“I feel the conflict within you.” – Luke Skywalker
Spoilers for The Force Awakens to follow.
The Star Wars saga is nothing if not the persistent struggle between the Light and Dark, good and evil, right and wrong. These are notions we can all relate to, which we all know is part of why Star Wars is such a phenomenon. But watching The Force Awakens, I was confronted with a new conflict: my needs/wants as a fan and my rejection of fan ownership.
I’ll put this out there: I love helping out emerging creators and giving advice where I can. I’m by no means an expert in the field, but I certainly have career experience and have been through many parts of the process that newer creators have not. I’m very available — my email is public, my podcast has a voicemail line, I’m active on Twitter and Tumblr; the point is, it’s not hard to throw questions my way, and more often than not, you’ll get an answer in a timely fashion.
I think it’s imperative that we pay it forward as a community and help each other out whenever possible. I was helped — still am — by creator friends that have been down the path before me, and I feel comfortable reaching out to them for advice or to address concerns about something going on in my career (and sometimes: life).
But asking for advice and asking for favors are two very different things. I read friends’ comics all the time. I love it. I love reading things in their early stages and offering my input. And they do it for me. Like most writers (of any medium), I have friends and loved ones that I trust to read shit and give me honest feedback. It’s invaluable and something I recommend for anyone to have.
I’ve also introduced friends and collaborators to people that they should know, and have had the same done for me, but these are actual in-the-flesh friends and people that I have a positive working relationship with. That’s “networking.” That’s how these sorts of things go. Engage in the community, be a part of it, and get to know people on a level deeper than “who can do something for me?”
Part of being a writer in comics is pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Sometimes that’s for your creator-owned stuff, sometimes it’s at the request of a publisher for a particular property, and sometimes it’s just a passion project that you pitch to a publisher that you have a relationship with.
In this instance, it’s the latter — my co-creator on CAPTAIN ULTIMATE, Ben Bailey, and I wrote a Sonic the Hedgehog back-up in 2014 for Archie Comics. After the success of AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE and an impending ARCHIE revamp on the horizon, we took it upon ourselves to craft a new take on what is, I think, the best Archie property: JOSIE & THE PUSSYCATS.
So obviously nothing ever came of this — we tinkered with the idea of revising it into a creator-owned project, but in the time since we wrote this, “punk rock takes” on things have become all the rage and by the time our book would come out, it’ll most definitely be old hat.
So instead, we thought it’d be fun to just show off the pitch!
At the very least, you can enjoy this awesome playlist we made to accompany your reading.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones. And early ’90s Superman comics, I guess.
Death in stories is important. Or at least, it should be.
Coming from comics, we’re used to death being a revolving door. Heroes and villains die frequently and eventually return. It’s part of the tapestry that makes superhero comics what they are. The impact of these deaths, when done well, is a source of great drama and character exploration. Their purpose is to reinvigorate the ongoing stories with a new status quo and open up new paths of storytelling. Likewise when the same characters return.
The most well-known example — and the best, I would argue — would be the death of Superman. By 1992 Superman had become sort of passe, an optimistic character in a pessimistic world. In an era of things like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns, Superman had become almost anachronistic. The public’s wants seemed to be shifting, and this was reflected in Hollywood as much as in comics. 1987 delivered the ill-conceived and repugnant Superman IV: The Quest for Peace — an abysmal flop — while the grittier Dark Knight found smashing success in Tim Burton’s Batman only two years later. The era of the morally upstanding hero was done, it seemed, and the ’90s ushered in the era of the anti-heroes and grim avengers. More brooding, more bullets, more blood.
If you haven’t seen It Follows, there are spoilers here. I highly recommend avoiding this post until you have a chance to watch and unpack this movie. Not even because I’m spoiling it for you, but because I want you to spout your theories and your reads. Let’s dig into this shit.
It Follows is the modern horror movie that finally understands that over-explanation is, in fact, the removal of horror.
That writer/director David Robert Mitchell rejects any notion of explanation is why It Follows is as compelling as it is. In this interview with Yahoo! he has a lot of interesting things to say, but his quote “something from a nightmare can’t be explained” sums up his movie perfectly.
It Follows is a horror movie with something to say, but ultimately it’s up to the viewer to unpack what that might be. It could be read as an allegory for AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, a celebration of monogamy, an exploration of true love, a condemnation of casual sex, the terrible effects of a non-present parent, the nature of death, facing the consequences of our choices, or… it could just be a nightmare caught on film. And there are no rules for a nightmare.
I’m by no means a financially successful writer that should be giving any sort of contract advice to other comic book creators (though not for lack of trying), but I think it’s important for us all to share our experiences with these things and there’s far too little of it in the community (if you want great legal info on contracts from a creator-POV, check out Charles Soule’s posts on the subject; the man is a talented writer as well as a lawyer).
So, I’ve done a few things here and there: some work-for-hire for publishers I love, some work-for-hire that I wish would disappear forever and burn in Creative Hell, creator-owned books with indie publishers and creator-owned books self-published with the help of Kickstarter. I’ve done work I’m proud of (except for the aforementioned stuff burning in Creative Hell) and have plenty more in the works.
More recently I’ve been collaborating with the amazing Joe Badon on a science-fiction project that I’ve been pitching as CHEERS meets BLADE RUNNER, called SPEAKEASY. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun, Joe’s art is stunning and weird, and pretty much every publisher has passed on it. And that’s totally okay. The style is definitely outside of the mainstream wheelhouse, and coming from two no-names, I get it. We did, however, have a long (year-long, in fact) conversation with a smaller publisher about getting it out there, possibly this summer/fall. I’m not going to say who because it really doesn’t matter. They put out books that I really like and I would’ve been happy to work with them.
SPEAKEASY art by Joe Badon
I’m perfectly aware there’s more than a few “breaking down the Episode VII teaser” pieces floating around on the Internet today. But Star Wars is the one thing I can’t resist picking apart and dissecting. And since for years I basically thought I’d never be able to do that again, I’m writing this more for myself than anyone. Because I’m so damn excited.
But if you’re reading, thanks for enduring another purely speculative and mostly uninformed orgasm of happy thoughts that only Star Wars can muster inside of me.
Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens
A couple of things: my thoughts are based on only what I see in the trailer itself or rumblings of unconfirmed rumors. I don’t have any inside scoops. I know as much as anyone else reading the rumor reports. I always take those rumors with a grain of salt (particularly ones that just sound absolutely ridiculous, of which there are plenty) and you should too. But who knows? I imagine there are bits and pieces of things that are accurate… from a certain point of view. And remember: Expanded Universe continuity is out the window and will not be adhered to, so anything is possible (and Boba Fett is deaaaaad).
In any case, while this is all theoretical and me just spit-balling… let’s go ahead and put a big ol’ SPOILER WARNING right here just in case anyone reads this and it turns out I was totally right.
Oh, and if you haven’t watched it yet, well duh:
Over two years ago, I posted a piece calling out some severely inappropriate behavior by a comics retailer in my home state of MA. While I can’t say if his behavior has changed at all during this time, I can say that we followed through on the promise I made in that post — that we’d put together an anthology that uses comics to fight the type of bullying that, unfortunately, happens even within our own community of creators, retailers, and readers.
With the help of my co-editors Adam Pruett, Erica Schultz, and Kristopher White, we assembled an elite comic-book-making team ranging from superstar A-listers to exciting up-and-comers that donated their time, effort, and creative juices to create an anthology that we’re proud of with a variety of different styles and a theme that unites. It’s been a long, hard road to make this book a reality, with conversations with nearly every comic publisher you can think of, but we’re blessed to have teamed up with Northwest Press to get this book out the door.
A RISE cover by Sean Von Gorman
NWP launched a Kickstarter last month that ended yesterday — exceeding its goal of $10,000. The money was to cover printing costs to distribute these books to our partner organizations so they can give them away for free at schools and events. Our partners were also instrumental over these past two years of getting this thing together — GLAAD, Stand for the Silent, and PRISM Comics — and we can’t thank them enough.
So to everyone that kicked in or spread the word, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This project has been a labor of love (and oftentimes a mountain of stress) for everyone involved, but knowing that people supported a project like this — getting it into the hands of kids for free — is amazing.
Head on over to the Kickstarter updates to see some of the stories that we’ve posted for a free sample!
Filed under blog, comics, news
11 years ago we lost Elliott Smith. The world has been worse without him in it.
This coming weekend (August 8-10), Drew Zucker and I will be hunkered down in Artist’s Alley at the wonderful Boston Comic-Con (more accurately, Drew will be there all three days. I will be there Saturday and Sunday). While I’m always excited to table at another show, this one is particularly exciting, as Drew and I are debuting the END OF OLYMPUS ashcan, a 12-page preview book that serves as a teaser to our upcoming series of the same name (more on that eventually). We’ll be hawking it for $2 a pop and we think you’ll dig it.
You can read the whole thing now if you’re a Patron on Patreon, but if not, here’s the awesome cover (yes, it’s all B&W, but the series will be in color) by Drew. If you’re heading to Boston Comic-Con, please stop by the table and say hi — and maybe pick up an ashcan!