Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Something New Under the Sun

At San Diego Comic Con this year, I was on a panel called: MTV Geek's "Creator Pitch LIVE!". Tom Akel (exec editor at MTV comics) asked me to join Marc Silvestri(X-men & Cyber Force) and Kevin Eastman(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)to a friendly competition of pitching an idea live for the audience to declare a winner by applause. We were each given the same theme about three weeks before the convention for us each to come up with whatever presentation materials we wanted for the pitch. The theme was "creator's rights" and gave examples of current news stories with creators (and their heirs) in legal battles with publishers and even some recent co-creators going to court over ownership rights.

I want to stop right here and say that the images and story I created for this pitch were for the pitch alone and not a project I plan to work on in comic book form. I'm still working on Mouse Guard full-time.

You can start by watching the 3 part video on MTV's site (my pitch is part 3) or read my rough pitch and notes below and then go watch later

I boiled down my idea into something simpler to get a better grasp on where to take it as a comic story: "Who owns ideas, and what ideas are you willing to part with and for what cost". So here's the pitch: In the not too distant future, your cell phone, social media, music player, gps, etc are all contained in an over the ear device that also has the ability to collect your ideas and transmit them to your service provider and also for the service provider to beam ideas into your head to get readings on your opinions.
(Art Notes: This is a composite of several paintings with some text and logo design thrown in for good measure. The 'Sun' brand is the company the story focuses on the most)

Who would use such a device? Everyone. The devices are so user friendly and help with everyone's busy lifestyles, that no one cares about owning their ideas. Old, young, fat, slim, male, female...everyone has signed on. Why? Because people don't see values in most of their passing ideas "that pasta looks tasty", "what if that scarf came in yellow", "If only someone made a self-adjusting wrench".
(Art Notes: I started with the old man, girl, fat lady, and lifeguard looking dude and added the other two later after thinking the four didn't show enough of diversity or enough of a crowd to get my point across. I do wish I had pushed the shapes further on a few of their designs.)

Since the data is being tracked and beamed back into other user's head to collect market research data, you are rewarded with cash back on your good ideas, enough so that, if you are a creative type, your device and plan may be free! All of this is done without you noticing your idea ever left your head (or perhaps that you ever had the idea in the first place) and the same is true for anything they beam back into you for market data purposes.
(Art Notes: I was going for a really moody high tech big brother look here. I had an Eric Canete layout in mind for the piece, but after failing at emulating Eric twice for this image, I stuck with this 2nd version)

Enter our 'hero'. 17 year old Sammuel Simons has just graduated and is, as most of us were at 17, confused about his life and what to do next. Sam has grown up with this technology, and probably got his first device at a young age, but now he's having 2nd thoughts....
(Art Notes: This is the first painting I did for the pitch to establish Sam's look early. The red hoodie I thought made him seem average and comfy, not poor, not rich. The red hair was for me to escape my usual dark haired characters that usually resemble 16 year old me)

In this state, he decides to write a story, but has second thoughts about the personal ideas he writes to be collected by Sun Telecom, so he disables and removes his device (unheard of for a teenager who wants to be plugged in to anything and everything!). He wants this to be personal and his own, and a story without interference.
(Art Notes: My favorite piece from the pitch. I had fun roughing in the people in the background to be people-shapes rather than people. I'm also happy with the body language I got in this painting.)

News about Sam disabling his device is picked up by Sun Telecom first, who are upset at the breach in the user agreement (you know...that really long thing you never read before you check a box and click 'agree'). But beyond that, word is getting out to other users across the world that "some kid" is not only off the grid, but is writing something new...something new that no one has had a chance to see, influence, or change. That piece of info alone is pinging higher on the research data charts than almost anything ever has. The public is excited, really excited, and Kane Greer, President of Sun Telecom, wants that idea back.
(Art Notes: Kane was originally more of a classic Snidely Wiplash type villain, but to move away from that cliche and make the antagonist more president-of-a-business looking, I started with a more heroic head-shape and hair style)

Everyone is looking for Sam because they want their hands on this new story, this un-homogenized new idea. This includes the equivalent of bounty hunters that will be rewarded for the capture of not only Sam's book, but also Sam himself (in case he hasn't finished his writing). Sam is driven out of the city beyond the suburbs and into the woods, camping and forraging for supplies, but where he also quietly writes his ideas down and freely thinks up new ones.
(Art Notes: I painted this scene twitce. The first time was smaller with the tent very small and Sam just a dot, but I liked the layout concept and figured it would be a good mock-cover for the pitch, so I did this larger version and worked the logo/title in)

Along the way we meet several characters that encounter Sam while he's on the run. Keeley Adams, a girl a bit younger than Sam, but wants to be his girlfriend, and so she is torn about turning Sam in, because doing so would bring him home, where she could spend more time with him. Bryan Golder, a jerk-jock from Sam's school who is an amature info-bounty hunter on the trail of Sam. And Jackson Jeffers, Sam's good friend who wants to wheel-and-deal so that everyone profits from this new idea.
(Art Notes: Since the only characters I'd spent time on were Sam & Kane at this point, I decided to round out the cast a bit, to show this story had more to do than just Sam leaving the city and sitting in a tent while a big-wig at a phone company got mad. Jackson is visually based on my good friend Jesse Glenn who is the real-life inspiration for Mouse Guard's Kenzie)

Sam also crosses paths with Aldwin Barnes, a hermit in the woods who also gave up technology to live a simple life some time ago. He is a recluse camped out like Sam, and wants Sam to leave because of the attention being drawn to Aldwin's home. Aldwin also serves as a frightening mirror for Sam, of perhaps what can become of you if you stay away from people and sit with your own ideas for too long.
(Art Notes: This was just a purely fun painting to do. I was more in the groove of painting these people as characters, and I'm always better at drawing/painting craggy old people and dwarves and wizards anyhow.)

I'm unsure if in the course of the story what it is Sam is writing should be revealed...or if his idea was even good. I think the message is more about the chase, about the excitement over something that wasn't decided by commitee, over edited, or test marketed for optimum results for the lowest common denominator... because that is what So Something New Under the Sun is all about.
(Art Notes: I still like the layout of this piece, but as it was my last to finish before packing up for San Diego, I rushed on the chasing figures and think they all look awful compared to the running figure of Sam that I'm still pleased with)

At the end of the panel, I was voted the winner. Even though I'm pleased with my concept (especially when it came to me on the car ride home from HEROES con and then just 1.5 days painting), I want to be fair ad mention that Kevin missed the email about bringing pre-made visuals to the panel until it was too late, and Marc had his drawings, but was unable to scan them so they could be presented on the big screen. Winning officially entitles me to bragging rights (over Kevin & Marc) and to come back next year and defend my title. However, a movie producer approached me afterwards saying that he liked it and would easily make that story into a movie. I have his contact and we will see in the future what happens to Something New Under The Sun....

2012 Appearances:
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept 8-9
New York Comic Con: Oct 11-14
Detroit Fanfare: Oct 26-28
Thought Bubble: Nov 17-18


Scott said...


TwiceBorn said...

That's awesome. Keep us updated on its progress. I would definitely help out a kickstarter of this.

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