I don't know what it is, but people are always emailing me questions about how to do comics.
If you'll recall my plea to those folks last week, to just go ahead and do the comics you want to do, this week's missive into the ether may surprise you.
I try, every once in a while, to light a fire under the asses of the people who want to do a comic, but who, for some reason, just won't take that leap. This past week, I issued a challenge to all of those cats: on February 9th and 10th, two short months from now, San Francisco will be hosting the Alternative Press Expo. I always have a good time at this show, first, because it's less than two miles from the AiT/Planet Lar World Headquarters, and, as such, allows me to attend a comic book convention and yet still sleep in my own bed; and, secondly, because every single person attending the show is really into comics. Unlike bigger cons, where you might get people going to see the costume ball, or the Playboy playmates, or Gary Burghoff, or whatever, APE is the show where everyone coming in just loves the funny books. What's not to like about that?
So, this year, I figured, why not issue a challenge? Want to do comics? Do a twelve page comic story and give it to me at the AiT/Planet Lar compound at APE. I'll see it, publisher Mimi Rosenheim will see it, Brian Wood, Phil Amara and the Sky Ape boys, everyone. We'll all see the fruits of your toil. At least it's a deadline. And if you can't work up twelve pages in two months, well, you really don't want to do a comic, do you?
So, I was telling the missus about the rash of email I got after issuing this challenge, from people who had all sorts of excuses. "I can't draw, I can't write, I don't know what to do, help me." Ordinarily, I tell these people, "If you don't have a story for which you will sweat blood on to a page, I can't help you." I ordinarily think this is clever.
But Mimi said, "Well, hell, yes, you can help them. I can see you not wanting to explain every intricacy of how the world works to everyone all the damn time when how the world works is not a secret, but that doesn't mean you can't help them."
"What?" I said, rather poignantly, I thought.
"You can't help them with their stories, I understand, because you think that a story is a intimately personal thing. But what if there's a really good artist out there, wanting to draw, and just can't hook up with a writer with whom to collaborate? Throw that person a bone," Mimi said.
"What?" I repeated, with the sort of incisive communications skills I'm known for when Mimi presents me with an idea that I would never have thought of on my own.
"I know you don't have time for a full script, and maybe somebody might take it the wrong way, thinking you'll only look at minicomics from your script… but let's just say somebody wants to draw something to show you at APE. Why not use a LOOSE CANNON to give everybody twelve pages of dialogue to work up however they see fit?"
And that, I thought, was a great idea.
So, here you go: no fancy formatting, no pressure, nothing. If you have some artistic talent, and you want to do a comic, but you don't know what to do, here's some dialogue, from me to you. Two people talking. The rest is up to you. Do what you want. Move it around, ignore it; I don't care. Just make a comic. But. If you are into this:
It could be a My Dinner with Andre kinda thing; they could be two people who haven't seen each other for years. Two old friends, one a stay-at-home-dad and the other a guy responsible for building usage at Simmons College. A firefighter and a cop. A guy and a gal. Two astronauts. Climbers on Half Dome. An orthodontist on the phone with his shrink. I don't care.
From me to you: lay it out as you see fit and draw whatever the speech cadence moves you to do, in any form of two-dimensional image on paper. Ink and lines or newspaper clippings or business cards or photos from your junior high school yearbook. Collage or paint or pomegranate squeezings.
Ready; set; go:
1: ...I try to be attentive, but..
2: ..Don't say that… Don't say that word.
2: Fools say that word. I have never in my life heard a normal person say that word. It doesn't sound right.
2: JEEsus! Stop it, will you? Yer creepin' me out.
1: ..she says ..
2: ..You can pay ATTENTION to them; but DON'T do that other thing. Don't even SAY that other thing..
1: It's not like you can get a word caught in your throat, like a bad piece of halibut or somethin'...
2: Would you just bear with me?
2: What did she say?
1: Oh. It was the respect thing. The You-Don't-Love-Me thing. The Keep-the-Goddamn-Lid-of-the-Toilet-Seat-Down thing.
2: You see? This is why I won't get married. What'd you tell her?
1: I told her that I would put the goddamn toilet seat down when she started to put the goddamn toilet seat UP.
2: She didn't like that?
1: I should say not.
2: Well, there is an upside.
1: Which is?
2: We ARE out drinking.
(glasses clink - they set them down & then each stare absently or deeply into them for a while)
1: What IS this we're drinking?
2: Don't ask.
1: No, really..
2: ..I'm not sure.
(another semi-lengthy pause after which they begin their next lines simultaneously)
1: The PROBLEM is that I no longer .. I'm sorry, go ahead.
2: You see, the reason that no one ever .. What did you say..?
1: I suppose the safest thing is to ask, the absinthe? Or the Bosco?
1: Maybe it's Ovaltine...
2: Ah, you're drunk.
1: (knowing look) So, you were saying?
2: Oh, we were in one of those silences where my head was going into the weird place.
1: The weird place?
2: Yeah, you know, like when you've stayed up way too late, you're not drunk, you're not high, you've not had sex, nothing. Just bone tired from an honest day's work.
1: When was the last time you did an honest day's work?
2: Bear with me.
1: Consider yourself bore, sir.
1: OK, OK, the weird place, bone tired, flop into bed, and...?
2: You hear them.
2: The Night Whispers.
1: You get them too?
2: (conspiratorially) Yes! Those small, innocuous voices, that seem to be in-between channels on a midnight car radio.
1: "Hello, Brad."
1: "Hello, Brad." That was the first one I heard.
2: But... your name's not Brad.
1: Yes; disquieting, but not threatening, isn't it? Actually, for a time I thought I must be nuts, but I realize now it's just the background noise of the world that you tune in late, when you're tired, just like that radio station from Abilene you can hear on a clear night. There's not a physical, scientific explanation, but there he is, Johnny Cash at 3:38 am.
2: My great great aunt used to-
1: What did you call her?
1: Your Great Great Aunt..
2: ..we called her Anty. My mom called her Anty and we called her Anty. Anty.
1: Anty. Is she still alive?
2: Somewhere. She's in a Rest Home I think. Anyway..
1: Not "Auntie"?
2: No. Anty. (pause) I come from one of those states that uses both pronunciations. I have aunts and I have ants. So Anty got kind of sick a few years after my Great Grandfather died-
1: Her brother?
1: What did you call him?
2: I don't remember. It was a long time ago. So she gets kind of sick, see?, and she starts hearing these voices..
2: But not like the Night Whispers, see? These are different. It's like she's eavesdropping in on the conversations of this one family. They just talk about stuff and she can hear them clear as if they were in the room with her.
1: Cool. Did they ever acknowledge her? like, you know... talk to her..?
2: ..I asked that same thing.. No. No, they didn't. (pause) But I always used to imagine what it would be like if they did.
2: (pause) Did you read about that guy who got frostbite a couple years ago..? The guy who dug his fingers so far up his nose he touched his brain..?
1: (involuntarily spits a bit of his sip) Bleah!!
2: Yeah. This guy was stranded on a mountain or something and he lost all the feeling in his fingers so, when he picked his nose, he didn't know when to stop. Was rooting around up there for a While, apparently. Now he hears constant music in his head. Music from the 60's & 70's.. whole album sides.. Pretty much non-stop.
2: I read about this in a Medical Journal when I worked for a doctor. There were interviews with him and with the people who rescued him & his team of neurologists...
2: Hears them stereo-clear. They wrote him up. One of a kind thing.
1: What'd they tell him?
2: Ahhh, who knows.. I don't think they ever really tell anyone anything. They're non-sequiturs.
1: Oooh, non-sequiturs, eh, college-boy..? You don't think you can learn something from it just cuz it's got no immediately apparent relevance...?
2: Can we change the subject?
1: Haven't you ever got inspiration or revelation from something around you that had nothing to do with you or your situation? Just something you saw or heard as you passed by..?
2: Can we talk about something else..?
1: Personally, I think that these voice-things speak nonsense for areason.
2: I'm not ready for love.
1: There, you see.
1: Another non-sequitur.
2: That proves nothing.
1: Well, you're not ready for love, are you?
2: Who have you been talking to?
1: Thee and thine, here and there.
2: About what?
1: This and that.
2: And what's the verdict?
1: You're not ready for love.
2: Love's not ready for ME, cowboy.
1: That WAS an option that was briefly bandied about, toyed with, let outside to pee, and then finally taken to the vet and put out of its misery.
2: A nice metaphor.
1: It's what I do.
So, there you go; from me to you. Want to draw a comic but don't know what to do? Draw two folks saying that to each other. Nine panel grids, action, response. Two panels xeroxed over and over and over, I don't care; however you want to lay it out. Cut out what you want, swap it around, whatever. Maybe you'll even read this and say to yourself, "Hell, I can do better than that.
Well, show us.
Just do a comic. Throw all that stuff together, put it in the oven, and bake that casserole.
Email about this column should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, most answers to simple questions you may have about me or my company can be gleaned from http://www.ait-planetlar.com.
While you can get your news about the funny books all over the Internet, I usually make it a point to let slip at least one bit of information at the Loose Cannon Message Board that I post nowhere else. Special thanks this week goes out to my old pal, the improbably-named Rob Lavender, who went back and forth with me on this very thing back in January of '97. Who's got the key to the projection room?