Sick and Tired

“Don’t you get sick of writing such dark stuff?” was a question I got asked in an interview the other day.

And frankly, I didn’t know how to answer.

I did answer, I just don’t know what i said, or if it was what I really felt or not.

So, I figured I’d give it another try, with some fresh eyes and some freeform rambling.  Please excuse any of this that you find boring or offensive.

Comics are for kids.  Or rather, comics were for kids.  Forever and a day, it was a medium directed and aimed at children.  After the first few generations of fans were turned into meat for the war grinder, you finally had the kids of the 60’s.  Comics were growing with them.  Stan and Jack and Steve and Carmine and Julie and so on realized that the audience would stick around longer if you just made the comics slightly more applicable to them.  And, the thing is, kids read those comics when they were kids, too.  And then as they grew up, they wanted something more mature and darker, and you get Alan Moore, and then the kids who grew up on Swamp Thing and Superman Ennui from Alan want something even darker still, and you get your Grant Morrison’s and Neil Gaiman’s, and then Warren Ellis and Garth Ennis and so on.

But, here’s the thing.  Up until the 90’s, comics were still for kids.  The bulk of what we’d consider mainstream comicdom were comics that any kid could read.  Sure, they were richer and deeper and more involved than Cap punching Hitler in the nose, but, they were still accessible.  But, maybe it was video games or computers or cell phones or whatever culprit we want to blame, at some point the kids started getting older, and nobody was there to replace them.

So you can’t blame the publishers of 90% of comicdom to service the audience they have.

So then, along comes me.  I love writing about how awful people are.  It comes naturally to me, because, frankly, that’s how I feel about most people.  I think that while there’s certainly some good to be found in everybody, there’s just as much shit and bile and venom and ugliness, if not more, in all of us.  I love finding out what it takes for one side to overtake the other.  What makes us go from a person with bad impulses to a person who kills.  Or, who leads  men into war.  Or, kills little girls.  Those are the ideas that resonate with me.

But… I love comics.  And not just the spawn of Alan Moore that’s got us where we are.  I love reading Stan and Jack’s FF as much as virtually any other piece of literature on earth.  I love the thought that in a world of confusion, there can be something as cut and dry as Superman and Batman.  And I want desperately for my daughter to be taught that idea of morality so that when she comes to make the harder less black and white decisions she can say, “What would Wonder Woman do?”

So, I made a rule for myself.  Whenever possible, whenever applicable, write about what’s wonderful.  I feel a responsibility, because so much of what I write is about awfulness and the sour shit of existence, that when given the opportunity, I’m gonna make sure that I get to show the awesomeness too.

Writing, for example, this Marvel Girl one shot that’s coming out in a few weeks is an extension of that.  I, hopefully, you be the judge, wrote a story that’s in the mighty marvel tradition but still contains all of the hallmarks of my writing.  It’s about battling yourself rather than any real enemy, as that’s what every battle we face ultimately is.  When was the last time that you had to fight actual evil?  No, what we fight most of the time is our own foolishness or laziness.

I want to write happy things, I honestly do.  But, I feel like by exploring the awfulness of the universe, I’m exorcising that demon from my head… I’m finding coherent logic in a place where there is none and can be none.  I’m sorting out my fears and anxieties into nice little packages so that instead, in life, I can focus on the joy and the wonder.

I need there to be a Marvel Universe and a DC Universe, if only to satisfy the little hopeful boy in me and to know that there’s somebody out there making sure there’s new readers being introduced to our medium .  That’s my biggest worry.  As you see kids comics getting thrown by the wayside, and outreach either blundered or more or less ignored.

I think about this new Wonder Woman tv series.  Where essentially they just keep the name and nothing that’s iconic or proper about the character.  And that’s fine.  Throw it out.  But, when a kid who loves the tv show comes to read the comic (brilliantly written by Mr. Phil Hester, mind you) what are they going to find?  Not the tv show that’s for damn sure.

Who should change?  That’s the question I suppose.  Not one that I should or would answer, mind you.

My point, which I lost somewhere around outraged paragraph three, is that I don’t get sick of writing this stuff, because, it’s there.  It’s what I see, it’s what I read in the paper, it’s what I see on the internet, it’s what I see walking around North Hollywood on a Wednesday afternoon.

But all the other stuff?  Watching my daughter climb and roll around and wave and say my name?  Seeing my wife come up that escalator at the same time everyday with a big smile that’s just for me and my kid?  Spending time with the people who aren’t shitbeasts?  Working with people who actually care about what they do, rather than just their bottom lines or what the world thinks about them?  That’s in there too.  Maybe not so much in ECHOES, but, it is in there.

There’s a guy I know, same education, same general upbringing as me, just as smart and as talented a writer as me.  One day, he chose not to get up on a morning that I did.  I moved forward, while he stayed in the same place.  Ten years later, I’m living a life I could never have imagined, he’s living the life he lead then, only with grayer hair.

I think about that, not so much out of superiority or judgmentalness (although, I am vindictive as hell), but, because I know that the world is not a fecal-filled explosion of awfulness.  I know that life is what you make of it and what you accomplish is what you do and succeed as much as you allow yourself.  I know that I’m fucking lucky to make work that I love passionately and to even have a tenth of the success that I’ve had.

But I save that for the people I love.  You guys get serial killers and brain tumors.

One Response to “Sick and Tired”

  1. Kyle Garret says:

    What’s interesting is the idea that your stuff is any darker than what goes on in superhero comics. It really isn’t, but it’s not covered in bright spandex to distract people. In fact, it’s ultimately darker, given that, for example, a serial killer in Echoes is bound by his physical limitations, whereas in a superhero comic you have people who can kill hundreds with a wave of their hand.

    I made a concerted effort recently to write a short story with a happy ending. I think I pulled it off, but everything leading up to it was depressing as hell. But I think that’s what people want — they want a silver lining, that light at the end of the tunnel. And the darker that tunnel, the brighter the light.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WP Hashcash