This summer we’ve resurrected one of our favorite features, I ♥ Comics, and each Wednesday through Labor Day comics bloggers and creators will discuss the things they love about the medium.
This week, our guest contributor is Chip Mosher, writer of Left on Mission, who agreed to do one thsi week — the week of the San Diego Comic-Con — long before he was named marketing and sales director for BOOM! So my hat’s off to him for getting this to me in what’s a very busy week for him and the rest of the industry.
Anyone who is familiar with my comic writing debut, Left on Mission, will know that I am totally into putting in tons of “quiet moments” into my stories. Helped immensely by the majestic artwork of Francesco Francavilla and the gorgeous colors of Martin Thomas, I have been able to really put everything that I love about comics into Left on Mission. What do I really love about comics? I love the sequential art form. I like to say that I am trying to put the sequence back into sequential art with my script … and that means doing something a little different with the pacing and those “quiet moments” I spoke of earlier.
What I love about comics is when they become more than just a series of disconnected panels strung together with text – but really move…and really move in interesting ways you can’t get in any other medium … being able to lead the reader through a series of panels and then WAMMO – the page flip. How awesome is that?
My all-time favorite for this and the biggest influence on me in conceptualizing my book is Cerebus. Now people shake their heads when I mention Dave Sim’s magnum opus, especially since my spy thriller seems to have little to do with a talking aardvark. But seriously, Cerebus issue 21 through the end of Jaka’s Story represents to me the apex of comic’s creation. You can’t beat Sim and Gerhard. I know that Dave Sim has become our industry’s Leni Riefenstahl for his views on women, etc. And that is a discussion for another time. For whatever you feel about Dave Sim personally, there is no denying the genius behind High Society, Church and State I & II, and Jaka’s Story. What a tour de force of storytelling. Let’s take issue #77, my favorite. Cerebus awakens from a dream and then proceeds to relieve himself for three glorious pages. What guts this guys has. There were 20 pages of comic in that issue and three were dedicated to Cerebus taking a leak. Now I remember when this issue came out, people were sooooo upset. Of course, I thought it was awesome. And what seemed like self-indulgence within the context of the single issue, when read in Church and State, within the context of the bigger narrative – well, it just worked beautifully. So whenever I thought I might be going too far with Left on Mission – I just pulled out Cerebus #77 for strength. Incredible stuff.
Of course, one can’t not mention G.I. Joe #21, the famous “Silent Interlude.” Larry Hama and Steve Leialoha pull off one of the most avant-garde experiments in mainstream pop culture – an action comic with no word balloons, no text, and no sound effects. So yeah, it’s all motivated by Snake Eyes being deaf, right? But it totally works – and just the pure power of the storytelling takes hold. This is writing, people. Hama did the story and the breakdowns with Steve Leialoha doing the finishes. “Silent Interlude” blew my mind as a kid, and it still does. The whole book is a “quiet moment,” but everything is so loud you can hear every single thing going on. It was really this book that lead to my decision to cut waaaaaaaay back on the sound effects in Left on Mission. And it really made me strive to write action scenes that were as good as what is in this book. (Did I mention that Francesco Francavilla totally pulled it off, too? What a talent that guy is…)
I can’t really talk about this type of work without mentioning Bernie Krigstein’s Master Race. Master Race is perfection. What Krigstein did with that story is just amazing. He really took what could have been a boring chase sequence and turned it into pure gold. The pathos in the faces of the main characters…the people in the subway as they go past. Krigstein really took the medium to another place – and in only eight pages. When the man falls under the subway after being chased – well, just read the freaking thing. Trust me. Writing about Krigstein’s Master Race is like dancing about architecture. You just can’t do it. (I still have the last two pages taped above my desk that I used as inspiration when writing my script.)
More recently, I have been completely inspired by Neal Shaffer’s work. Neal has quietly produced some of the best comics of the last five years, One Plus One, Last Exit Before Toll and Borrowed Time being some of my all time favorites. This man has taken the idea of the “quiet moment” to the breaking point – but in his hands it doesn’t break, it just sits there, uncomfortably, revealing more about the characters with just a silent panel, or a close-up on a gesture, or just a lingering look. Whether it’s Daniel Krall’s exemplar work on One Plus One, Christopher Mitten’s sublime line work on Last Exit Before Toll, or Joe Infurnari’s fantastic art on Borrowed Time, you can always tell Neal is the guiding hand behind it all. Bar none, Neal’s pacing of stories is the most interesting and revealing work in comic’s today. He’s the king of the slow burn. Neal totally inspired me to go for the gusto with Left on Mission. But you are never alone as a writer who does not also draw. Both Neal and I have been blessed with working with some of the most talented folks out there. (Did I mention Francesco Francavilla’s work on my book? I did. Okay, I’ll shut up now.)
In one of the last scenes in Neal Shaffer’s Last Exit Before Toll, two characters share a cup of coffee and more is said off the page than on. It’s moments like these make me fall in love with comics all over again.
Chip Mosher lives in Los Angeles, Calif. dreaming of big things and shorter sentences. Chip’s first comic work, Left on Mission, debuted this past year from BOOM! Studios. He recently completed his first screenplay, Blacking Out, which has been optioned by Brad Blondheim, producer of the award-winning documentaries Scratch and Big Rig, directed by Doug Pray. This past week, Chip was named marketing and sales director for BOOM! Studios. He looks forward to writing more comics in the near future. More about him and his work can be found at www.leftonmission.com.