Adventures In Freelancing: Picking Up What They’re Laying Down

It struck me recently that my last few Adventures In Freelancing columns have not only been infrequent, but also pretty negative. Taking The Good With The Bad was about my insecurities regarding expired contracts, Learning To Accept Workless Days is pretty self explanatory but also about how not working can result in some work and my wife told me that 5 Things I Miss About Working In An Office made her feel bad for me, though that wasn’t my intent. I plan on being positive with today’s post.

Anyone who pays attention to the self serving links I post in the semi-regular Casting Internets will notice that I’m still writing for Marvel.com and doing the occasional list for Topless Robot, but posts for UGO.com and Maxim.com have ceased to exist. Also, ToyFare, the magazine I had been writing a good chunk of ceased publication. That’s the way things work in the freelance biz. I sound pretty casual about such things now, but I was not happy when it happened (hence the almost three month gap between AIFs). I worried incessantly that I wasn’t helping out enough when it came to finances. I made peace with my wife making more money than me a long time ago when she was bringing in more green as a temp than I ever did in my various professions. But, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to help as much as possible. Hell, we had a kid on the way and don’t want to live in this condo forever. Was it finally time to ditch this crazy dream and get a job at the Post Office?

Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. As it turned out, some people I knew and some I didn’t know were going through some changes of their own. All that shifting created an opening at Comic Book Resources. They needed a writer and as it turned out, I am in fact a writer. It also helped that I’m good friends with one of the editors there. Never let it be said that who you know is not important. Almost all the gigs I have right now are thanks to friends and former colleagues, plus, I hope, some degree of talent on my part. Anyway, I wound up getting a pretty darn fun gig as the Image Comics contact. There were some growing pains as I got used to their style, but I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of things. Better yet I like the job itself because the people working on these books have a lot of enthusiasm and are doing really fun and interesting comics that I feel good telling the internet about.

In a weird reversal of fortune from a few months prior, I was contacted about a few more jobs. One I can’t really talk about yet because I’m not sure if it’s happening or how it will work. The other though is for the next evolution of ToyFare now known as Wizard World, a digital magazine. I started off doing some feature work for them, but now I’m essentially the freelance toy editor. It’s like working for ToyFare again, but without having to get on a train or drive 45 minutes every day.

I’ve talked to a few family members who own their businesses about the ups and downs that come with them. They all say that it’s important to remember that there will be another up during the downs, though it’s sometimes hard to remember. Of course, being the pessimist I am, I worried that all my contacts would dry up, my lack of gigs would look bad for potential future jobs and I would become a has-been in this fickle market. Hopefully next time things take a down swing I’ll remember this. We’ll see. Anyway, I’m going to enjoy this high point while it lasts and continue to work on my own projects on the side. Onwards and upwards!

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Casting Internets

Not a ton of links today, but I did a few things with the site and some of my friends have some good stuff going on, so it’s worth a CI!

As usual, me first. If you’re looking to read my Photo Diary entries in one easy place, check out the Photo Diary tab up above or click here.

If you’re interested, my buddy Sean compiled a list of all the posts about Wizard and ToyFare’s demise written and Tweeted by former employees and freelancers on Robot 6.

Speaking of Sean and Robot 6, Tim O’Shea interviewed Sean about his excellent comic Destructor which you can and should read here. The Prison Break story is a favorite of mine and can’t wait to see the full thing in color.

Bloody Disgusting says, via Tony Todd, there might be two more Final Destination flicks. I haven’t seen the fourth, but, seeing as how this is my favorite latter day horror franchise, I’ve got no complaints.

Remembering Wizard

I’m filled with all kinds of emotions and have been all day after hearing about the closing of Wizard and later ToyFare as print publications very early this morning. To make matters worse, the missus woke me up very early because she was having trouble starting her car. I don’t know jack about cars, but tried starting it myself, coming in after it felt like my fingers were going to fall off. I took my car to the gas station, filled the flat-ish tires with air and brought it back for her to drive to work. I don’t like waking up early and actually wasn’t able to sleep in this weekend, so I was feeling kind of punch anyway, especially because I had planned to head over to the storage unit place and move our junk from the smaller unit to the new one. Anyway, that’s all a long way to go to tell you that I was already feeling pretty weird this morning. Then I got the news and was floored. I had actually just started writing for Wizard again, though I don’t know whether the piece I finished will ever run or what the deal is. It was fun to write about comics again.

My history with Wizard is similar with a lot of other peoples’ up to a point. I discovered the magazine at a bookstore in the mall. The issue had a Rob Liefeld/Jim Lee Heroes Reborn cover and announced the new JLA lineup by some guy named Grant Morrison. I instantly fell in love with the mag which was my only source of comic book information and soon enough I devoured each monthly issue. I read the mag all the way through college, never leaving it for the internet. Heck, I didn’t even know there were comic book websites because Wizard was the perfect amount of everything for me. I’m not obsessed with comics, I just wanted to read something fun and find out what’s coming up. My junior year of college I sent a lot of letters and resumes around to Marvel, DC, Rolling Stone and also Wizard to try and score an internship. I heard back from Wizard and that’s when it all began. I spent nine weeks working for them that summer. In addition to being on the inside of a lot of interesting meetings and cutting my teeth writing about comics and doing interviews, I met some rad dudes.

I went back to school, graduated and sat around Toledo for a while before finally hearing back from Wizard, they had a job opening and were offering it to me. Soon enough I moved out to New York and had a gig working in the research department. Like any other job there were ups and downs, but there’s no way I’d be where I am right now without someone at that company deciding to give me chance. Eventually I worked my way up to being an associate editor for ToyFare. I rocked that job and learned a ridiculous amount for a year before being laid off. Sure, I had problems with aspects of that as well and can empathize with the mysterious former employee who talked to iFanboy. But, even then, I was immediately offered the opportunity to write huge chunks of ToyFare, which facilitated my freelance career. I’m hoping that things work out for everyone who’s still there and for everyone who’s not. Again, I can understand that post-firing/lying off feeling and it’s awful and I hated hearing this after I got bounced, but they’re solid dudes who will quickly bounce back.

So, while battling feelings of sadness for the end of an era, compassion for my now jobless friends, fear for the ones I didn’t know about and worry about my own standing with the company that makes up a huge part of my income, what did I do? I built a dresser from Ikea. It helped keep my mind off things and gave me something to do because I had planned to work on my next Wizard feature today.

Casting Internets

Woof, what a day. To be completely honest, I knew about this before the internet and have been losing it on and off all day. I actually just started writing for Wizard again after a hiatus and it doesn’t sound like my work will get published. Strength to all my brothers who were still there and those now looking for other work. I urge the internet to remember that these are real people dealing with real problems. I liked both Tom Spurgeon and Rob Bricken‘s posts about the subject. More on this from me in a bit.

Happy birthday to my buddy Ben Morse, sorry it was tainted by such craziness. To lighten the mood a bit, check out my boy Rickey‘s version of Lil’ OMAC and his cat friend.

Seems weird to hype my stuff after today, but I need to pimp myself now more than ever considering I have no idea where I stand. Hey look, I wrote a thing on the history of Bane for MTV Geek.

I also wrote a list for Topless Robot about 10 awesomely geeky movies for sale via Warner Archive. There’s a lot of good stuff on the site. It’s funny, one of the commenters mentions Green Slime, that was honestly number 11 and didn’t make the cut.

Over at cxPulp the latest edition of Twisted ToyFare Theatre (Volume 11 to be exact) got a 4 exclamation point review! That volume was a ton of fun to work on. Wrote this one last night, it’s bittersweet now especially considering I haven’t gotten myself a copy yet. Fabio Moon drew Sandman! That dude needs to draw more comics.

It’s cool that Kevin Smith decided to take Red State on tour as part of the distribution as /Film reported (see the dates here), but I’m not sure what the point of saying he was going to auction it off and then auctioning it to himself was. Even so, I’m considering seeing the show in NYC if at all possible.

Interesting timing that a few days after getting caught up on James Kochalka’s intriguing American Elf diary comic that he gets named Cartoonist Laureate. Once again Spurge has the deets.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

Crossovers I Want To See: Ghostbusters Vs. J-Horror Ghosts

When I still worked full time for ToyFare I pitched an idea for a Twister ToyFare Theatre that would feature the Ghostbusters heading to Japan to take care of that country’s ghost infestation. My pitch involved the ‘Busters making fun of some of the J-horror tropes that seem pretty stupid by today’s standards. Hey, on the real, kids and water are not scary. Sure that girl in The Ring was creepy, but I’d just kick an evil kid in the face if he came at me. Know why? I’m way bigger! In essence, the Ghostbusters would have gone into the situation very worried about the whole thing because there’s seemingly ghosts in every livable structure, but then it would turn out to be pretty easy and they’d make a boatload of money and become super crazy awesome celebs in Japan.

The whole J-horror craze (both originals and American remakes) has died down thankfully, so it might seem a little tired now, but I still think it could be a fun story to do either in comic form or as a potential Ghostbusters sequel. I know a lot of people aren’t too keen on the whole Ghostbusters sequel thing and I’m wary too (especially after seeing Year One which was written by the supposed GB III writers and sucked), but I think it’s absolutely possible for the right combination of people to come along and play off of Dan Aykroyd’s original idea which had Ghostbusters running around like exterminators in a world filled with ghosts (that’s how Harold Ramis explained it to me when I talked to him, at least). Seems like it would make perfect sense for a group of ‘Busters to head to Japan then, no? I am completely available to pitch this story as either a comic or screenplay to anyone who wants more information.

The Loft, Fortress Of Nerditude Part 2

I figured it would be appropriate to post this second part of the four part epic Loft, Fortress Of Nerdery post because I’m actually in Michigan at the cottage as I type (the folks got WiFi here, but it’s pretty slow). This section of wall has the only other two posters I ever paid money for. The Tom Grummett Titans poster just caught my eye at a convention. I never read that book and didn’t know Grummett’s name at the time, but there was something epic about the poster so I bought it. Grummett would go on to become one of my favorite artists. The other poster I purchased was the Kingdom Come one. I completely fell in love with that comic. It felt like the first great book to come out while I was actively reading comics that I could lay claim to (unlike something like Dark Knight Returns or Watchmen, which you can only come into if you’re a younger comic fan).

The rest of the posters are the usual Wizard poster entries, free promo stuff I got from the comic shop and other random stuff (like the hologram Superman The Animated Series Spaghetti-Os label towards the bottom right hand corner. Other favorites in this picture include the mobster version of Punisher shooting at Ben Reilly Spider-Man, Burnout from Gen 13 playing his guitar, the ad for the Ultraverse/Marvel crossover called Phoenix Resurrection and the Amalgam poster. It’s not the coolest poster in the world, I just loved that whole thing.

I’ll get some more pictures of the loft this weekend to give you a better idea of the layout or maybe put the Flip camera to good use. I’m sure you’re just on the edge of your seats to see how it’s been turned into storage for my parents’ stuff.