I’m a real process junkie. I love to see how artists work and will take any chance I can get to peer up under the hood to see how different artists get their creative engines to run. So I thought I’d do an occasional post to share some my own process with you. This one is a little more on the writer side than the pencil artist side, which is ironic, since I actually prefer the latter.
When I first started working on WORLD OF HURT, its original working title was “My Hands Are My Weapons.” Actually, the ONLY thing I had was the title, I just had to find a story to go with it.
I played with a few ideas before something started to coalesce around the basic Blaxploitation concept. My initial idea for a strip in that vein could be summed up with the elevator pitch, “John Shaft and Bandit from Smokey And The Bandit, driving around and kicking ass.” The basic outline of the character “Pastor” and his buddy “McCroy” emerged from that brainstorm. Strangely enough, I couldn’t come up with any decent plots to work around that concept. Fortunately, in a bit of serendipity, the Muse of Face-Kicking and Vehicular Carnage visited a couple of other guys at the same time, and they actually knew how to listen to her (Come to think of it, she may live at Chris’ house). I worked with them for a while, and believe me, they’ll do a much better job with it than I ever could. Also, I didn’t necessarily want to use the “Black Guy and White Guy Buddy Team” Paradigm. At the time, Image Comics was publishing ‘76, a miniseries set in 1976 (natch) that featured two separate, unrelated stories, “Jackie Karma” and “Cool.” Both stories featured a BGAWGBT, so that made it an easier choice to leave McCroy by the side of the road.
My Hands Are My Weapons went through a few more permutations before I settled on what I thought would work: a pastiche of Blaxploitation and kung fu movies. As the title implies, Pastor was going to be a master street fighter, well versed in the down-and-dirty and more esoteric forms of martial arts, so he would never use a gun. Then, I ran into a few problems:
1) I wanted to keep the strip more realistic than fantasy-oriented, so I didn’t want to strain the audiences’ suspension of disbelief by having Pastor beat impossible odds with kung fu alone. This realization sunk in while I was watching Three The Hard Way, a later entry into the Blaxploitation genre, featuring Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Jim Kelly. Each actor is given a solo action set piece, which are all well done, but when the three tough guys get together at the end to storm the enemy compound, Kelly looks a little silly sneaking around dispatching his gun-wielding opponents with throwing stars and spinning back kicks while Williamson and Brown are hosing everyone down with automatic weapons fire. At one point, an exasperated Brown pretty much thrusts a gun into Kelly’s hands and tells him to stop being so stupid. I’m not saying Pastor always comes strapped. Most of the time he still won’t use a gun. Which leads me to my second problem.
2) Once I settled on the idea of Pastor collecting favors as payment, he evolved into a strategic thinker, not just a fighter. Of course Pastor knows how to handle himself in a scrap, but he tries to stay a step ahead of everyone, friends and enemies alike. If that’s the case, are his hands really his primary weapon?
3) Although I know, understand, and have a great affection for Blaxploitation movies, I only had a passing knowledge of kung fu flicks. The kung fu fanbase can be as rabid as any subset of genre fans, so I didn’t want to fake it, for fear of RZA riding down with Method Man and the ghost of Ol’ Dirty Bastard to empty 36 Chambers into my skull.
My problem was that I thought I had a pretty nifty title and I was determined to shoehorn in a story to fit it. Here’s a tip to all you creative types out there – Don’t do that. It only creates massive headaches.
By the way, if you know anyone looking to buy the domain name myhandsaremyweapons.com, drop me a line. I know someone who can give you a good deal on it.