8.11.2006

The Mercy Killing Retrospective

I've been wanting to do this for a long time. I'd like to review my first self-published mini-comic, The Mercy Killing. I've been wondering for a while if it was possible to do so objectively now that some time has passed. It's been 4 years since artist/inker/pal Tim Goodyear and I decided to make this happen for the Alternative Press Expo (APE) that year. The APE was still being held at Fort Mason in San Francisco, this was before their move to The Concourse in the SoMa District. I haven't read it or my original script since. Here we go...

The Mercy Killing (Royal 129): This low budget crime tale is a basic morality play that chronicles a down on his luck guy who is sometimes a legitimate businessman, and sometimes a hustler. First off, I think our overall design for the book was neat. In spite of some production quality issues, namely the setting (or offset, as it were) of some panel borders was less than stellar, but I still smile proudly at the inside front cover and the inside back cover. It feels like we had something to say and thought through what the core concept was. I think it's amazing that we did an initial print run of 500 (with the pseudo-dollar bill cover), a second run of 1,000 with the alternate cover (with Mario floating amid some dollar bills), and they're all gone. I don't even have a copy of the first one, but kept a single copy of the alternate cover. We gave away tons at the APE and Tim was able to distribute some to retailers as far away as Chicago and Atlanta.

In terms of scripting, I got wordy. I tend to do that because initially my instinct is to write in third person, omniscient voice, a habit I successfully forced myself to finally break when I scripted The Adventures of Galaxy Dog and avoided it completely for 11 issues of that book. But basically, I hadn't yet learned to trust an artist to tell my story visually (ie: if a guy is seen walking into a creepy bar, you don't need a caption saying "Mario entered the dimly lit bar," because it defeats the duality of the medium). My other big problem was that I was trying to cram too much into a single panel and driving Tim crazy. My script would do something like indicate that on Page 6, Panel 2: Mario gets into his car and speeds away. Well how do you show him entering his car and then speeding off in a single static shot? Tim helped me sort this out and suggested that I, as a writer, do thumbnail sketches, even if they were crude stick figures. Brilliant advice and something I still do to this day to make sure my layouts are feasible before presenting them to an artist. Other than that, the dialogue has a nice flow, is realistic, and not overly staged or expository. The story is engaging, it seems to build to something and the reader doesn't know what until the last page. You think it will go right, but it takes a last minute sharp left.

As for the art, I'm still so proud of Tim. It's a joy to look down on the page and see my words come to life in just the way I'd imagined. His bleak, sharp, gritty style perfectly captures the hopeless mood I wanted for this story. I have many favorite panels that Tim brought to life. There's the shot of Mario at the bar after a long evening, the shot of Mario's beautiful house, the shots of him walking the streets alone, the simple image of him buying a stolen 9mm, but my favorite has to be Page 4, Panel 2. In this shot, Mario stands on a hotel balcony at night, shirt off, with the night breeze blowing the curtain. Tim perfectly captures despair in this panel. The feeling that no matter what you do, it's not going to work, you're totally fucked, and not a thing in the world will change that. This one panel could really be emblematic of the whole book. God, I love his art in that panel, the way the night breeze tugs at that curtain, Mario's eyes looking out over the city.

What Critics Said:
Steven Grant at Comic Book Resources said that it was "a very well done mini-comic. I dug it." He was also kind enough to do a quick blurb on it at the CBR web-site after I sent him a comp copy. Jennifer Contino from Sequential Tart picked one up at the APE and told us we were "very capable creators" and that she wanted to see more from us. Over at the Fourth Rail, Randy Lander gave us a nice indy nod by saying "the rough look and feel is what makes me like comics like this." And here at 13 Minutes, I have to say there are a few minor issues with this, but overall it's a tremendous first foray. Grade B-.

To purchase a copy for a mere $2, visit: http://www.ecrater.com/product.php?pid=231160

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