Poplife: Issue #43

Thu, December 5th, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

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POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don't get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE's purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.

Made Darin a mix, a little rock and roll companionship for a strange Christmas in Taiwan. I'm listening to it right now. ODE TO A BLACK MAN by the Dirtbombs is on now-- if you see Stevie Wonder, tell him I'm here. My proudest moment in the tracks is the cross-fade between SUMMER ROAD, the last tune off of the soundtrack Takeshi Kitano's sublime KIKUJIRO, and Andrew WK's I GET WET. I swear to god it sounds like this is how these songs were meant to be heard in the first place. Craig Moorhead writes to relay reports of strippers in Minnesota getting their bump and grind on to his song TELESCOPES. Chad has begun to smoke these weird six-dollars-a-pack cigarettes that come in tins painted jet-black. I got a digital camera for my birthday and was wholly prepared to break into that goddamn building again (the one I've written about for the last two columns) and just turn in a photo essay this week instead of any sort of proper journal. Turning an interesting diversion into a full-blown obsessive behavior. If it's Tuesday, I must be breaking and entering something. And now my cat plays fetch. What the hell is happening here?

Turning a year older, I think, makes everything go odd for a second, makes everything bend around at weird angles. Subconscious reassessment of shit manifesting as bizarre behavior. Keep things edgy, keep things unexpected, cling on to your quickly evaporating dumb and dangerous safety zone. Do something dumb and dangerous every day. Adrenaline just feels good. Getting away with it feels even better.

Saw the first anime that didn't make my brain ache this past week, FLCL. Lots of folks have talked it up and I fully accept that I'm near-last on that particular bandwagon, but still. Neurotically teenaged and really cinematic. Not in that Akira sort of way where everything's just too fucking too, either. Absolutely gorgeous looking. Hyperkinetic and stylistically bold, too. Favorite bit in the first episode, aside from the spit-on-the-lip-of-the-can bit, was where a family dinner is compressed and animated as though it were comics pages. The camera flies around black and white pages, panel to panel. The whole thing just crackles. Special Boy gets cracked in the head with a bass guitar. Repeatedly. Crackle.

I've been burned and burned out by Special Boy Meets Special Robot anime muck that I was resistant to trying anything, no matter who vouched for it, until I could rent it. So rent FLCL did and dig I did and Ebay I most assuredly did. Felt a lot like what I was trying to do with ANODYNE in its early stages, before pairing it back to the essential story. First lesson of the short serial, right? Couldn't get my head around the weirdness other than it just being weird. Maybe it's opening your story up to the SF genre that lets it happen; maybe I'm not good enough to pull off the stunts I see in my head yet.

Nailed down what I wanted to do with that whole meta-comics nattering I went off on a while back, but now I'm afraid it would be too much like the forthcoming film ADAPTATION from Spike Jonez and Charlie Kaufman. I suppose you could argue that it would be too much like Nabokov or BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS or O LUCKY MAN!, too, if you wanted. I dunno. Does that kind of thing matter? Happens a lot, nowadays. All the same quarks go shooting out of ideaspace and into the brains and antennae of anyone listening. Then you've got a race on your hands.

There's such a strange and long lead time in comics-- if you write something months and months and months before something else comes out, something that's bound to be noticed and talked about in another, bigger, healthier medium, will you get pegged for being a rip-off artist? And does it all matter, anyway? I think I'm gonna outline it and get it at least presentable to someone, in some capacity. Just to have it off the to-do list. Less rock, more talk. Less POPLIFE, more DUDE, WE'RE ROBBING THE BANK.

My to-do list is stupid-long. I feel like I've been playing catch-up for a year solid now. Wake up in the mornings like Jack Lemmon from Save The Tiger. My moods swing more than Bob Crane at a Hogan's convention. I don't even know what that means.

Now the REVISTOR revamp is almost solidified inside and out. Lost much of the Neurotic Boy Outsider stuff that so defined the earliest drafts, even the script I presented here way back when. Folding in all this weird brand-speak and businessthink I've been subjected to at MK12; spitting out all the Naomi Wolf along with Nicholson Baker and JG Ballard and whatever author of paranoid literature you have to quote nowadays to retain your cred. I'm writing a comic about a paranoid voyeur that incorporates and brands himself: it's nice to have an outlet for that stuff somewhere other than our clients.

BIG HAT is ready to be written too, I think. A little cleaner in plot than it once was, which cut a huge amount of research out and a fat chunk of pages, mercifully. One day there will be a marketplace for the annotated retelling of the conquering of the American west, but not today. I honestly have no idea what people are going to think about it-- it's like an action movie with a horrible heart. I told Darin about it before he left and I think he got a little bummed by the fact that it wasn't as-- what's the word?-- clean as it once was. Morally. The good side of that conversation was that I got to see the sucker punch happen; I could hear Darin getting tangled up in it all. Anyway. Western, all ready to go. It's quiet and horrible.

About wrapped the polishing LOTI for Kieron, too. Found this great old bank in the middle of Kansas City, Kansas-- which is about as far removed psychically from Kansas City, Missouri as Paris, Texas is from Paris, France-- while wandering around with Xtop. Gonna head out there this weekend and shoot it for reference. The place looks like a movie set, the sort of relic of small town Americana that doesn't seem to exist anymore except in old movies. It's the kind of bank Bonnie and Clyde coulda, and probably did, knock over.

Larry sent me the color cover proofs for the MANTOOTH! Trade as a birthday gift. A prince, that guy, let me tell you.

What all of that there hullabaloo is about is THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH!, which was solicited in PREVIEWS a while back. I wrote it, Andy Kuhn drew it, and Timmy Fisher toned it. It's 96 pages of Rex Mantooth Comics Stylee, and is available for advanced reorder now with the following magic number: OCT022287. It's $12.95, and is packed with more dumb shit than you can shake a dumb shit stick at.

SPECIAL BONUS FOR SHUT-INS, MISANTHROPES, and the GERM-PHOBIC: Preorder THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! from AMAZON today and avoid contact with messy humans!

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