Fan: Hi, Mr. Way --
Me (behind table at con, offering my hand): It's just "Dan." Hi, how you doing?
At this point, an awkward scenario often occurs wherein the fan -- who had no previous thought of shaking my hand -- has to scramble to find a place to put all of the stuff they're carrying in order to do so. It's painful. I know that it's my fault but I can't help it; it's a brainstem-level reaction on my part when meeting someone for the first time.
So that happens and then the conversation resumes…but now, the fan has been kinda driven off-script and is actually more nervous than before (and so am I, frankly. I mean, it's embarrassing to me that I continue to make mistakes like this, thirteen years into my career). This, of course, is the exact opposite of the result I'd intended when offering to shake this person's hand.
Fan (handing over books to be signed): So…I was wondering…where do you get your ideas?
Me (signing books, chuckling nervously): Shit, I dunno…from my brain, I guess?
Fan (as I hand back signed books): Oh. Okay, thanks.
Me: Thank you.
Fan (moments later, to Facebook via phone app): Just met Daniel Way. That guy's an arrogant asshole.
Y'know what? They're right.
When I'm asked a question like that, I immediately assume that the person asking either doesn't know what they're asking or has no comprehension of the creative process, whatsoever.
And then I start thinking that, in order to actually answer the question, I'm going to first have to break it up into a bunch of different sections and subsections and then -- well, basically do a helluva lot more work than they did when coming up with this shitty question.
But is that really all there is to it? Let's find out. Let's dig deeper -- deeper into the asshole.
Convention appearances are a fairly rare occurrence for me, two or a three a year, max. And one of those, I actually own (Cherry Capital Con in Traverse City, MI). The reason I don't do that many con appearances is simple: They stress me out. It's not that I don't like talking to my fans or fans, in general -- I actually really like that part. And it's not that I don't like talking shop with other creators, because I absolutely love that part.
It's the table. It's that I'm on one side of it and you're on the other. I feel like a freakshow exhibit. And the only thing worse than having you on the other side of that table…? Is having no one on the other side of that table. Because that makes me feel desperate and pathetic and like it'd be a lot less stressful if I just ran away or killed myself or something.
Shit, I am a freakshow exhibit.
Yes; I could avoid conventions, entirely. I'm under no obligation to do them. It is, however, one of the most effective ways for a writer to form a bond with fans -- fans that will follow a writer from project to project. The term for that is "cachet" and it's crucial for a writer to have it, especially in mainstream comics, because fans more often stick with characters than they do creators. So, what choice do I have?
Ah-ha! I can accomplish the same thing online! Uh…wait, no. I can't. Because if a convention -- a few thousand people -- is too much for me, how do you think interacting with BILLIONS of people is going to go down?
(The answer, by the way, is "uneasily." But here I am every week, giving it a shot.)
Remember when I told you about how I sometimes accidentally put fans in an awkward position? I'm starting to think it's not an accident -- I'm starting to think that what I'm actually doing is leveling the playing field. Because c'mon, being scared sucks but being alone and scared…?
I don't know.
That's the truth. That's my honest answer to, "Where do you get your ideas?" Why don't I just say that? Because you know why -- it's a lame answer. It's a non-answer. So I make a joke, instead. I give you something in place of nothing. Why do I feel the need to give you something…?
Well, don't you expect me to give you something? Isn't that why you're here?
Is that arrogant?
If there were a place I could go to find ideas, a method or process or fucking incantation I could use to make ideas appear, that would be incredible. Of course, if any of those things existed I doubt I'd ever tell anyone about them…it'd probably be more of a Gollum/"precious"-type scenario, if you know what I mean.
So why even ask?
Seriously -- all jokes aside. Why? Personally, it doesn't matter to me what kind of brushes my favorite artists use, or what kind of cameras my favorite filmmakers use or what kind of hog/steer/raccoon goes into my favorite hot dogs. It's not like I think that, by using those same things, I can get the same result…is that what you think?
Because that's pretty arrogant. That's, I gotta say, something that only an asshole would think.
So, here's what (I think) it all boils down to: I don't know what you're thinking, you don't know what I'm thinking and, to answer the question, I don't know what I was thinking.
Is that a good enough answer?