Tuesday, 20 August 2013

The Half-Dozen (or so) That Got Away: Part Two

The Ragged Man, a story I've written and been interviewed about a few times over the last couple of years, started out back in 2003 as my first attempt at writing a full-length graphic novel script. It was the product of (at the time) eight years of living in London and as much a personal exorcism for me as a straight-up comic story. Hell - it was virtually a suicide note for the person I'd been up to then and the first gasping breath of who I was after. I wasn't going to be the Cy Dethan who did card tricks for a living any longer, nor the guy who freelanced writing corporate copy. Well, actually, I was still going to be both of those things, but this script meant that whatever else I was doing to make money, I was now the Cy Dethan who wrote comics. Originating with what became known as the "Golden Square Monologue" (see pages 1 and 2, right), this script meant the world to me on those terms alone and, in its original form, I suspect it was virtually unreadable.

The artist attached was a friend, and also the tattooist responsible for fully 50% of my own ink and a sizeable chunk of Nic's. He eventually ran screaming from the project when his own life took a few weird turns, but by then things were already in motion on Starship Troopers and Cancertown so it made sense to focus on those for the time being.

After it became clear that Cancertown was going to be a thing, at least in terms of indie first-timers, The Ragged Man (in a much more coherent and structurally sound form) got picked up by the ill-fated Insomnia Publications. This version of the script was stronger, tighter and altogether more like something I'd want to be judged on. It was also notable at that time as the script I'd pitched to Markosia as "the book I'm not going to sell you". That's a long story in itself, though, and a little out of place here.

Weirdly enough, after Insomnia's ugly, drawn-out death, "the book I'm not going to sell you" was among those picked up by Markosia. The new art team was one I knew from Starship Troopers, so I thought I knew what to expect from them. I was very, very wrong. I honestly couldn't have imagined how good their work would turn out to be.

For the first time in years, The Ragged Man seemed to be a genuine publishing prospect, which actually made me nervous as Hell. It was still a very personal story to me, despite having all its worst and most self-indulgent excesses pared back. I was doing interviews on SciFi Pulse, I was showing artwork here and on my website -  and all the while I was waiting for the punchline...

...which eventually came in the form of a long conversation with the artist and colourist. They'd been offered a job that was, in all seriousness, too good to pass up, and it was going to take them away from all other work for the foreseeable future. The publisher and I agreed that this was something they absolutely needed to pursue, and said we'd wait as long as it took. In fact, the very idea of working with a new art team after seeing this take on the project was, and remains, frankly ridiculous.

That was how things stood some time in 2011, and that's how they stand now. The Ragged Man is still officially in production but any estimate I could give as to a publication date would be total fantasy. For that reason, I'm mentally listing it among the ones that got away.

In case any of the above sounds unnecessarily mournful, I should clarify that I have absolutely no regrets about anything that happened on this book. Well, the one exception might be the three seconds of my life I wasted considering the advice the first editor I ever showed the script to. I never delete work emails so I quote directly here, other than tidying up his spelling, punctuation and grammar (yes, all three):

"I understand that it's going against the whole image of the character, but more fashionable attire would help (in a grungy/trampy way). Think tramp-Matrix or tramp-Alien 3."

 That's the wind-up, and here's the pitch:

Alone and despised, the Ragged Man drags himself through life with the weight of murdered billions on his shoulders. He is hated by the world and everything in it, his body a prison to a race of monsters. With every skin cell he sheds, with every drop of blood, a tiny piece of their reality escapes into ours, and a tiny piece of our world ends.

Who do you think you are?
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