JOHN OSTRANDER: READING MYSELF

transmogrification

by John Ostrander

I recently received my comp copies of the second trade paperback (TPB) collection of The Spectre, dubbed Wrath of God, and took advantage of it to re-read the stories Tom Mandrake and I created back in the Nineties.

The character was originally created back in the 30s by Jerry Siegel who also co-created Superman. Jim Steranko described the Spectre as having the toughest origin in comics. Plainclothes cop, Detective Jim Corrigan, is killed by gangsters but, unable to rest, is sent back as an Avenging Ghost by a mysterious Voice who can be taken as God. He’s also given lots of powers. He may in fact be the most powerful character in comics. Some think he’s too powerful; how can you create a significant threat to a character who’s only slightly less powerful than God? In the decades since his creation, those powers got damped down. Corrigan himself was supposedly brought back to life with the Spectre as a separate entity who took shelter within Corrigan.

When Tom and I got a hold of the character, we decided that having a powerful Spectre would result in better visuals and that Corrigan was dead and had been since the character began. The result has been what many readers declared a definitive version of the Spectre and some of the best work Tom and I have done separately or together.

I know writers who can’t/don’t/won’t read their own work once it’s been published. I understand and sympathize but I always read the comics once they came out. For me, it wasn’t really a comic until it was published. I wanted to experience it as the reader did. Granted, I couldn’t experience it for the first time as they did but I often forget exactly what I’ve written between the time that I finished the script and when the book is published. A turn of phrase, for example, can surprise me. I’ve gone on to other things and that’s where my focus is.

So I came to Wrath of God with, if not fresh eyes, at least with a touch of amnesia.

The first volume, Crimes and Judgments, introduced Tom’s and my version of the Spectre. The twelve issues were tied together with an overall plot that reached a tragic end. The second volume deals with repercussions emanating from that end. The Spectre goes somewhat mad with grief and when you have a character that powerful, it’s a very dangerous situation indeed. His mission is to punish murderers, to find evil, and in the first story of the second collection, the Spectre finds an entire nation guilty and destroys it.

That was extreme, even for the Spectre and I knew it at the time. I wondered if I had taken him too far. Would it alienate the readers? It might be hard enough for them to empathize with a character as powerful as the Spectre. Would such an extreme act drive them away from the book?

In my private life this was also a time of stress and sorrow. My wife, Kimberly Yale, contracted breast cancer and it would claim her life in 1996. I was in a somewhat bleaker state of mind while I created these stories. I was sometimes asked how I was able to continue writing while dealing with Kim’s illness but writing was a refuge for me. It was where things still made sense and with The Spectre I could channel all those emotions I was feeling.

The bulk of the rest of the stories in this volume stem from this first story as we explored the ramifications for the next ten issues. I like doing things like that; something significant happens in one issue and you can follow up on it. It’s one of the virtues of doing a monthly comic; there’s room to explore.

We dealt with issues such as forgiveness and justice, mercy and retribution, guilt and responsibility. While I had become an agnostic, I was a very specific agnostic. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and that still very much showed in my writing. Especially with the Spectre.

Not every story is an unalloyed delight. One story was set in Northern Ireland and dealt with “The Troubles” between Protestant and Catholic there. At least, it attempted to do so. However, this was before I visited Belfast and my understanding of the situation there can only be described as woefully inadequate. Well intentioned but I didn’t have the comprehension of the issues that the story needed and clichés abound in it. It is readable but not as strong as other stories in the TPB, in my own opinion. It’s one of the things that occur when you re-examine your own work; flaws pop out at you. Useful if you learn from it.

One of the great strong points of the volume and indeed of the entire series is the work of my friend and collaborator, Tom Mandrake. We worked together in what is known as “plot first” style; I would break down the story into page and panels and Tom would draw it. (Our gag was that sometimes he drew what I should have plotted.) It would come back to me for dialoguing and it was always a thrill to first see those pages. Tom, in my not so humble opinion, is one of the modern greats in the medium and The Spectrewould not have been the same without him.

It was interesting re-reading the stories after all this time, to re-encounter the person I was back then. It’s me but a different me. I don’t know if I could write the same stories today but that’s how it should be, I think. Our writing reflects who we are and, as we change, so should the writing. The Spectre I would write today would be very different from the book I wrote back then. I have changed and, hopefully, grown.

The stories in this volume, I think, are still worth reading. If you do, be sure to say hello to the Old Me. He’s lurking in there.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check out John’s newest book at Amazon.

John Cleese and Eric Idle are so funny people pay just to hear them talk

John Cleese Capture

…To each other yet! This was wonderful to see live last week, but the recording ain’t bad either:

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YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

Author-Platform

by Rita Karnopp

There has always been talk about how to promote your work once you finally get published.  If you’re like me, I’d rather write stories – promoting takes effort and time.  But a writer must make time and take efforts to create a writing platform.

Oh, I’ve heard it, “Do I really need to have a platform?”  No, not really, but then that depends on your goals and aspirations of selling your books.

If you desire – need – want – commercial success and great sales, then I would say, “Yes, having a platform will make all the difference in the world.”  It’s irrelevant whether you’re an indie (self-published) or traditional published author.  You must decide how you can grab those readers and get exciting exposure for your books if you want to be competitive in the marketplace.

What exactly do we mean by platform?  Simply put, your platform is the means through which you get your book noticed – then purchased.  It has a lot to do with who you know, creating networking, and learning to appeal to the massive world of readers.

You must be willing to take the time to nurture relationships, establish a sound foundation, and create or build effective networking to reach your target demographics and beyond.

So the next question, “How do I do that?”  There are so many ways you can create your platform, and it actually depends on your skillset, how large/small you want that platform to be, and finally your knowledge of the avenues available to help in this process.

Let’s discuss some of those avenues available to you.

Do you have a Website?  I’d say the most important first step will be to create a writer’s website.  It doesn’t have to cost much . . . I use a program called www.web.com and pay around twenty dollars a month.  It’s an easy self-create site –and there are a lot out there – even free sites.  Check with friends of sites you really like.

Do you have a Blog?   Carve out your own writer’s corner space and use it as a place to post articles that establish your expertise in your field. Share news about your book, speaking schedule, upcoming interviews, etc. If you don’t want to do this by yourself, ask a fellow writer to share a blog site with you.  Wonderful writer, Ginger Simpson, asked me to join her blog a few years ago … it’s a great working relationship (as well as sistership) http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Read it all

Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 11/26/14

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Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Len Wiseman (SLEEPY HOLLOW) and Scott Rosenbaum (GANG RELATED) are teaming up to write a science fiction pilot described as “The Dirty Dozen in deep space? for Fox. (Which as old-fashioned as it sounds still seems kinda catchy to el munchero. Besides, this is a new and original idea compared to the oft-written but never shot pilots that described th emselves as “The Magnificent Seven in deep space.” I’m hopeful. For reals.)
  • Scott Foley & Greg Grunberg (FELICITY) are developing a “relationship comedy” for ABC about the lies being told at a wedding. (Hey, if you think the premise is unworkable, wait’ll you see who’s running the production of this thing: Shonda Rimes. How long do you give it before the comedy turns to soap? I’m thinking two episodes, but then I’m an optimist at heart.)
  • Neil Cross (LUTHER) is doing a U.S. remake of the series for Fox. (No, Idris Elba won’t star – or so he says. Instead he’ll be a producer cuz that’s, you know, where his real talent lies…?)
  • John Hamberg (MEET THE PARENTS) is going into the TV development biz with an overall deal at Fox. (And my munchiness is jumping up and down with excitement cuz…ZOOLANDER! Yeppers, John co-wrote that. And…I know the guy. All I’ve gotta do is butter him up a bit and a staff job is mine, all mine, mine I say! Hehehehehehehehe…Or not.)

That’s it for now. Write in and tell munchilito what you’ve sold today. TVWriter™ can’t wait to brag to all your friends. (And, more importantly, enemies. Hehehe….)

2014 Spec Scriptacular Closes at the End of the Day Monday, December 1st!

TVWriterLogoBlockTM2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR COMPETITION

That’s right, gang. The 20th Spec Scriptacular Competition is closing to entries at 11:59 P.M. December 1, 2014. So if you’re planning on entering your spec episode of a current or recent series or an original script with potential as a TV movie, special, or even pilot, and sharing in the over $10,000 worth of prizes and entry extras (free Feedback from LB and the judges!), it’s time to do the deed.

Join TVWriter™ contest Winners, Finalists, and Semi-Finalists on the staffs of CHICAGO PD, CHICAGO FIRE, PERSON OF INTEREST, THE WALKING DEAD, RIZZOLI AND ISLES, GREY’S ANATOMY, ROME, NTSF:SD:SUV, KILLER WOMEN, ANIMAL PRACTICE, THE LEFTOVERS, and FX’s upcoming THE BASTARD EXECUTIONER to name the most recent few.

The cost is $50 per entry, with discounts for InkTip and MovieBytes members.

All the details about the SPEC SCRIPTACULAR are HERE.

Already paid the fee? Enter the 2014 SPEC SCRIPTACULAR HERE.

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie #84

Back to the Drawing Board
by Leesa Dean

So, heard back from the extremely long-shot opportunity for one of my projects and…it was a long-shot.  They didn’t buy it.  Le sigh. becoming-a-writer-01  Luckily, I’m one of those types who moves on from rejection pretty quickly, i.e., spent a night with friends drinking, grousing, complaining, occasionally weeping and moved on by the next day.  Ok, maybe not weeping.

My first inclination whenever I get rejected/turned down/kicked to the curb is to put together a plan b and/or c.  So I did.  And, truthfully, I actually am pretty excited about the prospects.   Because it’s the end of the year, going back into meetings is pretty much out, which is fine.  It gives me time to refine, rewrite, strategize about relaunch/promo and work on the three other projects I’m doing.

My grandmother always used to say, “One door closes, another one opens.”  And I’ve found that’s always been the case.  Or maybe that’s just my perspective.

Meanwhile, this was gonna be a big YouTube week but the main event I was planning on attending at their new NY facility was cancelled.  Since I haven’t been there yet, it was mildly disappointing but I am going to another event there next month.  Really looking forward to seeing the space in person.

Finally, I read an article in Tubefilter about Patreon, a newish crowdfunding site.  Patreon is different than Kickstarter or Indiegogo because fans/supporters can become “patrons” and give a monthly donation versus simply donating once to a project.

I’d heard of Patreon about six months ago when a pretty big web series creator (no names here) was out trolling on twitter trying to get people to help finance a new series they were working on.  They didn’t end up getting too many patrons (maybe 50), had only raised a couple of hundred dollars and didn’t nearly reach their monthly goal so it just didn’t seem worthwhile at the time.

Apparently, things have picked up and Patreon is now giving out over $1 million in monthly payouts to its creative partners (there are about 125,000 signed up).  Which is impressive.

When I re-looked over the site, most people aren’t making a huge amount of money per month, but they were, generally, making something.  Which is more than most web series creators make on YouTube.  I know I’ve written about it before but on YouTube, on average you make between $800-$1,000 per million views.  Million.  That’s a lot.  And most web series don’t get there.  The average person on YouTube who’s pulling in $100,000 a year is a vlogger and they output about three new shows per week.  Every week.

So, I put Patreon on the possibly to-do list.