Under The Hood of the CARS Comics: The Start Line

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 Sketch #2 -“The Staircase Is Over There!”

The voice cut across the hotel lobby with the subtlety of a sledgehammer meeting a sheet of plate glass. Every conversation stopped and a percentage of heads turned to identify the source of the strident location finder.

She stood imperiously at the far corner, as far physically from anyone else as possible with her right arm raised, her be-ringed finger pointing in the direction of the aforementioned stairs.

This was a woman who demanded attention, even if she rarely received it. Physically small in stature she projected a voice that seemed impossible for someone of her build. Her lung capacity must be formidable. The lean worn face wore a haughty air of frustration beneath a layer of inexpertly applied make-up. Her bleached blonde hair fell straight and limp. Her shirt displayed a cascade of fringes and garish embroidered patterns of indeterminate origin. The fashionably torn jeans tunneled into a pair pf cowboy boots which seemed to be equally adorned as the shirt.

The woman shrugged, turned, and entered the open elevator doors behind her. The door slid shut and she disappeared from sight.

Conversations resumed, while a few of the hotel guests looked around to see who the directive had been intended for, yet no-one seemed to move in the direction of the indicated stairs. – The recipient remained a mystery.

 

 

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

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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Character Sketches #1 – The Boy Who Watched

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.

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:

quatermain2

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.

 

 

November Rambles.

AlanPorter_003

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.

September – Rambling Around the Web

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…

 

 

 

August Rambles

Wow where did the year go? It’s definitely been an interesting and eventful one for us, with more fun still to come.

If things work out to plan the following books will be heading to a store near you or available on-line before the year is over:

  • The Joy of Joe – with my essay “So Who Is This Joe Fellow You’ve All Been Talking About,” on my recollections of  Action Man.
  • Outside In Boldly Goes – which will contain my take on the classic Star Trek episode “Specter of the Gun.”
  • Quatermain Adventures Vol. 2 – containing my story “Stones of Blood.”

In the meantime you can find a new page on this site with direct links to some of my existing books for sale on Amazon.

Work is continuing on editing the James Bond Lexicon project and compiling information for the follow-on U.N.C.L.E. Lexicon, and I’ve made a return to movie reviewing in my Editor-at-Large role for RevolutionSF. You can find my thoughts on the recent Suicide Squad movie online HERE.

SUICIDE SQUAD

A lot of my focus over the last few months has been around my business writing with several white-papers under my belt as well as developing regular series of weekly blog posts which you can find HERE. This has lead to a couple of additional opportunities to write a regular monthly piece for a leading industry thought-leadership website as well as an article for another prestigious media industry magazine. More on these as stuff is published over the coming months.

 

 

 

July Rambling at ArmadilloCon

It’s great to be living back in Texas. This month saw us move back to our adopted hometown of Austin after a few years away. We really missed the creative community here and the “welcome home” messages have been humbling and overwhelming.

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One of the staples of our years in Austin has been the annual get together at ArmadilloCon and this year will be no different as I’ll be rounding out the month at the convention participating the following panels:

Friday – July 29th

  • Book Collecting
  • 6:00 PM-7:00 PM Ballroom E
  • Muenzler, Person, Porter*, Weisman
  • Panelists will tackle topics including: choosing what to collect, finding collectible books, cataloging the collection, tools for managing a wish list, preservation, and determining the value of a collection.
  • Comic Books You Should Be Reading
  • 10:00 PM-11:00 PM Ballroom F
  • Benjamin, Mark Finn, Humphrey, Porter*, Rogers
  • What comics should we be reading, and why?

Saturday – July 30th

  • Art of the Short Story
  • Noon-1:00 PM  – Southpark A
  • Afsharirad*, Eudaly, M.A. Finn, Person, Porter, Scarber
  • What makes a good short story? How do you as a writer unlock this form?
  • Time Travel Stories
  • Sat 8:00 PM-9:00 PM Southpark A
  • Gibbons, Jewell*, Maresca, Porter, Schwarz
  • What time travel stories do we love in books and on screen? What are the pitfalls? What are the rules for telling time travel stories that work?

Sunday – July 31st

  • Writing as a Day Job
  • Noon-1:00 PM Southpark A
  • Allen, Chu, Ewing*, Fletcher, Porter, Sisson
  • How do you manage having writing as a day job, when you are not writing for yourself?
  • Autographing
  • Sun 1:00 PM-2:00 PM Dealers’ Room
  • Porter, Rose, Waldrop

If you’re in the Austin area, come along and join us for what is always a fun, engaging weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

The June Ramble

June was a month of Conventions and Quatermain. So let’s start with our favorite jungle adventurer. As I mentioned in last month’s Ramble I’d heard that there was an audio edition of my Allan Quatermain story “Golden Ivory” in production. Well a few weeks ago it was released on Audible.com for download and your listening pleasure. As a side note voice actor Jem Matzan posted an interesting article on his blog about how he decided on the different character voices. Its an interesting behind the scenes insight into a side of producing an audio adaptation that I hadn’t thought much about. When I write a story the characters tend to have distinctive voices in my head, but I never imagined having to produce those voices for real, and how you would go about that.

This month I also finished and turned in my new Allan Quatermain novella “Stones of Blood.” The story is scheduled to be included in the upcoming second volume of Allan Quatermain: The New Adventures. I can’t say much about the story as yet, but as a taster it does include a reference to this somewhat incongruous historical scene.

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The two conventions in June were very different in size and scope, but were both great fun. Early in the month was the Peoria Artists and Comics Expo, just in its second year. It was a friendly local con, and we had a great time chatting with a lot of first time convention goers. I also participated in a panel entitled “Storytellers” which proved to be a fun exchange with a interested and engaged audience.

The following weekend I was off to Houston, Texas for Comicpalooza. I last did this show four or five years ago, and boy has it grown in the meantime. Now covering all three floors of Houston’s main convention center, it was a lively and bustling show with something for every member of the family, and every branch of pop-culture and science. It was also one of the best organized large conventions I’ve attended. I appeared on several panels covering subjects such as “Marketing for Writers,” “What Editors Really Want,” “Sherlock is Everywhere,” and “Alternate History.” All were great subjects and the panels were fun and informative. I also got a chance to catch up with several friends, and make a few new ones along the way. One of the highlights of Comicpalooza for me was the “Pros At Cons” podcast interview I did with the team from CCP Comics. It was one of the most relaxed and wide ranging interviews I think I’ve ever done. You can find it on-line at SoundCloud.

Next up on the convention list is a return to one of my perennial favorite events, ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas. You can catch me there between July 29th and 31st.

Writing-wise the focus for July will be the continuing work on planing and plotting the last three issues of the FORGOTTEN CITY comic book series, and the ongoing editing and rewrites for the James Bond Lexicon project.

Have a fun summer, and I’ll be back next month with more updates.