Monday, February 25, 2008

Rising Stars

Adam and I have been nominated for the "Rising Star Award" by the panel of the 2008 Glyph Comics Awards—which honors the best in black comics and creators—for our work on Monster Attack Network (and, though it's not made explicit, I'd have to think The Highwaymen played a little in that). Adam must be especially pleased, as all those years working on Yo! MTV Raps and Wildin' Out have finally borne fruit.

One of the things I'm proudest of in that book is that not only did we tell a big, rollicking, monster story, but that one of the main characters, Ezekiel Holder, is a gay black man...who is no way defined by either "gay" or "black." He's just a hero...who digs furry chests and doesn't need a tan.

Oh, and that "Holder" is my grandmother's maiden name. Snuck that one right in there to please no one but me.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Jumper...How Did it Go So Wrong?

So I went with the missus to see Jumper over the weekend, as I was flat-out unwilling to see Fool's Gold. (And everyone she told about my unwillingness chimed in with a "It got half-a-star in the Post," even the waitress at lunch. Which irked her.) I knew that the reviews weren't great for Jumper either, but I can sit through a mediocre sci-fi movie way more easily than I can a mediocre romantic comedy.

The biggest problem with Jumper wasn't that it was bad. (Which it was. It's as if Doug Liman thought that the last 30 minutes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith—where he gives up any pretense of caring about story and proceeds to simply blow shit up—was the best part, and decided to make a whole movie like that.) No, the problem was that I could see all the pieces, all the building blocks for a good movie, just sitting there...wasted.

To break it down (and FROM HERE ON OUT, THERE BE SPOILERS): There are people who can teleport, called jumpers. There are people who, for reasons unknown, want to stop them, called Paladins. Our main character, David (Hayden Christensen), robs banks by jumping in, snatching a bunch of cash, and jumping out. No higher purpose than the amassing of money, so he can buy shit—he's the enabled slacker. He's also a bit of a douchebag. Meets girl he had a crush on in high school, but keeps his big secret. Which blows up in his face as Big Bad Paladin (Samuel L. Jackson) follows them on their trip to Rome and gets electro-sticky with it. Meets fellow jumper (Billy Elliot), who hunts Paladins for fun and profit. Big fights, lots of jumping, roll credits. Oh, and David remains a douchebag; he never pays for his crimes and gets the girl anyway. Lesson unlearned. Oh, and he finds his absentee mother, who is also a Paladin, and left the family to protect him...because she loves him.

As we're leaving the theater, I just couldn't help but think how it could all have been so much better. Here's my infinitely better Jumper (or, if not "infinitely better," has the virtue of both having an internal logic and not sucking):

The Paladins—who've been hunting jumpers for (according to the film) centuries—finally have a secret weapon: one of their own has just given birth to a jumper. Once they discover his ability, he's pulled from his suburban life, and the beginnings of a relationship with a high school girl, and they train him. He is to infiltrate the loose society of jumpers around the world and, eventually, lead the Paladins to their quarry.

So, David goes undercover. He's set up in a series of ever-more-lavish flats all over the world so that he looks the part. Jumps all over the place, leaving enough jump-scars (momentarily visible rifts in the space-time continuum) so that any fellow jumper could follow him. David believes he's bringing these people in for the greater good. He was raised to believe as much. He was also told that the captured jumpers are given a cure for their condition—an amped-up pacemaker that would disrupt their ability—and released back into the public. What he doesn't know is that the jumpers are all killed; the cure is a bullet to the head.

Confused, David returns to his childhood home to find his father, who he hasn't seen in a decade. He learns that pops was killed—in a manner that reveals Paladin involvement. He reconnects with the girl he left behind, they share a little something, and she grounds him enough to realize that the life he's led has been wrong, and he's gotta do something about it. He's the only one who can.

He assembles a small group of jumpers, reveals who he is, and convinces them to band together for an assault on the Paladin headquarters, and bring them down. Big explodo ending, the bad guys are shut down, the good guy gets his girl, and the jumpers are told to change their larcenous ways. Because, despite the destruction of the Paladin HQ, there is one Paladin left and he's the most dangerous of all: David. And, for him, anywhere is possible.

Sweet Jesus, was that so hard?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Depressing...No, Disheartening Is the Word

If you look at that little sidebar to the right, the one that lists all of the projects that I'm working on, and their various states of completion, you'll see a book there called Adora and the Distance. It's something I've been working on for a couple of years now, trying to find my way into it, stumbling my way through. Because it's unlike anything I've ever tried to write before.

It's about my daughter. It's about autism.

Well, sorta. It's about a girl who goes on a quest to save her mythical homeland from an invading force that threatens to destroy everything she holds dear. But beneath that gossamer, kid-lit fantasy disguise, it's about a girl trying to escape the imaginary-prison of her own mind and get back to the real world, and what she gains and loses in the process.

It is, needless to say, very close to my heart. It is the closest I—the dude who loves explosions and gratuitous nudity—will come to creating a story About Something. And it is, currently, falling on deaf editorial ears.

Every person I've told this story to has responded to it. Every editor I've pitched it to thought it was a really touching take on what's become a universal affliction. One of them said that it's a financial no-brainer: Sadly, this is a book with an audience, one that's getting larger every day. But when I went looking for a lit agent, not a one of the few who have any experience with graphic novels wanted anything to do with it. (One said "I'm not sure there's a readership for a book like this"; despite 1 in 150 children born today making their parents a part of that readership.) When I've been able to get the proposal to some publishers, I either got the "It's a children's book, and we don't publish those" or, "We only do children's adventures, and this doesn't quite fit" or " about if we change these 58 things about it?"

I know, this is the sort of thing that confronts untold numbers of writers every day of their lives ("I've got this awesome idea and they...just...don't...understand!"). And, yes, there are publishers I haven't approached yet. I'm sure that if the book I was writing was "One father's autobiographical experience raising an autistic child" and it was black-and-white and maybe I also happened to discover I was gay in the process — then, I'd lock up a deal toot sweet. But I don't want to write that book. I don't want to read that book. I'm not that guy. I want pirates and swordfights and oracles and children realizing that the world isn't too big for them to handle. I want high adventure.

What I can't figure out is why no one else seems to.

Friday, February 08, 2008


I've been a horrible landlord, I know. The internet is an insatiable beast. Honestly, it's like I'm on a locomotive going balls out, and I'm in charge of laying the tracks just before we run over them.

But I'll be back soon. Promise.