Poplife: Issue #3

Thu, February 21st, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

Crackerjack Langiappe

Department of m/

[This is a thing that Happens.]
This is a thing that Happens.
Comics hate Rock. Rock hates Comics. Comics have conspired to keep me away from Rock. It's a Saturday afternoon that's creeping into a warm (SIXTY! FUCKING! FOUR! On JANUARY! 26th!), purple evening, and I'm going to be finishing up a large chunk of ANODYNE (my bit for NIGHT RADIO) tonight as opposed to going out to see The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams III. This is not the first time Comics have conspired to keep me away from Rock. Wrapping up LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS kept me away from seeing... The Strokes? The Greenhornes? The Dirtbombs? One of those, maybe. Too painful to recall. Weezer and Tenacious D? I don't know.

Comics are a fucker. Tonight, Fraction rocks for One.

Stuck most of the week. Getting nothing done, and Ellis was asking for pages; BIG HAT sits alone and unloved on my hard drive; and I figured out that there's a scene missing from REVISITOR that really, REALLY needs to be there. Completely amateur mistake to make, but it NEEDS TO BE THERE to set everything else up. And so the people who I've sent it to are looking at it with raised eyebrows. Because I missed a fucking beat.

The thing is that I've only started recently to think about stories in issues. I've been spoiled by the hypothetical OGN format, in which the kindasorta useless mandatory 22 page act break isn't needed. So shit falls through the cracks, I'm discovering.

I'm reminded of the documentary on the making of MAGNOLIA that comes with the DVD. There's a scene with Orlando Jones and the two kids, and in the documentary you see Anderson realizing that he missed a beat, and they have to go back to a previous location. He apologizes profusely, he's upset and you can tell, but at the same time... he knew it wasn't gonna work with out.

Maybe it didn't work either way, as most of Orlando Jones' footage ended up on the floor anyway. It's just encouraging at this point to see someone else missing beats and knowing the whole thing won't work without it.

Did I just compare myself to Paul Thomas Anderson? Oh, shoot me. Shoot me, shoot me, shoot me.

BANG. I'll add the goddamn beat and keep going.

Then there are still a lot of books I want to cover for ARTBOMB.

[This is crap they put in candy.]
This is crap they put in candy.
And the cursor just blinked. And blinked. And blinked. Bastard cursor. I spill coffee on thee, blinking bitch of un-productivity.

But then, on Thursday, ANODYNE fell into my head swift and fat; I started to actually feel like I was getting somewhere in the Why Am I Such A Fucking Lunatic department... I sat down and started to write, and I'm still at it.

So, yeah. A friend asked me to describe what ANODYNE is about and the best thing I could come up with is 'Teenage Wasteland' (so listen to "Baba O'Reiley", dammit). Ellis implored me to "listen to fast things" while I wrote it, but it wasn't working. He also sent along a lot of great advice on writing short serials... which, instead of (like most sane humans) getting me inspired and fired up, managed to get me freaked out and... stage-frightened?

So on with the blinky-blinky and the excuse-making.

The first chapter was written to Morphine and Black Heart Procession and, of course, Pixies. I tried some Japanese punk stuff and the Hives, which Xtop graciously donated to the Keep Fraction Rockin' Fund, and it wasn't clicking. So out came the old and low and the words started to assemble themselves in sentences and I stopped worrying if they were good or not.

I think I psyched myself out. The idea-and I don't mean Story idea even, so much as... vibe? Gestalt? -behind ANODYNE was that I wanted to write a comic for me, ten years ago. What kind of book would've done it for me as a sixteen year old? And I kept chewing and chewing on that idea, trying to figure it out. And all the bullshit excavations that come with that line of thinking, all the 'where I was then/where I am now' stuff, combined with my neurotic twitterings... and I was a wreck.

I was reading a lot of great stuff, too. Gilbert Hernandez's BLOOD OF PALOMAR wasn't helping, but I kept reading and trying to fight through it.

Eventually, ANODYNE came to me and I threw away the first draft entirely. I did five pages in one fell swoop. I'm not entirely sure where the whole story is going-I know how it ends-but the middle bits are still up and out there.

And don't come to me with that Robert McKee shit, alright? There'll be a McKee backlash coming in the next year. Watch the skies, mark my words.

Billy Wilder told Cameron Crowe that if you have a problem in your third act, the problem really lies in the first. I'm not so good on planning like that (or really thinking in acts beyond 'beginning, middle, end'); I'll become paralytic trying to figure out each and every bit of plot before I write a single word. Not only is that nearly impossible to do without actually writing, that amount of preplanning BORES ME TO TEARS. Doing Syd Field or Chris Vogler or Robert McKee bullshit MURDERS the enjoyable part of writing for me stone fucking dead. It kills the excitement and surprise of trying to wing it, of failing or succeeding, of improvising and bullshitting and trying to out-clever yourself.

So my theory is figure out the first scene and the last scene, think of some neat stuff you want to get to, and then throw as much shit out there in the opening as you can so you've got lots of stuff to draw from if you need it. Sloppy? Sure. But it works okay so far.

Uh-oh! Crisis point!

You ever notice how Star Wars is about a boy getting a big dick from a creepy old man? And how it turns him into a creepy old man after he gets in a swordfight with his dad?

Seriously. Obi-Wan gives Luke a penis like it's a manly, manly secret. And then welcomes the boychild into the Manly world of Dicks and Swordfights.

I read books about myth and story and this is all I come away with. Dick jokes.

Got the art for the third and final MANTOOTH! story this week from Andy Kuhn. And I don't think I'm speaking hyperbolically when I say that you-neigh, all of Comics themselves!-- have never seen a finer representation of Professor Stephen Hawking as a zombie being thrown by a gigantic ape in a tuxedo before, ever. Nor a more poignant reference to Dr. Janet Conrad, winner of the Goeppert-Mayer prize for her groundbreaking study of neutrino decay. Really, DOUBLE TAKE #8 is something special, something to share and cherish for all time.

That reminds me, I gotta write the front-cover essay for that tonight, too.

Keepin' It Relevant Dept.

[This is not a Little Homey.]
This is not a Little Homey.
Should I comment about the Gaiman-McFarlane thing? Neil says that Joe Quesada told him on behalf of Todd that if he (Gaiman) took the Marvelmiracleman morass to court, then he (Todd) would dish all the dirt on him (Gaiman) as possible so as to rob him (Gaiman) of his (Gaiman's,) fan-base. Dude! He's totally gonna tattle on you!

Allow me, as a benignly disinterested third party, to get the ball rolling, then.

You heard it here first: the worst thing Neil Gaiman has done that I know about is create ANGELA for Todd McFarlane.

Fuck you, Rich! Fuck you, Doran! Fraction is in control of all things.

Ladies, Gentlemen-I present you with this modest proposal: a bra-and-panty slapfight arena at San Diego this year. Any comics professional, male or female, who has a problem with any other comics professional, male or female, can take it into the ring. Donning SDCC 02 commemorative, collector's-edition Bra-and-Panty Combat Sets, I say they scrap so as to not only assert their moral superiority (and to prove themselves Hard Men once and for all) but so we can BET on the outcome for the CBLDF or for a 911 fund or the Burned Children's Fund or for ACTOR or whatever. C'mon. Who wouldn't want to see a bra and panty slap-fight through to the teary end? Like Fight Club, only for charity. And with panties.

I have more brains in my little finger than you have in your whole entire pocket.

Cosmic Coincidence Dept.

"Lagniappe."

It's not just a good idea; it's the law of cosmic coincidence.

I Work With Astronauts and Ninjas

MK12 rolls right along. We're prepping our new look-feel-style campaign with the working theme of ninjarotica. The idea was a dating and mating guide for the ninja. We'll see the ninja, ala them Charles Atlas ads of yore, trying to score with the fly honeys, only to be defeated by his natural enemy, The Astronaut. The Ninja, tired of defeat, will descend into a meditative trance for a hundred years to find himself achieving enlightenment by balancing his ninja-ness and his own inner-astronaut. This will manifest itself as the ninja becoming a Hobo. Ninja + Astronaut = Hobo. And the Hobo goes to prom with the girl.

Yes. I get paid for this shit.

Anyway, we needed costumes. First off, there was the ninja, which was so ungodly insane that I could write about ten thousand words on the experience of filming a real life Kansas ninja in our studio.

His name was "Kai" and he was good with a sword because his hands were big.

Yesterday, Shaun and I headed out to the sticks to rent an Astronaut suit. We found it at a store called HAVE GUNS WILL RENT. Their main clientele, it appears to me, are Civil War Buffs and Strippers.

The less said about it, the better, but there's a '62 Fairlane with an astronaut suit in the back seat right now that I get to put on tomorrow.

And tomorrow, I shall dance.

And, for both of my returning readers, I don't think the Big Time Car thing is gonna happen. Not because of the money, but because of the time. C'est la vie.

We've got three spots running on Sci-Fi right now: one for their magazine and two fake documentary spots, one for a mouse-beef hybrid called MEEP and one about cel-phones and the dead calling from the afterlife...

The Things I Cannot Talk About

There are Things! Things that might be happening! To ME! YAY!

Okay. Finished the first part of ANODYNE. And... and right now it feels pretty good. I know it's only ten pages, but still. The piece is just a few degrees north or south of autobiography. Some of the stuff there is me, probably more than I'd like to admit; some of are my friends I grew up with, some stuff happened and some stuff almost happened.

[I shoulda gone with Teeth-marks.]
I shoulda gone with Teeth-marks.
The thing I hit on, the thing that was tripping me up was that if I was trying to write something for a sixteen year old... it had to be real, right?

And, as prone as I am to saying 'dude' and 'totally' and dumb shit like 'keep it real', I mean -well... shit, I mean real. True or honest. Not some aging hipster trying to write down to their audience. I just had to write real, write how it felt, not judge or evaluate anything... just document.

Took me a while to find that kid again.

It's not regretting what you've done; it's regretting what you've not done that's the killer. And that never seems so vital a truth as when you're 16 and full of lust and drugs. So out it all came and I got to play with it for a while.

I have a feeling that condescension is the quickest way to lose kids-look deep into the haggard and weary eyes of a shattered guidance councilor sometime if you doubt it, and you will see staring back at you an adult broken upon the relentless verisimilitude of youth. I remember getting fed up with the phony morality and quasi-Victorian ethos that many mainstream comics presented me with when I was a kid. Kids can smell bullshit a mile away, especially if it's coming from someone older than them trying to speak their language. I know I always could.

When I was sixteen, I think every other word out of my mouth was 'fascist'. Every other was, of course, 'fuck'. There was a girl once who wouldn't go out with me because, she said, I swore too well.

Nowadays, I don't say words like 'fascist' too much.

Anyway. I've been thinking about kids a lot. Youth culture, where it's coming from and where it's going. Kids and sex, kids and politics. Kids and violence. Thinking a lot about Columbine.

You want to know, Parents of America, why your loser children became monsters and you had no idea?

Your loser children became monsters precisely because you had No Idea.

Dept. of Shilling:

All three issues of DOUBLE TAKE are out from FUNK-O-TRON press as you read this. DOUBLE TAKE is a flipbook in which Joe Casey and Charlie Adlard's CODEFLESH runs as well as MANTOOTH! by me and Andy Kuhn.

Finer retailers everywhere can order these little bits of terrific for you with the following magic mojo numbers:


DOUBLE TAKE #6 (Kick Splode Robot) -- SEP012027


DOUBLE TAKE #7 (Kick Splode Lesbian) -- OCT012494


DOUBLE TAKE #8 (Kick Splode Zombie) -- NOV012389

Buy them. I demand the Tall Comics Dollars.

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