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SHATTERED: Working with Larry Hama on ‘The Date’

4 Nov

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I’ve been asked how a newcomer such as myself ended up collaborating with the legendary creator Larry Hama, a respected veteran of the industry for the new Asian American comics anthology SHATTERED. Here’s the actual story:

It was exactly two years ago from today, funnily enough. My very first encounter with the writer/artist and former DC and Marvel editor wasn’t at a convention or store signing. It was at a very crowded cocktail fundraiser at a Manhattan art gallery for the Asian American Arts Alliance, a nonprofit community organization. I happened to be invited at the last minute by Ken Chen, the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers Workshop and a lifelong comics nut ( I believe he did his masters thesis on Chris Ware). Larry was good naturedly circulating anonymously in the crowd until Ken spotted him and introduced us. It came out in the conversation that in the ’70s young Larry had been part of the Basement Workshop, an arts activist and social justice group which spawned many of the New York City Asian American arts nonprofit organizations you see today. As someone who worked in the Asian American non profit sector for years, I was tickled to death to find we had several friends in common because of this.

Larry, who is known for his work on GI Joe, Bucky O’Hare, Elektra, Wolverine, is a pioneer for fighting racial and gender stereotyping in comics characters. He has a long history of creating unapologetically strong female characters like G.I. Joe’s Scarlett and pushing characters like the ninja Storm Shadow beyond the typical villainous Asian caricatures of the time. A genial and charismatic guy, he had a neverending stockpile of amazing and entertaining stories of those days. We had a terrific conversation.

Fast forward several months. My original pitch in collaboration with the very talented Toronto based artist Craig Yeung had been accepted by the folks at SHATTERED but I was told there was another story with some similar themes. Could I change the setting somehow? I didn’t really have any good ideas.

In the meantime the New York University Asian Pacific American Institute selected Larry as their Artist-in-Residence and in January of this year I was invited along with others like Greg Pak (Hulk, Vision Machine), long time letterer letterer Janice Chiang (Archie, Smurfs) and SHATTERED Editor in Chief and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeff Yang to participate in a blog session about the Asian American experience. Over dinner several ideas and personal anecdotes were thrown around.

Larry started talking about something that sparked an idea in my mind. His parents had been incarcerated in the infamous Japanese American internment camps in California during World War II. I knew SHATTERED would be distributed to schools and public libraries and that this subject should be in the Anthology somehow. It was perfect. I quickly rewrote the story and emailed Larry to thank him for the inspiration. His response was pretty short and immediate: Who’s drawing it? My heart stopped a little reading that. I’m not sure of the last time anyone has seen Larry pencil a story. I immediately sent him the script and held my breath. His next email said he thought he might me able to do it in collaboration with Craig. Craig has inked quite a bit including Runaways for Marvel. And with Janice Chiang on board to do the lettering, it worked out perfectly. Craig ended up doing the pencils for my original story which became the title story for my own first short story anthology Girls Night Out through Alpha Girl Comics. And Larry was the easiest guy ever to work with – even offering to redo any panels if I wanted.

SHATTERED: The Asian American Comics Anthology published by The New Press is available Nov. 6 through Amazon, bookstores and comic stores and also features the work of longtime creators like Cliff Chiang, Sean Chen, and Bernard Chang.

Other articles by fellow Shattered contributors
Adam WarRock: http://www.adamwarrock.com/?p=2827
8Asians: http://www.8asians.com/2012/10/30/why-shattered-the-asian-american-comics-anthology-secret-identities-is-important/
Angry Girl Comics:http://angrygirlcomics.tumblr.com/post/34654916825/hi-friends-i-hope-all-my-fellow-nycers-survived
Reappropriate: http://reappropriate.co/?p=2582
Angry Asian Man: http://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.htmlhttp://blog.angryasianman.com/2012/11/my-very-own-superhero-in-shattered.html

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Working the Writing Muscles

27 Nov

Here’s what I just submitted for the November Challenge at Comics Experience.  “In a three page script, write one story with parallel storytelling in which two separate stories are happening back and forth, as you cut in and out of them both. BUT, the stories intersect in ONE PANEL and one panel only. That panel can appear anywhere in the three pages, but they must intersect once.

For the purposes of this exercise, intersecting means that some “story element” must appear in the two parallel stories. It can be a character, location, thing, or even pertinent dialogue.” 

This is loosely inspired by a visit a few years ago to a distant relative who lived all her adult years in New York.  She was a spunky lad and had many great stories to tell.

GIRLS’ NIGHT OUT

By Amy Chu amy@alphalanestudios.com

11/24/11

PAGE ONE – SIX PANELS

PANEL ONE

In a tiny, sparsely furnished studio apartment ROSIE, a twenty-five year old Chinese-American woman in bathrobe and curlers is holding two dresses up against her body in front of a mirror. One looks more conservative with long sleeves, the other is sleeveless with a shorter hem.

1. CAPTION: December, 1958

2. ROSIE (humming in small letters with music notes): rockin’ around… the Christmas tree…

PANEL TWO

Flash forward to today. JACKIE, an African-American woman in her late twenties/early thirties returns home from work. She’s just inside the door removing her coat which reveals a waitressing uniform underneath. Her apartment is small, plain and frugal. Her headphones are on and there is a bag of groceries next to her. She’s in a rush.

3. CAPTION: December 2011

4. JACKIE (singing): All the single ladies…doo doo doo

PANEL THREE

ROSIE now wearing the sleeveless dress, is fixing her hair in front of the mirror.

5. ROSIE (continues humming): … the Christmas party hop

PANEL FOUR

JACKIE is in her small kitchen. She has one arm stretched out and pulling a green top over her head with the other hand. The bag of groceries is on the counter.

6. JACKIE (singing): put your hands up..up

PANEL FIVE

Rosie, with her hat and coat on, gets into a old style yellow cab. A man in his twenties, also in hat and coat, holds the door open for her.

PANEL SIX

Jackie has her coat back on and she’s rummaging through the bag of groceries.

7. JACKIE: Where are you, pumpkin? It’s Friday night. I gotta go. People are waiting on me.

PAGE TWO – SIX PANELS

PANEL ONE

Rosie is sitting in a red banquette at swanky “21” style restaurant surrounded by older, slightly more elegantly dressed couples. The waiters are in black tie. She is looking around, clearly excited and impressed by the scene. Her date is making goo-goo eyes at her.

1. ROSIE: So where are we going after dinner?

2. YOUNG MAN: If I told you it wouldn’t be a surprise.

PANEL TWO

Jackie puts out a bowl of cat food on the floor. A cat’s head is peeking out from the edge of the panel looking at the food.

3. JACKIE: There you are- playing hard to get, huh? See you manana. Don’t make any trouble while I’m gone.

PANEL THREE

Rosie and her date are out on the city sidewalk. She is gawking at the beautiful Christmas display in a department store window. Her date is tugging at her.

4. YOUNG MAN: Rosie, not now- we’re going to be late.

PANEL FOUR

Jackie is outside her dilapidated Bronx apartment building. There’s a bum on the curb holding a bottle in a brown paper bag. She’s running and waving at the bus pulling away from the stop.

5. JACKIE: Hey! Hey!

PANEL FIVE

Rosie and her date are running arm in arm up to a brightly lit Radio City Music Hall. The marquee reads “The Nutcracker Suite”

6. YOUNG MAN: Tada! Happy Birthday!

PAGE THREE – FIVE PANELS

PANEL ONE

Jackie, panting from running into a building, clocks in to work by sticking her timecard in the machine on the wall. A coworker in a coat is just leaving.

1. COWORKER: Cutting it close there aren’t you, Jackie?

PANEL TWO

Rosie and her date are sitting in the packed theater audience. The light from the stage illuminates her excited face.

PANEL THREE

JACKIE is standing with another aide Al in the drab community room of a nursing home. A few old folk in hospital gowns and pajamas are listlessly hanging about staring into space. She’s wearing the green hospital scrubs she was putting on earlier and checking her clipboard.

2. JACKIE: Look at these folks. Gotta feel sorry for them, stuck here on a night like this.

PANEL FOUR

Same scene as PANEL TWO but close in on ROSIE shivering in her sleeveless dress. Her date looks concerned and starts taking off his jacket.

PANEL FIVE

JACKIE tucks a blanket around a frail eighty year old Chinese lady in a wheelchair. She shows signs of dementia – her face is illuminated by the TV screen showing a broadcast of the Nutcracker Suite, but her eyes are blank and unseeing. She has a slightly crooked smile.

3. JACKIE: Rosie, hon, are you cold? Hey Al, look, she’s smiling.

THE END

Serving Up Wall Street (updated)

2 Nov

story by Amy Chu, artwork by Gannon Beck

Script Challenge: Serving Up Wall Street

22 Oct

Here’s my submission for Andy’s script challenge this month.  I don’t know why, but this is one that really just rolled right off the keyboard.  I hope you enjoy it.  Anyone who wants to take a crack at drawing it let me know!  If Ike comes after us, I am counting on CBLDF’s assistance…

 

SERVING UP WALL STREET

by Amy Chu

10/22/11

 

In the heart of New York City’s Financial district, the food truck obsession rises to a new level.

 

PAGE ONE -FOUR PANELS

 

PANEL ONE

A long vertical shot of food trucks parked bumper to bumper on a busy street in the financial district of a big city, say Manhattan. The sun is high in the sky and a clock on one of the buildings shows it’s just a little after noon, the beginning of lunch hour. A crowd has formed, mostly hungry guys in suits, shirt sleeves, and business attire.

 

CAPTION: It’s a dog-eat-dog world.

 

CAPTION: A dog-eat-dog world full of douchebags.

 

PANEL TWO

Partial close up of one of the food trucks. The sign is cut off but we can make out part of the name “Chester’s M–”. The tops of the heads of the customers are visible.

 

CAPTION: Everyone thinks they’re a food critic. Especially here on Wall Street.

 

CUSTOMER : Didja read the Times review about this place?

 

CUSTOMER: I hear the pork belly is awesome.

 

PANEL THREE

Close up of the proprietor Chester in the food cart handing a paper bag in one hand to a guy in a dress shirt and tie and taking his money with the other hand. His face is shadowed by the cap on his head, but he’s in his late thirties or early forties, bearded, wearing a smudged white apron. (See photo reference at the end)

 

CAPTION: they’re trend obsessed. Pork belly, cupcakes. Commodities, high yield bonds. Makes no difference to them.

 

PANEL FOUR

 

Close up of the twenty dollar bill exchanging hands.

 

CAPTION: What do these pigs know about real culinary art?

 

CUSTOMER (OP): Hey, I like your blog.

 

 

PAGE TWO-FIVE PANELS

 

PANEL ONE- LARGEST PANEL

 

We see the pandemonium of the Wall Street lunch hour from Chester’s perspective inside the truck. There are people everywhere- some standing and eating, others holding takeout containers and walking back to their office.

 

CAPTION: They barely know what they’re stuffing in their mouths.

 

NAMELESS CUSTOMER 1: I think I saw this guy on the food channel.

 

NAMELESS CUSTOMER 2: I told him I wanted the sauce on the side. Moron.

 

NAMELESS CUSTOMER 3: Where’s my order? Jeez, I gotta get back to the desk.

 

NAMELESS CUSTOMER 4: Wonder if they use transfat?

 

 

PANEL TWO

 

An investment banker/hedge fund type in his 60s, with slicked back hair, expensive suit and Hermes tie looks straight at the reader and holds up an empty paper wrapper. (See photo reference at the end)

 

CAPTION: And then there’s the really annoying ones who want to know my secret. Like this asshole.

 

BANKER (somewhat arrogantly): Amazing. I really need to know what goes into these things. I’m kind of a chef myself.

 

PANEL THREE

 

Chester’s perspective – a straight on view of the banker.

CAPTION: Chef my ass.

 

CHESTER (OP): No way. Didn’t talk to Tony Bourdain and I’m sure as hell not talking to you. Sorry.

 

BANKER (exasperated expression): Look I’ll pay you for your time. Just talk to me.

 

PANEL FOUR

Switch the perspective so we see them from the side. Chester in the truck is elevated and looking down on the banker. The banker looks impatient but Chester is expressionless.

 

PANEL FIVE

 

Same side perspective but Chester now leans over the counter and pokes the banker in the chest.

 

CHESTER: Fine. Tell you what, come back in a few hours when everyone’s cleared out and I’ll show you. Free. You don’t need to pay me. I’ll show you the whole process. Deal?

 

BANKER (looking startled): Deal.

 

PAGE THREE – FOUR PANELS

 

PANEL ONE

 

Same shot as page one- just some minor differences to indicate that it’s the next day around the same time.

 

CAPTION: Another day in this dog-eat-dog business.

 

PANEL TWO

 

Close up of Chester’s food truck, but this time we see the whole sign. It reads “Chester’s Meat Pies.”

 

CUSTOMER (muching on a pie in hand): Hey, what did you do? It’s a little lean today. And chewier.

 

CHESTER: Got complaints about the fat content so I’m trying something new.

 

PANEL THREE

 

Rear shot from the inside of the food truck looking out. We see the back of Chester. On the counter is a meat grinder and a clear plastic tub of meat. At his feet is half full black garbage bag and a pile of clothes, a pair of black wingtip oxfords, and the banker’s Hermes tie on top.

 

CHESTER: Hope you still like it.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meridien City #1 Debuts at New York Comic Con

8 Oct

A 24 pp. full color sci-fi mystery adventure by Alpha Girl Comics. Cannon Hunter is a tough chick on a tough planet looking for a mystery killer and in the process unearthing something strange about her past. Written by Georgia Lee director of “Red Doors”, lyrical pencils & inks by Silvio dB, and gorgeous colors by Cabbral. All lettered and edited by me.  We will be at booth #2939 with Elevator Pitch Press and across from GeekChic Daily.  $3.99.  Stay tuned for the digital download release!

Script#3: Red Deadpool Redemption (or Deadpool: Ghosts of Christmas Past)

14 Sep

The challenge from Andy Schmidt a few months ago: “We don’t ever do this, but I saw X-Men the other night, so let’s do a short story featuring an established character that portrays that character accurately. The challenge is in getting the character “right.”

So I flailed with this topic a bit.  As someone entering into comics relatively late in life, I don’t know actually know that many characters especially those of the superhero variety.  So when one of my Comics Experience comrades suggested Deadpool I jumped at it.  Now here’s a character I know almost nothing about, but thanks to the Marvel Digital Database of unlimited comics I was able to more or less get up to speed.  As everyone in world except myself apparently knows, Deadpool is one twisted, messed up guy!  (Yes, I spent the last 15 years under a rock.)

SYNOPSIS:

On Christmas Eve the masked mercenary Deadpool gets a series of visits from his inglorious past.

CHARACTERS:

Deadpool

For those who don’t know… the “Merc with a Mouth” Deadpool, formerly known as Wade Wilson, is a wise-cracking but highly skilled assassin. He was the subject of a Weapon X program which created a rapid healing ability and cured Wade Wilson’s terminal cancer, but disfigured him in the process. He wears a mask physically and emotionally, to hide his appearance and his insecurities. His abilities are enhanced by an array of cool gadgetry like a teleporter.

With his ability he can regenerate limbs like a starfish, but he still feels pain with each injury which fuels a streak of masochism and adds to his mental instability. While he jokes most of the time, he is subject to angst, hallucinations, multiple voices.

Despite a history of occasional sadism and extreme violence, much like Spike the vampire in the Buffy series, Deadpool has a deeply buried moral code from the remnants of his Wade Wilson pre-transformation personality, that manifests itself in high stakes situations like saving the world.

PAGE ONE- FOUR PANELS

PANEL ONE

Deadpool is imprisoned in a bleak cell, sitting slumped against the wall with his head bowed.

1. Deadpool: ‘Tis the season…

PANEL TWO

Same panel and position.

2. Deadpool: …to be jolly.

PANEL THREE

Same position but Deadpool puts his head in his arms.

No caption.

PANEL FOUR

Deadpool looks up, cocking his head.

3. Blind Al (OP): Wade?

PAGE TWO- FOUR PANELS

PANEL ONE

Standing in the cell is the ghostly apparition of Blind Al, his former companion and prisoner — a small, skinny elderly woman with white hair and large black shades. Deadpool starts to get up, in disbelief, from the floor where he was sitting.

1. Deadpool: Wh– is this another one of my hallucinations?

2. Deadpool: Blind Al? My ol’ roommate from hell?

3. Al: What, you were expecting someone else? A non-existent girlfriend?

4. Deadpool: I thought you were-

PANEL TWO

Blind Al is now closer to Deadpool who is standing up now scratching his head with one hand, and looking down on the shorter woman.

5. Al: I’m here talking to you, aren’t I? Miss my cooking?

PANEL THREE

6. Deadpool: Uh, is this another one of your crazy pranks? What do you want?

7. Al: Besides slipping laxatives into your food? Believe me it’s tempting. But no, this time I’m on a mission of mercy…

PANEL FOUR

Closeup of Deadpool.

8. Al (OP): …to save your shriveled little soul before it’s too late.

PAGE THREE-FIVE PANELS

Blind Al and Deadpool stand in the foreground of the panel looking at a flashback scene. This could be staged like Mystery Science Theater 3000 where you just see their black silhouettes against the screen.

PANEL ONE

The panel is a black and white scene as if from a ’50s TV show like “Leave it To Beaver.” Wade’s mom in a dress and apron smiles at a neatly dressed seven year old boy wearing a Deadpool mask playing with a set of trains and other toys. There is a partial shadowy glimpse of Wade’s dad smoking a pipe in the foreground. A huge expensively decorated tree is surrounded by large presents in the living room.

1. Al: Let me show you something.

2. Deadpool: Cool prezzies!

3. Al: Right. That’s the childhood you wish you had.

PANEL TWO

Almost identical in composition except the scene is from the ’80s and now in color. The apartment is shabby and sparsely furnished. Wade’s mom is lying pathetically drunk and disheveled on the couch with empty bottles scattered about. The tree is a small cheap artificial tabletop one. There is no dad and there are no heaping presents. The boy with the Deadpool mask is wearring a grubby T-shirt and jeans and is splaying but with a Wolverine and Hulk action figure. Wolverine is on the ground and Hulk is smashing into him.

4. Al: This is your real childhood.

5. Deadpool: Hey, look! It’s my favorite action figures. I loved them.

PANEL THREE

Night scene of a teenage Wade packing a rucksack.

6. Al: You know your mom was a wreck after your dad left. But you ran away to join the army.

PANEL FOUR

Flashback of his first love, Vanessa Carlyle crying and arguing with an 18 year old Wade Wilson in military uniform.

7. Al: You left your first love, Vanessa, too.

PANEL FIVE

Closeup of Deadpool and Al

8. Deadpool: I don’t like where you are going here. Look I just found out I had terminal cancer. I couldn’t do that to her. I was looking for solutions.

9. Al: Bullshit. You are an emotional coward. Cancer you can handle. You couldn’t deal with the relationship.

PAGE FOUR – FOUR PANELS

PANEL ONE

Flashback to Wade Wilson as he is experimented on and transformed to his current disfigured form in the Weapon X lab.

1. Al: See? you found a cure at the Weapon X lab. You could always have gone back to Vanessa.

2. Deadpool: Looking like that? Look Al, what is the point of all this?

3. Al: Deadpool, all I’m doing is trying to get you to face up to reality, and the selfish little bastard you’ve become.

4. Deadpool: Evil witch, what are you talking about?

PANEL TWO

Flashback of Blind Al sitting in the “Box”, a room in Deadpool’s attic with various sharp blades jutting out of the walls and floor and other nasty looking torture devices.

1. Blind Al: Remember when you put me in the Box?

2. Deadpool: You asked for it. No one trespasses into my crib. You betrayed me.

PANEL THREE

Same scene but with a close up of Al facing Deadpool and thrusting her finger at his nose, while his head tilts back.

Al: You sick weirdo. Betrayed you? All I did was let your old copal Weasel in for a little company. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be your prisoner all those years? with only your ridiculous yammering?

PANEL FOUR

Close up now of Al almost on top of Deadpool and in his face.

Al: You know who your worst enemy is? YOU.

PAGE FIVE- SIX PANELS

PANEL ONE

They are back in the cell and the apparition of Blind Al has changed into Siryn, a fetching red haired Irish woman in a sleek superhero outfit. She is looking gently down on him. Deadpool is on his knees looking up.

1. Siryn: Dear Wade.

2. Deadpool: Siryn? Where did Al go?

PANEL TWO

The Siryn apparition has taken both of Deadpool’s hands.

1. Siryn: Al? I am here to talk with you Wade. About how life could be. It’s not just about you. You need to care about the people around you.

2. Deadpool: I do. I c-c-care about you.

PANEL THREE

3. They both watch an imaginary scene of both of them enjoying a picnic in regular clothes, laughing.

4. Siryn: Really? Why couldn’t you have said that to me before?

5. Deadpool: I thought you deserved better.

6. Siryn: How do you know what I want?

PANEL FOUR

The scene has changed to a picture of Deadpool as an old man wearing a Deadpool mask in pajamas sitting on a couch by himself.

7. Siryn: I just don’t want to see you become this.

PANEL FIVE

Close up of Siryn with her face close to Deadpool’s as if she were going to kiss him.

PANEL SIX

Same scene but Siryn has vanished.

PAGE SIX – FOUR PANELS

PANEL ONE

A crowd of familiar faces including Wade’s mother, Siryn, Vanessa, Al, and a few other women from the past now fills the cell with Deadpool cowering in the corner like a little boy.

PANEL TWO

The cell door is open revealing three large shadowy henchmen types. They don’t see the apparitions at all. Deadpool is reaching out feebly with one arm to the apparitions.

1. Deadpool: Wait…

PANEL THREE

Two henchmen have a drooping Deadpool by the arms and are dragging him out the door.

2. Deadpool: I’m, I’m..

PANEL FOUR

The cell is now empty with the door open.

3. Deadpool (OP) in small type: …sorry.

PAGE SEVEN- FOUR PANELS

PANEL ONE

Deadpool is lying expressionless and bound to a table in the Weapon X style lab with tubes attached all over him and various torturous implements scattered about. His costume is crumpled on the floor. Garrison Kane, his cyborg archenemy is gleefully standing over him with a Santa hat askew. A busty female assistant is wearing a tiny lab outfit and an elf hat is standing beside Kane. The shadowy henchmen are in the back to the side.

1. Kane: Merry Christmas, Deadpool.

2. Assistant: Hohoho.

PANEL TWO

Close up of Deadpool’s face. His eyes are closed and he looks defeated.

PANEL THREE

Same closeup but Deadpool’s eyes are open and he is starting to smile.

3. Kane (OP): What’s so funny?

PANEL FOUR

Pull back to show Deadpool is looking up straight at the ceiling where a tile has been removed to expose the real Vanessa (CopyCat) and Theresa (Siryn) are getting ready to rescue Deadpool.

4. Deadpool: Don we now our GAYYY apparel…

5. Deadpool: Merry Christmas to you, too, Kane.

THE END

Writing About a Difficult Subject

11 Sep

After graduating from Andy Schmidt’s Comics Experience Introductory Writing course a couple of months ago, this is a piece I wrote for the online creators forum monthly challenge.   The directive was “Write a 5 to 22-page script about 9/11, the hunt for Bin Laden, or the killing of Bin Laden that is researched and factual, but character driven. What the story is, what point of view you choose, who your characters are, are all up to you. ”

This was only my second try at writing a script, and I was surprised at how emotional I became during the writing process.  During 9/11 I lived  in lower Manhattan and watched the towers fall outside my window.  All I could think about at the time were the people in the building, and how my husband had turned down an offer from a firm on the 103rd floor, and ever since I have avoided revisiting the coverage of those events, especially around this time of year.  So I suppose the title of this story “Closure” has meaning for me personally as well.  I hope you enjoy the beautiful artwork by Silvio.  My original thought was to have it colored but decided to leave it as is.