A Bitter Cocktail
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in his series of features on comic stories or series that never happened. This week it’s the turn of Dr Christina Blanch’s Untold Tales Of Charlie Wormwood…
Dr Christina Blanch’s Untold Tales Of Charlie Wormwood
With the various comics and dissertations she’s produced, Dr. Christina Blanch is a writer who has garnered a broad readership in both the four-color medium and academia. Now, with the release of The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood, her book for Source Point Press, she reveals a lost chapter to her forthcoming comic within the pages of Scott Braden’s Lost Tales.
First off, what’s her “Lost Tale” about – and what inspired it?
“This is a story arc I really wanted to do,” said Blanch. “When I taught in prison, at a certain location there was a guard change at the exact same time that classes let out. The front area was chaotic with the old guards getting off their shift, the new guards coming on, and all the teachers. No one checked anything or really anyone as we left. I joked to my friend Libby, who also taught in prison, that I bet we could sneak someone out at that time. For the record we did not and never would do this – I just want that clear. The plan was to take one extra piece of women’s clothing in a day and stash them. There are several ways this could be done. Then, when all the clothing is in, have the student don the clothes and walk out during the chaotic time. Easy peasy.
“For the story, I planned for Liz, our main female instructor, to bring in the clothes a little every time. One time it would be a pair of pantyhose – she takes them off and leaves them. No one would notice at all. An extra sweater. A double skirt. The shoes were difficult but then I found they had these little “ballet” type shoes that roll up. So, I would have Liz wear regular shoes and have these tucked away. I even had her wearing a wig in one day! The makeup was available on the inside, believe it or not. I really loved this idea and maybe as a backup story in an oversize new edition (no plans yet but I really want one of my books to have a slipcase!). It could be The Untold Tales of Charlie Wormwood. Who knows? It may be tough getting back into this world and it’s been a while since my co-writer, Chris Carr, and I were “in” prison. Well, I haven’t talked to him lately . . . kidding! “
Blanch’s “Lost Tale” was originally going to be an important chapter in a larger story, The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood. What is that bigger story about?
“Charlie Wormwood is about a teacher who has a sick son, a wife, and a lousy job teaching in prison that doesn’t pay very much,” explained Blanch. “After his insurance gets canceled by the university [which really happened to us!], he gets an ‘offer’ from an inmate to make some easy money. The story is about the decisions Charlie makes and how he justifies them. The stories told by the ‘students’ in the story are all based on real life stories that Chris and I heard or were told about in prison. We cleaned them up a bit – which doesn’t take away from them. Trust me. When I would turn a chapter in to our editor, he would always say that I must hate Charlie. I just would remind him that it’s called the damnation of Charlie Wormwood. Not the happy-go-lucky life of Charlie Wormwood.
“The Damnation of Charlie Wormwood is now being published by the amazing Source Point Press. This is a big deal for us because no one except the Source Point Press staff including our amazing new editor (who did lettering on the last half of the book) Josh Werner, head honcho of Source Point Press Travis McIntire, Chris, Chee, our original editor Mark Waid, and myself have read the last half. The entire story has never been put out there so we can’t wait for people to read it. We really hope everyone likes it as much as we do.”
When did Blanch first come up with the story – as well as the “Lost Tale?”
“I am relatively new to writing comics,” Blanch said. “I started thinking about creating a comic when I was reading articles critically analyzing comics and I disagreed with a statement that the author made. I realized that in order to really understand comics in my studies [I did my dissertation on Comic Book Scholars] that I needed to write one. About the same time, my co-writer Chris Carr met for coffee. He worked in prison, too, and the program had ended but we were friends and kept in touch. We were reminiscing about prison, retelling each other’s stories we both knew well, and he jokingly said we should write a book. I said we should make it a comic book. After much planning for the story, which changed a lot along the way, we submitted a pitch to Thrillbent, an online comic site started by John Rogers and Mark Waid. They accepted it and helped us find our artist, Chee, who is amazing, and they had a sort of staff letterer, Troy Peteri, who also happened to be a great friend as well as a great letterer [and he has wonderful Han Solo hair]. Chris and I would meet regularly at first, then life got in the way. This was not a paying job for Chris or I, so things happen. Chris got a real job and I was running the comic book shop and going back to school. I took over most of the writing and Chris would look the scripts over before they were sent to Chee. The story changed over time as sometimes the characters took a left turn instead of the right one we had planned. Anyway, a long answer to an easy question.”
Why is Blanch’s “Lost Tale” not being published?
“Our artist got a big job with a publisher who paid well,” said Blanch. “I couldn’t ask him to not take the project to finish this one, so we cut the number of “installments” down (originally this was a web comic on Thrillbent) so that he could stay and finish. His art is such an integral part of the story, it just wouldn’t have been the same. We did have a back-up artist just in case, and he did some great samples. Maybe we can include those in another book, too.”
What’s the future hold for Blanch as far as other projects go? Also, what other projects has she worked on in the past?
“I am working with Source Point Press on a series of books on evil,” Blanch revealed. “I am really excited for these and need to work more on them, but running the comic shop takes a lot of my time. I’m working on managing my time. I have written comics for Aw Yeah Comics, Monster Dojo for Action Lab, and Tales from the Crypt through Papercutz. I also wrote a dissertation that I am tweaking into a book. And I continue to pen articles for educational journals and book chapters.
Finally, what writers have inspired Blanch as the comic book scribe she is today?
“Controversial or not, Alan Moore has written my favorite story of all time,” Blanch insisted. “His Swamp Thing is something I read every year. Brian K. Vaughan makes me so mad because he is so damn talented and everything he writes is amazing. We also use the same format for our scripts, so I have that going for me. A newer inspiration has come from Aminder Dhaliwal and “Woman World.” I am in love with her work. And, Ray Bradbury, J. R. R. Tolkien, Timothy Zahn, George Lucas [say what you want about him, he gave the world Star Wars . . . which changed my life!], and so many more.”
Lost Tales©2019 Scott Braden. All Rights Reserved