Search This Blog


Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Big Board: March 2014

I watched my first ever March Madness game this month; goosed some brews, had some laughs, lost $2 on bets. If you're wondering why St. Joe's lost, the consensus in the room was it was Zach's sister's fault


Where we at on what we do? Well!

The mysterious KQ from last month was, in actuality, the Killer Queen anthology from Red Stylo. I'm doing "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon", no idea who's drawing it yet.

Knuckle Children is up to 18 total pages; Scott's done inks on 7 of them, and they look great.

New to the board are TMUB and GDF:M; TMUB being The Most Unkindest Bite and GDF:M being The Grave Doug Freshley movie script.

The most Unkindest Bite is a rework of a project Marv and I were doing, a vampire/spy job. We did a 48 page comic, I hated, uhhhh, every line of dialogue I wrote? so, we're dusting it off and reworking it as three eight pagers. Marv compressed it. I was mostly meant to be doing a dialogue pass, but ended up rewriting it pretty extensively, just from working backwards from my awful dialogue.

I hesitantly sent Marv the first eight pages, with a "heeeeeey, guess who went off the reservation on this...", but he was cool with it. So I'll keep on keeping on.

I meant to do a dialogue pass on the Grave Doug Freshley movie script, but, well, I've just not gotten around to it. I hasten to add that we've not sold the property for adaptation, this is just a script to make it easier to do so (in theory). 

Speaking of movies, Jorge's friends made an indie flick to be shown in select theaters and Mexican national television and guess what book shows up in it?

You can catch the trailer here. It looks like a pretty fun flick.

What else...? Well, I've started hand-scripting stuff, then typing it up. Almost had an apoplectic fit when an iTunes update's restart ate a Knuckle Children script, but other than THAT, I'm finding I enjoy it. And it keeps my panel descriptions pretty spare, which is a good thing.

Not officially on the board is a Robin Hood dumb-jokes-and-fights comic I'm not sure what I'm doing with yet. Right now, I'm basically just going through Howard Pyle's Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and adapting stories in little eight page chunks. I'd like to draw it, but I'd also like to draw, period. Like I said, no idea what I'm doing with it yet. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Has Anyone Used "Watching the Detectives" As A Title for One Of These Yet? Oh, Probably

I marathoned True Detective across two nights earlier in the week, which, as far as personal decisions go, was...kind of a mixed bag. It's a great show, there's a lot I liked about it, but it's mmmmmaybe not the best show for an introvert to marathon alone in his apartment? Felt a little bit raw, in spots. The show did. Or I did. Or...yeah. Might've maybe rediscovered the act of chain smoking a little during the back half.


I didn't have much in the way of spoilers from internet buzz; I knew about the stash house raid in episode four, basically.

The other big internet buzz about the show...well, I've never been much of a cosmic horror guy. I knew a nice Goth-y kid back when who owned a vintage hardback of The King in Yellow. I bought an old copy of The Shadow Over Innsmouth (and other stories? I guess?) in college to give it a shot, and never actually read it. I ran off a copy of The Call of Cthulu from the Internet on the basis of Metallica's Call of Ktulu and...oh wow. I just remembered: it must've been 8th grade, Freshman year of high school, around then, and there was a thunder storm. I opened up my mom's garage to watch the storm, put on a walkman with Ride the Lightning on, and read the story as a corner-stapled printout. Haha, ah man.

The remembering of that stuck with me more than the actual text of it. Lovecraft: not my jam, basically.


First thing I dug about the show...well, this Bryan Lee O'Malley tweet sums it up best:

I buy that. I completely buy that. Those two, Introvert Cohle and Extrovert Hart...the relationship between them reminds me a lot of a Taiyo Matsumoto story. He plays a lot with that mix; Black and White in Tekkonkinreet is the most on-the-nose example, but there's Peco and Smile in Ping Pong. Hanaotoko, Sunny, Gogo Monster all have shades of it.

And there's always an arc those kinds of characters follow, in Matsumoto's stories: the uneasy balance and competition and success, the clash and fall out, and character goes off the rails, the other one kind of floats along. Or maybe they're both kind of off the rails and they're both kind of floating along at the same time.

Anyway, what both Matsumoto and Pizzolatto do isn't have one character save the other, not really. It's to have the characters resolve their issues with each other, but more importantly...they let themselves accept themselves a little more than they used to, accept both the flaws and the strengths of themselves, and that allows them to be more balanced with each other.

They don't make a perfect person between them, but they make a balanced pair of people between them.

Which is another thing I really liked about the show: the compression of years of character work and emotional history into eight hours. That's a technique I'm going to be thinking hard about; between superhero stories and Japanese comics and newspaper strips, I came up on long, long form stories, where there's either a sense of history in the cast or genre (Starman, Busiek/Perez Avengers), or you get to watch the history grow over 1000+ pages (Bone, One Piece).

I've never really felt I had the market space (or maybe even the patience) to build something like that, but I love that kind of thing. The One Piece crew has in-jokes among themselves now. Not just recurring gags the author breaks out (those happen too), but actual jokes between themselves.

So for True Detective to successfully make me feel like I've been following those characters for almost two decades, for real, so that the emotional payoffs ring true and have a history...that's cool. That's a technique to dissect a little (it's not just the makeup jobs, y'know?) in my den*, while wearing a smoking jacket**, contemplating writing.

(*Well, the rocking-as-in-the-motion ottoman for grannies and pregnant women I have next to my stereo in my living room.)
(**I don't have one of these at all.)

The last thing I dug about the show was the stylistic shifts episode to episode. I know I've revealed my dearth of actual culture by comparing everything to comics and it doesn't take much to get me talking about this next point of comparison BUT: it reminded me of FLCL.

Just in that it's a contained story, but each episode contains stylistic shifts in how it's shot that, at least partly, seem to be based on "hey, this could be cool to shoot like so". The bravura long take, the visions...I think my personal favorite was this shot of an extremely strung out Cohle behind the wheel of a speeding car, sickly yellow early morning light, almost-fake-looking backdrop through the rear windshield. Just this sudden moment of sweaty grindhouse camerawork dropped into the show.

That sort of thing, that "hey, why not?" approach to moment-to-moment visual storytelling...I'm all about that.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Second Annual World Famous Fat Tuesday Feast

So, like I've been known to do at least one time before, I threw a Fat Tuesday potluck thing for my friends. It's mostly an excuse to have my friend Elise make a big pot of gumbo for everyone...I think I only made the rice last year?...but this year, oh ho HO, this year I sorta kinda went nuts with the food on my end.

Like..."bought two pounds of shrimp and three loaves of French bread just for the po'boys" nuts.

The spread, and how it was made, is as follows:

Spicy Remoulade:

- Real mayo
- Cayenne pepper
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Cinnamon
- Paprika
- Worcestershire sauce

Splooge about a cup and a quarter of mayo into a mixing bowl. Season it with a small grind or two of the sea salt, a grind or four of the black pepper, cayenne contingent on how spice-tolerant your guests are, a bit of cinnamon, just a dash of the Worcestershire sauce. The paprika should be your heaviest element, as that's what gives it most of the color (outside of the cayenne).

Mix all that up, and let it sit in the fridge overnight before the party.

Po'boy Bar (Shrimp and Vegetarian)

- Too goddamn much French bread; like, a loaf and a half, tops, would've been fine, but noooo
- Two pounds of Calabash salt-and-pepper popcorn shrimp from Triton Seafood (again, too much)
- Breaded mushrooms
- Your remoulade dressing
- Thing of shredded lettuce
- Green onions

Pick up your two pounds of shrimp from the kind folks at Triton. Get home, and oven bake the mushrooms however the bag says. 450 for 15, 16 minutes? Sure.

Cut the loaves down their length, then run a sharp knife down the exposed whitebread, not cutting all the way through, but making sure you get the tips open at either end. Then cut the two halves into fifths, width wise.

Get your remoulade out, dump your lettuce and chopped green onions into the mix (I literally just took a pair of scissors, a fistful of onions, and snipped them into the bowl), and fingermix it all together for your po'boy dressing.

Pry open your sandos, just a bit, not the full 180, and spoon in a little measure of remoulade-and-greens. Drop three or four shrimp or mushrooms on top of that, depending on the size of the roll.

(I have vegetarian friends, hence the mushroom po'boys. Even the Worchestershire sauce was anchovies-free.)

Get about 10 sandos in out of the 30 you were planning on making, realize you're out of plate room, decide "hey, self-serve po'boy bar!".

Spicy Succotash

- Quarter stick of unsalted butter. Real butter.
- 1 or 2 cans of corn
- 1 can black beans
- 1 can pinto beans
- 1/2 bag frozen peas
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Cinnamon

Dumb little accident: if you put the pot on the stove, with the butter in, while the oven's cooking the mushrooms, you get a nice little head start on melting the butter while you're opening and draining the cans. Besides that, put it on a medium heat to finish the job. Or just nuke the butter in a tall tupperware, and pour it in, then turn the stove up to medium heat.

Dump in your corn, various beans, peas, and spices; again, the cayenne and that is all down to the group's tolerance, but it's's a fucking LOT of stuff in there, and the spice gets pretty well diluted by the volume. I'd say season, cook a bit, taste, add more of whatever as needed.

Up the heat to a notch or two past medium as you stir. Once it's well and heated through, and bubbling slightly, reduce heat to medium, keep stirring until you think it's cooked, but not a reduction, and then keep the stove on low heat, stirring only occasionally until guests arrive

Lame Succotash

- 1/8th stick of butter
- 1 can of corn
- 1/2 can pinto beans
- 1/2 bag frozen peas
- Sea salt
- Black pepper
- Cinnamon

One of the guests objected to the idea of a spicy succotash, as opposed to plain. It was more work for me, but since he's a guest, I decided to whip him up a smaller batch of plain.

So, same deal as above, just in a smaller pot, and nix the cayenne.


- Shrimp, definitely
- Okra? That stuff that's like, octopus, but a plant?
- Red peppers, which, hey, way to find the one way I'll eat those.
- Onions? I forget

Have a friend with a Cajun heritage make and bring it. Make sure it's not Gambit. Also have them bring the rice. I'll make the rice next year, I think, just because I felt bad for her and her husband having to lug that many pots up three flights of stairs.

[No Photo Available]


- Dough
- Flour
- Non-stick wok full of oil
- Powdered sugar

Have your friend take over the kitchen and make these. Stay out of her way. Deal with the scorn and derision of your friends when it's revealed you don't own any powdered sugar, even though you don't bake, and only use sweetened creamer in your coffee. Drive to Rite-Aid at 9:30 PM. Stand looking puzzled in the "baking" aisle. Respond to a clerk's inquiries about needing assistance with "yeah, do you guys carry powdered sugar?". Respond to him pointing at a massive can of normal sugar with "no, like would be on a funnel cake, or beignet". Accept the situation and drop $5 on a vat of sugar. Drive home. Everyone's gone. Everything's gone, they stole it all. No, just kidding. Eat beignets.

So yeah, it was a good spread, and a good time.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Big Board: February 2014

So, where are we at?

Well, I scripted four pages of one of the micro-antho stories, and lettered three of the pages in the first one I got art back on.

Knuckle Children's at 12 pages total of the 48, and Scott's working on pages; they look great so far.

As for the new projects:

A (Not So) Simple Lovehack is an audio drama pitch for Chromatic Press; they turned down a Moon is Mine audio drama I'd pitched, but invited me to pitch something else. I had, just that day, read this Wired article about a guy who'd hacked OKCupid to give himself better compatibility results, so I pitched an idea inspired by that, in a  "I dunno if you'd be interested in this, but...". They were interested in seeing more, so...well, if I'm being honest, it's kind of kicking my ass a bit. I'll have it ready for next week, though.

(I mean, I have to, submissions close end of Feb.)

KQ is an antho project I can't talk about,'s 8 pages, all of which are turned in.

I also added a "cons" section; I'm doing Wizard World Philly for definite, my first time tabling solo (well, Harry's going to hang out at my table and help me). And I want to mooch table time from Boom!/Archaia at Baltimore me and Andy at Boom! are gonna play Warhammer (it's looking like his Skaven versus my 40k Orkz that just won't use their guns; should be a hoot).

That's easily the most cons I've done in yeeeears. Baby steps, tho.

I did up a Patrat for the Twitterdex, which was a fun lark:

Oh, and since I'm getting back into painting/customs, I finished off this old Kitty Pryde miniature, inspired mainly by Ellen Page's coming out.

A little dumb on my part, but I really did think that was a hell of a speech she gave.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Resident Evil

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a board game my friends break out occasionally; essentially, you play a horror scenario in a spooky house, once of you ends up secretly being possessed or otherwise turned traitorous by events, and then you get to try to murder your frienemies.  

Me being me, I of course saw how the mechanics could map to the first Resident Evil game, and wrote a little scenario to be plugged into the game. 

At one point, I even had special abilities for the various characters worked out, but that seems to have been lost to the mists of time.

A downloadable copy of these rules, with the traitor instructions separated out better, is available here.

And not for nothing, but I also recommend playing this scenario with the S.P.R.U. models found here.

Betrayal at House on the Hill: Resident Evil Edition
“They have escaped into the mansion, where they thought it was safe. Yet…”

- Find and set aside the Laboratory tile.
- Use playing cards (or some other method) to determine which player is secretly the traitor, ex. For a four player game, shuffle and deal three black suited cards and one red suited card, and whoever gets the red suited card is the Traitor. Do not show the other players your cards. The Traitor is not activated until the Laboratory is discovered, after the first Haunt.

The game proceeds as normal. The Traitor, while aware they are a Traitor, does not yet take overt action against the other Explorers. Items, Events, Omens, and Haunt checks resolve as normal.

When the Haunt is activated in the normal course of play, the following conditions take effect:

Haunt 1: What IS This!?
As you round the corner, the first thing you notice is the smell. A stale, sick smell of abandoned hospitals. And the sounds: wet mouth noises and the ripping of meat. Then you see him…it…hunched over what you can only assume used to be a man. It’s eating him. At least, until it turns its head and stares at you with milky dead eyes, and slowly starts to stand.

- Place a small monster in the room with whichever player activated the Haunt. This monster, and all subsequent small monsters, are Zombies.

Speed 2 Might 4 Sanity 2
Staggering: Zombies will not leave the room they appear in. However, a Speed 4 check must be passed in order to escape a room with a zombie. If successful, do not attack the zombie and do not be attacked by the zombie. Slowness applies as usual.

- For any subsequent discovered room, roll a die. On a blank result, place a zombie in the room.
- Shuffle the Laboratory card back into the room deck, where it can be discovered.
- No further Haunt checks are made until the Laboratory is discovered.

The Laboratory:
When the Laboratory is discovered, the Traitor is automatically revealed, and receives their instructions (See: Umbrella Employee Orientation). The Explorers receive their instructions (See: Survival Horror). Neither side is to know the others’ instructions.

- Following the discovery of the Laboratory, resume Haunt checks on discovering Omens. On a failed Haunt check the following condition is added to Haunt 1:

Haunt 2: B.O.W.
Maybe it was a man once, before the surgeries. Now it’s something else entirely, profane and efficient, designed only to attack and keep coming. It was sleeping. You have woken it.

Place a Large Monster tile in the Laboratory. This is the Tyrant.
Move 4 Might 8 Sanity 3

The Tyrant moves the extreme of its movement towards the nearest figure, be it Explorer, Traitor, or Monster. It then immediately attacks it. Should the Target escape, the Tyrant will follow it until another target presents itself. The Tyrant immediately fails the movement checks of any room with a movement condition, and is subject to the conditions therein.

Explorer Instructions: Survival Horror
The lab, though long disused, is clean and well lit. Massive glass tubes line the walls, full of murky liquid and shadowy forms that parody human biology. You flip through some papers on a nearby table; you don't understand the science, but the phrase "bio organic weapons" chills you to the core...though not as much as seeing the name of one of your companions listed as the author.

- The Explorer player who discovered the Laboratory takes a triangular Item Chit: this is the BOW Data. That player’s goal is to get the BOW Data to the Mysterious Elevator and roll a 4 to escape the mansion. The elevator does not move, but simply transfers the Explorer out. On a failed roll, you are deposited outside of the elevator and cannot reuse it until the turn after your next.

BOW Data:
- If the Explorer holding the BOW Data is killed by a Monster, the data stays in that room until another player can reach it, assuming the room is cleared of Monsters.
- If the Explorer holding the BOW Data is killed by the Traitor, the Traitor receives the BOW Data.
- The BOW Data can be transferred to another friendly Explorer in the same room.
- If the Traitor discovered the Laboratory and holds the BOW Data, they must be killed to receive and escape with it. If the Traitor is killed by a Monster while holding the BOW Data, the same rules applies to it as would if an Explorer had been holding it.

- The Explorers not holding the BOW Data must also make it to the elevator and roll a 4 to leave.

- The Explorers win under the following conditions, in order of importance: (1) that the BOW Data is out of the house with an Explorer. (2) That the majority of remaining Explorers survive. So if an Explorer escapes with the data, leaving four additional Explorers, at least two of those Explorers must also escape for a win condition.

Traitor Instructions: Umbrella Employee Orientation
My God, you and your team did amazing work here, once upon a time.. You were making the future of warfare. And then one sloppy janitor bumped something he ought not have, and suddenly the finest military bioengineering minds of a generation are shambling husks roaming a mansion. Shame. Still, if you can just get out of here with your notes…you can start again. Your notes, and maybe a little combat data…

- If the Traitor discovered the Laboratory, take a triangular item chit: this is the BOW Data. Your goal is to escape the mansion with the BOW Data by making it to the Mysterious Elevator and rolling a 4. The elevator does not move, but simply transfers the Traitor out of the mansion. On a failed roll, you are deposited outside of the elevator and cannot reuse it until the turn after your next.

BOW Data:
- If the Traitor, while holding the BOW Data, is killed by a Monster, the data stays in that room until another Explorer can reach it and retrieve it, assuming the room is empty of Monsters. The Traitor may still win if all Explorers are killed.
- The Explorer holding the BOW Data is killed, the Traitor may retrieve it so long as the room is cleared of Monsters.
- If the Explorer holding the BOW Data is killed by the Traitor, the Traitor receives the BOW Data.

The Hunters:
Upon reaching the Laboratory, even if the BOW Data is no longer there, the Traitor may activate a number of Medium Monsters equal to the number of Explorers. These are the Hunters:

Speed 5 Might 5 Sanity 3
Unlike the Zombies and Tyrant, the Hunters will not attack the Traitor. Nor will they attack Zombies.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Da WAAAAGH!

I used to play Warhammer 40k. This was back in elementary/high school.

If you're not familiar with the game: it's a wargame where players use (pretty expensive) miniatures and vehicle models they assemble/paint themselves to fight turn-based conflicts that involve rulers and dice rolling, basically. "Am I X-inches from those other guys? Then I roll Y dice and add all these  modifiers that miniature has as a character".

You build your army by going "okay, I've got a total budget of 2000 points, each of these units cost less than that, add them all up". The other guy budgets his army accordingly. Then you and him fight.

I got introduced to it in after-school care, by a friend of mine who got introduced to it by his older brother. We, all of us, could only just about afford the books that told you what the armies did, and maybe a squad or a pretty cool figure, so we mostly played with initialed cardboard chits. Y'know, whatever the Unit Name was, it'd be those initials on an inch square of file card we'd cut ourselves. Tanks and that would use a whole file card.

That was cooler than you'd think; you had to really use your imagination, but you also basically had no limit on what kind of army you could play. If it was in the book, and it was in your in-game points budget, you were golden.


The tagline of the game is In The Grim Darkness of the Future, There Is Only War.

It's British, originally.

These in-game wars are between the Imperium, which is the fascistic future of humanity in a galaxy-spanning empire, and various alien races. The Eldar, which are Space Elves of the Tolkien vein; The Tyranids, which are the Xenomorphs from Aliens writ large; the Necrons, which are Space Terminators; the Tau, which are Space Animes. And others.

And then there's the Orkz.

The Orkz are green. They are brutish. They exist only for fighting, and they don't care if it's anyoneof those lot above, or each other. They have very-very-roughly-cobbled-together technology. They're shouty. They say "waaagh!" a lot.

They're, essentially, an army of space-faring football hooligans by way of the Tasmanian Devil.

In The Grim Darkness of the Future, They Are the Comic Relief.

Needless to say, the Orkz were the army I played.

Warhammer is serious in tone. It's got a black-humored satirical edge sometimes, ala Judge Dredd, but for the most part, it's The Grim Darkness of the Future What Only Has War Going On. It's meant to be a brutal tactical game with complicated and occasionally horrific science and lore behind it. The Imperial ships use FTL travel by keeping powerful psychics in living comas to plot the trajectories, then actually traveling through holes in the universe that lead through a dimension of Chaos Gods who wish to remake our universe in their image. That's space travel in the Grim Darkness of the Future Where There's a Spot of War Everywhere.

Meanwhile, the Orkz have a saying: "red wunz go fasta".

I'll translate: red vehicles, the Orkz believe, go faster.

What's nuts is...they do.

See, the Orkz technology is anything they've bolted, welded, stapled, glued, and spit together, and the louder it sounds when it's doing its dirt, the better. And it all mostly works. Except when it doesn't, in which case it explodes spectacularly. But what's key is that you can, in game, pay for a perk on your vehicles. And any truck, tank, or bike you've painted red will move a little further on the board than it would otherwise.

This is important, to the Orkz, because it means they get to hit the other guy that much sooner.

I don't remember ever really winning a fight in 40k. However, I do remember every single game being a cross between a Hulk rampage and a Wile E. Coyote short, and how some serious players would get a special little twitch in their eye when a band of barely-armed green thugs beat one of their heavily-armed squads to death. That the scant survivors of that scrap would often get blasted to atoms by the focused totality of an Imperial force before the rest of my army caught it between the eyes from the same was besides the point.

But if I'm being honest, the actual appeal of the Orkz was the creative encouragement. Once I had access to actual models (and X-Acto knives, paint, and glue), I used the same imagination that made playing with chits the same as playing with models to chop up and remake half the weapons and vehicles in my army into something only my boys had; the game, in both rules and spirit, encouraged that with Orkz in a way none of the other armies did.

Those guns, there? I made those. I chopped up bits of other guns, and I slapped them together and gave my boys some proper heavy shooters.

In The Grim Darkness of the Future, There's Still DIY.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Puzzle Comics

Justin Jordan: Man, I am pretty sure I couldn't write The Flash.

Josh Hechinger: Why?

JJ: Too powerful, and too powerful in a way that would be difficult for me to write. Unlike say Superman or even Kyle [Rayner], both of whom are extremely powerful. With The Flash, I am not sure I can wrap my head around writing something that wouldn't just be him fighting another Speedster while the world is a blur.

JH: I think the secret, as much as I love The Rogues, is that he's puzzle comics, not fight comics. Portal, not TF2.
So, this was the start of a Twitter conversation I had with Justin Jordan on the problems with writing The Flash. I've thrown a transcript of the conversation here, but the thing I want to unpack further isn't The Flash specifically (though I'll keep using him as an example), but the idea I coined (I think?) of "puzzle comics".

(And by "unpack", I mean "ramble at length and still probably don't cover everything I possibly could".)

My thinking is that the puzzle comics genre is along the lines of fight comics; fight comics being action-adventure comics that primarily focus on the inventive hand-to-hand combat between characters to advance the plot. Sometimes (let's face it, often) this hand-to-hand combat involves enhanced powers, but the point is that the plot and point of the comic primarily revolves around individual or small-group* fighting, and presenting that in a dynamic and engaging way.

*the small group might take on a much larger group, but still, you know what I mean.

Most superhero comics are fight comics; so then, if you're thinking along the lines of...I don't want to say "realism", but let's say "verisimilitude"...then characters like Superman, Green Lantern, and The Flash become challenging to write interestingly in a fighting context. Their powers or powersets are so outsized that...well, look, Flash's villains are largely blue collar crooks with science weapons, and they can't "realistically" ("verisimilitudically"?) pose a threat to a man who can move and think at lightspeed.

(Tangent: I could do a whole other write-up on the idea that, say, Batman's villains are an escalation response to him being cops-but-better, but the Flash's villains are so outclassed that they largely stick to doing basic robberies as unrelated to the hero as possible. I wouldn't fall over shocked if it turned out Chris Sims has already written something to this effect; pretty sure he's covered the Batman half, anyhow.)

So then, if fight comics are an uncomfortable fit to an action-adventure protaganist, for whatever reason, I believe the solution is to make the narrative focus on the character using their special brand of whatever to solve...well, puzzles. Either puzzles in what passes for physics in the narrative, geared towards whatever toolset/power the protagonist has (but in such a way that it seems geared against it on the face of it), or emotional puzzles.

For the former, I cite Portal. Which is not a comic, yes, hi, thanks, it's a video game. But 100% of movies aren't comics, and that hasn't stopped anyone from jacking techniques from film for their sequential narrative, y'know?

(Speaking for myself, when I pull video game thinking for my comics, I go with platformers and/or beat 'em ups. The characters go in a straight line from point A to B, dealing with lesser challenges until a final, larger challenge to end either the sequence or the narrative, depending. But I'm just half-clever, remember.)

Where Portal (or Myst, or whatever has a narrative and puzzles) can be applied to comics is that the player/character has, what, three things they can do? Move, jump, and punch tunnels in space, right? Basic humanity, and a little extra something. And the application of that mix of mundane and special abilities is used to solve puzzles and (and this is key) further a narrative when those puzzles are solved. The solving of puzzles is the mechanism by which you discover more of the plot.

Now, removing the player agency from that...and comics, with their reader-controlled pacing, is probably the least painful medium you can downshift user agency in from video games, so yaaaay comics...the writer has to come up with compelling puzzles for the character's powerset, AND make the procedural aspect of the character working through the puzzle compelling as well.

Something that came up in Justin and I's discussion was the idea that to an outside observer inside the comic, The Flash would seem to solve problems in a blink. To which my counter-argument was that, yes, but the reader is with The Flash every step of the way.

I'm as much of a fan of "see the plan, not the planning" as a narrative technique as anyone, but with puzzle comics, the creative team almost needs to make the reader a co-conspirator who thinks they're an equal partner, but really isn't. Creating puzzle comics is a bit like Ocean's Eleven, say; the creative team needs to be Clooney and Pitt to the reader's Damon.

Much like how you might face a Portal level with "how the hell do holes and jumping get me over there?", the writer's job is to make the reader wonder "how the hell does 'runs fast' solve this problem?" (using Flash as an example), and then work with the artist to present the solution in an engaging way, staying one half-step ahead of the reader (er, unless the reader skips ahead, of course).

I've been talking a lot about the writer (said the writer), but, and this is kiiinda obvious, the artist is more important than usual in puzzle comics.

(Hell, in fight comics, too.)

(Hell, in comics, period.)

It's on the artist to make what's essentially a flashy (no pun intended) procedural visually engaging to the reader. There's a reason why The Flash under Carmine Infantino invented much of the visual grammar in comics for superspeed; it's not because that was the character's power so much as you can't just draw a guy running fast in one style, from maybe different angles, and expect to keep readers interested. So, you come up with windmill arms and vibrating molecules and ways to depict and apply those in different ways in the narrative, which in turn feeds into the type of puzzles the writer can throw at the character.

That said, there's a tightrope to walk in exploring the powerset and applications thereof, and just pulling shit out of your ass to solve a corner you've written yourself into. If a character can do X, the applications of X can't include Y, even if you say "oh, it's XY". You see this problem a lot in old Superman comics, where Superman can basically do anything as long as he appends the word super- in front of it.

Actually, bad example, because Superman's power was kinda doing everything. So...early Spider-Man, let's say, where he's making things out of the webbing that make no kind of sense, but as long as they're drawn with a web texture, the narrative rolls with it. That's a bad application of a power-set.

The other alternative to powerset puzzles (I like that better than physics as a descriptor, now that I've thought of it), is emotional puzzles. Which, yeah, I'm not inventing the wheel on that even a little: it's pretty much like, 90% of the plots of the aforementioned old-school Superman comics, to say nothing of any number of other comics. As an example of emotional puzzles, take any given "Lois is trying to trick Superman into marrying her" plot; a character like Superman, who can do anything physically, has to apply his powers to solving an emotional puzzle, not a physical one. He can't just throw Lois into the sun, for any number of reasons.

If updated to be less, uh, backwards and hinky, an emotional minefield can be the thing that drives a story of a physically overpowered character. Or, really, it doesn't even have to be drama; take One Punch Man, where the character literally wins every fight with a single punch, so the appeal of the comic becomes the humor between punches and Murata's incredible art.

Matt Fraction has a line, and I'm paraphrasing, about how comics, especially superhero comics, are a bit like Houdini's act: the audience isn't there to watch him die, the audience is there to watch him almost die. So it is with puzzle comics: the audience isn't there to watch the solution, but the solving. Whether that's a physical or emotional puzzle, the "how" of the character getting out of it is the whole of the thing.

Thanks to Justin Jordan for letting me use his half of the conversation, and anyone else whose work, words, or thinking I referenced in this piece.