Sunday, June 10, 2012


I hate having to wait. It's probably one of those traits that ties us all to humanity. We want what we want, when we want it, and we want it NOW!  Of course, there's something to be said for the anticipation of something. Waiting to open Christmas presents is ruined if you're peeking to find out what they are days or weeks ahead of time. Making sure a meal is cooked before we devour it will ensure you not getting sick in the process. Even seeing a movie we've been dying to watch for months (or years) can be ruined if we know too much about it or see too much in the advertising leading up to it. They call them "spoilers" for a reason.

Still…I hate waiting, especially when it comes to work. I wonder if it has to do with being part of an assembly line, with each person waiting for the one before them. You wait for the company and editor to greenlight the story, you wait for the script to be finished to start, you wait for the pencils to be finished before you get them to ink, the colorist can't start until those inks are finished. The letterer gets the weird position of being able to start lettering as soon as there are pencil scans turned in, but then has to tweak them at the end after the writer and editor get a chance to read the lettering proof stage to make any corrections. So really, much of the final burden lies with the colorist being the last in the process waiting for everyone. If things slow down and get delayed at the beginning for any number of reasons, then each one in the process after has to make up that time. Hurray for deadlines and being rushed!

So when I was offered a chance to write an issue for the line wide event of "Bruce Wayne: The Road Home", needless to say I was more excited than normal to start. Up until then, I'd mainly been an inker. I had written a few short stories published through DC and elsewhere, but hadn't gotten the chance to write a whole issue of anything all on my own. I was downright giddy! I couldn't wait to begin. And you start thinking of that assembly line. Blame always goes up the line and not down. If things start slow and cause people to rush, then blame can always track back to the people at the start of the assembly. And having been on many projects as a rushed inker, I didn't want my time as a writer to ever cause those after me to have to wait. I want to be as prepared as I can to let those after me have as much time as humanly possible.

But coordinating a multiple title crossover event can be a real juggle. In this instance, we were given a brief outline of what the main story would entail and leave it up to each writer to write their title within those boundaries. Since this was telling the story of how Bruce's supposed death and disappearance from the DC universe had affected those around him, each title would have it's own take on how that fit in. Since I was given the Catwoman book, I'd definitely want to deal with Selina's feelings towards Bruce and the possibility of his return.

There would still be more notes and clarifications to come. If I remember correctly, this was all started before the weekend. But I was antsy. Even with the briefest of direction for the project, I wanted to get going. I wanted to write. Because for me, it's always to strike while the anvil is hot. Once the idea hits me, it's time to drop the reins and let this horse run. And so I did. I wrote up an outline for what I wanted to do, and dove into writing the first draft of the script. Something that would involve Catwoman going after a specific statue that had eluded her throughout her life (a chance to throw in a flashback to earlier when Batman stopped her from getting it). But with the statue resurfacing, she'd track it to a criminal group, would chase after them on her motorcycle down the tarmac, and board a huge cargo plane taking off. This final set piece would have her combating her adversaries up in the sky in a very swashbuckling Indiana Jones style adventure. And by the end of the story, Bruce Wayne would reappear in her life, seemingly back from the dead, to provide closure tying into the flashback at the beginning.

The weekend came and went, and then more notes started coming in. We'd have our editor and lead writer providing a guiding hand to further clarify what the larger scope of the story was. And how each of our stories could fit into it, especially since each issue would sort of set up or hand off to the next title in the run. Characters could overlap. Ideas presented in one could be continued or resolved in another. It could run more cohesive that way. And of course, it sort of dashed my original story idea. But that's the part of writing you start to learn…don't get too attached to your script. That's also why there aren't many scripts that go to print from their first draft, nor should they.

I was able to keep some of my initial ideas…Selina going after the statue from the criminal group and the flashback (heck you'd even get a chance to see the criminal's plane going down in flames on the final splash page to insinuate something went afoul, you just would never see how). But then I had to work in the larger story at play, to add in the other Sirens from Catwoman's group (Harley & Ivy), to show Vicki Vale's dangerous position of trying to search for Bruce Wayne in the criminal underworld of Gotham after she found out his secret of being Batman, and that Selina wouldn't know who this mysterious "Insider" character was that was watching and testing them all (spoiler…it was Bruce). And when they met in the story, she wouldn't even get a chance to embrace him with that knowledge, as it would be left for another title. So be it. I went through a few more drafts before being satisfied with the one that was turned in. And that was that. Special thanks goes to my collaborator on the issue. Peter Nguyen (no relation to Dustin) who drew the issue. It's always fun working with friends, so it was cool to work on this together. And we'd do so again on an Arkham Unhinged/Mad Hatter story.

So in closing...each project I write, each story I get under my belt, I'm learning a little bit at a time. You pick up different things along the way. Things to do and things not to do. And this was my lesson learned: Don't jump the gun. I could've easily had waited for the weekend and through the rest of the week to get more clarification and more notes how every piece would fit into this run of stories. Even at the outline stage, they would've been able to see what I was planning and steered me away from what couldn't work in this story. But having worked up the draft of the script, it turned into this process of having to go back over it and chop, slice, and dice it to get to the final version. I think the rewrites ended up being more of a struggle and taking longer than what it took for me to write the initial first draft. But that's not their fault. It was all mine. But you learn and you improve. And now even if I have to wait after turning in an outline, and it can be awhile before editors get around to giving back notes (with them juggling more than one title in their group of books)….I'll do it. I'll save them and myself the headache. And you become a better writer and creator because of it.

But I hate waiting...

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