Sprechen Sie Deutsch? — Indelible, Inc. #3: “Taken Photos” p.16

So there’s a sad story behind this one. I conceived of Lit all of a sitting one day at a bar near Washington Square Park called Pinch. At the time it seemed kind of weird to have all these people discovering the conspiracy at once, so I wanted to flip it from the other side, include a supervillain, somebody who was aware of what was happening behind the scenes for some time.

It’s very rare to sit down and have a fully loaded character all at once, but that was Lit. I knew he was a stranger in a strange land, though how he came to be German I can’t remember. I think I just wanted to base a character on actor Til Schweiger, but again, why that is the case, I couldn’t say. I had seen SLC Punk! a year or two prior, and I think this would have been around 2005.  I was dating a gal up in Washington Heights and the poster for Driven was up in that subway station forever, locked behind a grate to some sealed-off corner of 181st st.

I kicked around the idea of a vampire for a second because I wanted a character who quite literally as well as symbolically couldn’t go into the light. But it seemed like a bad idea. What quickly came to me as a very good fit, though, was that with this storyline’s journalism theme, having somebody with photographic powers, stuck in proof mode. Exposure to direct sunlight could dissolve him, though Kaos has managed to stabilize him somewhat for Fox’s purposes. Fits the theme, gives him the name Lit, itself an anagram of Til, hey…lucky coincidence. And the powers fit the theme and then-title of the book, about the many ways of remaining invisible. The dominoes fall in place. Including the only-glimpsed-till-this-issue Domino Bones, who has quite a history himself.

So here’s a guy, alone among thieves and murderers, not fully included in what’s going on, but able to see enough. And he gets free about the same time that Vera and Ben have their own encounters with The Tumor. Except he’s not free at all. He’s too powerful for someone not to put their foot on his neck. It all came rushing out of my pen and onto the notebook.

I always knew Kaos would be part of Fox’s team. He isn’t just German because of some mad scientist trope (although that played well into what happens a few pages from now) but because of who he really is. Anyway, I knew these two would probably recognize each other and have a private conversation…maybe give Lit a bit of solace that he’s not actually alone. He has a friend who can help him.

For the translations I turned to my friend and collaborator Jens Altmann, whose story Scoop, I drew (badly) my senior year of college. Life wasn’t so great for me that second semester, and with my educational career all but completed, I threw a lot of myself at those pages. Jens was, like a lot of comics writers, frustrated by the industry bottleneck (webcomics were barely a thing but distribution was collapsing), by artists’ inability to deliver, by all the stories blazing in his mind that weren’t in paper yet. He railed against these things in one of Warren Ellis’s forums, probably the original WEF, since it was 2002. I offered to draw his comic before he apoplected himself into a heart attack. It was a good story, we had fun, and despite my lack of ability, he was satisfied with the work. We stayed in touch.

Jens derived a lot of his income from translations, but I know money was very ebb and flow for him. Yet for me he said no more payment was necessary than a Robert Howard novel that had been on his Amazon wishlist for some time. Easily done. He was good to his friends that way. He once emailed me the subject: “Artist Musings” and the body:

Hi, Brendan.

Just a thought about artists: in all the comics projects I attempted, you were the only one who drew my stuff who didn’t let me down.

And no, I’m not depressive right now. Just musing (and irritated at another artist).

I’m currently getting into Buddhism as a way to conquer my “destructive emotions” as they call it. They have 2500 years of experience in that regard. The idea came because the Dalai Lama is going to speak in Hamburg next year, and we decided to go. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (especially considering his age). From that, we discovered that the local temple is only a few minutes’ bicycle ride away. And they happened to have an open-door-day that weekend. And they start a (free, donations are welcome) meditation class today.

Almost too much for coincidence. 🙂


Best, Jens

Ultimately some bad kicks from life and those destructive emotions tag-teamed him. I guess this will be Jens’s last printed work. I miss our transatlantic tirades. He was mercurial, but he loved the things that impassioned him with all of his being. We should all have that kind of enthusiasm for our creations and inspirations.

Here’s the start of his contributions to the book. The printed version of this issue will be dedicated to him.

Indelible, Inc. Is Back!

Remember when I was posting daily and weekly updates for every comic on this site? Me neither, because it was on the other side of 10-12 hour workdays at CBS. But that’s changed, because all that time we’ve been loading the barrels for the next couple of issues of Indelible, Inc. (Oh yeah,  it’s not called Invisible, Inc. anymore. There was an amicable resolution with the video game of the same name. There’ll be a press release about it around the time the print issues are released).

And now that I’m not working 9 to…9, I can get everything in order. Enjoy the few remaining pages by Tomas before we welcome in new artist Rodolfo Buscaglia and colorist Joaquin Pereyra. It’s a sad goodbye, but Tomas’s talent was always going to catch the attention of deeper pockets than mine, and he’s been illustrating Garth Ennis stuff over at Avatar, among other things. Which makes us happy! Plus, Rodolfo and Joaquin are doing wonderful work together that will have even the sternest Indelible Inc. reader doing a jig.

With this page, we resolve the longest pregnant pause in comics history. Click on to read the newest addition to issue #3. Then come back tomorrow to read the next page. And then Thursday. You get the literal, metaphoric, and thematically symbolic picture.


Hedy Lamarr Was 007 + Q

Pursuant to today’s Google Doodle, here’s a piece I wrote for Maxim years ago, about why Hedy Lamarr is your hero and/or fantasy woman:

TIME CRUSH: Hedy Lamarr

Listen, brother, there are more ladies in Heaven than Earth, and these are the ones we dream of in our philogyny. If Maxim were around in Ancient Egypt, we’d flirtatiously interview Cleopatra. And then she would find a creative way to have us killed, but–look, that’s not the point. The point is you need to know who the attractive women are in any time period, just in case you’re too busy looking at your phone to watch where you’re going and stumble into a black hole one day. Case in point: Hedy Lamarr.

Most actresses want to play Bond Girls, but Lamarr actually was one. Her first husband was a weapons manufacturer (Moonraker) who treated her horribly (Tomorrow Never Dies, Casino Royale, etc.), and threw parties attended by Hitler and Mussolini, where he presumably unveiled schemes for satellites that would wipe Buckingham Palace off the map. Less certain: whether anyone awkwardly told Hitler he was attending a party thrown by a Jewish couple.

Fed up with all the domestic torture and Hitler-coddling, Lamarr fled the arranged marriage disguised as a maid, and got a divorce in Paris. You may choose to believe the Deleted Scene version of her escape, in which she went to a lavish party wearing every piece of jewelry she owned, drugged her husband, and fled on rocket skis down the Alps, accompanied by a mysterious Englishman in a tuxedo. Okay, we only made up half of that sentence.

Speaking of deleted scenes, prior to her marriage, the 19-year-old had already filmed nude scenes in her acting debut Ecstasy, a Czech film about an older man who mistreats his insanely hot wife, because life imitates art. According to her, the sex scenes were real, but her orgasmic expression was caused by the director poking her rear with a pin, which…are we supposed to be turned on by that as well? We can’t tell in this kooky set of 1930s sexual standards. All we know is that exposed knees are scandalous…and hot.

Over the next thirty years she made as many millions of dollars (and that’s then-money, not now-money, which is worthless), and spent it all. On what? Nobody knows! So here’s an unsubstantiated guess: moon bases. Because Hedy Lamarr took her big math brain (The World is Not Enough, Moonraker again) and applied everything she’d picked up as her husband’s constant companion at military design and production meetings to file a patent titled “Secret Communication System.” The frequency-hopping scheme was used to keep radio-controlled torpedoes out of enemy control, and became the basis for much of the nifty technology we enjoy today, such as Wi-Fi and the nudity we enjoy over Wi-Fi, such as Ecstasy. My god–it’s all connected!

Brendan McGinley invented time-travel, but accidentally prevented himself from ever inventing it

A Freelancer’s Guide to Editors (by a Freelancer Turned Editor)

My day gig is editing CBS Man Cave Daily (no, not the other, crappier Man Cave Daily. The good one). One of my writers asked me for advice going full-time freelance and my advice is: WOAH! Have a spouse, because that is not something you want to do and also pay for health insurance, which for some reason gets more expensive the smaller the company you belong to.

But if you do go freelance in New York City, which I did, and only managed to drain an incredible amount of savings, this is my advice to him on how to dig up work and hang onto it. It’s based on what worked for me then and also what I’m most looking for now.

Don’t ask me how to become a Cracked columnist, though. I still have no idea how I got that lucky. The only reason Dan O’Brien and Robert Brockway aren’t dead of alcohol poisoning is they live too far away for me to buy them drinks every day.  

I got into freelancing by asking a buddy of mine from publishing if he’d recommend me to his editor at AOL and he said sure. There’s so much editorial turnover that soon the boss who was sharing me with her co-editors had new co-editors, but the old ones were still hiring me at MTV and other companies.

Browse Mediabistro and stay away from Monster or Craigslist. Nobody on Craigslist wants to pay you what you’re worth. I can’t say anything about LinkedIn because I’ve never used it. Don’t write on a “based-on-page-views” amount unless it’s a backend bonus like we offer for a monthly top traffic bounty. Get paid for the actual work. Site’s a startup? !*(% you, pay me. Views are down this month? !*(% you, pay me. You offer valuable experience and exposure? !*(% YOU, PAY ME.

Getting work is really is as easy as just asking. Somebody, somewhere, is looking to hire you. You’re not going to waltz into Esquire and you hopefully won’t let a site reap your work without paying you in anything other than experience (you can always say no to terms. If they won’t barter remember you can always walk). But yeah, I consider pretty much everybody who e-mails me and I’m less concerned about their history and more concerned about the quality of their writing and ideas.

You would be AMAZED how many “professional” full-time men’s interest writers are godawful in every possible regard: sentence structure, grammar, spelling, deadlines, communication. I would trade nine of the commonly known bylines in this world of dude-blogging for one young woman with an interest in writing and the topic she’s writing about, because even if she has no plans to make a full career of it, I guarantee you she’ll make my life easy and she’ll probably pull 5x the traffic as the guy who just wants to write “The Five Beers You Drink in College.” I’ve done it and it’s a trade-up six times out of six. And the weird thing is how many writers like that either want to but think they can’t or never thought about doing an internet article full of jokes even though they’re giving it away for free on Twitter.

The tenth guy (or gal), though, he’ll be fantastic. That’s why you see names like Dan Seitz or (before he took an editorial gig) Ian Fortey everywhere on the web. They’re fast, funny, and fresh. Editors talk. We trade recommendations for writers because we can’t always give everyone all the work we want, but we’re still avaricious of our top talent.

Ask not what editors can do for you but show what you can do for editors. Most editors are overworked and just want to be sure their content is correct, catchy, and queued up.

Deliver more than is expected. Once you’ve got the work, give them the baker’s dozen. Is it due Tuesday? Have it in Monday. Did they expect it to be mildly funny? Make it hilarious. If an editor knows they’re going to get what they want but better you will always have work. That doesn’t mean 1000 words is better when the assignment is 800 but if those 800 require zero editing, editors will love you. My favorite writers to read aren’t just the best in terms of content, they’re also the best as an editor because there are no typos, no mistakes they should know better than to make. All I have to do is read and enjoy it, throw in links and images, and call it a day.

Some key areas in which a writer can demonstrate his/her value to an editor:

DEADLINES: If an editor knows they can rely on you (and again, even have it in early) you’ll get work.

EASE: Do you require a lot of editing? Do I have to remind you deadlines are coming up? Are you going to leave me waiting around the office at 7 p.m. when you promised I’d have it by 4?

ACCESS: Depending on the subject. There’s a guy who’s a huge pain in the neck to edit, but he gets great subjects to interview so I can never really cut ties. He’s not even a good interviewer, but he’s the one who’s going to get me subjects I can’t on my own. Or bring me story ideas I haven’t heard anywhere else yet.

To use a negative example: I just had a PR person call me at my desk (which I hate because even if it’s useful to me it’s a guaranteed two-to-ten minutes when I could glean all the info from an email in under 30 seconds) and go on and on and on about this thing she was pitching. And it’s like, “Lady…I don’t care. You called me. You wanted me to care. So make me care.” Even if I was intrigued I’d say “Great, send me the details in an email” because unless it’s a drop-everything opportunity, I guarantee I’m in the middle of something else when you call and I need to stay in that zone. And if I’m not intrigued I’ll still say “Okay, send me the details in an e-mail” just to get them off the phone.

Most freelancers are either artisans or factories. Artisans tailor their work to the site and usually rise up pretty fast. Editors want to get them before they’re out of reach with someone else who has more budget. Factories work for everybody and they’re not really writers. They excel at the side of the job that’s making contacts with publicists, sending out a vast flood of pitches to multiple sites. Then they just hammer out the product. They’re not worried about how it looks, they’re not worried about site voice. Writing’s the fastest part of their job. They’re never very smart. They’re just very determined. They ALWAYS *@^(ing argue with me when I reject a pitch, telling me why it would be a good idea and I should reconsider.

They have their relative worth, but in the long term I hate working with them. They always take more editing, and only half of them submit their work by deadline. They’re often sketchy and try to see what they can get away with. I had one who listed herself as one of our writers on her site and all her social media for months and months despite never selling me on a pitch. When she finally did sell me on one, she double-sold the article to another site than acted like she had no idea it would be a problem, although she might not have been acting because I guarantee she never read any of the documentation I sent her saying she couldn’t do that.

Don’t be a factory. Factories are people who write. Artisans are writers.

Editors can tell which one you’ll be almost out of the gate. When a new writer emails me I have different responses based on how much I actually want to take someone up on their inquiry of work, although I don’t reject anybody out of hand because I could be wrong. But you don’t want an editor thinking “Is this guy going to be more trouble than he’s worth?” You want them to feel like they’ve found a diamond mine nobody else knows about yet.

Read ClientsfromHell for a laugh and memorize the common problems you’ll encounter. Thankfully there’s less of it in the world of NYC’s corporate-backed blogging. But still.

Having Fun & Passing the Ravings on to You

I am well behind on updates of my Man Cave Daily stuff, but here’s one I’m kind of proud of: “Don’t Be That Dude: Telling a Woman How She Should Look,” a non-shamey guide to basic human interaction of the guys and girls variety, based on rad human being Christina Topacio’s interaction with a guy who’s into her…sorta. It’s all kinds of awkward and she strides through it like a champ.

I also did a piece on spots in NYC that have yielded some of my favorite dates (or just adventures). Love is actually shown to outer boroughs, because I care about you, New York. It includes the best tiki bar on the East Coast.

Otto's Shrunken Head is my favorite bar on earth.

Otto’s Shrunken Head is my favorite bar on earth.

Everything else is coming, but it’s mostly interviews, reviews, wishlists, comic previews, and weird search terms–i.e. regular features. Those two were my fun projects this spring. I have the best job in the world. Probably. I mean…golf club tester is probably a good one too.

Oh, and I have a couple of possible projects in the works that aren’t prose and aren’t for the web. Hopefully both will come to fruition and I can talk about them soon.