Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
My original intention was to file this under “What Could Have Been,” but unlike a lot of failed-pitch stories, Neil Kleid’s (Brownsville, The Big Kahn) Tapestry appears to be getting a happy ending.
The writer unveiled the concept on his blog, where he called it “a work in progress that may never come.” He wrote, “Years ago, I had an idea for an all ages fantasy story called The Secret Life of Wally Meiers — a Harry Potter-meets-Quantum Leap inspired tale about a kid recruited into being a hero that would save all heroes from a madman with designs on ending a universe of stories. It was a father-son story (as most of mine tend to be; make of that what you will) with cool things like Jewish robots, laser fitted space sharks and included such supporting characters as Odysseus, Moses and Indiana Jones.” Consider me hooked.
He revealed that the title. plot and artists have changed over time (the concept art in this post is by super-talented Amy Pearson, who sadly is no longer part of the project), but that he never lost the desire to tell the story. Kleid even had a format picked out: four self-contained volumes that combine to tell a larger story.
The current incarnation is called Tapestry, and tells the story of a young boy who “reluctantly joins a wisecracking, cigar-smoking pigeon” as he trains to be a hero and looks for his long-missing father. “With the help of a fairy cleric, a dying world’s last journalist, an eager vampire slayer and a Jewish robot,” Kleid teases, “our reality’s would-be savior battles mad super villains, shape-shifting demons, feline corporations and the armies of the dead while learning to save existence by depending on the strength of his friendships.”
In his post, Kleid wasn’t confident about the future of the project, but he mentioned recently on Twitter there may be life in it yet, thanks to NBM, which published his books Brownsville and The Big Kahn. That made me happy, so I asked Kleid if he’d be willing to answer some questions and clarify some details about the project and its status.
Michael May: You mentioned on Twitter that you’re resurrecting Tapestry for NBM, but the Tumblr post doesn’t mention that. Is NBM the confirmed publisher or were you just saying that you’re pitching it to them?
Neil Kleid: Yeah, I actually posted that before NBM agreed to take on the series — but my good pals at Nantier • Beall • Minoustchine (uh … NBM) are the confirmed publishers of the books in the Tapestry series.
Then is there a publishing schedule (or at least a ballpark) yet?
If there’s a ballpark, it’s the potential diamond waiting in Ray Kinsella’s cornfield, aching for someone to come along and build.
Yes, there’s a schedule … a loose, long, tentative one. Basically, while the first book in the series, Tapestry, is mostly written, the art process is still in the fledgling state … as in, we’re still talking to artists. I’d love to tell you it’s definitely going to see print in 2015, but that means all our ducks would have to line up in their respective rows very, very soon for that to happen. If it does, I could tentatively propose (depending, of course, on NBM’s publishing schedule) the first volume to arrive late 2015 with the second volume showing a year or two after, and so forth.
We’re currently aiming to break the books down to 96-page installments, so we may be in for more than four volumes should the series be well received. I always had the Twilight series in mind for this — four big-ass volumes, each book presented as a standalone story within a larger umbrella narrative. Now, though, I’m using Jeff Smith’s Bone as a model, wherein we have volumes broken into chapters that can eventually be collected as a single, continuous novel.
You say you’re talking to artists, but could Amy Pearson still be an option?
Amy is an amazing artist, and I was thrilled to be able to dream up the studies we did together early on, but she’s immensely talented and has so many projects and ideas of her own to focus on, so unfortunately, she won’t be able to illustrate Tapestry. That being said, I would love to work with her again when she does find the time to collaborate.
In the meantime, there is another artist I’m working with on the project — character studies and layouts should be hitting my inbox within the next few weeks — and I’m hoping we can begin filling in the squares of this sequential tapestry as soon as next month, getting the book on course for that aforementioned 2015 deadline.
You mention on Tumblr that it features Indiana Jones. I’m assuming that’s an Indy-like character, right? Or is it actually Indy and you don’t name him? Just curious about how that works.
Well, like the blog post said, Tapestry is an idea I’ve had simmering for years and while some characters and plot points have withstood the test of time, certain characters — even cleverly crafted archetypes — fell by the wayside. The Indiana Jones character, Jack Gray, entered my ideascape as the archetype for all handsome, serial action heroes … the adventurous leading man who saves the day, gets the girl, jets off for further adventure. Jack had been earmarked to educate our lead — eleven-year-old would be hero Wally Meiers (inspired by and named after one Walter Mitty, a more secret hero there never has been) — in the ways of courage, adventure, camaraderie and general do-goodness. But again, over time my tapestry rewove itself into interesting new designs and the threads of our story strung away from our exciting Mister Gray… and like most great ideas and excellent characters, he waits inside my mind for the proper tale and perfect timing.
Who knows? As the Tapestry series is a story in which the hero saves a multiverse of stories, perhaps the proper tale will reveal itself in the telling?
Until it does, however, I console myself with an Institute brimming with characters such as its headmaster, Moses (yes, that Moses), and its lead trainer, Coach Odysseus. My hands itch to tap out dialogue for characters like Pigeon Nick and Casey Hogan, Minister of the Abbey at the End of the World. You’ll meet the Directors of the Worldwide Trust (not our world, mind you, but one kinda familiar) who are a twisted take on, in my mind, four of the most evil cartoon characters ever invented. And of course, you’ll meet heroes — Wally, Viva, Noah, Edgar and Mac — and villains — Malachi Crane, the Gray Man, Peter Hobble… and the Emperor of Emptiness, the Lord of Limbo himself… Rival, the man determined to orchestrate the end of everything by tearing apart the tapestry of existence… one square at a time.
Whew. I don’t know about you, but I kinda want to read that. Hope someone writes it.
Oh, wait. Er. Excuse me for a bit. Cool?