Tagged: Norman Mailer

Dennis O’Neil: The Perils of Captain Mighty

Okay, let’s get this out of the way at the beginning: Yesterday I published a novel. The title is The Perils of Captain Mighty and the Redemption of Danny the Kid. I’ll add one more fact: The original title was The Perils of Captain Power and the Redemption of Danny the Kid, but there were a couple of still active copyrights for “Captain Power” and although these copyrights weren’t likely to cause any problems, they could, and so Power becomes Mighty and we proceed to the next paragraph.

Are you expecting a little chest-beating here? Not happening. Not that I have anything against some self-congratulation and some of the writers I most admire were not above it. To cite three, a trio of my favorite Nineteenth Century scribblers: Charles Dickens (who, according to one source “thrived in the spotlight”); Mark Twain (who, according to another, had a “flair self-promotion”); and Walt Whitman, who sought praise from Ralph Waldo Emerson and got it (“I greet you at the beginning of a great career,” the sage of Concord wrote in a five-page letter Whitman later used to promote his Leaves of Grass.) In my own time, I might cite Ernest Hemingway and Norman Mailer as writers unburdened by crippling modesty. (Anyone with absolutely nothing better to do might list a few more, but let’s hope you’re not that desperate for amusement.)

Indeed, the “book tour” has become a regular part of publishing in which a writer stumbles into a camera’s lens finder or audiences of bibliophiles and, perhaps, if luck is near, scintillates, and then goes to airports.

Ah, but what if the writer is modest? What if that person were taught, perhaps with the emphasis of a branding iron, that gentlefolk do not speak of themselves and never, ever indulge in self-praise. I guess he or she emulates another nineteenth-century New Englander and echoes Emily Dickenson: “I’m nobody.” Or the person does as an adopted New Englander named J.D. Salinger did, buys isolated lodging and hides for a few decades.

A question: Why are the people I’ve mentioned, and others, reclusive? What, exactly, is modesty/humility, anyway? Do such things even exist? I suspect that in my case they’re other words for fear though I doubt that I’ll ever be able to confirm that. We may not always call what happens to us intimidation, we shy ones, and we may not be aware that it’s there. And nobody in particular is doing the intimidating.

Meanwhile, I’ve published a book and I’d feel better if I knew that, if you read it, you won’t hate me for writing it. But it’s not your fault that you’re intimidating me.

Joe Corallo: The King Still Rules!

Kirby Hero Initiative

This past Sunday, August 28th, was Jack Kirby’s birthday. He would have been 99 years old. If you’re the type of person that reads the columns on a comics and pop culture website like ComicMix, you probably don’t need me to tell you who he is. I linked to his Wikipedia page there just in case you don’t know. It’ll be our little secret.

Over the years Jack Kirby’s birthday has become an event. Kirby 4 Heroes is celebrated in comic shops across the county. It’s a fundraiser for the Hero Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping comic creators in need. The idea is that by using Jack Kirby’s birthday as an event date that the Hero Initiative will be able to get a bump in fundraising numbers. Seeing how they’ve been doing this for years now it must be working to some extent.

jack-kirby-pic-105717This year both myself and fellow columnist Martha Thomases dropped byNew York City’s Carmine Street Comics for Kirby 4 Heroes. They had artists throughout the day including Sean Von Gorman, Fabian Lelay, and Patrick J. Reilly doing sketches for customers as well as original artwork being raffled off from Gregory Benton.

When I first arrived I was talking with Patrick as well as Jon Gorga, the store owner and operator. Mostly just catching up. Not long into our conversation a young man came up to the register proclaiming that he has started working on comics himself as an artist paired up with a writer and asked for our advice. Well, technically he asked for any advice and we all just happened to be standing there.

Patrick started with some of the basics like thumbnailing the pages. The young man pulled out a small notebook showing the work he had done so far. He had started thumbnailing before he knew the term. We all thought that was promising.

Then he told us more about their plans.

The young man went on to discuss how the plan for this project was to produce and publish five graphic novels worth of material all as prequels to set up the main story. We were almost immediately blinded by all the red flags going up. At around this point Martha joined us.

Patrick helped to discourage this young man of that particular course of action by telling him about Story Bibles, which he had not heard of before. Those are the blueprints to a story that’s used in any medium. They can and should be referred to in order to keep the story and it’d characters consistent. Patrick also made an excellent point about working on long form ambitious projects like that and how easy it is to get burned out working on something like that or even just bored over time.

I followed that up with advice I’ve heard from Scott Snyder in the past, but I’m sure many other seasoned writers have given as well: approach comics and storytelling like this is the only shot you’re going to get at all this so you need to tell the absolute best story you have in you. In a situation like this one with someone having five prequels before the main story, you need look through everything you have, pick the best and most compelling story and do that like it’s the only one you’ll get to do. Unfortunately, more often than not that tends to be the case. You’re an incredibly lucky person if you get the opportunity to continue telling your story from there.

CarmineStreetMartha added advice she’s heard from Norman Mailer which is also something other experienced people in the story biz have shared for some time: kill your darlings. That is to say that you need to be open to cutting your most treasured moments in your literary works for the greater good of the piece. It might sound absurd at first, but it makes sense as you’re crafting a story if you’re open to it.

After we all got to give some advice and chat a bit more with him, he thanked us all and left. He was very polite and receptive. And to be perfectly honest with all of you, I’ve fallen into the same trappings of wanting to jump right into epic long-form storytelling. A lot of people do. Hopefully he’ll figure out some things along the way and find out if this is what he wants to be doing, though it was hard to not think of that famous Jack Kirby quote, “Comics will break your heart.” Or was that Charles Schulz?

It was nice to spend some time on Jack Kirby’s 99th birthday at a comic shop celebrating the life of one of the most celebrated comic book artists of all time while also meeting a new up and comer that wants to throw their hat in the ring and getting a chance to wish him luck. I bet he wasn’t the only newcomer that wandered into a comic shop this past Sunday either.

Just because Jack Kirby’s birthday has passed us by again doesn’t mean we can’t keep celebrating him though. If you didn’t donate to the Hero Initiative this past Sunday, consider giving here. It’s a good cause to help comic creators in need. The same people that shaped so many of our lives from a young age with their stories like the ones Jack Kirby crafted all those years ago or the ones that young man at Carmine Street Comics this past Sunday might end up crafting himself one day.

Martha Thomases: Poetry In Comics

IMG_0071Once again my editor has suggested a topic for my column. Since I can wax pretentiously about all sorts of literary and aesthetic issues, he thought this round-table discussion about “poetry comics” might interest me.

And it did.

To me, art is something that makes me see the world in new ways. I frequently judge the quality of a work of art by how it deals with its limitations. For example, paintings (and photographs) are static objects each of a specific and unchanging size. Films are two-dimensional. Dance is non-verbal. Theater takes place on a stage. Yada yada yada.

Poetry is verbal and, in my head at least, each word is essential.

When it comes to poetry comics, I don’t entirely understand the concept, but it is an intriguing one. Is the artwork an illustration of the words, or an equivalent to a line of verse or a stanza? If the poet removed the artwork, would the poem be incomplete? Would the illustrations make sense without the words?

Can pictures rhyme?

In my opinion, a good graphic story-teller already treats each word as essential, editing out those that are not absolutely necessary to move the plot or illuminate character. As a writer who can’t draw, I find it incredibly challenging to write a script that lets the art carry the action, to trust the artist to convey the mood with images, not adjectives.

(I assume artists have parallel frustrations. Especially with me.)

IMG_0069Despite the assumptions of the article in the above link, poetry comics are not a new thing. In 2003, Norman Mailer published Modest Gifts, a collection of poems with drawings. My copy is signed by him, and he describes it as “my comic strip.” Norman’s ambitions as an artist were just about as lofty as his ambitions as a writer, although his skills as an artist were infinitely more limited.

It’s my opinion that the artwork in this book is absolutely an asset to the words. I don’t think the poems fail without the scribbling (which is pretty much how I would describe Mailer’s art style), but they are certainly more fun and more insightful with it.

Mailer was already 80 years old in 2003. No one looked to him for new and cutting-edge art forms. I think he’d be pleased to know that he was so far ahead of his time.

Now if only we could get that Ancient Egypt graphic novel happening…