Posts tagged: Comic Books
I’ve been looking for this article for a long time. This particular quote was really important for me:
My old school got me in a few times to do “careers advice.” I was the token writer, and people would come up to me and say “How do I get to be a writer?” and I said “Well, first of all, if you can do anything else, do that. You know, there are lots of other things you can do that are an awful lot more fun, pay a lot better, will let you sleep far easier.” [laughs]
I also really like this bit:
Your fans are known as serious gift-givers. Jill Thompson says you’ve probably gotten more tapes than any writer at Musician magazine.
NEIL: Most of the tapes I’m given are terrible. You know, Scandanavian death-metal or whatever. You know: [sings in a deep, slightly American voice] “Oh, Morpheus, come down from the sky and give me good dreams CHA-DUNG CHA-DUNG CHA-DUNG” or one guy accompanies himself on a harmonium or whatever.
Well, that last one sounds interesting…
NEIL: It wasn’t. But I still play them. I had a tape given to me in San Diego a couple of years ago by somebody who said “A friend of mine is a huge Sandman fan, she’s just recorded this, she wants you to have it, she talks about you on one of the songs.” About three weeks later I got around to playing it, and it was terrific. Absolutely stunning. There was an address on it, and I wrote to her and said, “I think it’s wonderful, and thank you very much for mentioning me on the song,” and that was Tori Amos, and that was the tape that later became a number of tracks on Little Earthquakes.
I’d give that same advice to anyone else considering a career in writing. I tried to find something else I could do for living, but I was never able to.
I thought I remembered a part with him talking about deciding to become a journalist, but I guess it was a different interview from around the same time. I did find this interview with him telling more or less the same story:
I’d always wanted to be a writer and I had a really bad night, the kind of long dark night of the soul, one of those nights you only get once or twice in a lifetime and I got one when I was about 20. I remember being unable to sleep and about four in the morning I keep thinking “I keep thinking I’m a writer. I like to think I could write stuff just as good as anybody else out there but I’m not really doing anything about it.” And that’s not the bad thing. What’s the bad thing is that in 50 or 60 years time I could be on my deathbed and I would say to myself, “I could’ve been a writer,” and I wouldn’t know if I was lying or not. It was the long dark night of the soul that genuinely changes everything. So I said “Okay, I’m gonna try and be a writer because even if I’m not, at least I’ll know that I’m not.” So I started writing. I wrote a children’s book, I wrote a bunch of short stories, and a lot of other stuff and sent them out to people …and the stories came back. Then I thought, “I’m doing this wrong. Either I’m not a very good writer (which I choose not to believe), or I’m doing this wrong. I want to understand how publishing and all that works. So I got up the next morning and said, “All right, I’m now a journalist. I’m a freelance journalist.” So I got on the phone to editors and pitched them story ideas about things I wanted to write and by the end of the day—by dint of lying cheerfully about previous experience—I now had several commissions and then had to turn them in.
FWOMP: And how did that go?
Neil Gaiman: It actually went fine although I must say as long as I had a typewriter, which was probably the next couple of years, there was a piece of paper taped to it that said, “Don’t let your mouth write no check that your tail can’t cash.” I think that’s a quote from Muddy Waters. And every now and then it would make me think, “I just got myself into a book contract. How the fuck did that happen? What do I do? I’ve never written a book and now I have a book contract.” So I’d write books. But it was good. There’s nothing for getting you good fast like having to be good fast, if that makes any sense.
Suggested for Mature Readers is a weekly blog by Tom Whiteley. Each week he re-reads and writes about a comic from the 80s or early 1990s comics that helped bring the medium into the mainstream. He updates roughly every Monday.
He’s currently re-reading Grendal, which had a big influence on me. He also recently did the entirety of Marshal Law, along with Joe McCulloch of The Comics Journal, which I think is a… well, not underated, but at least overlooked series. It looks like Cerebus is on the list as well. I’m currently rereading Sandman and hope he gets to that.
Steven Attewell writes:
Steve Rogers doesn’t represent a genericized America but rather a very specific time and place – 1930’s New York City. We know he was born July 4, 1920 (not kidding about the 4th of July) to a working-class family of Irish Catholic immigrants who lived in New York’s Lower East Side. This biographical detail has political meaning: given the era he was born in and his class and religious/ethnic background, there is no way in hell Steve Rogers didn’t grow up as a Democrat, and a New Deal Democrat at that, complete with a picture of FDR on the wall.
Steve Rogers grew up poor in the Great Depression, the son of a single mother who insisted he stayed in school despite the trend of the time (his father died when he was a child; in some versions, his father is a brave WWI veteran, in others an alcoholic, either or both of which would be appropriate given what happened to WWI veterans in the Great Depression) and then orphaned in his late teens when his mother died of TB. And he came of age in New York City at a time when the New Deal was in full swing, Fiorello LaGuardia was mayor, the American Labor Party was a major force in city politics, labor unions were on the move, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade was organizing to fight fascism in Spain in the name of the Popular Front, and a militant anti-racist movement was growing that equated segregation at home with Nazism abroad that will eventually feed into the “Double V” campaign.
Then he became a fine arts student. To be an artist in New York City in the 1930s was to be surrounded by the “Cultural Front.” We’re talking the WPA Arts and Theater Projects, Diego Rivera painting socialist murals in Rockefeller Center, Orson Welles turning Julius Caesar into an anti-fascist play and running an all-black Macbeth and “The Cradle Will Rock,” Paul Robeson was a major star, and so on. You couldn’t really be an artist and have escaped left-wing politics. And if a poor kid like Steve Rogers was going to college as a fine arts student, odds are very good that he was going to the City College of New York at a time when an 80% Jewish student body is organizing student trade unions, anti-fascist rallies, and the “New York Intellectuals” were busily debating Trotskyism vs. Stalinism vs. Norman Thomas Socialism vs. the New Deal in the dining halls and study carrels.
And this Steve Rogers, who’s been exposed to all of what New York City has to offer, becomes an explicit anti-fascist. In the fall of 1940, over a year before Pearl Harbor, he first volunteers to join the army to fight the Nazis specifically. This isn’t an apolitical patriotism forged out of a sense that the U.S has been attacked; rather, Steve Rogers had come to believe that Nazism posed an existential threat to the America he believed in. New Deal America.
“Think of a City is a new storytelling project, where a number of artists from around the world build a city, page by page.” It’s like an exquisite corpse — each artist draws a page then hands it off to the next. The project was created by Alison Sampson and Ian MacEwan.
Here’s a comic I drew that will be published in Prophet in the next couple of months. It’s written by Sean Witzke, and colored by Sloane Leong(the best company I could ask to collaborate with, follow them already).
This was so fun to make. Prophet is my all out favorite monthly comic, and I’m honored and excited to be printed alongside such inspiring work.
EDIT: Much thanks to Jared Lewis who did color-flatting for it. Flatters go unsung way too often. It’s capital w WORK, and besides Jared is somebody you should definitely be looking into.
Juan Ochoa revealed the first installment of Kook Komix today: Mister Probert in Etherland. Juan is working with Kook Science — which includes Technoccult alum Brendan Simpson — on this project.
Here’s some background on Probert, from Brendan:
Who was Mark Probert? By his own accounting, he was a drop-out and a drifter, skipping from the Merchant Marines to horse jockeying, serving a stint as hotel bellhop then as a Vaudevillian song-and-dance man, before finally settling into his role as a “Telegnostic from San Diego”. Mr. Probert is scarcely known today, but, in his time, his “sleeping psychic” mediumship was the prime link between the later days of California Spiritualism and the nascent Ufology of the post-war period, and he served as forerunner to all the Space Brother contactees who soared to prominence in the early years of the 1950s. Probert saw himself as ultimately a humble servant to outside forces, ever self-effacing, quite unlike many of those he later inspired, and alway offering all credit to the voices he believed he channelled, and to his partner and wife Irene Probert.
Full Story: Juan Ochoa: Mister Probert in Etherland
Ales Kot writes comics, amongst other things. His first graphic novel, Wild Children with Riley Rossmo, was published by Image Comics last year. He quickly followed this with Change with Morgan Jeske, also at Image. The collected edition was just released by Image last week.
Now he’s writing the superhero series Suicide Squad for DC and his creator owned espionage comic Zero for Image.
We put on the new Zomby album With Love and had a chat about how to entered the comic industry, the philosophy behind his work, and more.
Klint Finley: Wild Children was released less than a year ago. Now you’re writing a monthly Image book, a monthly DC book and have a Batman project on the way. It seems almost as if you came out of nowhere. How did you break into the industry?
Ales Kot: I imagined stories and pages and used my will to create them physically. Once I had physical proof of my work, I honed it until what I wanted and what was in front of me aligned. One of the key decisions was — and is — the aim to only create comics I would buy myself. I decided to make comics and therefore become a comics creator in 2008; I met Eric Stephenson from Image Comics in 2011 and he approved two of my comics proposals during our first meeting. The road to being published in July 2012 included many changes and struggles within the path.
I do not see entering comics as “breaking in,” because that, to me, suggests something aggressive. I chose to enter comics by imagining and creating comics I wanted to make, by believing in their potential and quality, and by showing readers all that.
What made you decide to be a comics creator, instead of one of the many other creative paths one could pursue?
It is true that I am a comics creator. I also work on video games, films and multiple art projects that are in some cases multimedia projects and in some cases explorations of media that perhaps do not even have a name at the moment, if they ever will. My path is to create whatever feels right within my imagination; whatever is alive within me. This applies in art, in life. I see no difference between one and the other.
With comics specifically, I remember being given Donald Duck as a 3-or-4 year old with undiagnosed pneumonia. I vanished within the pages; the empty spaces between the panels of the comic turned on my imagination. By the time I was eight, I probably drew over two hundred pages of comics, but I do not remember wanting to be a comics creator, except for a few days when I hit sixteen and spent most of my days stoned, expanding my mind via many possible routes. Then, in 2008, in the midst of a psychospiritual crisis, I contemplated suicide and wondered whether I could find anything within myself that I genuinely wanted to do or at least try before I died. The answer was “I want to make a comic book. That could be fun.”
[referring to the Zomby album] “Overdose” is the purest jungle I heard in YEARS.
How did you meet Eric Stephenson? At a con?
I met Eric Stephenson in Seattle during the Emerald City Comic Con. Joe Keatinge, another comics writer, saw some of my pitch materials and he introduced me to Eric pretty much immediately.
Above: Panels from Suicide Squad # 21
How did you land the Suicide Squad gig?
Wil Moss, my editor on Suicide Squad, contacted me because he read Wild Children and enjoyed it enough to remember my name. He asked me if I would be interested in pitching for it. I put together a pitch, Wil liked it, it got approved.
Wild Children deals with the education system, you’ve said that Zero is about war and Suicide Squad obviously deals with the prison system. It seems that institutions and the way they affect people is emerging as a major theme in your work. Is that deliberate?
That is an intelligent observation, thank you. The narrative thread you just traced between my works was subconscious more than conscious on a story-to-story level. I am consciously interested in how institutions we create affect our life; institutions that are official and the ones that are hidden deeper within the fabric of our lives, the ones we create within our society and within our heads, sometimes without giving them names or without even realizing their presence. I am interested in chaos, order and their interplay.
You’ve said you want your stories to have a social message. I get cynical at times about the potential for art to have a positive social effect. But you come from the Czech Republic, where you actually had a revolution named after a rock band and a president who was a playwright. How do you think your background affects your work?
To me, every story ever made has a social message or messages within it. To me, everything is political because politics at their core mean “relating to citizens,” and I see connections between everything in this universe, and as such, everything relates to me and the responsibility that comes with that is tremendous. I am now interested in using fiction as a vehicle for self-exploration.
This is largely cut from another interview, because I see no better way to describe that part now:
The region I spent most of my first two decades in is very industrial, very similar to north of England, and it carries wounds and scars that go very deep and very far back in time. For example, my grandfather lost two people who were dear to him in the second World War before he was 10 years old, and then had to take care of the farm with his mother. My father worked, among other things, as a miner – specifically the kind that places explosives deep in the shafts where no one else dares to go. The air is immensely polluted and the forests away from the cities are alive and breathing and vast. It’s a rough region that is simultaneously very beautiful. I feel very lucky that I had parents who were – and are – supportive of me despite their own baggage, which comes with the region. I was a smart and wild kid who wanted freedom and that alone was hugely intimidating to almost everyone around me until I became old enough to leave. It wasn’t until much later that I realized how many deep wounds incidents such as the Second World War and the Russian occupation of Czechoslovakia had inflicted upon almost everyone, generation after generation. There were also many wonderful events, such as my parents bravely escaping Czechoslovakia with me in 1988 in order to live in West Germany, the Velvet Revolution in 1989, our subsequent arrival back home, being encouraged to be honest and fair despite the environment that often promoted the exact opposite, playing soccer and watching a ten times copied videocassette of Rambo III with my dad back when video recorders were a luxury…the point is, I can only write that what is alive in me, and what is alive in me will always be influenced, amongst other things, by that which I have lived through, by my genetic memory, by nature, by nurture. The best I can do is be honest about it and create stories that use the personal experience in a universal way.
The Velvet Revolution and president Havel are certainly important to my upbringing. He stated that “Truth and love triumph over lies and hate,” and hearing those words as a three or four year old was very formative. Growing up in a country that woke up from a fever dream of Russian occupation and could actively rebuild itself was also hugely inspiring. I could observe boundaries being pushed and straight-up erased on a grand scale.
I am interested in erasing and embracing walls; there is perverse beauty in holding something close while simultaneously knowing you are able to let it go if it wants to. Playful walls within freedom, created for exploration and adventure. Perhaps that is what humanity is working with on a large scale; perhaps nation-states and borders are precisely that — a game we are playing until we decide, ideally peacefully and with love, that it’s time to create a new one.
To come back to where I started, the statement of using fiction as a vehicle for self-exploration; if we accept the hypothesis that the world is a mirror of one’s internal self, then any creation simultaneously reflects inwards and outwards. The social message, the political aspect, seems inescapable on both levels, which are one.
What was your access to American comics like growing up? I grew up in small towns in the U.S. and my access wasn’t always great.
There were a few publishers after the Velvet Revolution; some of them releasing Czech comics, and at least one of them released reprints of American comics as well. The contact I distinctly remember as crucial after the Donald Duck experience is my grandfather bringing a huge pile of comics to me when I was about five or six; they were mostly reprints of Spider-Man circa Roger Stern / John Romita Jr. era and Conan the Barbarian by Roy Thomas and various artists. I could find comics in the stores after that, but not many; perhaps two or three Marvel reprints each month and then some Czech comics, that was about it.
Later on, the amount of comics publishers grew, and the Crew magazine specifically (Crew looks and sounds similarly to “blood” in Czech) had a huge impact on me during that time. This would be late 90′s and early 00′s. The magazine reprinted 2000AD comics, Vertigo Comics, Dark Horse comics and plenty others. My understanding of what comics could do and could be expanded very fast.
What is your process like? How do you split up your day — writing, researching, marketing and social media, etc.?
I like to wake up around eight or nine in the morning, wash my face, meditate, eat a banana and a good, high-fiber, high-protein, low sugar protein bar (ideally coconut or peanut butter flavor), drink green tea, then dive into my inbox and answer emails for about an hour. After that it’s about ten and I write, occasionally answer interviews, eat lunch, write again…until four or five pm. Then I stop.
Research never stops – work on myself, reading, observing the world, it all goes in. As for marketing / social media, I find little spots of time here and there. I like to have a plan of the day and then work with it; being firm and at the same time being like water.
The first Suicide Squad arc is called “Discipline and Punish” — was Foucault an influence?
Since you’re writing the Squad, I have to ask: have you been reading Michel Fiffe’s COPRA? Any chance of a Suicide Squad/COPRA cross-over?
I read and love COPRA. While Michel Fiffe owns COPRA, I do not own Suicide Squad; unlike my other work, which I own, Suicide Squad is a work-for-hire situation for me, so I can not make a decision on whether an official crossover will happen or not. That would be up to Michel and DC Entertainment.
Suicide Squad #22 includes a direct nod to Michel’s work.