Wednesday, April 18, 2012

We Moved!

You know, we got so excited about our new site that we forgot about the old one! If you've come here looking for Unbroken Skies material, check us out at our new site: Unbroken Skies

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Preparing for Planet Comic Con

 So the "Unbroken Skies" team has had an extrememly busy couple of weeks putting together our book and preparing for Planet Comic Con in Kansas City. This weeks post is going to be pretty minimal as we are discussing and preparing our next project for "Unbroken Skies" as well as creating a new website. We're hard at work and we will have some pretty exciting stuff on the blog soon so stay tuned and keep an eye on the sky.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preview: Santos' Journal

 We've been working extremely hard getting the first Unbroken Skies book "Santos' Journal" ready for Planet Comic Con in Kansas City. We're very close to completion and the book should be off to the printers any day now. In the mean time, the "Unbroken Skies" team thought we'd preview a few pages of the book. "Unbroken Skies: Santos' Journal" will be available at the con March 23rd and 24th. Here is a link for more information about Planet Comic Con.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Production Post #6 - On Santos

Oh, Santos. He’s the teacher’s pet, you know? If only every character could be like him, I tell his parents on Writer-Parent Meeting Night. His quiet demeanor and willingness to let things play out lend him a gravitas that make him very attractive as a character. His intelligence and strategic abilities make him a kind of character that writers often use as a stand-in for themselves. Self-aware and always looking at the long game, his view comes closer than any of the other Rogue Winds to matching that of the writer. He’s seeing things that are coming before I even see it, at times. It’s true. He’s a born leader in a lot of ways, which is exactly why he doesn’t want the role. He’s smart enough to stay back and out of trouble (well, as much as that’s possible for a rogue fighter pilot).
         But still, he leads me through situations and stories by his very ability to notice something. Oh, he sees Lori pacing? That must mean something. Oh, he’s heard of this trader? There’s probably some trouble ahead. He’s already braced for it by the time I figure out what it is, and has an escape route planned for he and the other Rogue Winds.
         It makes me feel lucky, to be honest, because he’s not as forthcoming with the other Winds as he is with me. Granted, they don’t get to be inside his head, and he doesn’t have much choice as to whether I’m there, but still. He’s quiet with them, and I think that quiet draws other people to him. The others watch him to see what he’s doing, because they know he won’t say anything unless he has to, and he’ll act when he thinks it’s appropriate and without any warning. He keeps them on their toes.
         In some ways, he’s become the default father figure of the group now that Captain Harrison is gone. I think this makes his relationship with Lori a little bit tense at times. Lori is the leader of the Winds, but she wants to prove her worth to her adoptive father. Santos is the stand-in for that father, so she needs to prove herself to him as well. When combined with her desire to prove herself worthy of command to her comrades, Santos makes her uncomfortable at times, and on occasion she feels resentful of Santos’ presence, his silence, his unwillingness to give approval. Santos, for his part, sees all the ways that Lori could improve, but would never dream of telling her what to do; that’s just not his style, and anyway some lessons need to be learned firsthand. His annoyance at her lack of confidence and her resentfulness of his silence leads to conflict. Of course, all of this conflict could be resolved with a simple conversation, but they’re fighter pilots, not therapists.

 Written By Dave Shapiro
Illustrated By Vince Medellin
Story By Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin

Character Introductions: The Rogue Winds - Part 4

“More tea, Harrison?” Gregor asked as he filled his weathered cup with the weak brown fluid.
“No, thank you. I’ve had my fill,” Harrison replied.
Maddie shuffled around the tiny kitchen and gathered up the dishes from their lunch. She chatted to Harrison about the state of Surgard, how many of their neighbors had moved topside when they got the chance. But they liked their shop, felt too much at home to ever try to find another place.
“The revolution was about respect,” she laughed, “not housing problems.”
“Tell us about your problem with the ship,” Gregor asked after they had grown tired of pleasant conversation.
“There’s not any kind of damage I can find. She’s just sluggish, losing power. Nothing so drastic I’m afraid of stalling, just a little catch in her spin.”
“Have you opened her up? Looked at her engine?” Maddie asked as she squeezed into the seat next to Gregor.
“Half a dozen times. Can’t find a thing.”
They continued to talk about the plane. They asked questions, and he answered what he could. They proposed theories then dismissed them. At some point, Harrison realized Frankie had joined them. He had held Frankie when she was just weeks old, and she’d grown up with him as a regular occurrence in their home. Now she was twelve years old and sharp as a prop. She crouched in the doorway of the kitchen, scribbling on a scrap of paper. The Burmann’s were debating the possible reasons for his engine trouble, so Harrison turned to Frankie.
“What are you so intent on, kiddo?” he asked.
“Your engine,” she replied.
“Really? What do you think?”
“I think your F-33 is a slick and spinning lady with one major catch in her gears,” Frankie said without looking away from her sketch.
By this time, Gregor and Maddie had stopped talking. Harrison looked over to them and found huge grins on their faces. Maddie met his eye and nodded. Frankie jumped up and slammed the paper down on the table. It held a detailed rendering of the Harrison’s engine. Frankie had circled several parts and scrawled illegible notes all around the page.
“Those wrenches in the Bans ain’t half bad at designing ships. But they can’t think three ticks into the future. They build for speed and maneuverability, to longevity. Here’s your hitch,” she said, pointing to one of the circled areas on her schematic.
“What’s the problem?” Harrison asked.
“Those square cogs didn’t consider the natural wear and tear inside your engine. You’re losing pressure, not so much to put you in danger, but enough to slow her down. We’ll have to break her heart and rebuild the whole Nulled thing.”
“What are the other notes you made?” Harrison pointed at the other circles on the schematic.
“The rest of the changes I’m going to make. I can up your speed a few ticks and get her sucking up less fuel.”
She continued to talk about her plans, and Harrison couldn’t follow half of what she proposed.
“That’s my girl,” Gregor mused.

Santos dropped into the cockpit of the P-22 Cloudfire and grinned. It was a Ban Altian ship, one of their first twin prop designs. The model had it flaws and hadn’t been produced in a decade, but older pilots talked about these ships in reverent tones. He’d seen a few fly back in Qullo, and he always thought they were beautiful.
“What do you think?” Captain Harrison called from below the plane.
“She’s amazing,” Santos replied. A few seconds later, Harrison climbed up to stick his head in the cockpit.
“Amazing. Looks like somebody retrofit most of the controls, though.”
“I did. They’re better like that,” a female voice came from the hangar door.
A young girl in a blue coverall jogged across the hangar toward them. She had red hair and a pale, round face streaked with engine grease. Harrison dropped to the ground and picked her up in a hug. She seemed embarrassed at first then smiled and hugged him back.
“When did you get back?” Harrison asked as she stepped back.
“Been a few ticks. The tour finished and I didn’t re-up,” as she spoke, a dark looked crawled over her face then dissipated.
“Santos, this is Frankie Burmann, the smartest mechanic you’re likely to meet. Frankie, this is the new man on my crew, Santos.”
Santos waved from the cockpit and Frankie flashed him a smile. She launched into a discussion of the Cloudfire, the changes she’d made and the things she wanted to tweak. Santos let her and the captain talk while he examined the controls. At first, he didn’t understand why she had moved things around in the cockpit. Then he started running through maneuvers in his head and everything clicked.
“This is fantastic,” he exclaimed.
“I know,” Frankie called from the floor slid right back into their conversation.
“I need a favor, Cappy,” she said after the tech talk had wound down.
“Anything for you, Frankie,” he said as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder.
“Take me with you.”
“Wait. What? You just got home…”
“I thought joining the army would get me in the air. I could fly fighters for Heimdurn because being a Cog isn’t a bad thing anymore,” she spoke in a whisper meant just for the two of them.
“You were wrong?” Harrison asked.
“Just traded one under city for another. They stuck me in the engine room on one of the carriers. Said I was too valuable a mechanic to waste in a ship. Buncha cracked gears, all of them.”
“Well then, I guess we’ll have to find Santos a different ship,” Harrison laughed.
“Oh, he can have her. The Cloudfire was just a way to keep me ticking. Wait til you see my ship.”
Harrison waved to Santos, and the pair of them sauntered out of the hangar. Another stick on the crew, Santos thought. He and Lori were finally starting to get along, At least they weren’t yelling at each other as much. Baggar had decided to stick around after that Nulled fight with the pirates and he was fitting right in. Now they had a mechanic, and Frankie seemed like one of the best. Santos smiled and dreamed of flying.
Frankie was born during a time of great unrest in Heimdurn. Her parents were Cogs in the Surgard under city during the darkest days of Leopold the Mad’s reign. The Committee on Progress called her parents and half the adults in Surgard to help build Drohnenstadt, the King’s flying fortress. Rather than give up their lives, the Cogs of Surgard revolted and an army of fellow workers ready to follow. Frankie grew up in hidden back rooms, listening to revolutionaries plan a new society.
When Ban Altia declared war on the weakened nation, Frankie enlisted without a second thought. She dreamed of flying a fighter in defense of her homeland. In reality, little had changed in the military. A Cog was still a cog to the old guard. She never got a chance as a pilot and took the first opportunity to leave the service. Disappointed but undeterred, she found another way to land in a cockpit. The Rogue Winds needed a mechanic, and she needed a squad worthy of her skill.

Written By Paul Dodson
Illustrated By Vince Medellin
Story by Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Production Post #5 - On Lori

I’ve never wanted to be a parent. Also, it’s cliche to refer to characters as your children, so let me back up. No, wait; let me just continue on. I get really protective of characters I spend a lot of time with, whether I created/wrote for them or not. The hallmark of a successful show, for me, is characters that resonate and have depth.
         How do you do that? Well, if you’re lucky, characters spring fully formed from the thigh of Zeus and you just plop them into a story and watch them go. I’ve had this happen before, and it’s a strange kind of magic (as opposed to the normal kind of magic). They’ll say things and do things seemingly on their own, and you end up surprised at how autonomous they are.
         But sometimes it takes real work. Sometimes a character is stubborn, and obstinate, and contrary for the sake of being contrary (which I’m honestly surprised I have a hard time understanding). Lori has been one of those characters for me. On the surface, her defining traits are clear enough. Brought into the fold by Captain Harrison when she’s a young, homeless orphan, Lori is willful, independent, self-righteous, but also wholly devoted to those deserving of her respect and love. She’s the one that keeps the Rogue Winds together, who stepped up to assume leadership, lest she lose her makeshift family and find herself an orphan again.
         But she keeps her emotions very close to chest. And as a writer, I find myself afraid of getting too close to her, like she’ll lash out at me if I pry too hard. That’s a ridiculous thing, I know, but still, I have a hard time writing her. That’s why I’ve been working with her more than any other character. I have yet to be really comfortable with her.
         There are other difficulties, too. There is, unfortunately, a lot of baggage that comes along with being a white dude writing a female of color. Even though the universe we’re endeavoring to build is devoid of much of that baggage, and I should therefore be able to write whatever I want, the viewer isn’t from that universe. The viewer is from our universe, and will use the shorthand of popular culture to determine who these characters are. This means we have to work against stereotypes. Lori is a strong female character, but it’s important that she not be a Strong Female Character. The difference is that a strong female characters is a human being, and a Strong Female Character is a stereotypical female character who also happens to be assertive (see also: “shrew”). A male character has the advantage of being seen by the bulk of an audience as already commanding some authority by virtue of his gender. A female character has to work harder to come across as strong, but still likable. It’s very angering. It’s too easy to make this type of character a “mother hen” type” (like Katara in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” who took a nurturing, controlling role in the group dynamic, which was really annoying at times).
But I don’t think Lori would care what you think of her. Lori’s not a born leader. She’s trying to keep her family together, and trying to live up to the legacy of her adoptive father. She’s not catering to some sort of internal desire to be mothering, and is actually pretty bad at taking care of people. In some ways, she’s the least suited to be in charge. She’s trying to prove to herself that she’s worthy of the faith her companions have placed in her, worthy of the second chance she was given to make something of herself. Whether this leads to success or failure, well, only time will tell.

Written By Dave Shapiro

Story By Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin

Character Introductions: The Rogue Winds - Part 3

 Santos didn’t like Cabry much. It was small and crowded and hung precariously from a mined out husk of rock. Every building looked worn down, like the inhabitants built them from discounted materials obtained second-hand. Even the glass that held his whiskey looked like it had been discarded by two or three far nicer establishments before ending up in Cabry’s single saloon: Friendly’s Hangar. Santos also knew these were not the reasons he wanted to get out of Cabry. He’d stayed in worse towns and choked down worse whiskey. What he hated about Cabry was all the Null-bound patriots.
“It’s only a matter of time before the Bans put an end to the rebellion,” the enormous man shouted then emptied his mug. “You burn down enough of those colonies and the rest of ‘em will fall in line.”
His friends, which filled up most of the bar, murmured agreement and pounded on tables as though they were anxious to attack a colony right after the next drink. Their leader was blonde and muscular and wore a weathered Ban Altian uniform. Santos recognized the colors but the cut looked outdated. Even the patriotism in this town was acquired second-hand. He motioned for the bartender to fill his glass.
“Do you know Captain Harrison?” Santos asked as he paid for the drink.
“Sure,” the bartender replied, “he glides through Cabry pretty regular.”
“Have you seen him lately?” Santos asked.
“It’s been a turn or two. Let me see…”
The bartender stopped when the patriot stumbled against the bar. He slammed his mug on the table and asked for more. His eyes locked on Santos while he waited and silence fell over his friends. Santos knocked back the last of his whiskey then stood.
“Can I help you with something, friend?” he asked.
“I was just overhearing your conversation, friend,” the patriot spat. “You talking about Captain Harrison and his Rogue Winds?”
“I suppose so. We have a mutual acquaintance, and I’d like to pass along a greeting.”
“I don’t like Harrison. He’s a coward. Too afraid to stand with the Bans against the ‘Durins and their colonial trash,” the big man leaned toward Santos as he talked. Two of his friends stood up and wandered toward the bar. Out of the corner of his eye, Santos caught a flash of metal as the bartender reached for something under the bar. Then a chuckle escaped Santos’ lips and turned into a belly laugh. The patriot didn’t react at first then joined in with a laugh of his own.
“As I said, he’s just a friend of a friend. I’ve never even met the man. Though your high opinion of him seems like a mark in his favor,” as he spoke, Santos backed toward the door. “You boys enjoy your evening.”
A Young Santos
The night had cooled down, and the air shocked Santos after the close heat of the bar. It took him a moment to get his bearing in the darkened streets. The Limitless, a Trade Guild zep he was crewing, was hangared and resupplying. He’d hoped Captain Harrison would be in town because the zep was moving on in the morning. Santos sighed. Another tour with the Limitless seemed inevitable. At least Baggar planned to stick with the crew. He could count on Baggar to keep things interesting.
Santos focused on not getting lost and almost missed the sound of footsteps behind him. He glanced back to find the patriot and a couple of his friends approaching. A narrow, cluttered alley presented itself, and Santos took a quick turn into it. The patriot charged after him, afraid of losing his prey, and Santos greeted him as he came around the corner. A boot to the groin sent the burly man groaning to the ground. His friends, who seemed less drunk, came into the alley more slowly. The alley was too narrow for them to flank Santos. He stepped over their collapsed friend and waited for them to make a move. The lead man charged at Santos with his arms spread like they were going to hug. Santos ducked under his arm then body checked him as he passed. He stumbled off balance and slammed face-first into the wall. The last man started to pull something from his coat, but Santos closed the distance between them and punched him in the throat. The gurgling sound he made seemed comical after his bravado.
“Stop,” shouted the patriot, and Santos turned to find a gun flashing in the moonlight. He raised his hands and took a step back.
“Looks like your fists…um…you brought a gun…I mean…This is a gun fight!” the drunk managed to stutter.
“Listen,” Santos began, “there’s no reason…”
“Shut up! I don’t like you smart-mouth tone. That’s reason enough.” The patriot raised his gun and drew back the hammer. Then a voice from the street caught them both by surprise.
“Shift’s wings, Dugan, I told you to be gone when I came back to Cabry.”
Santos couldn’t convince himself to look away from the gun, so he just listened for the new comer to take action. The patriot, Dugan apparently, got pale and let the gun droop just for a second. Then he tightened his jaw and his grip.
“This is none of your business Harrison. This boy ain’t…”
The thunder of the gun in the confined space stunned Santos. He waited to feel the pain from then gunshot. When Dugan fell to the ground, Santos realized he wasn’t going to die. He spun to find an older man with a dark flecked gray hair and beard wearing a long coat. The man was holding a pistol with a wisp of smoke rising from the barrel. The gun slid back into its holster as the man stepped forward.
“I told him I’d collect the bounty on him if he didn’t make himself scarce,” the man said to no one in particular.
“Captain Harrison?” Santos managed to ask after several false starts.
“I am.”
“I’m Edward Santos.”
“Pleasure to meet you Santos. You might want to get a move on before the local law shows up,” Harrison said as he checked on Dugan’s friends to make sure they were out of commission.
“But I’m here…” Santo started.
“Meet me at hangar 12 at dawn. If you handle yourself in the air as well as you did tonight, I might have a place for you on my crew.”
Santos couldn’t think of another thing to say. He jogged away from the alley and started toward The Limitless. Less than an hour later, he had packed up his few belongings, said his goodbyes to Baggar, and let Captain Kern know she had a hole to fill on her crew. He couldn’t sleep, and dawn rushed at him like a crashing fighter.
Santos comes from Qullo, a small town that was once a Ban Altian colony. He joined the Ban Altian military at 18, a talented young man anxious to fight the good fight. The Ban Altian exploitation of the colonies and the ensuing revolt was still just a dark cloud on a distant horizon. Santos just wanted to fly, and his natural skill served him well in the Air Corp. But after a few years at war, he began to question why he kept fighting. The Horizon War wasn’t about good versus evil or right versus wrong. It was two groups of people squabbling over lines on a map.
When Qullo and the rest of the colonies rose up against Ban Altia, Santos’ life in the corps got harder. Suspicion grew among the men, and the commanders started looking for “agents of the revolution” within the enlisted men. A letter from an old friend named Slip convinced Santos it was time to fly toward new skies. He deserted the army and took odd jobs for a while, drifting all over Caelum. Slip had suggested he seek out Captain Harrison and the Rogue Winds. When he finally found the Captain, he also found a new life.

Written by Paul Dodson
Illustrations by Vince Medellin
Story by Paul Dodson, Dave Shapiro and Vince Medellin