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Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: The Big Break

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In many ways writing the second issue of a new comics series is a lot harder than writing the first one. When launching a new series or story arc you know what the overall idea is about, and you’ve already come up with an opening that you hope will hook the reader into wanting to pick up the next issue, and the one after that, and so on. This makes the second issue the real foundation of the series.  In the first issue we had introduced the young out of control McQueen. I wanted the second issue to progress his story to the point that he was ready to race in The Piston Cup and looked a little more familiar. So how did I approach that challenge? Once more I returned to the source material; the movie.

Cars2BThe World of Cars: The Rookie #2 – Cover B by Allen Gladfelter

In the movie Mack reminds McQueen that no matter how much he dislikes the clients of Rust-eze, it was the owners of that same company who gave him his big break. So what was that break, and how did he end up with the Rust-eze sponsorship in the first place?

I opened up this issue continuing the narrative caption overview with the TV interview switching to Mack who gave us his version of what had happened in the previous issue. A nice way of doing a recap for new readers yet still fitting it into the overall narrative flow.

At the end of the last issue, thanks to Mack’s connections we had McQueen arriving at a Piston Cup test session hoping to impress one of the big teams. Ever confident he starts off asking the top running Dinoco team to give him a chance with predictable results. With each refusal he works his way along the pit lane asking each team. The fun part in this sequence was coming up with different ways to tell essentially the same scene, McQueen asks for a test run and is refused, over and over without it becoming boring. I decided to pick five of the race teams we’d seen on track in the movie and give them each a distinctive personality that produced correspondingly different ways to give McQueen the brush off.

Mack eventually persuades McQueen to go talk to the Rust-eze team whose car is on track. I decided that the incumbent Rust-eze car should be a one time great racer who was past his best, sort of like an alternate version of The King. As the design of The King in the movie was based on Richard Petty’s iconic 1970 Plymouth Superbird, I thought it would be fun to have this racer be based on another Petty car, the Dodge Charger he drove from 1971 to 1974.  In the original script I had this car carrying the number #57. This was the number McQueen had in many of the early CARS movie concept sketches and story board images I’d seen. The #57 was a nod to CARS creator and Pixar head honcho John Lassiter’s birth year. But I guess that attempt to include a Pixar style easter-egg wasn’t approved as by the time the comic arrived in the stores this new race car was carrying the #01. And yes I’d broken the “no new characters” rule again but that transgression had slipped by.

The story had the old car crash during the test after blowing a tire, and promptly retiring on the spot. This of course leaves the Rust-eze guys wondering what to do, when Mack literally pushes McQueen into their pit and announces his buddy can run the test. The reluctant McQueen with newly applied Rust-eze logos promptly heads out onto track and breaks the track record.

With a new found sense of over-confidence and his place in the Rust-eze team secured McQueen heads of to his first Piston Cup race.

Cover A by Allen Gladfelter | Cover C – Photo cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Character Sketches #1 – The Boy Who Watched

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When I was sorting out various boxes from our recent move I came across a collection of my old notebooks, and of course I had to take a look through them. The first few I pulled out dated back to my early writing days and contained several ‘character sketches.’ These weren’t sketches as in drawings, but rather short written observational pieces.

One of the earliest pieces of advice I’d been given about writing was to carry a notebook and at least once a day sit down somewhere; a park, mall, train station, coffee shop, or similar and just watch people. Then pick out a person and use them as a visual prompt for creating a quick 200 word piece. How would you describe them? Why were they there? What bought them to this point? Did they suggest or spark ideas for alternate stories?

While I’ve stayed in the habit of carrying a note book (although I wasn’t using it as much as I should) over the intervening years I’d stopped doing those short sketches.  Until now. I’ve committed to myself that for 2017 I’m going to get back into the habit of ‘sketching’ and will post the results on this blog.

So to start the process here’s a little something I wrote over lunch today:

The Boy Who Watched.

At first glance he appeared to be about fifteen years of age, or maybe even a few years younger. It was a misconception that he used to his advantage, for who would take such a young boy seriously? He kept to the edges of the room; watching everything, but noticed by none.

Standing about five feet tall, he had a rounded, almost cherubic, face and smooth features that had yet to display any signs of stubble or beard. The eyes were bright and shone with the promise of youth, yet the lids were heavy and he wore an aura that suggested a lifetime of experience well beyond his apparent years.

He wore a simple combination of a black buttoned down shirt and clean boot cut jeans without any adornment. On his feet he wore simple black sneakers that allowed him to circumnavigate the room without sound.

There were several others in that crowded room dressed in a similar manner. Men and women mostly in their early to mid-twenties. The careful observer could discern that these patrons would occasionally glance in the direction of the boy, who with an almost imperceptible nod or shake of the head would approve or reject some proposed action.

The quiet boy by the wall didn’t just watch the room, he controlled it – and everyone in it.

The Last Ramble of 2016 – Actually it wasn’t all that bad after all.

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It seems to be the general consensus that the last twelve months has cumulatively amounted to a pretty shitty year. It’s definitely had its moments, and most of them have seemed bad.  On a personal front we as a family have had some down times in 2016, but we’ve also experienced some profoundly incredible moments.

Writing wise I’ve also had some disappointments this year with work not getting published as originally planned; but that’s all part of the game. The year finished strong with two new books published that contained some of my work. So keep a look out for:

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Quatermain: The New Adventures Vol. 2 – that contains my new short story “Stones of Blood,” that takes Quatermain from the streets of London, and an encounter with a certain young consulting detective, to the battlefields of the first Boer War in search of diamond smugglers.

BoldlyGo

Outside In Boldly Goes – that includes “Trouble in Tombstone” – An alternate report of the events of the classic Star Trek episode Specter of the Gun.

Some of the other highlights of 2016 have included (in no particular order):

  • My weekly blog post series at the OpenText Blog, as well as a new monthly column at CMS Wire.
  • A return to doing movie reviews for RevolutionSF
  • Fun times at various conferences and conventions including the Content Marketing World, Lavacon, DX Summit, Peoria Comic Con, Comicpalooza, Armadillocon, and WizardWorld Austin.
  • Guesting on several podcasts such as Batman vs James Bond, Pros@Cons, White Rocket and more.
  • Having two of my stories recorded as Audio Book versions on Audible.
  • and of course writing a lot of stuff that’s still in the pipeline that will be published next year.

Talking of next year I’ve decided to drop the (mainly) monthly Ramble format for this newsletter and instead I’m planning on diving back into my archives to present some behind the scenes stuff, as well as some insights into current projects, on a  (hopefully)more frequent basis.

Look out 2017  – it’s going to be fun.

 

 

September – Rambling Around the Web

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ajp-comicpgSomething a little different this month. Instead of an update of various writing topics, I thought it was about time I did an updated collection of notes about where you can find me online.

I’m doing a lot of business related writing at the moment, particularly around the subjects of Content Strategy, Content Marketing, and Customer Experience. You can find new blog posts weekly at the OpenText Blog, as well as a new monthly column at CMS Wire. I’m also re-posting selected blogs on LinkedIn and The Content Pool website. If social media is more your style I post links to most of the articles on @TheContentPool Twitter account, and on The Content Pool Facebook page.

Several of my pop-culture projects have their own dedicated sites online.

  • Batman – Check out the ongoing history of Batman publications at “Batman on the Cover” on Tumblr, or Instagram.
  • James Bond – For updates on the progress of the James Bond Lexicon, general Bond news, and a weekly Bond Trivia quiz follow the BondLexicon Twitter account; of follow us on Tumblr for Bond related artwork.
  • U.N.C.L.E. – Likewise we have Twitter and Tumblr accounts charting the work underway on the U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon project.
  • Although not directly related to any writing projects I also have a Tumblr account that celebrates my love of plastic model kits, and their box art.

For more general writing news, as well as this website, you can follow my writer’s page on FaceBook, or via my profiles at Amazon or Goodreads.

And for general day-to-day stuff, wacky observations, the occasional bit of news, and to experience my passion for motor-sports, space, history, and many other strange things you can follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr.

So hope to see you around the web somewhere…

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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