Commentary for SuperFogeys, Episode 21
Me: Hey, I’ve got a great idea.
Me: What’s that?
Me: You know how we could get a lot of strips done quickly?
Me: We could just cut/paste all the best bits from previous strips and add only minor alterations!
Future Me: I beg to differ.
With Episode 21 and the next few after, I really pushed the copy/paste thing to the limit. Actually, I even went past the limit (but more on that a little later). Change was definitely coming…
View Episode 21
The Comic Book Challenge: Judges Respond
In my last entry to the Th3rd World Studios blog, I shared part one of what it was like for me as a semifinalist for the 2006 Comic Book Challenge. Now, the pitch has been made and it’s time for the judges to respond…
Oliver Jones, People Magazine: Your concept seems to have a lot of heart. That’s something that can be hard to do with these kinds of stories.
Me: Yes, that’s exactly right. This is really about the two boys and their friendship.
Oliver Jones: I like that.
I was grateful that Mr. Jones had keyed into what I thought was the essential ingredient of my story. Of any story, really. If all they saw in this was me ripping off Groundhog Day, then I would have failed completely. Of course, I did fail… just not completely.
Gale Anne Hurd, Hollywood Producer: Are we going to see flashbacks to the 1800′s or Roman times as the story goes on?
Thinking back over the pitch, I realized later that I was an idiot and should have been shot for being unclear on this point. Lesson 1 in how to torpedo your big Hollywood pitch: when explaining a story that utilizes time travel (or something like unto it), be sure to use very few words and make sure those words are as vague and temporally unspecific as possible. This was the lady who’d produced the Terminator movies for cripe’s sake. And I’d lost her.
Me: No, not exactly. McKay’s life always starts over back in 1988, the moment when he’s born. However, yes, we would see flashbacks to prior lifetimes as the story went on, but they would solely be variations on our present day.
Gale Anne Hurd: Oh, okay. Now, who is the villain? Is there a villain here?
She was trying to put me into a box but I didn’t mind. I had the essential ingredients and I knew it. Plus, she’d just given me the perfect opening to talk about something that I had wanted to be a part of the pitch but could not find a way to work it in.
(It should be noted that at this time, and indeed throughout the pitch, I was not processing who I was talking to. I have this strange disease where by myself or in front of a mirror I get all all jittery and fumble my words. However, put me in front of a vast audience or a panel of judges who hold my creative fate in their hands and I get this odd confidence and calm. I don’t know if I have any charisma whatsoever, but if I do that’s when it comes out to play.)
Me: Yes, there is a villain. (Holds up second poster again.) It’s that man right there with the gun. Who he is and what he’s doing there is a big part of the second half of the story. In fact, this one event will eventually result in McKay getting caught up with the Mafia again. In previous lifetimes he ran the mob and now, as the story goes along, he’ll be forced to involve himself again and they certainly will play a villain role also.
Gale Anne Hurd: So, it’s like a sci-fi/crime story.
Hadn’t ever thought of it that way before but…
Me: Yes, exactly.
Gale Anne Hurd: Now, is McKay a super hero or… what are his powers?
There was that box again. This question I was expecting.
Me: Well, he’s not a super hero in the traditional sense. He doesn’t have any tights or a cape. However, he does have a superpower. His power is his knowledge. In that sense, he is a superhero because knowledge is power and he uses it to help others and carry out his goals.
Whether she was genuinely interested or not in my ideas, she certainly seemed satisfied by my responses. At this point it must have been clear to her that Jim Cameron was a total hack who could learn a thing or two about compelling story construction and interesting twists from a suave, Fresno, Ca native like myself. How did Skynet come to be in the first place if the original technology came from the hand that the first Terminator left behind when he came back from the future?
Oh, yeah. Who cares?
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, President and Publisher of Platinum Studios (the company hosting the event): This is a well put-together pitch. You really hooked us in with the surprise halfway through. Great Art.
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg: However, you did commit the cardinal sin of pitching.
My mind was racing. What had I done? Would they hold it against me? I had never done this before! What could I have possibly done?
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg: You assumed that we all had read your stuff before we got here and you never do that. Never assume anything. In fact, 99% of the time the people you’re pitching to will not have read or seen a single thing you’ve done.
It was true. I actually had said, “I know you’ve all read the synopsis and seen the preview art but…” But, but, but… it was an incidental remark! A connecting phrase to lead me to my next point! It didn’t matter. I would have given the same exact pitch even if I knew they hadn’t read anything. And besides… didn’t they send an email to me saying that the judges would see our work before we pitched it? Look, look–I’ll prove it to you…
“The judges will be seeing the synopsis and sample art that you sent in with your submission that morning for the first time. They will have that in front of them when you appear to give your pitch.”
Aw, crud. For a writer, I don’t read so good.
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg: You should just assume that the people you’re pitching to know nothing and proceed from there. Even if, say, they had read it, you don’t know how much they retained. You need to be selling it for the first time with the pitch.
Wait… was he actually taking time away from my story in order to give me advice about pitching? Something I’ve never done and am likely never to do again? Now? Now is a good time for this? I felt like I was in a Twilight Zone version of what I imagined my morning would be like. It was like I had the most important thing in the world to say and all anybody wanted to do was talk about muffins.
I nodded my head. Somebody save me a blueberry.
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg: Also, I don’t like flashbacks. If we end up publishing it that’s something we’ll have to work on toning down.
Scott Mitchell Rosenberg: Thanks very much for your time. Nice job.
Me: Thank you.
And with that I was excused. My moment in the sun was (thankfully) over. On my way out I handed each of the judges a copy of the mini comic Alan and I’d put together. Our hope was that they would look it over and that it would serve as a reminder that they had heard the most awesome idea in the history of comic book pitching.
As we all know, Alan and I didn’t win. We got beat about by “The Six Sinners,” “Hero by Night,” and “Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space.” “Hero by Night” took home the gold.
Was it my mediocre pitching skills? Was it the flashbacks? “I don’t like flashbacks.” Not, “I don’t like flashbacks because…” just “I don’t like flashbacks.” Let it be known now and forevermore that Scott Mitchell Rosenberg does not like flashbacks. Just not his thing. That’s right, 20 million LOST fans. Eat that.
As for me, I like flashbacks like Superman likes pink. I like flashbacks very much.
Plus, as Alan would say, we do flashbacks right. They make sense as part of the story. But who knows what the criticism there was? For all I know Mr. Rosenberg just doesn’t like compound words utilizing the letters f and b.
But all of this is just sour grapes that I’ve (mostly) given up on. Fact is, at the the end of the day, I still believe in our story and our collective talent. It just wasn’t a good fit for Platinum Studios. It’s our first rejection. And it’s only a half-rejection at that. As semi-finalists, we were part of an elite group of 50 people, representing 0.5% of the total people who entered.
I have a certificate. And a t-shirt.
Need I remind you that I wrote the above account almost a year ago? Things turned out well for me afterwards. A couple months later I created the SuperFogeys and, well, here I am. The Two Hundred and Fifth is still my passion project and I still hope to find a publisher one day, but I can’t complain about my experience with the Comic Book Challenge. I got a fair shake and learned a lot. Can’t ask for more than that.
The Video of the Pitch
This is something I’ve only discovered recently. I guess Platinum decided to post the video of all of last year’s pitches to give people a sense of how it works. Now, I can’t vouch for this video. I haven’t been able to watch more than the first minute of it before breaking out in hives and a cold sweat. I didn’t have access to this when I wrote the above account of my pitch, so I have no idea how accurate my memory of the event was. Perhaps you can enlighten me. I just can’t watch this:
Comic Book Challenge 2006 The Two Hundred And Fifth By Brock Hea – Funny bloopers are a click away
*By the way that’s my partner and penciller, Alan, in the background for a lot of video. He’s the half-japanese/half-hispanic guy in glasses shielding his eys. Yes, those are his real muscles.