Saturday, December 05, 2009

December 5, 2009
Yesterday, our receptionist, Lynda, came into my office and said, "There's a gentleman up front who wants to talk to you about Mickey Free."

It was Mundo.

Lynda was kind of taken aback by how well I seemed to know this person I was meeting for the first time (welcome to the world of online friendships). As if you didn't know, Mundo is a zany contributor to our Ning website community and although we have emailed and posted and commented on each other's posts, I had never met him until yesterday.

I brought Mundo back to my office and we talked a bit about our community (the one you're in right now) and all of the recent Brokeback controversy (Mundo recommends everyone lighten up).

From there we compared growing up notes: we both were into dirt bikes (I raced a Triumph 500 in the late sixties, then gave it all up, but Mundo is still into it up to his eyeballs: he collects them and has a classic German ride—a Macco?— in his living room!); we both got the surfer bug (he moved to Cal in the early seventies, lived in his sister's apartment on the beach, surfed every day, met a beautiful surfer girl and married her: me, I collected Beach Boys LPs, wore surfer shirts and married a girl from Michigan. Ha.) And, in addition to rock 'n' roll, we both have always dug the Old West. Which brought us back around to Mickey Free.

He wanted to know the status of the project. What happened?

I told Mundo that we struck out with our True West excerpt of the story. Both Paul Hutton and I have some pretty solid contacts in Hollywood and, to put it bluntly, they all passed. When Hutton was here last month for the surprise birthday party for Robert Utley, Paul and I had lunch at Tonto Bar & Grill and spent most of an afternoon taking stock of what went wrong. Although I suggested perhaps we move on and count it as a loss, The Top Secret Writer was, and is, adamant that we give it another shot.

We talked about taking another route into the story, one that would involve our narrator, Frederic Remington, coming to Arizona late in life and trying to solve the mystery as he travels the territory and interviews the principals in the Apache Kid mystery.

Although this has merit, I still feel like we are missing the heat of the story, which is the relationship between Mickey Free and the Apache Kid. We have crafted a decent story, but the actual conflict between the two is MIA (literally Missing In Action).

Hutton went home to write a new version of the story while I have been mulling a new way to get past my graphic novel blockage (I refuse to do word balloons!). Last week I had a possible breakthough: while giving a slide show presentation at the Heard Museum (I showed them the 100 covers which you can see on the main page of this site), I came to the Mickey Free cover (November-December, 2008) and as I sketched in the story of the one-eyed mixto who started the longest war in the history of the United States, I noticed that the crowd became quite engaged. They wanted to know more.

Several women (the crowd was 95% women) came up to me afterwards to ask about this Mickey character. Was he real? Hmmmm.

As I drove back out to Cave Creek, I thought it might make a good future speech-slide presentation to put together the story of Mickey Free and the Apache Kid utilizing photos, good Mapinator maps and my drawings, a la Remington, to illustrate the story. When I started to think about the story from this perspective, it all started to click, and I realized this is definitely something I could do.

I heard a story about the Marx brothers. Supposedly, a famous producer (Irving Thalberg?) made them take the show on the road first before they filmed the movie. I think they went to Albuquerque, of all places, and road tested the jokes. Many they thought were going to be hilarious, bombed and, so they wrote more jokes, tried them out, and only used the proven winners in the subsequent film, Duck Soup, which is a classic.

So, I think I'll road test Mickey Free a la Duck Soup with an Al Gore Inconvenient Truth style presentation and keep refining it until we have something that really works.

So, that is my current angle of attack. And for this I say, "Thanks Mundo!"

"I would never belong to a group that would have me as a member."
—Grouch Marx

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