Tonight was “pitch night” at Writing for Comics Part 2. We were instructed to bring 3 ideas for new on-going series (or, perhaps, a longish graphic novel), and we’d each pitch our ideas to the class. Ty gave us a bunch of key things that our pitches needed to cover off, and he’d critique how well we “sold” the ideas, and the class would ultimately vote on one of the three pitches. The winning pitch essentially becomes the idea you hafta run with for the final two classes (and final writing exercises).
Some of the ideas were grounded in exercises we’d done in other classes. For example, one of my favourite ideas from a classmate involves a group of Catholic priests/exorcists who fight demons and perform martial arts. The guy who presented this idea had sketched out elements of this particular story world in the world building exercise, and fleshed out some characters for the world in our character archetypes exercise. Tonight, he pitched it, more formally, as “The Exorcist from U.N.C.L.E.” and it’s the one I voted for (and, conveniently, the idea of his that “won”, so I look forward to seeing the actual story).
Another classmate proposed “Hamandi: the Last Pig on Earth” (pitched as Babe meets The Walking Dead). Me, I thought that the idea was très cute, but something else won. I also got into a weird conversation with Ty in which he seemed suspicious that I would know what it’s a parody of. C’mon, Ty: we’re almost the same generation, and I had a lot of comic books as a kid. (Ty’s apparently a big fan of Kamandi. I think that The Eternals is Kirby’s better work. Ty seemed disdainful of this suggestion).
Here are my three pitches:
My first suggestion was one that I didn’t have a good title for. The “relate it to something familiar” pitch was “Challengers of the Unknown meets Mad Men” The idea is that you’ve got a clean-cut, all-American group of not-quite-super-heroic adventurers who are well-known for daring exploits that involve dire villains, scientific ingenuity and occasional right hooks. Naturally, they’re well-regarded by the press and the public, and when the government has a critical problem, these are the folks they call. And, it being the 60’s, the government is seeing a rise of threats that have the potential to destroy the fabric of society: hippies, student protests and civil rights marchers. The key question I think about is, “if the FBI is willing to invent COINTELPRO to break up protest movements, why wouldn’t they have also made use of the Fantastic Four, if they could?”
I’m interested in a bit of a satiric take on the Silver Age that calls into question the values of the 60s, especially as regards social movements. Jack Kirby’s Mad Men is another way I described it.
I confess that this was the proposal that I was most worried about, because it feels like there are a lot of ways to screw up the execution. But the idea’s kind of neat.
My second proposal was called “Mind games” (although I also considered “The Spook show”). I pitched it as “MI-5 meets The X-Files.
The premise is that, in contrast to all those stories where there’s a relatively unknown government agency that handles investigations into paranormal activities, this idea is about the government agency that recruits psychic or paranormal individuals for traditional spy work. Telepathic HUMINT. Pyrokinetic wet work. That sort of thing. The protagonists are a small CIA team that’s somewhat bifurcated. Half of the team are veteran spies, and they’re involved in a lot of the planning, logistics and traditional spycraft. The other half of the team is made up of the paranormal and psychic folk — folk who probably wouldn’t have been spy material if not for their special abilities. The two subgroups naturally have a bit of friction. Typical stories involve hunting for enemy agents, turning assets or thwarting terrorist plots — standard espionage fare, but with a bit of the paranormal thrown in.
My third proposal was based on an idea that I used during my earlier world building exercise. I titled it “Chthonic Red”, but Ty hated that name (partially, I think, because he didn’t know what the word “chthonic” meant, but even I have to admit that it’s not terribly catchy). My first description was “The Hunt for Red October takes place underground.” When forced to use the such-and-such meets such-and-such form, I settled on “The Hunt for Red October meets Neverwhere“, but I think that both of those descriptions suggest elements that aren’t present in my idea.
The premise is this: the Cuban Missile Crisis resulted in nuclear war, and now, 60 years later, the U.S.S.R. is preparing its plan to return to the surface. Our focus is on one Russian “bunker city” — one of a network of underground cities to which the U.S.S.R. evacuated when it became apparent that Kennedy could not be stopped from launching the nukes. They’ve managed to keep the human race alive and kicking through communism and the worker ethic, but after 60 years of relatively stable struggle to survive underground, the plan to return to the surface has the potential of changing everything. Our protagonist is a young and relatively inexperienced army Captain who is also the first visitor to the city in 60 years (until now, all communication with the Party Leadership has been limited to radio communications). He’s arrived from Sub-Moscow to begin coordinating with the Town’s Mayor, and the Town Citizen’s council and the People’s committee and the various Worker Unions to start the exodus back to the surface world.
I imagine the story as having an almost Chekhovian sense of inevitability — that the characters all know that they’re in the last days of the world that they’ve always known, and the future seems a bit scary but unhaltable. A lot of it is about bureaucracy, and ideals and political manoeuvrings and agendas. It’s also a What If story: what if the cold war ended, and communism survived?
Anyway, those are my three pitches: I know which one won the vote, and that’s the one I’m breaking down as my story for next week. Which one do you think should’a won?