Vibing with Rae

I've had my head down this week just running through a to-do list. Hill and I wrapped a draft of Broken Trinity: Pandora's Box #05 and I finished a short project I can't talk about. Other than that it's about getting ahead and lining up work. I've also had a bug planted in my ear (courtesy of Hill) about turning my stagnant (abandoned?) LYP screenplay into a novel. I'm giving it some very serious thought, especially with iBooks on the way.

Anyhow, not much to add right now, so I present this Raekwon video that got my morning started right:


2009's Best Film Posters

I'm a big design and typography guy. I can't design for the life of me, but I know what's great when I see it, and great design speaks to me as much as stunning imagery. Here's one man's list of the Best Film Posters of 2009. Not saying he didn't miss anything, but it's a good list.

Here are a few samples for you to make sure you click:



J-Smoove - That's What He Does

I'm still thinking about the best final play I've seen in basketball since the last time Kobe hit a ridiculous game-winner at the buzzer. But this one happened as my Hawks beat their division rival (and #2 seed in the East) Orlando Magic.

It's nasty. Josh Smith is nasty.


I am a Great Editor

Anyone who has talked to me for more than five minutes knows that I talk about myself incessantly and give myself the mad props I so richly deserve. Then I lament my unemployed (aka freelance) predicament and why there's never enough work coming my way. How can the best writer of 2013 be stuck in the struggle when he's also the most amazing editor working today.

If you need proof of the latter, please check out the following reviews of the Days Missing HC:

"I generally don’t extend congratulations to editors, but Rob Levin deserves a patented Optimous Douche Reach Around™ for the cohesion he brought to this title." - AICN

"The editorial team on this series was clearly tightly knit and ensured that all involved stuck to their notes and had open lines of communication, resulting in a collaborative effort with a focused vision." - CraveOnline.com

Days Missing was by no means an easy project. There are a bevvy of reasons for that, but imagine if you will the launch of a new property. Now imagine that the world is only partially defined so as to leave it open to interpretation by the writer. Now add in four creative teams across five issues and two different companies, and you'll get a wee idea about what it took to make DM what it became.

I'm not claiming to be the G.O.A.T., not by a long shot. But if you give me lemons, I'll make Captain Morgan. And if you give me silk, I'll spin it into gold. That's what I do.


C.B. Cebulski Talks Doing Covers Right

C.B. Cebulski is much smarter and more lovable than me. Let's just get that out of the way. He's also an amazing source of knowledge and insight when it comes to the finer points of making comics. Today he offered a mini lesson about covers and I felt the information merited being preserved here rather than lost in the twitter stream.

C.B. says:
After looking over certain June solicits, I feel like going on a cover rant again, but will instead offer advice on creating cover art.

A cover is the most important piece of art you'll create for your comic. It's what will sell the book. Especially in today's direct market.

This is even more true for indy/self/small press comics as you don't have recognizable characters to grab a reader's attention on the shelf.

You need a simple, bold, striking piece that should immediately standout & distinguish your book from the rest of the comics surrounding it.

Don't get overly-complicated or designy. Don't overthink your cover. Don't get too cerebral. Simply give readers a taste of what's inside.

These are simple, basic cover "rules," I know, but I'm always surprised how often they're forgotten. Especially by the bigger publishers.




Blogging Format/Hosting

If you're reading this on the site (as opposed to an RSS feed), you'll notice that the design of the blog has been tweaked slightly since last week. I was tired of reading things on black backgrounds and wanted to go clean and smooth. Hopefully it is, at the very least, a bit easier on the eyes.

But now it's time for the audience participation section of this blog. Ready...?

I've got a couple different ideas about what I want to do with my blog and a couple different domains I have access to. There are also several different formats (tumblr, Posterous, Wordpress, and the current Blogger platform) I can use. Here's where you come in:

1) What do you want to see from me on this blog in terms of content? There will always be a light smattering of promo and a whole lot of process. But what else can I do to make this a more enjoyable experience for you? Would you enjoy more of what amuses me as I surf and twitter (links to articles, videos, quotes, and the like)? Or would you rather I stay focused on this being a work blog and the things that interest me on occasion?

2) If you answered yes to the final question in #1, would you be interested in a microblog of all that other stuff that's more amusing and filed for future research use? I'm hesitant to split things across too many different avenues, but I do see how there are distinct divisions in each effort and that segregating may actually be useful to keep the signal-to-noise ration down.

3) Are you happy with Blogger? It's a little long in the tooth by now, and doesn't offer the ease of use in terms of changing themes and features that some of the newer options do. Is there an alternate blogging platform (some friends also use Squarespace, which I have not messed with) you enjoy using or reading yourself? Sticking with Blogger is the easiest as it means no tech change, but I'm after what's best for the long haul, not what's easiest for me. Tumblr has a bevvy of social features, while Wordpress has tons of gadgets I can use to better display links and images. I've messed around with all of them, so I'm curious to hear what you think.

I don't often ask for outside opinions, but if you take the time to read this blog, know that your opinion both matters and is valid.


The Future of Publishing (video)

Here's a stellar video, and one created out of necessity and brilliant copywriting, about the future of the publishing industry. I had an idea for a new project yesterday, and after watching this I'm going to dive right into it.

New Hot Chip Video is Bananas

I'm a big fan of Hot Chip. It's like weird, non-dancy (yet danceable) electronic music with interesting vocals. They just released a new video and... I'll let it speak for itself.


I am a Junkie

Information. Distraction. Innovation. Hesitation.


I haven't had the output I would like this week. From what I can remember, I don't think last week was any better. Nothing productive other than exercise, eating, and email (also, as always, alliteration) has been accomplished before noon. I'm busy, but not so busy I can't handle my business.

Yesterday should have been an afternoon dedicated to banging out a script after a call with Hill and setting up a few other things. But the afternoon came and... went, just as quickly. Not sure what happened. Even after dinner, rather than trying to work it was television and then messing around with various blogging/formatting stuff. I have a blog that works fine, but I'm always searching for the next/better/improved/scandalous thing that will somehow make me both a better writer and bring in more fans. Or something. I don't even know.

And today, I'm typing this sentence at 1:07 pm and I haven't written a lick. I can focus on the fact that I wrote a short pitch and sent it off to Hill on Wednesday and feel like I've gotten some iota of work done. But knowing I haven't written a single sentence on the script I should have been working on for Monday makes that null and void.

I planned out today. I literally broke up almost everything I wanted to do today into blocks in iCal, leaving a few gaps for inevitable slips. It hasn't helped. Nothing except for the basics (eat, exercise, email) has been touched.

I can't stop procrastinating. My sleep has been bad. Some nights it's because I go to bed with something playing on the laptop. Other times I go to bed in silence and it's just as bed. NB2 suggested I start meditating. Two nights ago I thought I was listening to an beginner's meditation audio track, but I was right and wrong about it. It was an Intro to Meditation thing, not an audio track to help guide me. Last night I listened to a different track that was actually what I was looking for... and fell asleep on it as well. At 9:11 (coincidence?) I woke up, groggy and frustrated after hitting the snooze umpteen times on two different alarms.

I'll do some writing today, that much I'm sure of. But I need to figure out how to stop this information overload. I need to stop being a junkie for all of these things and write more. I still hit deadlines, so that's not what I'm worried about. But I am worried about this being a familiar pattern. Fialkov figured out how to maximize his days, but I haven't figured out my process. My brain isn't constantly working over story problems when I do other stuff. My brain is like an accordion file, and when I'm looking in one tab, nothing is being accessed in any other. Unless I'm brushing my teeth, which is when all my thinking gets done.

Wondering why I'm blogging instead of putting the Internet on lockdown and opening up Final Draft or Pages? Yes, this too is procrastination. Figured you deserved an update just as much as I needed to put words on a blank white space. That's progress. Sort of.

Edited: The always helpful Positivity Blog is going to be my inspiration today - How to Stop Procrastinating: 7 Timeless Tips


Start Your Week Off with a Little Sexism

Okay, not exactly. But I do weigh in with a quick hitter editorial for GeekWeek that I think will have people calling me a sexist. I promise my message is exactly the opposite.

And I just realized I forgot to include an about me section. Wonder if people will assume that's on purpose...


I'm Not Against SFX...

...but I will claim to having a major boner for practical effects versus computer generated ones. Even during my eleventeenth viewing of Groundhog Day last night, I commented on how I missed real explosions. Practical effects, for all their limitations (since you must be able to actually DO whatever it is you're trying to convey), are generally more aesthetically pleasing to this author's eye.

I can still picture certain truly bad FX work in movies and TV shows years after I've seen them, and if it's something I've seen more than once (a few shots in Spider-Man, for example), they're just a giant black mark of deja vu. They hold things back for the simple reason that they take me out of the process by making me suddenly aware of the filmmaking. Bad practical effects can have the same effect, but in general they camouflage a bit better because they still happen within the diegesis of the film.

Imagine my surprise when I watched this video of television green screen FX and found myself inspired by how deftly the work was hidden in most cases. It actually got me excited about the progress of computer generated imagery and where it can allow me to take my budget (non-comics) work in the future.

Thanks to all the twitter folks who linked this. Can't remember who posted it first.


Reviews - Who Reads 'Em?

I don't put a lot of stock in reviews. Part of that has to do with the fact that I'm fairly confident in my abilities and I already known when something I've done doesn't live up to my own standards, and part of it has to do with the lack of standards for most comics journalism. I'm not putting down any bloggers, but I've seen some very bad reviews when it comes to the level of critiques they're capable of, not to mention sub-par English and grammar.

Wanted to put up a couple of reviews of BT:PB #01 since I don't think I've linked too many of them:

Newsarama's Best Shots (we're the last book reviewed)

And I've embedded Blair Butler's Fresh Ink (BT talk starts around the 6:44 mark):


Talking Influences on CBR

Bryan Edward Hill and I discuss some of our influences over on Comic Book Resources. If you ever wanted to know what makes us tick (other than booze and hummus), now's your chance.


Bad Tropes - Characters Not Making Their Own Decisions

I don't know if that's even the right title for this, so I'll just jump right into it. Watching last night's episode of Chuck (spoiler alert) filled me with a bit of rage at some lazy writing. Here's what happened.

Chuck's feelings about a girl (4-episode guest star Kristin Kreuk) were called into question when he realized that Shaw and Sarah were going to hook up. He was lost and confused, so he went to his sister for help. She TOLD HIM that he felt like he was moving too fast with the girl and that he still had feelings for Sarah. Then he breaks up with the girl.

The writers did insert an 11th hour save and showed Chuck questioning things about his new relationship (though in my opinion the shift from super lovey dovey early on was not properly negated by this). But here's the real problem... They didn't let Chuck make his own decision. He didn't get his aha! moment where he realizes, "I'm still in love with someone else." It was stolen from him by a supporting character and he accepts it without question. She made his decision for him. As the scenes earlier played out, I didn't buy this. I would have been more on board if Kreuk had to leave town inexplicably or didn't like that Chuck was always keeping secrets (which presents its own set of problems). But in this case, we just getting a slightly castrated (not literally) hero.

I've edited and experienced enough stories to see this missing decisive moment is a common problem. Too often the same thing happens when the protagonist of a story is a lay person called upon to do something extraordinary. They just jump right into hero role because it's quicker to just get them acting heroic rather than taking the time to let them make a decision. But decisions are the heart of character, and when your rob someone of decision, you also rob them of character. Mentor figures (the ultimate supporting character archetype) often spur young heroes to take up their quest, but here's where I want to make my point very clear... They do NOT simply tell the hero to become a hero and then he says, "I'm in!" They plant a seed and the thought, the decision, is the hero's to make. At least in terms of good stories. I'm sure there are some exceptions, but the Hero's Journey works for a reason.

I also read a comic recently that irked me to no end. One character told another what was happening to him. The easy fix was to say, "It feels like X" or "I can't remember X," but the moment was ruined by exposition passed off as storytelling. It was the Mini-Me version of this greater bad trope.

Action is character, and vice versa. I've probably written that a dozen times on this blog. If you don't let your characters act, react and make decisions for themselves, you're just realizing an outline. And an outline is just the basis for a story, not the story itself. Not to mention the fact that when characters come alive in your head, they can take the story all sorts of interesting and unexpected directions.

Another Bad Trope exposed. Time to eat the hummus.

P.S. If anyone can come up with a better label for this trope, I'll update the title and give you some credit here on the blog. I am literally at a loss for a better description.


TGIM - Amusement Parks

Yesterday marked my first trip to Knott's Berry Farm. I'll be perfectly honest, for most of mylife I didn't even know there was another park out here other than the Disney's and Magic Mountain. It was October of 2003 when my roommate told me he was going to Knott's Scary Farm, and I punnily replied, "If it's not scary, why are you going?" My mother just informed me that she went there when she was 5, and thought it was Knottsberry Farm, nor does she remember them having coasters. The Levins apparently have a long, confused relationship with Knott's.

The Farm ran a 2-for-1 special in February so my special lady and I decided to take advantage of the final of February's 28 days. Say what you want about Knott's - it's small, the rides are no good, Snoopy is no Mickey, etc. - I had a hell of a time. There's something special about amusement parks. I've been to Six Flags Over Georgia a few dozen times, but I've only been once (to Disneyland for Xmas a couple years back) since a week-long run during spring break of senior year when my back was summarily destroyed by the end of it.

Knott's is tiny, but I don't see that as a bad thing. It meant we could leave one ride and be in line for another in under five minutes. Every time. Ghost Rider is a very solid entry in the classic wooden coasters category, and the Silver Bullet is a really slick suspended coaster that we were able to go on at least 3 times. And the Sierra Sidewinder is the world's first 360-degree coaster, which means that the cars are round and spin. Kind of interesting, and very dizzying.

I liked forgetting about work for a day (because let's face it, 30 minute of video games always feel like a pause) and just going thrill-seeking in a safe environment. Amusement parks allow you to just forget everything else and plan your adventure. It's too bad crowds are more annoying these days - people are louder and more annoying, douchebags are a prevalent subculture, and kids have the power to destroy my brain with their squeals. If not for these problems, I'd happily get a season pass to a couple of them. Coasters make speeding in your car seem like child's play.

As always, the food is somewhere between horrendous and fantabulous (a word you should never use). But sometimes you have to indulge.

This morning was a wake up call that I can't forget about work too long, no matter how much I'd rather be spinning and pretending I'm a carney. But this weekend's fun will propel me through this week's trials.

Oh yeah, and next weekend we're going to Disneyland...