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Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: The Start Line

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So I had been given the go-ahead to write a four issue story line to launch the first CARS comic book series. Where to begin?

To make sure we had an audience the decision was made that rather than an on-going series we would launch with a mini-series to be titled The World of CARS: The Rookie.

My pitch for a prequel story had been to explore the line from the first CARS movie where the lead character, Lightening McQueen, was introduced as “The year’s rookie sensation.” What made him a rookie sensation? How did he arrive on the Piston Cup racing scene.

My idea for the four issue arc was to have a bookend of McQueen being interviewed just before his intro in the movie, and as he told his story in typical self aggrandizing style it would continue in captions as a voice over while the art and dialog showed what actually happened.

After the two page intro the action flashbacked to young aggressive “Bulldozer McQueen” in action on a local short track. And promptly broke one of the Disney rules; when I’d landed the gig I’d asked what the rules were. I was told:  “(1) Don’t create any new characters (2) Don’t write anything that will be in CARS 2.” Of course I asked “Does that mean you’re going to tell me what will be in the next CARS movie?” – The answer was “No. But if you do something we don’t like we’ll let you know.” – Well Rule #2 would come in to play later, but for the first issue I broke Rule #1 on page 3 by introducing two stupid race cars numbered 66 and 99 so I could do a joke about the numbers being flipped when one of them rolled over after being barged off track by McQueen.

Not only did I get away with that in the pages of the comic, those two guys ended up on the cover, and on the poster used to promote the Free Comic Book Day version.

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The  track I chose for the introductory action was modeled on and named for Thunderhill Raceway, our local short track just south of Austin, TX where the family spent many Saturday nights watching some great local racers in action.  About six months after the book came out I got to do an signing at the track, which was a cool event.

After wrecking at the track’s championship race I had the dejected McQueen meeting Mack for the first time. At this point in the story Mack held ambitions to be a race transporter and had studied race car dynamics and was able to offer McQueen some unwanted advice. But poor Mack was stuck working for Eggman Movers – a nod to the moving company featured in Toy Story.  When Mack says that he’s friends with the truck for the leading Dinoco team and could get McQueen into the Piston Cup test sessions a reluctant partnership is formed.

Shortly after this first issue was completed we found out that the book had been selected for BOOM’s Free Comic Book Day title, which meant a 100,000 print run of the FCBD issue. The original plan was to run an interview with me and a few pages of my original script in the back of the FCBD issue, but they were replaced by some preview pages previewing the upcoming Incredibles title by Mark Waid instead which made a lot more commercial sense. Free Comic Book Day that year was special as I ended up doing signings at three different stores across Austin and met a lot of CARS fans of all ages.

The first regular release came with two covers, which became standard procedure for the rest of my CARS issues. It debuted fairly high in the comics sales charts – the best selling all-ages comic that month – and soon sold out with a second printing under yet another cover issued.

Then more special covers were issued for the Emerald City Comic Con, and even a 1:25 store incentive version. – We were of to a great start.

Left to Right:

  • Alternate cover for the regular issue – also used as the cover on the trade-paperback collection.
  • Cover for the second printing.
  • Special foil edition for ECCC limited to 500 copies
  • 1:25 Retailer Incentive edition.  – This design was also used for a special San Diego limited edition hardcover collection.

Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: Getting to Radiator Springs

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With the Disney publicity machine gearing up for the release of CARS 3 in June I’ve seen a renewed interest in the CARS comics that I was lucky enough to write back in 2009/2010 following on from the original CARS movie. So I thought it might be fun to post a few short articles reliving my time hanging out with the denizens of Radiator Springs  and sharing a few of the behind the scenes insights, and some of the references, homages etc. that we sneaked into the scripts.

Getting to Radiator Springs.

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I’m often asked how I landed the gig to write the CARS comics, and my answer is that I simply begged to do it. It was at ComicCon 2008 in San Diego that comics publisher BOOM Studios announced that they would be producing a line of comics based on the Disney*Pixar movies. The announcement also included the news that the editor of the new line would be one Paul Morrissey, who had joined BOOM from manga publisher Tokyopop. It so happened that Paul had been my editor at Tokyopop on the GOD SHOP project.

As a total gear-head CARS was my favorite Disney*Pixar movie, I also think it is a straight forward fun movie with a great message even if you aren’t that interested in cars. So at San Diego I tracked down Paul and basically begged saying something along the lines of, “I don’t care what anyone else is pitching for, I want to write the CARS comic.” It turned out that most people had asked about writing The Incredibles, or Toy Story*, so the list I was competing with was shorter.

As we walked and talked I pitched Paul a story I had in mind that he seemed to like, so he asked me to come back the next day with four story ideas. I was back at the BOOM booth at 8:00am the next morning with five, the last one being a throw away idea of doing a ‘prequel’ to the movie that told Lightning McQueen’s back story that I knew that Disney would never let me do. I mean if anyone was going to do an ‘origin’ story for one of their lead characters it would be Disney. Right?

Paul reviewed the ideas and took them to Disney, who also approved them. The last day of the convention I got the news from Paul that I was to be the writer on the new CARS comic book series, oh and Disney wanted to kick things off with the origin story.

It was time to start writing – Ka-Chow!

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* I also  also asked to pitch for Toy Story and developed a four issue story arc that was approved and even announced and promoted, but that never saw the light of day – but that’s a whole other story for another blog entry.

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November Rambles.

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I’m in the middle of doing some research for an essay that is scheduled to appear in a friend’s business book, but decided to take a quick break to do my monthly update post (Although I just realized I missed last month – oops).

The essay in question is the last of the various essays and short stories I had scheduled for 2016. By my count I now have the following work sitting at various publishers waiting for projects to be completed and published:

  • Short story featuring Rick Ruby, Private Eye
  • Short story featuring Allan Quatermain (and special guest).
  • Essay on Action Man
  • Essay for a Star Trek Original Series project
  • Essay for a Star Trek: The Next Generation project
  • Essays for two business books

Hopefully some of these see the light of day over the coming months.

For 2017 I’ve decided to take a short sabbatical from accepting these sort of short side assignments and focus on completing my four major ongoing projects.

  • The FORGOTTEN CITY comic book series (of which I have the final three issues to write).
  • Complete the revisions and additions to the James Bond Lexicon
  • Complete the research phase for the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon
  • and get a polished draft together for my novel-in-progress.

So here’s to focus and a productive year ahead at the keyboard.

The May Ramble

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Once again I just manged to sneak in under the wire with this month’s update on various writing related goings on.

Work continues on editing and updating the James Bond Lexicon manuscript to include the newest 007 adventures including the latest movie, SPECTRE, as well as novels such as Trigger Mortis, Shoot to Kill, and the Vragar comic book series. My own personal 007 adventures continued with a great weekend earlier this month with fellow members of the Ian Fleming Foundation as we moved the IFF collection of vehicles into a new larger workshop home. (Here I am hanging out with the helicopter that chased Sean Connery’s Bond in From Russia With Love).

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While the Bond Lexicon may be still be someways away from publication, it looks like there will be at least two books published this year that will contain a few words from me.I have handed in my essay on Action Man for the upcoming Joy of Joe book celebrating the worlds of G.I. Joe. And I was delighted to find out that the Star Trek themed charity project Outside Boldly Goes is now scheduled for release later in 2016. This fun project includes my take on the classic Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun”.

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Another cool surprise this month was finding out that there is an audio version of my Allan Quatermain novella, “Golden Ivory“, in production. I’m looking forward to hearing that.

On the comics front I completed and turned in the scripts for the new licensed comics gig I mentioned in the last few newsletters. Unfortunately the publishers and studio involved decided to make some significant changes to the length and tone of the projected series, so my scripts now won’t be used. A shame, but it was a good learning experience. Work on FORGOTTEN CITY continues with the first trade-paperback collection almost ready for publication. Plans are in place for the final three issues (#13-15), while work continues on producing issues #6-12.

Talking of comics, I’m looking forward to two great comics conventions in the next few weeks with the Peoria based Artist & Comics Expo taking place the weekend of June 11th and 12th, and then it’s off to Houston, Texas, the following weekend for Comicpalooza (June 17-19). Hope to see some of you there.

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The February Ramble (Only Just…)

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I guess I really snuck under the wire to be able to call this the February edition of my newsletter (Hey there may only be a few hours left on the evening of Leap Day, but it is technically still February.)

A definite highlight of this month was the signing we did at the excellent Lit. On Fire used bookstore in Peoria. The signing was held in conjunction with their “open mic” night, with local singer Caron Easley kicking off events. I did a short intro talking about the books I had on sale that night which quickly evolved into an hour or more of questions and discussions about  whole range of topics. There were some great questions and some fascinating conversations. – Oh yeah, we managed to sell a few books too. In fact Jessica Stephenson, the owner of Lit. On Fire, has been a great promoter of local authors and did sterling work in getting the word out about the event and continuing to promote the books afterwards. If you are ever in the Peoria, IL area make sure to stop by and visit her excellent, and growing, bookstore.

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Our next event will be a trip to the C2E2 show in Chicago at the end of March – looking forward to what should be a fun weekend of pop-culture goodness.

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In terms of writing projects the focus this month has primarily been on the current (but still unannounced) work-for-hire licensed comics series with two scripts having been completed and turned in.

Rewrites for the James Bond Lexicon and research for the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon book projects have also been continuing as a background task as we slowly, but surely, make progress on those.

I’ve also agreed to contribute an essay for an upcoming book that celebrates the long lasting appeal of the G.I. Joe toys; however I’ll be taking a slightly different approach as I’ll be writing about his cousin from across The Pond – The British version “Action Man,” that recently celebrated it’s 50th anniversary.

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Some of you may have spotted the appearance of a new entry on the list of pages above. I have started to pull together a full list (as far as possible) of all my writing credits over the years. – More on that next month, but if you want to check out how it’s progressing just click on the Bibliography menu item.

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Rambling into a New Year – January 2016

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It’s been a rough few months since I last wrote an update on this blog. Without going into too much details, we’ve faced some serious family health issues, and while things aren’t 100% clear yet, the future is looking better. But during it all we’ve kept writing – maybe not at the speed or the frequency that we’d have like, but putting words on the page, while sometimes a struggle, has provided much needed escape and therapy.

As we kick off the New Year we are looking towards a brighter future and to getting more words written, more stuff published, and planning to get back out to meet more readers.

Here’s our provisional 2016 Signing and Convention schedule so far:

  • Lit On Fire – Peoria IL – February 17th
  • C2E2 – Chicago IL – March 18-20
  • Wizard World St.Louis – April 1-3
  • Indiana Comic Con – April 29-May 1
  • Peoria Arts and Comics Expo – June 11-12
  • Comicpalooza – Houston TX – June 18-19
  • WizardWorld Columbus OH – July 29-31

While things may have slowed down we are still working on our on-going writing projects.

COMICS: The script for Issue #12 of FORGOTTEN has been turned in, and work is progressing on final edits for the trade collection collecting Issues #1-5. Work has also started on scripts for a new licensed comics gig that will be announced around mid-year.

THE LEXICON PROJECTS: We have received the manuscript for the JAMES BOND LEXICON back from the publishers with editorial comments, so we are currently doing any corrections or rewrites needed, plus we need to add in new information from the new movie (SPECTRE), the latest Bond novel, (Trigger Mortis), and the new Bond comic book series (VARGR). – Meanwhile background research continues for the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon project.

Thanks for bearing with us during the few months of silence.

See you on the page in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

The September Ramble

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It’s been a busy couple of months for us in the Super Spy world with progress on both our Lexicon projects.

man-from-uncle-united-network-command-for-law-enforcement       Starting off with the good folks at the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement,  the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie while not setting the box-office alight, seems to have been enjoyed by those who did see it, and is developing something of a following and an extended run in many theaters. The buzz around teh movie has definitely generated renewed levels of interest in the original TV show and all things U.N.C.L.E. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, we highly recommend repeat viewings. It’s great fun and a wonderful homage to the spirit of the classic sixties spy movies. You can hear my thoughts about the movie on a recent episode of the Earth Station One podcast.

Research on the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon is going to schedule and we recently passed the 50% mark with over 150 U.N.C.L.E stories watched or read, annotated and notes written up to date.

In other book news we have decided on a slight title change from “The Lexicon Affair” (which was cute for fans of the existing show), to “The U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon” as that will appeal to a broader audience, and it’s how we’ve been referring to the book on various social media channels anyway. – You can follow the book’s progress on Twitter at @UNCLE_Lexicon or on the associated Tumblr account.

bond       Things are also moving along with the James Bond Lexicon project. We have the copy edited manuscript of the James Bond Lexicon back from publishers. We are now going through editorial notes & planning any updates and rewrites that might be needed. Unfortunately some family medical issues will slow things down over the  next few months so it is very doubtful that the book will be out in time to coincide with the release of  the new Bond movie, SPECTRE, as originally planned. However the delay will give us time to add in some new Bond stories that have been published this year. In the mean time enjoy the build up to Bond’s next screen adventure. – Again you can follow the book’s progress on Twitter at @BondLexicon or on the associated Tumblr account.

COMICS NEWS

NEW COMICS PROJECT – I’m delighted to have been signed on to provide several scripts for a new licensed property comics series from one of the major animation studios. The series won’t be announced until sometime in the first half of 2016 so I can’t say much more yet. More news as and when I can share it.

FORGOTTEN CITY – The second story arc issues (#6-10) are in various stages of production as the Kid Domino team get them ready for uploading to comiXology for digital distribution. I have turned in the script for Issue #11 and have seen the first pas at the page layouts – they are looking great.  The script for Issue #12 is also underway.

FC1-5Work is also underway on pulling together the first story-arc (issues #1-5) in a trade-paperback for eventual print distribution. In the meantime don’t forget that issues #1 thru 5 are still available as digital downloads at comiXology for just $1.99 each

As a reminder, for more frequent updates, comments, and general observations on life you can follow me on Twitter @alanjporter or on Instagram. For a full list of published work to date check out my website at AlanJPorter.com

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