Free Comic Script Day: The Long Count

May 6th, 2011comics

As you may know, Free Comic Book Today is tomorrow. If you have a favorite local joint (mine happens to be the excellent Westfield Comics), head over to grab some exclusive issues and previews of upcoming titles from a variety of publishers.

But today, at least over here, it’s Free Comic Script Day.


Back in 2007, I had signed a deal with Archaia Studios Press, publishers of Artesia, Mouse Guard, and many other great titles, to write a twelve-issue series called The Long Count. The story centered on famed sports star Carmen Sandoval, her history with the serpent-god Quetzacoatl, and how her personal destiny meshed with the fate of the world and the coming change foretold in the titular calendar. The comic took place in an alternate America known as Colombiana, one where the “Southern Tribes” of the Mayans and Aztecs conquered their northern brethren prior to Europe’s western expansion. So, when the Europeans showed up on the shores of the “New World”, war broke out with the Spanish, Dutch, and English on one side and the Mayan/Aztec alliance on the other. The Tribes pushed back, slaughtering the Dutch and the English, eventually making peace with the Spanish, allowing them access to their land in exchange for weapons, medicine, and other technology. History, primarily told through flashbacks intertwined with Carmen’s story, went on from there.

The story took place primarily in Colombiana’s capitol city, Nueva Cempoala, and incorporated a heavy dose of Mayan and Aztec mythology, history, and culture.

I was proud of the story Leanne, the illustrator, and I cooked up, and the folks at Archaia were pretty jazzed as well. Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond the publisher’s or my control, the project fell apart, and only one issue ever saw publication. Which is a shame, because I think I did some good writing on the project and I was excited to see it continue. Joe Illidge, my editor on the project, gave great feedback and guidance while the comic fans I let read the scripts really enjoyed the characters, the world, and seeing the plot unfold.

Of the twelve scripts, I finished four of them (and did a fair bit on the fifth) before the project went south. I’ve sat on them for years but, in fit of nostalgia, dug them up recently and have decided to put them online for anyone who’s interested.

Here are links to the PDF versions of the scripts (language warning):

The Long Count #1: The Silence Inside Her Heart, Part One

The Long Count #2: The Silence Insider Her Heart, Part Two

The Long Count #3: The Old Blood

The Long Count #4: The Permanence of Stains, Part One

If you get a chance to read them, I’d love to hear what you think. And if you know anyone hiring a comic writer, feel free to pass them (or this link) along. I enjoy writing comics a lot, and I would love some more work in the field. Perhaps the future holds some.

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Death of a PlayStation

October 13th, 2010essays, video games

I awoke Sunday morning to some terrible news: My PlayStation 2 was dead. Some kids were playing around and one of them, a friend of my daughter, had accidentally stepped on the disc tray, shattering it. As far as I can tell, it’s irreparable or, rather, it would cost more to replace the drive than replace the whole system. The culprit confessed and seemed genuinely sorry (or perhaps just scared of being punished) and, upset though I was, I accepted the apology and sent her off to play.

It wasn’t the loss of the physical product that saddened me. Sure, I still have a stack of unplayed PS2 games but I can buy a replacement PS2 on the cheap. What I mourn is what the PlayStation 2 meant to me.

I bought it at the beginning of Fall 2005. My wife, daughter, and I had moved from Cleveland, Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin for a job with video game developer Human Head Studios the year before. The move was not without considerable expense with us balancing rent here with mortgage there until our house finally sold that August. Moving away from friends and family was also a big deal. The sense of separation and the strained budget took its toll on us but we managed best we could. I was following a dream and that’s not always the easiest thing to do.

I had fallen out of video gaming for a couple years prior to the move. I got into gaming in the mid-80s with the 2600 and continued to game through every generation up to the original PlayStation. I loved video games and was passionate about them through my formative years up until my early twenties. But when the PS2, Dreamcast, and GameCube war began, I mostly sat it out. I picked up a GameCube midway through the generation but only had a handful of games for it. I took on other interests, leaving video gaming mostly on the shelf. But the job at Human Head, being surrounded by video game development and chatter, reignited that passion and I poked my head into the scene once again.

I remember coming into the office one night and sitting down to the office Xbox. I fumbled my way through some Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Destroy All Humans! and managed not to do too horribly for an hour or so. That little taste was enough; I was hooked. I wanted to get back into gaming and that right now. But we didn’t have the money for a new console alone much less the memory card, extra controller, and, y’know, games that come along with it. My wife had already sacrificed enough uprooting her life for my career, much less the strain we were still under, for me to push too hard for one.

That September though, a few weeks after the house sold and nine months into our new lives as Madisonians, I mentioned wanting a game system to my wife over a meal at the local mall food court, a sad attempt at a gambit as ever there was.

“How much do they cost?”

“About $200. Less if you buy it used.”

“Well, let’s take a look.”

I didn’t question it.

We walked over to the GameStop and started piecing and pricing the options. I had spent a lot of time watching G4 and reading online reviews. I knew I wanted a PlayStation 2. I had a mental list of the games I wanted to get along with it. It was late in the current generation so there were a lot of great titles to choose from. The store was running a 2-for-1 used sale and I took advantage of it, amassing a fine starter kit. I added it all up together and it came to about $200. There were probably better ways to spend that money but my wife didn’t flinch. She put her hand on my arm and smiled. “Get it.”

I walked out of that store with the biggest, dumbest grin on my face. I knew it was a sacrifice for me to get this, and I knew this meant my wife supported this new leg of my life’s journey to the fullest. As funny as it may sound, I have never been more grateful for any gift I’ve ever received in my life.

In the years since that purchase, I’ve caught up with the video game scene. I stay current on new titles, what’s in development, what’s happening with studios (especially since I have many good friends spread throughout them), and what trends are shaping the industry. That PlayStation 2, bought used five years ago, was the beginning of a journey that has led down some interesting paths and allowed me to land some great jobs in the video game industry. It’s allowed me to start crafting the life and career I’ve wanted.

It was also a symbol of my wife’s belief in me and investment in my crazy dream. And though that belief and investment are still there, more now than ever, the symbol is gone. And that’s what I mourn.

Goodbye, PlayStation 2. You weren’t always mine but you treated me like I was the only one in the world. You were always there for me, ready to do battle against overwhelming odds, topple screen-filling giants, belt out bar standards, jam on a plastic guitar, or just relax with some falling blocks and rolling balls. Thank you for the good times then and even better times to come.

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