The Freelance Life for Me

Thinking about it, I would be a terrible editor in chief.

I wouldn’t look for creators with great ideas, I’d look for creators to realize my great ideas. Which is, right there, a terrible idea. Because creators don’t embrace someone else’s cool idea anywhere near as much as they embrace their own, and they’ll do their best work on the stuff they’re the most passionate about, not the stuff they’re someone else’s mechanic on. Then I’d be disappointed, because they wouldn’t do this second-hand idea as well as I’d hoped, and I’d be grumpy.

So I’d be a grumpy, frustrated and controlling editor in chief. I’d want to quit, and everyone I was supervising would wish I did, too.

So I think it’s a very good thing that nobody’s ever going to be knocking down my door to run a comics company. This way, I get to write my great ideas myself, and my editors just have to endure me. Works pretty well.

Astro City Letters – August 2013

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A new issue of ASTRO CITY is out (or is imminent, depending on when you get to read this), so hey, here we are with a new online letter column. As we did last time, and as we plan to continue doing, we started the column out in the comic, and are continuing it here on the blog.

And just as a reminder: The letters we pick to run in the lettercol each month—which we’re imaginatively calling the Letter of the Month—will get the writer an autographed copy of that month’s issue. Autographed by me alone, because it’d be too much of a hassle to have it mailed around to Brent, Alex and the rest of the gang. So if you want a crack at a signed comic, write us letters.

That said, let’s see what the rest of the comments on our new #1 look like.

First up, short and sweet, from THAD:

That was delightful. Welcome back; we missed you. (And great work by Brent, Alex, and the rest, too.)

Glad you liked it, Thad. We missed you, too, and we’re glad to be back on a regular basis.

Next, from DAVID:

Hey, hey! More ASTRO CITY after a too-long hiatus.

And how was it? Well…to be brutally honest, I found it a bit rushed. We get introduced to a bunch of new characters (at least three of whom aren’t named) and we get a brief look-in on several others AND we hear about a new threat AND we get an alien ambassador AND we get a man re-starting his life…It was all a little overwhelming, and I found myself wondering whether it might not have been better to re-introduce present-day Astro City at a slightly more leisurely pace in the first issue, and open those doors in the second.

It is nice to have a story that’s not overly decompressed, at least.

And with that said, I really liked the ambassador we got. A Kirbyesque giant who isn’t all full of himself! Aliens who are polite, intelligent, and respectful! Who knew such things were possible? The laws of narrative dictate that he’s hiding some dark secret, and I look forward to finding out what it is.

The Broken Man is intriguing. He’s visually interesting in himself, and his changing backgrounds are neat; his references to a creature called “Oubor” recall “The Worm Ouroboros”. We’ve been told that he’s someone we’ve seen before, and there are a couple of hints (I wonder…[name of guess redacted]?). His “break the fourth wall” schtick, though; the more I think about it, the less well it works for me. Captions suggesting that my thoughts are influencing the story don’t draw me in; they remind me that it’s a writer who’s arranging everything, without my input. When the Broken Man gets a word balloon saying that I can communicate with him, he turns into just lines on paper. The fourth wall isn’t wide enough to accommodate a two-way pipe; the attempt to install one just brings down the whole structure of the narrative.

I have to admit that on the last page, I did say to myself, “Just who does this guy think he is, anyway?” So it worked on me to that extent.

I’ve been buying ASTRO CITY since the very first issue (hey, I remember Kurt talking about it at the San Diego con back in 1994) and it would take a lot more than that to drive me away. I’m around for the duration. I’m confident that next issue will have a pace more to my liking, and hopeful that it’ll have a bit less metafiction.

It definitely had less metafiction, David, but since the ability to “see” the audience is one of the Broken Man’s powers, he’ll be seeing you again soon. Glad he intrigued you, at least.

And who were the new characters who weren’t named? There were superheroes who weren’t named—including the Confessor, Crackerjack and Winged Victory—but their names weren’t important to the story we’re telling, so there didn’t seem to be a reason to name them in this issue. And none of the costumed characters we didn’t name were new. You may simply not have recognized the members of Reflex 6 who were there from their debut in the ASTRA two-parter, but I didn’t think they needed to be named any more than the EAGLE agents they shared the page with. They’re superheroes, they’re making a fuss, but who they are individually isn’t germane to the story at hand.

When they next crop up in the foreground of a story, though, they’ll get referred to by name, I expect.

I wonder, though. Have we ever brought in new costumed characters and not named them? I’m pretty sure we have, here and there, just as we would with cops or doctors in the background of a crime or medical story.

Make with the clicking for the rest…

New Ideas, Simmering

I’m trying to remember to blog more. So here, an expansion on some stuff I just rattled off on Twitter…

While watching 2 GUNS, I came up with the final conceptual bit for a character I’ve been playing around with for years. Nothing to do with 2 GUNS, which was fun—it’s loud and fun and charming and not trying to be deep, so I enjoyed it for what it was but had plenty of time to appreciate the surface stuff and still think about other things.

But the new character feels strange to me, a little alien to my usual sensibilities. More like something Greg Rucka or Ed Brubaker would write than my general approach. And that’s fun, and invigorating. It’s always exciting to try new stuff.

And this is new/old stuff, really. It grew out of what I was planning to do with the Black Widow in IRON MAN, as a way of making her unique and compelling again, but they took her away from me and gave her back to the DAREDEVIL guys before I could get started. So I stewed about it—I liked the idea, but it was a big change, not something you can do with a character when someone else can yank her away at any moment. Nut then, it was a big enough change to be a new character, so why not try that? So she went into my notes, and I messed around with new names and new contexts and story structures and approaches, and now I’ve got the last major piece.

Now I just need a series to do it in. That’s the fun part. I’ve got notes I’ve written up over the years, everything from a two-line concept to multi-page documents, on superhero and action/adventure ideas that either I planned to do at Marvel or DC and they just never happened, or that from the start I knew had to be their own thing, but wasn’t the sort of character I’d put into ASTRO CITY. In ASTRO CITY, after all, the superhero action is the backdrop, the context in which character stories happen. And these ideas were things that really want to be shown off in an action-adventure setting. Not subverted, but treated as the main course.

A while back, I went through my list of these ideas, and figured out that if I did a new series, a new world with these guys in it, and did an average of a six-issue arc on each one, the series could run twenty years without needing any new concepts. And of course, I’ve come up with more since.

It’s nice to have all that in my back pocket, knowing I can pull it out whenever I want. But someday, I’m going to have to start using this stuff. Building that new world, making those ideas come to life on paper.

I don’t have the time yet; too many other deadlines to deal with right now. But I hope it won’t be too long.

Just some thoughts I’m thinking about on a Sunday evening…

A Desultory Thought

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Here’s what I like about Stephen King’s Hard Case Crime books: They’re Stephen King books, so they’re well-written and enjoyable, and they make Hard Case Crime a ton of money, which is good and helpful and positive and makes good stuff happen.

Here’s what I don’t like about Stephen King’s Hard Case Crime books: Good as they are, they’re not hard-boiled crime, or the sort of thing Gold Medal would have published in the 50s. So the covers and package design are cool-but-wrong, like having the Peter Gunn theme as the overture for a Thornton Wilder play.

I’m glad they exist, and I’m glad they help keep Hard Case Crime around. But I kinda want a new Richard Bachman book when I crack open a cover like that. BLAZE, that would have been a great Hard Case Crime book. But with THE COLORADO KID and JOYLAND, I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not the kind of book it’s packaged as. It’s thoughtful and reflective, not lurid and driving.

And I like what they are. I just don’t think the wrapping fits so well. Not that that stops me buying and devouring ’em…