The Origins of REDemption Part 11

When we closed last week’s part of the history, I had the first print issue of REDemption in my hands, courtesy of an artist named Chuck. (At this point in time, the story was known by the longer name The Redemption Project.) Unfortunately it was the only issue he would ever draw.

Looking back, I don’t think his departure was a bad thing…not that he was a bad artist or a jerk, but for other reasons. I’m not going to get into all of that here, other than to mention what I have said previously: he thought I should rearrange the story, which would have screwed up my vision.

Now that I think about it, he didn’t say this to me until AFTER he had resigned. So maybe it was just a friendly suggestion in the form of parting words. Who knows? He hasn’t worked on it since that issue, so I guess the importance of his intent is long gone.

This left me floating in limbo. I could not afford some of the rates that people were asking, but I knew it was asking a lot to expect people to draw all of this for free. I tried shopping around via message boards and Craigslist ads again. Eventually someone responded: a young woman whose name I have forgotten, so I will just call her Christine.

At first, Christine told me she was willing to work for a rate of $10 per page. This stunned me, and I asked how she could possibly get away with that. She said it was because she still lived at home and had no bills. I said, “Well, that works!”

I sent her a couple character biographies, and she sent me back samples that were amazing. Then I gave her the script for Part One. Again, incredible results. Finally I said, “Okay, if you are ready to come on board, then I will send you the outline of the entire comic.” She said okay.

And that was where it took a dive.

She wrote me back with a critique of the story, saying how this and that tangent had nothing to do with the main thrust of the plot (meaning the search for a cure to the zombie virus). I can’t remember every change she suggested for the story, but I do remember her closing the email by saying, “In the end, these are only just suggestions. It is your story, and I will draw it like you want.”

I wrote back, saying, “Yes, the story stands as is.” I may have even offered a brief explanation of how the comic was “Dungeons and Dragons meets a Romero movie,” and then explained how D&D campaigns are LOADED with side adventures that have nothing to do with the main story.

Well, she proved her previous statement (“I’ll draw it like you want”) was insincere because once I set that boundary of her being the artist and me being the writer, she never contacted me again. This bummed me out because of the quality of her work, but if the alternative was to compromise my vision, then it’s better we didn’t wind up working together.

A handful of other artists came and went. Some were such blips on the radar that they aren’t even worth mentioning by name. Let’s just say it was a tough search and leave it at that, mmm-kay?

At one point, I got so fed up with the search that I decided it was time for me to take on the artistic duties myself. After all, I was the one who drew that 24-page origin story “Of Forces Beyond” back in high school. Why not?

I asked around for the best books that might help someone learn how to draw. Chuck recommended a trio of books from DC Comics. There were also a handful of books recommended by Jason Brubaker, who is infamous in the webcomic world.

I bought all these up…and then I never got around to opening ANY of them. Life was just too hectic at the time. The freelance writing work was coming in at a fast pace, and those assignments had deadlines so I could not push them aside. Plus my day job did not pay very well, so I had to keep doing overtime. There was a brief point in time where I just gave up on it.

Actually, no…scratch that. I never gave up. However, I had to accept the fact that there were other things in my life that required more attention.

Sometimes we have to put our dreams to sleep, because even they need to rest.

Join me next week for Part 12. I cannot say for sure that will be the last installment, because I thought we’d be done by THIS point! However, there is one thing I know for sure: it will be a fun-filled, passionate read!

~~~~~Steve

 

 

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The Origins of REDemption Part 7

When last we left, I had finally broke through my writer’s block and had my ideas on how to write Part 3: every four years, the team would get into a new side adventure (for four total), and then two years later they would try to blow up the quarantine wall. By this time, the Immune Child would be eighteen years old.

First I set about writing an outline for Part 3. This gave a brief overview of what each side adventure would be.

It is par for the course that in post-apocalyptic stories, there will be some kind of religious fanatic clan that believes the ravaging of humanity was a curse from God for all the deviousness and mischief we engage in. Meeting a group like that became adventure 1.

At some point while I was trying to think of adventure 2, I had an image in my head of people docilely staggering into the arms of zombies while under the influence of some kind of drug. After all, people in OUR world use drugs to escape their problems, so I figured it was believable that people in the REDemption universe would do the same. I came up with an idea of how they would get this drug, and the rest of the adventure wrote itself.

At some point I wanted the team to rest, so I had them camp out at an old laboratory with a family called the McKinleys. At this point the Immune Child was old enough to start paying attention to girls, so I gave him a pleasant young lady to fawn over named Tara McKinley.

There were other side adventures, some of which required a lot of research. For example, at one point the team is held prisoner in a massive jail. I have no idea how jails are laid out, so I had to go to our good friend Google and type in “prison blueprints” and “jail blueprints.”

Aside from the four main side adventures, I also had the team run into other random enemies (and friends too, of course, but let’s face it: there’s no dramatic impact of meeting people who are nice to you!). In one of these, the team is accosted by a gang that uses a mix of tools and firearms to attack. I have to admit here: this scene was inspired by THE BOOK OF ELI (starring Denzel Washington), although in that fight his enemies don’t have guns. However, one of them does have a chainsaw.

At the same time I wrote the outline for Part 3, I also typed up Part 2. I worked on the outline when I was on break or lunch at work, and I typed when I was home. This allowed me to maximize my time and work at a faster pace. Usually I wait until a story is finished to type it up, but I knew that would be way too daunting of a task if I postponed it with this one.

Part 3 grew…and grew…and grew. I believe the handwritten version came out to well over 1,000 pages. (It’s in a desk drawer at home; I can always look to confirm later.) By the time I got to the end of it, the Immune Child had indeed taken off on the team. I like to think I gave him a good reason for taking off, but that judgment call is out of my hands now. It is suspended in limbo at the moment, but someday it will be in the hands of the readers.

The end of Part 3 gave me an immediate setup for Part 4: the team would have to relocate the Immune Child. However, they would have to be discreet/covert about it. After all, if they went to the trouble to blow up the quarantine wall (which of course was put there by the Federal government), then someone would be coming to look for answers. This provided an awesome dynamic: their need to relocate their savior while also avoiding their enemies.

The team flees from their usual base of operations to a backup hideout, which was a shopping mall. (I don’t think I need to point out that this was a clear reference to DAWN OF THE DEAD, but I will anyway.) Meanwhile in other parts of the country, people have started to get tired of the government’s semi-fascist ways, and they start to revolt. Suicide squads attack the Canadian and Mexican borders, where the Army and Marines are stationed to keep any infected from getting into our country. The squads drive explosive-filled jeeps at the stations and destroy them, which results in the infected getting over the border. If an area becomes too overrun by infected people, then the military bombs them…which, of course, causes even more chaos.

The government was clearly evil, but at this point I wanted to pull what I call my “Tarantino move.” Quentin Tarantino has a way of showing us the more likeable sides of his villains, like at the start of PULP FICTION when Vincent and Jules talk about TV shows and so on. The way I did that was by introducing an FBI agent named Bill Davidson, who is brought in to investigate some damage caused by the Unexpected Enemy. Being a Federal government agent, he is also expected to be an enemy of Molly and company. At first he is, but over time that changes.

I wasn’t sure how to have the team relocate the Immune Child, so for a while my progress on the outline halted. Never one to give myself too much downtime, I started to type up the massive text of Part 3. In the meantime, I kept thinking about how to describe their search for the savior.

I am proud to say that, unlike the struggle I had with Part 3, it didn’t take me too long before I found the inspiration for Part 4.

More on that in the next segment!

 

~~~~~Steve

RIP George A Romero

I can’t even believe I am writing this. Yes, I knew from pictures that George was getting old…but lung cancer? No idea.

I remember when I was a young horror fan, and I heard about the influential NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. I watched it due to the fact that so many hailed it as a classic. However, at the time my tastes leaned more toward super gory films, so I preferred DAWN OF THE DEAD and DAY OF THE DEAD over the black and white film, which seemed too tame to me.

Many years later, I put the movie into context, imagining what it must have been like to see it at the time it came out. Oh movie going public, how can we offend thee? Let us count the ways! (And for the three or four people out there who don’t know this movie, I am going to say: SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!!!)

*In the late 60’s while the Civil Rights Movement is in full swing, they cast Duane Jones…a black man…as the sensible, level-headed, intelligent protagonist. Romero always claimed it was just a coincidence, that Jones was cast merely because he gave the best audition and NOT because a black leading man would be a controversial move. While there certainly is evidence to support this claim (see Duane Jones knock it out of the park when he talks about his experience at Beekman’s Diner), I can’t help but feel the fact that he was black and the climate of the country at the time had SOMETHING to do with his casting.

*A brother comes back as a zombie and eats his sister.

*A daughter comes back as a zombie and devours her dad, then stabs her mom to death with a gardening trowel.

*Our hero has to kill the same little zombie girl.

*In the end, our hero dies.

That’s a hell of a lot of subversion for one movie!

Romero followed NIGHT with THERE’S ALWAYS VANILLA, probably one of his most rare films. Even in this digital day and age you would be hard pressed to find it. Judging from the reviews, I wouldn’t want to bother anyway. Another flop followed (SEASON OF THE WITCH), followed by THE CRAZIES. At the time, I thought CRAZIES was basically NIGHT with insane people instead of zombies. I watched it many years later and realized it has its own charms.

Then came what is my personal favorite Romero film, MARTIN. So much has been written about this movie that I’m not sure what else I can say. It’s about a young “vampire” who has to seduce his victims by doping them up and then has to get at their blood by slitting their arms open with razor blades. The movie alternates between the present and black and white footage, which could either be Martin’s memories of his vampiric past, or they are just fantasies based on what vampires are like in movies and books.

Of course, what came next was his magnum opus, the zombie film to end all zombie films, DAWN OF THE DEAD. Enjoy it as a wild, nasty splatter fest, or invest your brain a little and ponder the swipe Romero takes at consumerism and self-indulgence. Either way, this movie is where it’s at. It also features amazing early gore effects from newcomer Tom Savini. (He also did the effects for MARTIN and had a small role in both movies.)

Romero’s movies were always about social commentary. In most of them, people try to set up new societies that quickly become as volatile as the old ones. (Examples: KNIGHTRIDERS, DAWN OF THE DEAD, LAND OF THE DEAD) However, MARTIN is interesting in that it is about people clinging to OLD ways that don’t function anymore, without bothering to come up with new ones so they can adapt to the modern times.

Many other films followed the DEAD trilogy, which originally concluded with DAY OF THE DEAD but then resumed in 2005 with LAND OF THE DEAD. Many were hit or miss, such as MONKEY SHINES, TWO EVIL EYES (a collaboration with Italian horror hero Dario Argento), and his adaptation of Stephen King’s THE DARK HALF.

Many people view CREEPSHOW as a classic, but I think its five stories are too uneven to warrant such a label, and not for nothing but there is too much emphasis on revenge-based plots. Then there is the movie BRUISER, which is such a godawful mess that I am amazed Romero did not change his name on it. According to the internet, the movie has an overall rating of 67%. The movie has an interesting premise: a man who has no sense of his own identity wakes up one day to find the features of his face gone; in their place is a featureless mask. It is reminiscent of Franz Kafka’s METAMORPHOSES, but then Romero goes nowhere with it. I hung in there and watched the whole thing, hoping there would be some kind of payoff, but there wasn’t. There’s a scene when the main character kills his sleazy boss (who was also having an affair with the protagonist’s wife), and it should have been powerful and intense, but it was just…boring. I mean, there’s really no other way to phrase it!

However, these missteps are minor complaints…mere footnotes in the career of a man who defined a significant subgenre of horror. Best of all, he did it on his own terms. Romero didn’t need Hollywood; he had Pittsburgh. He wasn’t just an inspiration to people in the horror genre; he was a guiding light for ALL indie filmmakers.

Thanks to your amazing body of work, your light still shines on, George.