Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Making of Watchmen: Part 3

Comic Buyers Guide (CBG) in their issue #1652, just did a wonderful job of spotlighting Watchmen, the original series and the upcoming movie, by Warner Bros. As part of their treatment, Andrew Smith (contributing editor) does a very informative Q & A about Watchmen the making of the original comic series (yes, it was a 12 issue comic before it became a graphic novel phenomena).

For the benefit of those of you who may not have access to the periodical, I'll share some of the more interesting information in the form of multiple choice questions/ which I'll then answer...leading up to the movie's release.


What awards has Watchmen won?

a. A people's choice award

b. A Hugo

c. An Eisner

d. both B & C


d. Watchmen won an Eisner Award in 1988 for best limited series and a Hugo award, also in 1988, in the "Other Forms" catagory.

The The Hugo Awards, given annually since 1955, are science fiction’s most prestigious award. The Hugos are voted on by the thousands of members of the current Worldcon which is also responsible for administering them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Making of Watchmen, Part Two

Comic Buyers Guide (CBG) in their issue #1652, just did a wonderful job of spotlighting Watchmen, the original series and the upcoming movie, by Warner Bros. As part of their treatment, Andrew Smith (contributing editor) does a very informative Q & A about Watchmen the making of the original comic series (yes, it was a 12 issue comic before it became a graphic novel phenomena).

For the benefit of those of you who may not have access to the periodical, I'll share some of the more interesting information in the form of multiple choice questions/ which I'll then answer...leading up to the movie's release.


Why has the Watchmen creator/writer and industry icon, Alan Moore, requested his name not be included in the movies credits, nor is he doing anything to promote it?

A. Because he wanted to also write the screenplay

B. Because of ownership rights disputes with DC-Time/Warner

C. Because he insisted that Guy Richie be the director

D. Because he basically refuses to have anything to do with Hollywood.


B. Moore has a long and well documented history of disputes with both Marvel and DC, over his properties, ownership rights, censorship and licensing of his stories to Hollywood...and Watchmen is no exception. In fact, Moore has gone as far as to say in interviews that Watchmen was stolen from him!
The original contact he and artist Dave Gibbons had signed with DC stated, that the rights to the story would revert to them when the graphic novel went out of print (the series was published in 1986, with the original collected trade paperback edition coming in 1987). The problem lies with the fact, that Watchemen has NEVER went out of print...and at this point it would appear they will never allow it to go out of print (since it's won a Hugo Award and named as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century by Time Magazine). According to a New York Times article cited by the CBG article, Moore stated, "You have managed to successfully swindle me, so I will never work for you again."
This situation has resulted in Moore standing in the way of several product licensing deals DC has tried to develop on ancillary products and Moore basically declaring he wants his name taken off any and all books we worked on which he does not own.
This situation is basically why you will also not find Moore's name in the credits for some of his other stories turned into movies (V for Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Making of Watchmen, Part One

Comic Buyers Guide in their issues #1652 (CBG), just did a wonderful job of spotlighting Watchmen, the original series and the upcoming movie, by Warner Bros.

(Plug: if you love the medium of comics and graphic novels, CBG magazine is a must-read to keep up on what's going on in the industry, plus reading monthly columns by the movers and shakers...not quite as PR oriented as a Wizard...more meat and potatoes, especially for those of us who've been around for a bit and like to know more of the industries history).
As part of their treatment, Andrew Smith (contributing editor) does a very informative Q & A about Watchmen, (which Time magazine listed in their top 100 novels...not graphic novels...of ALL TIME).
For the benefit of those of you who may not have access to the periodical, I'll share some of the more interesting information in the form of multiple choice questions/ which I'll then answer...leading up to the movie's release.
Were the Characters in Watchmen originally inspired by:

a. Golden age DC Comics heroes

b. Marvel comics characters

c. Golden age superheroes created by Archie Comics

d. Charlton comics characters

d. Charlton comics characters (with a some minor modifications)*

DC had bought the rights to the Charlton heroes in the 1980's. Their introduction to the DC universe was suppose to come through Moore's Watchmen conception. After reading it, Managing Editor, Dick Giordano, realized that there wouldn't be enough of them leftover after the series, to do much with...but he loved the script, so he suggested Moore change the characters to one's he created specifically for the project....which he did, but with some familiar traits.
-Rorshach was based on Steve Ditko's Question, with elements of Mr. A added in.

-Nite Owl II, was based upon the Blue Beetle (with lots of similarities also to Batman).

-Dr. Manhattan was Moore's version of Caption Atom, though I personally see him more derivative of Dr. Solar (or Solar Man of Atom).

-Ozymandias was inspired by Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

-Silk Spectre II, is loosely based upon Charlton's Nightshade...though Moore's said in interviews that the similarities only go as far as she's the only woman on the team, he was envisioning more of a Phantom Lady or Black Canary type character.

-The Comedian was really a blending of Groucho Marx, Nick Fury with G. Gordon Liddy, though visual elements of his character can be seen with Archie characters, Hooded Justice and Hangman (one of the most brutal comic characters of the 1940's).

*According to Moore, he originally had toyed with the story using the golden age Archie comic heroes, before DC offered him the Charlton ones...which explains some of the similarities to those properties.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Are Christians Dumbing Down?

Hey gang....I just ran across a blog headline which grabbed my attention and I wanted to share and comment on it...since the site does not accept comments on it's posts.

Click sliceoflaodicea to read the original posting.

Addressing the part that got my attention (being someone who's championed the development of the spiritual based graphic novel), here's a taste...

Fast forward to 2009 and the rotting corpse of Western Christianity. This buffoonery is what now fills churches today—the entire idiotic scene inspired by a children’s cartoon of singing and dancing vegetables (which I assume refers to Veggie Tales). Infantalism rules, literacy is dead, and God-given intellects are dead, suffocated under years of video game playing, movie and television watching. Hard to believe that Christians used to produce books like “Bondage of the Will”, and translations of the Scriptures from the original languages. Today, pastors and church laity are reading “graphic novel” (comic book) versions of the Bible because they struggle to grasp anything beyond a one syllable word. Here are some of evangelicalism’s finest in action. Watch and weep.

Now, if you didn't visit the original posting, this commentary is mainly directed at a posted video showing a Christian congregation dancing, singing and worshiping in a way the author finds distastful and degrading. But for the purposes of my comment, I'm dealing with his/her misguided generalization about literature created for young people and/or the graphic novel.

This author seeks to make a point about the breakdown of sophisticated analitical thought and writing within the Western Christian culture by slamming things obviously not created to answer such demands by believers.

Raise your hand, if you think Veggie Tales was created to foster advance discourse on the tenants of Christianity among religious scholars! A Ridiculous question? Of course it is, but it's to make a point. Products like Veggie Tales and most literature (re: picture books) and video's aimed at children are not meant to teach advanced religious theory or complicated Christian Dogma, rather plant seeds of interest among children using forms and styles of entertainment that is prevelant among "our culture". Likewise with most Graphic Novels or Christian based comic books. DISCLAIMER: Before I go forward I will admit for the record, that in my Eye Witness series, I do attempt to dig a bit deeper and pair the Gospel as presented by the Biblical narrative with historical and cultureal data about the first century we now known, in an attempt to take the reader to the next level of interest...but will grant that is not the case with most product designed in this format of literature.

But I reject this author's base assumption that pastors and church laity are reading Graphic Novel adaptations of the Bible (and Christian based fiction) because they struggle to grasp the intrecacies of the Bible and anything beyond "one-syllable words."

First of all, I have yet to come across a publisher that is creating a graphic novel adaptation of the Bible, that is meant to replace the original prose form...that's not to say someone isn't working on one now and it will be a monumental undertaking...but for most of us following this course, I think it's a fair assumption to say that this form is meant to attract readers to the Bible narrative that wouldn't be reading it otherwise, or in other forms. With Eye Witness, I'm attempting to reach the skeptic or person that's uninterested in attending church or reading the Bible, but loves reading in the format of comic books, graphic novels and manga (which translates to comic books in Japan...but in general terms has come to represent the entire output of far eastern created works of that style). My goal is to attract that person through my use of dramatic graphic design and a fictional intermingling with the Biblical narrative to make the story come alive with a contemporary feel. The endgame is to get the attention of someone who wouldn't think twice about reading these stories otherwise and God Willing, to create a spark of interest that might lead them to their local church, teen ministry or even picking up the source material.

Once again, I'll make the assmumption that many of the titles being published today in this format, share a similar goal. Now is that a bad or good thing for "the Church Body"...especially when you consider the docuemented drop off that occurs among young people when they get to high school age? But could there be their churches out there using graphic novel adaptations in their sermons? If there are, I'd wager a guess they are a seeker church that is catering to a high school to college age attendee...and this is the way to get there attention.

Secondly to generalize that those who read Graphic Novels cannot grasp anything beyond a one-syllable word, is this author basically showing their ignorance about the whole format. As anyone who's actually familiar with what's been produced in graphic novel or comic book form over the last 30 years can attest to, charagorizing the format as being simplicist or for those who struggle to read, is a blatent misnomer. Trust me, if you can grasp the involved prose of a Neil Gaiman (Sandman) or Alan Moore (Watchmen)....much of the Biblical narrative would prove to be a snap! Sure there are comics like those produced by Archie Comics and DC's animated line, that are rather simplistic, but than again they are targeting a 10 and under audience.

So what do we make of this uninformed rant? Not knowing the author, my guess would be they have a serious bone to pick with the western Christian Church and like a magician they seek to "pull things out of the proverbial hat" that will support their generalization that it has basically devolved into a chanting, dancing bunch of fools who have no foundation in advance learning or culture. Take a peek inside any Christian bookstore (or religious section of your local Borders) and you'll see their is an abundance of books being produced by contemporary authors every month, who seek to challenge the intellect as well as rouse the passion of the highly literate Christian reader.

Secondly, it's obvious the author has difficulty with the concept of OUTREACH and how it can be used effectively in our comminities. The Apostle Paul called upon us to discover our spirutal gifts and use them to advance the word among the people of the world. By his very actions, Paul demonstrated how we, as followers of Christ, we must be able to converse with "the world" in styles which they use...To the Jews, he was a jew, to the Greeks he became a Greek!

Using something like Veggie Tales, or Christian rock music, or the graphic novel, are all ways to speak to different segments of our culture (and/or age groups) that communicate in a way that they relate to and are attracted to. It surely doesn't mean that our message is deluted...but that it's just in a different language, metaphorically speaking! It's the same premise behind why we have four different Gospels, each written in a way to commuincate with a different aspect of the first century world.

R.J. Luedke
Award Winning Author/Illustrator

Monday, February 16, 2009

...And The Future of Communication, Is?

I ran across a wonderful article by editor, David Crumm, entitled, "The Shape of Things to Come is...Well...Spiritual." The article is based upon David's impressions of information presented at the recently held, "The Tools of Change Conference, 2009", held in New York City. The Conference was attended by people from all around the world involved in the booktrade, publishing, magazines, journalism and marketing.

Some of the Headlines that caught my attention, were that coming soon to a major corporation near you, will be the creation of a new job title, called: Social Community Facilitator. This will be the person responsible for the companies presence on online communities, (I.E. facebook, twitter etc...), who will be separte from the marketing department and be more attuned to the concept of community, as made popular in the Christian church.

Another revelation from the conference is, that the furture of getting our daily fix of information, (is which is slowly moving away from our daily newspaper and weekly magazine subscription), is not going to be from our home computers or laptops, but rather through our cell phones or hand held devices. Book and newspapers publishers in the far-east are already using technology to deliver their content directly to the consumer through these tools.

This is just one part of a four-part series (links provided) and quite lengthy, but worth the read if your interested in the future of the media.

Go to The Future of Communication.

R.J. Luedke

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Nature of Honesty: Dissecting A-Rod

I sure a lot of the readers of this blog, feel the same way I do this morning...slightly betrayed, slightly depressed. That's what happens when we see the fragile, human nature of our icons exposed publicly.

Though I've prided myself on not growing into a fan-boy of any of my comic creator heroes, sports heroes and/or movie star heroes...with someone like Alex Rodriquez, I've always felt a kind of respect based on fact that he "seemed to" epitomize the qualities of people I admire, (Competitive, hard working, ethical and honest). I didn't necessary like him as a person, but I respected him as an athlete, because A-Rod was going to be the shining white knight who helped to reclaim the "great game's" home-run records, that had been hijacked by those who cheated!

Watching A-Rod's public admission on ESPN yesterday, as well as the talking-sports-head's analysis of said admission, has really made me feel quite very few of them, it seems, want to cut through the PR hype of the whole circus and deal with what was really said.


The fact that this confession was presented by A-Rod as his coming clean and a chance to purge this demon from his past, just doesn't ring true. Fourteen months ago, on a nationally broadcast interview on the 60 minutes TV show, if he truly wanted that chance, he had a golden opportunity...which wouldn't have come through any outside pressure (more on this later). But at this time, A-Rod insisted he NEVER used any banned or performance enhancing substances. But now he admits he had! What's happened between these two episodes that helped A-Rod decide honesty was the best policy? Because the truth had already been revealed by a trusted outside source (Sport Illustrated). He only came clean, because the truth was now out there and with the steroid issue it's sadly become....guilty till proven innocent. And to deny it after you test positive is futile (ask Raphael Palmero).

But now we're suppose to believe that this was all that he's done (juiced from 2001-03). Why? But that's all there is proof of. There's no compelling reason for him to disclose any more than this.

Secondly, if you really dig into this interview it's pretty obvious A-Rod contradicts himself on numerous occasions...especially where the issue of whether he knew he had done wrong. On one hand, he asserted he didn't really know what he was taking or whether it was an illegal substance (which steroids are, whether they were banned by MLB at that time or not). On the other hand, he disclosed that the head of the MLB players union tipped him off that he "may or may not" have tested positive in the 2003 survey testings. Now let's just for a minute, think like adults here. What would a reasonable person think if they had taken a employment related drug test and one of your union officials, or bosses, felt the need to mention the that you might have failed. Wouldn't you assume that meant that you had failed? And if someone told you, you might have failed a drug test, for substances which you "didn't know or think were illegal", wouldn't you go out of your way to clear your name...especially when you had a $25 million a year contract and close to $500 million in total revenue on the line...before that information became public knowledge? Ah...but that information wasn't suppose to be released to the public.

The Texas Rangers organization really needs no help making themselves look ridiculous (and I say that as a fan of the club, unfortunately, for the past 25 years). As the Dallas Morning News recently published, with this admission by A-Rod, the Rangers can now field a complete lineup of admitted steroid users, implicated users and highly suspected users. So this makes them an easy target and thus a way for A-Rod, in a very subtle fashion, to pass off partial responsibility to the culture of the Texas Rangers of that era.

How many times did he mention the Rangers by name and apologize to his Texas fans (which is something of a oxy-moron)? For the purposes of this discussion, Texas and the Rangers became guilty by association. He made clear he was clean prior to this period (in Seattle) and after this time (in NYC). He stated one of the reasons he did this (even though through the other side of his mouth he said he didn't realize what he was doing was wrong) was to combat the incredible stress of trying to live up to this big contract, which was the largest in any major U.S. sport at the time. There are two things that are problematic about this excuse. One...does anyone believe there is more pressure and scrutiny on a player in DFW then there is in New York, playing for the Yankees? And two...if this is true, then isn't it an indictment against the tactics of his agent, Scott Boras...who put him in a situation that was so stressful that it caused him to seek illegal means to deal with it?
A final bit of theatre he added to prime the pump of Texas cultural guilt..."I did it to deal with the heat, it's over 100 degrees everyday down there!" I won't dispute it can get rather warm during our Texas summers and can and does get over 100 degrees sometimes for weeks at a time, but out of an odd 80 home games each year from April through Oct, the number of those played in that temperature is probably between 20 to 25% (16-20 games a year)...since most games in Arlington are played at night. Secondly, I don't think I've ever heard Steroids are effective with dealing with potential heatstroke!

So I can empathize with Ranger's owner, Tom Hicks, (and that's not something most fans of the Rangers do too often), when he says he feels betrayed, "like one of his son's lied to him." You see Mr. Hicks asked A-Rod the same straight out question as Katie Couric did on 60 minutes and received the same dishonest answer.

How many times when asked what he took or where he got it, did A-Rod answer, (paraphrasing) "I'm not sure, there were things you could get at any GNC in those days, that are banned today!" So A-Rod is asking the American people to believe, that the two illegal steroid that were in his system in 2003, were picked up at the local GNC? His answer to that accusation would probably be... no, that's not what I said. But by mentioning GNC by name almost every time the question was asked by Peter Gammons, what were you taking and where did you get it...they now become guilty by association! Do I smell a lawsuit?

Once again, it's clear what A-Rod's PR handlers were doing here. They were attempting to minimise the impact of what he was injecting into his body. They wanted the visual image of A-Rod walking into his local GNC and picking out a bottle of some vitamin supplement or protein powder, (like we all use), in the viewers head, rather then the image of A-Rod bent over a training table in some dark room after hours getting a needle full of an illegal substance, injected into this buttocks.

There is only one reason we had this 30 minutes of great theatre thrust at us yesterday. Not to provide a vehicle to purge his demons and come clean. Not to be a positive role model for all those young athletes who may follow in his footsteps. Not to show what a courageous, honest and upstanding young man he is. No, the only reason was to help A-Rod not lose what he has...both now and in the future.

In Joe Torre's new book, he shares what a self serving narcissist A-Rod was/is. He tried his best to help him become "just one of the guys," in the Yankees clubhouse, but A-Rod just couldn't seem to understand the need. People in MLB who have worked around him, seem consistently attest to the fact, that it's all about him, his image, his stats and how he'll be viewed in the history of the game. Could this be why when it really counts, A-Rod hasn't been able to produce a championship on the field...because he just can't "get" the team concept?

Yesterday's dog and pony show was nothing more of a staged PR exercise, rather then a real interview. A-Rod should have been sitting in Peter Gammon's lap, for all the softball questions he was serving up! This was all about: A-Rod, being able to continue to play baseball; A-Rod salvaging a chance to get into the Hall of Fame; A-Rod, not losing any of his 9-figures in annual endorsements. Don't be confused by the shell game on display, the only reason he came clean about anything, was that he was advised both by friends and his agent (the great Satan, Scott Boras, who I imagine earns a percentage of everything that A-Rod earns), that there was no other choice and this was the only way to lose the least amount possible.

As someone who's raised his children to believe that honesty is one of the most important character traits to have, it's a sad day in my household, for another icon has fallen...and I'm not referring to a sports hero, but rather the truth. We live in a society that this week we've learned, that our political leaders only have to pay their taxes (or admit they didn't) when it becomes front page news. We learned that our sports heroes indulge in illegal recreational and/or performance enhancing drugs, because someone has a camera phone at a party or someone leaks results of test that wasn't suppose to be made public. And after the facts come out, we're suppose to credit their not disputing undeniable evidence, as honesty. Quoting Kevin Sherrington (Dallas Morning News, 2/11/09)..."A-Rod, admits he did wrong even though he's not sure exactly what he did. But whatever it was, he swears he didn't do it before Texas and not at all since he left."

Honesty, is not something that reveals itself only when you have no other recourse. Honesty is something that should show itself when there is every reason to lie, but the only reason to tell the truth is your own conscience and knowing what is the right thing to do.

R.J. Luedke

Friday, February 06, 2009

Explaining the Graphic Novel

As someone who is out there in the media and bookstore trenches, attempting to explain to people who didn't grow up reading graphic novels (or comics, or manga) what exactly they are, I think I've developed an explanation that I think helps make better sense of the whole conversation and if you're a fan of the format...could help to better explain it to someone who may not yet be familiar with it.

For many years now, literary critics, book reviewers and pseudo-intellectual bloggers have been pondering the graphic novel and where it fits into...or even if it fits into...serious discussion about literature.

Here's a current example of this kind of discussion, (by journalist Seth Sommerfeld for the online Gonzaga Bulletin), which is typically created for those who might new to the medium, by those who are vaguely familiar with it. Usually these kind of Graphic Novel 101 pieces, involves invoking one or more of the works that everyone knows since they have been successfully developed into other mediums, (Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the upcoming Watchmen, 300, Sin City etc...). Within this competent piece, Sommerfeld restates the stock answer to the question, what is a graphic novel? "A graphic novel is a book-length comic. Everything one would expect in a traditional novel is present, they just happen to add illustrations to correspond with the story."

While much of that is indeed true, (and for the purposes of discloser...I've used a version of this explanation myself in interviews), I've grown to feel that much of that description is not only too simplistic, but just plain out and out misguided. First of all, what he's explaining here, is more akin to an illustrated novel, which adds illustrations every few pages or chapters, that "correspond with the story," and help flesh out the look of the characters for the reader. With a graphic novel, the illustrations don't just add to the story, they are integral to it. Ask anyone who's spent significant time reading or purchasing graphic novels (or comics) and more often then not, their buying decisions are based upon the artist (or art team), rather than the writer. There are exceptions of course, (Neil Gaimen, Alan Moore, Frank Miller to name a few), but typically if the art does not appeal to the reader he might as well be reading a novel (no pun intended)!

You see, when you break it down, a graphic novel is much closer in structure to the format of a screen play, than it is a novel. While you may find some GN authors who write their "scripts" similar to a novel outline, you find a greater majority create a document that looks and reads very much like a screenplay. This is because the creation of a graphic novel parallels the developmental course of a screenplay, more so than a novel.

With a novel you have the writer and then the editor (or team of editors) who help craft the story into a marketable form. But as far as the foundation of the story goes, (the creation of the characters, their descriptions, the settings, the mood), unless there is a ghost writer involved, the writer is the sole person responsible for the creation and vision of the work and he gets the lion share of the credit (not to mention the royalties).

With a graphic novel, you still start with the writer (and also most likely an editor) to craft the story into a usable form. But from that point, the progress of the work will veer into the direction of what happens with a screenplay. With a GN script, the writer is responsible for pointing out what is taking place not only in each scene, but on each page of the scene and depending how they work, sometimes in each individual frame within that page.* With some exceptions when a graphic novel script is completed, it then goes to an artist (some times one person, sometimes a team of people) who take the script and break it down into layouts based upon the descriptions in the script; then pencil illustrations are done; then fully inked renderings are created from these illustrations; and then (in some cases) fully colored-painted artwork. In that case the writer of the script is closer in definition to the writer of a screenplay, since this is the basis on which to total presentation is built. The penciler, inker and colorist (sometimes all the same person) are akin to the cinematographer, director of photography, casting director and that what the writer has indicated in the script, is now translated through their eyes onto the page. The process then comes full circle as the words are then added to the artwork, to create a whole that is now much greater then the sum of it's parts.

So unlike most novels, graphic novels are the result of the vision of more than one person (unless of course you work like me with Eyewitness...actively involved on almost every level). And like movies the final appearance of a graphic novel, can drastically deviate from the original story as envisioned by the writer in his script...because after all, we all visualize a bit differently. How many times have you read a good novel and had a real solid visual image of what a character looked like (based upon the writer's description) only to have him/her look dramatically different on film. That's similar to the impact that a casting director has on a screenplay and/or your pencil artist has on a graphic novel.

Now, when you have one person who is not only the writer, but also the artist and editor of a GN project, you have what could be related to in the world of cinema, as an indy that is driven by the creative vision of one man who not only writes the screenplay, but is also director and cinematographer...rather than an ensemble cast of participants.

So the next time you hear someone trying to talk down graphic novels, because as a literary form, they do not adhere to the basic tenets and accepted practices of a prose novel, politely correct them, that graphic novels are more closely related to movies than they are novels, (which is why they are so easily adapted to that format, since a lot of the work of the director, cinematographer and director of photography has already been done), and so should be judged accordingly! You'll not only most likely "smack down" a literary snob, but you'll sound darned prolific doing it!

Robert James Luedke
Author and Illustrator

*There are basically two different formats most GN writers work in...the Marvel Style and Full Script. Peter David, in his seminal work, Writing for Comics, explains it this way, "In the Marvel Style, (Made popular by industry icon, Stan Lee), the story is presented in a general manner , like a short story written in present tense. It includes some, but not necessarily all, dialog and gives the artist much latitude in how he visually paces the story. Once the artwork is done, the writer then scripts the story, adding dialogue, captions and sound effects. When you write in full script, you're telling the artist everything that's going to be on the you want it framed, at what angle, what's in the background, what's the character's expressions, where are their their side or in their pocket, what's the weather like, etc..."