Tag Archives: comics

Deconstructing the Stories: Part 1

BRIAN SAYS:

Welcome back! Chris and I hope you’re enjoying our blog so far. As we mentioned in our very first post, we wanted to do a segment called “Deconstructing the Stories” where we’ll be going behind the scenes of some of our short-stories that we’ve had published. Well, here we go!

For “Deconstructing the Stories” Part 1, let’s take a look at “Drunken Comic Book Monkeys in: Scary Tales of Scariness”. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with this work – it’s a collection of short stories where Chris and I wrote ourselves in as characters of horror stories. If you’d like to familiarize yourselves with this book before we continue, you can order a hardcopy here at the Fortress Site and you can order an eVersion here (Smashwords) or here (Amazon) or here (B&N). Okay, so now that you’ve familiarized yourselves with the book, the first question you might have is how we came up with the idea in the first place.

As with most ideas that Chris and I have, we ultimately found inspiration at the bottom of a beer pitcher. But there were a couple things that happened before that.

As Chris and I were creating Fortress Publishing, Inc., we attended a few conventions to gather intel and generate some ideas. One convention in particular was the Pittsburgh Comicon and one particular comic book that we picked up was “Living With Zombies” where, as you may have guessed, the creators wrote and drew themselves as characters surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A few months later, Chris and I were at our monthly shareholders meeting (yes, Fortress Publishing, Inc. is REALLY a corporation) at Hooters. Much to the chagrin of the waitresses, our meetings would last 6+ hours and would deteriorate into silly debates, often loud and slurred. This one happened to be: Zombies, Pro or Con.

I find zombies little more than moving scenery while Chris believes that they represent man’s inherent fear of blah blah blah blah blah. During a particularly heated part of the debate (and for those of you who don’t know us, “heated” really means we entered the “giggle like a couple of preteen girls” stage of our drunkenness), Chris blurted, “I’m gonna write a zombie story with us as characters!” I replied, all too loudly as well, “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna write a vampire story with us as characters! And they’re gonna be the new, hip, sexy kind who wear black leather and listen to techno music!” We then paused in our bickering, ignoring the looks of indignation being cast at us by the waitresses and other patrons, and let the concept of writing ourselves as characters into stories percolate in our alcohol addled minds. We then looked at each other and asked, “Do we really want to do this?”

CHRIS SAYS:

Do we really want to order more beer? Duh! Oh, wait…Do we really want to work on this project that, in a more sober frame of mind, would likely be less appealing than shouting “all in” while holding a deuce and a seven, unsuited? We assessed our current situation as publishers. At that point, to date, we were the proud publishers of a few slick looking magazines and a graphic novel. A few nice beginner projects, but hardly the stuff of publishing legend. Brian and I both love short story anthologies and hoped that eventually the magazine arm of Fortress Publishing, Inc., would lead us down the path to publishing a few of them. From that aspect we were pretty darn amped about giving this project a shot.

As writers, we had a few short stories and some poems published, but we clearly wanted to get some more writing experience. We had no large writing projects looming so as we began to flesh out this project, we decided that this was a great opportunity to attempt to write in a few different styles, work with an outside editor (potentially), work with deadlines (shudder), find an illustrator, practice re-writes, find a printer we liked, and assemble a novel-length piece into a computer file that the printer would accept. All in all, this was a more daunting task than merely writing a few stories, and a few more pitchers later we found that we were pretty excited about the whole project and the experience we would get out of it.

While the creative coals were still hot, Brian and I started throwing out story names and suggestions at each other. Some of them made us cringe. Others made us cackle in a manner worthy of the forcing the employees to ask us to leave. But that didn’t happen. Instead, one of us got the bright idea that we should be capturing these ideas for future reference (the other argued…because, hey, it’s what we do). Fortunately, we not only write down our ideas, but somehow managed to stow the notes in a place where we actually came across them the next day.

Now, in all truth, Brian and I took far different approaches to the potential selection process. We both loved the ideas that made us titter uncontrollably, but Brian really focused on his past movie experiences, while I delved into the literary vault of my mind and dug out some of my favorite Gothic reads. Brian was noting themes and tropes, while I was methodically examining very specific works that focused on a specific atmosphere or style. In the end we wound up with a nice blend of horror that we thought we could poke fun at through unique twists, while maintaining a sense of respect for the original ideas.

Tune in next time when we deconstruct our novel “The Shattered Visage Lies”…

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The Journey

BRIAN SAYS:

We’re back!

We decided to start off with the first installment of 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 first installment. Let us know what you think!

The Journey

“Origin”

by

Brian Koscienski
&
Chris Pisano

Are you tired of the rejection letters? Have you thought about self-publishing? Did you ever wish that you could read about a couple of knuckleheads trying to start their own publishing company to see what’s really involved? Well, you’re in luck. We’re those knuckleheads.

As with any set of characters involved in comics, we have origins as well; reasons for our actions and motivations to elicit a sympathetic reaction from the reader. I’m Brian, the self-appointed mouthpiece of the group. Chris and I have been friends for well over a decade, but we had to muddle through the first seven years of friendship before we realized that we both shared dreams of becoming writers. “Why’d it take seven years?” you may ask. Well, we’re men and we share our feelings as often as Sally Struthers shares a sandwich with third-world children. And to be up front with you right now, expect “because we’re men” to be used as an excuse for many of the dumb things we’ll do during this arduous journey.

Just so you can truly understand the characters better, let’s just say that I’m the type of guy who would talk Chris into wearing capes and climbing to the roof of a two-story house, convinced we can fly. Chris is the type of guy who would talk me into trying it from the second floor balcony instead. I’m the type of guy who would then push Chris off the balcony to see if the whole flying experiment will work. Now, I’m not mean-spirited, mind you, just very driven, very zealous and often very misguided. Chris’ job is to fix these things.

Upon discovery of our shared desire to write, we decided to partner up and write a novel. As with any great idea, it was hatched after a few brews at the local bar. During a surprise moment of clarity, we decided to write a fantasy novel (the swords and horses, dragons and wizards kind) and quickly came up with settings, plots, characters and the dream cast of who should star in the movie version. Things were going very smoothly for us. I would write a few pages, inadvertently place the characters in precarious situations, then send the script to Chris and say, “Your turn.” This process worked, and worked well for over eight chapters, until one fateful day when my wife gave me too much free time, allowing me an opportunity to stroll to the “back issue” section of the local comic book store.

Forgive us, but to continue we must briefly revisit the Dark Age of comic books. Yes, the nineties. Marvel had all their “X” titles do a seventeen part cross-over three times a year; the Avengers were fighting whole wars underwater, in space, and through time; most of the other titles struggled to remain comprehensible (seriously, did anyone really understand the whole “She-Thing” idea?) all finally culminating to the Onslaught fiasco. What was going on over at DC? Superman died, Batman broke his back, Robin laid an egg while the bat-mobile lost its wheel and Joker got away. Independents weren’t much better with their plotless stories of T & A cloned “heroines” and heroes so large they’d make a Mr. Olympia contest look like a junior high chess club. Like some of you, the industry let us down and wore us down, giving us no other alternative to stopping all subscriptions and pray that one day the industry would refocus on writing. Well, as we found out, some prayers can be answered.

I never truly walked away, though. Thanks to eBay, I was able to feed the addiction of collecting, needing only a cursory glance through random issues to remember why I stopped reading them. Thusly, I only needed to visit the local comic store for bags and boards. One day, I had two hours to spare before I had to meet my wife for something. Two hours is a long time for a person all too willing to don a blanket-style cape and jump from a roof to fly. Curiosity pulled me past the “supplies” section of the store, right to the letter “A” of the back issue section. There it was – my radioactive spider, my gamma bomb – Alias #1.

Within minutes of finishing that issue, I went on-line and ordered the complete series. With a Galactus sized hunger, I went back to the comic shop and devoured every Max title I could find. So enamoured with the imprint, I went to Marvel’s website to learn more, however, only one word caught my eye – Epic.

Like so many aspiring writers out there, I couldn’t help but find, and click on, the menu option labeled “submission guidelines.” Can you see where this is going? Yep, my brain flooded with so many ideas that it would have given Charles Xavier an aneurysm, and immediately called Chris to convince him to veer off the novel path onto the road of comic books. Having learned there is very little difference between a jump from the roof and a push from a balcony, Chris quickly agreed. In fact, he kind of liked the idea.

Then came Gabe and Jac (pronounced Jake). Since the idea behind Epic was to submit ideas from a preformed team, we needed artists. Chris brought in Gabe while I brought in Jac, each with a unique style. Holding up our end of the bargain, we penned three scripts, one for a Ghost Rider idea, a Guardians of the Galaxy idea and a Moon Knight idea. Both Gabe and Jac fell in love with the Ghost Rider idea with such vigor that we had to write a second script to keep the artists from fisticuffs. All of us were proud of the scripts and had high hopes for the future. Unfortunately, reality has as habit of taking good feelings away from non-established writers.

Three rejection letters later, Epic folded before we could come up with any more ideas. However, we didn’t need to – our own thoughts and ideas took over. Completing script after script, original ideas were popping up faster than mutants in the Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, so was the phrase, “We are not currently looking for writing submissions at this time” on every publisher’s website. Finally, we had it. We couldn’t take it any more. We had another great epiphany, again hatched over a few more brews at the local bar. We’re going to start our own damn publishing company.

Fear not, intrepid reader, for we will certainly keep you abreast of our situation. Every folly and foible shall be well documented for your information, or amusement for those of you sadistic enough to enjoy watching the turmoil of a butterfly attempting to escape a spider-web. If all goes well, then hopefully other aspiring writers will take something from our example to blaze their own trail. If we fail, then at least a few lovable losers from Pennsylvania will show you in great detail what not to do…

Next Issue: “Assemble!”

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