As I’m writing this column on Monday the 27th, it’s my grandpa’s birthday. He’s turning 80 and a lot of the family is flying down to Florida later this week to see him. In the mean, I’ve been working closely with some of the ComicMix team to get Mine! out the door which is in Previews as well as on BackerKit for pre-order. I’ve also been reading some comics I’ve been way behind on!
I got to finish the first volume of Black over the weekend. The team of Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Sarah Litt over at Black Mask Studios put together a book that takes on racial tensions with a superhero backdrop and absolutely no chill. Over the course of six issues we follow a young black man, Kareem, as he discovers not only does he have super powers, but so do many other black people. And that only black people have super powers.
For me, it takes until about halfway through issue two before the story really picks up a steam. Once the story gets moving though, the pacing gets very consistent and from issue four to the end you’re not going to want to put it down. Jamal Igle’s art in grayscale is absolutely gorgeous and helps make a few otherwise slow paced scenes of people sitting in a cell or an office very engaging. While the story is more likely to preach to the choir than to get some bigot to reexamine their backwards way of thinking, it’s still a great read and since the comic has been optioned you’ll wanna read it before the movie hits so you can be one of the cool kids.
Another series I finally got to crack into was Super Sons over at DC. Now, I was a little late to the party when Peter Tomasi was tackling Damian Wayne with the New 52’s Batman and Robin with Patrick Gleason. Peter’s work on Damian is honestly the best portrayal of the character I’ve read, and I say this as a huge Grant Morrison fan. The first arch of that Batman and Robin run had me sold and I kept up with that title for quite a while after, so seeing Peter back on Damian in Super Sons put this book on my radar right away.
Joined by the incredible artist Jorge Jimenez, Peter Tomasi tells us of the adventures of young Jon Kent a.k.a. Superboy and Damian Wayne aka Robin as they try to prove themselves to be just as capable as their super parents. As excited as I was to finally read this comic, it honestly surpassed my expectations.
Jon Kent is the perfect foil to Damian Wayne. The way the two interact with each other in their playful rivalry creates a fun dynamic that I wish I saw in more comics. Jon’s youth, height, and natural abilities get under Damian’s skin, but handles it better than the less mature Jon who wears his heart on his sleeve. As the two try to a nefarious plot, we watch as the two rib on each other. Jon has taken it personally that he wasn’t asked to be in the Teen Titans despite being a ten years old. One of my favorite moments is when Jon points out a mistake that Damian has made and he responds by saying he learns from his mistakes better than anyone.
Between the fantastic story and the gorgeous, fluid artwork, I can’t possibly recommend Super Sons enough. If you’ve been loving DC’s Rebirth and haven’t picked this title up yet, get on it. If you don’t read DC Comics, you seriously should consider picking this up too. And while there is some violence, it’s definitely more appropriate for some younger readers than a lot of other Big 2 comics out there.
Look, I know I was late to the party here. Luckily with trade paperbacks and comiXology you can never be too late to the party when it comes to comics.
Way back in September, it was announced that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey for the first time in thirteen years. No, not time displaced Jean Grey. No, not the reanimated Jean Grey from Phoenix – Endsong; the real fictional character. I’ve been thinking about this ever since the announcement. I’ve wanted to say something here, but I just wasn’t sure. I’ve talked privately with people whom all more or less agree with me on this to a point, so I’m finally going to say it here in my column.
I hate that they’re bringing Jean Grey back. It’s genuinely a terrible idea.
I feel terrible talking about this because the writer, Matthew Rosenberg, is a great guy writing incredible comics at publishers like Marvel and Black Mask Studios. He deserves all the success in the world. Leinil Yu is a fantastic artist. This has nothing to do with the creative team on this book; it’s about the editorial direction. It’s just plain and simple a terrible idea.
Most glaringly this transparent stunt shows off how Marvel just doesn’t know what to do with the X franchise so they’re just repacking greatest hits collections. In write ups about the move, Marvel makes statements about how it’s interesting because how will the other X-Men react to her suddenly being back? The real question is why would anyone care when we’ve already seen this done before. More than once. More than twice. That’s not an interesting or unique angle.
This also reminds everyone just how needlessly convoluted the continuity is for the X franchise. In the ads for this book they state that this is the return of the adult Jean Grey. Yes, they have to specify which version of Jean Grey is actually coming back. That is a problem. There is no other way to look at this. If you want new readers coming in, this is not how to do it. If you want lapsed readers coming back in, this is a way to remind them why they stopped reading in the first place. I’m a low hanging fruit X-Men fanboy and I will absolutely not be participating in this event. That should be viewed as a bad sign that have no interest in even humoring this concept.
I’d also like to remind everyone that Jean Grey was literally so boring and played up as a damsel in distress to the point where Chris Claremont came in with incredibly talented collaborators like Dave Cockrum and John Byrne and turned her into a space goddess. She remained so uninteresting they had to make her a villain and kill her off.
The first time she was brought back was for X-Factor in which, again, she was the least interesting team member. As characters like Angel and Iceman were fleshed out by Louise and Walter Simonson (in some of the best and lasting ways either of those characters have been portrayed), but even the Simonsons could not elevate Jean Grey to the kind of character Marvel seems to think she should be. Hell, they just started a solo, time displaced Jean Grey comic earlier this year and in the first issue they already started referencing Phoenix. That is how boring this character is, or at least how creatively bankrupt Marvel is regarding the character.
When Grant Morrison took on the X-Men in New X-Men Jean was actually portrayed with a level of depth she’s rarely been given before. She had a complicated emotional story arc that really elevated her and her death resonated. Despite all of that, Marvel has moved so far away from the incredible work Grant Morrison did with the X-Men, even though the collected editions are constantly in print and available, still solid sellers thirteen years later. These stories have been reprinted in more formats than most other Marvel comics. It’s baffling why Marvel would move so far away from a direction that was working in favor of an over a decades long emo mutant sadness porn.
We need stakes in our stories. Stakes are what keeps the reader engaged. Why should I read this story if ultimately nothing of consequence will happen? Of course there are some exceptions, but not when we’re dealing with the heavily action based superhero genre. The characters are what keeps people coming back to these stories. Can Peter Parker pay Aunt May’s rent and stop the Lizard this month? Will we find out more of Wolverine’s past? Stuff like that.
It’s safe to say that in most situations the highest stakes for a character is that they could die. When those stakes are completely removed, as they are in the superhero genre, it makes it difficult for readers to want to pick up and read them month to month. Why am I going to care about the issue where X character dies when I know they’ll be back anyway? There is no more shock value in that and the ways characters come back from different dimensions and magic and aliens makes it hard for anyone to get too invested anymore. It makes it hard for me to get invested.
Mainstream comics have a problem, and instead of dealing with it they are actually celebrating it. People are championing (adult) Jean Grey coming back after thirteen years as something that was a long time coming that we should celebrate. Finally, she’s back! It’s about time! When I hear that, it sounds like people celebrating that their friend or loved one that’s been sober for thirteen years is finally drinking again. This is not only not the time to be celebrating, it’s also very depressing and leaves you feeling hopeless.
Look, I love Marvel. Really. I adore the characters, the stories, the movies, and the TV shows; I even had a Jean Grey Phoenix action figure growing up. Some of the best characters and comics ever made or that will ever be made are from Marvel. The reason I’m writing this is because I care and so do a lot of other people. The comics industry needs Marvel to succeed. I want Marvel to succeed and, in particular, the X franchise to succeed. Back in April, I wrote this open letter to Marvel regarding the direction I saw ResurrXion going in. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be getting better, but just getting worse and the sales numbers are reflecting that.
Remember a couple of years ago when rumors started swirling that maybe the X-Men would be put in their own mini-universe separate from the rest of the Marvel Universe? Remember how some people were genuinely excited by that idea, and were kind of sad when Axel said that wouldn’t be the case? Instances like these are maybe worth taking more seriously, because I honestly can’t fathom that approach being worse than what’s happening now and you, the reader, probably can’t either.
I understand that this is a problem that didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time to get here and it will take a long time to get out. Either way, something has to change soon, because this is not sustainable.
Before I jump into this week’s column, I wanted to touch on Iceman #1 since I’ve mentioned it so many times prior to its release last Wednesday. It was a solid first issue and I really love how Sina Grace handled the dynamic between Bobby Drake and his parents. Give it a shot if you haven’t already!
Moving on… There is currently a Kickstarter up for a superhero mockumentary, Zero Issue. It’s being run by the New York Picture Company – Matt Cullinan, Zach Bubolo, and Jim Fagan. They have a little over a week left and have nearly reached their goal.
I got the chance to chat with Matt, Zach and Jim about Zero Issue, what inspires them, and where they got the tuxedos they wear in their Kickstarter video!
Joe: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your short film project, Zero Issue, Matt, Zach, and Jim! To start things off, can each of you give me a one-sentence pitch for Zero Issue?
Matt: Sure! Zero Issue is a superhero mockumentary about a loser hero trying to make a name for himself, and when his plans fail he has to figure out what lengths he’ll go to achieve fame.
Jim: I think mine would be “take every crippling fear of failure you have, mix it with your love of comic books and comedy, and watch them make a beautiful baby.”
Zach: I like that. Mine is “imagine if The Office, Chronicle, Avengers, and Best in Show were mashed into one movie, and you’ve got Zero Issue”.
Joe: You all list a lot of inspirations for this story in the Kickstarter which are great. How did this idea come to be though? Did one of you share the begins of an idea with the others, did you all have a eureka moment watching a movie together, or was it something else entirely?
Matt: Development was actually a long process.
Jim: Yeah, we were doing a lot of pitch creation for other people and we felt “hey, we need to go back to doing our own thing again…” we all knew we wanted to make a short film, share our voice with new people, connect to new parts of the industry… we just had to figure out what we wanted to say.
Zach: To generate ideas we actually use this collaborative process called “Design Thinking” and after rounds of brainstorming, cutting up magazines, writing ideas on post-it notes, we had a eureka moment in this coffee shop in Queens.
Jim: We were talking about genres we loved (and maybe it helped we were in Spider-Man’s home neighborhood of Forest Hills and next to a comic book shop) and we said: “what would our version of a superhero movie be?”
Joe: This is a superhero mockumentary. How did you decide that this was the best way to approach this particularly story?
Jim: I love the genre – it’s the reason I work in film and TV – that kind of story is the kind I’ve always wanted to tell: unfiltered, raw access to your characters. It takes any subject matter and makes it feel real and insanely funny. As far as the three of us go, it helps we have a shared obsession with the IFC show “Documentary Now” – once we knew Dale’s story and the story of this Superhero Festival we started thinking about an episode of Doc Now that shows you a whole world of an Al Capone Festival in Iceland in 22 minutes. It’s a perfect fit.
Zach: We also loved Taika Waititi’s What We Do in the Shadows (about vampire roommates in Wellington, New Zealand). That proved you could make a hilarious and compelling sci-fi story as a mockumentary.
Matt: Plus, early in our careers, Jim and I cut our teeth making reality and non-fiction television so as a genre we had a lot of experience executing it for networks.
Joe: The main character, Dale Dinkle, has super powers and wants to be famous. Can you tell us a bit more about Dale? What kind of things can we expect from Dale over the course of the story?
Zach: Dale is a bit of all three of us – he has a little bit of talent, he was told he’s special his whole life, and now he’s a 30-something and decidedly not special. He is desperate, confused, and disappointed that he hasn’t made it to the big time.
Matt: His power is that he can move objects with his mind – which is cool – but he’s not super powerful. He can’t float the Golden Gate Bridge like Magneto.
Jim: His mind-moving power is probably like Yoda in Empire. He could move an X-wing, but it would take a lot of effort… and he doesn’t tap into that until he gets a little dark side in him.
Matt: Ohh, is that a tease?
Matt: Over the course of the story expect of lot of him scrambling in desperation to prove how special and important he is.
Joe: What other kinds of characters and super powers can we expect to see in Zero Issue?
Jim: Another hero we’re excited for is Sarah Smith. If Dale represents the 90’s era superhero movies with ill-fitting nylon suits, she’s the Netflix-Snapchat era hero. No costume, just a cool attitude, and deadly powers.
Zach: She’s like Jessica Jones, but with the power of Phoenix.
Matt: But she gives no fucks. Which is awesome. Another aspiring hero is Hoover, a teen with a lot of social-anxiety. We thought that kind of character would be an original addition to the superhero genre.
Zach: He can literally suck the life out of a room, like Rogue, but he doesn’t absorb any powers. And like Sarah, he’s scared to fully use his powers.
Jim: The Zero Issue Universe is how our brains feel when we think about all the characters from all the decades of comic books we love. It’s like when you’re a kid and you take out your action figures from 12 different sets – X-Men, HeMan, Batman – they don’t care they’re from different “worlds” they just wanna kick some ass. Only in our movie, they attend symposiums on getting a superhero talent agent.
Zach: There’s the leather clad, machine gun wielding Miss Mayhem and Sir Chaos from the 80s, there’s Lady Marvelous, who is an aging Golden-Age hero from the 50s, and Hercules, the original superhero, who is literally from 200 BC.
Joe: Switching gears for a minute, there are a lot of Kickstarters out there lately and people like knowing that they’re pledging to accomplished professionals, which you all are. Could you each name one or two professional projects you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?
Jim: Yeah, and we think that’s something special we bring to the project. This isn’t our first rodeo. We’ve made shows for networks and brands – I’m particularly proud of my work running a show for ABC called People’s List and my work on PBS’ Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton.
Matt: A lot of my work is in the documentary television space. I probably peaked when my childhood dreams came true and I worked with Mark Hamill on a piece called Raiders, Raptors, and Rebels: Behind the Magic of ILM. I also recently wrote and produced When We Rise: The People Behind the Story for ABC.
Zach: As an actor I loved working on the video game Grand Theft Auto V, and as a producer, I’m actually going to say that I loved our work on NYPC for Cooking for One with the Crying Chef.
Joe: Whenever comic book fans hear about someone doing a project about superheroes, they like to hear about the comic books that inspired them. What comics have you read over the years that gave you an appreciation for the superhero genre?
Zach: My dad was a comic book collector in the 80s, and he loved showing me the milestone issues of the comics he collected: like Silver Surfer #1 or when Spider-Man got the symbiote suit, or the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Eastman and Laird, or The Phantom. Recently, I’ve been really into Faith and the Ta-Nehisi Coates Black Panther series “A Nation Under Our Feet”.
Jim: I think my introduction was through Saturday morning cartoons. The X-Men show was pretty influential to me. Everyone hum the theme song to yourself, I’ll wait… good. And when the New 52 came out I was obsessed with the new spin on Aquaman. And in the past year or so, I’ve really liked the Star Wars comics, specifically the Darth Vader run.
Matt: Honestly, I feel like early on in life a lot of my exposure to the world of comics came through the world of video games. So X-Men was huge for me. I spent a lot of time playing those games on the Sega Genesis (shoutout to Nightcrawler). Even more than video games, movies have always been my gateway to comics: the Burton/Keaton Batman films, TMNT, and later Hellboy, Blade, and Spawn. And graphic novels. Oh, and Y: The Last Man. I’ll stop now.
Zach: Other non-comics, but books we love and that give us a deep appreciation of comic lore are Soon I Will Be Invincible and Grant Morrison’s Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human.
Joe: In the Kickstarter video you’re all wearing tuxedos. Did you rent them or do you own them?
Jim: Mine is my dad’s! It’s ill-fitting!
Matt: Yeah, I bought mine when I was a best man for a wedding. I give a helluva toast.
Zach: I ordered mine from Amazon. Only ninety dollars!
Jim: Less if you return it after!
Joe: Though the initial goal is to raise $30,000 you have a stretch goal of $100,000 to produce a full-length feature film instead and the script is already written. Can you tell us more about what we can expect in a feature film and why it’s so important that you make it to $100,000?
Matt: Yes, the dream is to make a feature. But to make a movie with lots of special effects and lots of locations, characters, and cool costumes you need a whole lot of cash.
Jim: The feature would focus not just on Dale but other aspiring heroes. In this short, we introduce you to Sarah and Hoover but in the feature, they take over a bit more. The short is Dale’s story, our story… the feature is a bit larger in terms of story. You would also see a lot more of the “normal,” the townsfolk, and how the divide between the two groups would become irreconcilable. Christopher Guest is a master of creating a movie with several leads that you’re all cheering for.
Matt: The short would be the first third of a larger story. We’d move past the point where our movie ends and follow these three characters as they develop beyond the competition and intersect when their powers have all matured.
Zach: We think the short is incredibly strong – we tell a compact story, with one lead and a huge supporting cast, in twenty-two minutes. It’s going to have everything you could want from a superhero story: powers, humor, characters you care about, and a climactic battle.
Joe: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me about Zero Issue! Before we wrap this up, anything else you’d like to say about Zero Issue and where can people go to follow you on social media and follow Zero Issue and your future projects?
Zach: The best place for people to go right now is the Kickstarter page – no matter how much you give, whether it’s one dollar or one thousand, you’ll get on our mailing list and get all of our updates. Last week we released some insanely cool concept art early to our backers.
Matt: Plus you’ll be supporting the creation of a brand new superhero movie!
Jim: After the Kickstarter, the best place for all our news and updates is our Facebook page.
This week I’m covering Scout Comics and Ben Kahn. Ben had self-published a comic titled Heavenly Blues which I had picked up a while back at Carmine Street Comics here in Manhattan. Since then, Scout Comics has picked up the series. I got the chance to talk with Ben about his comics career and having Heavenly Blues added to Scout Comics growing roster.
JC: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your new series at Scout Comics, Heavenly Blues! Before we get started, you’re a fairly new face to comics, at least in terms of being Diamond distributed. Can you tell us a bit about your writing career leading up to this?
BK: Of course. Heavenly Blues is my first series handled by Diamond, but my work in comics stretches back over twelve years. In high school, I worked on a webcomic that ran for around 700 strips between 2005 and 2012. It wasn’t much. I took video game sprites and used them to make comics in MSPaint and Photoshop. For a shock-comedy webcomic it was pretty successful, but that’s not exactly setting the bar very high. I loved working on the webcomic and making it taught me a lot about writing dialogue, but it eventually just kinda ran out of steam. A big part of that was I had started working on Shaman. Production on Shaman ran from 2011 to 2015, when it was released. Shaman was actually distributed by Diamond as a trade paperback. So Heavenly Blues is my first series in Diamond, but it’s not my first rodeo with them. While I was working on Shaman, I was also working as a writer and designer for a mobile game company. Don’t ask me what games I worked on, they were all terrible. But working on those games gave me the resources to make Shaman, so all’s well that ends well.
JC: I’d like to expand on what you were discussing regarding Shaman. As someone whose self-published before I understand how daunting of a feat that can be. How did you go about making that happen and what were the challenges and rewards for you?
BK: Making Shaman was one of the most difficult, and rewarding things I’ve ever done. It’s a five-chapter graphic novel that I worked on with Bruno Hidalgo (who is working with me again on Heavenly Blues) and was about a necromancer and his teenage daughter going on crazy adventures and bringing heroes and villains back to life. Think Hellblazer meets Rick & Morty. I was very lucky to work with Philly-based publisher, Locust Moon Press. They helped me put together a creative team, find artists for covers (including Farel Dalrymple, JG Jones, and Jim Rugg). Really, they taught me everything I know about making comics. To get the book actually printed and into stores, I had to do a Kickstarter campaign. The campaign was successful, but man was that the toughest month of my life. Kickstarter’s great. The stories and creative voices it’s empowered are truly something to behold. But man oh man am I happy that I don’t have to do another Kickstarter. I’m so proud of the work Bruno and I did on Shaman. It was my first real comic book, the first time I really got to see characters I imagined come to life. It was beyond rewarding, and not just because seeing your book in a store in between Saga and Spider-Man is the coolest thing ever.
JC: Okay, now onto Heavenly Blues! How did you come about thinking up this idea, and at what point did your collaborator Bruno Hidalgo join the project?
BK: The original kernel of an idea was an old Irish proverb “may you be in Heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.” It got me thinking of a heist on Heaven, where thieves had 30 minutes to break in and make the ultimate score. The story naturally moved away from that idea, but that’s where the idea of “heist in the afterlife” started. Rather than having present day, alive characters break into heaven, I realized that the characters could be much more varied and complex if they were already dead. Bruno came on board the very second there was a script done. He was the only artist I wanted to work with on this. There was almost no downtime between Shaman ending and Heavenly Blues beginning.
JC: Like Shaman, you went about self-publishing Heavenly Blues at first. Why did you decide on the self-publishing route for this series?
BK: Self-publishing was never the end goal. The idea was always to do a small print run to get the word out there while I pitched to publishers. Part of the reason I wanted to do a print run before pitching to publishers was to build up some early awareness and buzz. Judging by the existence of this interview, it worked! With Shaman, I wanted to have all five issues done before printing. But with Heavenly Blues, I decided to do a small print run of the individual issues. Part of this was wanting more content for conventions, and part was seeing just how easy it was when my life partner did it (Kathleen Kralowec of the wonder The Lion & The Roc webcomic).
JC: When did you decide to pitch the series around and why is Scout Comics the best home for Heavenly Blues?
BK: Pitching was always the plan. From day one, I wanted Heavenly Blues to have a real publisher. It was the same with Shaman. I pitched it to every comics publisher there was, but even though we got really close with some, it didn’t work out. But I pitched Shaman back in 2013 and 2014. And even though that feels like such a short time ago, the comic industry has really changed in just the last couple of years. There’s a whole new tier of publishers that just didn’t exist when I pitched Shaman. No Scout, no Black Mask Studios, no AfterShock Comics, no Vault Comics. Heavenly Blues simply entered a very different environment than Shaman did. I had a couple of publishers interested in Heavenly Blues, but Scout really impressed me from the get-go. Brendan Deneen and James Pruett have been fantastic to work with. Scout is young and hungry, and is putting out some really spectacular books like Solar Flare, Mindbender, InferNoct, and Girrion. It’s a library I’m very proud to be a part of.
JC: Some of the characters we see in Heavenly Blues are based somewhat on real people. What about those people and events in history inspired you to write this story?
BK: The nature of the story gives me access to all of history. I wanted to create the “ultimate” team of thieves and wanted to pull from the most iconic archetypes from around the world. I didn’t want to use real historical people though, I wanted more freedom in establishing their personalities and backstories. Some characters are based off more generic archetypes, like 16th-century ninja Hideki Iwata and ancient Egyptian grave robber Amunet. Others are inspired by more specific people. With the main character, Isaiah Jefferson, he’s a bank robber from the Great Depression. He very much follows in the John Dillinger model of the Criminal as Celebrity. Wild West outlaw, James ‘Coin Counter’ Turner, was based heavily on Doc Holliday with some notable differences (namely Coin Counter’s less than heroic morality and his queer sexuality). I think Erin Foley’s inspiration is the most interesting to me, as she doesn’t originate from a traditional ‘thief’ archetype. Instead, she comes from the character Pearl in Scarlet Letter. Scarlet Letter was one of my favorite books in high school, and I was excited at the opportunity to explore that kind of time period and culture.
JC: You tackle elements of Christianity in this story. Since that can be a sensitive subject for some people, how do you go about writing a story with a religious backdrop?
BK: Honestly, the religious aspect never really factored into it. I’m Jewish. Heaven and Hell were never presented to me in a religious context. The afterlife isn’t a big deal in Jewish culture. It’s almost never mentioned, and when it is there are very few details. When I was first told about Heaven and Hell, I had so many questions that there were no answers to. So Hell is just the torture dimension? Who decides who goes where? Does judgment change with modern morality, or is it fixed? Heaven and Hell never seemed like real places that people could exist in, so this is my attempt at answering those questions and creating an afterlife that feels, for lack of a better word, real. I think by now people have been exposed to dozens if not hundreds of depictions of Heaven and Hell that are relatively secular. And if someone is offended…*shrug*
JC: What comics and comic writers influence your work and made you want to get into comics in the first place?
BK: Oh man, I was just thinking about this today. Now I actually get to tell you my comics Mt. Rushmore: Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Brian K Vaughn, and Geoff Johns. They each influenced me in major ways. Vaughn’s Runaways was the first comic I ever read, Johns’ Green Lantern was my first superhero series I followed month to month, Gaiman’s Sandman inspired me to become a writer, and Morrison’s everything turned my reality into a fragmented kaleidoscope of dream time. I think comics are greatest creative medium ever invented. I think it’s the perfect union of incredible writing and incredible art. I think every medium has its specialties and what it does best, but what comics do better than anything else is depict the impossible. An epic battle of the gods among the cosmos is just as easy to depict as two people talking in a diner, maybe easier. There’s absolutely nothing that can’t be done in comics, and that inspires me every day.
JC: What advice can you give to all the self-publishers that may be reading this?
BK: What advice can I give? Be obsessed. Like, crazy obsessed. Unhealthily obsessed. Be prepared to forgo social events and spend ludicrous amounts of money on a creative team. You want a professional book? Gotta pay people a professional rate. There’s no cheat or shortcut. I truly believe comics aren’t something you can do unless you’re willing to throw absolutely everything you’ve got at it. But if you’re obsessed enough, that’ll be a price you’ll pay without a second thought.
JC: Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me! Where can people pre-order Heavenly Blues and do you have anything else you’d like to plug?
BK: Heavenly Blues is out in stores on July 26th, and the Diamond order code is MAY171769. You can find Shaman on ComiXology or on my Etsy store. My next convention is Five Points Comics Festival, so catch me there in New York this weekend on May 20-21st. And make sure to check out all the other great books from Scout Comics!
Last week I read X-Men Gold #1 and, controversy aside which I won’t be getting into as you have gone above and beyond to address the issue properly and professionally, it really invoked a lot of strong feelings in me. Because of that, I’d like to talk about the X-Men and what they mean to me.
I first discovered X-Men on television when I was in elementary school. I remember watching the first episode and immediately being sucked in. To this day, the Sentinels are still menacing to me and I’ll always have a fondness for Jubilee, Rogue and Storm. I remember the time between Saturday morning after the episode finished to the next Saturday felt like an eternity. I was a shy kid who knew he was queer, but I didn’t understand it. I didn’t have a lot of friends, didn’t enjoy sports and couldn’t really connect to other kids on a lot of things, but one thing I could talk to the other kids at lunch in the cafeteria was about cartoons like X-Men. That meant a lot to me.
I was lucky to have parents that did well enough to get a lot of those action figures. It was very confusing to me, and I’m sure my parents as well, how they had action figures based on the cartoon as well as ones based on the comics. Why did my Storm action figure have a black costume when it was white on the show? I remember some of the times very clearly of being at Toys R Us in Levittown, NY with my parents specifically wanting X-Men action figures. It’s a DSW Shoes now. I really pushing hard for the yellow and blue costume Wolverine and how exciting that was for me to get it. Or how it took my mom more than one attempt to get a Phoenix action figure for me.
My parents also got me the VHS of the pilot that never took off, Pryde of the X-Men. I watched it over and over again. I once used all my quarters allotted to me to beat the X-Men video game based on that unsold pilot at the arcade in Bayville, NY. I’d got to beat it again in Walt Disney World a decade before Disney bought Marvel;the only character that worked was Dazzler. I’ve been obsessed with Dazzler ever since. I also had played that Sega Genesis X-Men game where it almost all takes place in the Danger Room – it was definitely harder than it needed to be. I was even in an AOL chatroom X-Men role playing game for a bit. I played Cyclops.
The first X-Men movie came out while I was in high school and watched some of the resulting X-Men Evolution cartoon. I saw that first X-Men movie opening weekend, and have seen each X-Men movie opening weekend ever since. College brought about a lot of nostalgia for the 90s animated series. Covered in scorpions was a running gag. A guy I met while in college, Jake, was the first openly gay X-Men fan I befriended. It was when Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassiday was coming out. I’d pick him up and we’d go to Fourth World Comics, our local comic shop. We’d go back, read it in silence, then discuss. We also went together to pick up X-Men Legends 2 the day it came out and played it as late as we could into the night.
Since then I’ve befriended people in comics, other LGBT fans of the X-Men, and have had all sorts of long philosophical and meaningful conversations about these comics. I’ve waited on long lines to get signatures at cons from people like Chris Claremont, Louise and Walter Simonson, Mike and Laura Allred, Peter David, John Cassiday, and Frank Quitely because of the work they did in the world of X-Men and have gotten original comic pages, con sketches and commissions of the X-Men.
I’m telling you all of this not to brag or claim that I’m a bigger fan than anyone else because it’s honestly no astonishing feat. I’m saying this to let you know how much the X-Men has meant to me over the years, how it’s impacted my life for the better, made me more social, and is one of the biggest reasons I’m writing about comics at all. I’m also telling you this because I read X-Men Gold #1 and it left me so frustrated I that I had to write this.
I think it’s fair to say that as an X-Men comics reader I’m within your target demographic and would take that one step further and say I’m likely be perceived as low hanging fruit. I have to be completely honest and say that there is something wrong here with this book. It’s not the writing, and controversy aside it’s not the artwork. It’s not even the editing. Marvel put together an impressive team to work on this book, and it shows. The problem I’m talking about runs deeper and doesn’t necessarily have an easy fix.
The weight of the X-Men falls heavy on this book. Because of the decades and decades of continuity, this debut issue spends so much time trying to explain what happened before this started that it’s basically all we get. We get reference after reference, explanation after explanation, and we are left with little story. And despite all of the references and explanations we still get six full pages at the end of the comic to further explain everything leading up to this issue. If you need six pages at the end of your comic to explain your comic then we have a problem. A big problem.
Writer Marc Guggenheim talks in his letter at the end of the issue about how this is going to be more of a throwback to an older time in X-Men history when it was fresh and new. This is also a problem. Nostalgia has been driving these books for a long time and it has to stop. It needs to stop or you’re condemning the X brand to never grow its audience.
I’m 31 years old and the X-Men has been a part of my life for well over two decades. I for one am absolutely sick to death of nostalgia, and I’m not the only one. I fell in love with X-Men when I saw the animated episode Night of the Sentinels Part 1 because it was inviting, explained enough of what was happening so I could follow it, and told an engaging story. Had that cartoon been a bunch of characters making references to things they did 30 years previous and took so long to set everything up that the first episode ended a few seconds after something started to move the plot forward, I might not be the X-Men fan I am now. Nostalgia has its place, but it is not why we fall in love with stories and it is certainly not what will grow an audience.
I certainly do not mean to diminish the works of everyone at the company. Marc Guggenheim is a wonderful writer whom I’m embarrassingly not as familiar with as I should be and will be rectifying that in the coming weeks. Daniel Ketchum is a great editor who took the time to chat with me after a panel at NYCC a couple of years back encouraging me to keep giving the Iceman storyline a chance and it’s really paying off now as I’m most excited for Sina Grace’s Iceman #1. Jay Leisten is an incredible inker whose work I first got into with Peter David’s run on X-Factor that is one of my favorite chapters in mutant history. Cory Petit is great letterer and a friend. Axel Alonso with Peter Milligan and Mike Allred put together what is easily to me one of the best things that ever happened to the X franchise with their run on X-Force/X-Statix.
These are amazing people doing spectacular things, and I honestly believe they are doing the best they can with what they have to work with.
As a long time fan I want to tell you that I acknowledge that X-Men has become too old, too bloated, and is crippling itself under its own weight in continuity. As a long time fan I want to tell you that it’s okay to let it loose, cut it free from its continuity and start fresh. It’s unsustainable how it is right now. Let it have that new fresh start it needs to survive.
I felt a certain magic when I first picked up X-Force/X-Statix, Grant Morrison‘s New X-Men,Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men, Peter David’s X-Factor, and Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-Force. I want to feel that magic again in an X book, not because they’re going back to what works, but because they’re trying something new and daring and they aren’t getting caught in the current of continuity and dragged under. I didn’t feel that magic in X-Men Gold #1.
That’s not to say it won’t ever come. I’m picking up issue 2. I’m going to be picking up the rest of the X books coming out in this new wave and I’ll see what sticks. However, the flagship title of a franchise relaunch should be blowing a reader away, and that wasn’t the case here; at least for me. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m the odd man out in this situation. Maybe my love of the franchise has set the bar unreasonably high and that’s not fair of me.
I just want the X-Men to continue to succeed well into the future. I want the queer kids in school like me who maybe didn’t understand they are queer and what it is to have a team of heroes to look up to, because they need a team of them. They need to see a world where there are a lot of people like themselves and they can work together and be special no matter how the rest of the world perceives them. They need to see a world where these characters who sometimes have vastly different philosophies and strategies on how to keep themselves safe can come together to protect each other because taking care of each other is most important thing. They need Northstar, Iceman, Rictor, Shatterstar, Mystique, Destiny, Karma, and more.
I know this was long, yet I have so much more I could say. Please don’t let the X-Men crush themselves under their own weight. I’m still going to be a fan, and I’ll keep giving these books a shot over and over again, but I’d love to have some of that magic back.
A few weeks back I made mention of my newfound love of my local comic shop. And in rekindling a relationship with them, I was torn with what to do with my old comic shop. You see, the manager of the establishment is a longtime friend and colleague whose opinion on good quality pulp and paper I covet. So, I came to an agreement. From my local shop I would establish my subscription box with “the big two” cape books — Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Titans, Captain America, and so on. And on the other side of that comic coin, I issued a challenge to my friend:
Take the $20 I would have given you for my subscription box, and turn it into any other books you think I’d like. Just nothing mainstream per say.
Well, a few weeks ago, I got my first custom crate if you will. In it, came the entire run of #1 issues from DC’s newly christened Young Animal imprint (and a pair of other books unrelated to fully spend the $20). Eric, said manager-friend, did his homework well. He knew I’d long been a fan of the Grant Morrison years of Doom Patrol, and with that, made the choice to show me what a full line as directed by Gerard Way would look like.
So, what of Doom Patrol? As penned by Way himself, I’m left (ironically) between diametric opinions. I truly either loved the book or I loathed it. Nearly a month since cracking it open, with several rereads has yet to solidify my thoughts. Way clearly loves the Morrison years as much as I, but in doing so he creates a book that offers as much new content as it relies on obscurer-than-obscure references throughout the thin read. By books’ end I had a sense of where we’re headed, without any idea what (if any) the stakes are. As a number one, the issue skates by on style points enough to warrant a second issue buy for sure. Will I be getting it? No.
Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye is Vertigo to a tee. Gerard Way also writes this book, wherein a retro-futuristic spelunker of yore has recently lost his wife but gained a new ocular outlook on life. Unlike DP, this one is weird, but grounded solidly. Cave Carson himself is maudlin, but thanks to slick art by Jon Rivera, the panels breeze by. Because I have a strong feeling (and truly no urge to Wikipedia about it further) that the book is dusting off a silver age concept, there’s that quintessentially Vertigo vibe to the proceedings. Darkness around the edge of a hipster plotline? Sure, count me in. The added pocket of mysteries — the wheres, whys, whats, and hows of the titular eye — would certainly give me reason to see it through a few more episodes.
Shade The Changing Girl is penned by Cecil Castellucci and is the wild trip Gerard Way perhaps wishes he’d written himself. Taking cues from the Shade, the Changing Man — itself a dusted-off ditty from one of the first Vertigo-rounds — the Girl takes the basics of the brand and boils them in some serious acid. What we get, in its best parts, is the sheep of CW drama in a Vertigo wolf’s clothing. When a braindead mean girl is reanimated by a dimensionally-traversing bird-man who has appropriated some Shade-Tech, the result is psychedelic in media res of epic proportions. The book is a rough read in all the right ways. Its concepts are challenging enough to remain engaging despite the off-kilter kitsch of being weird for weirdness sake – which itself is a Vertigo trademark, as far as I’m concerned. Suffice to say, with a blissful balance as presented of properly pretty/trippy art Shade was the biggest standout to me of the line.
Last and least comes Mother Panic. Jody Houser delivers a Tarantino-esque revenge porn comic wherein a wealthy socialite stalks Gotham on the fringes Batman misses to punch bad men in the dicks until the crime is solved. Forgive my blunt snark. Mother Panic is a sludge-dirty book that seems to be joyless in the face of its Young Animal brethren.
The plot – revolving around our hero trying to pin down an artist-cum-serial-killer – is rote enough to have been back-burner fodder from a spec script of Hannibal. The titular heroine is mean, nasty, and nasal throughout. And her Rom: The Space Night pajamas may look striking on the cover of the book, but read as a half-thought mid-panel. Where Cave, Doom Patrol, and Shade each combined darker and mature themes into their retro-tinged panels, Mother Panic is a gothic melodrama with no light to be seen; save only for the Jim Krueger / Phil Hester backup piece which delivers at least one laugh before toppling into gritty grizzle for the sake of blackity blackness. Color me unimpressed.
But… I digress.
Pair those four books with two other indie gems (tied together as Eric denoted: all written and/or directed through the lens of a rock and roller), and you paint me a more-than-satisfied customer. Young Animal was off-the-beaten path enough for me to feel that hipster vibe I was searching for when I came up with the challenge. My best advice to you: befriend your local pulp slinger, and throw down the gauntlet yourself. I’m certainly a better fan for doing it. Let’s reconvene in a month and see what box #2 will hold!
Over the past year I have been working on raising awareness of Rachel Pollack’s run on Doom Patrol. She’s not only one of two trans women to ever write at DC Comics, she’s also the only woman to write Doom Patrol.
When I was given a slot here at ComicMix to be a weekly columnist, I used my second column to talk about Coagula. Once DC Comics announced its plans to launch the Young Animal imprint helmed by Gerard Way and how Doom Patrol would be the flagship title, I wrote about my excitement and made sure to discuss Rachel Pollack’s contributions again. Months later I took to Geeks OUT to praise the importance of Rachel’s run to queer comics history. Most recently, I wrote up a piece last week on how Rachel Pollack has been forgotten by the comics industry at [insertgeekhere].
After a year of writing pieces on the subject, I finally got the chance to interview Rachel Pollack this past Saturday on her career in comics. Here is the transcript of that interview.
Joe: What got you into reading comics and what stood out about Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well first I’ve read comics since I was a kid. So I’ve been reading comics all life, which is a very long time now! I’ve always loved comics. There have been these periods where I would grow out of it so to speak and then the comics would get better and I’d come back to it you know? And then with Doom Patrol I never read the original, and I forget how I came to read Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. I really don’t remember exactly how I came to read that except that it wasn’t Vertigo yet but it was associated with Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman which started before Vertigo so I was aware of it as part of that group. When I read it I was completely knocked out by it. I loved it. This is so incredible. A work of genius. And that’s how I came to read Doom Patrol.
Joe: You had gotten started on Doom Patrol after Grant was off the book. How did that come to be?
Rachel – What happened was I went to a party with people from DC with my friend Neil Gaiman and he introduced me to Stuart Moore. I mentioned my appreciation for Doom Patrol to Stuart and he said Tom Peyer is here at the party I should talk to him. So I told Tom I love Doom Patrol. It was the only ongoing superhero comic I was interested in writing at the time, if it was ever available. Tom told me Grant is actually leaving so why don’t I do a sample script and send it to him. And so I did that. He liked it enough to hire me.
Then I did that prank where I sent a letter to the letters column of Doom Patrol. I had to wait ages for Tom to get around to reading it. I wrote in this voice as a young fan. It read something like, “Dear Mr. Peyer, Doom Patrol is great! Grant Morrison is the most fabulous writer in the world. He’s a super genius! If he ever dies or gets sick can I write it?” And Tom finally reads it and calls me and tells me he loves it and to write more of these. Then in Grant’s last issue we’ll announce that you’ve gotten the job. So I wrote more letters and in the second to last one I wrote, ”I really wanna write Doom Patrol! I’m getting kinda angry here! I have friends. Don’t think I’m just a kid. You wouldn’t wanna have your head shoved in the toilet would you? Or sugar in your gas tank.” And then in the last issue of Grant’s run I wrote, “Gee Mr. Peyer I’m really really sorry about that! I got kinda carried away. The thing is I already told my mom I would be writing it and she told all her friends already. And so then Tom responded with, “Well what can I do? She told her mom. I have no choice! Rachel Pollack is the new writer of Doom Patrol!”
In that same issue I wrote this essay praising Grant Morrison in my serious writer voice. It just seemed to me it was so obvious that it was a joke and yet all of these people thought it was real! Some were really angry thinking I got this job just by writing letters. Others thought if they wrote letters they could write a comic. I was shocked that people could be so silly, you know?
Then I went to some other party at DC and I met this group of people. One was from the New Yorker Magazine and one was from the Village Voice and they asked you didn’t get the job from writing letters? I was like oh my God you people are nuts! So if you never heard that story that’s how the letters came to be.
Joe: When you started writing on Doom Patrol Tom was still editor, Richard Case was still doing layout work, and Stan Woch was still on the book as well. So basically you were one of the only new elements to the book. How was stepping into the role of writer with so much of the prior team on board at first and how did you start making this run of Doom Patrol your own?
Rachel: I was actually really thrilled that Richard Case was staying on for my first story arc. I love his art. I guess they were hoping that the transition would be smooth. I kind of did my first story as a homage to Grant’s beginnings. His first story was Crawling Through The Wreckage and I called mine Sliding Through The Wreckage. Tom had said to me Grant wouldn’t give any information. I think Grant wanted the series to end after he left. I’ve never had this confirmed but it was always my impression. Like how Russell T. Davies believed the BBC should let him kill off Doctor Who. But they didn’t.
So Grant wouldn’t give much information. The only information Tom had for me was that Robotman would be left and Dorothy, there had to be somebody in bandages (that’s what Tom wanted), and the Chief would be a head without a body. This turned out to be a Grant Morrison joke. Because Grant did this one off issue of a dream where the Chief lost his body and was a literal talking head, but I just went with it. I gather, like I said I never got the information from Grant, that he thought it was absurd. I thought it was hilarious. Since Tom said we need someone in bandages I introduced George and Marion, a couple in bandages. Then I introduced Kate Godwin but that was seven issues in. My first issue was 64 and issue 70 was when Kate Godwin appeared.
Joe: How did you go about creating Kate Godwin, a.k.a. Coagula?
Rachel: I was told that the current artist needed a break and I should do a one off story that could be done with a different artist. And I wasn’t pleased with the idea because I always tended to think in large story arcs. So I had to think of something and I came up with this ridiculous villain called Codpiece. And then somehow I just decided without even really thinking about it to introduce this transsexual lesbian superhero.
At the time I was involved in transgender activism and someone asked me if Kate Godwin was based on me and I said to answer the question, she’s based on a couple of friends of mine. But it wasn’t this big decision like I was trying to have this crusade. I just thought it was a cool thing to do.
The theme that had been emerging in my run was people having issues with their bodies and accepting their bodies. I always thought that was implied in Grant’s run. Dorothy was ugly, Cliff had a brain in a robot body, the Chief was in a wheelchair, Rebis was in bandages and so on and so on. I just made it more explicit. George and Marion were the first characters I had the idea of having accept themselves. And there’s a scene in that issue, the Codpiece issue, where George and Marion are heading to town and they ask Cliff and Dorothy if they want to come and they both make excuses. Dorothy says how can you stand it having people stare at you all the time? George and Marion say they have two choices: either they can go enjoy themselves and have people stare at them or they could stay home all the time and hide. George and Marion would rather go enjoy themselves and have people stare.
Codpiece himself was freaked out about people not liking him because he thought they would think he had a small penis which was all in his head. The first scene of that issue shows Codpiece’s origin. He’s in high school and he asks this girl why won’t you go out with me? She doesn’t want to say because you’re an asshole so she says because you’re too small. He’s wounded from this exchange and takes it as her implying he has a small penis. It becomes a fixation of his. And we see this over the years even though there is no evidence of this.
Then we get to present day where a prostitute says to him if you’re worried about being too small why don’t you wear something? He responds by developing this ridiculous codpiece costume. My idea was that it’s a parody of the ridiculous weapons in comics in the 50s and 60s. Like how Green Arrow would have a quiver on his back that would somehow contain boxing glove arrows and rocket arrows and so forth. So Codpiece had a boxing glove weapon and so on. Apparently some people thought I was attacking the fans. That I was somehow judging the fans as inadequate in the sense of their masculinity. Weird!
I guess it was in contrast to him and to some extent Dorothy and Cliff that I had this character come in, a transsexual lesbian. It was also because of a friend of mine, to go back to my earlier point. Her last name was Chelsea Godwin. She had asked me if she could be in the comic because she always wanted to be a superhero so I was sort of thinking of doing something for her. And Kate came from Kate Bornstein who was this brilliant transgender activist and performer. So I was paying homage to my friends.
Kate became a regular character. And a thoughtful character. A lot of people connected with her. Some people didn’t obviously. I didn’t get a lot of criticism that I was being too much of a trans activist, but rather that I was being too much of a feminist. That I was forcing feminism down their throats is what some people said. Some also said I was being too obscure. That was in the early issues. I was following Grant’s tendency to be obscure, but I perhaps took it a bit too far. As time went on there was more structure to the stories, but by that time we had already alienated some readers.
Joe: Do you have a favorite moment from working on Doom Patrol?
Rachel: Well I just really loved doing it. I loved telling these stories that were so outrageous. I loved the characters. We came up with some interesting ideas. I liked the character False Memory which was another single issue story.
There was one thing that happened shortly after we introduced Kate. We got a letter from a young transsexual reader from England who stated that she was wanting to kill herself, but never dared and because of the character of Kate Godwin she was able to come out to her friends. She was finally able to tell people because what we were doing made her finally feel that it was possible to have a life being herself. It was very powerful. We may have saved someone’s life. It was amazing. I wonder how that she’s doing now. It was a long time ago. Hopefully she continued to move in a positive direction.
Joe: You also worked on other books at DC including New Gods. Can you tell us about that?
Rachel: Yes! I was really thrilled to write it! Tom Peyer had gotten the job to write that, but he wasn’t that wild about it, so he asked if I’d be interested in writing with him and I jumped at it. Jack Kirby’s New Gods I think about in the same way as Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. It’s a work of genius, you know? Even more, New Gods to me was so powerfully from Jack Kirby’s subconscious. You know, Kirby is known for his art primarily and New Gods was known to be kind of primitive in the writing, but actually it was so powerful on this raw level that it didn’t matter that the dialogue would be clumsy at times. An example was there was one issue with this character who was a revelationist, Glorious Godfrey, and at one point Darkseid appears and Godfrey says to Darkseid that they have to manipulate these people and Darkseid says he likes him because he’s brash but that he’s the revelationist, but “I am the revelation, the force at the core of all things.” You could tell Kirby meant it. It wasn’t just some throwaway comic book line.
So I was thrilled to work on that comic. Then Tom dropped out and I was writing it by myself. I was never thrilled by the artist though. With Vertigo I would always have some say in the artist but with the mainstream DC they insist on having these artists and he just did tits and ass all the time. It infuriated me. I used to joke with people that I would have quit if they didn’t fire me!
What happened with the comic was I got a letter from the editor saying the current artist was fired. I was happy. I really didn’t like him because of how sexist he was in his style of art. Then the next letter I got was you and I are fired too!
Apparently John Byrne had decided to take over New Gods and got rid of everybody. The same way he took over Doom Patrol after me, after a gap. With Doom Patrol too he wanted to sweep away everything previous and go back to what he perceived to be the true Doom Patrol before Grant Morrison.
Joe: How did you end up leaving comics?
Rachel: Well to be honest my stuff wasn’t selling that well, so things got cancelled. Doom Patrol got cancelled because sales went down below a certain point and the irony is not that long after that sales point would have been great because the sale of comics at the time were declining so rapidly. But compared to the previous sales from Grant’s books and Sandman, they cancelled it.
And actually my editor on Doom Patrol at the time, Lou Stathis, had died which was very sad. He was a wonderful man, and he had been my champion at DC. In fact, he said to me one time they wanted to cancel me and he told them, “Look, if Vertigo isn’t going to publish Rachel Pollack then what’s the point?” He thought I was doing daring things that no one else was doing and that’s what Vertigo needed.
When he had died Axel Alonso had been the assistant editor on Doom Patrol and of course now he’s the editor-in-chief of Marvel. He wasn’t interested in the kind of things I was doing. He was interested in war comics and other genres and didn’t want to continue Doom Patrol at that time as sales were below a certain point.
I had done some other things at DC too. I did a one off issue of The Geek with Mike Allred that I enjoyed a lot. I also did a one off issue of Tomahawk. It was funny, they enjoyed taking these older characters from the 50s or so and doing revisionist stories with them. I was asked what would I like to do and out of my subconscious came Tomahawk. It was never my favorite as a kid. I had read it though, and obviously in my subconscious I wanted to do a story about the whole European attitude to the forest and the Native Americans as the original idea was be frightened by the forest and be frightened by the savages.
Then Stuart Moore started the science fiction imprint Helix and I got to do Time Breakers which I had a real great time doing. I had wanted to do a time paradox story for a long long time and this was my chance to do one. It was so much fun!
Joe: Once Time Breakers was over was that it with you and comics?
Rachel: I forget if it was Time Breakers or New Gods. The stuff I was doing didn’t sell well enough and they were no longer interested in ideas from me. It was unfortunate. I loved doing comics. Hopefully there will be more. Some possibilities for doing something in comics again. There are one or two things I’m currently interested in doing.
Joe – Your whole run of Doom Patrol is on Comixology and has been for a couple of years. How does that work for you?
Rachel: It doesn’t. I know nothing about it. No one told me about it. I really don’t know. I have no idea how that happens. I assume that if DC was making some money on it that they would be paying royalties no matter how tiny to myself and the artists.
Joe: So you haven’t received any money from Comixology?
Rachel: I never even received official acknowledgement that my comics are there. So I know nothing about it. I would have thought that somebody would say something.
Joe: Does DC own the rights to all of your comics work?
Rachel – No. Time Breakers is owned by me and Chris Weston. I guess that’s the only one. Every other one I worked on was with existing characters and properties. It’s the only creator owned comic I had published.
Joe: Any plans on possibly reprinting it?
Rachel – Well there are some possibilities. Nothing definite yet. Chris and I are hoping to get it reprinted. Chris took it on himself to get the rights reverted from DC which didn’t cost him anything, it was just time consuming. They had to give over some files and other things to us. They were very nice about it, was just a matter of getting them to do it.
Joe: Looking back on your Doom Patrol run would you say it was ahead of its time?
Rachel: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. Certainly afterwards Vertigo became less involved in superhero stuff. I do think it was too radical for some people. A lot of people found it hard to get. A lot of comics fans have this idea that the writer should disregard everything beforehand and write something new, which particularly male writers tend to do. Without really thinking about it I wanted to follow up on some of the things that Grant did.
Some people thought I wasn’t enough like Grant, and other people thought I was too much like Grant and then they’d say I wasn’t a good enough Grant. They thought I was imitating him, but I wasn’t good enough. In fact what I was doing was my own take on things, but inspired by what he did. A lot of people didn’t want that. They didn’t like the feminist positions I was taking. They felt it was weird for weird’s sake. Certainly Grant did the same thing. Invisibles was very weird. More so than Doom Patrol, but people still liked it. What can you do, you know?
Joe: Currently DC is relaunching Doom Patrol starting Wednesday September 14th with Gerard Way writing.
Rachel: Which is exciting! Just a few days!
Joe: You’re already a fan of Gerard Way?
Rachel: Yes. Without knowing it or remembering it was him at the time, I read Umbrella Academy. I really liked it a lot. Then you told me he would be writing Doom Patrol and planned on bringing back the weird, I reread the Umbrella Academy stories after that. I love them. I’m really excited he’s writing Doom Patrol. Then he got in touch with me which I was delighted about. E-mail exchanges. I really like his approach. Wanting to bring back the weird. Not just Grant in Doom Patrol, but all the British Invasion stuff, like Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man. I’m excited that Young Animal will be like the old Vertigo. I read the eight-page preview of Doom Patrol too and it’s great fun!
Joe: You mentioned a couple of comics projects you’re interested in before. Are you looking to get back into comics?
Rachel: Yes, yes. There’s an anthology project that I hope to do one or two stories in that I’m very excited about. I was also approached by someone I know who is launching a line of comics for women readers and I was asked about contributing to it. I’m planning on doing a story for it that I had in mind for a long long time so I’m hoping that it’ll work out.
Joe: Do you feel your contributions to comics like Kate Godwin are important to this generation of queer comics fans?
Rachel: I can tell you for a fact that they are. I went to a literary festival in Winnipeg recently kind of expecting that no one would know who I was since I haven’t written stuff on that subject since the 90s in my more activist years. It turned out that when I got there that to my surprise I was kind of a hero and one of the main reasons was Doom Patrol. A lot of young people doing webcomics were there and they were all Doom Patrol fans. They were all thrilled that someone had done this back in the 90s.
I recently did an interview for a website highlighting trans women and they included an article they had about trans characters in superhero comics. They had some previous attempts at trans characters on the list, but stated if you’re looking for a good example of a trans superhero look no further than Rachel Pollack. I was very honored. A new generation has been finding my work and viewing me as a role model. It’s been very exciting for me.
Joe: Before we wrap things up, anything else you’d like to add?
Rachel – I hope people read the new Doom Patrol coming out. Gerard has some great plans for the book and if you’re a fan of my run there will definitely be surprises in store for you. You’re gonna love it!
Oh, and one thing that I’d like to end with is that I’m glad I got to do some stories based in mythology for Doom Patrol. They were some of my favorites. There was the Teiresias story which I loved doing. And the last story I got to do involved Kabbalah which was something I had been interested in for some time and it turned out to be the perfect ending to my run. It’s interesting that things happened that way. I loved that I got to have a 15th century Kabbalist be one of the characters! I’m sure many Rabbis would be horrified.
Joe: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me about your comics work, and I hope we get to see new comics work from you see!
Rachel – Thank you for reaching out! It was very enjoyable. I had a good time.
Recently I’ve been reading through the Sailor Moon manga that my friend David has generously been lending me. I used to watch the anime when I was kid and had been curious about tackling these books for a while. Reading through these books made me reflect on the greater world of comics and an aspect of it that I haven’t addressed here yet: branching out beyond American comics.
I love American/Western comics. It’s certainly the bulk of what I’ve read. Not just the superhero stuff, but comics and graphic novels like Stuck Rubber Baby, Fun Home, March, Blankets, The Sculptor, and many many more. Many of the comics I go out of my way to read are either from women, LGBTQ, or minority creators or they at least tell a unique story from a perspective that makes it stand out. However, I have a big gap in my knowledge and familiarity with materials outside of Western comics.
Over the years I’ve made it a point to try and read comics and graphic novels that have really made an impact on the medium and influenced creators for decades to come. In my preteen years that involved Archie Comics. In my high school and college years I tackled the works of Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Neil Gaiman. Since then I’ve gone back and read comics predating the Golden Age of comics like Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo strips through to classics like Maus, A Contract With God, and It Rhymes With Lust.
While some of these stories did tackle things outside of my life such as the Jewish experience, I was finding that I wasn’t reading a lot of stories from women, queer, or minority creators. It would take effort on my part to look for those stories. I’ve made myself more aware of comics with more diverse people working behind the pages, and for a little while I thought that might be enough. It’s not.
Diversity in comics isn’t just in the characters on the page and the talent behind the pages. It’s also where the pages come from. Manga is a huge portion of comics’ sales across the globe. One Piece alone has 82 volumes and has sold over 300 million copies. Dragon Ball and Naruto have both sold over 200 million each. Astro Boy has sold 100 million copies. Sailor Moon, which I’m currently working my way through, has sold 35 million copies. All these sales from comics originating in Japan.
These are huge numbers. This is a portion of the comics world that should not be overlooked by fans of the medium, but it’s something I put off for too long. Sure, I’ve read the occasional manga here and there. If you haven’t read Akira, stop reading this column and go read it right now. That’s still a pathetically small amount of reading in such a large segment of the comics world.
Other countries have big and growing comics markets as well. Singapore based artist Sonny Liew had his graphic novel The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye premiere here in the states earlier this year. I was lucky enough to meet him when he was in town for MoCCA Fest and get a signed copy. It was an absolutely fantastic read blending in the unique history of comics in Singapore with Sonny Liew’s creative narrative supported by his brilliant art which I fell in love with last year as I started reading his work on Doctor Fate at DC Comics written by Paul Levitz.
Another big and growing market for comics is India. Graphic India has been gaining more visibility here in the states as you’re seeing more of their comics on the shelves. They even got talent like Grant Morrison to write for them so more of us will give it a try.
After I finish Sailor Moon I fully intend to start reading comics from Graphic India. I’m going to put more effort into reading comics from outside America and the Western world. There are a whole lot of stories and ideas I’ve been missing out on by not branching out sooner.
As my fellow opiners Ed Catto and John Ostrander have, uh, well, opined on these pages, this year marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek. You would think that there would be alot more hoopla about it, but even though CBS has announced the premiere of a new ST show and even though, as Ed reminds us, the United States Post Office is issuing a special commemorative stamp – which I am absolutely positively buying – it’s been amazingly quiet on the P.R. front, especially when you consider that the franchise is legendary not only here, but around this world.
Consider, if you will, the build-up to the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who in 2013. Not only was there a reminder of the looming date on BBCAmerica seemingly every single commercial break, but any little bit of news – rumors – was all over the Internet, on television, on radio, and in the newspapers. The BBC commissioned a TV movie, “An Adventure in Time and Space,” about the creation of the series and its effect on William Hartnell, the original Doctor. Peter Davison, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Paul McGann appeared in the comedic homage “The Five (ish) Doctors Reboot” – which was written and directed by Davison – along with David Tennant, Jenna Coleman, John Barrowman, Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat, and many other actors and behind-the-scenes people long associated with the show. There was a world tour. And of course there was the 50th anniversary special, “The Day of the Doctor.”
Okay, I just did a quick search on the web. There are a lot of things happening, including the Star Trek: 50 Years, 50 Artists exhibition that debuted at the San Diego Comic Con this year, and which will continue to travel around the country and the world. There’s also: Star Trek: Mission New York, which is occurring as I write this over Labor Day weekend at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in the city. (Didn’t hear a word about it on any of the New York local news shows, or read anything in any of the metropolitan area newspapers.) There is also a traveling concert show of ST’s music, and the one that sound the most fun, Star Trek: The Academy Experience, which is happening now through October 31 here in New York on the U.S.S. Intrepid museum – now that’s something I could seriously get into…hey, Alix and Jeff, my birthday is in October. (Hint! Hint!)
But I still say it’s been amazingly quiet.
• • • • •
I ordered a copy of The British Invasion: Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer (by Greg Carpenter) mostly because I wanted to read the interview with my friend and once-editor Karen Berger; when I received the book I immediately read it, and though it will be an interesting perusal for those not around the halls of DC in the 1980s, there wasn’t anything there that I didn’t already know. I’ve just started the main bulk of the book, so I can’t really “officially” comment yet, but it already seems to be a rather, uh, “fannish” account of the introduction of the British artist community into this side of the pond’s comics business.
And there were other amazing talents from the mother country in DC’s pages, then – Alan Grant and John Wagner being just two. One thing I will say – and I know I’m possibly inviting trouble here, and I’m also saying this in a spirit of jealous discontent that still lingers from those days, as immature as that might be – but im-not-so-ho, the guys with the passports were given much more free rein to “create as they will” by DC’s PTB than those whose birth certificates registered them as Stateside natives. Just sayin’, that’s all.
• • • • •
I saw a picture of Donald Trump in a Jewish prayer shawl (a “tallis” or “tallit”) at the church in Detroit where he went to “court” African-American voters. Huh? Are you fucking kidding me? Trump’s the poster boy for the “alt-right” – don’t you just love the “new, cool, millennial” aphorism to describe his neo-Nazi, white supremacist acolytes?
One day in the early 80s, I was with my girlfriend in a shopping mall. Somehow I had been relegated to the role of sidekick while she shopped. I liked to do a lot of things with her, but shopping wasn’t high on that list. I was bored so I decided to buy a comic book to read while she shopped.
Back then I was enjoying a lot of comics and purchasing them every week at Kim’s Collectible Comics and Records. But one store in that mall had a spinner rack filled with comics, and I knew I could snag an issue that I had missed.
I evaluated the comics available on that rack and hoped that one would be my salvation from the dreariness of shopping. I reached out for Swamp Thing #21, and was surprised to find an unfamiliar writer wrote it. I decided to give it a try nonetheless.
Those initial low expectations quickly gave way to… my brain exploding! That issue masterfully took a fresh approach to a tired concept, and wrapped it in thoughtful, clever and creepy prose. It was a big deal. I was so excited, and at the same time so frustrated, as I couldn’t really discuss it with that girlfriend. She had no interest in comics.
I didn’t know it then, but comics were about to change.
Alan Moore, that writer, was just one of the creators who ushered in a new era of comics. Sequart’s newest book, The British Invasion – Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and the Invention of the Modern Comic Book Writer discussed the important contributions of these writers. I was able to catch up with author Greg Carpenter and he shared some insights.
Ed Catto: Can you tell us a little bit about your new book, British Invasion, and what you set out to do with this book?
Greg Carpenter: I’d be happy to Ed, and thanks for having me here. The British Invasion is an in-depth analysis of the intertwined careers of Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Grant Morrison – three influential British comics writers who first began writing American comics in the 1980s. The book traces their work from the ‘80s through today (or as close to “today” as you can get in the book-publishing world), and it focuses in particular on how these three writers redefined our understanding of what it means to be a comic book writer.
At least, that’s the dry, academic-y answer. As for what I wanted to accomplish, on the simplest level I think it was to try to answer the question that students always ask me: “Why have comics become so popular lately?” Obviously that’s a loaded question with lots of presuppositions, but the gist of it – that comics culture has moved from the outskirts of society to the mainstream – seems fair. And for me, the answer to that question leads directly back to the work of people like Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison.
I remember back in 2004 when I was sitting in a theater watching The Incredibles. Here – in a Pixar movie that didn’t really have to be all that smart or insightful in order to be successful – was a full examination of the wonder and the absurdity of the superhero genre, viewed through a real-world prism with real world consequences. Even though there had already been several superhero movies by that time – some of them quite good – what struck me was that Brad Bird seemed like the first filmmaker who had really “gotten” writers like Moore, Gaiman, Morrison. The thrill for the viewer came, not from the style of the costumes, the nature of the superpowers, or the threat posed by the villain, but rather from the momentary suspension of disbelief that comes when you realize – this is what superheroes would really be like.
That thrill, that feeling, that … sensation is far more rare than you might think, and I knew then that at some point in the future I wanted to try to show everyone why that feeling is so powerful.
EC: What’s your personal fan experience, and did you enjoy these writers when they burst onto the scene?
GC: I came of age at the perfect time. As a kid, my comics reading was pretty random – a smattering of superhero books and a lot of commercial tie-ins like Marvel’s Star Wars and GI Joe. By the mid-‘80s I was pretty heavy into DC’s Star Trek, but I kept seeing all these in-house ads about a book called Swamp Thing that was winning all sorts of awards. This was pre-Internet and I lived in the rural American South, so a person wasn’t going to find much comics journalism in the local Wal-Mart. My education came from those in-house ads. And if a house ad said I oughtta pay attention to a particular title, well, that carried a lot of weight with me.
So I wound up buying Swamp Thing #56 – the blue issue. I didn’t really understand it, but I could tell it was different from all the other stuff I was reading. And once I started stepping out of my comfort zone, I found myself swept away with the energy of the times – The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen, Maus, The Shadow, Byrne’s Superman, The Killing Joke, The Question, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, V for Vendetta … Sandman. It was an amazing period. And Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison were the ones shaping my worldview, my own personal mentors – priests, professors, and practical philosophers. They could do no wrong.
So when they drifted away from mainstream DC, I drifted away from comics. It’s hard to remember now, but in those days, in the part of the country where I lived, there wasn’t much access to books like From Hell, Sebastian O, or Signal to Noise. It was like loving music but only being able to listen to Top 40 Radio. So for me, it felt like my three favorite writers had largely left comics – even though they hadn’t. And I really didn’t care much for what had taken their place at DC, Image, and Marvel in the early ‘90s. So I stopped reading.
And then, as fate would have it, I was standing in a Wal-Mart and saw a comic book display. I paused for old times sake and was struck by a new title – JLA #1 – written by Grant Morrison. From then on it was like the Michael Corleone line – “just when I thought I was out, (Grant Morrison) pulled me back in.” And I’ve been reading ever since.
EC: You do such a great job of putting it all into context and telling a “big picture story.” As I’m reading your book, I’m thinking “Yeah, I vividly remember those stories from Supreme or Promethea.” I’m impressed by the way you are able to analyze those stories in the context of each writers’ career and within a particular historical timeframe. How much of a struggle was it to tell the tale that way and how did you go about it?
GC: You’re very kind to say so. I wish I could say that everything just fell together perfectly, but alas. I think the low point for me came when I was staring at dozens of little scraps of paper scattered across the floor, trying to figure out how in the world to make the overall structure for the book come together. I knew I wanted to do rotating chapters, but there were lots of organizational problems. While these three writers have always been active, their creative peaks often come at different times. So I was left with a floor full of jigsaw pieces that all came from different puzzles and all I had was an X-ACTO knife and some touch-up paint to try to make it all go together.
As for the rest, I learned to make a friend of the Grand Comic Book Database, tracing chronologies and sketching out long timelines. If I can’t see something visually, it’s never quite real.
EC: By focusing on these three British writers, are you leaving out other important creators that are important to the big picture?
GC: More than I could even begin to list. The beginning of the so-called British Invasion wasn’t even a writer movement – it was about artists. People like John Bolton, Brian Bolland, and Dave Gibbons had begun working for DC and Marvel and were doing great work before Alan Moore made a splash with Swamp Thing. And, of course, there were so many great writers in those early days – people like Alan Grant, John Wagner, Jamie Delano, Peter Milligan … and that doesn’t even begin to include the writers who came after these three – Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis, James Robinson, Mark Millar … you could go on and on.
And that’s just the British creators. The book focuses in particular on the impact of the Invasion on the notion of the modern comic book writer. If you want to really look at the development of the writer’s role, there are also plenty of non-British writers who helped pave the way for what these three were able to do. I’m thinking of Denny O’Neil, Chris Claremont, Steve Gerber, as well as writer-artists like Frank Miller and Howard Chaykin.
But ultimately in any book you have to focus. What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What’s the question you’re trying to answer? In my case, I knew I wasn’t writing an encyclopedia. I was looking specifically at the role of the writer, and these three writers’ work seemed so interwoven that it was impossible for me to talk about one without the other. But I still lose sleep over all the creators who frankly deserve their own book.
EC: I love the chapter titles. Can you tell me a little bit about how you chose them?
GC: I love that the titles worked for you. That was one of my earliest ideas for the book. Each chapter gets its title from the name of a song by either the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or the Who. Some of those choices are hopefully pretty obvious – a Sandman-heavy chapter is “Golden Slumbers,” the chapter with Grant Morrison’s vision at Kathmandu is “I Can See for Miles,” and a chapter on Spawn is “Sympathy for the Devil.”
But beyond setting the mood or reinforcing the theme, the choices don’t follow any set pattern. I don’t think Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison correlate directly with the three bands – one of them isn’t the equivalent of the Beatles or the Stones, for instance – so I just drew liberally from all three to find the most appropriate title for each chapter.
EC: It’s a big book, but I’m sure you had to make decisions and choices about what to include. What do you regret leaving on the cutting room floor?
GC: When I started, I naively thought I’d be able to cover all the published work of each writer. It didn’t take long to figure out that was impossible. So there are lots of things I never got to write about. But of those things that I did draft and then take out, the most disappointing was probably a section I wrote on Alan Moore’s Neonomicon.
Any of your readers who’ve read that book know already that it’s a tough book to deal with – powerful, complex, and disturbing for a number of reasons. But when I was drafting the manuscript, I dove into it and wrote what I thought was a really nuanced, insightful analysis.
Well, have you ever had one of those moments of brilliance at 2 AM where you’ve just stumbled upon the plot to a novel that’s probably going to earn you the Nobel Prize for literature? You feverishly scribble the idea down so you don’t lose it, but then, the next day, when you pick it up to read it there’s nothing there besides the most banal idea imaginable. That’s basically the story of my Neonomicon analysis. When I found myself editing the manuscript a few months later and got to that chapter, I just scratched my head. What I thought was enlightening was utterly vapid. It was so nuanced that there wasn’t anything there. I thought about revising it, but the book was already overlong so I just dropped it. Maybe I’ll go back to it someday – just not at 2 in the morning.
EC: We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but your cover is clever and to the point. How did the design come about?
GC: The cover is great, isn’t it? Kevin Colden, who has done some great work on The Crow among other projects, did the cover. In keeping with the theme of the British Invasion, it’s an homage to the album cover, Meet the Beatles.
But it didn’t start that way. Originally, I actually tried to sketch out an idea myself. It was an image of Mount Rushmore with Moore, Gaiman, and Morrison carved into the rocks. Trust me, it was even worse than it sounds. My wife took one look at it and said, “Seriously?”
So I went back to the proverbial drawing board and tried to draw an empty bandstand modeled after the Beatles, with a drum set, microphones, and three guitars. I sent this one to Mike Phillips at Sequart and he said something along the lines of, “Um … yeah. So, anyway … what would you think about something inspired by an album cover?” And with that, for the betterment of all humanity, I retired my drawing pencil.
Mike and I talked about several album covers, but we kept coming back to Meet the Beatles. For legal reasons, you can’t use a real person’s face on a cover, which is understandable, but (and I think this was Mike’s idea) we thought it might still work if we put them in Union Jack masks. And Kevin took it all from there.
EC: If you could go back in time and give any “Dutch Uncle” advice to Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman or Grant Morrison, what would it be?
GC: Oh, I don’t think they need my advice. They’ve each done pretty well on their own, don’t you think? So I dunno … I guess if I had to, I might tell them – especially Moore and Gaiman – to skip some of the work they did for Image Comics in the ‘90s.
But honestly, I don’t believe in second guessing the past like that. Let’s say, for example, you were able to help Alan Moore get a better Watchmen contract with DC, saving him from some of the nastier aspects of the profession. That would seem like a good thing. But would a happier, more content Alan Moore have gone on to write From Hell? I tend to doubt it. I don’t know about you, but given a choice between enjoying three years of Alan Moore writing something like Green Lantern – as enticing as that might be – or getting Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, I’m gonna take the Jack the Ripper story every time.
EC: There’s such a rich landscape of creative comics being produced today. What are you enjoying and what do you feel will be viewed as important in the years to come?
GC: It feels almost like a cliché to mention it, but I really love the March Trilogy. What’s special about it, I think, is that once you get beyond how amazing John Lewis is and how well he and Andrew Aydin have compiled his story, Nate Powell’s art is extraordinary. All too often, comics that are classified as “educational” tend to be stiff and lifeless – like your great-grandmother’s idea of what a “good” comic book might be. But Powell is the real deal. Great cartooning, imaginative layouts. The national media might make it sound like broccoli sometimes, but it’s really great comics storytelling. And because of its subject matter, it’s going to be part of the high school curriculum for a long, long time.
Among mainstream comics, I was a big fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. I always joked that it felt like I was watching some mythical Quentin Tarantino movie shot in the ‘70s and starring Steve McQueen circa 1963. I also think Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman is deceptively good. It’s one of those comic book runs that is easy to take for granted, but ten years from now we’ll still be thinking about it. And Eric Powell’s The Goon always makes me smile.
But the other area that makes comics exciting today is the changing demographics – particularly the infusion of more women creators and readers. Any time you can shake up the industry and change the aesthetics, good things can happen. I once got to interview the artist Janet Lee, best known for Return of the Dapper Men. She showed me some of her work in progress and, to be honest, I was dumbfounded. Instead of something conventional like rough pencil layouts, inks, or even watercolors, she was using a technique akin to decoupage, drawing and coloring images and then cutting them out and painstakingly layering them on a larger page. I can’t even imagine what it must take to do that, but once it’s published, her stuff looks unlike anything else out there. That’s what you get when you have greater diversity in the field – fresh voices, fresh perspectives, and new aesthetics.
In a lot of ways, that was the lesson of the British Invasion too, I think.
EC: What’s next?
GC: Well, my wife and I are both writers – her debut novel, Bohemian Gospel, was published last year by Pegasus Press (heavy-handed plug) – so we tend to alternate between projects around our house. That means that lately I’ve been doing a lot of copy editing and proofreading on her sequel, The Devil’s Bible.
That’s not to say I don’t have a couple of book ideas of my own brewing. I do. But I also remember what Hemingway said – the book you talk about is the one you never write.