Forget it. Let’s just do this.
Brandon Thomas, dedicated SBC columnist here, finding myself in a slightly uncomfortable position. The issue count is firmly set at 100, and any self-respecting comics reader knows of the emotional significance attached to such a thing. Anniversaries are always the worst, offering an acceptable pretense for extravagance in the form of a double-sized installment surrounded by a holographic gatefold cover, simultaneously acknowledging all that’s come before, and forecasting all that will be. And several weeks ago, I understood what needed to happen, what would be fitting for this one and two zeroes.
Then I realized that my first real column isn’t even what the index says it is.
Presumably, on July 21, 2001, Ambidextrous began, and what I assumed would likely become a six or so month run hit SBC with a whimper and not a bang. Editor supreme Craig Lemon actually raised a few concerns on my insistence at writing an “introduction” piece, thinking it entirely too pedestrian and ordinary, but I offered some rationalization and he allowed me to run with it. He was probably right, but what did I know, I was just this aspiring writer with delusions of grandeur that asked for this forum to write one really cool article (more later), didn’t have enough confidence to interview professionals quite yet, and foolishly believed that I’d only need to write roughly thirty columns before hitting the big time.
Dream big or don’t dream at all…right??
Little did I know that a joke between my roommates would save this enterprise and mark its true introduction several weeks later.
Haters Be Hating was the commentary my brain was assembling when I asked my editors for a column. The phrase itself came from a roommate complaining about the activity of the “haters” on my college campus, and to be honest, is still being repeated among my boys to this day. It was hip-hop and it was highly personal, an inside joke that only four people can truly appreciate, but dammit…it became the title of my first real column.
It was Ambidextrous, baby.
From there everything changed, as the article provided several things for me, including the spark I needed to realize this was about more than “breaking-in,” my first real exposure to “fan mail,” and a suitable target to rail against. The “shadow agenda” for Ambi. was to chronicle, and hopefully aid, my pursuits at breaking into the industry, and though I announced this in what looked like my first piece (Introduction) it was still something I spent sufficient time running from. It was important that I wasn’t running some “lost” pitch or bad script every rip, because not only would it offer a permanent record of my immaturity as a writer, it was far too obvious. I told you what this was all about, then tried to conceal it as much as possible. “Haters” allowed me to realize that I had something else, and possibly even more important, to say, and according to the mail I received, someone wanted to hear it.
Though you’re going to find some writers loudly claim they don’t care about the critical response to the work they’re doing, the very idea of that is ridiculous. There will always be the immediate gratification that comes from lacing a Word document with your thoughts and ideas, but there’s only so long you can play without an audience, otherwise why leave the stuff where people can access it?? If writing was merely some masterbatory affair, han we’d have a host of creators writing material, and hiding it on their hard drives, solely content with the act of creation.
Available critiques can become your best friend, regardless of whether or not they’re positive or negative, because the realization that someone is out there keeps you somewhat honest. It’s a lot harder to drop a bullshit set of words with your name on it, if you know the streets are watching.
There’s no such thing as perfect, but both positive and negative mail say there’s no reason not to try. And the mail from Haters Be Hating said I should keep going.
The cryptic tag of the “haters” also established a faceless, nameless adversary that allowed me to passionately attack things without excessive name-calling. The internet allows us to insult and undermine each other with frightening ease, and I was intent on keeping my hands relatively clean. But some things must be said, and the people that I was referring to know who they are anyway. Some post on message boards, some are actually creators, and some are even other columnists. The “haters” encompass everything and nothing at the same time, and became my bread and butter for awhile, a confident stance I knew people would respond to.
The remainder of the first year became my experimental phase, writing dozens of columns with different approaches and different objectives, attempting to find a discernible rhythm but likely confusing anybody who watched me bounce from pitches to scripts to commentary to poetry, and so on. I suppose that was the point however, the reason why the column is titled what it is, and another justification for why we’re still here. If wired into some format or archaic formula, I’d have spent whole weeks preparing appropriate excuses for my editors’ persistent e-mails.
Fifty some installments and only one single interview appeared, and it wasn’t until I started correcting this that Ambi. became the most comfortable of havens to me as a writer. When the second year launched with Axel Alonso’s interview about Marvel’s upcoming Truth mini-series, I started justifying every piece with the following question,
“If this was ever collected in an Ambidextrous compilation edition, would the article survive the final edit??” Like I said, think big or not at all.
Which naturally leads me into your anniversary gift, the one that was planned anyway. It occurred to me that after two years of bold commentary, unshakable faith, and a sufficient little collection of creator interviews, an appropriate event for my 100th column would be the official announcement of my first professional gig and a competent schedule for world takeover. And I thought I’d have enough time to complete the circle.
For the last several months, I’ve been hard at work in “the lab”, anxious to complete step one of this journey and fulfill the promise that I made so publicly awhile back…that I couldn’t be stopped. But it’s not time yet, regardless of an arbitrary anniversary and a need for vindication that can make one incredibly impatient. However, there is something else that should be said while I hopefully round an important corner in my evolution and growth as a writer.
For ninety-nine weeks, you’ve been with me every step. To those that have written me personally, to those that haven’t, but still manage to click this damn thing on a weekly basis (or even occasionally): It’s been your input and your support that has sustained me and this forum, and allowed me the time and the experience to truly make a mature and honest effort at becoming a professional writer.
To Craig Lemon and Jason Brice, for allowing me to do my thing without interruption. To my fellow SBC columnists for permitting me to share their space. To Mark Millar, the Jedi Master. To Gail Simone, for the suggestion that led to the New Hotness. To every single interview subject (J Brice, Axel Alonso, Brian Hibbs, Rob Liefeld, Jay Faerber, Scott Allie, Joe Quesada, Brian K. Vaughan, Gail again, Eric J and Arvid Nelson, Brian Michael Bendis, Jim S. from ACME Comics, and J Hues) hope my questions didn’t disappoint too much.
There is a distant doorway that’s been made recently accessible, and with my hand approaching the doorknob ever so slowly I felt it necessary to stop and realize something…it’s all your fault.
Thank you kindly…regardless of what number I’m on, and when this all truly began…