Issue 16: The Bitter Taste of Hypocrisy
Get it together, Wes.
This is where I say things like, “Whoa, I can’t believe January went by so fast!” or “2023 is really moving!”
That’s just the way it is. As I recently told a coworker, we are merely bags of meat on a rock that’s traveling 64,000 miles per hour. It was a bit of an existential week, I suppose.
Earlier in the week, my wife and I were discussing weird and funny experiences we’ve had at past jobs. That trip down memory lane took me back to 2013-2016 when I worked as a reporter at a small town newspaper in the Florida panhandle. That’s right… I was a reporter. I went out and talked to people face-to-face and then wrote about what they had going on. Craziness, right?
Anyway, because I was stationed in a small town (Port St. Joe has two traffic lights and is situated right on the Gulf Coast) I quickly found myself interacting with a slew of “interesting” personalities. And because I had no official background in newspaper reporting (but I had “moxie”) I spent that first year learning how to do the job. The editor I worked with, Tim, was well aware of my incompetencies and proudly dubbed that first year as my “trial by fire.” In fact, nothing made Tim more giddy than sending me off to interview the colorful locals that he had zero interest in speaking with after nearly a decade at the paper.
One of those colorful locals was Mr. Evans (his name changed to protect the innocent), who would come into the office from time to time to show off the extremely large vegetables he grew on his farm. He’d show up out of the blue hauling ginormous beets, cabbage, carrots, melons, pumpkins… anything that grew on his lot was absolutely enormous. The ground he farmed was likely irradiated, but that’s not important. When Mr. Evans came in, we’d take a photo of his massive produce (that’s a good band name) and put him on the front page of that week’s paper. However, what should have been a simple transaction was always complicated by two things—things my editor knew, but failed to mention to me during my trial by fire. For one, Mr. Evans was in his 80s and completely deaf, and two, Mr. Evans was incredibly lonely living on his farm.
This meant that what should have been a simple five-minute conversation and a photo op always turned into an interaction lasting several exhausting hours. Mr. Evans wanted someone to talk to, but because he was deaf—a fact he would remind me of every time I tried to respond to him—these conversations were entirely one-sided with him never pausing his train of thought. He would simply talk at me. About anything. About everything. Why wouldn’t he? He couldn’t hear what I had to say anyway. Mr. Evans had nowhere to be, and I… well, I had everywhere to be.
One afternoon, I saw Mr. Evans approaching through the window of the newspaper office, and having just returned from an hours-long county meeting, I did what anyone would do. I ran into the bathroom and hid. I spent a good 10 minutes in there. I was determined not to taken as a verbal hostage. When I finally crept out of the restroom, Mr. Evans was sitting patiently across from my desk. My editor came out of his office saying, “I told him you were in the restroom and that he could wait.” But it was Tim’s mischievous smile that told me my trial by fire was still very much in-process.
This time, Mr. Evans didn’t have any produce with him. Instead, he had a bunch of giant turnips out at his farm and he wanted me to come out and take a photo of the entire crop. Knowing that Mr. Evans lived out in the middle of nowhere, the last thing I wanted to do was go to his home. Especially not alone. I always needed an out of his conversations and putting me in enemy territory was going to complicate matters. But as I mentioned, Mr. Evans was deaf, so as I tried—and failed—to coordinate a time to drive out to his farm to take the requested photo, my editor exited the office once more and handed Mr. Evans a piece of paper.
Mr. Evans read the paper, stood up, and headed for the door. “You can follow me,” he said. He’d left the slip of paper on my desk, so I picked it up. Written in my editor’s barely-legible chicken scratch were the words, “He’ll come take the photo right now.” I glared at Tim and his smile returned. “Have fun!” he called enthusiastically, as I left the office.
When I came back—hours later—after being talked into submission by Mr. Evans about everything from rainfall, to soil, to the rats living on his farm, and his daughter’s entire life story (his daughter wasn’t there, and I never met her, and I’m not fully convinced she was real), I made my way back to the office, exhausted and defeated. Tim sat in his office, laughing hysterically. My misery made his day. Maybe his year.
Several weeks later I spied Mr. Evans through the office window, sauntering my way, with a ridiculously large rutabaga under his arm. Tim, from his office, said, “Here comes your buddy!” This time I was determined to take matters into my own hands. I grabbed a Post-It note from my desk and scrawled a few words, then I grabbed a notebook and my camera and headed out the door, just as Mr. Evans was preparing to enter the building. Without a word, I handed him the note and walked straight to my car. The note said, “I’m very busy, but Tim will be happy to help you.”
I went and had lunch and when I came back an hour or so later, Mr. Evans was still in Tim’s office (and still holding the rutabaga). As Mr. Evans droned on, all Tim could do was nod, stuck hopelessly in the one-sided conversation. Through the open door, Tim glared at me. I smiled back.
Before we get into issue 16, just a quick reminder that Unit 44 #7 is currently available for preorder from Alterna Comics (for 12 more days)! Snag your copy for just $1.98 at the link below and enjoy some high-larious sci-fi/comedy/action!
What Happened Last Issue?
In the last official issue, I shared my 2022 roundup in which I detailed my favorite things from the year—books, TV, films, games, etc.
What were your favorite things from 2022? I’d love to hear about them!
In this issue:
Oh gosh… There’s more to this newsletter?
There is! Let us rejoice.
I feel like a bit of a hypocrite. You see, I’m editing a project at the moment—the 2023 edition of The Writer’s Path, wherein alumni of my college contribute essays regarding how they launched their careers and achieved success. Curating this collection requires me to read over submissions from writers and offer feedback to strengthen writing or clarify ideas. One of the pieces of feedback I recently offered a writer was to beware of writing in a cryptic manner. The essays being submitted offer insight gained through personal trials, and this writer often glossed over the moments that were most influential or formative to him. I hate the idea of offering someone feedback that I myself haven’t taken, so it got me thinking about my own writing.
Specifically, I applied that feedback to my last newsletter, where I shared the major events from my 2022. Looking at that newsletter with fresh eyes, I did the exact same thing I noted for this writer: I glossed over the details.
Writers typically hide their own thoughts and ideas when A) they don’t see the value it brings to making a piece of writing feel authentic, or B) they aren’t comfortable talking about their own experiences, good or bad.
Perhaps on the day I wrote my last newsletter I was feeling like option A. However, I’m still working on being comfortable with sharing my own experiences in a public space. Regardless, I wanted to correct my own error. So, if you’ll oblige me, I wanted to take another swing at a small section of my 2022 in Review.
I didn’t publish much in 2022, a couple issues of Unit 44… a reprinted short comic in an anthology… and the first issue of The Obsoletes. But what’s important to note is that publishing timelines are long, and all that stuff that came out—as little as it was—it was written in the year (or years) prior. Nothing that I wrote in 2022 has come out yet. And I wrote a lot.
In 2022 I wrote seven brand new issues of Unit 44. I wrote three short prose stories. I wrote two additional issues of The Obsoletes. I wrote daily at my day job, and I outlined ideas for several other stories that haven’t yet gone beyond rough, handwritten ideas in notebooks. But looking back at the things I did write, I believe it’s the best work I’ve done in my entire career.
I’ve been writing professionally for more than 10 years now. 100 percent of my income comes from writing, whether that’s royalties on things I’ve written in the past or the stuff I write for my day job at a video game studio. Everything I do becomes practice and experience that feeds everything else. While I don’t own anything I write for the game studio, I apply there what I’ve learned from writing on other games or in other mediums, and I apply what I learn writing for games (which is a unique beast on its own) and apply it to my personal projects.
Rereading the Unit 44 scripts I penned throughout 2022—they’re fantastic. Not in a delusions of grandeur way, but rather, they provide an accurate reflection of me and the writing style I’ve developed over that last decade. I’m proud of the way I presented things visually, I think I’ve nailed down my own voice and tone with that series, and I pushed myself to be innovative with the comic book medium and to try things I’ve never attempted before. 2022 wasn’t a year spent resting on my laurels, it was me actively trying to do better and be better and write more interesting things.
I find writing prose stories to be incredibly difficult, and even in the short stories I wrote—which may or may not ever see the light of day—I tackled subjects and themes that I would have strayed away from in the past. Perhaps, on the edge of 40 years old, I felt mature enough to finally explore them, or whatever had blocked me from doing so in the past had finally been removed.
So, I’m just tooting my own horn here to say that I’m proud of myself, and I want to continue pushing through 2023. I want all of the stories this year to be better, deeper, and more gratifying than what I’ve done in the past. I want to continue writing new types of characters and stories while tackling new subjects and new themes.
After all, being stagnant is not the way to move a career forward. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony. I want to continue being the most versatile writer possible, and I feel confident that I’m still moving in that direction. The right direction.
After all, if you’re going to spend 10+ years on something, you might as well try to be the best you can be.
Things are moving and grooving in the writing world at the moment. Here’s what’s on my plate:
Production on Unit 44 is speeding along. Our publisher, Alterna Comics, recently streamlined its titles, settling in with seven books for 2023 releases. I’m happy to report that Unit 44 made the cut (for now)!
Issue #7 is complete and is currently available for preorder. Secure your copy (and maybe a t-shirt) by hitting the link below! You don’t wanna miss what guest artist Landon Franklin has cooked up for your eyeballs. There’s just 12 days left to preorder!
Also, don’t miss this VERY PROFESSIONAL CALIBER teaser trailer video I made for the issue:
Issue #8 is still complete and just waiting to be unleashed on an unsuspecting public. This issue will round out “Season 2” of Unit 44, having established the book’s new status quo and format (one-and-done stories). Fingers crossed this issue will see a release as part of Alterna’s Spring 2023 titles.
Issue #9 is currently being colored by Andrew Pate. To say much more than that would risk spoilers, as this issue deals with the fallout of the events that transpire at the end of Season 2 (issue #8), and oh, what events they are!
Issue #10 is completely drawn! Aleks finished up art for the issue a week or so ago. I’m excited about all of our issues, but this one in particular is a lot of fun and sows additional seeds for the next several issues. In season 3, Aleks and I once more push the boundaries of what is possible in the Unit 44 universe an inch or two further. It’s interesting me, as the writer of the series, how much we’ve grown into our own as we continue the production of the series. We aren’t playing it safe, that’s for sure.
Aleks is currently creating some new merch, to be unveiled soon, and then we’re hopping into work on…
After some delays from the holidays, illnesses, and other life stuff, I’m excited to report that Aleks will soon shift his attention to The Oddity to work up some character designs and sample pages that I will use to pitch this series to prospective literary agents in the coming months. In the meantime, I’ve been diligently working my way through the script.
While I have no question that I could use the 12 or so pages that Aleks draws to pitch this thing, it’s not uncommon for literary agents to want to read the entire story before committing to a project. Therefore, I’ve been writing the script in my free time so that I’ll have exactly that. I'‘m shooting for the graphic novel to be somewhere around the 120-page mark. I don’t want to go under that, but I will allow myself to go over it. Currently, I’ve written up to page 105 and I’ve just launched into the third act, so I’m guessing we’ll land longer than 120 pages. Works for me! It’s easier to condense and cut later then it is to add filler.
A few weekends ago I went to a Barnes and Noble near my house (yes, they still exist) and spent some quality time in the YA graphic novel section of the store—which, if you haven’t been to a brick and mortar bookstore in a while, the YA graphic novel section is HUGE. The goal of the trip was to get a feel for the quality and length currently being produced by traditional book publishers in graphic book format. I gotta say, I was really surprised by the quality… both good and bad.
While several books that I wasn’t familiar with had amazing art, there were also some licensed Marvel titles in stock that looked like all 200 pages had been drawn in just a couple of months. Low detail, inconsistent character appearances, strange color choices. I realize that kids are more forgiving on those sorts of things than adults, but I was surprised that the quality felt “lower” for something bearing the Marvel seal. Now, I’ve also read online that graphic novel production through traditional book publishers is a very rushed process, wherein editors/publishers/marketing teams maybe don’t understand how much time is needed to produce a product of a certain caliber. Perhaps several of the books I plucked from the shelves were a victim of those time crunches.
With that in mind, Aleks and I are complete professionals (right?), so I’m putting the emphasis on quality—and the speed at which Aleks can produce quality work is one of his best assets (that, and he’s easy on the eyes).
Now, if you skipped all those really long paragraphs above, the gist is that we’re getting close to jumping in, and I can’t wait to share some art and more updates as we go through this process.
But, hey, after basically a little over a month of work, I have 105+ pages of a graphic novel, so progress is going amazingly well. (And I don’t hate what I’ve written, so that’s always a bonus! And Aleks doesn’t hate what I have written, and that’s an even bigger bonus!)
And, hey, here’s an in-progress page from the script because… Why not?
As I work on this new graphic novel project, I constantly find myself asking, “What’s going to stick with the reader?” I want the experience to be a memorable one, not just something they’ll consume and move on with life. Looking at my own bookshelves, I can tell you the books that have impacted me for the longterm based on the wear of the books and creases in the spine. For instance, my copy of Stephen King’s On Writing is falling apart. The binding is simply disintegrating from repeated reading.
What’s the book, comic, film, or TV show that has stuck with you most throughout your life?
I’m Wes Locher. I’ve been writing professionally for more than a decade. I write comic books, video games, fiction, and nonfiction. I write whatever seems fun, cool, and inspiring. I also love helping other writers to demystify the process of making a living through words. This is my newsletter.