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Okay, this is a short-ish one this time out, because I wanted to send out a reminder that issue #1 of KILL OR BE KILLED is out this week -- Wednesday, to be precise. It's getting amazing advanced reviews, and a lot of great word-of-mouth, so be sure your store is saving you a copy, so you won't miss it. 

I don't want to ruin the first issue for anyone, but I can promise you it isn't what you're expecting it to be, and I think it might be the funniest thing I've ever written, while also being really fucking dark. Look for it this week in your store, and tell your friends in whatever way you bother friends about comics - social media, in person, texting selfies at the comic shop, messages in a bottle. 

And since there are about four times more of you on this mailing list since I sent out the first one, I'm going to include this preview one more time, for anyone who missed it. 
That's just the very beginning, but it gives you a good taste of the tone of the book, and how amazing a job Sean and Bettie are doing on the art. A few closer readers may notice we even changed a few things from the last time we showed this preview. Cut a few lines of text that didn't feel right for the pace and tone. This is the kind of stuff you guys never see. 

Okay, and because you had to suffer through that preview again, some of you, I'll show you some behind the scenes art from one of our other projects. Here's the cover sketches and the finished product for two of my favorite Fatale covers: 
That last one had an interesting path. From red to blue-green and back to red again for the final version that got printed. 

Okay, that's it for special previews this time, so up next we have... 
In case this is your first newsletter, the deal here is you can send in questions to: and ask me anything, and if I pick your question to answer in a future mailer, you win a signed book (of my choice). I'm only doing three per newsletter, but I look through them all every time, so keep sending them in. Lots of great ones so far.  

All right, let's just jump in... 

I'm not sure how to phrase this correctly but I was very surprised to see you leave work-for-hire comics when you did. Granted, I may have missed interviews or something discussing it but it seemed to come out out of nowhere as a reader.

Was leaving work-for-hire always a natural goal for you? Without details, were there mounting reasons to leave and there was a straw that broke the camel's back? Was seeing success (whatever metric that may be) for other folks in the creator owned arena a draw? Some combination of the above or something entirely? 

-- Josh 

Writing only my own stories as opposed to making a living on work-for-hire was always a goal on some level, yeah. I started out doing my own comics, drawing them even, and it was mostly an accident that I ended up writing superhero comics for a living. I enjoyed the job, and learned a lot about writing and the form, and I figured out a way to bring my voice to those books - like Cap and Catwoman and Gotham Central and Daredevil and me and Fraction on Iron Fist - but I always had a book or more on the side that was creator-owned or close to it - my first steady work at DC was Vertigo stuff, so half-owned, at least. 

What happened was that around 2011 or 2012, my original stuff was selling well enough that I could focus solely on that, and that gave me the opportunity to take the time I was giving to the company-owned books and put it into screenwriting projects, instead.

But honestly, I was pretty exhausted with writing superhero comics anyway, so I got very lucky. It's still hard for me to read superheroes even, because I've written like 500 of them, so I view them differently. (Although the recent VISION comic by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta is one I got lost in and really dug). 

But yeah, the endless events that fans complain about all over the internet, but which still sell more than anything else, are a lot harder to work on internally than most people realize, and that stuff will wear you down over the years if you let it. But as I've probably said before, for me I was just tired of writing stories that ended with people putting on costumes and beating each other up. 

So now I'm doing a comic about a guy who puts on a mask and murders people... hmmm. 


I've read about your vampire pirate comic that was in the works a while back. Is there any chance you will circle back to that and write Black Sails? Can you tell us the story about what happened with that comic, what the plot was going to be like, and does any of the art exist that you want to share?

Ben Manning

Oh yeah, Black Sails. I haven't thought about that one in a long time. That was before CRIMINAL, even. Here's the only artwork ever created for it, a rough cover sketch by Sean Phillips: 

The story of Black Sails and how it didn't happen -- The way I remember it, when me and Sean were wrapping up SLEEPER at Wildstorm, we wanted to do something for a smaller company, a shorter novella-like thing, and I think Sean was even going to paint it. We wanted full ownership, so we were willing to take less upfront than we'd made at WS. The story was a pretty simple idea, taking place during the Depression along the coast of California, like Jaws but with a ship of vampires raiding the coastal villages. It was going to be three issues and run about 100 pages. 

Then, at some point early in the contract phase, there were some issues with ownership, it turned out. I didn't want to give up any ownership or copyright, so the project never went forward, and right after that, Sean got offered Marvel Zombies. By the time he was done with that, I'd set up CRIMINAL at Icon, with complete ownership and control. 

I don't know if we'd ever go back to it, it was a fun idea, but I feel like the time of vampire pirates has passed. Although the scene where they were going to eat Seabiscuit would have been amazing. 


As a writer I'm sure you're have a ton of ideas, tucked away in a file or notebook somewhere. I wanted to ask, how do you decide which story ideas you want to work on next? Which stories are worth bringing to fruition, that you make a conscious decision to research, outlining, plotting, scripting?

-- Elbert Or

I wish there was some science to that, Elbert, but it all comes down to gut instinct, usually. I used to sit there and noodle on a few ideas, and try to come up with something I thought might be a "hit" but over the years, my biggest hits were always the ones I didn't think would be, so I stopped worrying about that at some point. 

For me, now, it's what feels most pressing. What character feels most well-realized in my head, or most intriguing. And what I feel like writing - longterm or shorter project. Sometimes I just want to do something that's only 120 pages, and sometimes I feel more ambitious, like with The Fade Out, which is something like 350 pages and a very densely layered work. After finishing something like that, I wanted to do something short, and very different. 

Recently, I started what I thought was going to be me and Sean and Bettie's next project, but KILL OR BE KILLED kept nagging at me, so I set the other one aside and started writing KILL instead. That's not usual for me -- although FATALE's book 4 was not part of the original plan, and it's my favorite part of FATALE, probably. 

I think mostly as a writer, you're reacting to whatever the previous thing you wrote was. At some point towards the end of any project, I always have three or four ideas arguing for dominance in my head, trying to sort out which one is up next. That's part of the fun of the job. 

Okay, that's it for this issue. Again, tell your friends and family and pets and ghost children about KILL OR BE KILLED this week, and send in questions for next issue at:
Copyright © 2016 Basement Gang Inc., All rights reserved.

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