-By Dan LuVisi
LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter
This on-going article is based on how I made and released the above title, and creating your own IP. It's something I suggest to a lot of new artist, as I feel we are the future story-tellers, as Hollywood is running dry of fresh or risky ideas.
Part 2 of Creating Your Own IP -
(Read Part 1 Here.)
Hey guys! Long read here, so if you're ADD like me, good luck! That said, I tried to spill my heart in how I created my book LMS, and what I learned from it. I will continue writing everything I've learned as well. For you beginners out there who look to make their own IP, I hope you can learn from my struggles!
Best of luck, enjoy the read, and thank you for the support!
As I stared at an empty screen, I contemplated the first, actual, step of creating a book. I had just received the green-light by Kevin Eastman, publisher of Heavy Metal, to partner up and release LMS: Killbook of a Bounty Hunter.
This was going to be difficult, I realized, staring at screaming-white canvas in Photoshop. I had never made a book, written a book (published, as I had written tons of non-released short-stories in my nerdy-thankfully forgettable-teens), more or less designed a book. Hell, I didn't even go to college, relying simply on what I've been inspired by, or have learned from over the past few years.
I would say I had drive, thankfully due to the stressful side of freelancing. I'll admit, I was jaded at the time, due to it being--well--extremely hard to find work. Anxiety every morning began to grow in my stomach, contemplating how I'm going to get by the next month. Checking my Chase account to confirm I had enough to pay rent, and buy my cat Gizmo and myself food, was a nightmare eerie enough to wake me up, and realize I had to stop being a wimp, put on my big-boy pants (pjs) and start this damn book.
So, I began with a process, and below are the first two steps I needed to plunge into my world and begin it. I hope you can gather something from it, because during the creation of this book, this was one of the most difficult situations; how to start the actual book.
Drawing from my childhood inspirations
and how it helped build and jumpstart LMS.
It all began with an inspiration. My childhood was filled with colorful characters and worlds, dreamt by geniuses like Todd McFarland, Stan Lee, Bob Kane, Kevin Eastman and Marc Silvestri. I looked up to these artists as if they were Gods, studying and learning from anything they supplied. I stayed up late, reading their comics, growing continuously lost in their worlds. What truly captured me though, was how they were the ones owning and writing these books.
Films played a huge part in my childhood as well. My bestfriend and always wanted to be a director, and I wanted to as well--just I didn't know anything about it, so I stuck to art. I was a huge fan of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Verehoeven and Francis Ford Coppola. These were the type of directors that could grab a viewer, and take them to another world. It didn't feel like I was simply watching a movie when viewing their art.
Writing was something I picked up in my teens, inspired by a lot of books directed from the Star Wars universe. After school, I would always race home to write my book "Tales From The Empire" a collection of short-stories about moments we never got to see in the movies.
I never figured myself to be good at writing, it was just a hobby I enjoyed and gave me an excuse to create even further. When I was fifteen, I began writing stories not based off anything other than my own ideas. Jewelry heist films, stories about S.W.A.T. or alien-wars, anything that I was into.
As I began to dive deeper into writing, I wanted it to at least make sense. I figured, if I knew and understood the structure of a story, than that could at least take me somewhere. So I began reading up on these artists, and listening to their interviews and commentaries. I would watch and learn from who inspired these giants to do what they do, and then learn from them as well. From this, I found two very important books that began to help my form of story telling, below are the titles:
Author: Robert McKee
A Hero With A Thousand Faces
Author: Joseph Campbell
With these two titles, I was able to learn the basic fundamentals of telling a story, which would come in handy when writing all of the book's character's individual stories, not to mention the protagonist himself, Gabriel.
The Hero With a Thousand Face's book is one that I feel everyone should read, but not use. There is a great, universal walkthrough that hundreds of movies follow, and I have to warn you, once you read it, you'll be picking apart movies left and right.
But if you can learn from this book, and then apply your own way of going about its structure, I feel there is so much you can pull from it, and in a way, manipulate the audience in a positive way, rather than a negative.
Once I had those books, and with enough art of the characters (I had eight when I began writing LMS, including Gabriel), I opened up MS Word and began to dive in deep with Gabriel and his world of deadly, and insane friends.
BUILDING A STORY
How LMS went from a Zombie apocalypse to a superhero-satire.
LMS upon first glance, is a cocktail of flashy, in-your-face, sci-fi and videogame cliches. And you know what? That was goal....well kind of.
But before I get to that, let's go back. When LMS was first being written, it was about a prisoner on death-row, Gabriel, as he was about to be given the lethal injection. But just before the poison is thrust into his blood-stream, a gang of zombies breaks into the room. From here, Gabriel is released and must thrive through this zombie apocalypse and find out who set him up.
Right? Terrible idea.
I scrapped it, and tried to rethink it. I kept looking at Gabriel, who would be my protagonist of the story. Below is the first painting I did of him.
Gabriel, at first, was only a bounty hunter. Badass, with no identity or backstory, other than being a killer who enjoyed his candies. I knew he would be my main character, because out of all of the ones I had put online--it was Gabriel that got the most attention.
Being a sucker for revenge tales, such as Count of Monte Cristo, Kill Bill, Oldboy and more, I decided to base his origin off of that. The story began to build, and evolve. I'll give you what I original wrote back then, and what it's turned into:
LAST MAN STANDING: KILLBOOK OF A BOUNTY HUNTER
ORIGINAL STORY (2009)
LMS is about Gabriel, a genetically-modified super-soldier, who is framed for a crime he did not commit and sentenced to a maximum-prison. After breaking out nine-years later, he ventures off to find out the ones responsible for doing it.
It was so cliche. So been-there, done-that. But that's when it clicked.
Isn't that what I'm trying to make fun of? How whenever something new and flashy comes about, everyone wants to make it, beating it to a dead-horse until a change has to be made? Superhero movies? Reality shows? Music? Tons of the same old...
I realized that instead of trying to tell a story we've heard a thousand times, why don't I satire the whole situation? Inspired by films like Robocop and the humor/violence clash of Tarantino, I finally had a handle on my themes and style, resulting in:
LAST MAN STANDING: KILLBOOK & GRAPHIC NOVEL
CURRENT STORY (2013-2014):
(Editor Note: Most synopsis aren't this long, merely 3 paragraphs. These were my notes for the Killbook when I reprinted it for Dark Horse Comics.)
Set in the year 2666, The United States of Amerika has entered a war with an alien colony on Mars known as the Nomen race. After losing to the alien's increasing threat, Abram Stone, CEO of the private-military-corp Armtech, offers the people of Earth a solution: Gabriel, the Paladin Soldier.
Built to be indestructible and harnessing the strength and wit of a million soldiers, Gabriel enters Mars' battlegrounds and, single handily, wins the war in a mere two-weeks. After returning to Earth, Gabriel is celebrated and awarded for his contributions and receives the title Protector of Amerika.
And to think, he was technically only 3 years old.
By the age of five, Gabriel has turned the country into a utopia, where the people and government thrive. Crime rates drop, and the people of Amerika begin to feel safe yet again. For this, Gabriel is rewarded handsomely. He's given unlimited funds, TV shows, magazine covers, toys, clothing and more. Gabriel himself, becomes the cash-cow that everyone wanted to be a part of. And because of it, he blew up, big time.
But the higher you go, the harder you fall, and with the constant stardom and stress of saving the country, Gabriel begins to break down, resorting to the vices of Amerika. As he killed his image with drugs, alcohol and a self-sabotaging attitude, the world watched a once glorified hero turn into a washed-up joke--LIVE, all for the price of $99.99.
On the night of the premiere of his film The Guardian III, the last of the Paladin Trilogy, Gabriel was framed for a crime he had no hand in, and ordered to be shut-down due to an internally-released toxin, Gabriel is disabled and sentenced to Level-9 Facility--a prison which would put Gabriel through the fight of his life.
After nine years of destructing Gabriel from the inside-out, an illusive suit known as AGENT O offers Gabriel a chance at redemption, but for a price. Giving Gabriel what he needs to breaks out, the once famed hero comes to realize that the country he helped turn around for the better has changed for the worst.
Gone is the Amerika he helped create, and in return is a corporate and conglomerate hostile take over. Gangs, ruthless killers and bounty hunters, drug dealers and more plague the street, but above them the Suits watch, as they plunge their money-grubby hands into the wallets of the lesser people below. From here, it will be up to Gabriel to go out one last time, and save the country before it runs itself into the ground once and for all.
Phew. That, was all I needed to get started. Was that the full story? Nope, not at all. Five percent, maybe, if that. I had so much more to tell, from who Gabriel eventually turns himself into, his friends and enemies, and of course, lots and lots of action.
So once I had that, I knew and finally trusted my direction. The world began to build in my head, mixing my love for 70-90's film pop-culture, with the hyper violence and hypocrisy of today. I had understood my protagonist and his intensions. In a way, relating it to situations in today's world that bothered or upset me: ranging from the media, society or the acts of human nature in general. LMS began to form in my head and continuously made me push to make it more than what it was on the outside.
However, Before I could tell that full story in the comic-world, I decided to switch it up and do something different. I wanted to give the reader a tease of the entire world and it's gallery of hostile characters. I wanted to give them a book that was worth their money, filled to the brim with details, stories, art and more.
For whatever reason I chose to make the Killbook, as difficult, stressful, and enduring of a challenge as it was---I will never regret it, as it changed my life. As grateful and humbled as I am, and considering how far LMS has come and the amazing support it has received--I couldn't be happier.
However, I just wish someone warned me about the next five years. Because man, the dark days were about to hit hard.
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