Today I’m Officially a Comic Book Writer

I’m excited because I have a comic book coming out this week. It took two years, and I should probably print a bunch of them out to distribute at conventions still, but the day is finally here. I’m officially a comic book writer. You can buy Vengeance, Nevada for $2.99 over at Comixology starting Wednesday, November 22nd.

No. I didn’t pick the release date. Doing press for any product during a time when everyone is on vacation is going to be challenging, so I’m waiting until next week to actively promote the book. And no, I didn’t know “Doomsday Clock” was coming out on the same day from DC Comics. So this is sort of like when Weird Al’s “UHF” was in theaters at the same time as the first Tim Burton “Batman” film. I have no doubt I’m going to get lost in the shuffle regarding what comic buyers want, and rightfully so. It’s not often you get a sequel to “Watchmen,” and given how expensive comics are, to begin with, if I had to choose between an indie comic no one has ever heard of and A SEQUEL TO WATCHMEN, the sequel is going to win almost every time. Even if my book turns out to be better. (Hint: It’s probably not.)

Vengeance, Nevada started as a short, eight-page comic in December of 2015. It’s drawn and lettered by Piotr Czaplarski. I wrote the story for those pages, and this first issue coming out Wednesday that Summer. So don’t let anyone tell you comics is a business where you see instant results.

Vengeance was born out of a couple of things that left me frustrated at the time.

Where Are New Episodes of The Venture Brothers?

It takes forever between seasons of “The Venture Brothers” on Adult Swim. I appreciate that the show is over ten years old now, but the fact that there have only been six seasons released since the show premiered in 2003 tells you everything you need to know about the wait between seasons.

If Rick and Morty took that long between seasons, I’m convinced the world would end just based on what happened when McDonald’s ran out of Szechuan sauce during their (unofficial) promotional tie-in with the show. But with The Venture Brothers, either because too few people watch it, or because the creators are mad geniuses allowed to do whatever they want — maybe both? — This is the situation fans of the show have had to deal with. I just didn’t want to deal with the wait anymore.

I can’t put into words how much I love Venture Brothers. It’s deeply flawed, particularly in its treatment of the female characters, and yet the second I hear a new season is coming I buy my season pass on iTunes and wait for the fun to start. That aside (and I don’t want to sound like I’m brushing those issues off because they also played a part with Vengeance, Nevada which we’ll get to in a second), The Venture Brothers is the favorite show of my best (and sometimes, only) friend, Jackie. Regardless of where either of us was in the world or life, new episodes of The Venture Brothers gave us something to connect with and talk about. That was yet another reason to look forward to new episodes, and why the wait between seasons is agonizing.

So with Vengeance, Nevada, I wanted to write a comic that felt like The Venture Brothers or at least kept the humor, tone, and deep mythology. All the aspects that I love about that show. Jackie even makes an appearance as the villain of the series, Gamma Ray. Also, almost all of the main characters in Vengeance are women and women of color at that. Nakoma is a member of the Washoe tribe out by Lake Tahoe. Morenike is Nigerian. Liberty is Mexican, Reiko is Japanese, and the list goes on. This was intentional because of the reason I mentioned with The Venture Brothers being an almost exclusively male cast with a spotty track record when it came to their female characters. (Go ahead and try to name more than five women on the show that have appeared over multiple seasons with speaking roles. Sally Impossible. Dr. Mrs. The Monarch. Triana Orpheus, Molotov and … ???)

Can You Make Ghost Rider Interesting?

The other point of frustration for me was that I always really liked Ghost Rider, but thought that the character was written in a dull and uninteresting way. For one, he suffers from the Superman problem of being way too fucking powerful with few weaknesses to speak of. Go ahead and google “Ghostrider + Weakness” and see if you can find any comprehensible answer to that question that doesn’t devolve into, “Nuh uh, you’re a dumb face.” Thanks, pre-teens with Internet access.

Second, I never really liked Ghost Rider’s interactions with other characters in the Marvel Universe. And this is coming from a guy who loved the Midnight Sons book Marvel put out in the early ‘90s where Marvel threw together TWO Ghost Riders and a bunch of other characters no one in their right mind would ever care about (Hellstorm, Werewolf by Night, etc.) together. He’s spooky. Ok. We get it. But how many times are you going to have Ghost Rider interact with another member of the Marvel Universe, and their only response to him is going to be, “Whoa. That dude is scary as hell.”

We got it the first time. What else do you have? I mean, I know he has a skull for a face, and it’s on fire, but it seems like amateur hour level shit for the heroes to not be used to things like that by the time they meet him.

Even Nicholas Cage couldn’t make Ghost Rider interesting. Weird ass Nicholas Cage, star of the most ‘90s action movies you will ever see in your life (all three of which I enjoy and are today considered guilty pleasures: The Rock, Con Air, and Face/Off) couldn’t make Ghost Rider interesting. Granted, both of those movies were terrible, but if Nicholas Cage can’t even make Ghost Rider interesting, you know you have a problem. (If you’re wondering what I think about Robby Reyes on Agents of SHIELD, the answer is, I don’t. I gave up on SHIELD after not a single member of the team showed up on the helicarrier at the end of Age of Ultron. I know that sounds petty, but I don’t care. If your entire sales proposition for an Agents of SHIELD TV show is “It’s all connected” (Marvel’s words, not mine), and nothing those characters say or do matters, why the fuck should I watch an otherwise bland show that’s well cast but offers nothing?

If you told me today that Ghost Rider was going to be played by Nicholas Cage, I would be excited. Shit, I WAS excited back then too. Then I saw the movies. And if you’re looking for a contender for worst comic book based film ever made, next to Batman & Robin, the second Ghost Rider film is right up there next to Batman & Robin and Halle Berry’s Catwoman.

Nakoma

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So with Nakoma in Vengeance, Nevada, the entire idea behind her character was the question of whether or not you could make Ghost Rider interesting. She does have other elements of characters in her, like The Punisher, but Ghost Rider is the direct inspiration for Nakoma. Whether or not I’m successful in answering that question is going to be up to you to decide over the course of the series.

And here’s the other thing, I thought for sure that I’d want to write for Marvel or DC, but I realized I’d never want to deal with the weight behind writing characters with nearly a hundred years of history behind them. It’d be fun to do a mini-series or something like Batman: White Knight where you can do whatever you want with the characters and mythology — like all of a sudden adding a second Harley Quinn to explain away some of the ways her character has changed since she first debuted in the early ‘90s.

But there’s no way I’d go near the main timeline for those books. I know that I get crazy when people change things — see: Scott Snyder’s Mr. Freeze being a liar and a murderer as opposed to a sympathetic villain. So I can only imagine what would happen if I was writing the Fantastic Four or Wonder Woman — the two books I want to write for Marvel and DC respectively.

Just imagine the response that would greet Wonder Woman being back in her spy gear and going on James Bond-like adventures to uncover a criminal conspiracy involving the theft of artifacts from Themyscira. Or a Fantastic Four series set in the year 1961 with Sue and Reed fighting over Vietnam and Johnny and Ben used as weapons against the Vietcong. (Who themselves are being used as chess pieces by Dr. Doom to start a global nuclear conflict that would allow him an opportunity to step in as a “peacekeeper” between the US and Russia and assume control of the world.)

And now I’m rambling, but you get the point. I used to want to write for Marvel and DC, but at this point in my life, I’m happy playing with my characters and telling their stories without being crushed by the weight of expectations that comes with playing with other people’s old toys.

So my plan now is to write Vengeance, Nevada and see what happens. There’s an ending. This is not a series that’s going to go on forever, and when it’s done, we’ll see what comes next for me in the world of comics. Maybe I get to do that Wonder Woman book, or maybe I do something else.

More importantly, for now, is seeing whether or not I’ve captured enough of your interest to know if I can make a Ghost Rider-like character interesting. To say nothing of her being compelling enough to follow on a journey that I like to describe as a “Reverse Breaking Bad.”

At the very least, those of you who do buy it will hopefully get a good laugh or at least be entertained for your $2.99. Each issue after the first one Wednesday is close to thirty pages. Which if you ask me is a better deal than $4 or $5 for your typical DC or Marvel book at this point which contains less.

And since issues #2 (March) and #3 (June) are already finished, you won’t have to go forever between issues like my fellow fans of The Venture Brothers have to do between seasons.

(Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/SONY/YouTube)