Monday, March 26, 2007

Back Luck Inc. Character Preview two - MinRep

(Bad Luck Inc. title logo created by the talented Brian J. Crowley (http://crowleyart.net/)




This sinister looking gentleman here, is MinRep. The antagonist of Bad Luck Inc. and the embodiment of everything that is unpleasant and bad in corporate life.

(This isn’t to say I think corporate life is automatically unpleasant and bad, but for the purposes of the story that's exactly what is represented here.)

MinRep is something of a mystery, a person who you can only truly judge via the subtext of what he tells you, because he's not the sort of person to tell you about himself openly unless he's boasting or berating. If you've worked in a large office before, chances are you know someone like MinRep. That smug grin. An overbearing attitude. A posture of superiority.

His description in the script is as follows:

"He sports a light tan, and has short black hair. He's sporting a bemused and cruel smile. There's a sharpness to his eyes that suggest this man has the potential to be a total utter bastard."




Is he like this for the sake of it or more from being a product of his environment? Nature, nurture or a bit of both? There's no real answer directly in the story to truly satisfy this, although he provides a reflection of sorts against Neon, who is affected by both nature and nurture, but tied in with the obvious overall theme that Bad Luck Inc. as a company is also a product of both (nature = human nature and nurture = created to satisfy the human need for corporate driven order through control over more random elements/chaos, e.g. 'luck'). So in essence, you could say Neon is more the positive flip side to corporate life, the representation of the 'worker' to MinRep's detached management role – a person who sees employees as assets rather than human beings. To him, Bad Luck Inc., corporate life and what the company stands for is everything. Worse, MinRep sees the company as a mirror image of humanity and society's urge to have control at all costs; paradoxically an ultimately destructive desire to cease destruction… or at least destruction outside controllable methods.

So to MinRep, to betray the company is to betray yourself and everything that makes you human.

The origins behind MinRep's name is actually one of many Easter Eggs that exist within the story. I've written Bad Luck Inc. to have several subtexts (some of which should be personal to the reader) and by its very nature has a number of little details that will only really become evident on at least a second reading. Like 'Neon', MinRep's name is one of the little nuggets I've placed in the tale to hint towards something, but I'll be saving that for a more in-depth 'expose' to the story in a month or so. But if you can work out the genesis of MinRep's name, then you can work out part (not all) of Bad Luck Inc.'s tonal influence and from that little clues that break off to reveal other story factors.




There's certainly more to MinRep than first appears, although I leave much of that out the story. Bad Luck Inc. is a pilot of sorts, as I did consider it for a full blown series should the story be favourably received, so there are number of 'what ifs' laid subtly in the plot that can be followed up if I decide to go that route; MinRep being one of them.

But that's for another time.

Next Bad Luck Inc. preview will be focusing on a very strange character called, Democritus. And yes, his name is symbolically related to the Greek philosopher - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democritus. Lots of clues there, needless to say…

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The calm before the preview

Before I launch into this week's Bad Luck Inc. preview, just a quick update on things.

Tales From the Plex Volume 2, where Bad Luck Inc. will be included, is about this close *holds thumb and finger a centimetre apart* from being completed. The Editor, the brilliant (don't tell him I said that!) Daniel Lundie, is preparing the final stages of editing, proofing, production and such, which means the launch is very very close. I'll provide links to where it'll be on sale once it's all clear and ready. Sadly, the parent site, Futurius, has gone down through the hosting company screwing Dan over, which means the prior links I provided where all the creators of the anthology hang out is temporarily gone.

The flip side to this is that Dan has set up a merchandise page which sells funky related Tales from the Plex 2 related clothing and goodies. It's over at http://www.cafepress.com/futurius, so give it a look.

More WiiChat articles went up last week (working on a biggie for tomorrow as well) and can be found here:
http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/20741-why-wii-will-win-console-war.html (Why Wii Will Win The Console War) and here http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/21037-7-ways-improve-virtual-console.html (7 Ways To Improve The Virtual Console). The former proved to be stupidly popular, actually getting some heavy hits on Dig.com for a while through a rampant fanboy argument surge. Ironically, that same rampant fanboy argument surge killed its Dig-ability within 24 hours. But still – it proved a valuable example for me on how to tap a vein of popularity.


My Spider-Man: Reign #4 review also went up last week hours after my last update here. And it promptly got me into a brief and utterly stupid fight. You can read all the drama over at the review link, here: http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=41644. Naturally there's no real point to the flame war that broke out and I think I explain myself more than enough there to bother going into detail about it here, but this is the nature of people and via proxy, the internet. The younger me would have responded in verbal kind, but that's exactly the reason why the current me didn’t.

I saw 300 last night and it was indeed glorious. Much better, in fact, than the generally excellent graphic novel it was based on. A beautiful film to watch, and hugely entertaining. People will naturally try and find as much subtext as they can in its telling, but I'd consider that probably going a bit overboard. Its factual/historical accuracy is pretty shaky to say the least and it's a story designed to tell the simple principle of freedom vs. tyranny and how the few can make a difference against the many. And beyond that, how history can be subjected to myth and legend regardless of who the 'winner' is. But really, most of all, it's just a damn well-made popcorn flick.

Right. I'm still stupidly busy and suffering from man-flu, so I'll get on with the Bad Luck Inc. preview to follow later today or tomorrow (given the project's imminent completion, I may have some lettered pages to throw up instead of the unlettered ones, so we'll see how that plays out).

See you in a few.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Something about "late" and "date"

This isn’t a proper update.

Nope, that's coming… well, maybe not tonight or tomorrow, but soon. Basically I'm snowed (bah, weather) with stuff at the moment and trying to keep my head above water with the numerous assignments I've got threatening to break my skull. There wasn’t going to be another Bad Luck Inc. preview till next week anyway as those will be bi-weekly, so in lieu of a proper update I bring you the reasons why a proper update is currently missing.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer #1 - review:
http://www.comixfan.com/xfan/forums/showthread.php?t=41642

7 Most wanted features for Wii Sports 2 - feature:
http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/20390-7-most-wanted-features-wii-sports-2-a.html

5 Things every Wii game should have - feature:
http://www.wiichat.com/nintendo-wii-articles/20094-5-things-every-wii-game-should-have.html

On top of that I've been thinking of something suitably inane to write for my biography to be inserted in the oh-so-soon-it's-nearly-here Tales from the Plex Vol 2. And also take a photo of myself for it. Preferably one where I don’t look like a maniac/freako/Sloth. This is a difficult task indeed.

There's lots of other stuff I'm tangled in and can't show, but it's all very exciting. Well, for me it is. Probably not so much for you yet.

Right, I have a Spider-Man: Reign #4 review to finish, so I'll be on my way for now. Both this, and the Buffy review are likely to gather some interesting reactions one way or another, so I'm probably going to be bouncing around for a while, with another WiiChat feature due tomorrow (lots to do!).

In the meantime, to tide you over, here's a little art snippet from two other characters to be profiled in my Bad Luck Inc. previews. They'll remain nameless for now, but they're not very nice people. Just in case you didnt quite get the hint via the framing and sinister sneers...








See you in a few!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Back Luck Inc. Character Preview one - Neon




This is the main character of the story, Neon, and our entry into a world of corporate hell.

Drawn by the excellent Yui Marr, Neon is has gone through a bizarre evolution in the process of Bad Luck Inc.'s conception and eventual realisation. If you've spoken to me about this story, you may know that this whole story was created by a dream I had.

Where I was working for Satan.

And wanted to leave.


Yeah. I know. I'm weird.

This dream was among my more… lucid, examples, but had enough elements clear when I woke to allow me to create a sci-fi based story from it. The question that emerged in my head was, 'what if you were working for what was considered The Ultimate Evil and wanted to leave?' In my dream, Satan was naturally unhappy about me wanting to escape his employ (I was fed up with killing people, apparently) and sent his best killers after me to make me a very dead example of How Not To Do Things. So in true action movie style, I grabbed my mark, told her I didn’t want to kill her and work for The Devil anymore and tried to escape, leading to a merry chase of death and destruction. I work up before the dream could enter its third and final Act.

So, my mind played with this a while. A literal Devil would perhaps be relatively inconceivable for a short sci-fi based story such as this, but what if The Devil was a corporate business? The biggest one on the globe? Controlling a large section of society and politics, and as such, the world?

Hell, I'd not too long quit my job and it’s a relatable theme to many people. The metaphor is certainly easy enough. So why not?

How about creating a company that encapsulates the worst aspects of corporate life and control – a company that helps fix elections, creates diseases only it has the cure for (and so forces an endemic which it controls profits from), controls the stock market growth and crashes and basically acts as an umbrella corporation to every conspiracy theory out there?

What if there was no such thing as coincidence? How far does the concept of Free will and Fate/Determinism go when a group of people control so much? Is there really such a thing as 'luck' when they toy with the elements which emcompass it?

And so the corporation, Bad Luck Inc., was formed.

Neon represents a person struggling against the machine – doing something that we've all done at one point or another – reaching a point where we stand up and say "I've had enough." But what happens when you say that to the largest and most controlling conglomerate on Earth?




There's obvious parallels to The Matrix here, which I decided to play on very very early in the story's creation. Neon was actually called 'Muon' at first, as to allow for an obvious futuristic slant, but when I realised there was something I could use thematically and visually, I changed it to play with reader expectation; a man trying to escape a world he no longer believes in? Free will vs. Fate/Determinism? Hell, there's even a slight look of Keanu in Neon. And we're only one letter off "Neo", right? Yup. And it's all for a reason, which I'm obviously not going to divulge here. The Wachowski brothers will not be knocking on my door with lawyers in tow, though – I just like messing with your brain on multiple levels.



Neon is a Human Resources drone for Bad Luck Inc., working for them over 10 years and has finally decided he's done with the company. So, with the help of a industrial espionage handler, he's given the tools to extract himself; security passes, building schematics and a gun.


Page one (unlettered) of Bad Luck Inc.


My script description of Neon on Page one is as such:

"…a man aged around 35, mixed race, handsome. He wears smart clothing, but as the reader is about to discover, we're in the future, so nothing too close to what we see now. He sports a tattoo just below his collarbone above his chest which we can see says "6:7" and a subtle ear piece, which he's touching to hear his instructions."




Neon is blessed with a wife and child, both of which have forced him to make a decision to leave - he simply doesnt want to be part of a world like this any more, nor does he want his daughter to grow up directly in a place which leeches you of your morals and soul. Naturally it wont be as easy as that, but he's had enough of helping humankind into the self destructive hole it's comfortably resting in.

Something worth noting, however. Neon has been working at Bad Luck Inc. for over a decade. And only now finally done something about it. There's a question mark over how much of a person's soul is already eroded by being in that sort of environment for so long before finally taking a moral stand.

If you're unhappy with your job, how long do you wait before doing something about it? Does society pen you in and force you to stick it through because of your family and mortgage? Do you stay unhappy to keep within the established rules of that society? How far do you take personal sacrifice over personal happiness? Is there a line?

Do we even have a choice at all?



More previews in the coming weeks.

A flirtation with procrastination

Was so close to putting this off -again- because of several reasons:

1) There's been several bits of good news regarding my comic work

2)
Laziness

3) The Futurius Anthology which it's featured in is still at least a month off

4) Because of reasons 1) and 2), plus all the hubbub over my birthday last week (thanks again to all for the well wishes, cards and presents – although to the person who sent me a late card today, only for the postage to be totally inadequate and now forcing me to pay £1.05 to pick it up from the Delivery Office… I'm afraid you only get an embarrassing shake of the head… I appreciate the thought, though), things have been chaotic. Not helped by my scheduling problems here which has pushed me from updating every Sunday to now 'whenever suits'. So I'll go back to a Sunday schedule or thereabouts next week.


However, I've decided if I get the ball rolling now on the previews, probably doing these every two weeks in the countdown to publication, as to space things out. The weeks in-between I may finally be able to unveil my good news - although some of you may already know anyway. Needless to say, it involves more of my dirty words being spread to the globe. And actually getting a little money from it, too. By the end of the year, many more people will be exposed to the vagaries of my mind. Please refrain from egging me in the streets until then, however. Your cooperation is appreciated.

Right, Bad Luck Inc. previews, then. That will be in the next post, sometime in the following hours it takes me to consult my plot and character notes and dig out some artwork. Back in a moment…

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

An interlude in the eye of the beholder



I wasn’t planning this, but I thought: the hell with it. Why not share.

There's a couple things happening with my comic work this week, one of which I cant quite publicly divulge yet until the ink dries (but it's good news), the other is what you'll see here.

As previously noted, I've stumbled across a new artist to draw one of my full 22-page story scripts that will hopefully be published by the end of this year. And I have to count my blessings, because I'm very lucky with who I find when I actually discover someone who wants to work with me, because they're amazingly talented.

The person who will be drawing Butterflies and Moths, is called Ariyana. She's not worked on a comic fully before and is extremely humble about her talents, when in reality her artwork has little need to be humble at all.

She recently sent through her first batch of sketches for the main character of Butterflies and Moths; Angelica.




They're an utterly beautiful batch of sketches and do what every writer hopes their artist partner hopes they will do – capture the essence of what you wrote in the script. In this particular case, Ariyana more than 'gets it'; she's totally captured the character on her first go better than I ever could have imagined. I describe Angel in my script as such:

"She's healthy and very pretty/cute looking, but wears a look of being worn and tired, a strong young woman who's had to deal with a lot of pain and tough decisions, pushing by each day as it comes."


And subtly, that's all there in the numerous sketches. Posture, body language, eyes, expression, little details that make up the complexion of character, captured in several stills. It's not easy to be able to do this sort of thing, because facial expression in naturalistic drama based comic books is a bit like acting. Make things too obvious and it becomes hammy because the little things count for larger aspects. Stuff like the way Angel holds her cigarette, the way she hangs her head and such are all things you can take for granted on first glance, but are deeply important to the tone and feel of the story at large. And if you look at the smoke trail, you get a lovely little touch that's far more important than first seems, although until you read the story it's mostly 'just' a smart (and unprompted – Ariyana put it in herself, which was a fantastic idea) nod to the title.

Butterflies and Moths is perhaps the most personal (completed) story I've written to date. It covers a bit of ground over my thoughts and feelings the past couple years – it is by no means a total reflection of them or my experiences on a whole, but the sentiment behind it is fuelled by showing its readers about the person who I was, the person who I changed into and the question mark of who I will ultimately become. As with many of my stories, it has no easy answers and requires readers to put something of themselves into it to get as much back out. Hopefully it'll at least make you think.

It's all a bit early to show anything else at this stage – so I'll get back to the planned schedule of previewing Bad Luck Inc. in more depth for the next few entries. Consider this a sneak preview of the next major story in-line.

Thanks as always for peeking in.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Martini People

Heh.

Bit later than planned, here's some pics from the recent birthday outing (not mine – I'm not even sure if I can be bothered to go out next week for it anymore, too many other things going on); Mark's 28th.

There's an amusing, if slightly alarming story to go with this: After we had a meal at Strada, we decided to hit Mailbox's bars (as we were there already), knowing that the Mailbox is often Birmingham's version of the most pretentious Central London nightlife and shopping areas you can find.

So, after the meal, we head to a bar. Cant remember the name of this one, but all 12 of us stroll in – it seems like a nice place, live piano playing, open space, modern d├ęcor…

But as soon as we walk in:

- The piano player almost stops playing.
- The whole bar looks around.
- Some people actually stop drinking to stare.

Hmmm.

We ended up giving this place about 2 minutes before being pretty pissed off about the whole thing, so we turn around and head out – apparently to the sound of one old man saying "oh, they're going now." Ah, sweet prejudice, how I love thee, let me count the ways!

Interesting place. And by "interesting", I actually mean "may it burn in the eternal fires of Hades."

Anyhoo, here are the pics. I'll let these hang till sometime week, then get back to some comic book story previews for the following weeks. Oh, and a couple features over at WiiChat have recently gone up:

10 Sure-Fire Ways To Get People Touching Your Wii


And:


Wii - A Gateway to Porn and Pedobear?


Yes, as their titles suggest, they're both meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek satire, and they're rife with rude innuendo. Read at your own peril - and remember, I'm not being serious. No need to take it the wrong way like so many people did with Mark Millar's brilliantly deadpan jibe at gamers recently (which half the gaming community got riled up about needlessly – HE WAS JOKING, FER CRYIN' OUT LOUD! I DID AN INTERVIEW WITH HIM FOR YAHOO ABOUT HIM WANTING TO DO A VIDEOGAME BACK IN 2004, SHEESH!)

People!

Oh, last thing (promise) - if you're not watching Heroes yet, then please please please start. Along with Battlestar Galactica, it's one of the best things going on TV and I really prefer to see this sort of stuff than Dancing on Ice. Do it for the children! The children! *wipes away a dramatic, Captain America-like tear*

Pics!