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The Grind

Toronto this past weekend, long days of travel, but wonderful, wonderful people – a great show. Small, friendly, got so be parked in a line with Chris Sprouse on my left and Philip Tan and Barry Kitson on the right, which was rather awesome, frankly. Philip I’ve known for a few years, now; Chris I’d met long ago; Barry I’d never had the privilege of meeting before, and am very, very glad I was finally able to rectify that. To everyone who came by to chat and get stuff signed, a sincere thank you.

Not a terrible amount of update information at the moment; still waiting to hear back from numerous people on numerous projects, ranging from the small to the inordinately ambitious. This has made answering the, “so, what are you doing now?” question a little challenging, as you might imagine. And yes, before you ask, I am well-aware that Stumtpown #4 was promised by the start of June, and here we are approaching its chewy center, and there’s no issue in sight. I shall apprise you all of the ETA as soon as I have that information.

And I SWEAR TO GOD this will be the LAST TIME this happens. When we solicit for the next arc, the issues will ship on time each month. I cannot thank all of you enough for your patience. We will get the schedule nailed down soon, I promise.

As to what I am up to? Glad you asked, here’s a sample or three…

GH1 - inks

Start of a sequence, pencils and inks by Rick Burchett

Gowanus Heights 2

Continuing the sequence

Colored panel from GH1

Color Test

By way of example, so’s you know.

The Mister8 voting for the final round ends today. I find it vaguely ironic that it comes to a close two days before the World Cup begins. I’m probably the only person who finds that ironic, but I’ve admitted before to being strange. Last I checked, Chace was getting roundly and savagely beaten by the Men from U.N.C.L.E., which is certainly a beating she can take; she’s suffered far worse at my hands, certainly. That said, if you haven’t voted, get your tail over there and cast a vote – Chace or Solo & Kuryakin, whichever may be your pleasure. As I think I’ve said before, I’m still more than a little amazed she made it this far!


Spy Hard

The Mister8 May Madness has reached its final round, and against all odds – and due in no small part to all of you folks who’ve been reading the blog and following the tweets (@ruckawriter, if you’re interested) – our girl Tara Chace has made it to the last stand, against the Men from U.N.C.L.E..

My dear friend Evan, who’s been posting comments here and at Mister8, wrote up a nice stump speech for Chace. He wrote it as an in-character piece, first-person, her POV; who she is, why she is, what she does, and I thought he did a damn fine job of it. Fun to see her through another’s eyes – it’s a rare treat for a writer, frankly, to create something that another can take hold of so thoroughly as to represent it in their own words. It is, perhaps, a whiff of authorial immortality.

So there’s Tara’s “campaign speech.” And then there’s the one in support of the Boys from U.N.C.L.E., and you can see that it is a very different stripe of cat. Not an in-character piece at all, but rather, an appreciation for what the show was, what it meant to those who followed it, and who still follow it today. No mention of characters, or stories, but rather of style – the word “dash” is used. An appreciation of the show as a product of its ear. It is, frankly, an appeal based on nostalgia and sentiment more than anything else, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all.

I remember watching U.N.C.L.E., remember the first time I caught an episode. I was fresh from my Bond initiation (which went like this: saw my first Bond film – eyes got wide; saw more films and many more Bond Girls, eyes got MUCH WIDER; saw many more films as quickly as possible; wise uncle (heh, irony) bought me my first handful of the novels; read them and wondered how the movies could have gotten things so wrong) and the show fit right into the mold. But it had so much more that was just…awesome. And it had Illya Kuryakin. ILLYA KURYAKIN!!!

Global amounts of cool.

But, y’know…they also fought THRUSH. And even when I was 12, that wasn’t cool to me; that was silly. And it was confusing, because I’d watched Get Smart, and there was KAOS. And that was comedy, and I got that. Hell, I went to see – God forgive me – the Nude Bomb when it first came out in theaters. So THRUSH…KAOS…confusing.

Like most genres, espionage breaks down into sub-genre. The broad focuses to the narrow. My “espionage education” went from Bond to Le Carré in short order, and in doing so it went from broad entertainment to something that – for me, personally – was a much richer, far more compelling world. And, as I’ve said before, Le Carré lead me to The Sandbaggers, and that’s where I found my home, so to speak.

Bond takes his vodka martini shaken, not stirred. The Men from U.N.C.L.E. always seemed to me to be a mixed drink. And Tara…well, she’s whiskey straight from the bottle, when she can’t find a dirty glass.

So, yes, the final round of voting, and while there seems to have been some *cough* minor acrimony over Chace having made it even this far, to me there’s one wonderful, brilliant fact that is not to be overlooked. No matter how you may vote on this, no matter what you may think. Which is this:

When Mister8 decided hey, May Madness, we’ll have a Spydown, he picked sixteen spies/spy teams for the battle. And of those 16, two were women, and neither – NEITHER – had existed in “mainstream” medium (if we are willing to argue – and in this instance I am, as the Q&C novels haven’t kissed the NYT Bestseller lists even in passing, unlike, say, Deighton or Le Carré). One of them was Chace.

That’s awesome.

To me, that’s fucking brilliant.

We’ll see what y’all think of Elizabeth R. when she shows up….

Round Two – ARGH!

So, yes, as Evan pointed out in the comments to the last entry, Mister8 has moved its “spy-down” to Round Two. This time its Tara versus The Avengers The Avengers The Avengers.

This one actually gave me pause in a way that Chace v. Bond utterly failed to. Don’t get me wrong; I loves me my Bond – he was the gateway drug, he was my first time with a spy, and I can remember being 12 and watching Thunderball and my eyes popping out of my head. I can remember going to see Octopussy in the theatre and thinking that “All Time High” was a good song. I remember it all.

Which is ultimately the problem I have with Bond. There is no one tone, no consistency. Loving Bond is loving the idea of James Bond (Mister8 pulls the Chandler quote, quite rightly, about Bond being who every man wants to be, and who every woman wants between the sheets. I won’t argue the point; you get the gist), not the character of Bond. It’s why we ask “who’s your favorite?” It’s why we rate Connery higher than Moore, and we set the novels in their own category. For the record? I loved Casino Royale. I had enormous problems with Quantum of Solace. I love Bond as an Idea; I love Chace as a Person.

So, the struggle. Q&C versus The Avengers, which, I suppose, is no more fair than pitting her against Bond in Round One. A comic book/novel character with a – let’s be honest – limited but devoted following versus arguably the single-greatest cult spy show ever, if not of the ’60s? We’re talking Emma Peel Avengers, btw, from whom Tara can claim lineage, if not a direct line. I mean, Queen & Country versus The Avengers? That one’s…that one’s hard, at least for me.

In the end, though, I had to throw my vote to Chace again. I’ve got an open bias, clearly, I mean, I’d be a lying jackass if I claimed otherwise, but on a more rational, thoughtful level, for all my love of Steed and Peel, I prefer my my espionage with a more “realistic” (and yes, yes, YES, I use the word advisedly) tone. This was what drew me to The Sandbaggers back in the day, the marriage of Bond-style action to Le Carré fashioned methodology and consideration. Then along came Ian MacIntosh and he threw in politics for good measure, and all of the sudden spy stories became, for me, about so much more. It was that element, that final piece, that gave the genre its enduring breath of life. It’s why I’m making notes on new Q&C stories right now, why I’m drafting the outline of the follow-up to The Last Run. It’s why I keep coming back to it.

So go to Mister8, check out the site (it’s truly a wonderful site!), cast your vote. And believe me, I won’t hold it against you if you go with Steed and Peel.

Just don’t tell Tara if you do.

For Queen and Country

OK, this is awesome. Over at Mister 8, they’re doing a Battle of the Spies. Today it’s John Drake versus George Smiley. On May 13th? 007 himself versus our girl, Tara Chace.

You obviously know who I think you should all be voting for RIGHT NOW, yes?

Make with the clicky!! GO!!

Hey, Seattle? Busy Tomorrow?

Busy. Word of the moment, it seems, and thus I’m late in throwing this up for public consumption. But…

Matthew Southworth and I will be doing TWO signings tomorrow for Arcane Comics, at their West Seattle and Ballard stores respectively. West Seattle from 3pm to 5pm, Ballard from 6pm to 8pm. We will be entertaining and charming and probably SFW and small children, should you bring either along with you.

And as far as appearances go, it looks, indeed, that I shall be in Toronto on June 5th and 6th for the Toronto Comicon. Very excited about this one – love visiting Canada, and it’s been too long since visiting Toronto, specifically.

More to post this coming week, I suspect. Mr. Burchett is working up the second batch of pages on American Soldier, and we’ve been playing around with some color tests, as well – hope to post some of those by mid-week, as well as some simmering dark thoughts that have been rumbling about the back of my maladjusted mind.

The Last Run (PreOperational Briefing)

Ah, so…it’s been a weekend here. Returned from LA in fine spirits following good meetings regarding things that it would be presumptuous to talk about at this point, only to find that a Creeping Crud™ had descended upon the household. It is as yet unclear to me whether I’ve avoided this germ-bomb or not; I suspect I’ll know definitively in the next 24 hours or so.

Research has been slow-going on the new project; Rick sent along inks of the pages he has done, and I think he’s planning on some color-tests next. I will share more soon, I suspect, once he and I are pleased enough with the package to allow the light of day entrance.

So, yes, today…I’m the healthy one, both kids are home from school, and Jen is doing the thing she does when she feels like hell but can’t silence her work-ethic, which leads to me telling her to get back in bed. This is something I say to her a lot. And no, it’s not as exciting as you might think.

I promised a snippet of The Last Run a while back, and here I am, to keep my word. Those who’ve read the Q&C series know that each novel begins with a “pre-operational briefing” centered on Chace. It’s a conceit of the series, a means to introduce the protagonist and her world to newcomers, and it’s always a fun insight into her character. For The Last Run it’s no different.

Below, you’ll find the Pre-Op, as well as a link to a PDF of the same, if you’d rather read offline, at your leisure, or simply print-out and spindle, spike, or likewise mutilate. You can find the PDF here. Apologies to all for errors of formatting, spelling, or any strange odors you may experience while reading.


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It’s Wednesday, and That Means…

…comic books!

In particular, the last issue of my and Eric Trautmann‘s run on Action Comics is in stores, wrapping up the Nightwing and Flamebird storyline, and folding into the upcoming events as helmed by Sterling and James. Pere did some beautiful art this issue, and the cover – which you can see on the frontpage here – is truly stunning.

And if that wasn’t enough, after a long delay, Stumptown #3 will be in stores, the third part of the “Girl who Left her Mini but Took her Shampoo.” Matthew Southworth art! Dex in trouble! A funny bit with not one, but two cars! Snappy dialogue! Menace! A minor concussion! What more could you want from a book about a down-at-her-luck knight-errant of a private investigator!?!

And as for me, I venture to the land of Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon, to pursue…various other pursuits.

Starting next week, I’ll be posting the first excerpt from The Last Run, as well as – possibly – some more of Rick Burchett’s art.

Friday, already?

Well, making it C2E2 didn’t happen, and my sincere apologies to everyone attending who hoped to see me; I was looking forward to the show, but mass quantities of stomach bug had other ideas. There has been some talk of arranging a signing for the Batwoman: Elegy trade release in Chicago for early July; if it comes to pass, I hope to make up for my current absence then.

Feeling better today, at least, good enough to get back to work. And, as promised, here’s an image from the most current of the “new” projects, the design sheet for the book’s protagonist, as drawn by Mystery Artist. Figured we could have some fun with this, so:

The first person to correctly identify the artist of the piece wins a Stumptown t-shirt, as well as a signed copy of Stumptown issue 1!


On your marks…

…get set…

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Quite the Week

And the thing was, I told myself I was taking the last week off. I really did tell myself that.

Silly, silly me.

Started the Great Big Project in earnest last week. Research mostly, looking to script some pages for the Mystery Artist this week so he can start to drawing. Will spend today in fictional Portland as well as the real-rain-soaked-one to get the next issue of Stumptown finished for Matthew. For those of you who’ve been dialing in to hear Dex’s duclet tones on voicemail, look for a new message to coincide with the release of issue #3. And yes, I’ll be announcing its release as soon as I have a hard date from Oni.

The kerfuffle seems to be dying down a bit, now, which I suspect is for the best. I must admit, I’m feeling a bit anxious, as one might expect with the start of any new venture. DC has been a very comfortable, very stable safety blanket, one that I have sincere mixed emotions about leaving behind. It isn’t easy to walk away from a passion, and I truly believe that one cannot write well if one isn’t passionate: about story, about characters, about what one is creating.

Still, there is much ahead to be passionate about. So this week…it’s time to write.

For Q&C and novel fans out there, I’ll be posting the “Pre-Operational Briefing” (also known as “the prologue”) from The Last Run here later this week, so stay tuned!

And now…Audio!

The audio version of the spotlight panel from this past Friday is available at ComicsAlliance, as well.

So you can hear my strange voice and awkward pauses in all their limited glory.