Mercenary Mind: Issue #8

Mon, October 16th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Justin Gray, Columnist

Adios Muchachos!

ALL APOLOGIES

Maybe you've noticed my absence of late. I've been all over the map the last few months, Vermont, Colorado and Phoenix. Maybe you noticed I signed a two-year exclusive with DC Comics. So, I'm sorry for the lack of columns. The good news is that the importance of writing for comics and television outweighs whatever entertainment or informational value this self-indulgent promotional tool delivers.

I hear you folks like your comics on time. I imagine you're like me. I hate deadlines. I loathe shipping late. I love consistency and dependability. Comics are very much like old friends. You miss them when they're not around and you excitedly wait for the next time you'll see them so you can pick up where you left off. It sucks when a friend cancels his or her plans on you at the last minute. Comics are also like new friends you find unexpectedly and want to party with once a month because they're cool and fun and bring something new to your life. The point is I'd rather get comics to you on time and sometimes something as simple as a column or an interview can get in the way of doing that.

PARTING GIFTS

If you look at the books I work on with the tremendously talented Jimmy Palmiotti you may notice they are all very different. We endeavor to bring a unique style and voice to each project. "Jonah Hex" is a western. "Uncle Sam's Freedom Fighters" are political superheroes. "Heroes For Hire" is a funky throwback exploitation action book. "Terra" is a study in heroism. "Claws" is an over the top campy thrill ride. There's the psychological horror of "Friday the 13th" and the all ages teen dramedy of our Manga book "Zeroes" from Tokyopop. All of these books for better or worse are handled in completely different ways.

It takes a great deal of mental dexterity to shift from genre to genre and style to style. Sometimes it works and sometimes it falls flat, but the main goal is diversity and the challenge. One thing I noticed very early on in my desire to become a professional writer was that I didn't want to write the same thing over and over. At first I thought it was an inability to stay focused. Some writers find their comfort zone and are extremely successful inside of it. My comfort zone is in working on two or three vastly different things at the same time. If I get burned out on superheroes I can turn to the Old West for mental relief. If I'm burned on both then there is always Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, Romance and so on. I admire writers with the ability to shift with trends rather than follow them. Everything comes in and out of fashion and being able to adapt to your environment is extremely valuable.

For instance, lets say you're a successful screenwriter who has had a few major hits with period films and that's your gig - Shakespeare, Victorian thrillers or whatever. Everyone knows that. If they want to adapt "The Scarlet Letter" for the millionth time then they go to you for the script. But what happens on the day your agent calls and says; "The studios don't want period films anymore. They want teen sex comedies and Space Operas." You assure the agent that Teen Sex Comedies are your guilty pleasure and you can write the new "Animal House" or "Star Wars" or "Animal House" meets "Star Wars." The problem now is that when they, the people that hire writers and make movies think of you, all they think of are Period Pieces. That to me is hell on earth. You've done one thing and you're stuck with it. No thanks.

Some people can overcome the stigma, but many can't regardless of their talent. I guess somewhere in this is a message for fledgling writers - don't pigeon hole yourselves unless that's what you want from your career beyond the obvious hurdle of getting into writing as a profession. Many successful writers have stuck with one genre, Fantasy, Political Thrillers, Horror and so on. I see novelist James Patterson fairly regularly at the local coffee shop and the man is a kajillionaire based on doing one thing better than anyone else. I'm not wired that way. Luckily comics have such diversity and richness that even if you can't haul in the gigantic sales of Superheroes there's room for other genres.

I have to thank the master of CBR, Jonah Weiland, for his open door policy on letting me pimp my wares on his website. That's it for me. I'll see you in the funny books.

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