea that that privilege is it's own sort of handcuffs is so rarely discussed.  And I get why, as the world's tiniest violins plays for the poor white people who couldn't be inspired, while the black people were oppressed, beaten, and pillaged by the dominant culture. 

But, still, I think the core idea is something worth discussing.  That this kid who was handed the world realized that without the best of the best available to him, then the world he'd been handed was a lead balloon.  That by ex-communicating a group of people, you're really ex-communicating yourself. 

The close-mindedness of our era, the us against them mentality that rules politics, and, especially, the inability to have a conversation with someone who's different from you, and not just in terms of race, but in as simple as semantics of ideas.  Without being able to open ourselves up to the other side of the world, to see the brilliance and joy, as well as the outrage and the anger, we're doomed as a society.  We'll constantly stand on the brink of our potential and always fall short.

The story goes that for one night, Louis and Bix met in a hotel room, closed the door, and played together.  The two men driving each other to be better, creating and destroying expectations simultaneously.  It was, by some accounts, the highlight of Bix's life. But, because society was too involved to see the brilliance that could be made from love and acceptance, it's just a story lost to time, instead of an album for the ages. 

Open yourself to the world around you.  Experience things from every side, and put it into your work, make it your motivation.  Or, in other words, love everyone. 

FYI, here's the best jazz song ever recorded. 

 

If you HAVEN'T seen KEN BURNS' JAZZ, do yourself a favor.  It streams for free on Netflix and Amazon, or, the boxset is linked below.  It's my favorite Ken Burns film, and it'll change how you think about America, Music, and, perhaps most importantly, American Music. 


Grind - On Writing for a Living

Probably the most frequent thing I'm asked is about how to 'go pro' as a writer, and I frequently answer more or less the same thing. I realized it's something that I haven't actually written about extensively (or at least haven't in a while) so, here we go. First off, writing for a living is amazing. It's the best job I've ever had, and I hope to never have to have any other job (unless it's, I dunno, directing and writing, or producing and writing, as long as it's something with a writing component, I'm happy). But, here's the thing. It's a non-stop fight. I've yet to met a writer including some of the most successful screen, tv, and comics writers in the world who's not over-worked and slightly over-whelmed. It's just par for the course.

Part of being a writer is learning to grow and change and flex muscles that nobody else is interested in helping you stretch. Becoming better is nobody's job but yours, and, again, no matter how supportive the people around you are or how much anyone has your back, the weight remains firmly on your own shoulders.

And, part of being a writer, at least, y'know, now, is fighting to keep the work coming. I spend almost as much time looking for work as I do actually writing. It's something that I constantly think I'm going to 'grow out of' but have yet to actually do. And it's one of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with my writer friends.

The truth is that when you're working freelance you're at the mercy of the people with the jobs. Which, of course, is the problem with breaking in. You need to prove that you're worth the risk of the people who hold the purse strings. You need to do this in a couple of ways.

Step one is to have produced a TON of original material that is beloved critically (or, even better, successful financially.) This, of course, is not particularly easy at all. But, you spend a few years (or decades) honing your craft, and, hopefully something great comes out the other end. Which leads us to...

Step two, having pre-existing relationships with those people of power. This, actually, is a bit easier. Unfortunately, you still need to do the other thing first. Because Editors, Publishers, Executives all want to be around success.

They want to feel like they're gleaning some of your golden glow and in their way are helping you to glow brighter. They want to meet people who's books they've enjoyed. They want to grab a beer with the person who made that book that everyone is talking about. It's just human nature, and, it's business sense. But even with both of those things going for you?

It's still damn hard. Maybe I'm wrong (or I just don't have a high enough class of friends) but, it never gets easier. There's no short cut. There's no secret way in. You just have to do good work and get in front of people, some of whom, hopefully, are the right people.

Nobody can do that part, unfortunately, except for you.

So, get working and get used to it, bucko.

End of an Era or What a long strange trip it's been...

This week marks the release of ECHOES in Hardcover form.  It's a uniquely beautiful package that I'm immensely proud of.  It's twenty bucks and worth every penny, if I do say so myself. It's also the last creator owned book I'll do before the launch of I,Vampire, Iron Man 2.0, and assorted other work for hire books.  The past six months or so have been massively busy between all of my corporate work and work on LAST OF THE GREATS and DEEP VALLEY (both of which are discussed along with my mainstream work in these video pieces over at MTV Geek.)

That's something I've been working towards for almost a decade.  It's been an arduous, at times frustrating, process that, frankly, I wouldn't change for anything.  I mean sure, I could probably live without Speakeasy going bankrupt or the nine month, ahem, printing process on TUMOR, or the fights and falling outs and fucking overs... But...

I'm a better writer.  Every one of those experiences taught me something else about being a writer, both from a creative and a business stand point.  Had I been given these opportunities even as recently as two years ago, I don't know that I'd be as able to meet the challenges as I am now.

I'm exactly where I should be doing exacty what I was born to do, and honest to god, I love every minute of it.

In housekeeping news - be sure to preorder LAST OF THE GREATS, I,VAMPIRE, and IRON MAN 2.0, yes?

Take Five - On Downtime

A couple weeks back I was writing about my work load and how much work I was getting done and all of that noise.  Well, that pace hasn't really let up, and combined with a baby seemingly grown past the need for sleep, it's been a fuck of a week.  I found myself throughout most of my work days staring at the screen, or reading articles or twitter, or, happily distracted by all the great submissions for my new column over at iFanboy. So today (not counting right now), I took the day off.  Tomorrow? Same thing.  Recharging is key.  Now, again, to go back to things previously said, this is my full time job.  This is what I spend virtually every waking hour doing.  Ergo, I get free time.  You, with your day job and your few hours a day to work?  You don't get this.  I mean, you can have it, if you want, but, it's a tradeoff.  You're giving up a day of writing, a day of getting better, a day of getting a tiny bit closer to not needing that job.  If that's cool with you, then, more power to you.  But me?  Even where I am now, low as it may be, still makes it seem like an impossibility to actually take a full day off.  Again, please, note, on this my 'day off' I've already done a notes phone call, approved art, and y'know, wrote this thing that you're reading now.

This is getting a bit meta for me.

This is not profound.  This is not something you'll jump up and down with eureka-filled glee.

Just remember, that creating requires a functioning mind, whatever that means, and that a healthy mind is a relaxed mind.  So tell your problems, worries, and concerns to go fuck themselves, and have a great weekend.

Shoplifting

"Writing is like shoplifting.  You're constantly trying to get away with bigger and bigger things and not get caught." I spent about 14 hours total in the car this weekend with ace writer/editor Rob Levin (http://theroblevin.wordpress.com/) talking about, well, that.  Rob and I have been working together for around five years now.  He was the guy who brought me into Top Cow, editing both Cyblade and Alibi, and then came on board TUMOR when it became clear we needed a grown up involved to get the book done.

The conversation we had was about pushing yourself, and how easy it is not to.  How every project needs to push off from where you left off, and you need constantly be challenging yourself.  But, it also comes from a sense of self-loathing.  At almost every minute when I'm writing (or immediately after when I've submitted my script to the editor or the artist or my friends for notes and thoughts) is asking whether I get away with what I'm doing.  If the constructed reality of the story stands up to scrutiny because, y'see, I see the stitches.  I see the places where I took shortcuts, got lazy, forced it out, left it to fix 'later' etc.  I did something that I find morally wrong from a creative stand point.  And the feedback?  That tells you if you make it past mall security or get tackled and beat up in the back hallways.

But, with that, comes something else.  So, if you constantly feel like you made it by some miraculous twist of fate, how in god's name do you sell yourself or your work?  Well, that's the other thing that's important.  Compartmentalizing.  When I'm sitting here alone, writing, and listening to the Pixies, I hate myself and every word I ever wrote.  When I tweet or do interviews or go to shows all of that HAS TO go away.  I go from hating myself to being Mr. I Can Get It Done.  You have to instill confidence in your editors and fans equally.  You need to show off that you know what you're doing and that you're going to do an amazing job.

Now, if you actually BELIEVE that, there might be a problem.  There's very little more terrifying than being told, "Great, get scripting."  Because you just started all over again, back at the beginning and facing off with trying to get that hardcover past that tall nerdy guy with bad skin and a B. Dalton Booksellers tie standing by the door.

Maybe that's just me, though.

Seven Days - On What I Wrote This Week

This is not to brag.  This is not to boast.  This is not because I like peanut butter on my breakfast toast, as the Sugarhill Gang once said. In the past week I have written:

Two Treatments in the 3 to 5 page range

Two Twenty Page Comic Book Scripts

One Character Bio Sheet

One 2nd Draft of a Twenty Page Comic Book Script

One Boilerplate Contract for a new Creator Owned Series

Two Essays (Three, counting this one) for my various blogs

Plus, spent the afternoon on Saturday on the crime comics panel, and still managed to work in a family day and two days of daddy/baby time.  Oh, yeah, I've also seen this week's new Brave and the Bold cartoon.

Being a freelancer writer is a delight.  Honestly, it's a lot of fun, you get paid to do what you'd probably do for free, and you get to do it all from more or less wherever you'd like. But...

It's a lot of work.  This was a highly productive week, but, it's also how just about every week has to be in order to actually make a living doing what I do.  That means whether I have paid work or am doing it all for free, whether I'm sick or don't get to sleep because the baby is teething, or the nanny calls in sick.

It's extremely easy to fall into the trap of the X-Box or the Satellite Dish.  They both sit there just spewing things to do.  But, if you put it all down (or, y'know, limit your playing of Stacked to only three hours per week), and really put your nose to the grind stone, you can do it.  You can make a living, you can do what you love.

The trick is to make sure you still love it once you're done.

You Got Lucky, Babe - On Breaking In

9 years ago, I started my journey in comics.  I mean, sure, I spent every free minute from the time I was old enough to push REC on my Fisher-Price tape recorder telling stories and getting ready for that, but, really, resolutely, nine years ago I decided this is what I wanted to do, and, we the aid of some truly wonderful people who had my back, I started on my journey. And now, nine years later,  I find myself having just come from a panel talking about how I broke in, and how i got where I am, and realized that, frankly, it's all just luck.

Somehow, I found my first patron (and amazing friend) in Chris Arundel (better known to those of you following along at home as the Publisher at Hoarse and Buggy Productions), and, from there, I've been lucky enough to find a string of people either smart or foolish enough to take chances on me.

That being said, I made a lot of bad decisions, things that I lay awake thinking about, and wish I could go back in time and fix them.  I've lost everything including friends, money, and joy from those bad decisions.  But, very few of them have had long term consequences on me.  That's luck, too.  Those bad decisions, in fact, led me down paths that gave me bigger and better opportunities.

ALl of that being said, I've also worked my balls off.  Years of killing myself on scripts and marketing and printers and fighting with publishers and going to cons and pitching my ass off in meetings and driving three hours to get to a meeting that doesn't happen because the guy decided to leave for his private island a few hours early.

For the first five years, I worked full time while pulling more than another forty hours a week in the PM to keep books on time and coming out and, theoretically, awesome.  For the next four, I've struggled to balance paying the bills with creating art that I love and cherish all while building a family and a social life and all the things I gave up in the first five to get here.

And now, I've got some amazing things coming up later this year.  Not just some amazing creator owned, in which I'm working with some of my favorite people on earth, but, opportunities to deliver mainstream books that are built entirely on the strength of my voice and what I've proven over the years.

But even that, while, sure, all that hard work certainly paid off, it really just came down to a couple of people picking my book out of a pile and giving it a looksie.

Everything I have is that same luck.  Hell, had I not logged into my online dating account one last time, I never would've met the most wonderful woman I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, nor gotten to have a kid more amazing that I could've ever imagined.

So, look, ultimately the point to all of this is that as unfortunate as it is, no matter how hard you work or how long you toil, sometimes, it just comes down to that flip of a coin.  And that sucks.

Unless, that is, you happen to be me.

I Don't Wanna - On Writing For a Living

Writers write.  That's the unfortunate truth, right?  Writers actually sit down in front of their computers (preferably of the Apple persuasion) with their cafe au lait and their copy of Scrivener on the screen, and, then, lo and behold, they actually write.  That's the hurdle.  That's the starter's pistol you need in order to do this for a living. But here's the truth.  I do write.  I write a fair amount.  But, a good amount of my time is spent staring out windows, reading crime novels, and playing with my daughter.  Disconnected from the work at hand and playing Bejeweled for an hour (or three) is sometimes exactly what the brain needs.  Something that stimulates the sections of your brain not designed specifically for, y'know, creating is a necessity.

Now here's what you don't want to hear.  If you have a day job and you aspire to be a writer?  Guess what? That 'non-writing screw off time' is what you call your job.  That means every moment you're not there is precious writing time.  When you're trying to break in or learn the ropes or whatever euphemism you like, the absolute only way to do it is to write.  Writers write.

What you write doesn't have to be good.  In fact, knowing that it's not good, being able to actually figure out that something is or isn't good is a great skill to have.  I send my scripts to a stack of my friends before submitting them.  But, rarely have I ever gotten a note back that I didn't, really, already know.  All that process should be is confirmation of your fuck ups.

But that's a ways from here.  Write.  Write a lot.

Develop your voice, find out who you are as a writer, and stop just being that schmuck who says he's a writer, and actually become one.  The way you do that?  Write.  Writers write.  Writers write a lot because they are writers.

This is not brain surgery.  If you think you're a writer and all you have to show for it is, well, that coffee, that Mac, and that copy of Scrivener, then you're not a writer.  A writer has something to say and a particular way to say it that is singular and yet universal.  That's the part where the craft subsides and the art can take over.

Because, again, the dirty little secret of almost any creative endeavor, is that we're building chairs over here.  If you can't put four legs and a seat together, then, guess what? You're not capable of building a chair.  But, if you take time, read some books on chair building, talk to your friends and mentors about building chairs, really just take some time to figure out what it means to be a chair builder, then guess what?  You're STILL incapable of building a chair, you're just more capable of talking about building it.

No.  Learn, observe, talk, take classes, all of that is great.  But what's more important?  BUILD THE FUCKING CHAIR.

Writers write.

Human, Inhuman - On Writing Awful People You Care About

Most of my work, at the end of the day, is about one thing, how awful we can be to each other.  But, I like to think that within that thesis, there comes something else.  How amazing we can be to each other.  Using Tumor as an example, Frank is a degenerate who's more or less thrown away his life because of a series of bad decisions and the loss of his wife.  He's for all intents and purposes been a complete and utter drain on society and a waste of space.   But, the point of Tumor is to redeem him.  To show that even the awfulness that has been his life isn't enough to corrupt that tiny spark of humanity inside him. That's probably even more true of Detective Polish in Tumor who's pretty much an unlikable, amoral shit bag.  And yet, for me, he's the most interesting character in the book.  He's the one who actually has to make choices, especially in the final act, that change his life irreparably.  He's biting the hand that feeds him in the favor of good, or, at least, the guy who he thinks might actually win.  That's probably why any thought I have about continuing the characters from Tumor center not around young Frank, but around post-corrupt Polish.

Elk's Run in it's way is about this same question as everybody thinks they're the good guy, even as though they do horrific, monstsrous things.  Hell, even Punks is really about a bunch of guys with so little humanity that they aren't even human.  Alibi, Echoes, and any number of top secret things you've not yet heard about all tread this same ground.

So now, I'm doing a superhero book.  My own, creator owned superhero book.  Of course, being me, it's not.  It's not about superheroes, not really, and, in fact, there's only one, and he's kind of a shit head.  But, he's also so far above all of us both in terms of power AND morality, that he's a bit of mystery, even to me.  I write this character who's got genuinely pure intentions but has no interest in the sanctity of life or trampling over whoever it takes to take care of the task at hand.  That's been the challenge of writing the book, and frankly, the reason I stay away from the supernatural/science fiction stuff, as I tend to get lost in the math, so to speak, rather than the poetry.

I say all of this because while sitting on the plane to Emerald City Comic Con (Come see me at both 710!), I just watched the documentary CATFISH.  It's very clearly from the get go about some very, very inhumane people.  Both the protaganist and the so called antagonists are pretty unlikeable, and, you think you know where it's going, with one side jumping out on the other and screaming "HA! I CAUGHT YOU!"

And it gets right up into that moment, and then something extraordinary happens.

Humanity.  These people look at each other, and just can't do it.  They can't hurt somebody so delicate and so needy.  It's... magical.  Even as the strife that drives story continues, (and I'm being vague to not spoil it for you), you feel not anger or resentment for them, but pity and sorrow.  That's a great lesson to learn as a writer.  You can have people doing awful things or being awful, but, without humanity it becomes a dark satire at best, grating melodramatic bullshit at worst.

Always, always keep the humanity in the inhumanity.

New eBook Available for Download!

Hey gang,We're still waiting on Amazon to post up the third chapter of Tumor, but, in the meantime, I wanted to direct you to a brand new short story by yours truly for Kindle and the iPhone/iPod Touch Kindle App. It's called Belly Button Reset, and I'm very proud of it. It's sort of a Vonnegut-y sci-fi romance drama thing, and it's only a buck, so, why not? You can purchase it here: http://tinyurl.com/ltxpmm

But, what's that? You don't have a Kindle or iPhone? Well, you're in luck. You can check out a non-Kindle version over here at http://feedbooks.com/userbook/7446

But, I do ask that if you download it over on Feedbooks, PLEASE, post a brief review over on the site or over on Amazon. Reviews get people to try books out, especially with low price points, so it'd be a huge help.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the story!

j. www.thefialkov.com

Writing with Confidence

So, this has more to do with me saying my own thoughts out loud (in public) than being of any practical use to anybody other than me. I've been writing professionally for coming on 8 years. It's been my primary means of support for about four of those years. In all of that time, the thing that tends to bog me down, get in the way of trying new things, and generally stand in my way is mostly me. I've had some bad experiences. Everything from writing partners who treat me as a junior member to writing partners who barely bother to wake up, to those around me belittling what I know I'm here to do. But, I've also had unprecedented support. From my friends, my wife, my agent, my peers, and my fans. Hell, the devotion and support my wife shows me in every ridiculous endeavor I throw myself into would be more than enough for me, but, to have all of you great people standing there cheering me makes even the hardest day worth while. So, the good sort of cancels out the bad (no matter how much I like to bitch about the bad... c'mon, everybody loves a good story about a douchebag!)

But still, with all of that, the one thing I constantly have to fight, is my own confidence. Knowing that I do know what I'm doing, and that I can do what I do well. Last year was a tough year for me creatively, despite the huge amount of output I had. Some of the problems with the work was my fault, some was due to outside forces. But every single one should've been combated with the fact that about my work, and what I'm trying to do, I'm the expert. Nobody knows how to do what I do better than me.

I don't mean that in a broad, "I'm the greatest writer ever" sense. I mean that I'm the greatest writer who is me ever. Despite the poor sentence construction of that last sentence. What I do isn't for everybody, and, judging by the sales on some of my creator owned work in the past, it may in fact be for nobody. But, I can be remarkably proud of just about everything I've ever done.

I've rid myself of many of the toxic people and situations that polluted a lot of my work last year, and, for the past few weeks have been working only on my own work. Virtually no work for hire. Just my new graphic novel with Noel, my young adult fantasy novel, and a few pitches for projects that I desperately love. I've put on hold a few things that I'm excited about, but have less of a handle on to focus on the three or four things that make me deliriously happy at the thought of them happening.

With the graphic novel's new publisher doing some amazing prep work, some genuine passion from a few Hollywood folk on the novel, and everybody rooting for me on each of the projects I'm working on, I finally feel like I'm getting my shot to do what I was meant to do.

And, for a change, I'm considerably less worried about blowing it.

FLASH FICTION: To whomever it may concern in regards to Mr. Jefferson Clement Walker,

To whomever it may concern in regards to Mr. Jefferson Clement Walker, He keeps a dog-eared copy of Dorian Gray on his shelf by his desk. He tells people it's the same one he's had since high school, but that's just another of his lies. Like the abuse, the affairs, the Hollywood stories, hell, even his own name. The only true thing that he's said the whole time I've known him was that when he set foot in Los Angeles for the first time ten years ago, he knew that he'd never go 'home' again.

Los Angeles is a place to be born again, to change your life, and redefine your history. All he bothered to change was his name. The man lived here as he lived there. Except that now he would tell bigger stories, unprovable due to distance and, frankly, he delivered it all with such panache that there was rarely a person who doubted his twisty turny stories. Besides, isn't it better to know the guy who beat up six guys before being jumped by the carnies at the Tulahuset State Fair? Isn't it better to know the guy who fucked the girl who went on to be the star of the show your girlfriend makes you watch every Wednesday night?

No, Los Angeles allowed him to be who he always wanted to be. The tortured, tormented, zit covered, tiny-dicked jerkoff he was back home was erased in favor of a 'rough and tumble smartass know-it-all of arcane acerbity', as he often would refer to himself. And we all fell for it hook line and sinker. When an old friend told us he fucked him out of a thousand dollars, we figure, maybe that friend is just a bit sketchy. When word came back that he may have tried to fuck your girlfriend, it must've been the other way around. Pulling him off of some random stranger after a night of drinking becomes just a funny story. Taking phone calls at all hours as he 'plans his next move,' be it career or stickup related, was just part of his charm. Begging for a couple hundred to pay off 'the guys' he's been playing poker with for four nights is just the price of friendship.

Until one's usefulness has been worn out.

Then, there's no place colder than his empty stare. No theft, be it literal or figurative, is out of the question, and every minute in his company makes you into a walking, talking, breathing target for his rage, self-loathing, and, most of all, his fickle sense of humor. For years, we'd watch him alienate those around him one by one. I'd say 'those that he loved', but, a man like that, he was incapable of love. He was incapable of anything other than the selfish thoughts and instinctual moment to moment chemical explosions in his brain pan. Each of us laughed as he turned his razor tongue on another innocent soul, knowing somewhere in our minds that we may be next.

But I never thought he could do what you good people think he did. I know for a fact that he could never have done what the people on the news and in the paper and in the court room all said he'd done. But, when you stop and think about it, sure, he probably stole the forty grand, why not? It was only money to him. And, then, well sure, he could've been freaked out, grabbed a gun (hell, he was the kind of guy who casually told you about the 9mm stashed behind a bottle of Cutty Sark that he used to get out aggression by shooting the rats and cats and bats and whatever other rhyming four letter furred creatures entered his back yard), and sure, maybe in the heat of the moment, a shot got squeezed off, and that shot went through the throat of the guy who was running the card game. That shit happens, and I could see how it could go wrong.

But the little girl. No. Even him, he couldn't do it, not the way they say he did.

I've known him since he moved here. I ain't saying I know him any better than anybody else, and, in fact, I doubt any of us even know him at all. I've seen him do awful things, but, truth be told, every once in a while, I've seen him do something halfway decent.

I wish I could be there today to speak on his behalf, but, the last time we talked he told me he wanted me dead, and he'd do it his-own-damnself if he ever set his eyes on me again. I like to think it was probably just him talking tough, but, I figured best not chance it.

Some people have trouble doing the right thing. I wrote this letter, in spite of all that went on, because I like to think I ain't one of them.

Allen Gilbert Douglas California State Penitentiary

P.S. For what it's worth, I might not of done what he said I done, but I surely deserved to be sent here. -- Joshua Hale Fialkov Los Angeles, CA 3-9-09

FLASH FICTION - THE DAY

Today is the day that air mail first commenced. Today is the day that my car broke down. Today is the day that she left. Today is the day that everything went wrong. Today is the day that things finally started going right. 1919. 2002. 1997. 2005. It's a nexus. The day that everything converges, and then falls apart. Every year, it builds, every year anticipation takes the reigns, and all logic, hope, truth... drifts away. Today is the day when the diagnosis came back negative. Today is the day when they told me there is no cure. Today is the day I took my first steps. Today is the day that I knew I would make no more. 2006. 2007. 1980. 2008. Beginnings and endings, each twirled as if to make the ugliest piece of whirlyart out of my life. Our of that one day in my life. Today is the day I heard about that job. Today is the day that she came back. Today is the day that truth became lies. Today is the day that doesn't matter much to anyone else. 1999. 2001. 2003. 1984. So, then, here I stand, today. The today today, facing the future, and facing the past. Every one of those things happened on today, just not, today. So, I decide, this year, this time, today will be nothing more than just today. Just another in a never ending string of faceless, meaningless days. I call in sick to work. I turn off my phone, unplug the internet. Today will be the day that nothing happens. I turn off the tv. I close the door to my room tight, and pull the comforter over my head. I close my eyes, and, for once, I sleep.

The pounding starts not soon after that. The pound pound pound pound on the wall. The drilling. The hammering. I place my palm on the wall next to me, and feel every tiny shockwave from the hammer, and the shrill vibrations of the drill. I don't care, today is the day that nothing much happened. Today is the day that I'm going to have a regular day like everybody else in the world. Today is the day.

The pounding stops before noon. I start to drift back to sleep. I'm woken to heavy steps, and the sound of sobbing. The sobbing of a woman. A girl. Next door. I've met her once or twice, I've watched her a few times other than that. She's not pretty. Not traditionally, but what does that mean anyways? She never smiled. But, neither did I. She never laughed, but, then, neither do I.

We rode the train to downtown together once. Together, but not. We found ourselves both walking towards the station at the same time. Then we found ourselves riding the same train, in the same car, and sitting next to each other in silence. We both got out in downtown, we both walked to the library, up the long steps, and into the new wing. I looked at her, for just a second, and she caught me. We both smiled, and continued walking. I cleared my throat to speak, and she looked at me with her wide brown eyes.

"Hi."

She smiled a halfway vacant smile. That was not today. That was a different day. We ran into each other a few more times, and smiled quietly to each other when we did. And now, she's crying in the next room. I touch my hand to the wall, as if to send comfort through the drywall dividing us. And then I remembered. Today is the day that nothing much happened. Today is the day that I heard my neighbor cry through the wall is dangerously close to something. I pull the pillow over my head, and start to drift off once again.

The thud shook the whole building, and I woke up instantly. I suppose I knew what the sound was, it was a little over a hundred pounds of meat falling hard. But, Today is the day that nothing much happened, really. So I ignore it. I ignore the whining sound of something swinging. I ignore the incessant phone ringing through the wall. I ignore the sound of a door being kicked in. I ignore the sound of the police and a sobbing mother, and the confused yelps of my neighbors cat, staring at the scene before her. I ignore the sound of the cart wheeling my neighbors body out of her apartment, and down the steps, into the court yard, and out to the meat wagon parked out front.

Today is the day that nothing much happened. Nothing but the girl who maybe I liked, who maybe I could've loved, who maybe was the one I was meant to be with, hung herself from the wooden beams in her apartment.

Today is the day.

Joshua Hale Fialkov Los Angeles, CA 3-3-09

LG15: The Resistance Ep. 9 and more!

Hey gang,Episode 9 is live on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YdyTfPNdyo.    It'll be up on LG15.com, Myspace, and all the rest shortly.  In the meantime, please, swing by, take a look.  It's my favorite episode we've done thus far, features all the stuff shot (and edited) on our whirlwind trip to Boston, and will rock your socks right off.

Also, if you haven't yet picked up the Cleaners from Dark Horse, the internet thinks you're missing out.  We've gotten a crap load of good reviews (which I gladly accept on the back of Mr. Wheaton's hard work) all of which say "Go get it."  You can read the reviews over at the Blog at www.thefialkov.com.

Finally, the last 3 issues of my run on Vampirella are being collected in Trade Paperback in Previews RIGHT NOW.  Here's the order info: NOV08 3745    VENGEANCE OF VAMPIRELLA TP VOL 02 DRACULINAS REVENGE    SRP: $15.95     = $

I've got a couple other things in Previews too, here's the order info for those: NOV08 2298    CYBLADE #4    SRP: $2.99 NOV08 0051    CLEANERS #2 (OF 4)    SRP: $2.99 NOV08 3994    PRINCESS RESURRECTION GN VOL 05 (C: 0-1-2)    SRP: $10.95

Remember, the only way comic books survive is if you place your orders and tell people about them, so please, stop by your local comic shop and give the order numbers above.

And that's all she wrote.  Thanks for reading gang,

j. www.thefialkov.com www.lg15.com

Beginnings, Endings, Continuings

What a week. Tomorrow morning I start that new job I talked about a few weeks back. This is a full-time, well paid writing job, not in comics, wherein I get an opportunity to create content, lead a crew of other guys, and make some cool shit that a hundred thousand people or more will see. Coming from comics where a comic selling 10k is a big deal, it's... humbling.

You may notice I'm writing this at about 3 am. I've always had nerves before the big day. And tomorrow, I'm coming to realize, is a big day. One phase of my career is complete, and now, I move on to step two. Which doesn't mean I'm leaving comics. Far from it. In fact, I have more comic work lined up in the next few months, and more projects on the immediate horizon than I've ever had.

The thing is that this job represents a moment of validation for me. It came about because of a bunch of different reasons, most of them because of the weird job experience I have. It's rare that you find a company who can look at a resume as weird as mine (Alternative Rock DJ at age 14, Record Store counter jockey at 19, theater and film major with a low budget feature at 20, Production Coordinator on a slew of reality tv shows at 22, Comics Publisher at 24, Freelance Comic Writing Guy at 26...) and say "Well, shit, you've got a crazy amount of experience doing these crazy things and you'd be fucking great for this."

As we wander through life, it's ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies... they can seem like chaos... a meaningless storm of 'things.' To be able look back at all of it... from broken hearts to hard-fought victories, and realize that not only was it all worth it, but, you wouldn't do a damn thing differently... That's simply an amazing feeling.

I have more in my life to be grateful for than any guy should have. A beautiful, charming, genius, and sexy wife; a thriving, satisfying career, wherein I'm beyond proud of each and every project I've worked on; and an amazing group of people who provide nothing but love, faith, and support (both business-wise, and personal-like).

So, the next few months are going to be a radical departure from my life of the past few years. And yes, I'm nervously typing rather than sleeping. But those nerves? That fear? It's imbued with hope, excitement, and the knowledge that things are going to keep getting better.

To tomorrow, which is to say today, and yesterday which is forever.

How I Write - #1 - The Outline

Consider this the first in a series of short essays I use to give some excuse as to why I'm not doing my work. I have a creator owned book coming early next year from a big ol' publisher.  I figured it may be an interesting time for me to reflect on the process a bit, both for the sake of any interested readers, and for myself to put me somewhat on the spot for what I do and how I do it.

This project has been a peculiar one. It started out as a comic pitch, morphed into the early scribblings of a novel, and then back into a comic book. Getting to this point has been atypical for a project for me, and I think for comics in general. Most projects I spend a fair amount of time writing a document a few pages long that covers the in's and out's of the plot, characters, and themes. For this one, I wrote an outline that really amounted to more of a spirited explanation of the first issue and what the book would probably be like if I got to do it.

But it wasn't even that strange document that got the ball rolling at the publisher. It was just me, bullshitting with the editor (and friend). I was telling him how desperately I wanted to do something that was lighter, more fun, and, most importantly, my own.

Let me be clear here. Doing work for hire is a LOT of fun, and you get a paycheck at the end, which really just makes it even better than work. But, still, at the end of the day, you're answering to someone else. Having worked in film, tv, and theater, as well as a bit of radio, I know that the freedoms of comics are still unseen in just about any other medium, but, still...

So, so animated was this presentation that the editor just about okayed it on the spot. A few weeks went by , going through the rounds at their offices, and now, a month or two later, it's time for me to do the part that i normally do first. The outline.

At a recent dinner with Brian Reed, we had a long discussion about the merits of outlining. I wasn't a huge outliner until a year or two ago. I used to have the ability to hold stuff in my head. Now, with half a dozen projects rattling around in my head, and as I start writing longer and longer pieces with more intricacy (theoretically), the outline has become a fantastic tool. Brian's counter argument was that you become a slave to the outline.

Well, as I work on this one, it becomes clear that he has a point. The thing is that for me, 80% of the work of writing is outlining and figuring out the story. The actual typing of dialogue is almost secondary. That being said, certainly as you write, the outline goes out the window.  That's part of why I outline in a few different ways.  The style and detail level of the outlines changes from project to project, and publisher to publisher.

Here's a general look at the basic type of outline I do.

The first round outline, which I'm working on now, is essentially the equivalent of a movie treatment. Around 3/4's of a page per issue (or act, or chapter, or whatever). If necessary, there's an addendum with character descriptions, and sometimes cover design ideas. If it's for an ongoing series, I'll also include a few other jumping off points for down the road.

Once that's satisfactory (to either me or the editor, depending), I move onto a more specific issue outline. I'll usually expand that 3/4's of a page into something closer to a page and a half. These are done immediately before I write the issues. Again, this is about filling in the road map.

Here's an example from Alibi which came out last week.

We open inside an interrogation room. John Stephens is being interrogated by Agent Al Micelli. Or rather, he’s smoking a cigarette wile Micelli tries unsuccessfully to get him to crack. He lists off the charges against him... Assassination of the Azerbaijani Minister of Finance, strategic strikes against oil executives in Bahrain, leading a coup in Kurdistan.

At the same time, we cut to an assassin plastered to a roof in a desert swept city which we learn is Muscat, Oman. An American Businessman walks with a trio of sheik-looking guys. He tracks them with his scope, it’s not clear which he’s trying to take out.

Back in interrogation, Micelli has the orders intercepted by CIA that Stephens and his ‘firm’ have been hired for the hit in Muscat, and that they specifically requested him to do the job. Stephens laughs.

An alternate/additional step to this is something I learned from good ol' Andy Schmidt back when he was still over at Marvel. I'd guess it had to do with my inexperience working with him the first time, but, he asked me to do something that radically changed how I thought about writing comics. He had me do an outline broken down by page. So, I take the overall outline, and I split up the action into pages.

Here's an example from the outline for The Outlaw Kid from Marvel Comics Presents:

PAGE 1 Lance Temple, young, svelte, and armed with twin six-shooters walks through the desert with purpose. His face is tightened into a rictus of anger and resentment. Hanging from his neck is a large red bandana… that’s important later. He’s on a mission to find the man who murdered his father and, even though it goes against everything he stands for, put him in the ground. He’s tracked his enemy for three days, taking Lance from his home in the fledgling city of Tucson to the dirty streets of Nogales. A town of scoundrels and thieves, it only makes sense that the masked murderer would come here.

PAGE 2 As Lance rides into town, the world seems to blur around him All of the crimes, the monstrosities around him… they’re all secondary to his goal. All he cares about is finding THE OUTLAW KID. He walks straight up to the rough and rumbling saloon, and slams the doors open. Lance looks around for the toughest SOB in the bar, and grabs him by the shirt.

He threatens him… but the brute fights him off. As things are about to turn ugly, the bartender chirps up.

“I SAW HIM HEADIN’ OUT OF TOWN… TOWARDS ‘PACHE COUNTRY AFORE I COME IN TODAY, MR. TEMPLE. IF YOU RIDE FAST YOU CAN CATCH ‘IM!”

With barely a word, Lance cleans himself up and heads out.

“WHAT THE HELL D’YOU DO THAT FOR?”

“THAT BOY’S LOOKIN’ FOR TROUBLE, I RECKON HE’LL FIND IT ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.”

PAGE 3 As Lance walks into the desert, he thinks back to that fateful night.

His poor blind father heard a noise… he came into the room and found the Outlaw Kid. He tried to fool him….

“IT’S ME DAD… PLEASE… YOUR SON-“

“I MIGHT BE BLIND BUT I AIN’T STUPID. NO SON OF MINE WOULD DARE COME INTO MY HOUSE SMELLIN’ LIKE GUNPOWDER.”

His dad knew there was trouble and brought a blackjack he kept around for protection… but, the Outlaw Kid grabbed it from him and clubbed him to death… Lance came in just in time to see The Kid running away with a laugh and a smile.

PAGE 4 As Lance rides through some desert canyons, his mind still wandering, we see a small group of Apache Warriors watching him through the cliffs. Lance makes clear his vow to avenge his father’s death even if it kills him. As if on cue, arrows start flying from above. Lance is knocked off his horse, and as he goes to draw, an arrow rips through his shoulder, and drops him to the ground.

PAGE 5 Lance is seriously wounded. The arrow through his shoulder has left him a quivering mess. He’s starting to panic, as he fumbles for his guns. The Apache are upon him, and he’s shaking. They’re going to kill him. Lance’s hand shakes and shudders as it comes to pull the red bandanna hung around his neck up to his face.

Now again, for me, doing all of this frees me up to worry about characterization, about emotion, and about visual dymanic, rather than having to remember "Oh shit, I need to have Lance wearing the red bandanna here."

From there, obviously, I move to script.  While I pain and slave over these outlines, scripting is a brisk, worry free affair for the most part, because I've already built the foundation, layed the cement, and sold a few of the condos to the old folks moving out from Ames.  And, despite having the outline right there to guide me, things still get moved, rejiggered, shortened, lengthened, and removed.  But, instead of doing it willie nillie, I have an idea of just how many pieces need to fit into the final thing, and exactly how much room I have to do it in.

For me, a lot of the real work comes in the second draft, where you have to look at where everything sits and shift things around.

So, that's what I do.  As me move along, I'll probably keep posting more info about the project from a behind the scenes-y pov.  Assuming anybody actually cares.

Tonight's Writing Soundtrack

Haven't done one of these in a while. Last 40 Tracks I've listened to whilst writing.  Been a weird combination of soundtracks and hip hop for this action book thus far. stick me for my riches 6:08 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams sunlight 3:22 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams gun will go feat sunny valentine 4:15 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams wolves feat george clinton 4:16 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams the heart gently weeps feat erykah badu dhani harrison and john frusciante 5:37 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams unpredictable feat dexter wiggle 4:12 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams Da Coach 1:20 K-JUSTICE 8 Diagrams rushing elephants 3:01 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams get them out ya way pa 4:19 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams Take it back 4:13 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams Campfire 3:59 Wu Tang Clan 8 Diagrams Palmer's Theme 1:51 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack The Bomb Detonates 2:39 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Jack Tells Kim He's Not Coming Back 2:12 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Copter Chase Over L.A 2:32 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Salazar's Theme 1:55 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack In Pursuit Of Kyle 2:39 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Jack In The Limo 2:42 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Kim And Terry's Escape From The Safe House 2:04 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack 8:48 PM Jack's Revenge At The Docks 4:02 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack L.A At 9:00 A.M 1:57 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack Up And Down Stairs 2:44 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack "24" Theme 4:39 Sean Callery 24 Television Soundtrack 01 - Out In The Street 2:30 The Who The Who Sings My Generation Days (Kinks) 2:56 of Montreal 2007-12-14 Lesinrocks.com acoustic session Dead Flowers 4:05 The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers Oh 4:06 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Afro's Father Fight 1:24 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Just a Lil Dude Who Dat Ovah There 3:29 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Certified Samurai 3:00 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Afro Intro 0:51 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Afro Theme 0:30 Rza Afro Samurai (The Soundtrack) Lieutenant Kijé, Symphonic Suite, Op. 60: 3. Noces de Kijé 2:37 Adolph Herseth, Chicago Symphony Orchestra & Claudio Abbado Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky; Scythian Suite; Lieutenant Kijé Rhapsody in Blue 16:29 George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue/An American In Paris 1812 Overture, Op. 49 15:32 Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture, Marche Slave, Romeo and Juliet, Capriccio Italien, Hamlet (Expanded Edition) In the Garden 2:32 Michael Giacchino Alias: Season One (Soundtrack from the TV Series) Tunisia 4:14 Michael Giacchino Alias: Season One (Soundtrack from the TV Series) Double Life 1:55 Michael Giacchino Alias: Season One (Soundtrack from the TV Series) Spanish Heist 4:32 Michael Giacchino Alias: Season One (Soundtrack from the TV Series) Red Hair Is Better 2:32 Michael Giacchino Alias: Season One (Soundtrack from the TV Series)

A Word About Formatting

Having been educated in traditional screenplay format, and then at some point drifting incredibly far away from it for my comic writing, I have what's become a constant back and forth on script formatting.  I'm one of those guys who finds that form can help dictate content, and so tend to morph what format I use to the project I'm working on. A few of the companies I do work for hire for have standard format (i.e. the Manga Adaptations I do) that I have to use, which is fine, and ultimately, that's become the 'voice' for that work.  Similarly, I began using a new, different format last month, which I sent over to Ms Marvel writer Brian Reed, and he found it totally unusuable, and today, after I asked him about how he formats he sent over a few samples of his formatting style.

What spurred it on is that I'm working on  a big action book for a publisher, and as I started working in my new 'standard' format, it just felt 'wrong.'  So, I applied Brian's more screenplay like style, and found myself humming along, more or less.  While working with Wheaton on our book together, I decided to use that comic book format because it's so radically different from screenplays, that I think it'll actually open him up to the uniqueness of the medium just by sheer nature of it being a different set of instinctual movements than using Final Draft.

I've been in that strange place as a comics writer where I'm working on books I wrote a few months ago, as well as stuff that's going out for the first time now, so I've really been going through these old scripts, and seeing the changes in what I do for either speed, clarity, or tone has been a bit of an eye opener.

There's also the issue of word processors.  I use four different word processors throughout my writing process.  I've been using Scrivener for projects with lots of research, or with a longer story arc, Pages for more 'straight forward' writing, Neooffice for formatting before sending, Final Draft for Screenplays or anything short in the screenplay format, and Office 2008 for drafting with integrated notes.  Now, ultimately, I'd prefer to be down to just one or two of those programs, but each offer some features that are unique.

The only one that technically could replace the bulk of them is Office 2008, but, thus far, I've found it to be a complete misstep in the old work horse of a program.  It's clunky, awkward, confusing, and managed to screw up my Mac when I installed it.  Hooray for Microsoft!  Lukcily, the track changes feature continues to be unmatched anywhere else, except maybe Final Draft, which is unfortunately not owned by most editors I work with.  Scrivener has an integrated screenplay format you can use, but, thus far, I've found it less intuitive than Final Draft, but, the research options make it a much more formidable program, and considering the tricks Brian showed me, it seems to really be getting the job done.  Pages is great for formatting... it does things in a way that's extremely intuitive, and frankly, I don't have to worry about it being wrong.  Neooffice seems to work well enough, but the tab system and general formatting usage ends up just confusing the crap out of me most of the time.  Both of them seem to not quite handle the track changes properly from someone working in Office.

It's still a bit strange to me that comics have yet to really settle into a style, but, I suppose as each writer's style and voice really do come through in their scripts (I mean, what other medium is it considered okay for a writer to draw in his script to describe something?), that's it's only neccessary.

The other thing that I've been noticing, at least for me, is that by using these different formats, it allows me to really distinguish, in my mind, between the projects.  As though, by switching up the how, it allows my brain to switch the what, and focus on the work I'm doing.

Mind you, I'm on deadline and writing about formatting, which might mean it's not quite working as planned.

Flu-filling Day

I'm sick.  And consequently will wear my robe and slippers while doing relaxing things. Here's a list with comments. Hulu.com - Been playing with the Beta of NBC's streaming service.  The one that doesn't generate any revenue for the studios.  Cause those commercials they show are clearly Public Service announcements.  Like the one for razors.  Anyways, that aside, the service is pretty great, especially compared to how shitty the actual NBC.com streaming things are.  The commercials are remarkably unobtrusive... there's only one 15 or 30 second spot per commercial break, and they actually have it integrated, so, unlike on NBC.com the commercial comes and goes without interupting the show.  Been catching up on everything I haven't seen what with the removal of cable from the house.

Myspace.com/pilotseason - It's launching this week, and I guess each of the writers are writing little pieces explaining why you should vote for us.  On a side note, vote for me.

Watch my Netflix - I've had a bunch of Orson Welles Netflix movies sitting on my shelf for three months.  I just never get around to watching them.  I desperately wanted to do a book about Welles, but, well, everyone thinks I'm insane when I explain what I want to do.

Mario 64 - I've decided that before I buy Mario Galaxies, I'll go through Mario 64 from start to finish.  I'm planning on getting frustrated sometime around the 30th or so star, and going to buy Galaxies.   At that point, I will play it until it gets slightly harder than I can easily handle, at which point it'll end up sitting on the shelf until the next Mario comes out.  And so it is.

Finish Sartre's The Flies and start The Orestia -  Which are both the same thing, only, y'know, one's by Aeschylus and the other's by Sartre.  They're research for the book with Guillory, and lots of fun.

Cancel my Vonage - I'm just plain sick of it.  The quality's gotten progressively worse and worse, and despite the replacement modem they sent me last month, it's just... well... shitty.   I'd rather just put the 30 bucks towards my cell service and not have to worry about it.

And that's what my day will look like.