The Curse of the Good Solicit, featuring "Kill Your Darlings"
There's a book you need to keep an eye on, and the solicit might not have clued you in.
Retailers should have the first two issues of Kill Your Darlings in their inbox - and I suggest they get around to giving them a read.
The book is the first major release from the “Supple Boyz”, Ethan S. Parker and Griffen Sheridan, a couple of names you might recognize if you’ve engaged with a lot of comics content here at Substack. The pair help run a few projects around these parts, and have long expressed their desire to work on comics themselves. If this first offering is any indication, the pair should have a healthy future in front of them.
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That said, the main reason I’m bringing this book to your attention has to do with how the book was pitched. Here’s the solicitation copy for the first issue:
Eight-year-old Rose loves nothing more than to play pretend in a magical land of her own creation. To her, that world is as real as our own, from her fluffy friends to the terrible evil that lurks at the center of it all. In one night, the line between fantasy and reality will disappear, an ancient hunger will feed again, and Rose will be pulled into a gruesome saga that began centuries before her birth.
A new epic begins from debut writers ETHAN S. PARKER and GRIFFIN SHERIDAN, and superstar art team BOB QUINN (Knights of X) and JOHN J. HILL (VANISH)!
This is a perfectly fine solicitation. Having read the comic, it conveys the needed information efficiently, while giving the reader room to discover more. On the face of it, that’s good. The problem? Good doesn’t cut it anymore.
Boiled down, the solicit says “chosen one narrative in a world of imagination”. It gives the window dressing for this concept, but manages to miss on that something extra. If I read this pitch verbatim to a customer, I don’t think I’d have much success, because while the words nail the concept, it completely misses the heart of this book. And oh boy, does this book have heart.
Kill Your Darlings has a sweetness and a hunger to it. Rose, our protagonist, is filled with boundless wonder. She’s telling her stories, and immersing herself in a world of her own creation. The way Parker and Sheridan manage to capture the bizarre random intention of child’s play is pitch perfect here, giving your mind a chance to drift along in the world Rose has built for herself. It makes things all so much harder when the other shoe drops.
You feel the turn happen in your guts. This is not how the world was supposed to be. It hits you square in the heart, and leaves you with just enough gumption to carry on. And you will, right through to the next issue, because this book is better than its solicit.
Given my druthers, I’d love it if creators took a succinct paragraph to explain the concept, as shown above, but chase that information with the emotional hook. I think of the bare bones description of, say, Spider-Man’s first appearance - “a young teen acquires spider-like superpowers and takes the world by storm… only to learn there are consequences for actions untaken.” That certainly is a story. What makes it the story, is the emotional intent and a book is far easier to sell when there’s a taste of that in the solicit. “Introducing a new superhero for you - never perfect, but always trying to be better.”
That’s my guy.
So. Kill Your Darlings. If I’m looking to give that extra bit of intent near the end, I’d look to the heart of this thing. A book about boundless wonderment, about the act of creating worlds meeting untold horrors. A book about rediscovering what you thought was taken from you through hardship, and building again. But with adventure.1 Let’s see.
“Eight-year-old Rose loves nothing more than to play pretend in a magical land of her own creation. To her, that world is as real as our own, from her fluffy friends to the terrible evil that lurks at the center of it all. In one night, the line between fantasy and reality will disappear, an ancient hunger will feed again, and Rose will be pulled into a gruesome saga that began centuries before her birth.
“A story about wonder in the face of great evil, and overcoming the fights we face every day, both real and imagined.”
It might not be a perfect addition - the creators would certainly know more about the emotional intent of this book than I would - but it is the tactic I’ll be using to sell the book to my customers. I have all the faith in the world that this book will become many people’s new favourites. We just have to get the dang thing in their hands first.
Well folks, it is good to be back. In a few short hours, I’ll have a piece up about Image moving to Simon & Shuster only to have S&S sell to a private equity firm. Today’s just couldn’t wait because final orders are due immediately.
Talk with you soon.
Also, if I had to guess, there’s some parallels between creators BUILDING WORLDS OF THEIR OWN to plug into the terrible, terrifying single issue comics machine, and a story of world building meeting it’s own horrors, but that’s a layer too deep for a pitch, I think.