I’m reading Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat guide to screenwriting at the moment. It’s the type of book that critics of the Hollywood system will find enraging and it does preach formula but it also has a lot of solid practice tips. An early one is the strength of a logline. A logline being the one or two sentance summary of your story that you use when pitching. Although I think this is a really useful exercise for writers regardless. It makes you clarify the spine of your story from the off. If you aren’t able to summarise your story in one or two sentences up front, it’s probably lacking focus.
The logline for Ordinary, my and D’israeli’s creator-owned series, which was announced this week, would probably be:
“Every superhero tale starts with a basic premise: in an ordinary world one person becomes extraordinary. We’re tipping that on its head: in an extraordinary world, one person is very ordinary.”
ORDINARY tells the story of Michael Fisher, a divorced plumber who never sees his young son and who lives in a crummy one-bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. Michael drinks and smokes too much, owes a small amount of money to a local drug dealer and is always late for jobs. He’s pissed off everyone by this stage of his life, even his best friend nd business partner. He’s balding, has glasses and you wouldn’t look twice at him if he passed you in the street. He is one of the most unremarkable people alive. He is a loser.
And then one day everyone in the world gets super powers. Except for Michael.
Suddenly this most ordinary of men is 100% confirmed as the most ordinary man on the planet. The biggest loser in the history of humanity, one could argue.
But everyone getting super powers is not the utopia for mankind one would imagine. Every single petty argument suddenly has the capacity for colossal loss of life, every criminal can now take what they want, every terrorist has the ability to go all ‘Zach Snyder-directed Final Act Of Man Of Steel’ on their target, and every war zone around the globe suddenly explodes.
It quickly becomes clear that a cure needs to be found…
And there are NO superheroes in this story. Not one person dresses in lycra and attempts to save the day. It’s largely about how real people deal with their new abilities, for good and for bad. And we follow Michael through this bugfuck terrifying landscape. He has to become our hero, even if he has absolutely no idea how to do that.
He has to find something extraordinary within himself.
I’ll be talking more about Ordinary – a LOT more, no doubt (sorry) – in the months to come. But here’s an initial look at D’israeli’s art on the series, which he’s also colouring himself.
The work D’israeli and I have done on Low Life is probably the thing I’m most proud of in my comics career. Low Life: The Deal, in particular, is probably the one comic of mine I’d like buried with me in my enormous bald sarcophagus, probably. His storytelling is quite superb and he gets wonderful acting performances from the cast – so few artists do that. Plus, in terms of imaginative spectacle and scale, I know full well that he can deliver pretty much anything I throw at the script (he no doubt curses me greatly for it, but it’ll end up looking amazing on the page). See, as an example, the ocean parting within Mega City One in Low Life: Creation:
That’s D’israeli’s lettering notes there in red, by the way.
And there was his stunning depiction of Hondo City in Low Life: The Deal:
But it’s also the pathos he brings to the body language of Dirty Frank that I love. It adds an extra dimension to the strip, allows me to write an emotional core to the story rather than it just being crash-bang-wallop. Investing the time into a creator-owned project – while exciting it means a substantial cut in wages up front – meant that I only wanted to do it if I had the right artist who could sell what I wanted Ordinary to be, and D’israeli more than does that. I was really thrilled when he agreed to do it.
And while it sounds like typical marketing splurge, I do suspect that Ordinary may be the best thing I’ve written. The thing I’m happiest with in terms of final scripts, certainly. The characters, for whatever reason, seemed to really pop on the page when I was writing them, their dialogue came so easy it was exciting, and it felt true and three-dimensional. And while Ordinary is filled with amazing visuals of enormous scale, comedy and big, exciting action set-pieces, it’s also quite a small and personal story, in a way. And it doesn’t lose that, even when it’s final act gets very frenetic. It’s funny and sad I very much hope people like it as much as I do.
It’ll launch in the Judge Dredd Megazine in the UK, initially, and then Titan Comics are going to release it as a mini-series for the US market and then as a graphic novel. More news on release dates soon.
Also: THE TEN-SECONDERS: GODSEND starts in next week’s 2000AD (1839, if I recall correctly). I’ll write about that on the weekend.