How it Happened: I Hunt Killers

I Hunt Killers mass market paperback

This one’s easy. I’ve already written about it!

Check out this piece I wrote for Mulholland Drive a few years back. It’s basically got the story down pat, though in looking at it now, a couple of details (mostly about timing) are off. No big deal, though.

How it Happened: Yesterday Again

Archvillain #3: Yesterday AgainThe title came first.

I’ve always loved time travel stories. I mean, I’m obsessed with them. You give me a good time travel story and I’m a happy guy. Give me a mediocre one, and I’ll deal with it. Give me a bad one and I’ll figure, Well, at least it was a time travel story.

The title “Yesterday Again” wouldn’t leave my mind. It was perfect for a time travel yarn, right?

In the very first Archvillain, I made a reference to Kyle trying to build a time machine. I knew that one day — in some book — he would succeed and travel in time. Now, I had originally signed on to write three books and two were done. I was hopeful that the publisher would want more than three, but no one had said anything yet. I figured I’d better do the time travel story now, just in case.

When deciding where/when in the past Kyle would go, I settled on the time of my own childhood — the 1980s.1 That worked out such that Kyle’s parents would be his age, which meant I could have some fun with a generational storyline. Throw in the idea of a 21st century kid trying to navigate the pre-internet age, and I was happy to get started.

The first draft of the book flowed. Not as easily as The Mad Mask, but pretty easily.

Then, my editor gave me the bad news: The publisher didn’t want any more Archvillain books. This would be the last one.

Anticipating further adventures, I had actually left Yesterday Again very open-ended. But that just wouldn’t be fair to the readers. So I dug back in, added in some more material, and rounded out the story so that Yesterday Again could act as a finale.

If you’re interested in what could have been, stay tuned for an upcoming installment of “Stories I Never Told,” in which I’ll peel back the curtain a bit on how I had intended to continue the Archvillain saga!

  1. And believe me, it makes me feel unfathomably old when I realize that to my readers, the 1980s are as ancient as the 1880s.

How it Happened: Game

Warning: Spoilers for Game!

First, let me get this off my chest: The title of the book is Game. Not The Game. Just Game.

Game coverI feel better now. 🙂

Not much to say about the genesis of this one. I had signed on to write two books, I Hunt Killers and a sequelThen I convinced my publisher that the story should be a trilogy. Good thing, too, because as I recount here, I didn’t really know how to tell the whole story in just two books. [Read more…]

How it Happened: The Mad Mask

The second book in the ARCHVILLAIN series: The Mad Mask!Given that it’s part two in a series, you’d think that there’s not much to tell about how The Mad Mask came to be…and you’d be right! This is gonna be a short one.

The book had to happen, of course, because I was contracted for a total of three Archvillain books. But the story didn’t have to be the one I turned in. I decided on introducing the Mad Mask because of something my brother said to me.

When I was first debating whether or not to write the series at all, my brother pointed out — as I mentioned last time — that I could have a lot of fun parodying the comic books I loved so much. And he was right! That’s why, for example, most of the teachers at Kyle’s school are named after various super-hero secret identities.

“You could totally have fun making of Dr. Doom,” he pointed out, and in that instant, the Mad Mask was born.

Read the Mad Mask’s dialogue. Change some proper nouns and it’s pretty much Stan Lee Dr. Doom dialogue. My only innovation was shoving the egomaniacal blathering of a genius scientist-cum-European despot into the mouth of a 14-year-old brat.

I was channeling Stan the Man something fierce and loving every minute of it. (It’s no accident that the Mad Mask’s creation — Ultitron — is a portmanteau of two Marvel robotic villains, Ultron and Ultimo.)

Anyway, once the villain was settled, I realized that I could have a lot of fun playing off the idea that Kyle was now in the middle of a horrible spectrum, with Mighty Mike — dumb do-gooder — on one end and the Mad Mask — wily lunatic — on the other.

And of course no matter what he did, Kyle would still end up hated and feared by the population in general. Poor kid can’t catch a break.

I wrote this one fast. Not because I had to — it just flowed out of me. And when it was done, it needed very little work, just some light tweaking. Man, I wish they were all like that!

(Oh, trivia note: With this book, a new editor came on-board the series about halfway through. Her only request: That I please stop naming characters with the initials M. M. — she was getting confused by her own notes! I agreed that the joke had gone on long enough.)




How it Happened: Mangaman

Mangaman coverIt’s no secret that I’m a comic book guy. I worked in the industry for close to ten years, but I was a fan for the years before that.

I happened to work in comics during the early 21st Century’s massive surge in popularity of manga. The whole situation was very weird because the “traditional” American comic book stores were generally very much anti-manga, while bookstores — which had heretofore ignored comics — jumped on the manga bandwagon. It was a strange situation.

One of the guys I worked with was relatively new to comics, but a former bigwig in the book industry. He came to me one day and said, “I don’t get it — manga is huge and only getting bigger. The bookstores see it and they’re making a ton. Why won’t the comic book stores get on board?”

I tried to explain the history of the comic book business and how most comic book stores had been started by guys who loved American super-hero comics. So there was a personal taste issue preventing them from seeing the benefit of manga. Similarly, many manga fans didn’t like American comics.

And this got me thinking: What if you could create a comic book that crossed this divide? A comic that appealed to those who liked the “clean, realistic” art of a Western comic and the fantastically distorted art that characterized so many popular manga?

The general idea popped into my head immediately: Mangaman. A guy from a Japanese comic ends up in the real world. Hilarity ensues.

For years, that’s all I had in my head — a series of sight gags involving manga tropes colliding with the real world. Nothing more.

Then, around 2008 or so, my editor said to me, “Hey, do you have any interest in writing a graphic novel?”

Mangaman panelShe was expecting something akin to, in her words, “an R-rated Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” but all I could think of was my Mangaman idea. I could set it in high school! I could invert and subvert the “Romeo and Juliet” tropes! I could make it a romance between star-crossed lovers and disparate art styles!

I could go meta with it!

I was pretty psyched. I wrote up an outline and a couple of scenes in comic book script and my agent dutifully sent them off.

My editor was…nonplussed. The problem, of course, was that I had been steeped in comic books my entire life. She hadn’t been. She wasn’t getting it.

The big issue was that she had no idea what this would look like. A pretty crucial issue, you’ll agree!

So, my agent asked who, in my dream world, would draw the graphic novel. I only knew of one person who could draw in both a super-realistic American style and in the sort of cartoony Japanese style I craved for this project: Colleen Doran.

I dropped this name to my agent, cautioning her: “Just use her name so that editors can get an idea of what I’m thinking in terms of the visuals. Colleen is a big deal artist and way too busy for the likes of me. When we sell the book, I’ll have to find someone who can do it, but in the meantime, Colleen is what I have in my head. But don’t, like, call her or anything.”

“Of course not!” my agent replied.

Literally an hour later, my phone rang. It was my agent. “Colleen wants to talk to you,” she said.


Sometimes, your agent disobeys a direct order, and it’s great. Because Colleen and I talked. I spelled out what I wanted to do. She said to me, “Barry, this looks like a hell of a lot of fun. Let’s do it!”

And we did.