Prose Wednesday

Pirate My Work

TL;DNR: From a purely creative perspective. I don’t care if you pirate my work, so long as it stays accredited and unaltered, and you personally recommend it to people who would like it. On the other hand, I don’t want my distributors to get cheated, since they’re supporting my efforts, so I’d prefer you to pay them. I’m going to be doing this either way, even though it would be nice to do it in the black. Maybe down the line that perspective changes  but these comics cost me more than they earn, so I guess I’ll take the free publicity and word-of-mouth recommendations to a friend. 

Reading this essay, “Why I Pirate,” this fellow’s making all the points I would. I’m not sure it gets around the defense of why you shouldn’t commit such an act, but the fact is, the broadcast TV structure has begun its descent into moot medium. Not allotting for online access is cutting out large chunks of the same demographic that actually buys advertisers’ products.

This sort of debate has always existed. Before filesharing it was mix tapes and VCRs. Personally, as a creator, I think it’s inevitable and healthy to let some stuff spread around. When I was a kid I only got $5 allowance a week, so at most I’d buy five new comics; that meant I knew there’d be some that weren’t worth it to me, and if they were, I could probably read them at Joe Black’s house anyway. And when I got there, he’d show me something I hadn’t seen, and I’d lend him the same. The best marketing in the world will forever be, “Hey, you HAVE to read/hear/see/play this.”

As someone who puts all his content online for free anyway, I’m not losing or risking much if you torrent my stuff. At this level? Maybe a few cents, about what it’d be worth to have 10 new people exposed to my work anyway. Comics have this weird structure that’s simultaneously accessible to the independent creator and completely exclusive. I could print it (and have) and after calling 100 stores, manage to sell 20-100 copies to the five retailers willing to take a risk (and usually a bath) on them. Or I could put it on a website and get 1000 views the first day at no further production costs. And then at no personal cost, maybe 10% of those readers come back as regulars, while probably a quarter to half have found a comic they enjoy and check back for more stuff periodically, or recommend it to friends. (more…)

From “The Lost Adventures of Detective Martin Mariello”

Presenting the adventures of the fictional detective who stepped into reality where he was needed the most. I think I jotted this down in 2001 with the intention of expanding it. Back when I thought I had time to get any prose fiction done. Or comics. Or comedy. Good lord, nothing is ever achieved.

No trace of Dr. Sanchez was ever seen again. In his office were found only a few jars of an unidentified substance and a single sheet of paper, reading:



3 p.m.

The paper was traced to a carbon stock line out of Trenton, produced to the specifications of the now-defunct New York Divine Society, whose motto, “Ex corde, ex mentis” made them the laughingstock of 19th century Manhattan. The Society bore this in stride, or seemed to, until it unleashed its terrible Scarlet Revenge on the city for 64 days, stopped only by the quick wits and sharp marksmanship of Sgt. Emilio Estevez, no relation to his famous contemporary, Blaupunkt Estevez. The latter, however, was a premogenitor of our own celebrated actor, Emilio Estevez.  Despite reports that the actor’s great-aunt by marriage was a grand-daughter of the policeman’s, no relationship has yet been established.

Sgt. Estevez’s handiness with a pig gaff is the sole reason we may still gaze with fondness or some equivalent emotion upon the statue of a mounted Teddy Roosevelt that frequently changes locations in Central Park. The Scarlet Revenge was a terrible week, one still commemorated with the reverent closure of several Wall Street offices each year; the results of course, being much bloodier and costly than Cmpt. DeLaurelac of City Hall would have modern society believe.

All of this was well known and ill-held by Investigating Detective Martin Mariello of the New York City Police Dept (details, see ch. 76)…

Pinchy needed to concentrate, so Riggle kept quiet by reading a book. He had just started the 26th volume of his favorite detective series (actually a string of disjointed pulps written by Frederic Monroe, who, despite his nomenclature, looked nothing like the hero of a ladies’ romance novel, but was dumpy in the middle regions, unhappy with his shrinking haircut [both the shrinking and the haircut] and possessed of bad breath): The True Life Adventures of Detective Martin Mariello, and the sub-title, Containing Details of a Number of New York Incidents Quite Unknown to the General Public Due to the Sensitivities of Ladies and the Irish in Reading the News-Papers.


LATER: the man wore a trenchcoat that had met its share of back alley puddles at the brass-knuckled hands of men named Mugs and GrimIron. The stranger’s cleft chin tugged at his lower lip, giving him a perpetual “Say! What’s this now!” grin that had graduated from catching frogs to catching criminals. His fedora sat back on his head, surely pushed there by his thumb during a moment in which he said or thought “Shucks!” good-naturedly.  Y shrieked with delight and ran out of the group to clutch the stranger’s hand.

By God, it was Detective Martin Mariello!

Before there was Invisible, Inc….

There was this really pretentious non-superhero pitch spun of feeding on too many conspiracy theory and monster hunter stories. This would have been early or mid ’03. I think Invisible, Inc. had started coming together by then, but who wants to write two epic conspiracy tales at one time? I stole the best thing about this pitch from myself: The title.

In this version, Indelible, Inc. is the name of the good guys rather than the wicked fiends strangling the world. And I think I smashed together a few other failed pitches. That Craddock guy is definitely an import from last week’s horrendously named “A Love of Flesh.”

Indelible, Inc.

Latere semper patere, quod latuit diu.

(Leave in concealment what has long been concealed.)

–Seneca (Lucius Annaeus Seneca), Oedipus (826)

Indelible, Inc.  The name is whispered in corners of high society, at that level where people are enough in the know to realize how much they’re cut out.  You and I and the President of the United States have never – will never – hear the name, because it’s passed through circles we cannot imagine.

Indelible, Inc. is the guardian.  The assassin.  The thief and the spy and the burglar, performing the black-ops tasks commanded by the nameless cabal that rules the world.  Forget the New World Order.  Or the Vatican conspiracy.  Or the Freemasons.  They’re all red herrings.

These people have resources beyond this world, and aim to steer the future along certain orderly lines to remain in power.  If the magic and monsters and aliens and lost civilizations and trans-dimensional gods were allowed to reach the public…too much possibility would explode through the world, disturbing the agenda set by these shadow-people and their map of the future.

Enter Indelible, Inc.  They are the ones who planted evidence of a meteor crash at the 1908 Siberian Explosion (actually debris from the Second War for Space).  They captured the last werewolf.  They visit UFO witnesses and persuade them to change their stories.  All like they’re supposed to do.

But in their downtime, Indelible keeps very busy, indeed.  They’re swapping artifacts, recovering amazing devices, and building their own network, because Carolyn Cross does not feel these mysteries are here to be buried, but here to be solved.  Not content with her company’s role of men in black, she is subverting the agenda, tripping the legs out from under the rulers of the world.

But someone in the company is a traitor.  Someone tips off the elite that Cross is plotting against them and bungles what is Indelible’s most important mission yet: to retrieve an artifact that accesses other universes.  The elite send another group to erase Indelible, Inc.  This group is so secret even Cross, who trades information with parallel Earths, has only vague clues about their existence.  This new group is called Black, Inc.  They are not the surgeons, like the crew of Indelible.  They are butchers, and they decimate Indelible headquarters with only a minutes’ warning.

The remainder of the team flees to recoup, but just barely. They still have some gadgets, their incredible abilities, and most importantly, their memory.  The elite may have the resources, but no one knows more than Cross, who has spent a lifetime hiding valuable secrets.  The time has come for her final strike at the cabal.  Omniscience will challenge omnipotence in a survivors’ battle that changes the world forever.


“The world is governed by very different personages

from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.”

–Benjamin Disraeli.

INDELIBLE, INC. – The phantoms of the world may also be its saviors:

LADY CAROLYN CROSS: Dangerous by 20, sexy at 40. English. President of Indelible, Inc., inheritor of her father’s estate, and subversive in the fight for the future.  The truth belongs to everyone, and Lady Cross intends to deliver it to them.  Her position as guardian of the super-elite, and burier of their secrets, puts her in a perfect opportunity to reveal them…when the time is right.

KARINA PATTON: A beautiful young woman from Queens, NY. Raw recruit, and though she doesn’t know it, being groomed to take over Indelible one day.

DUTCH: Indelible’s oldest agent and Karina’s handler. Cheery, grandfatherly, a good mix of scholar and rascal. He’s had lots of adventure, but most of it’s behind him. He fights the good fight, and appreciates the beauty of the world, and it has all been worth it.

HUGH BRENNING: Young for a field agent, but very talented and a bit shy around Karina, due to their mutual romantic interested

HALO: The last surviving crewmember of the USC Kennedy, sent to 2005 by an alternate timeline to jumpstart a pan-dimensional golden age…and shot down by Black, Inc. Carolyn Cross’ first encounter with Black was rescuing her from them. Halo is the only one capable of operating the quantum key Black, Inc. salvaged from the Kennedy.

POPPY: She’s 900 years old and she doesn’t sleep. Speaks with an untraceable accent. Beyond that, little is known except people get drowsy in her presence, she prefers to work alone, and headless bodies appear in the wake of her missions.

DONOVAN CRADDOCK: Indelible’s monster hunter, and a monster of sorts himself.  His bulk is etched with cryptic, quasi-religious tattoos…tattoos that sometimes change. Merciless to the point of vindictive. He openly scorns Poppy.

MARK: No last name known. Pale. Appears perpetually fevered. Haunted, desperate look, but a cool demeanor. He never speaks…until he does, and we can’t hear what he’s saying. He is, we discover, a ghost.

BLACK, INC. – Brutal operatives who believe they do a dirty, but necessary job:

IAN HOLMES: Ex-SAS soldier, ex-lover of Carolyn Cross, and till now, believed dead.

S: Fast, silent, unbelievably strong, and able to hide in the barest surroundings. But his eyes look reptilian and his skin is a little…off.

GHUL: A demon. Even the other members of Black, Inc. are leery of him.

ZED: An unearthly beauty…literally.

Alas, poor loglines–

When I get cynical, I craft loglines for films that I think nobody could possibly want to see because they’re so stupid, generic, dull, or cliched. Then I pitch them to producers because that’s exactly what sells. Below is my complete list from what must have been spring of 2003, because Strychnine Kiss was still called Shadows and had yet to be merged with Thrash the World.

They’re all mixed together. I don’t even remember most of these ever having existed. Some are the cynical ones, some are cool ideas I wanted to write, and others started off the former but became the latter. What they all have in common is an utter lack of central conflict. You can tell how much I had to learn (and still do) about writing a pitch.

WETWARE (sci-fi) – “Anthrotech”—microscopic technology designed specifically for upgrading human beings—has created a golden age. But how long can it last against a terrorist cyborg virus?

Seriously? Hegel is rolling in his grave.

DINAH MIGHT (family) – 7 year-old girl inherits the family superpowers and discovers her parents aren’t as lame as they appear to be.

One day I’ll do this one with the right artist.

MILO’S MONSTER (family) – A boy inherits a spooky house, and its resident monster, from a great-uncle, but the house casts him into a fantasy world.


SPACE MONKEY (family) – Alien monkey infiltrates suburban neighborhood to find missing artifact.

You can tell the cynical ones because they sound like they were written by Awesome-o.

THRASH THE WORLD (drama) – A woman returns to her old neighborhood — possibly from the dead — to enact a revenge scheme against the gang that killed her boyfriend and left her to die.

FUNNY ABOUT LOVE (romantic comedy) – A young woman must abandon clown college for erotic modeling unless her boyfriend can replace a rare circus artifact.

I may have to change that to purple and actually write it one day.

DEATH PERCEPTION (comedy) – The Grim Reaper takes a vacation while a man performs Death’s duties in exchange for eternal life.

Now called Reaping Profit.

LOWLIFE (comedy) – A teenager struggles against poverty and dysfunctional family to pursue his dream of a mediocre existence.

The thing is…the logline’s terrible, but I like the idea of someone whose big dream is just to attain what everyone else takes for granted as blah: a lower-middle income, frozen vegetables for dinner, parents who don’t shoplift.

PROPHETEER (comedy) – A lunatic who thinks he’s a messiah will do anything for the love of a sexy stigmatist.

Shoot, that might need to happen, too. Needs more meat and sinew, though.

AS LONG AS IT TAKES (romantic comedy) – Unhappy singer sabotages his career to win back his ex-girlfriend.

This might be an old title for a She’s Famous Now sequel.

STAGGER MALONE: ANACHRONISTIC DETECTIVE (comedy/detective) – A contemporary private eye seems to think he lives in the 1930s, but must acknowledge his 21st century surroundings in order to solve a murder.

CONFIDENCE MAN (suspense) – An ex-convict rises to the top of a criminal empire with unnatural powers of persuasion.

BLACK AMBULANCES (suspense) – Sinister ambulances prowl urban neighborhoods, taking victims not to any hospital but mysterious compounds.

A LOVE OF FLESH (horror) – A monster-hunter suspects that his prey and his fiancee are the same person

That is the worst title I have ever devised

FADE (indie drama) – A high school girl moves from Berkeley to New York in a drastic bid for a second chance at life.

Always meant to be tied to — but these days bundled up with — Flicker.

SYNESTHESIA (suspense) – A man with an unusual disorder searches for his kidnapped brother.

Ah, ripping on Memento, I see.

INDELIBLE, INC. (suspense) – A conspiracy within a conspiracy fights to preserve the hidden history of the human race. Indelible, Inc. is a private interest firm hired to keep the magnificent secrets of the world quiet while the global elite profit by them. Little do they know that Indelible is not concealing, but collecting.

Yeah, this is definitely early 2003, because I had yet to retool my Black, Inc. pitch from DC as Control at Marvel’s Epic program, before combining the two into Invisible, Inc.

WHITE NOISE (sci-fi/horror) – The Army pursues an epileptic woman through a blizzard after her seizures expose their black-budget invisibility project.

I believe this is meant to be tied into Black Ambulances.

SHADOWS (sci-fi/western) – A beautiful gun-for-hire in a post-apocalyptic Chicago takes on the job of protecting a young boy and his family.

355 (drama) – A Revolutionary War spy must escape her British captors and deliver an urgent piece of information to the Continental Army.

CITIZEN X (sci-fi/drama) – A frustrated policeman is given control of an empire, but discovers the hidden pitfalls of power.

SHE’S FAMOUS NOW (romantic comedy) – Two young men seek to have it all in their pursuit of fame, fortune and a foxy former classmate who is now a major popstar.

DEATH TRAIN (satire, action-adventure) – Ex-Marine returns from retirement to stop a hijacked train and its nuclear payload. Also, terrorists, like, die by the dozens.

First screenplay I ever wrote, first comic I ever commissioned. First artist who ever ripped me off and disappeared with my money. Hi, Jake Bilbao!

SUCCUBUS (horror) – A seductive demoness prowls New York, stalked by the widow of her first victim.

SOULED OUT (comedy) – A teen discovers he has the ability to step out of his body and possess others, but can it help him win the girl of his dreams?

Body swap comedies will never go away.

DOMINO (comedy) – A crimefighter in the 1920s battles a Chicago mobster.

I imported Domino Bones into Invisible, Inc. or rather, his great-grandson.

SKULL & BONES (horror) – 18th-century privateers discover an abandoned ship laden with treasure…but one of the chests contains a horrific monster.

THINK TANK (suspense) – ESP is a latent ability in all people, but the group that wants to train us how to do it finds itself assassinated by political interests. The lone survivor struggles to pass on what he knows.

Conspiracies are a big thing with me, you might have noticed.

FLiCKER (indie suspense) – A young man’s search for his vanished girlfriend leads him into a nightmare of desolation and desperation. Reality – or perhaps his sanity – fractures around him.

I LOVE BIG MISTAKE (road trip comedy) – High schoolers make a bid to see their favorite band’s last show 200 miles from home and still make it back for their final exam.

Big Mistake is a real Connecticut hardcore/metal/punk/funk band, and if you can, you should get their albums.

ST. MARY (drama) – Young, pregnant woman drops sinks into a harsh existence when her baby’s father is killed.

There’s no plot there.

HELD BACK (comedy) – Unhappy businessman gets a second chance when he finds himself reliving his high school years.

Quantum leaping will never go away either.

ERASE THE PAST (drama) – An amnesiac is fascinated by a mysterious woman. He comes to remember the awful and beautiful details of their history.

I’m pretty sure this is based on watching too many Everclear videos. Trick statement: There is no such thing as too many.

What’s in that tub of Cool Whip?

Cool Whip: The very name conjures up images of tasty summer treats that even those lame lactose-intolerant (or as we like to call them, lactose bigoted) kids can eat. But really, do you know what you’re putting in your body? No? Well for crying out loud, man, that’s what Asylum’s here for. Read on to see our pretty chart of everything that goes into the Cool Whip.