Friday, October 26, 2012


While I don't want to cover too much about stories or ideas that didn't happen in Arkham Unhinged, I do think it's an interesting topic to cover on the ins and outs of creating comics.

Part of the process of writing for a title is generating story ideas. Sometimes you work closely with the editors and artists. Other times, you're sort of left to your own devices and given free rein. I imagine there's pros and cons to both approaches, although the creative control freak in me definitely loves being left alone to let my ideas run wild. The more oversight one gets, the more watered down the idea changes and becomes. It's that old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. But on the other hand, editors are also there to bring the best out of their talent, providing insight and recommendations that might spark an even better idea. So yeah, both methods can produce great results.

With Arkham Unhinged, since it was the first ongoing title I was involved with writing on my own, it was an exciting proposition. I was churning out rough ideas in batches, usually at a clip of about 5 to 10 each time I'd send in. I wanted to have a range of stories covering different characters, and then let DC and Rocksteady look through and pick the ones they were most interested in pursuing full scripts. It's actually the same with how cover artists work for comic companies. Rarely is there a specific idea for a cover that the artist must follow. Usually the artist draws up 3 or more designs, and then the editor and art director decide which one they'd like. And usually how things go, even when the artist puts in a note that they like one cover over the others…they usually never do that one. I don't know what it is in the process, but it's almost like jinxing yourself if you say out loud what you'd like to do. They always pick the opposite. Same goes with the stories. You might turn in a batch of ideas, say the ones you're most interested in, and then watch as those usually get passed over for the other ones or ones they recommend. But them's the breaks. It's part of being work-for-hire. The companies have things in mind what they want, and sometimes that goes against what the creators would like to do.
I think as I came close to the end of my run on Unhinged, and really throughout the whole process, I was looking at having as many characters get a chance to have a spotlight story or issue. While some characters turned up more than others (Joker, Penguin), the fan and writer in me wanted some of the lesser knowns to get a shot. One of those that I thought would've made for an interesting story was involving Zsasz. Someone of his type of serial killer character isn't prone to having a lot of stories told, especially in the more superhero type world of comics. But for Arkham, I thought one could be generated that involved his escape at the end of the first Arkham Asylum game, and following what he was up to in Gotham, leading up to his capture and entrance into Arkham City. That I pitched it with art by Ken Jones, a close friend of mine, made it even more enticing.

I had him draw up some character designs, a sample page, and I broke out the inks to show how we'd look together. I felt he really captured the sick nature of Zsasz extremely well. But ultimately, the powers that be decided not to do the story. What it ended up doing was open us up to collaborating more.

Before I broke into comics, a local group of artists would all get together to jam on art, inspire each other, and travel to conventions together. Ken was one of the first regular artists I started out inking (this also is what happens when you come into a group of all pencillers and no inkers…I became a tracer by default). We've since worked on an anthology story together for an award winning editor from Archaia, with Ken on pencils, me on inks, and both of us co-writing based on our own creation.  While our part is done, the other stories are still being assembled, but once I know when it'll come out, I'll be sure to talk more about it.

I definitely see the advantages of creator owned…that whole thing about free rein. Controlling your own destiny. And not having to compromise. So out of one project that didn't happen, came one that did (you can see the first design for it below). And I look to do more of these in the future.


  1. Ha, I have no idea what your new project is about but that teaser image is awesome! I'd totally buy a comic with that cheetah in it.

    1. It's a future dystopian story that just happens to have a little African boy and his pet cheetah :)

      I'll explain more when I find out when it's coming out.