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SPECTATORS - The First 125 Pages
Exploding Giraffe: Year Two begins NOW!
Do you like to watch?
Brian here, and on behalf of my partners Niko Henrichon and Fonografiks, thanks for making this voyeuristic new year of Exploding Giraffe possible.
If you were sent here by one of your weirdo friends (or the back pages of the most recent issue of Saga), WELCOME, and you can read more about how Niko and I met, collaborated on Pride of Baghdad, and reunited for this oddly named endeavor in our very first dispatch, but our future is all about Spectators, a planned 300-plus-page graphic novel for adults about life and death, sex and violence, and why we spend so much time watching those things happen to other people.
This supernatural/sci-fi/romance/horror epic has been a dream project of ours, and while it will take us at least another year or so to complete—and probably longer to finally see print—YOU can watch us create in real time, as we release two to three new pages (and sometimes more, including next week, when we’ll have a healthy new chunk for you) every single Monday, directly to your inbox.
As we never tire of warning everyone, this “not safe for work” story can be extremely explicit, though always tempered by the fact that any bloodshed and/or graphic nudity comes via the gorgeous hand-painted artwork of Niko Henrichon, accompanied by the elegant lettering of Saga’s own Fonografiks.
With that, here are the first 125 (!!!) pages of Spectators, 100% free to read thanks to the generosity of those of you in The Tower, but more on that not-so-secret society after our story….
Val and Sam’s surreal quest is just getting started, so I hope you’ll be back for more pre-apocalyptic erotica next week.
But what if you’re not quite done watching yet? How about turning your gaze towards your fellow giraffes in The Tower?
In our first year, it cost $7 a month or $69 annually to join our merry cabal, but starting today (and for as long as we can afford to make you this offer):
A monthly pass is now just 5 bucks and annual membership is only $40!
New and old subscribers alike still get all these cool extras:
Exclusive access to never-before-seen projects from my past, including old tv scripts, feature screenplays, and even some of my “lost” comics, like a Longshot/Kingpin (?!) prestige one-shot I wrote for Marvel Comics and artist Pete Woods over 25 years ago, which I’ll be revealing a little more about in today’s Tower-only bonus content.
Niko’s “Artopsy” segment, where he performs insightful autopsies on his unique artistic process, often accompanied by hypnotizing videos of this modern master at work. And stay tuned for details about how ALL Tower members will have an opportunity to buy their own original Niko artwork at a special discount, in case you missed out on receiving one of these incredible sketches Niko did for our Founders last year:
Weekly private chats where you can interact directly with Niko and me (and with the rest of your fellow Tower members). We’ve somehow assembled the loveliest group of readers/creators/humans pretty much anywhere on the internet, dedicated spectators across 124 countries and all 50 states who’ve pointed us to countless excellent new comics, films, books, shows, novels, albums, and strange Youtube videos.
Tower members will also have exclusive opportunities to send me your books to be signed/personalized/scribbled on, as I most likely won’t be making it to any shows this year.
More episodes (with slightly less unprofessional audio, maybe?) of Mature Readers, my podcast-thing about where I talk with all-star creators like Garth Ennis, Becky Cloonan and Robert Kirkman about comics made by and for adults.
And much more, including monthly original art giveaways and huge contests like this one:
If you’ve read Spectators, you’ve hopefully noticed that Niko’s lavish artwork is best enjoyed on a tablet screen or larger (not your phone, I beg you!), and I’m honored to announce that Niko will be giving away not one, but TWO massive pieces of his magnificent original art for a couple of lucky readers to savor up close:
And accompanying each of those invaluable one-of-a-kind treasures will be a copy from my private collection of one of the rarest comic books of the modern era, the coveted Saga #1 “Retailer Variant,” one of which recently sold for over three grand?!
We’ll award a special prize package with an original page of Niko’s art AND a rare Saga #1 to TWO randomly selected paid subscribers: one NEW Tower member who subscribes now at the Annual level, and one EXISTING Tower member who joined us at any paid level before this week.
All you have to do is subscribe (or resubscribe if your time is up) anytime before February 26, and you’ll be automatically entered in this contest. We’ll announce the two lucky winners on Monday, February 27, cool?
Thanks so much again for being here, for making Spectators possible, and for telling your oddball friends about us:
I have failed so many times in my life.
For every project I’ve written that’s eventually achieved liftoff, there have been dozens that blew up on the launchpad, if my metaphorical NASA crawler was even able to make it that far.
In today’s bonus nonsense, I’ll be rambling about Longshot/Kingpin, a bizarre project I originally pitched to Marvel way back in 1996 (while I was still in college down the street from the House of Ideas), and which improbably made it as far as having more than 20 pages of this planned “bookshelf format” comic fully drawn by the great Pete Woods, an incredible artist you may have seen proudly representing our medium in the “Marvel Method” episode of the Disney Plus docu-series Marvel 616.
I don’t remember/was never told exactly why the plug got pulled on this book (I’m honestly not sure how such an insane concept written by an absolute nobody survived as far into production as it did), but that’s Marvel/comics/Hollywood/any creative industry/life for you. Make-believe shit is understandably very fragile, and most concepts never get a chance to Pinocchio their way into our “real” world.
And as challenging as breaking in to comics was, I quickly learned that staying in was even tougher, requiring an almost delusional amount of persistence (along with lots of dumb luck, help from pals, guile, humility, privilege, lax oversight at day jobs, etcetera).
Anyway, more about Longshot/Kingpin—and the unexpected place some of its themes eventually resurfaced—for you Tower folks after this Mojo-mandated paywall.
Everyone else, stay well, and I’ll see you back here for more free Spectators on Monday!
The following material was originally only for Tower members, but we’re opening this post up to everyone to ensure even free subscribers can download that 125-page Spectators file (since the paywall was apparently preventing that for some readers).
Anyway, if you’d like to see more of this bonus stuff in the future—and help us complete Spectators—thanks again for considering joining up!
After I completed “The Stan-hattan Project” (an informal comics writing workshop offered to NYU students by Marvel editors James Felder and Mark Powers), I started sending anyone at the company whose address I could find my “springboards,” what I’d learned were brief one-page pitches for possible annuals/one-shots/fill-in stories starring existing Marvel characters.
Like a lot of readers at the time, I was surprised to find myself loving Marvel’s new Ka-Zar book, which is less surprising when you hear the series was being created by artist Andy Kubert and writer Mark Waid. I thought it was genius how Waid would bring out the best in his protagonists by pairing them with unexpected villains (Marvel’s discount Tarzan has to go up against Thanos?!), a trick I wanted to steal for a story involving Longshot, a character who seemed relatively available at the time.
By the way, I’d eventually get to know Mark through my friend writer Devin Grayson, who I got to know through my friend writer Jay Faerber, who I got to know as a fellow struggling freelancer through AOL’s Instant Messenger (“Okay, Gen X.”), and I absolutely wouldn’t be wherever I am now without their kindness, wisdom and endless generosity over the years.
Anyway, my pitch eventually made it to then-Marvel editor Matt Idelson, who not only seemed to like my idea, but was also willing to give me money for it, a massive milestone in my career for which I’ll be forever in his debt.
Inspired by some emo collegiate heartbreak I’d gone through, my pitch involved Wilson Fisk somehow manipulating the alien hero Longshot (who had just been dumped by his old flame Dazzler?) into using his “luck powers” to track down the Kingpin’s kidnapped wife Vanessa (who actually just wanted to escape her husband’s clutches for good).
Or something like that.
I can’t quite bring myself to read this entire old plot I just dug up, but it looks like this was one of the few times in my career where I attempted to write in something closer to the old-school “Marvel style.”
As opposed to the kind of “full scripts” I write these days and have shared here in the past (where I write full descriptions of each panel as well as give my collaborators any/all dialogue), Marvel style involved the writer (ideally) briefly describing the events of the story to the artist in fairly general terms, then allowing that artist to determine how the story should be broken down into specific panels and pages, before the writer then returns at the final stage to tailor their dialogue specifically to these images.
Likely designed so writers could pump out many scripts a month, this system also left a LOT (all?) of the storytelling heavy lifting to the artists. I never really felt comfortable with this hybrid form of scripting, as you can see in this opening scene, where I somehow gave poor Pete Woods both way too much and not enough information about each and every moment (and check out me failing to suppress my film school “education” right out of the gate):
Little clunky, Li’l BKV, but check out how tremendously my plodding plot was elevated by the energy and imagination of Pete Woods:
And if you’re somehow still interested, here’s my first dialogue pass over Pete’s pages (note how dorkily over the moon Young Me was to be working with legendary letterer John Costanza, who I don’t think ever actually ended up lettering any of this, but who I eventually got to work with years later on my somewhat tolerated run of Swamp Thing):
Pete Woods and I finally did collaborate on a published comic years later, and while I obviously wish literally any other circumstance had brought us together, I’m still proud of the story we contributed, another precursor to a lot of the themes I’ve been exploring/boring you with for the last twenty years:
Back in the day, it was frustrating and depressing that Longshot/Kingpin ended up disappearing into the ether, but I learned a lot from the experience, especially that channeling my own meager life experiences into genre stories somehow made writing much more enjoyable than just coming up with badass plot twists.
And while the characters and stories are obviously very different, a lot of the themes (and visual devices like those location “overlays” instead of traditional caption boxes) that I was starting to amateurishly explore in Longshot definitely resurfaced in new forms just a few years later over at Vertigo with co-creator Pia Guerra in Y: The Last Man.
You never know what strange new life could one day unexpectedly sprout from the scorched earth of your failed Marvel team-up book, so just keep tilling that soil, I guess?
You might get lucky.
Before I wrap up this inaugural mega-post, a question for you delightful spectators: What movie/show/video game/novel/concert/whatever are you most looking forward to in 2023?
I’ve been in a bit of a writing cocoon for the last few months, so I have no idea what’s coming down any of the old multimedia pipelines. Recommendations appreciated.
All right, thanks for being here for this special Tuesday edition of Exploding Giraffe, and I hope to meet some of you new members in our chat shortly.
Be seeing you,