Category Archives: Writing

Deconstructing the Stories, Part 5


A sequel. That’s what we needed, a sequel. Okay, I’m using the term “need” very liberally, but after we successfully put together The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness and The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness: Reflux Edition we decided to do a sequel. So, now what? Science fiction, of course! Thus, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Sciencey Tales of Science Fiction was born. Obviously, we wanted to evolve, to do more with this book than just rehash the same jokes over and over again. One of the ways to do that was Jeff.

Even though each story in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness had an antagonist – more times than not, Chris and I acted as our own antagonists – we felt that there was something missing by not having a more specific, overarching bad guy. Jeff fit into that role perfectly! As editor, Jeff has to wear many hats, especially when dealing with Chris and me. Sometimes he needs to wear many hats as disguises to hide from Chris and me. After reviewing our antics from the first book and the extended edition, we realized that Jeff has PLENTY of motivation to want to kill us.

Having Jeff as a villain (at least to our characters), it created a sense of continuity with the stories, and it retroactively fit with The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. Even the stories without Jeff now had the feel that he could have been behind the scenes influencing the events. Ultimately, this idea led to one of my favorite stories in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Sciencey Tales of Science Fiction — “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Mad Scientists.”

Throughout both books, and the extended edition, Chris and I crossed paths with more than a few mad scientists and (usually by no fault of our own) thwart their plans. In “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Mad Scientists” Jeff decides to act as the unifying factor, gathering the many disgruntled scientists to join forces for the singular purpose of destroying Chris and me. What makes this one of my favorite stories? Chris and I aren’t even in it. Yep, the influence of The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys is so great that we don’t even need to be in the story to affect its outcome. What about the goat, you may ask? Yep, he’s there, too!



A sequel? Why in the name of anything that’s good, worthy, or even slightly wanted by anyone, would we do a sequel? I’m glad you asked! The most obvious answer is that we had so much fun with the first book. Throughout the writing process of the first book, our snickering and giggling about what we were doing was a contributing factor in waitresses asking us to leave more than one location of a well-known restaurant chain (but I digress…). More importantly, though, there were still things that we hadn’t tried and we were in agreement that we needed to try them.

In The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness we mostly stuck to tropes for a variety of reasons. Using a “type” of monster not only increased the chances of greater reader familiarity, but it allowed us to jump right into the story without needing much background for setup. Not to be vain, but we really did think these stories were about “us.” Since short fiction was one of the goals of the project, we saved word space through the trope technique.

In The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Sciencey Tales of Science Fiction, we wanted to break out of that mold a little bit. We considered for the first time some character re-occurrence, so it made sense to give them a slightly more specific background. As such, we created each story with the backdrop of a much more famous story in mind. This helped us with the organizational details of the stories and kept us directionally pointed towards a proper story “ending.”

It’s always difficult for me to pick a favorite from any of our collections. “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs The Center of the Earth” appeals to me because of the attempt to show the camaraderie that Brian and I share. Plus I just find the concept of fighting the center of the earth one that allows for a great deal of interpretation. “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs The Moon” is another story that really allows for a great range of writing freedom, conceptually, and it is based on one of my very favorite books of all time. Every story in this collection is a doppleganger of a much more famous piece of fiction. Take the challenge and see if you can guess them all!


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Deconstructing the Stories, Part 4


For this installment, the stories that we’re going to deconstruct are four that can only be found in The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness: Reflux Edition. From here on out, we’ll just refer to it as Reflux. What is Reflux? Other than that burny feeling your insides get when thinking about either Chris or me? It’s the special edition of The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness. This limited print run can only be purchased directly from us at any of our various appearances (check here for where we might be next), or from our website, here. What makes Reflux different from the original edition? Well, we added three stories, rewrote four stories, and after EACH story is a behind the scenes look of what we did or drank to come up with the story. It’s like the special director’s commentary DVD of your favorite movie. Why did we rewrite four of the stories? Well, we’re glad you asked.

One of the stories I decided to rewrite was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Wendigo.” Chris wrote that story in the original version. He did a fantastic job with it, continuing our adventure from our time in Tijuana chronicled in “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. La Chupacabra.” However, when we first brought up the idea of our characters facing the wendigo spirit, we each had vastly different takes on the subject. Chris portrayed the spirit much like Algernon Blackwood did in his tale many years ago. It lent itself well for what Chris did with the story, but my favorite versions of the wendigo were always the more Hollywood style – the ravenous creature possessing a person, turning them into an insatiable cannibal. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the Algernon Blackwood version of the wendigo. But after we released the original version of Scary Tales, we learned that many people don’t know what a wendigo is, and even fewer have heard of Algernon Blackwood. When we decided to do Reflux, I jumped at the chance to tell a story using one of my favorite spirits not sold in a liquor store. I also took the opportunity to make a few jokes about Canada. Because, you know, Canada.

The other story I rewrote was “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. Zombies.” This concept was actually what started the whole nonsense of us writing ourselves as characters in horror stories. At the time, I was not a fan of zombies. Over the decades, the typical zombie story evolved from inept young people struggling to flee from shambling corpses that can somehow utter the word, “Braaaaaaaaains,” to a more sophisticated study of human nature where survivors could be more dangerous than the zombies themselves. When Chris wrote the original, he did a fantastic job of taking the zombie story to a unique place (the zombies in question were not actually undead, instead they were under the mind control of the nefarious Potato People) as well as tell a compelling story using dialog only, with zero narrative. Even though I enjoyed his vision, I still wanted to see a traditional zombie story filled with traditionally stupid characters. Namely, Chris and me.

Since the characters of Chris and Brian spent so much time in a restaurant thinly veiled in fiction called Melons, I thought it would be funny if Chris and I won a “golden ticket” to visit the headquarters. Little did we know it would be much like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory! Not only did I want to up the fun factor, but I also wanted to add to the body count. Scary Tales is a book about horror stories, and zombies are always eating people, so the zombies in this version of the story eat people. Of course, they deserve to be eaten since they do what the characters do in the zombie stories of yesteryear that I detested – drop weapons right after successfully using them, or sacrificing themselves for the rest of the group when there’s another option that would allow everyone to escape unscathed. Of course, I also decided to have fun with the source of zombie-making contagion. Yes, you guessed it – the goat.



…And cut. Ok, that’s a wrap, guys. Good job and we can continue filming tomorrow… Oh, hi! I didn’t hear you back there, you sneaky creepers! Thanks for visiting us on the top secret Fortress lair… oh, wait… it’s top secret… so, what was Brian going on about? Reflux? Yeah, I know a thing or two about that. Come on over here where we can talk.

Four stories from the original collection got a complete makeover in Reflux. Brian wanted to tackle Zombies and The Wendigo because he simply envisioned them as something other than what they were in the original edition of the book. And I’m glad that he did. He took both stories back to their more Hollywood roots and it brought out more of that delightful lunacy that you all know as The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys.

For my part, I wanted to try to work a slightly different angle with “Spider.” The original is classical zaniness and a favorite of ours to do at readings. I’m always a sucker to twist up a good classic into knots, so I wondered what would happen if I made “Spider” follow a traditional European fairy tale format, complete with a stranger and gifts and all of that. As we had begun to work in Jeff Young more as an antagonist, I thought it would be great fun to continue this theme (it wasn’t until Brian and I met after the first round of story re-writing that we found out that we had both taken this tactic). The framework of the story is largely autobiographical as Brian had told me just weeks earlier how he had blown up two mowers in a span of a few days. For someone who only mows twice a year, this is no small task! Brian’s accountant, financial justification for the events of the story… well, that just makes me laugh a little bit on the inside. He’s read it. He still hasn’t denied that he would rationalize it similarly….

“The Blob” was a story for which I had no reference. There is no literary equivalent that I’m aware of and I have never seen the movies pertaining to it. I enjoyed Brian’s take on things (who doesn’t love a good mad scientist?) and I stopped to wonder what semi-autobiographical reference I could use in which we were mad scientists… hmmm… oh, yeah… at one of our Fortress excursions we may have relived the good old college days and some of our less than wise mixologies. At the forefront was some good, old-fashioned, gummy candy. Couldn’t possibly cause any harm, right? So I threw in a little Ghostbuster humor and mixed it with a few fifty piece wing platters and voila! Speaking of gummy candy, I think it’s… ummmm… clean out the pantry day! National holiday, you know. Gotta go! Bye!

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The Journey: Reconnaissance!

In our previous installment of the journey, we learned all about printing. Well, we learned a little about printing. And we may have learned that Brian might not be Batman. Ahhh, who are we trying to fool? We all know that Brian is Batman. So, let’s take a peek at what happens when we try to educate ourselves about starting a business….

The Journey

One of the more difficult things about being regular working schlubs like us trying to step outside of our preordained caste and start our own publishing company is finding time. There’s never enough of it to do what we need, to muddle through the regular day-to-day activities such as work, pay bills, spend time with the family, pay bills, feed the addiction to eBay, pay bills, do the chores, pay bills, etc… Then add to the pile, “small business start-up” and the pile becomes perilously close to toppling over, crushing all beneath it. Jac fell victim to such circumstance, no longer able to commit. Fortress was now down to three.

However, we bravely marched forward (to the beat of our own drummer, of course) and other things were starting to come together for us. We formed a “to do” checklist and slowly checked off each item as they became “to done.” At the top of the list was, “Come up with ‘to do’ checklist.” That pretty much entailed visiting a lawyer and harassing our CPA friend. We wanted to keep our time with them limited, so we tried to answer our own questions first to sound like we knew what we were talking about. Our first stop was to the local area Chamber of Commerce where we picked up a book entitled “Starting a Business in Pennsylvania.” I doubt every state in the nation will have the same book, but I’d wager that you could find something similar. Being the people person that I am, I much rather sit down with someone to get information. Being the cheap-o that I am, I much rather do it for free. Well, the “Starting a Business in PA” book helped, in the form of SCORE.

SCORE stands for Service Corps Of Retired Executives. They are just like their name implies, executives long since retired available to the public to assist in business workings. Free of charge. Interestingly enough, they’re located in the same damn building as the local area Chamber of Commerce. But the service is free and I’d be talking to executives, people who may have possibly been in the same situation we found ourselves. As luck would have it, laryngitis settled itself in the very day I had the time and opportunity to visit with them. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that me getting laryngitis is God’s way of saying, “I’m sorry you have to put up with this guy.” Normally, I wouldn’t have minded, except for the fact that I’m a working schlub who doesn’t have enough time. So, the louder I tried to talk, the fewer audible words came out of my mouth. The particular gentleman who met with me had not one, but two hearing aids. Comedy ensued. You don’t need to be Karnak to see where this is going.

“Hi. I’m st_rting up a b_sines and w_s wond_ring where to start?”
“I’m s___ting up a b___ness an_ wa_ won____ng wher_ to sta__?”
“I_ s_____g up a b______s a__ w__ w_____ng wh___ to st___?”
“I_ S_____ UP A B_____ _ND W__ __NDER___ W____ TO __ART?!”
“Are you on drugs, man?!”

After some time, and the decision for me to communicate via pen and paper, I got the answers we were looking for. Even though the meeting cleared up some things, there were still a few questions we needed to ask a lawyer.

Upon our first meeting with the lawyer, Chris and I quickly learned how monkeys at the zoo must feel as patrons stare at them. As we cartoonishly shuffled through papers looking for our research findings and subsequent questions, the only possible thought he could have been thinking was, “These two knuckleheads are starting their own business? They shouldn’t even be allowed in public.” Once we calmed down enough to be mistaken for human beings, Chris and I had one major question to answer: what business entity were we going to be?

We gave a brief overview in a previous article, so we won’t bore you with those details again. But we had our choices narrowed down to General Partnership, LLC and S Corporation. After one of the most intense meetings of our lives (only about 30 minutes, but sitting in a lawyer’s office always brings out the “fight or flight” reaction) and extensive note taking, Chris and I ran (literally) to the nearest bar after meeting’s end. Luckily, it was just across the street. After a jolly round of chiding remarks from both my future business partner and the waitress about my proclivity toward drinking beer that requires some form of citrus to be found floating in it, we reviewed our options.

A General Partnership is easy to form and easy to get money in and out of. However, there is no liability protection involved whatsoever. According to our lawyer, an LLC depends upon what state you’re in. In Michigan, they’re the greatest thing since sliced bread (hey, he’s a lawyer – they’re not known for having the greatest cliches), but in Pennsylvania, they are run very similar to Corporations. Although it’s easier for the members involved to get money out of a LLC, it still didn’t offer all the liability protection we were looking for. Plus, if it’s going to be run like a corporation, we may as well form a corporation, even though it may be difficult getting money out. Let’s not forget, Chris and I would be shareholders, and just like being a shareholder of any other corporation, we simply can’t take assets whenever we want to. Just because you may hold some shares of Wal-Mart doesn’t mean you can walk out of the store without paying for the merchandise and say, “I’m a shareholder. I own this.” Those rent-a-cops hit harder than you’d think and pepper-spray to the eyes doesn’t feel as pleasant as one might imagine.

So, it was decided! Before we hit the bottom of our first pitcher of beer, we decided that we needed another pitcher. However, it was shortly after that we decided to form an S Corporation. We wanted the protection, and thanks to the “S” status, all of the profits or losses flow through the tax forms to our own personal taxes. That means any money we earn gets taxed only once and (the more likely scenario) any money we lose, we get to deduct from our personal taxes.

The moral of the story is – if you plan on starting your own publishing company, or any small business for that matter, take full advantage of the free resources offered to you. Trust me, there are plenty of them. Start with your local area Chamber of Commerce and see what happens. Just make sure you clear a spot in your working schlub schedule for a bought of laryngitis first….

Next Issue: “Struggle.”

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Deconstructing the Second Novel, Part 1 – The Devil’s Grasp


Tom looked at me, nodded his head toward Chris, and said, “You know he writes, right?”
I replied with, “Ummmmm… no.”
Turning to Chris, Tom pointed to me, and asked, “You know he writes, right?”
Coincidently enough, the reply Chris gave sounded oddly familiar. “Ummmmm… no.”
Tom then summed up the future partnership that Chris and I would form with one word: “Idiots.”

That little tale about the endeavoring spirit of human nature took place almost fifteen years ago, about ten years after we first met. Yes, I just said that it took ten years for each of us to figure out that the other wished to be a professional writer, which only happened by the assistance of a third party. Not only is it a testament to how well men actually communicate with each other, but even if the conversation somehow came close to the subject, then inevitably something would distract us from it. One time Chris and I accidentally forgot to go to the local bar to pick up women [The Ferrell/Kattan skits you’re envisioning now really aren’t too far from the truth], because we got past a difficult level in the latest Star Wars video game and wanted to keep playing. Why is any of this relevant? Because the first thing Chris and I worked on together was The Devil’s Grasp.

Of course, before we put the proverbial pen to paper, we sat down and compared notes: How long we’d been writing, where we’d gotten published, what we liked to write, how many more levels there were in that damn Star Wars game, why the beer pitcher was always empty. We discovered that we were in the same stage of our writing careers – a few things published in small magazines. So, the next obvious step was to write a novel together.

By this point in time, I had already written two novels; one solo, one with another writer. Neither amounted to anything more than experience, beer drinking, and good times. Luckily, I was able to bring all of that to the table when Chris and I FINALLY stopped playing Star Wars and started talking about the novel.


Testing! Testing! Is this thing on? It is? Well, hi, folks! Let’s see here… video game… beer pitcher empty… be right back! I’m not so sure this thing truly holds 64 ounces!

While we were walking around the used car of our writing aspirations, randomly kicking tires and jumping through open windows, we discussed genre and found that we both have a keen interest in fantasy, though we had largely gotten there via different paths. As a kid I had read the “classics” and many of my days had been wholly consumed by them. Tolkien, Le Guin, Leiber, Howard… they made me want to swing a sword, to hurl spells of magical creation, to be the size of a mouse running from dark wizards, or to be seeking the advice of an alien seer. Brian was familiar with more modern, but not less important, works found on the cinema screen or comic book pages.

As we were discussing tropes and quests and magic, we also confessed to each other that we both had an interest in horror and here seemed to be a way to differentiate our piece from other more mainstream fantasy. As all of this involved far more discussion and learning about another dude that either of us had done in quite likely our entire collective lives, we took a break and went to our respective homes to do more thinking. We both typed up a short page or two – essentially of list of “do’s” and “don’ts”. This is really how we began the process of collaborative writing. Passing chapters back and forth, each trying to outdo the other by putting characters into perilous situations and challenging the other to save them.

Over the next few weeks, we established goals and outlined chapters. Afterwards, we each picked a chapter that we wanted to work on and set monthly word count goals. On the designated day, we would meet up and go over what we had done and where we envisioned the characters going next. We always outlined a good 5-6 chapters in advance and worked on different chapters, writing towards the day of the inevitable passing off of a chapter to the other person, back and forth until revision time… I still get chills thinking about revisions… slimy, putrid… out of what miasma they crawl, I know not, but they are certainly welcome to go back whence they came! I think I got some miasma on me….

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Deconstructing the Stories, Part 3


Holy wow! It’s been less than a year between postings! Tell your friends! Tell your neighbors! Tell your Priest! We’re heading to Crazytown and I think I’m the Mayor! Okay, I might have oversold it a bit. Sorry. It’s just another post pulling back the curtain that separates Chris and me from the rest of the world.

So, the last time we deconstructed some stories from our short story collection, The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness (available here and here), Chris and I looked at a couple of our favorites. This time, we’ll take a look at a couple that really stood out for us. Or me, I’d have to say it’s the last story in the book, “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil,” for many reasons.

As we were writing the book, we went along our merry way doing some goofy things that led to unanswered questions. Beer Pants. Talking to animals. Dying more than the average human being. Why there’s a goat in a few of the stories. As we were finishing up the rest of the stories, we were running out of opportunities to explain ourselves. It finally dawned us to do one final story where we match wits with the devil. Better yet, we force Jeff to match his wits with the devil. And it worked.

Within the stories, we go up against scary creatures and other dastardly villains. The creatures were all fun, but the villains of the human variety lacked a certain level of relatability. After we finished about half of the stories and started talking about sequels to the book itself, we realized that it would be super fun to have Jeff as the antagonist, trying to kill us. “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil” sets that up very nicely, as if the motivation to kill us isn’t obvious enough.

One interesting piece of trivia is this story parallels the first story I ever had printed in a magazine titled, “Why I am no longer a lawyer.” In that story, a young man makes a deal with the devil. Regretting what he did, he went to consult a lawyer. The parallel between that story and “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys vs. The Devil” is part of the reason why the characters of Brian and Chris get what they want and still escape with their souls is because of paperwork. The idea stemmed from soooooooo many “make a wish” stories where the wish maker gets screwed over by the wish giver because of poorly worded wishes. If I ever have a chance at receiving a wish or two from a near-omnipotent being, you better believe that I’m going to dot my “t”s and cross my “i”s before I utter any part of that wish, and all kinds of eyes will be crossed by the time I’m done!

Even though this story is the last one in the book, it’s the one that ties most of the other stories together. With a dash of meta-humor, the reader now gets a better understanding of the universe were working in and the characters running around in it. The goat? What about the goat? Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out….



Howdy, fellow reader! I see Brian is trying to set up here. Like anyone could choose one favorite from amongst their thousands of stories (or, in this case, half a dozen)! It’s a daunting task, I say! But I can do this….

When we had gotten to the point of falling off the barstools while discussing The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys project two things were evident: I had to do a zombie story (because Brian hates them!) and it had to be ridiculous. So when next we met, I was about 1000 words into the story and I told Brian that Drunken Comic Book Monkey Brian was turning out to be a legendary cusser. He thought for a second and said “Dude, it has to be PG13.” Well, dang. So I went home and pulled up the story. I laid on the delete key like a Rhode Island driver punishing the car horn in light-to-moderate traffic. I now had a story that was 273 words long and I was less than pleased about it. So I wondered, “What would Brian do?” Well, that’s easy! He’d do something that I hate. Hmmmmm….

We’ve already established that Brian isn’t overly fond of zombie stuff, so I needed to dig a little but deeper. Speech tags! Brian hates it when there are no speech tags! Brilliant! I’ll write a story without any speech tags. After a few hundred more words, I remembered an old college writing challenge where we were forbidden to use narrative exposition….All dialogue sans speech tags! That’s it! I’ll write the whole dang thing in dialogue! Words flew on to paper and I was loving how quickly I could type if I didn’t have to consider verbiage on the speech tags.

Suddenly I’m a few thousand words into the story and I can’t shake the nagging feeling that I don’t know how to end this thing, so I get the idea “what if I don’t?” If I blame the whole thing on the dastardly Potato People, then I can keep the pure dialogue gag going for another whole story and I have a reason for the zombie appearances. So I rolled with it. When I was about halfway through the Potato People story I realized that I didn’t know how to end that one either, so I figured “if it works once, then why not try it again?” Of course, as soon as Brian found out my little scheme, he forbid me from using dialogue in the Cthulhu story, which was fine by me and I like to think that it rankled him that the story got finished….Well, Brian is due back any minute now and I just swiped his last beer, so I’ll be seeing you!

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Deconstructing the Novel, Part 2 – The Shattered Visage Lies


Okay, now that we’ve gotten into some form of rhythm with this blog thing, let’s revisit a concept we introduced a few posts ago – Deconstructing the Novel, where go behind the scenes of our first published novel, The Shattered Visage Lies, to answer questions, give novel writing advice, and discuss some of the concepts within the book. Last installment, we discussed what the title means, or at least what it means to us. For this installment, we’ll shed some light on what we’ve been hearing about the protagonist and antagonist – Michael and Marvin. Don’t know who they are because you haven’t read the book yet? Don’t worry, feel free to take a moment to grab yourself a copy, in print or eVersion to peruse. It’s okay. We’ll wait. Have it? Read it? Good. Let’s move on.

First of all, as you have now learned from reading the book in one sitting, the novel is an ensemble piece. In it, nine different people discover they have super powers. For the most part, we go over the discovery, exploration, and development of these abilities in detail for most of these characters, so it’s not entirely accurate to say that we have a definitive protagonist or antagonist. However, Michael and Marvin stand out as those concepts, respectively. Interestingly enough, these two are also usually the least favorite character and most favorite character, respectively. And we did that on purpose.

“What? You purposely made your protagonist the reader’s least favorite character?” Yes, we did. I want to remind you, though, that he’s not a detestable character. He’s just someone who can be likeable one moment, and then a jerk the next. Just like all of us. We are all the protagonists in our own individual stories. None of us are liked by every secondary character in our own individual stories. That is what we want to reflect with Michael. He’s a regular person, just like all of us, doing his own thing, just like all of us. He can be nice, he can be a jerk; he can be likeable, he can be not likeable. Just like all of us. When we follow up the “Who is the least likeable character?” question with “Who is the most relatable character?” the answer to that is usually Michael.

Michael is the reluctant hero of the story. Most reluctant heroes of popular stories are so because they lack confidence, usually because of doubt that is bred by the inexperience of youth. I’m looking at you, Luke Skywalker. That is certainly relatable to anyone. However, we wanted to explore a different, yet relatable, reason for Michael’s reluctance – comfort. We all get frothing-at-the-mouth fussy when the cable company changes the channels on us. We’re red-raging and ready to turn to Yelp, Facebook, Reddit, the Better Business Bureau, and/or a voodoo witch doctor because The Food Network is now channel 48 when it was channel 47 just yesterday. None of us want to change our routine because of forces beyond our control, and we certainly don’t want to take on added responsibility if we don’t think it’s at least congruous with what we’re sacrificing. Neither does Michael. He’s a man in his mid-thirties who has everything he wants in life. Sure, he’s a bit spoiled in regards to certain things, and he sometimes doesn’t filter the words between his brain and his mouth, but he loves his family; his wife and his daughter are his world. Gaining a new, very powerful new ability means he now has to learn how to use it, and be involved with a whole new community of people he’d rather not associate with. This new ability means change. It means a disruption in his routine. A sacrifice he doesn’t want to make. These burdens make him fussy.  Just like the rest of us.


When we talked about the direction that we wanted this book to take it was clear very early on that Brian and I were both interested in creating a likeable antagonist…it’s just fun. We had a few ideas about how we could accomplish that, but as we hashed through them, tossing them aside like dandelions from a spring bouquet, a very obvious solution surfaced. If we simply make the character relatable to the reader, then even when the necessary philosophical issues arise, the character can remain true to himself, which also keeps him believable.

Quite simply, then, Marvin was born. Overworked, underappreciated Marvin who is surpassed by those half his age for one inconsequential reason or another. A dreary routine has taken the pep from his step and a stagnant lifestyle has taken a stranglehold on his view of the future. Marvin in a nutshell. Possibly he has the power to improve himself, but not to affect all of the forces around him that would need to be bent to his will in order to create real change. Until one day…

As Marvin develops his powers, he uses them to improve his lot in life, enhance his interest in things, most notably his marriage, and wreak a little bit of revenge on a few people who, quite frankly, don’t necessarily do much to warrant sympathy at their plight. All the while still walking that tightrope of relatability to the empathetic reader. While Michael is whining and bemoaning and remaining passive, Marvin becomes an all action kind of guy…sort of a fantasy fulfiller…or that is our hope anyway.

Gradually, of course, he becomes more and more despicable and the dichotomy between good and evil replaces some of his relatability with the reader, but the roots are still there because the character can remain true to himself even as he becomes less “human.”

It was an interesting experiment in characterization and Brian and I are often intrigued by reader’s comments about Marvin and what the future holds for him. Do you need a Marvin fix or are you hoping to explore new villainy? For now, it’s still shrouded in mystery, but later this year all will be revealed.

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We’re baaaaaaaaack!

So, there is a bit of a delay between our last post and this one. We apologize for that, but [INSERT LAME EXCUSE HERE]. Hopefully, you can understand and sympathize. In fact, we’re so lame that we’re using the same lame beginning from two posts ago. Don’t worry, we do have a cranium-rectal extraction planned to take place soon. Anyway….

If you recall from an earlier post waaaaaaaaay long ago, we promised to reprint our series of articles called “The Journey.” For those who are not familiar – when Chris and I began our illustrious careers as writers, we had a syndicated internet column called “The Drunken Comic Book Monkeys” where we babbled on about comic books and the world of entertainment in general. “The Journey” is a series of articles detailing some of our exploits into the world of micro-press publishing. We thought it might be interesting to reprint them. So, here is the third installment. Let us know what you think!


The Journey

“To Arms!”


The day of Friday, July 2nd 2004 was a surprisingly pleasant day. Warm enough to remind us that it was summer, but cool enough to mistake it for spring. Nary a cloud in the sky, the sun had free reign to exercise its will upon all who beheld it, especially two adventurers in south, central Pennsylvania. That was the day Chris and I played hooky from our respective jobs to visit local print shops.

Our original plan was to visit the area print shops on Monday, the 5th, seeing how both our places of employment were closed for the Independence Day holiday. It’s quite embarrassing, the amount of time between formulating our original plan and realizing that if both of our employers were closed, then logic would dictate that the area print shops would be closed as well. However, we quickly recovered by coming up with a reasonably good idea. Using my vast knowledge of Excel, we created an easy to use pricing grid, so the shops could quickly drop in what they’d charge for different quantities and different page counts for both full color comics as well as black and white. Little did we know what amounts they’d be dropping into those grids!

The day started with breakfast at the local diner. Chris had a coffee and a bagel. I, Sasquatch, ate two eggs, a side of bacon, a slice of ham, hash-browns, three chickens, a sheep, and a frightened villager attempting to flee. Never underestimate the importance of a good breakfast. While in the diner, we (very uncharacteristically) prepared for our day by charting out our stops and in what order to hit them. That included a printed map of Harrisburg and surrounding suburbs with annotated and footnoted visual approximations of where the various print shops were located. Our waitress took one glance at our notes and was speechless. Chris told her that I was the guy from “A Beautiful Mind.” We can only assume that she requested to her manager that someone else wait on our table, because that was the last we saw of her during our time there. Oh well. Onward and upward.

I was excited. I felt adventurous and entrepreneurial. It may have been the sugar, but I felt like fighting crime, rescuing a damsel in distress and saying, “I’m Batman!” Chris showed his enthusiasm a different way. After arriving at every destination he would scream, “Dude, stop standing on my car yelling like a lunatic! And take that mask off – no one believes you’re Batman!”

The journey itself went smoothly. I could say that my parents were right about reaping the rewards of good organization and executing a well thought out plan, but I’ll instead say it was a fluke that things went so well.  The first place we visited was a smaller shop known more for business cards and wedding invitations, but they were close by and we were itching to start. They warned us that they were probably not going to be competitive, but they took one of our pricing grids and talked to us anyway. And we learned a couple things – it takes them awhile to compile a price, so we weren’t going to get any figures that day, and the printing term “bleed” means artwork that goes to and beyond the borders.

As can be expected with any comparison-shopping, there were some snafus along the way, specifically the people we were dealing with. One guy actually laughed at us. Now, we’re very aware that when the representatives from most places were smiling at us it was to stifle a laugh. And we’re pretty sure the guy who laughed was “visiting the Astral Plane with Dr. Strange” in the back room before we came in. We had another place tell us that their services were meant for “more business related customers.” There was also the hole-in-the-wall that was located in an all but abandoned lot in the seedier side of the neighborhood that we dared not enter. We simply (and probably wisely) drove on by, crossed it off our annotated and footnoted list, and sought out our next target.

There was one place that has dug itself into my brain like a mental tick, though. The address took us onto the typical specialty shop and café laden market street of the typical picturesque small town, America. However, the print shop was difficult to find, for it was hidden behind the market street buildings, accessible only by alleyway and parking lot. Being curious monkeys, we ventured into the crooked building that could have served as a prohibition distillery, despite the summer afternoon breeze carrying with it the “Dueling Banjos” tune. Holding true to the ramshackle environment, we were greeted with, “Who’s there? What do you want?” by a scowling man, seemingly ready to grab his shot gun and start shooting if he suspected us to be IRS agents after his moonshine. Yet, we talked to him anyway, because we heard that this shop offered some of the best prices. The conversation was uneasy and pensive, the underlying tension of walking through a field of set mousetraps.  He must have spent too much time inhaling ink fumes or exotic paper particles, because during mid-thought he’d space out and change the conversation thread more often than an obsessive-compulsive with the flu changes handkerchiefs. We were both happy to leave; neither of us having to squeal like a pig.

For the most part, the people we talked to were wonderful and very helpful, quick to answer all of our questions and share any knowledge. We got an education – one that could have only been acquired through the experience. One particular shop excelled at that. Every person there not only treated us well, but were also excited about what we were trying to do, asking us more questions than we asked them. Except for one conspiracy diatribe about “the paper company bastards” all meeting in secret locations every year to collectively raise the price of paper, we felt very comfortable with them. They also got bonus points for every member of the staff having their own micrometer – even the receptionist!

After visiting a dozen different print shops in one day, we rewarded ourselves with an all-you-can-eat stromboli and pizza buffet. As a side note – a beer never tastes any better than at 2:00 in the afternoon when you have the day off and the rest of the world is at work! Alas, our adventure concluded with a late afternoon showing of “Spider-Man 2.”

Yes, we also searched on-line for national companies who print comic books more often than the local ones we visited. We won’t bore you with all the places we found and contacted. I’m sure you’d find the same places we did by simply typing in “comic book printing” in any search engine. However, we will tell you that if you’re planning on doing a black and white comic, then The Small Press Co-Op might be the place for you. They had the best prices for what we were looking to do and (judging from the sample they sent to us) they do quality work.

All in all, if anyone reading this is thinking about self-publishing, then we suggest you do as much research as possible about printing since it is the most important part of the publishing process. Even though we’re probably going to use the Small Press Co-op, the experience of taking a day off work to visit local printers was an invaluable piece in the education puzzle. Hell, even if you’re not planning on self-publishing, we suggest you visit some local print shops anyway – you might find some good moonshine….

Next Issue: “Reconnaissance.”

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