POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don’t get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE’s purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process
Alright, so this is the start of REVISITOR. I’d wanted to present it a little sooner than now, but didn’t (and still don’t) feel comfortable about doing so. As the year’s already half-over, I want to get samples of everything I’m working on out there and archived on the site, so as scripts move towards completion and, hopefully, publication, everyone will be on the same page.
This one came from wanting to tell Weird Crime Stories. To date, everything I’ve written have been fairly straightforward genre exercises and REVISITOR, the first of a thematic trilogy, is a story better suited to take advantage of what comics can do, in a way– stories that aren’t about things that could happen, or had already happened, but rather stories about the fantastic and strange.
I’d been playing around with doing stories about paranoia and the paranormal for a while, and one day while lamenting with Kelly Sue the more-or-less lack of good sex comics, REVISITOR all fell together. It’s about sex and paranoia, with a bit of gutterpunk street magic thrown in.
I was consciously trying to emulate some of the European albums that Humanoids have been reprinting, something spacious and wide open, full of big panels and simple layouts while at the same time about a subject matter resoundingly adult.
So here’s the opening ten pages of REVISITOR. It’s 96 pages in three parts; I wrote it and have no idea who’s gonna make it look pretty and even less as to who’ll publish it. Hope you enjoy.
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THE KNACK, AND HOW TO GET IT
PAGE ONE (TITLE PAGE)
New York City’s magnificent spires and buildings, glistening like gems on a cold winter night. Snow falling like TV static across the sky. We’re focusing, vaguely on Rockefeller Center. A snapshot of the center of the universe during Christmas, affectionate and atmospheric.
TITLE and CREDITS at bottom left (RE in red, VISITOR in white)
In now, angling down on the front of 30 Rock, the tree, the skating rink, throngs of people. On the farthest side of the panel, certainly not more than thirty feet apart, are SALVATION ARMY SANTA guys ringing their bells, dutifully. In-between them both and in front of the legendary ice rink, set up behind a shaky-legged card table is ALEX DOWNING, our narrator. The SANTA guys, and various Xmas lights speckle the night with RED.
ALEX (CAP): My name is Alex Downing.
CLOSER now on ALEX; we can see him and his setup clearly now. He’s in his mid-twenties, ragged hair and stubblefaced, a bit too thin and a bit too frazzled to be as young as he is. He’s bundled against the cold in ragtag lower east village thrift store utility-chic and we get the feeling he’s been at this for a long time. His table is adorned with a sign reading HANDMADE POSTCARDS-COME TO NEW YORK, BUY SOME ART. Some people look down at his table as they pass, others don’t. He’s blowing the steam off a styro-cup of coffee.
ALEX (CAP 1): I’m a remote viewer.
ALEX (CAP 2): It’s my knack.
On ALEX’S FACE. It’s been a hard and weird fucking road for this kid. He’s a strange, tired mix of soft and tough; if someone were to take care of him for a few months he’d look about ten years younger. He’s got a purpose to him right now, though– he’s scanning the throngs of tourists for someone specific.
ALEX: SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL STARVING ARTIST…
ALEX (CAP): …tourists.
ANGLE DOWN-ish, almost a detail on ALEX’s hands, around a large cup of coffee in a styro-cup, steam wafting up as he brings it to his mouth. We see his table-spread here, really– an array of handmade postcards. Multimedia schizoid snapshots, some reproduced and others originals.
ALEX: HANDMADE, HOMEMADE POSTCARDS. BUCK A POP.
ANGLE on ALEX’S FACE, tighter-he’s found whomever it is he’s been looking or waiting for. We can see the reflection of steam against the convex sweep of his eyes; it looks like smoke lives inside his pupils.
ALEX: TELL THE FOLKS BACK HOME YOU SAW THE BIG AP–
ALEX (CAP): Bang.
Out of the subway maw, dressed nearly head to toe in RED, swarmed by masses in black is whom we’ll call the RED WOMAN for the time being (or variations on that when I get lazy, like WOMAN or RED or whatever). Her mind is on other things, namely keeping warm, navigating the crowds, and to keep moving towards wherever she’s going.
ALEX (CAP): Okay– so here’s how I do it.
We’re gonna be hopping around between a few hours for the next few pages. It’ll come together alright, just stay with me. SO NOW THEN: We’re a few hours ahead of PAGE TWO now, in ALEX’S APARTMENT, a great big industrial loft somewhere in D.U.M.B.O.; it’s a loft that’s practically empty.
ANGLING DOWN on one huge wall as ALEX walks alongside it; the wall is decorated almost entirely with an array of Polaroid pictures. We can see details on the ones closest to us in the foreground: some are murky, some are specific, some are horrifying. Across the bottom of each is scrawled the date on which it was taken.
ALEX (CAP 1): Remote viewing is the psychic art of deliberate, site-specific astral projection.
ALEX (CAP 2): I think myself into places I’ve never been and float around like a ghost.
ALEX is sitting on the floor near the wall. His shirt off, he curls his legs underneath him as he sits.
ALEX (CAP 1): First, I take a psychic Polaroid. Sounds fucked up, yeah– but it’s what I do. I got the idea from a book about this cat named Ted Serios.
Outside of ROCKEFELLER now. ALEX has come around his table and is standing in the sidewalk, rather blocking the way of the RED WOMAN.
ALEX: BUY A HOMEMADE POSTCARD, MISS?
CLOSE REACTION on the RED WOMAN. She’s beautiful, bundled up like this. Bulky black glasses frame an almond face and eyes deep like diamond mines. Red lips, a slight smile.
RED WOMAN: WHY ON EARTH WOULD I WANT TO BUY A HOMEMADE POSTCARD?
BACK in ALEX’S LOFT: he’s got– okay, this is gonna sound nuts, but this is how it works– he’s got a cardboard tube, like a paper towel core, butted up against his forehead; the other end against the lens of a pop-up Polaroid camera. Huge rows of windows indicate it’s daytime.
ALEX (CAP): Serios could take photos of buildings and all kinds of things he’d never been to or seen before miles and miles away by… well, by THINKING at the camera.
SMALL ONE: White light. The flash going off.
BACK at ROCK again. Reverse on ALEX, happy that his target has decided to play. Coy grin, digging the flirt.
ALEX (1): IT’S CHRISTMAS.
ALEX (2): EVERYONE SENDS CARDS AT CHRISTMAS. FAMILY, FRIENDS, ALL THAT BULLSHIT.
TWO SHOT; ALEX is probably a good foot taller than the RED WOMAN. They stand a comfortable yet familiar distance to one another. A fun distraction, their posture should read ‘flirty’. Her head to one side, arms maybe folded or bundled deep in her pockets, his chin tucked in, looking at her over his coffee. Crowds swarm around on either side, but they might as well be the only two people on the island of Manhattan right now.
RED WOMAN (1): ALL MY FRIENDS AND FAMILY ARE DEAD.
ALEX (1): MERRY CHRISTMAS.
RED WOMAN (2): I’M JEWISH.
ALEX (2): MAZEL TOV, SWEETHEART.
LOFT: Over ALEX’S bare shoulders as he holds the Polaroid in his hand, waiting for it to develop. We can make out a vague shape bleeding into insta-shot reality.
ALEX (CAP): So first I take weird fucking brainpictures.
DETAIL on the Polaroid shot, a strange, spectral arc cutting through weird space. It looks like smoke, underwater. Like the steam reflected in his eyes earlier. See? SEE? It all comes together.
ON ALEX, from behind, off in one corner of his loft where a makeshift studio has been set up across homemade tables. It’s a mess of an artist’s space; tools and paints, scraps and crap are everywhere wall to floor. BRIGHT LIGHT floods the space; it’s daytime.
ALEX (CAP 1): Here’s the thing. I can’t just, you know, close my eyes and end up in your mom’s bedroom, try as I might.
ALEX (CAP 2): I take these pictures and I turn them into little things. I call ’em fetishes because I spent a year and a half at college.
OVER ALEX’S SHOULDER and we see he’s collaged together a handmade postcard based around a core component: the Polaroid image, the wisp of smoke.
ALEX (CAP): I have to have something of mine in the place I want to go. Even if I don’t know where that place is, a little piece of me has to be there waiting.
OUTSIDE AT ROCK again. ALEX holding up his special postcard, which we recognize is the Smoke Wisp one, grinning mischievously.
ALEX: YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE THE TROUBLE I WENT THROUGH TO MAKE THIS CARD FOR YOU, MISS.
On RED WOMAN, taking the card into her gloved hand and staring at it. It’s nice. ALEX actually has more talents than psychic photography and astral projection, you know? She’s smiling a bit more here.
RED WOMAN: MADE THIS JUST FOR ME, DID YOU?
REACTION on ALEX: she’s taking it. He’s in.
ALEX (CAP 1): But fetish means ‘postcard’ mostly. U.S. Mail gets my cards into anywhere most times.
ALEX (CAP 2): Or I can just give ’em to people.
ALEX (CAP 3): On the street.
TWO SHOT, again. RED WOMAN digging into her handbag for money, ALEX already turning his back to her and walking away.
ALEX (1): JUST TAKE IT.
RED WOMAN (1): I SHOULD PAY YOU SOMETH-
ALEX (2): MY CONDOLENCES FOR YOUR DEAD JEWISH FAMILY.
SIMILAR; RED WOMAN staring, ALEX looking another direction, fake-ignoring her.
RED WOMAN: I-
ALEX: POSTCARDS! HANDMADE! TOURIST-FRIENDLY!
ALEX in FG watching the black-clad masses as the RED WOMAN recedes into them, off along her way once again, postcard in tow.
ALEX (CAP 1): So now then. With the fetish–
ALEX (CAP 2): –postcard–
ALEX (CAP 3): –in the place I want to go…
LATER (no more timehopping), in the loft: ALEX, sitting with his legs underneath him, pants down to his knees. Against the wall, we see the card table folded up, a pile of unsold cards, his coat and hat in a pile, hell, even the cup of coffee. Through the window, we can tell it’s night now. ALEX is jerking off with one hand and holding the Polaroid in the other.
ALEX (CAP): I think about the photo that I turned into a card. I think about them really, really hard.
TIGHT on ALEX’S face as he reaches orgasm.
ALEX (CAP 1): That’s just a metaphor for jerking off.
ALEX (CAP 2): It’s coming that does it. Something blue and sharp bursts down my spine, fire and light pops behind my eyes.
DETAIL on the Polaroid clenched in ALEX’s hand; the rest of his body wracked with a spasm.
ALEX (CAP): …
Okay- if you’re still actually reading this, here’s where it gets really weird.
ALEX has projected himself into the RED WOMAN’S apartment and WE are seeing things completely subjective. Even though we’ll be looking at ALEX, we’re SEEING things how he sees them. Each RV run is different for ALEX; In the case of the RED WOMAN, he’s focused psychically on RED itself, the RED WOMAN will pretty much always be the only thing in true focus (she’s always got on SOMETHING red).
So, yeah: he can see her, and the POSTCARD that sits on the table by which ALEX stands transparent but detailed, not as out of whack as everything else around him. The room is a smudged, swirled blur. Like dreaming about not being able to keep your eyes open, everything feels peripheral except HER. ALEX himself is slightly clearer, but he still looks vaporous and ethereal.
Having deposited her purse and coat on the table, RED’s receding down the hallway towards the bathroom. As she goes, she’s pulling her red dress off over her head; she’s got on black bra and panties. One foot is kicking off a shoe. One of ALEX’S HANDS rests atop the postcard.
ALEX (CAP): Bang.
SMALL on ALEX’s FACE. Transparent and vague, he’s squinting, rubbing his eyes a bit. Maybe one hand is up at his face. Taking in his surroundings and simultaneously dealing with his psychic hop into RED’S place.
ALEX (CAP): There I am.