A beginning of the year roundup of what I’ve working on. There are a few projects in the works, all in various stages. First up is ClosetWorld, the project with art by the brilliant John Amor and colors by Tamra Bonvillain. John’s art gets better with each issue, and we’re now working through issue 4, the final issue of this series that was picked up by Arcana Studios. Can’t wait to get this one wrapped up and into your hands.
Next we have A Heart for al Qaeda, a military-themed story that features combat controllers, the Air Force’s special operators who embed with Army Special Forces and Navy SEAL teams to serve as the on-site manager of air support. I’ve had a switch of artists recently, and I can’t wait to show off new artist Francesco Mobili from Italy (check out my Hangar 19 Facebook page to see some panels). Early pages are nothing short of stunning. My first artist on the book, Sedat Oezgen, had to move on due to family commitments and some other comics projects, and we’re both excited to work again on another project in the future.
Also in the works is The Forgotten. This one I cannot go into any detail other than it does take place in both the real world and the dream world. I know this is not somewhere most comics writers would tread, given Neil Gaiman’s seminal work in The Sandman, but I’ve got a take on the dream world that I’ve never seen done before. And the background story between the real world and dream world are deeply personal. I’ve held this story for some time waiting for just the right artist, and I believe I may have found him. More to come on this comic.
I’ve also got some prose stories coming out, and I’ll be sharing those another time when they’re closer to release.
All in all, a lot on my writing plate as 2014 begins. And with a move to Amman, Jordan coming soon, not to mention family time with my wife and twin boys, it’s going to be one busy year.
Now to get to work. These stories don’t write themselves.
On Sunday, 2 June 2013, I’ll have officially been an Air Force officer 20 years. On graduation day at the Air Force Academy, I threw my hat in the air as the Air Force Thunderbirds screamed overhead. I’m extremely proud of my years in the service, and even now I continue serving, learning Arabic and preparing for an assignment to Amman, Jordan.
During all this time I’ve known of my love and passion for writing. It’s been an ever-present desire in my life, and I have to say my career in the military has taught me a lot that pertains to and helps with my writing life. Here are a few things the military taught me and how they help me with writing.
1) Respect authority. There is always someone in a position of authority over you, and this is no less the case in writing. Even as a freelancer, there’s an editor who you’ll work with. Be respectful to this person and help them succeed in their job, which is to get a great comic or story out on time.
2) On time is five minutes early. In the Air Force, if you’re exactly on time for a meeting that means you’re late. On time is actually five minutes before the meeting. The same helps with writing. If you’re given deadline, beat it. Get your work written, polished, and in to them before the date they said they’d need it. Remember there is a line of creators (pencilers, inkers, colorists, letterers) whose job is waiting for you to get your story in.
3) Be brief, be brilliant. You hear this statement a lot when communicating in the military, particularly in briefings. The seniors you’re briefing have a lot of issues to handle and not a lot of time. So be concise, informative, and hard-hitting. The same goes with writing. Trim the fat, get to the meat of the story, and make it as hard-hitting emotionally as you are able.
4) Communicate, communicate, communicate. When working on a military operation, you may have people scattered over the entire globe. The only way to pull it off successfully and on time is to always communicate. That goes with writing comics as well. I always try and let my creators know what’s going on with the project at any given time. It’s best if they aren’t left in the dark. That includes discussing page rates, deadlines, story ideas, publishing plans, and whatever else you can think of.
5) Experience life. The military gives you the opportunity to experience a LOT of life in a short amount of time. With multiple moves all over the country and world, I’ve had the opportunity to see this world in a way many never get to – not by riding a tour bus but by living with its inhabitants, talking with them, knowing them. I’ve learned languages other than my own, I’ve learned to ski and dive, I’ve learned what it’s like to welcome life into the world and to say goodbye to loved ones who’ve passed. Don’t become complacent, but get out and live life and use that to fuel your characters and your stories.
6) The work doesn’t do itself. The biggest lesson I take from my military time is to sit down and do the work. There’s no other way it’s going to get done. You can’t sit and say, “I could write a better story than that.” You have to sit and write that story.
I thank God for my 20+ years in uniform, and I’m still proud to wear it and serve. I don’t know what’s in store beyond this, but I know it’ll hold more stories that I must tell. I hope you’ll read and enjoy them as much as I enjoy the telling.
I've mentioned before that I'll be attending this year's Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC from 7 - 9 June. To make this a successful con, there are many things I have to work on prior to attending.
Pitches: I have a few projects that are currently being developed and in various stages of building the pitch. One of these, "A Heart for al Qaeda," is getting close to completion, and my goal is to have all the pages and cover completed by Heroes Con. That means I have to work with artist Sedat Oezgen to get the last few pages done as well as prep the colorist and letterer that pages are heading their way and I need a fast turn on them.
Sales Items: I'll be selling copies of my Marvel New Avengers, Wolverine, and Astonishing Tales work, as well as my independent copies of Devolution, Redo, and ClosetWorld. Prior to the convention, I need to inventory what I've got, make sure I have pricing stickers, and get cash on hand for when someone hands you a $20 bill and needs $18 back.
Banner: Now that Hangar 19 exists as a studio for my work, I need to get a professional-looking banner to attract attention and identify who I am. I decided to go with Post Up Stand as the reviews on their work were excellent. They've been very responsive, patient, and willing to work with my limited technical background. It goes to print tomorrow and should be sent to me soon after that, and I'm really excited based on the proof sent to me.
Fans: I want to encourage as many as I can to attend, and since there is a Facebook chat group for those of us who were extras in the movie Iron Man 3 (filmed in NC), I plan to invite the extras to come by the con and swing by my booth. I've also got to prep other materials, i.e., business cards, a placard with my name, etc.
Convention Pros: These conventions are a great time to link up with friends from the industry. I always make sure to poll around and see who's going. I'll get the chance to see Mitch Gerads (artist - The Activity), Nathan Edmondson (writer - The Activity), and several of my Comics Experience (CE) participants, who I've grown close to as we hone our craft on the CE forum. I'll also be sharing the table with author Kevin Maurer, using the time to further refine our comics story "A Heart for al Qaeda." And there are certain artists I'm hoping to work with, and it'll be a good opportunity to meet them and form a relationship with them that hopefully will lead to collaboration some day.
Publishers: If the right editors and publishers are at the con, it can be an opportunity to meet with them and pitch current or future projects. If nothing else, it's good to meet them, establish a connection, and follow up after the con for possible projects.
Play Time: No matter what, I have to get some time to wander away from the table and enjoy the con as a fan myself. This is the joy of going to a comic convention - walking, talking, and buying cool stuff with like-minded comics fans.
I'm looking forward to Heroes Con, and I hope I get everything ready in time. If you can make it, swing by and find me, and we can talk comics, the industry, life, whatever you want.
One of the things comics writers will always tell you is so great about working in comics is the joy of collaboration. It's such a great experience to sit and work with these artists and combine your vision into that mix of words and art that's better than what either of you conceived alone.
I know for me, it's a great feeling to see the art come in. When I'm developing and writing a story, I have some idea in my head what it'll look like. Then when it comes in and I open it, it's usually so much different and so much better than what I could have imagined.
I've been blessed to work with some extraordinary artists. I know I'm forgetting some, but some of these include: Paul Neary, Adriana Melo, Jake Bilbao, Alex Amezcua, William Allan Reyes, John Amor, Drew Moss, Sedat Oezgen, and Christian N. St. Pierre. This doesn't count the inkers, colorists, and letterers I've worked with.
I'm richer from having worked with these talented people, and seeing their imagination and talent only motivates me more to create great stories for them to illustrate. I've got several artists that I'm reaching out to now for a newly developing project, and I hope to continue working with such amazing people in such an incredible medium of storytelling.
Greetings everyone. Just wanted to provide an update on the conventions and conferences I'll be attending this year.
First up, I'll be attending Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC from 7 - 9 June. This is a fantastic convention for those who love comics, and a really family-friendly con. Not sure what my table number will be, but you will find me in Artists Alley at a table with author Kevin Maurer. Kevin and I are collaborating on a new independent series titled "A Heart for al Qaeda."
My next appearance will be at Realm Makers 2013 from 2 - 3 Aug at the Univ of Missouri, St. Louis. This is a faith-based writers conference put together by author Rebecca Minor, and I'll be speaking on what to do to turn your novel or short story into a comic book or graphic novel. This is the inaugural year for this conference, and it looks like it'll be a fantastic event based on the speakers they've put together.
I'm also hoping to attend the New York Comic Con from 11 - 13 Oct. I have no plans for a table at this show, but if anyone wants to link up, reach out to me through the site here.
Can't wait for this year's great conventions, especially since we'll be in Jordan next year and convention time will be difficult to come by. Hope to see you there, if not sooner.
One of the issues I've been dealing with regarding my in-development story Genesis is who is the main character. For some time I've been thinking it is a scientist who researches infectious diseases. I've labored on the story's structure, motivations, pacing, and themes, all thinking they revolved around this character. But I couldn't escape the fact that this character didn't resonate with me. And if he didn't resonate with me, that means he wouldn't resonate with readers.
It made me stop and think about the importance of who your main character is. Along with the theme and goal of your story, the choice of the main character has got to be one of the biggest decisions you'll make as you develop a story. After all, this is the character we have to get to know, the one whose pain we should feel, the one we're rooting for, the one whose journey most compels us to read this story. If we don't feel for him, we won't like the book.
Right now I'm reading the book A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander. Although it happens to be a true story, it's still about a "character," in this case German fighter pilot Franz Stigler. The writers do such a fantastic job on this book, going over Stigler's background, upbringing, influences, and personality, that I care for him. And he was fighting for the other side! That takes some serious writing chops.
Now look at the Star Wars movies. In the first trilogy (by that I mean Episodes 4, 5, and 6) Han Solo is really the central character of the story. His journey is our journey, and he is the Everyman that we all relate to. That's one (of many) of the reasons that trilogy worked so well. But in Episodes 1, 2, and 3 there was not a single relatable character. I couldn't identify with anyone so I didn't find myself rooting for anyone. Special effects seemed to be the star, and that you can find in any summer blockbuster or game today.
So for me, I've gone back to the drawing board and I'm revising who my main character will be in Genesis. I'm close to nailing him down, although I still have some digging to do on his background and what got him to where he's at in the beginning of the story. My scientist will still be in the story and will, in fact, be crucial to the story. But it's too important to the overall story that someone else take the lead.
Remember as you craft your story to really figure out who is central to the story. Our goal is to compel a reader to make his or her story our story.
I mentioned last time that I have this new idea, Genesis, that simply won't let go. It's still plaguing my thoughts. And I'm still working out if it's best as a comic, novel, or something else. There are several reasons it eludes me what format to use.
First, the visuals in my head are extremely rich, and I would love to see them come to light in the hands of a great comics artist. My frequent collaboration, Sedat Oezgen, would be perfect to bring this to life. He's been doing a lot of sketch art on his train ride to and from work where he lives in Germany, and lately he's done some amazing science fiction and fantasy pieces.
But visuals alone are not enough to make a comic. There's a pacing to comics, an episodic nature with a complete beginning, middle, and end with each issue while still having an overarching story that runs through the entire series. Right now the beats that I have in my head don't lend themselves to the traditionally kinetic nature and pacing of a comic. The idea fits more along the lane of of my novel The Calling than it does to my science fiction comic The Rift.
What I'm finding is I'm leaning toward a novel. Lines of prose and dialogue and surfacing in my mind, making me excited at the possibility of a novel. But...it might be something else. It might be a serial story.
I recently learned of a novel released in electronic serial fashion through amazon's Kindle by science fiction author John Scalzi, and this might be just the ticket for how to approach this. I definitely see it as a series of events that could be broken up fairly easily (although not with the shortened, staccato beats needed for a comic). And this could stretch those prose muscles I've been wanting to stretch and give this story the volume it needs to be told properly.
So I'll continue spinning the idea around, seeing what will work best. What I do know is I can't wait to share this idea. Not since The Calling have I come up with an idea this bold, this expansive. After all, it's Genesis. It's about where we come from.
The last week I have been obsessed with a new story. You know you're on to something when it invades your thoughts every waking moment. I can't stop thinking about the characters, the themes, the plot. It's a science fiction story called "Genesis" that deals with man's origins, our future, and a deep deception.
Now here's the kicker. I'm not sure how, or rather in what format, to write it. The size and scope of the story lead me to think that it should be a novel. But given my lack of writing time (with a full plate from my day job and a busy home life with my wife and 8-month old twin boys), I've committed to comics as my sole medium. I've been writing and editing independent and Marvel comics for several years now. To take the time and write a novel would steal the limited time I have for comics writing.
So then I started thinking about making it a comic book. It would have enough rich visuals to serve a comic. But I keep thinking how the themes, the pacing, and the scope, might not be served if it's done as a comic. It's not quite an episodic adventure with numerous mini-arcs that a comic would require. Each issue of a comic, even if it's a multi-part story, should in some way serve as a complete story in itself, should leave readers both satisfied from what they read and wanting more.
I'll keep working on it, going through the story and seeing how it should be structured. I know the answer is there - I just have to keep at it and see how this story should be told. It's too good a story not to tell. After all, it's the story of where we come from, in a way never told before.
Can't wait to share it with you, once I know how and when it will be told.
I've done a number of independent projects, using a new artist just about with each one. There are several ways to find artists, but I'll focus on how I've gone about finding mine.
I have to start out by saying that I've been fortunate to have a good paying day job as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force. That's helped me by providing me money to pay a small page rate to my creators, which means I've gotten more serious contenders. Although it's not what the Big Two at Marvel and DC can pay, at least it gives them a professional credit and it gets you much more talented individuals. Even if you can only pay a little, it will help immensely in finding more qualified comics creators. If you don't have funds to pay a page rate, you'll have to really find someone as hungry and dedicated as you to break in, and you'll have to convince them that you're the one that can help get them there, meaning you need a knock-out story that suits their artistic talents.
There are several sites out there that showcase artists (such as deviantArt), but I've used DigitalWebbing.com to find my artists. In some cases I've posted a want ad for pencilers, inkers, colorists, and letterers, and other times I've scanned the forums sections, in particular looking at both the Artist showcase and the Sequential Art Showcase. When scanning what people are posting, I check out their website, if they have one listed, and any other pictures they may have posted. I also see how their responses are with people, to get a sense of what their personality is like and what they might be like to work with.
I really work to find the right artist for the tone of the book. That's led to me using Alex Amezcua for a 1-issue pitch for science fiction adventure series The Rift, found here (it's based on a published short story I did a few years ago). I've worked with Jake Bilbao on a 4-issue horror series, Devolution, found here, and I was fortunate enough to get Jake his first work at Marvel on a Wolverine story we did together. I've also worked with William Allan Reyes on Redo, an independent superhero story, found here, and we're still shopping for a possible publishers for this. I've worked with artist John Amor on my series ClosetWorld, picked up by Arcana Comics (you can see more of his art here). And finally, I've worked with amazing artist Sedat Oezgen on The Chosen, found here, and we're developing a pitch together now for series A Heart for al Qaeda, along with co-writer Kevin Maurer. This doesn't count the numerous inkers, colorists, and letterers that I've worked with.
As a writer, I'm not competing with my artists to get work from the Big Two, and they know I'll go to bat for them any chance I get. I've stood in 2+ hour long lines, waiting to show the artwork of my artists at convention portfolio reviews. They know how dedicated I am on their behalf, and as a result, they've worked extremely hard for me, giving me some inspired work to share.
In each case I had a contract with my creators. This helps keep everyone clear on our respective responsibilities (such as when I have to pay them and when they have to have artwork complete after receiving a script). It really keeps everything professional.
Whether it's through a want ad, hitting someone up through a comics art site, or going to a convention and talking to artists in Artists Alley, there are several avenues to find good artists who are looking to break in. You just have to come up with a great story and concept, be easy to work with, and handle everything professionally (e.g., if you're paying a page rate, make sure you make payments on time for the full amount).
Good luck on finding just the right artist for your own project. Now don't go stealing mine.
Greetings to everyone on the end of 2012 and the eve of 2013. It's been a great year with a lot of things happening in the writing world. I sold ClosetWorld to Aracana Comics, and it should be completed and come out sometime later next year (should make a great Christmas present next year). I finished the first issue of Redo, my independent superhero comic, and I'm still shopping for a home for it. And I was able to have a table at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC, which was fantastic in meeting so many comics and genre lovers.
In my professional life, I just finished a 2 1/2 year stint working at the Joint Special Operations Command, JSOC, in what proved to be one of the most challenging and rewarding assignments I've had. It open a whole new world to me, and introduced me to some of the most talented military professionals I've ever worked with. We've now relocated to Arlington, VA, and I'll spend a little over a year studying Arabic before heading off to be the Air Attache at the US Embassy in Amman, Jordan.
But bar none, the biggest event of 2012 was the birth of my twin boys, now 7 months old. They are a joy and a muse like none other, and it's so amazing to watch them grow before our eyes. They inspire me to do even greater things and dream bigger dreams.
Excited to get into 2013 and move into some new comics and other writing projects. Some have been hinted at here, others have not yet been mentioned. Here's hoping you equally pursue your passions and dreams.
The old year is dead. Long live the new year.
We near the end of October, and I've got multiple irons in the fire. A Heart for al Qaeda continues its development as co-writer Kevin Maurer and I develop the characters, outline the story, and work on early drafts of the scripts. All in all, it's coming along wonderfully, and I cannot wait to share this story. Artist Sedat Oezgen is prepping to start sketching out the characters and develop the look of the series.
Over in ClosetWorld, we're pressing ahead closer and closer to completion. John Amor is well into issue 3 of 4, and the book continues to look better with each page. This comic is going to be a gorgeous book to look at, of that I'm certain. I could not be more excited to have linked up with Arcana to see this released next year.
As we prepare to wrap up this military assignment at JSOC in Ft. Bragg, NC and move on to Washington, DC to begin training for my next assignment, there will be a lot of writing and developing stories. And I've been feeling this yearning, as I've not for some time, to dip my feet back into the waters of prose. Reading some great fiction this past year (The Passage by Justin Cronin and The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma) inspires me to reenter that world of writing. Now I have to set about finding the right story to tell. And that to me is the most fun part. Who knows what will come.
As many of you know, ClosetWorld was picked up to be released by Arcana Comics. It's progressing incredibly well, and we're well into the art on issue 3 of 4 issues. John Amor's work continues to shine, and Thomas Bonvillain's colors are perfectly suited to the tone of this series. From what I understand at this point, the series will be released in individual installments on Comixology, then it'll be released as a graphic novel at comic shops and bookstores around the country.
I can't wait to share this labor of love with everyone. For those with families and kids, you'll find this to be a perfect gift to share comics and a love of storytelling with them.
I've mentioned before that I'm in the early stages of developing a new comics series. This is my first real-world military story set during the height of the Iraq War. Following an Air Force special operations combat controller named Marcus Cain, A Heart for al Qaeda will explore the question how can someone love both their country and work on behalf of al Qaeda. I and co-writer Kevin Maurer, an embedded journalist, will take you through the world of Air Force special operations and into the heart of darkness during the peak of the war in Iraq.
Can't wait to share more as it progresses.
I went to see the movie The Bourne Legacy today. Loved the acting - Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz did fantastic work. But something felt off, and as we walked to the car I realized that it was missing Act 3. The entire movie is really two acts (you could almost say it's just one act). I kept waiting to get to the next phase, to start that 3rd act, to then draw us to a final conclusion, but it ended extremely abruptly.
I did enjoy it, but it's very clearly set up for sequels. I really think they could have found a way to bring some sense of closure to this movie while at the same time leaving things open for a sequel. Comics do that all the time.
Overall, good movie, but for me the winner this summer was The Amazing Spider-Man. Great story, great action, great character moments, and great acting. It beat out everything else I saw this summer, including Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus.
Now we wait for the end of year blockbusters.
With all the other pitches I've been developing lately (Redo, The Chosen, The Three, and others), I still can't stop the ideas from flowing. One new idea that's risen to the surface and is rapidly gaining steam is titled A Heart for al Qaeda. This story is guaranteed to take you on a fantastic adventure with US special operations forces (SOF) during the height of the Iraq war and break your heart along the way.
I'm currently developing this series with embedded journalist Kevin Maurer, and we're searching for just the right artist. It will take us a few months to fully finish it, but the wait will be worth it. Can't wait to share more about this fantastic idea.
I've been working hard recently on several comics. First, my opening pages for The Chosen are complete, and it looks amazing. These pages can be found here. These first 9 pages are astounding in the artwork, all thanks to artist Sedat Oezgen, colorist Ivan Plascencia, and letterer Brant Fowler. My hat's off to all of them.
Also, my independent superhero comic, Redo, is now live on www.ComicCritique.com. The opening installment of Redo is here. Every few weeks we'll be posting new installments, and I can't wait to see what you think about this unique story.
I recently had a table at Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, and I hope to see you all again soon at other nearby conventions. I also had a great time visting with old friend Bill Willingham (writer of Vertigo's Fables) and meeting great talents Nathan Edmondson and Mitch Gerads (the creative team behind Image Comics The Activity). Great guys and a great book, so check it out when you can.
Back to working on comics. Hope you enjoy.
This has been a busy year to date. I'm hard at work on a lot of simultaneous projects including: Redo, a independent superhero adventure about re-living your life; ClosetWorld, a fairy tale adventure in the vein of The Chronicles of Narnia that was recently picked up by Arcana Studios; The Chosen, a military adventure with a science fiction twist; and other pitches in early development stages. I've also created my own studio, Hangar 19, a banner under which all my projects will be released.
But the most important work I have is coming up. This week my wife and I will experience the birth of our twin boys. I know it will change everything for us and our family, but we could not be more excited. We'll have two little ones to raise, educate, and train in our home as we continue to move around the country and the world with my continuing military career. It's always been an adventure in the Yocum household.
That means I've got two more in the house soon that I have to get into comics. I'll keep dreaming up stories, and I hope you'll keep reading.
Last week I signed a deal that has officially found ClosetWorld a home. Coming in original graphic novel format, my comics series ClosetWorld will now be published by Arcana Comics. I am so excited about this, and could not be more happy for the creators involved. Artist John Amor, colorist Thomas Bonvillain, and letterer Chris Studabaker all deserve to have their work noticed, and I hope this series will both entertain everyone who reads it and opens the eyes out to the true artistic talent that's been involved in this comic.
We've got some work to do to make this dream a reality. We're about halfway finished with the art, and we've got many more pages to go until we're complete. But we'll remain committed to the series and making it as quality a comic as possible. If I had to guess, I would say that it'll come out either late this year or early next year.
It's been a great year for Hangar 19 and the various projects I've got in the works. And I hope it continues that way. If anyone plans to attend the 2012 Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC in June, please stop by my booth and say hi.
Hello to everyone, and thanks for bearing with me lately on limited entries here. I do have some big news coming for one of my comics projects, but I want to hold off until it's a done deal and all involved are informed. Come back soon for some great news on what has been one of my favorite comics to write. I can't wait to see where this goes from here!