It’s just not good enough.
I have this chronic emotional problem that I’m often struggling with. Probably some childhood mental fracture, but the result is an aggravating strain of perfectionism that naturally crawls into my aspirations as a writer, ensuring that I’m perpetually dissatisfied with myself. And despite what progress has been made, I’m becoming restless again, and I’ve an idea of what needs to be done, in order to survive. Finishing Rex Mundi #5, and the Hawaiian Dick trade paperback seemed to only reinforce this sensation…
…I think it’s time to go creator-owned.
Over the past several months, I’ve developed tunnel vision, focusing on a purely singular avenue for telling my stories. Throwing everything at only one target, while ensuring that I’m not spreading myself thin, is emotionally hazardous, and my stubborn refusal prevented me from violating a cardinal rule…never put all one’s eggs into one basket, or more accurately, all one’s pitches into one company. Since my current emotional state often seeps into whatever stories I’m writing at the time, keeping the stress level at a comfortable height is a definite plus, and stepping back with an objective lens shows me that I haven’t been very “ambidextrous” of late. Not at all.
So it’s time to recommit, become a better, stronger writer, owing allegiance to no one but myself, and you kind people of course. I’ve spent far too much time waiting for others to tell me it’s okay to keep writing, and that doesn’t feel right anymore. And with the finances in a continual state of disarray anyway, it might be smarter to be broke and writing stories that need to be told, than to be broke and waiting for approval on the things that need to be told.
The pursuit needs to be purified once more, so in addition to the rampant pitching and submitting that’s become commonplace over the years, I’m going to get out there, find a few good men and women to ride with me, and attack the creator-owned/self-publishing segment of our community with reckless abandon. It’ll be good for my creative batteries to take on something new, and I’m hoping the therapy it provides will improve all material across the board. Now, and this is the hardest part, I only have to choose the story that’s tired of waiting…
Though I try to resist classifying things, most of my ideas end up slotted into an appropriate category for future use. Stories have changed on me before, beginning as one thing, performing a 180 degree spin, and mutating into something else entirely, but my brain does things without asking, and this is how it usually happens. First, I’ll decide what medium the idea is best suited for, be it comics, movies, or television. (I know, I know, overly ambitious, but that’s hardly the point.) If still within the four-color realm, then I break it down a little further, maintaining my belief that a writer will be judged by his first five projects, but depending on length, that number may actually be closer to three. Which makes this even harder, but here’s the type of stories I’m looking at, almost as vague as possible, to not give away relevant story ideas.
The comic no one else thinks to do, for whatever reason. Something that’ll create an undeniable splash from its inherent freshness, highlighting the reasons that the medium excites you as a storyteller, and the unique fingerprint serving as the foundation of everything else to come. If there was only one story, one group of characters that demand to be brought into the world, this would be it.
Now from a personal standpoint, that’d have to involve forcefully debunking the rumor that “black books” don’t sell, right after proving such a thing doesn’t actually exist. The reason that I have to even listen to this nonsense anymore, relies on the fact that not enough writers feel a personal and emotional responsibility to correcting the problem. In short, there aren’t enough minority writers out there, which is no one’s fault really, but does tend to subtract from the available pool of creators fighting for change.
But I’m burning the whole thing down, and that’s in writing now, so if I don’t, I expect you to tell me.
Project X refuses to die, and is already in the pre-production stage with an enormously talented artist at the helm, that’s just going to make the whole thing so incredibly gorgeous that reading the word balloons carefully placed on it, will only be polite. So this one is a definite, but I want to pick something else to attack 2004 with…
This is my love of the television drama manifesting itself, I think. Seriously though, it likely stems from the type of stories that I find the most engrossing on that purely emotional level. What really gets me, and this is regardless of medium, are stories that find clever methods to examine or manipulate the complex relationships between people The potential for this is only amplified by throwing a set of regular (or irregular) personalities into a fishbowl and tipping it without warning.
Part of it is the challenge in keeping everything straight, making sure the characters are staying in character, and that everyone is getting their appropriate screen time, but who doesn’t want to take a crack at a “team book?” Though this “team” I have in mind is a bit unorthodox, but I suppose that’s the whole point.
In a couple previous installments, this was referenced as Project S, but now it probably should become known as Project C, due to a recent name change. Most of the story has remained fairly similar to its original incarnation, it’s still about world domination, it’s still about the twenty-first century, and it’s still about building the better super-villain. No costumes to speak of, no secret club base, no evil handshakes, and if you even come into this book with such familiar trappings, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll be messed up royally, and likely tortured for the secret codes to your stupid secret base.
I’m still really excited about this one, though the pitch has been written forever, and it only makes sense to hurry up and get it out there, before someone else does, but really…what if the bad guys had a five-year plan, and refused to reveal themselves until the bombs started going off? Wouldn’t that just make more sense?
The Incredibly Personal:
This is me working out my own emotional problems in front of a fairly large audience. Nothing blows up, nothing is invulnerable, because that defeats the point, and instead of injecting humanity into some fantastical element, you use the feelings that the story evokes as both beginning and end. What I’ve found difficult about this type of story is the definite possibility that I’ll become lost within the whole thing, and deliver the storytelling equivalent of a “group hug,” something drowning so deeply in its own obviousness, that it rings false. Without being able to throw in a naturally evolving
fist-fight to keep the tempo up, all you have to work with is truth. And, in the words of Russell Simmons, “the truth sells.”
Two books, Onus and Heritage, immediately spring to mind, and while they’re both stories that I need to tell, depending on what day it is, I don’t know if I’m prepared to tell them. Some of the ideas I have are better suited for a writer that’s found his rhythm, and I’m definitely in the beginning stages of my development, and there’s always the risk of going too fast, too soon. Though there is something to be said for learning by doing also. But I’ll probably change my mind and get all cocky tomorrow, and pick Onus as the companion to Project X.
Onus is the one about friendships, and Heritage is about fathers and sons, both have an extensive set of notes accompanying them, and this would be something to prove that I could handle the sort of deep, human drama that wins awards. I don’t know, we’ll see…
The High Concept:
Most of the above began this way to some extent, but this is a project that’s driven almost exclusively by the question that derived it. A “What If” query given life. Let’s try a few.
If someone told you that we could have heaven on Earth, create a utopia where no one starves, no one suffers, and everyone dies of old age, but that thousands of innocent people had to die first…would it be worth the cost? How many lives would be too much to pay? (This is Utopia in a nutshell, but the name’ll change because, well…because
I don’t like it anymore.)
Something is loose in the world, the most unknown of variables, and the people that control your lives don’t want you to know about it. You can’t know about it, because then you’ll know what needs to be done to take your souls back. An Idea has escaped from its prison…and how can you stop an Idea? (This is The Synaptic right now, but it may change, and won’t be unleashed until it’s completely different from every other Rebel vs. Evil Empire story out there. Which’ll be tough.)
Two men are in love with the same woman, though they’ve never met. A sequence of events brings them together, and after learning they’re both sleeping with the same woman, an important decision needs to be made. Do they walk away from it all, and do they decide to get even? (I’m thinking this one is called Scorned.)
These are the questions that’ll become fully fleshed stories either by themselves, or in conjunction with some of the concerns I’ve presented above, but this is everything I’m looking at while deciding what I’d like to drop next year. Another concern is artist participation, because if someone’s individual style fits a certain project, it would only make sense to play to that strength. I’ll probably be issuing something a bit more official in the coming weeks, but if there are any good artists out there looking for things to do, I’ve got mad scripts. Hit me up.
Expect periodic details as everything goes through the conception and proposal stages as well. Maybe I should call this Making the Comic Book or something…
P.S.- If you haven’t checked out last week’s interview with Truth, and upcoming Captain America writer Robert Morales, click this link and get up to speed.