Caption Boxes #002 - Sandboxes / by Frank Gogol

Historically, November has always been a busy month for me. This year, that has been a tenfold truth, hence the last-minuteness of this month’s newsletter. That, and a couple of exciting opportunities.
 
In November, I was given two opportunities to flex my writing muscles and see if I could write competently other people’s characters. Both opportunities were, for me, as much about seeing if I had the chops to pull it off as about seeing if I enjoyed the experience of playing in someone else’s sandbox.
 
The first opportunity came from comic book mogul Mark Millar. Last year, Mark held a contest for unpublished talent, calling for 5-pages script submissions for short stories set within the fictional worlds of a couple of his books. A handful of winners were chosen and paired with unpublished artists, and their stories were printed together in the Millarworld 2016 Annual. This year, Mark once again opened submissions for a 2017 annual, and I submitted.
 
I wrote a story set within Millar’s Huck universe. What I came up with was, I think, a story with a lot of heart that I’m proud of. After the contest has ended, I might include a link to the script in a future newsletter. I’d hate for people not to be able to check it out if I don’t win.
 
And do I think my story will be chosen? Probably not. I’m not being down on myself, just realistic. There’s so much good, unfound talent out there. But I saw this as an opportunity to explore someone else’s sandbox in a way that would, at the very least, qualify as something more than glorified fanfiction.
 
The other opportunity came from former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt, who I’ve been developing a relationship with in 2016. Without saying too much about the project, I can say that Andy offered me the opportunity to pitch a couple of ideas to him, and he chose one to be developed into a supplemental story for a miniseries he’s been working on. I’ll also say that it’s not a comic book story, but it’s story for comic book-related materials. Cryptic, I know.  
 
Anyway, I submitted my draft to him yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised to hear back from him today that he only wanted a single, minor change to what I had written. Oh, and he’s going to pay me for the work. Did I mention that? It’s not much, but I got my first paying job in comics, so there’s that.
 
So, at the end of these two exercises, I’ve come out the other side not only knowing that I’d be happy working with other people’s characters and properties, but also confident that I can pull it off. Am I ready for Spider-Man and Batman? Nope. But I’m a couple of steps closer now.
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Last month, I mentioned that Black Ship Books was going to publish a short, short story of mine for Halloween. Well, they did, and you can check out Deadbeat Dad here.
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And last, but not least—what I’m reading:

Five Families by Selwyn Raab – This is a thorough and dense history of the American Mafia. Not comics, but it’s well-written and is really reframing my view of a lot of the twentieth century.
 
A.D. – After Death by Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire – This is a new comic that is particularly interesting to me because it’s half prose and half traditional comic book. Only the first of three issues is out now, but I can already tell it’s going to have a permanent place on my bookshelf.
 
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – It’s my personal Christmas tradition to re-read this book every year during the month of December. It’s very much a masterclass in writing, but I think because it was published in installments, there’s some comics craft to pull from it as well.
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That’s it for this month. For the next newsletter, I’ll have a new story, Highs and Lows, to share, as well as a sort of year-in-review. Until then!

-Frank