Sunday, November 25, 2007

Red Beard and Two Gun

Years and years ago, after I'd gotten my foot in the door and sold some comic scripts to Marvel and got DC Comics to open the way (just a crack, mind you), I was able to submit proposals at *******. One editor there was quite open and I was about to sell him a ***** *** proposal when ***** ****** suspected that he was in danger of pushing her out and taking her throne and she conspired to get rid of him. So I never sold the *** series (it would have kicked ass).

When he left, my contact at that point was a truly hideous bitch named ***** *******, a lying whore of a woman. At any rate, I'd gotten her to actually read my submissions and she was returning letters and even phone calls and I was getting close to selling a pitch even to her. But I realized all was lost when I sent her this one for the comic book *** ********, for which I was told I had a very good chance of landing at least a single issue story. To sell there at that time, you either had to be a friend of **** ******'s, or have had your genitalia mutilated by a crazed physician so that you could pretend to be a woman, or both. So it was fortunate that I'd been able to have my proposals read without either of those credentials. In those days, a pitch had to be terse and to the point, and I'd gotten really good at writing one-page pitches. I sent this one, which she liked, but ultimately rejected.

James Robert Smith

A Story proposal for

*** ********

The protagonist of this story is "Karl", homage to the late Karl Edward Wagner. Red bearded stocky guy who carouses in the bar all day. A guy called Two Gun (Robert E. Howard) is always trying to get Karl to follow him to the top of "the mountain". Karl will never go since, for all his size, he will not fight through the crowds of zealots who guard the flanks of the mountain. But each month, Two Gun takes it upon himself to go to the heights and hack his way through the zealots and climb to the pinnacle and look down upon the world and experience the chill air and the amazing sunsets. And each time he descends the peak, he takes it upon himself to visit Karl in his tavern and try to talk him into coming along.

All the while, we are shown that Karl enjoys his wine. He also enjoys his smoke and he enjoys his snort and he enjoys his hash brownies. Then a certain woman introduces herself to Two Gun. He brings her into the tavern, and she gives Karl a hit of something new. Two Gun makes his monthly offer and this time Karl accepts, since he seems to be in the throes of some strange, new kind of high. Together, they hack their ways through the zealots and climb the heights and look down from the pinnacle and see the world from the chilly spire.

Karl comes down.

He has always been a peaceful sort. But now he has hacked his way through the zealots who guard the mountain. He has killed.

Pondering, growing more agitated as he goes; he makes his way toward the tavern. He is now in a frenzy.

At the tavern, all turn to see Karl, no longer his usual musing self. Now he is all fire and rage. He smashes down the door to the tavern, his face a mask to do Odin credit. The one who gave him the drug is there. She is his target. "You!" And, "You," he screams through foaming jaws. He grasps her and hauls her to him.

"Give me more," he says.


And what was her reason for rejecting the above proposal? It was specifically about Karl Wagner and Robert E. Howard, two of fantasy's greatest who were powerfully linked. She was aware of this and familiar with both. As she spoke to me over the phone one day, apparently very much interested in taking this plot, she said, "Why don't you change it to two writers people actually care about?"

I was, of course, struck dumb. I made a quick excuse and hung up the phone and never spoke to her again, although we did end up exchanging a few very nasty letters over a separate situation. Ah, my stillborn career in comics.


John Mayer said...

A great tale, James, and one I think Karl would have delighted in. Two bad he didn't live long enough to meet you and to read your tribute. You'd have shared many a drink.

James Robert Smith said...

Thanks. I wish I could have encountered a more thoughtful editor who was less of a pussy.