Poplife: Issue #44

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

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

SHINY

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.

Cold as balls outside tonight. At night, the mercury drops down fast and sucks the moisture up into the air, blanketing everything in low-hanging fog. The tops of buildings downtown get blurry and vanish. It's warm inside this coffee shop. I came in bundled up in my big bug jacket and a hoodie, an over shirt and a T-shirt and now I'm down to just the T. It might be all the coffee, I can't be sure.

I've been writing everything except this column tonight, it seems. Hit the rework on REVISITOR and banged it into the right shape. Watched the clock tick away and thought about how much I wasn't writing this.

To recap the REVISITOR saga: Against my initial judgment, I'm writing REVISITOR serially and trying to find how to make that work without compromising how the story gets presented and told. I did a draft that was half-lousy; full of stuff I wouldn't want to read any more than I wanted to write it. So I rethought a lot about my approach, reconfigured not only REVISITOR but my thinking about the comics I'm writing and came back at it. I ran ten pages of script here a few months back; they'll show up in a modified form towards the end of the first part rather than the start.

I think.

One of my biggest complaints about serial comics is the artificial break between issues, the perpetual cliffhanger thing that can and usually does jack with a story's flow. On top of that, there's the issue of length. If this is the kind of thing I'm going to try and sell, there's a certain standardized length to shoot for. Twenty-four pages is more often than not standard, especially for someone new. So you've got this set amount of time to get in and get out, a set amount of space to get your hooks into a reader and keep 'em still. Well-established writers have better luck than neophytes do. There's a brand association with name creators that, I think, that has a kind of equity and the freedom that comes with it.

The market's so soft and squishy that new creators can't really take their time getting to where they're going. You gotta start big, start with a bang, and hope the numbers don't dive too bad between the second and third issues. So it falls to the Jerry Bruckheimer School of Storytelling to carry that weight: something large explodes in the first ten minutes. Dwell. Bigger splode. End of first issue. There is certainly an art to that, to a rigidly timed and structured sort of pop entertainment. And there are tricks and ways around it-fracturing chronology is a big one-but there comes a point where you've got a story with no set pieces for twenty-some pages, an audience with a fickle attention span, and a format that demands a certain gratification delivered lean and fast. Some of the leanest and meanest 24 page bursts I've read recently are in the first two issues of Global Frequency, which are just hard as fucking diamonds.

I keep going around and around this dumb shit in my head. Telling the story how I think I should tell it but trying to fit it within a commercially viable format and framework. The ostensible intention being that I should present to an editor or publisher the kind of thing that they'd look at from someone like me, pretty anonymous as far as things like reputation and previously published work go.

So you get so wrapped up into thinking about this kind of crap that you don't actually write anything. And you feel justified in doing it, too, because these are valid sorts of issues and seem very writerly on the surface. It's something other than a PlayStation 2 or the TobaccoMaster 2000 keeping you away from pounding out pages, so it doesn't feel all that bad.

And the world goes on and you've got the same blinking cursor you did last week.

Which, you know, leads to the big resolve, which is to just say fuck it and follow your gut. Or, as Larry is fond of saying to me nowadays, too much thinking and not enough DUDE, WE'RE ROBBING THE BANK. Just write the hell out of it and don't worry about anything else. Forty-eight pages, hell yeah. Three colors. Why not? Slow build to the issue break. Go for it. Rob the fucking bank.

It sounds good in theory, anyway.

So let's see. What kind of week has it been.

Peter Artbomb Rose is coming to visit this weekend. He and his wife, the lovely Grace, are gearing up for a move to San Francisco sometime in January. This'll be good. A weekend of hanging out and figuring shit out, and mocking Peter's ability-nay, desire-to lie on the most uncomfortable things imaginable. Seriously, Peter will lie on a hard wood floor for as long as you let him, no pillows, no nothing beneath him. He claims that as a youth he would lie on the kitchen counter and read while holding a book over his head.

Think about that, the next time you visit artbomb.net. The guy pulling the strings there is a weirdo pain freak with a spinal curve that question marks envy.

There's a small get-together of some Kansas City comics folk over this weekend. I don't know how well attended it will be. It's at my friend Hector's gallery in the West Bottoms, this old and bombed out industrial district nestled into the banks of the Missouri river. If everyone shows up that I think will be showing up, there'll be a faction of art school kids and a faction of more professionally-minded, commercially-appealing young pros. I'm not sure what the benefits of any kind of group assembly could be. I tend to shrink away from that kind of stuff whenever possible. I don't know why, exactly. Don't want to belong to any club that would have me as a member, I guess.

I'm showing up to spy on Hector's drawing table, and we'll see what comes next.

I was interviewed by G. Willow Wilson for Komicwerks this week. I had a good time, and she asked some good ones. We talked a lot about BIG HAT, and westerns in general. I always think I'm going to be able to think on my feet in a live situation, but always end up full of Oh Gods and I Don't Knows. I think I'm going to start carrying around some index cards all Rockford style and write down good lines to use in case anyone ever pays attention.

MK12 were interviewed for a local art and design monthly here in town. I came off as the bitter and cynical one.

I think-think-that the stuff for Showtime is wrapped. Or near wrapped. 90% wrapped. That felt good, but reinforced that most critical lesson I learned in film school:

I Am A Shitty Producer.

I have no idea how producers-really good producers, actual in the trenches, up to the elbows, getting' the job done producers-do it. I try. Really, I try. But then, much like a teenage girl raccoon, I get distracted by shiny things and have mood swings. So all kinds of crap falls through the cracks. The producer that's allied with MK12 has a binder in which he keeps the supplies for his other binders. THAT is a good producer. And possibly a potential serial killer. But definitely a good producer.

I have a binder with a sandwich in it, I swear to god.

Anyway. Sent the project off, and hopefully it's all squared away. Everything that went wrong with the project, and it wasn't much but it wasn't 100% smooth, was my bad. Live and learn and move on. From now on, this teenage girl raccoon is hanging out with binder-toting serial killers.

Wait, what?

Gearing up for a trip to New York next week. Flying in for a pitch and a batch of meetings and out again. I love New York during winter, during Christmas. I wish I had the time to just scurry away there for a week with Kel, and just wander around with my wife for a while.

And, on the cheap thrills and filthy shills front, check this out:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1932051058/

That's right. THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! is on Amazon. How nuts is THAT?

Already, some of the regulars on the forum have been monkeying around with recommendations. I added TEK WAR and the KAMA SUTRA m'self. There are others that I won't ruin for you here.

I filled out the author info page today, so some time in the next week, right around the time that the listing goes live, a slew of information should be added. I'm thinking about ripping off Dave Eggers and having a contest, where the best Amazon User Review of the book that makes it obvious the User hasn't actually read the book wins a thing of some sort. I don't know what. A signed copy? The thumbnail sketches I doodled up while writing it? The proofreading copies? Something like that, I don't know. So get your thinkin' caps on for that, I'll let you know what we'll do.

It bears mentioning that if you neglected to preorder THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! from your local comics store, and they are unwilling to get it for you through Diamond with the magical number OCT022287, you can preorder it through Amazon at the link above.

Weird year, huh?

Discuss this column on the Poplife Forum or on the Matt Fraction Forum.

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