Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Free Comic Book Day was last weekend and I hope that you had a chance to get to a comic shop and grab some free comics (and hopefully buy some comics from retailers, as well).


“Oddly Normal” was one the two Free Comic Book Day offerings from Image Comics this year. Image reprinted issue #1 of the series to give people a preview of the series and hopefully make some new readers and fans. It was such a thrill to be a part of it! I’ve never been involved with something this big in the world of comics before. Retailers all over the world ordered 66,000 copies of the “Oddly Normal” Free Comic Book Day edition. To give you a sense of scale… the original print run of issue #1 of “Oddly Normal” was about 11,000 copies.

For FCBD this year I appeared at my local shop, The Source Comics & Games. It’s a great store and they put on a spectacular event every year. The interactions I have with fans and new readers are the best part of any store or convention appearance. And inevitably, I get asked a question by one or more people that every comic book creator has been asked since comic fandom started:

“Where do you get your ideas?”

It’s an understandable question, especially from someone who doesn’t engage in the art of storytelling in their lives, be it as a hobby or as a profession. But it’s a really hard question to answer, because the answer is so boring. And the answer is also somewhat frustrating to the aspiring writer or artist because they’re usually asking the question looking for a super-secret formula for creative magic that simply doesn’t exist. Trust me… I’ve seen the blood drain out of the faces of many hopeful comic book creators when I tell them the simple truth:

Ideas for stories are everywhere.

That’s where I get them from. Everywhere. Everything. I get inspiration from things that I like and from things that I don’t like. I’m influenced by stories, art, music, history, politics, every day mundanity, and of course… my own life.

And where ideas come from are less important than how you connect them and shape them into something new.

Most Star Wars fans are aware of the many things that influenced George Lucas in the creation of Star Wars. He didn’t just take Flash Gordon and do his own version. He layered in his love of Kurosawa films, his college sociology studies, the work of Joseph Campbell, his own personal history and much, MUCH more. He used it all and threw it into the stew that became Star Wars. And I’ve only scratched the surface here. There’s an entire website devoted to what Lucas used to build a new universe!

When people ask me about what influenced me to create “Oddly Normal,” they’re often surprised by some of the things I mention. Most people who have read “Oddly Normal” have probably never heard of the anime film “Locke The Superman” or the 90s-era black and white comic series “Akiko.” Most fans might assume that “The Wizard of Oz” was a big influence on the series, but might not know that the novel “Wicked” was an even bigger inspiration.

If you think I’m joking about ideas being everywhere, here’s an example of what I mean…

Most of my best ideas come while I’m doing really mundane things. Taking a shower, sitting in the drive-thru lane at a fast food joint or walking my dog Sully. Case in point: I was out with Sully last week doing our daily trek around the neighborhood when I saw something that sparked an idea. It was a partly cloudy day, and just before we hit the sidewalk the clouds had doused the neighborhood with about five minutes of rain. As we were walking down the street, I noticed a sign for a garage sale. The writing on the sign fell victim to the rain and the result took on a sinister quality that immediately sparked an idea for a story:

Do you see where I’m going with this? Tell me you don’t see the great idea for a horror movie here. Or better yet: a black comedy about competing garage sales that went horribly wrong and turned murderous. It’s a screenplay waiting to happen. Hitchcock would have been all over this.

Now, is it a GREAT idea? No. Because very few ideas are born great. They need to be expanded upon, developed into something new and shaped by a writer’s personal style and experiences. But in this case, the germ of the idea (what Stephen King calls “the fossil”) was right there in plain sight. There I was, just walking my dog and BAM! I came across an idea for a story because the rain turned something you see every summer’s day into a movie poster.

Ideas for stories are EVERYWHERE.

It’s a boring answer to the question, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t the ever-loving’ truth.

-Otis

 

Throwback Thursday: Captain America 2 HISHE Backgrounds

With "Captain America: Civil War" in theaters and the How It Should Have Ended team ramping up to tackle it as the next HISHE short, I thought I'd share my backgrounds for the HISHE for previous film in the series,  "Captain America: The Winter Soldier."

Like all of the HISHE work I've done, these were all painted in Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq 21UX. For the "Civil War" HISHE I'm planning to give my iPad Pro a test to see if I can do the same kind of work on the tablet with the Apple Pencil and the Procreate App. If it works out, I'll be posting the time lapse videos that are native to the Procreate app, so stay tuned for more process videos!

Many of the backgrounds I create for HISHE have multiple layers so that characters can be placed within the scene. I'm often asked to create foreground elements in certain scenes, like the Helicarrier used in the climax. That ship and background are one of my favorite shots I ever contributed to for HISHE.

-Otis

Good News, Bad News About Oddly Normal

Dear faithful readers of “Oddly Normal”...

Like the headline says, I’ve got good news and bad news to share. I’ll start with the bad news
and get it out of the way, since there’s more good news to share and we should end things on
a positive note, doncha’ think?

Yeah, me too.

So here’s the bad news... issue #10, which comes out on September 23rd, will be the last SINGLE ISSUE of “Oddly Normal” to see print.

DON’T PANIC!

Whew, that was close. some of you were close to panicking, I could tell.

Okay, so what does that mean? Is “Oddly Normal” finished? Nope, not by a long shot. Here’s
the deal... sales of individual issues of the series have not been as strong as Image Comics or I had hoped. But sales of Book 1 have been strong. So strong that it has already gone into a second
printing. So Image and I have decided to stop putting out individual issues and start putting out
books only. Each book will have the same format as Book 1, consisting of five chapters each.

The series was originally intended to be a collection of long graphic novels. But I decided to pitch
it to comic publishers on a whim and got offers from two. When I decided to go with Image, I was
excited to be in a position to do single issues, but I kept the “chapter” format just in case this
ever happened.

So that’s the why of it all. There won’t be an issue #11 on the comic shop shelf. But Chapter 11 will
be in Book 3, which will come out in May of 2016. You will still be able to buy “Oddly Normal” books in book stores, comic shops and online at Amazon. And for those who can’t wait between book releases, we’ll also be offering digital sales of individual chapters between book releases. we’re still working out the details, but the plan is to offer each chapter digitally on the same schedule that the series has been released over the last year.

For more information about digital and book sales, watch the Image Comics website or follow me on Twitter or Instagram. Following me on the social media platforms is also a great way of keeping up on “Oddly Normal” in general and seeing work-in-progress photos from the series as I create it! I hope to see some of you there.

So what is the good news?

Well, “Oddly Normal” was just accepted into the Scholastic Book Fair! For an all-ages graphic
novel series like mine, that’s a huge stepping stone to having kids be able to find it and gives the
series the potential to be read by a bigger audience than it would just as a comic book series.

The other bit of news I wanted to share is that “Oddly Normal” was optioned last year for
development as an animated TV series! There’s not much more I can or should say about that
at this time, but I’m thrilled that someday I may be in the unique position of working on two
different versions of Oddly’s story. We’re developing a very special pitch right now and
hopefully we’ll be showing it to studios soon. It’s very exciting. Anyone who knows me knows
that I’ve always wanted to be involved in film or TV, so to have a chance to work on a series
based on my own comic is thrilling. Hopefully we’ll find a home for the show. I feel like we
started out with a bit of good luck… the option agreement was finalized on my birthday last
year. So *knock wood*!

On the book side of things, I have enough material plotted out for 75-100 chapters so, like I
said... this is not the end of “Oddly Normal.” So as long as the books sell well enough, you
should be reading Oddly’s story for a very long time.

I hope that you do.

Thank you all so very much for reading and I’ll see you around!

-Otis

P.S.  You can still write me letters sharing your opinions and photos and I’ll keep the letters
page going in the digital issues!