Inside Vault

Vault is a really big deal for me. This is the first mini-series I’ve put out that will be available through Diamond. I’m excited. Vault is a story I love and a book I’m proud of, so I can’t wait for folks to read it.

I’m also terrified. I crafted this tale. I wrote this story. A lot of people have put serious amounts of time and energy into something I wrote: artists, editors, marketing folk, PR people… It’s an awesome, scary, wonderful thing.

So, what the hell is Vault?

It’s a three issue mini-series that follows the moon-bound crew of the Gaia, as they intercept a large, seemingly abandoned alien vessel headed for Earth. The ship is full of varied, well-rotted corpses covered in a strange fungus, seemingly devoid of life. It’s a horror comic, so things go poorly.

It’s also a love letter to science fiction horror, a genre I’ve been in love with for a very long time. Alien, The Thing, Event Horizon, Sunshine — these stories and ones like them are my drug of choice. If you read Vault you’ll notice nods to each of these and more scattered about. That’s not an accident.

There is no follow-up to Vault. It is three issues and then it is done. Issues begin coming to your local comic book shops in July, with the trade (hopefully) coming by the end of the year.

As with any comic, the writing is only as good as the art and colors and letters. Each of these elements is equally important in crafting a good book. To that end, I wanted to take a moment to introduce a few folks to you.

Andres Esparza is a Mexican comic book and concept artist born, raised and working in Monterrey, México. He has more than ten years working as an illustrator with different advertisement agencies, newspapers, and video-game developers. Andres recently worked on a few comic books with Heavy Metal magazine, 1Firstcomics, Zenescope, Doubletake, and Storm King Productions. (Bio provided by Andres.)

Sergio Martínez is an illustrator, comic artist, concept artist, and whatever other opportunities visual arts affords him. He has around seven years working as a concept artist for video games and animation, a comic colorist, and a bit of line illustration (and even a tiny bit of artsy stuff in galleries). Publishers include Storm King Productions, IDW, Stone Arch Books, Bee Cave Games, Bioware, and Activision among others. (Bio provided by Sergio.)

Janice Chiang is a professional comic letterer with four decades in the industry. She has a body of published work from Marvel, DC Comics, First Comics, Tundra, DarkHorse, Archie Comics, Harvey Comics, TokyoPop, Del Rey, CMX/Wildstorm, Papercutz, Pow!Entertainment, and Storm King Productions for all genres and readership. Janice has hand-lettered on original art pages and is a digital letter artist on more recent projects. She enjoys working with mature talent as well as newly discovered creators. (Bio provided by Janice.)

And, of course, my editor and the person who gave me a shot with Vault in the first place: Sandy King Carpenter.

Born Sandra Ann King in Los Angeles, California. Attended the Westlake School, graduating in 1969. She attended UCLA College of Fine Arts, majoring in pictorial arts, and graduating in 1973. That same year, she worked on the Academy Award-winning animated film, Anti-Matter. Her first feature film as a script supervisor was John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976). (Bio from by IMDB.)

You guys, my boss worked on They Live, Ghosts of Mars, and Big Trouble in Little China — how cool is that?

To give you a sneak peek at the book and what the team actually does to bring it life, here are the progressions for the first three pages of Vault, from script to finished letters (scroll through using the arrows). The eagle-eyed among you will note a few changes from script to finished page — those are the places where my team and I collaborated on improvements (which means they told me something that would work better and I agreed because they’re smarter than me).

  • Page 1 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 1 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 1 inks by Andres.
  • Page 1 Flats by Sergio.
  • Page 1 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 1 letters by Janice.
  • Page 2 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 2 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 2 inks by Andres.
  • Page 2 flats by Sergio.
  • Page 2 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 2 letters by Janice.
  • Page 3 script, fourth draft, by me.
  • Page 3 layouts by Andres.
  • Page 3 inks by Andres.
  • Page 3 flats by Sergio.
  • Page 3 colors by Sergio.
  • Page 3 letters by Janice.

 

Even though the book doesn’t come out until July, we’ve gotten a couple early reviews in. Here’s what people are saying:

“The Alien franchise can make a spot for the Vault because they’ve now got company where an outer space alien inhabited thriller is on the horizon and it’s worthy.” –Reading With a Flight Ring

“If you are a fan of the sci-fi horror genre, this is an absolute must read.” –Don’t Feed the Gamers

“…I really enjoy and the fact Ninness and the team have balanced what feels like a horror story in a sci-fi setting so well is impressive and has me excited to see what’s next.” –Graphic Policy

So, have I sold you on Vault? Ready to check it out? You can support us now by pre-ordering the book at your local comic book shop. Walk in and tell them that you want Vault and give them this pre-order code: MAY171800. The last day for shops to pre-order our book is this Thursday, May 25, so don’t wait! If you miss the pre-order cutoff date and still want to pick up the book, just tell your retailer. They’ll be able to get it for you.

Another thing you can do if you really want to help: share this blog. We’ve got to get the word out and you are kind of the only way that happens. No pressure. I love you regardless.

If you’re still not sold or want to know a bit more about the book, here’s a list of some of the press we’ve done for Vault in the last couple months:

Thanks for taking a minute to read this. Whatever you’re doing today, have a good one. I’ll just be over here; nervously twitching until the books begin rolling out in July.

Release Date

I think about my own death too much.

Like most smokers I know, I convince myself that I’ve got every possible lung and throat disease at the slightest tickle in my neck. It doesn’t help that I write for a living and have trained my brain to plan for every worst-case scenario.

I used to not be bothered by death. Then I had kids. Those jerks made me more sensitive to my temporal nature.

Why am I telling you this? Ever since leaving C2E2 I’ve been choking back sporadic spurts of tears. I met someone who threw a wrench in my perspective and I’m thankful for it. I’d like to take a moment to tell you about her.

I was at the Storm King booth with Sandy King Carpenter and Ross Sauriol. We were chatting up passersby and pitching our various wares to any and all that would listen. A pair of women came by while Sandy and Ross were busy. The first, shorter than the other, was black, wore short-cropped hair, and did not make eye contact with me. I do not remember what the second woman looked like. What took place so moved me that only the first woman is branded on my mind.

Like all conversations that day, I opened with a greeting, “Hey, there!”

They responded in kind and seemed to notice our books, so I continued, “How’s the show going?”

The smile on the first woman was enormous. “We’re having a great time. And you?”

“Oh,” I wound up the same canned response I always use, “I’m living the dream.”

She laughed, as do most. But it was here, during the laugh, that I noticed she did not make eye contact. She looked in my voice’s direction, but not at me.

Like a good salesman, I led her to the work. “Are you a big fan of science fiction? Horror?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Did you ever see Alien? Event Horizon? Maybe Danny Boyle’s Sunshine?” At this point the second woman began trickling down the outside of the booth, flipping through the comics we had stacked there, leaving the first woman and me to chat.

“Of course!” Her smile got bigger. It was remarkable. She was delighted to talk about this stuff. “Event Horizon is my jam. It’s messed up, but I love it.”

And so we chatted. We chatted for several minutes. I pitched her on my new book, Vault. She told me how much she loved the premise and I thanked her. She told me how she got into science fiction at a young age when she escaped a terrible situation with her family through the genre. We spoke about our different upbringings; things that we had in common and things that we did not.

After more than a 10-15 minutes (which is longer than the average booth chat), her friend came back over and patiently waited for us to finish. We spoke a few minutes longer. Her telling me why Aliens is better than Alien, and me suggesting she catch Krull as soon as possible.

As though sensing her friend’s readiness to move on, this marvelous young woman closed the conversation asking me about the release of Vault #1: Where could she get it? When would it be available? Did I have anything to give her so she could get her friends to bring it to her?

That last one struck me: bring it to her?

We had flyers so I grabbed one and reached out to give it to her. I extended my hand and she made no move to grab it. Her friend did, taking it from me and pushing it into the first woman’s palm. The first woman put the flyer a centimeter or two from her face and began dragging her nose across each line of text. She continued talking the entire time, explaining her situation to me as though she could see my confusion (for which, of course, I immediately checked myself to ensure that neither my face nor posture would do anything to indicate such confusion as I had no interest in embarrassing her nor being embarrassed myself).

Her situation was this: She had four brain tumors. She was almost entirely blind. She was born with perfect vision but her sight began worsening at an early age. She tried to ask for help but her parents and teachers thought she was faking to get out of exams and tests. By the time they realized that there was something wrong the tumors in her head had grown too large and were, for reasons I do not pretend to understand, inoperable. It was likely that soon she would be entirely blind, or worse.

When all I muttered was a dumbfounded, “I’m so sorry,” she continued.

She told me that near the end of June she was scheduled for an experimental brain surgery to remove the tumors. “The doctors are hopeful,” she said, “that they can help my vision and save my life.”

I swallowed my pity — she was not telling me her story for pity.

“In June?”

“Yes,” she replied, her smile as big as ever.

“I’ll tell you what then,” I snatched back the flyer I handed her and wrote my personal email and phone number on it. “When you’re out and recovered you let me know. I will make sure that we get Vault to you.”

She giggled and promised she would. “Thank you so much for talking to me.”

“Are you kidding me? Thank you. If you nice folk like you don’t chat with me I sit here bored all day.”

She laughed again. “Vault sounds awesome. Hopefully, I’ll be reading it without any help in a few months.”

“I have no doubt about it,” I replied.

And she was gone down the aisle with her friend.

I do not know her name, but that young woman’s smile, courage, and fortitude have brought me to almost-tears several days since we met. I don’t cry because I feel sorry for the young woman, but because I envy her. Her strength could fill ten of me.

With any luck, she’ll reach out to me in a few months and I’ll be able to share Vault with her. I promise to keep y’all in the loop when it happens. Until then, do me a favor? Pray for the girl with the big smile that I met at C2E2? And if, by chance, you were at the show and know of whom I am speaking, please send me a message (don’t make it public to respect her privacy).

I’ve never wanted someone to read something I’ve written this badly before.

Frozen Peas

“Vasectomy means never having to say you’re sorry.” -Larry Adler

My testicles have Disneyland to thank for their current condition.

None of my children were planned. You might call them “mistakes,” which wouldn’t be wholly inaccurate. At the point of conception for all three, protection was utilized but bypassed because, like the great Dr. Ian Malcom said, “Nature finds a way.

While Kyleen, my wife and superior in all ways, was pregnant with the first two, we took trips to Disneyland. Both ventures to the park had been her idea and, while she enjoyed herself, she was a bit miffed that she had to sit out certain rides.

In October of 2015, we were content. We decided that the two children were enough because they brought adequate amounts of joy to offset the standard toddler coozery. However, to be safe, we tabled the discussion of a third until after our planned family trip to Disneyland in November – Kyleen didn’t want to jinx anything.

Well, guess what we discovered a week before our trip? Yeah. Kyleen was pregnant again. I told her not to do that.

We still went to Disneyland. Everyone had a good time. But after that trip, on the car ride home, Kyleen let me know what was what. “When this child is out of me you’re getting a vasectomy.”

“Sure,” I replied without thinking much about it.

The boy was born in July. That November, just after Thanksgiving, we got our new health insurance. By December 1st I had an appointment for a vasectomy consultation.

Kyleen was not messing about.

I thought about coming up with an excuse to postpone it, but whenever I mentioned the vasectomy Kyleen’s eyes would turn a bit fiery, the perfect balance of no nonsense and “I will eat your soul.” So I went.

Round One: The Consult. #vasectomy #nomorebabies #buyajockstrap #frozenpeasareinexpensiveandmoldwelltothearea

A photo posted by James Ninness (@jamesninness) on

Dr. Pearce was a fine fellow. At the consult we spoke of Star Wars, comic books, and then, very briefly, at the end of our visit he gave me an information sheet for the procedure I was having: No-Scalpel Vasectomy.

Let me tell you, when I read the “no-scalpel” part I was elated. My dad and his ilk have shared their stories with me more than once growing up and, well, it sounds horrifying. Thankfully we no longer use stone tools for this delicate matter.

My favorite excerpt from the sheet: “Bags of frozen peas or corn are inexpensive and mold to the area well.” The other things to bring: a jock strap because it “fits snugly” and keeps the balls from getting too bouncy after they’ve been snipped.

I left that appointment thinking that this would be a piece of cake… Then I spoke to some of my peers who have had the same procedure. One had a very serious infection and had to be hospitalized. Another got pregnant after husband’s vasectomy.

Nervousness returned. I spent brief moments of every day coming up with excuses to delay the procedure, just in case my feet went suddenly cold in the last minute.

Two days before the procedure my son rid me of all hesitation. He cooed, not unlike the way he did when I first held him after Kyleen had the cesarean section. That made me think about Kyleen being pregnant with him and the girls. Of course that reminded me of the actual births for all three children…

My lady went through a lot to bring our mistakes into the world. If she wanted me to get this piece-of-cake, no-scalpel, ten-minute process done, I owed it to her.

So I did it.

And how did it go? Here’s the step-by-step:

  1. Lay on table in Dr. Pearce’s office
  2. Get covered with paper sheet that has a hole in it for my junk
  3. Talk about comics some more with the good Dr. Pearce
  4. Get kicked in the nuts by two Smurfs wearing switchblades on the feet and feel it in your stomach oh god why
  5. Numbness
  6. Dr. Pearce is still talking about comics
  7. He finishes up, throws some gauze around -Dee and -Dum, and helps me pull my jock strap up

That was it. The whole thing really did take less than ten minutes.

I was told not to shower for a day, to leave the gauze alone until then, and to ice with frozen peas in intervals of twenty minutes. We scheduled a follow-up appointment for six weeks, shook hands, and I left.

It’s important to note here that, despite the anesthetic, my crotch felt like somebody worked on it (in the not-fun way). I was walking like I just rode a bull through a bounce house.

Did I go home immediately? Of course not. I stopped at a taco shop and picked up a California burrito because I deserved it. When I sauntered in I got some weird looks. I mean, I did have an abnormally large bulge in my crotch, was walking with my feet outside the width of my shoulders, and winced slightly with every slow step, but I didn’t care. California burritos are delicious.

The rest has gone as expected. So far, so good. I realize that could change and I know I’ve got to wait a few months before I’ll know if I’ve been completely cleansed of seed, but all in all, this has not been as bad as I thought it’d be.

(Famous last words, right?)

I wrote this for a friend who asked me to document my experience so she could share it with her husband. I have a few other father-friends who have expressed the desire for a vasectomy muddied by a crippling fear of testicular wrongdoings. It’s not as bad as you think. Probably.

And by the way, I’ve been using frozen peas (as I type this they sit betwixt mine thighs). You know what? They really do mold to the area well.

A Lot of Tomorrows Left

I posted this on Facebook last week and it struck a chord with a few folks. I’m re-posting it here for posterity.

—–

This morning, when I returned from the gym, I found my oldest daughter with dried tears on her face. I asked both girls how they were doing and my youngest gave me a thumbs up while the oldest gave me a thumbs down. I knew what was bothering her – it’s bothering me (and many of you) too.

I told them to get ready for school early. We stopped at Denny’s, grabbed a booth, and ordered and Oreo milkshake. Then this:

“Hey, Dad.”
“Morning.”
“Trump won?”
“Yeah…”
“So we lost?”
“Only today. There are a lot of tomorrows left.”
“Do people not like women for Presidents?”
“It’s more complicated than that, but maybe some.”
“Okay.”

She took a few sips of her shake, and then, “What if I want to be President? Would you vote for me?”
“Well, that depends…”
“Why?”
“If you’re President, will we still have time to get milkshakes together?”
She smiled. “Yes, Daddy.”
“Then yeah. You’ve got my vote.”

I am anxious to see what’s next… I’m scared for so many friends who have a lot to lose.

I am also hopeful. It’s impossible not to be hopeful with my kids around.

Chins up, folks. There are a lot of tomorrows left.

—–

Here’s the original post:

Truck Fighters of the Universe! *Updated Again*

*Update: The book is now available on Amazon. Go get it!

—–

I owe Scott Irwin. I mean, technically we’re square, but I feel like I got the sweeter end of our arrangement.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.42.53 AM
Carl, a badass talking panda trucker with zero tolerance for coozery.

I met Scott many moons ago. We worked on a book called RUE (buy it on Comixology!) together when I was with Quad Shot. After that booked wrapped up we worked together again on IN SANITY, AZ (buy it on Amazon!), another Quad Shot collaboration.

Fast forward a bit and both Scott and I found ourselves with stories to tell and no money to tell them. I had a script for a short one-off called SAMSARA, while Scott was musing the plot points of something he had tentatively titled TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE.

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Original email exchange with Scott, from June of 2013.

I needed an artist for my little book, and he needed a writer for his much bigger book.

We made a deal.

I agreed to write his 100+ page space trucker tale, and to host it on my website as a weekly webcomic, while Scott agreed to draw SAMSARA. It was a trade, words for art. At the end of the deal, we each got two books with our names on ‘em.

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Jill, our gentle flower of a protagonist.

SAMSARA (you know what to do) is, to date, the best-selling independent comic I have worked on (that’s not saying too much in the independent comic game and I credit its success to Scott’s gritty, noir-ish stylings). It is one of the only $5 book I continue to bring to cons because it moves off of the table every show.

This Irwin fella has chops.

Scott’s original pitch for TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE was much more…adult than it’s current form. You can see trace elements of those concepts littered throughout, but it’s far more muted than it was at conception. I believe, at first, the “visitors” had enormous penises that they would chase people with, but, sadly, the penis-embracing-alien-chasers didn’t make the cut.

I know. In hindsight, we should’ve left them in. My bad.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.38.39 AM
You don’t want to see what’s under that cloak… Or maybe you do. Weirdo.

Scott’s only request when I took on writing duties was to “make it weird.” I’ve tried to do that. The phallic visitors got an absurd, Fringe-worthy origin story. We included Carl, a talking panda. Without much explanation, alien creatures started popping up in the script, and though we hint at their absurd origins, we left most of it pretty vague on purpose (can you spot all the references?).

TRUCK FIGHTERS OF THE UNIVERSE became HAMMER DOWN. We enlisted the help of the incomparable Ben Glibert for colors and letters, cached away half of the book’s finished art, and launched the webcomic almost two years ago.

We’ve managed to post a new page every single week without missing a single one. I can’t tell you how proud I am of Scott and Ben. Even with a surplus of pages to start with, this is a feat. Life happens and there were some pretty stressful moments wherein we though we’d miss a week– But no. Scott and Ben rallied through everything to ensure we hit every single one of our 104 weekly deadlines.

The end is in sight. We’re almost done with HAMMER DOWN as a webcomic. I know Scott has plans to take the IP further, and he’s been kind enough to include me thus far, but for the foreseeable future, HAMMER DOWN is over soon.

This was always the plan. I wrote it to be 104 pages and we’ve stayed true to that.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 8.40.54 AM
We. Are. Finished.

And did I mention that it is free? Scott hasn’t charged a dime for two years of weekly content. Nothing. We’ve had a [not often used] donation link on the first page since we started, but that’s it. Scott’s been creating because it’s a story he wants to tell. Full stop.

Now Scott is collecting the webcomic as a trade paperback. This will, hopefully, be where Scott starts to see some fruit from his labor. I get nothing more — remember, I’ve already been paid through SAMSARA. Scott and I are square. I’m writing this blog because I want y’all to go help Scott out and buy this book when it’s out in a month or so.

Have you been enjoying the webcomic? Awesome! Go buy the book.

Never heard of HAMMER DOWN before? Awesome. Go buy the book.

Looking for a gift for your kids? Awesome. Go buy a different book. This one is for adults — unless you’re a terrible parent. If you’re a terrible parent you should totally buy this book for your kids. They’ll hate you for it. It’s perfect.

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Kids love pandas.

I’m pretty proud of the work I was fortunate enough to do on HAMMER DOWN. It was a fun book, something I don’t often write. Scott gave me a chance to go outside myself a bit and I’m forever grateful.

I’m hoping to grab a few myself and I’ll take them to cons when possible. I’m sure they’re going to sell even better than SAMSARA.

Cheers, Scott.

I’ll post a link as soon as the book becomes available, which will be soon now. In the meantime, catch up with the webcomic while you can, here: hammerdowncomic.com

*Hey! I’ve got two pretty neat updates for y’all.*

First of all, Daniel Touchet, the designer Scott is working with (and my frequent collaborator) has finished designing the cover for the Hammer Down TPB. Behold:

aaa-HD_cover-Final-xL
Trade available now (click the image to pick it up)!

Second, Scott has launched a Patreon. He’s got a whole lot of things happening at the moment, not the least of which is a video game he’s developing called Ace Falcon. Dude has a wiener dog where his wiener should be. I don’t know what’s going on but I like it.

Go check it out and support Scott if you can (read “support” as giving or sharing — both help).

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