THE CHUK CHRONICLES #01
Remember Andy Xenon?
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When talking about Tom Pinchuk the Writer, I’ve lately found it useful to call myself a “man of duality” – as in, my credits range from Cartoon Network to Heavy Metal Magazine. Stories for all-ages, and for mature readers. TV. Comics. Prose. “New media.” I’ve done it all. But I do hope my next project, Remember Andy Xenon?, will maybe bridge some gaps in that there duality…
The comic will be available for pre-order in mid-July through Zoop, a new comics outfit. More on them below. But first, a little reflection…
For the past few years, my focus has been on animation. I’ve written on shows like Ben 10, among others, and even sold an original series to Cartoon Network. The latter was in development for several years before winding up a casualty of the AT&T merger. That whole process was still an invaluable learning experience, and I was lucky to have a very supportive creative exec throughout. One of these days, I may share more about it. For now, though, what’s relevant to my current project is that, over those years, I came to miss the immediacy of comics a bit.
Many departments must sign off on a TV show, at so many different stages. Often, contracts require you to keep a project secret for years when you’re dying to tell everybody about it – right now! A comic, though, can be in front of an audience as soon as it’s complete pretty much. After working long and hard to craft characters and a world I was really proud of, only for them to have to go back into a drawer ultimately, I just wanted to get back to basics. You know, telling a story to an audience.
Hence, Remember Andy Xenon? is a self-contained one-shot. 48 pages. Call it a graphic novella. No need for anybody to do homework ahead of reading, and no having to wait months for the issue that gets to the point. It’s a complete story. Beginning. Middle. End. Nothing held back. I assembled a team of fantastic collaborators – foremost being illustrator Nikos Koutsis – and we worked real hard to make it something accessible, yet intricate. We want readers to sink into this, savor it and keep finding more texture to appreciate with each re-read.
A big inspiration for this comic came from the times I’d encountered young adult fans of blockbuster franchises I wrote for, like Max Steel. Viewers who’d grown up alongside a kid hero, year by year, only to feel frustrated when reboots de-aged him, with new brandings making clear that they’d “aged out” of the target audience. It makes all the sense in the world to keep a kid hero in a kids show relatable to the intended demo (kids), of course, but I still couldn’t shake these interactions – nor help but relate them to my own experiences as a fan. So many of my favorite comics took more grown-up perspectives on characters and genres often dismissed as child’s play.
When I talked with Nikos and found out he’d also worked on a kid hero reboot, with Stretch Armstrong, Andy Xenon started rapidly forming in my mind. How would it feel for a kid hero to age out? Where could he go next in his life? Andy’s journey looked like a perfect metaphor for the ups and downs of growing up, and I wanted to take readers on that journey with him as soon as I could.
The end is only just the beginning for Andy, of course. You can see more of the book’s premise on Zoop’s landing page. My connecting with them was very much right place, right time, and it’s so exciting to be on the ground floor with an outfit like this. It’s a new type of company (and I’m sure there’ll be some new, precise name for it sooner or later), but basically Zoop will be handling pre-orders, deliveries and reward fulfillment. The crew there have managed the biggest comics Kickstarter campaigns, from Brzrkr to Nocterra, so the notion now is that they’ll focus on what they’re good at while I get more time to focus on what I’m (presumably) good at – telling stories to an audience.
Their launch titles have done great, so far, and it’s also such an honor to be included alongside top-flight creators like Ron Marz, Andy Lanning, Des Taylor, Bart Sears and Rick Leonardi in this initial line-up of titles. Again, the campaign’s coming mid-July, so sign up for reminders on Zoop’s site if you want to be in on the action first. I’ll certainly be talking more about the book here, too.
In other news, I never expected I’d be playing creative matchmaker for the Barenaked Ladies in 2021, but it’s a tangled web we weave. Enis Cisic animated and co-directed their latest music video, “New Disaster.” Give it a watch first and I’ll share my role in its creation below…
Cool clip, right? When I first saw a cut, it nicely reminded me of the “Do the Evolution” music video Todd McFarlane directed for Pearl Jam, which is one of my all-time favs. Enis’ sharp media satire comes through in such clever visual metaphors, and the dichotomy of dystopic imagery with upbeat, almost polite, vocals is just so… catchy.
Now, what did I have to do with this? Well, a college friend reached out to me a few months ago, asking if I could recommend any comics artists to his friend, who’s in the band’s management company. B.N.L. was looking to theme the promo for their next single after graphic novels, and it seems my reputation as a “comics guy” from college had endured.
As timing would have it, I had just brought Enis in as one of the guest artists for Remember Andy Xenon’s big companion piece. (More on that in the coming weeks). Enis is a truly versatile artist, not only illustrating in a variety of styles and media, but also being quite adept as an animator and director. The project called for somebody who could wear a lot of hats and, to mix wardrobe metaphors, the shoe definitely fit on Enis. See him at work in the bonus “Making Of” clip…
There’ve been so many times I’ve made referrals like this, but people’s schedules don’t end up overlapping and nothing comes of it, so I’m doubly glad everything worked out on “New Disaster,” and worked out so well. Fittingly enough, it was another college friend who introduced me to Enis in the first place, so it goes to show that it’s worth it to keep in touch?
I don’t want to unveil every part of Remember Andy Xenon? just yet (including how Enis is specifically involved), but I will soon. I promise his idiosyncratic style will mesmerize once again.
TIPS & TRICKS
I think often about how, when you break it down, my job these days is simply a more evolved version of me smashing toys together at age five. Especially when I’ve worked on franchises where the assignment really does boil down to being given an action figure and then asked what it’ll do next. Of course, one would think (hope) that I’ve gained better impulse-control in the intervening years, so I keep coming back to this analogy of “Dumping the Toybox” as a writing tip…
Picture this scenario: a kid’s sitting next to a toybox at recess. The box contains 30 different figures and there’s only a half-hour to play. What’s the kid’s first impulse? Dump out the box and play with all the toys at once. Obviously. Problem is, that means each toy only gets a minute of attention, and the kid winds up with this surprising dissatisfaction by the end, having never gotten to know any one toy very well.
With a little more patience and restraint, said kid might realize that picking up only a few toys out of the box would allow for each to be appreciated more. Seems counterintuitive, but six toys mean five minutes for each, three toys means ten minutes per, and one would get a full thirty minutes of attention, with the kid getting to know its every feature instead of constantly rushing on to the next one.
Back when I edited an anime magazine, I reviewed upwards of a thousand episodes. Several complete series were in that mix. With a lot of comparing/contrasting, I observed the better ones often were better simply because they paced their cast members’ introductions more deliberately. Whether it’s a shonen anime or a superhero comic (or even a sitcom like the Office that had maybe 18 featured characters by the end) it’s understandable to look at later installments of a series you like as a fan and want to capture the fun of big story with a big cast. It can easily lead you into a pitfall, though, if forget you’re trying to emulate issue #413 or episode #86 instead of the beginning, and each character already got at least a whole issue/episode to themselves.
Anyway, I think about the toybox a lot. I’ve noticed feature films can typically only handle ten “toys.” More than that, and the characters must jockey for the spotlight. Less than that, and you get that much more time to know and care about them.
I thought about the toybox even more than usual while making Remember Andy Xenon? The aim was to make it feel like Andy had countless adventures behind him, and a host of enemies and allies around him – but only for it to feel that way. So, we were careful about which characters he actually got to speak to and know versus which ones he only got colorful glimpses of. With any luck, this analogy will make some sense when put into action.
I’ll be sharing more Tips & Tricks in future Chuk Chronicles. If you have any writing questions, or thoughts on my work, shoot me a message. You might get answered here! More details on Andy Xenon’s massive companion piece next time!