Comic! Book! Universe!

This is a companion post to Kit’s announcement over on her blog. You’ll want to read that, too, in either order.

My friend C. E. Murphy (another talented author — I’m lucky to know several — who’s behind the Urban Shaman/Walker Papers series, among others) and I go way back. We first met online back in the mid 1990′s, playing characters on an of all things X-Men MUSH. She called herself Kit there, so I always call her Kit. Or “Miz Kit,” as my rendition of Sabretooth preferred.

Kit’s an incredibly deep-geek fan of comics (whereas I’ve always been more of a dabbler) and a prolific writer to boot. So fiveish years back when I said:

Fred needs to put together a comics universe

Fred says, “With the major cities of DREAM CITY, CHARM CITY, and ELECTRIC CITY”

Fred says, “DREAM CITY is the Los Angeles analogue, CHARM CITY is your east-coast politics and crime thang, and ELECTRIC CITY is that sort of middle america big industrial near a giant hydroelectric dam”

Fred says, “DREAM CITY is home to The Stuff (ref: The Stuff that Dreams are Made Of), examining issues of responsibility, image, and fame. CHARM CITY has the title Charmed Life, blending supers with supernatural along with the gritty elements of washington politics and street-level crime. ELECTRIC CITY has the title ElectriCity, and is one of those post-modern Justice League/X-Men type things where the heroes have phenomenal powers but a lot of personal problems that are more interesting”

Fred says, “This bangs around in my head regularly.”

… I should’ve known that I was dangling fresh bloody meat in front of a hungry tiger. I didn’t, but I should’ve.

Kit pounced.

And then life happened. But we kept coming back to the idea of collaborating on something like this — me throwing my Big Picture Ideas at her, doing worldbuilding in the areas of my idea that excited me, but leaving it to her to make that world a complete, breathing thing with characters who laugh and love and fight and bleed and die. (Kit writer. Me publisher.) It was a dance that spanned years, punctuated by long bouts of having many other things to do.

Recently we had a chance to visit our dance again (I point you once more at Kit’s blog post, about that). It feels more alive than ever, more doable.

We’re going start by focusing on creating ElectriCity, a stand-alone graphic novel (not that we won’t have follow-up projects if this one succeeds — but we both like the idea of creating works that emerge as complete stories, here). Kit has already worked up part of a synopsis — a reflection on our dance — and it’s looking pretty hot. Plus, it’s got Tesla and Edison’s feud right there at the root of modern superheroes.

Over the course of the next several months (at least) I’ll be sharing details and tidbits of our plan. You’ll meet The Team, and learn a little about their problems. A few months out from now, hopefully, you’ll also see some of the concept art take form.

I’ll also be talking about the business side of trying to publish a single graphic novel. And I’ll tell you right now, that’s not liable to be pretty. The budget for even one of these things is prohibitive. Consider this: each page of a graphic novel has multiple artists working on it (penciler, inker, colorist, letterer, author), and each page is essentially a full-page, full-color piece of art.  It’s probably one of the most cost-dense forms of geek media you’ll find — a single 100-ish page graphic novel requires an art budget on the order of several Dresden Files RPGs.

To be honest, that’s not something we’ll be able to take on alone. A Kickstarter campaign with a not-at-all modest minimum target is almost certainly in the (non-immediate) future, after we’ve got enough material developed to give us a foundation for getting one going. (If Do was a kickstarter for a graphic novel, it would have just cleared the necessary amount a week or so shy of conclusion — and that’s with Evil Hat picking up about half of the tab.) If that campaign doesn’t succeed, we won’t have a strong enough foundation to get to the finish line.

But that’s putting the cart ahead of the electric horse. We first need to demonstrate to y’all that what we’re working on will be awesome. So that’s what the next few months will include (modulo Origins, modulo my second kid being born in July, all that), as we make our way through the work. We also need to put thought into what else we can do to tie into this thing, since transmedia is the word of the day. Short story collection? RPG tie-in? Both, and more, certainly possible, depending on whether and how much of a success we can chart for this thing.

The ride we’re on now may crash. We’re hoping it will soar. But it’ll be a crazy ride, and crazy fun. We hope you’ll come along with us.