ymmv .11- Top 10 Writing Swipes from the Books of 2015
I’m writing this on my iPad in the past at a barber as I wait for a cut. I have to keep getting up to offer my seat to harried mothers who no doubt just want their swarm presentable for Xmas photos. This might be short.
Here is a list of ten comics from 2015. This isn’t a best of list, this is a collection of books from which I’m swiping ideas/concepts/thoughts/whatever. These are some books that I’ve thought about as a writer and I’m happy to use them as brain fuel moving forward in my life.
This is a legitimate strategy – look upon the pages of the world every Wednesday, imbibe what you can, and process/synthesise what you get. For me, these are ten books that gave me grist for the mill.
ELEKTRA – be about something.
Take a toy from the sandbox, change it, and also improve it. This run levelled up the character of Elektra in great ways [something I discussed in Mariana Trench detail during Noirvember. By the end of this 11 issue run, Elektra is something new, and something more powerful. Because W. Haden Blackman very clearly had a goal in mind for her. His use of Elektra in this story is for a purpose that’s more than just ‘look good and kick/stab things.’ He’s giving her agency, he’s getting her ready to be more, and every month I wait for someone to pick up the reins because Elektra is prime to become a much bigger player on the board between the Netflix appearance coming up soon and the fact she’s just an amazing character.
Oh, also, get Deadly Mike del Mundo to draw your book. That’s like the biggest lesson ever. Or at least do the covers.
Mike del Mundo covers are never to be missed
SEX CRIMINALS – write something you are crazy passionate about.
Be damned the audience. Be damned perceived projected sales. Have some goddamn fun. Who knew we needed a weird sex comedy that’s not like anything we even thought we were getting when this book was announced. I know I wasn’t going to sample it, it just didn’t sound like my cup of tea. But it’s Fraction, and I heard good buzz, so I dipped a toe and was blown away. This book is a ‘bag full of crazy cats’-load of fun. It’s wild stuff and that’s hugely inspiring to me. Be damned anything else except what you know you want to do with laser focus.
DEADLY CLASS – do not rely on your high concept to carry you.
Make characters, make us care about them, and then make their worlds hell. Wes Craig and Rick Remender are producing my favourite comic on the stands right now and it’s because the characters have completely lured me in. I don’t care about the school they are in, or the fact this is set in the 80s. I care that these people are messed up and I kind of want to see them sort their shit out.
BARRIER #1 – play with structure.
Marcos Martin and BKV drop the start of a new digital series on Panel Syndicate and it’s strong. I didn’t ‘love’ the entire thing, to be honest, but certain moments/pages absolutely sang and that kept my attention quite firmly. It’s wild to see that even at BKV’s level, there are always new tricks. You can constantly try something new. So we get this bilingual comics, where pages bounce back and forth, and then pages are split to mirror down the centre and it’s all quite fantastic.
Then there are the character introduction splashes, which are just gorgeous and the sort of thing that make me wish I’d thought of them first. THIS is the thing I really want to swipe, especially in digital format where page length is arbitrary and you can more freely explore and experiment, and there is still so much new stuff to be done.
EAST OF WEST #22 – keep the action kinetic, keep yourself out of the way of that movement.
‘Nuff said issues certainly aren’t a new thing, nor are they rare. But having one be high quality certainly is. We got G.I. Joe, then Maleev/Bendis did it on Daredevil, and now this is a new high water benchmark. This issue had some very good flow, and definitely pushed the story forward, but it got us to sit back and enjoy the movement, detail, and framing of Nick Dragotta’s work. Considering how well Jonathan Hickman has ‘written’ this book, the captions are fluid prose of captivating intelligence, it was bold and superb to see this book zig when you are used to the zag. It’s the sort of thing you can structurally breakdown and then see how to control that flow and make the silent issue count.
SAGA – know your schedule.
Build your schedule to you, not the other way around. Don’t throw your ability to make quality out the window just because you want to make comics because the deadline will grind you up. And relax, people will wait for quality. Know what it takes to make your amazing comic and then stick to it. Also: see many other Image books.
DKRIII – if you go back to the well, do it well.
And be damned early hype – pre-haters exist everywhere and they aren’t worth the piss in their adult nappies. If you have a good story and you are passionate, there is no use by date on that, nor a data set that can pre-decide it. We allow most Big Two characters to have new tales done every month since forever and for forever but if someone touches something we really loved then we pre-assume it’ll be hot trash.
And people are allowed to think this. They can scrawl odes to it on their geocities, but they cannot and must not and will not dictate the actual stories. They do not get to decide and they cannot stop you. Write your tale, if you believe in it. Grab an old open license character, write a prequel to Kraven’s Last Hunt, dust off your debut character creation, do whatever you want if you think you’ve got a great story. Because sometimes you do, and sometimes we get Fury Road and Creed and yes there’ll be a Before Watchmen in there but there’s dreck in new ideas, too. This is art, there are no critical rules and laws and numbers that guarantee anything. Follow your heart because to do anything else is a fool’s game.
BLACK FISH – a short can be about tone and moments.
This year at a local con I picked up this little indie ashcan, BLACK FISH, and the little bastard blew me away. Tatiana Davidson crafts a decent tale, it has some twists in its path, but it’s the way the tale is presented that won me over. The art style, the image selection, the word choices. This comic demands attention and sometimes that’s all your short comics/story needs to be: masterful and bold. Don’t overswing, just hit the sweet spot and you’ll do more every time without throwing out your shoulder.
THE VISION – you can be novelistic and still play with the images.
This is a Phillips/Brubaker staple but Walta/King really really nailed that dichotomy in their debut issue with a character I certainly don’t care about but now I’m all in for. The captions play thick, to slow us down, and they choose their words very carefully. They set the tone as much as the images do, and that’s because they build in league. It’s a wonderful collaboration and if you find the right artists you can definitely do this.
PISCES – demand your audience pay attention and keep up.
Those who can will and they’ll love you for it. In a year where I finished HANNIBAL, I was well ready for this superlative book, and Johnnie Christmas and Kurtis J Wiebe do not disappoint. You can’t get lazy, you can’t read this one on the can. You have to pay attention so you know what the bloody hell is going on, but also so you can enjoy the nuance and gonzo tone. Aim to write this boldly.
The aim now is to process all of these thoughts and spit out better writing in 2016 because of it. And not through aping but just through adaptation to my style and strategies. Some of which will take, some which I’ll no doubt forget or find not working in quick time. It’s a slow snowman we build on the beach with every page that we write. Inform yourself, grow, and bloody well write.