“Bushido” – Get Your Digital On

“Bushido: The Way of the Warrior” #1 cover

If you want the gist on “Bushido” without any filler, you can get it here. If you want the backstory, you can get it below.

Long before “Netherworld” was ever a glimmer in anyone’s eye — or a comic on anyone’s shelf — I was talking about books with Heroes and Villains Entertainment. They offered me my first gig immediately after I left Top Cow… and I turned it down. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do it, or that I didn’t need the money (see: The Freelancer’s Dilemma), I just didn’t connect with the material in the way I felt I needed to in order to deliver the book they deserved. They were passionate about the world they created, and I could see it’s value, I just couldn’t find that hook that made it personal for me, and something I’d be able to properly write. So I passed. There were no hard feelings, but I felt an immediate wave (and paralyzing fear) following the passing up of real American moneys.

HVE wasn’t phased though. They understood my position and knew we’d find something else to work on. And thus came a little book about a gaijin samurai fighting off a horde of invading vampires in feudal Japan. It was called “Bushido: Way of the Warrior,” and it was all set to be the second (or third) book I collaborated on with Bryan Edward Hill. We went back and forth a few times on story notes, had a pretty good idea of the overall structure and were all ready to start — and then were told to pump the brakes. First for a short while, then a long while. Then it became “We don’t know when this will start up, but it will eventually.” Hungry freelancers that we were, Bryan and I began talking to HVE about what else we could right for them. The one line for “Netherworld,” then featuring a different plot and title but plenty of the same themes, struck us as a good fit and that moved forward pretty quickly.

Around the time we were finishing “Netherworld,” I got a call that “Bushido” was finally ready to roll. But things had changed. Partially spurred by the success of “7 Days From Hell” and his spec screenplay based on it, and partially because he’s that good a writer, Bryan was busy in Hollywood. Writing specs, taking directing meetings and getting hired to re-write the “Just Cause” film adaptation — among other projects that I can’t divulge. He didn’t have time to take on a comic series, so he gave his blessing for me to tackle “Bushido” solo. And thus my first solo miniseries was born (I’ve written plenty of things solo, but this is the first published miniseries, which makes it a landmark of sorts).

I wrote the first issue in January, 2012. It took a while to get everyone’s brain wrapped around the story again as well as coordinating between HVE and Top Cow, who edits as well as publishes the series. We hired Studio Hive to illustrate the five-issue series in March of the same year and started seeing some killer painted pages. But… painted work takes time. A lot of time. For a while I didn’t think the series would ever finish.

But…

…wait for it…

It’s finally here! And I don’t mean in a “It’s on the schedule soon” here, I mean actually-buy-it-right-this-second-if-you-have-the-internet here. Top Cow and HVE decided to release the series digitally starting today. You can purchase #1 for $1, and the remaining issues should be out monthly or even a little faster than that. So what are you waiting for? It’s just $1. It’s less than laundry, and no one likes laundry…

I am a HUGE proponent of digital comics. I believe in them for their ability to put comics in the hands of anyone with an internet connection and a screen. I believe in their potential to expand the comic format with what we’re seeing on projects like Mark Waid’s Thrillbent titles (and what I’m hearing about DC’s digital-first “Batman ’66”). I also think the potential lower price point (I wish they were all $0.99) has the potential to expand the audience by making books an impulse buy again — you can’t call a 20-page book at $3.99 that you can only get in a specialty store an impulse buy. And there’s the space issue. Digital comics take up space on your hard drive and in your brain. There’s no bags, boards, boxes and — let’s face it — stacks of comics lying around taking up space in your home. There’s no running out of space when your collection gets too big. There’s just megabytes to purchase, and digital space is slim. I’d wage my own digital battles, but Mark Waid is smarter than me, and much more eloquent, and I have a hard time arguing against any of what he’s said at digital to this point. So I won’t belabor the point any further (for now).

Those who love print comics are also in for a special treat. Top Cow will be publishing “Bushido” in October, and there’s more. It’s coming out weekly. All the vampire-samurai you can handle every week in October. I’ve never done a weekly release (if I’m honest, my books have rarely shipped monthly) so I’m excited to see how this plays out and be able to see how people react to the story in almost real-time. It’s kind of the opposite of how long it took the book to go from idea to comic (my first mention of it via e-mail was in January 2010). If you’re a print person (Hi, Mom!), be sure to pre-order the book from your local retailer. It’s in the October-shipping Previews catalog right now from Top Cow/Image Comics.

Check out a pretty substantial preview of #1 here — or just buy it for only $1 here. And don’t forget comiXology now offers subscriptions, so they can let you know via e-mail that your new issues of “Bushido” are ready and waiting for you. Be sure to let me know what you think.

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You’ll notice the blog looks a little different. I got tired of the old theme, which I’ve never messed with outside of updating the header since I started the site. Not sure if this new theme will stick, but then again I don’t blog much… If you run into any readability issues let me know.

I finished my pilot a while ago. I think I planned to do some major post about finally getting to the finish line, but I didn’t. I wasn’t all that happy when I finished. Don’t get me wrong — clearing that hurdle was a major step. But I didn’t like the work. I knew it marked the beginning of a long journey, not the end. I wasn’t all that happy to tell you, “I just wrote one of the all-time worst pilots!” Because it’s not very good. I’m being hyperbolic, but it’s not very good. No one makes decisions the way they should, the promise of the premise is almost entirely unclear, and there are too many dialogue heavy scenes that do nothing but info dump exposition. And they’re not that well-dialogued.

I’ve actually fallen out of my writing rhythm due to irregular/poor sleep over the last couple weeks while I’ve been slowly working on some paying work and trying to break the outline for the pilot I originally planned to write before this one. I want to get the loose outline finished (it’s already longer than any outline I did for this one) just so I know where to start when I eventually write it, but I’ll get back to the original pilot soon. It needs a good revision before anyone but the one person I sent it to (as proof of finishing) can read it and give me feedback before it gets halfway decent following the third draft.

Like I said, it’s a beginning, not an end.

7 DAYS FROM HELL – The Skinny on Pilot Season Voting

Pilot Season voting is open. 5 books enter, 1 book walks out a winner. The competition is fierce, as it always is. One week into the competition, the early lead belongs to the Hill/Levin/Noto/Stelfreeze-driven 7 DAYS FROM HELL. 39 MINUTES is nipping at its heels though, and the promo is ramping up for all of the books. Now is not the time to rest on laurels.

The winner of the popular vote lives to see another day in the form of a new series.  The losers go to that comic book graveyard in the sky (or more accurately someone’s basement). The voting is unlimited, meaning that anyone can vote as often as they want for the entire month. The most votes decides the victor. Vote early, vote often.

This book needs to continue. It’s been reverse engineered to work for both the short haul (a Pilot Season one-shot) and the long haul (a series). The idea is to give you the hottest book possible month in and month out. Character. Style. Action. Substance.

7 DAYS FROM HELL makes violence sexy again, courtesy of Phil Noto and Brian Stelfreeze, the only artists we ever considered approaching for the project.  If it were a rap song, it would be a banger, but with lyrics by Talib Kweli. Like we told you in the book, “If most comics are soda pop, we’d like to think this is scotch over ice. Single malt. Hold it up to the light and watch the amber glow in your glass.”

I will not let you down. Bryan will not let you down. 7 DAYS FROM HELL will not let you down. For these reasons and more, it needs your votes this month.

Vote early. Vote often. Vote 7 DAYS FROM HELL @ tiny.cc/vote7DAYS

More promo and behind-the-scenes stuff coming your way in the coming days, but today we present a history (from my perspective) of the book’s journey to your local comic shop.

How it Came to Be

7 DAYS FROM HELL began life as a pitch to me as an editor from a writer I’d only known a couple of months and spoken to maybe half a dozen times. In a time before Hill/Levin, there was just Bryan Edward Hill, writer of things I hadn’t read and friend of Nelson Blake II. He asked if he could pitch me something, and it was hot fire. So hot that I wanted to do it having never read a word outside of emails that this dude had written.

He began sending me samples of his work, and I was hooked. He immediately became one of my favorite writers.  We approved the book for Pilot Season 2009, an initiative that was later replaced by the still in-progress Kirkman/Silvestri Pilot Season.  Time went by and I was no longer editing, and Bryan found his book shelved indefinitely, as had that entire Pilot Season slate. We were developing and co-writing other projects together at the time, and Bryan eventually asked me to come on board as co-writer of 7 DAYS FROM HELL.  I’d like to say I brought something amazing to the table, but Bryan’s concept had it all to begin with. It was a 10, and I tried to push it toward an 11.

When Filip asked us if we’d still be interested in having the book be part of Pilot Season earlier this year, we didn’t hesitate. We didn’t ask who else was involved or what other concepts were out there.  We just went back to work, made our script tighter and hotter and got Noto and Stelfreeze to do the heavy lifting. We would not be denied.

The voting doesn’t scare us. We trust you. We trust that you’ll make the right decision not just for this Pilot Season competition, but for the future of comics as well. What do you want from your comics? More of the same? Movie pitches disguised as comics? Or books so hot they’ll melt your fingers when you read them?  We’re giving you the latter because we already know what you want.

You just need to remind Top Cow and the other publishers. Vote for 7 DAYS FROM HELL as often as your fingers and your Internet connection allows you. Help us promote the book and the voting. We’ll worry about delivering the goods. You only need to worry about a world where quality comics don’t get their shot at the title.

Hill/Levin are here now.

We will not lose.