We're still a work in progress here, though I'm pleased the first newsletter only featured two (count 'em!) typos which rendered my meaning entirely separate from my intent. That's pretty good for me. Apologies to anyone who actually thought WicDiv 23 was coming out last week or thought that Batgirl was being harassed on twitter.
How do you feel about a content page? I think a contents page may be good. It implies I may have a plan.
WicDIv 23 Out Tomorrow
The Complete Phonogram announced
Over-wanky Red-Dwarf Thinks
Q&A About Art And Stuff.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE 23 OUT NOVEMBER 2ND
This is basically one of the issues where we’re proud we managed to pull it off at all. The idea is that it’s a whole in-world magazine. Kevin Wada provides the photoshoots which illustrate all the articles. Jamie and Matt do the adverts. Sergio created a high end fashion mag design for the whole thing. The interviews were created by me roleplaying each of the gods in a slack with a real-world journalist, and then them writing it up in their own style. In terms of the contributors, they’re Leigh Alexander, Laurie Penny, Mary HK Choi, Ezekiel Kweku and Dorian Lynskey, who are an incredible array of serious writers who somehow we talked into doing this.
The idea grew from Kevin and our desire to work together on something while being aware Kevin just doesn’t do traditional sequentials. I suspect it’d have worked just like that, but it’s grown into this grotesquely elaborate thing that has had some incredible responses form people who’ve seen it.
Basically it’s one of those single issues which I suspect may be tempting even for those who are following in trade. It’s also the start of IMPERIAL PHASE I, the fifth arc of WicDiv, making it an unusual jumping on point.
If you want to know more, I did an interview over at Comics Alliance, which has more of this kind of thing PLUS lots more of Kevin’s art.
IMPERIAL PHASE I is, like all WicDiv arcs, a change of tone from the last one. It is very sex and drugs and rock and roll, about excess and decadence, and starting with something as elaborate and (frankly) expensive as this seemed tonally appropriate.
THE COMPLETE PHONOGRAM
This was revealed after Rich Johnson paid very close attention to That There Internets and noticed it was in a catalogue.
Basically it collects the three volumes of Phonogram and assorted other extras. What extras? We’re trying to work it out exactly. Ideally, we’d like to include all the B-sides (previously only seen in the single issues) but we’re still trying to work out of it’s possible. We want it to be a real tome, that screams “This was a decade of our lives and we’re not quite ready to let go yet”.
The other major change is that Rue Britannia will be coloured. Matt Wilson has done the honours. The thing which prompted the recolour is that Phonogram is going to be published in France (and elsewhere) next year, and having the first volume B&W when the rest is in technicolour doesn’t seem ideal. Matt approached the recolour thinking about exactly the effect to go for – obviously the B&W was meant to evoke zinedom and the old music press. While we’ve retained elements of that, the mood is deliberately restrained. The other element in Rue Britannia’s make-up was 90s Vertigo (A book homaging 90s pop culture about analysing the concept of “nostalgia” was very much its thing.) So we lean a little to that, without just MAKING it like that, if you see what I mean.
Anyway – want to see some pages? Here you go…
These are from issue 3, if you were wondering.
Anyway: THE COMPLETE PHONOGRAM. Out April next year. You can pre-order from Amazon if that’s your thing.
I found myself watching some of the new series of Red Dwarf. Yes, it was a surprise to me too.
Last time I watched any Dwarf was randomly flicking to one of the many random marathons, with C and I in a sprawl on the sofa – The Katamari of Limbs – and chewing over those early series impact in our teenage years, and how it sat against its reputation, and the things that were unusual and striking that I hadn’t ever realised about it, because I had watched it before I watched anything with my critical lens. I mean, main cast only 50% white? In Britain, a country which even today is 86% white? For any geek franchise, let alone one born in the early nineties, that’s not bad.
(I throw that number in there in passing, just as it tends to surprise Americans who’ve never been here and some who actually have. London is not Britain.)
Obviously its primary problem is in gender, but I’d forgive it simply because it’s not doing it as an unexamined assumption. It’s about men, being alone, forever, and the implicit horror underlying the whole series. It was about often about blokeiness, about being male, about the various lies and performance in that and how empty they all are.
It didn’t always nail it. It didn’t even nail it most of the time. But that’s there, and ironically, the main reason why I’m thinking about it today is actually the fact that it doesn’t nail it all the time.
Most long running TV franchises end up depressing. The writing almost always falls off, or at best has ups and downs. And there’s always the strangeness of seeing the cast age, especially when most long running series tend towards the status quo. Nothing changes, and the fact it’s clear things ARE changing renders that sad, and somewhat pathetic.
Except with Red Dwarf, that was the entire point, wasn’t it?
Lister and Rimmer, trapped together forever. It’s easy to see that simply as a conceit when they’re young men in the first few series. But now? Over nearly thirty years on, and the suits getting tighter and the wrinkles amassing their forces, that’s all too real. The jokes get more threadbare, and it doesn’t matter, the momentary rallies of a fresher gag before collapsing into the deep furrows carved by decades of repetition. Still, it continues onwards…
I find myself hoping that they never stop making Red Dwarfs, and every few years we get a series, just to restress the point that Red Dwarf is a life sentence. Getting to see it in real time is simultaneously comfortable and horrific and pretty much unique. Even if a new series is genuinely awful – and I haven’t watched enough of this to really call on its quality though did laugh more than I thought I would – it doesn’t actually diffuse the strength of the best work. It actually magnifies the point at the series.
That fresh-faced chap there? He ends up like this. This is forever, until it’s not, and they’re all dead, Dave.
WHAT I DID FOR HALLOWEEN
Talking about Halloween, my friend Mer – aka Theremina – uploaded a half hour of atmospheric horror which I strongly recommend you listen to. She’s also taking pre-orders on a repressing of The Parlour Trick’s album, which is pretty much essential. If I was ever put in charge of any kind of videogame development, I’d hit up Mer and see what she had any interest. She’s an enormous talent. Go listen.
Er… you know the side of my aesthetic which has been listening to the Spice Girls on repeat this week? Mer is the opposite side.
Also interesting and suitably dark, Avery Alder has just started her kickstarter for Monsterhearts 2. The first edition is a modern classic of pen and paper role-playing game design. The players are teenagers who are secretly monsters – think all the modern urban fantasy books. However its focus is intently on sex, sexuality, adolescence and pretty much every queer topic you’d like. It’s my go-to game that I say people should look at if they’re thinking of running WicDiv as a tabletop game.
On a similarly game-y note, a year old, but this is a startling interview with Rick Preistley about his time at Games Workshop. How they decided which towns to expand to in the 1980s makes it worth reading alone.
As usual, do direct questions at kierongillen.tumblr.com/ask. This week, it’s mainly me sprawling out critical theories that emerged resplendent and glistening from my anus
Q: I’d been reading comics seriously for about two years now (YA was my gateway) and I notice I’m more drawn to formalist writers like J Hickman, Tom King, Ryan North and yourself. What do you think differentiates format-driven writers from other kinds?
Grids and/or graphs.
(I’ll add this to my things to talk about in the newsletter at some point. I suspect I may draw a line separating formalist and structuralist writers. There’s some overlap, but it’s not 1:1. For example, I’d say Ryan is a formalist but not necessarily a structuralist in his primary intent - and I’d say while King is definitely a structuralist he’s not quite as much a formalist as Jon or Ryan (from what I’ve read, anyway). Generally though… formalists tend to be overly aggressive in their use of the medium. You notice their storytelling choices. This, through a certain aesthetic filter, may make them actually bad at formalism.)
(Of course, none of this is helped by that I’m making up the definitions in my head. There’s another definition of a formalist where Tom is 100% a definition of. As said, I’ll maybe ramble another time.)
(Standard warning when thinking like this: don’t mistake the map for the terrain.)
Q: What’s the opposite of a formalist? Naturalist doesn’t sound right. I’m thinking of folks who tend to be almost invisible in their storytelling and avoid a strong, noticeable voice. Like Rucka or BKV (who it took me years to even notice his Whedon tics). I think it’s different than widescreen comics but still pretty close. Also why do they call Ellis the last modernist?
A: I think you’re conflating a few aspects here, in terms of the invisibility of a storyteller and the strength of the voice and their relation re: formalism. There are people with no interest in formalism and who are incredibly unavoidably present in the work, for example.
I would say the phrase you’re probably looking for is “Narrativist” or “Storyteller” or something like that. Formalist means that they are unusually interested in things other than the This Happens And That Happens And Then This Happens. Formalist means they’re interested in the form as a primary concern. Formalist are interested in how it’s told. Someone who leans the other way is more interested in what they’re telling.
Yes, this is a style vs content thing. But “Style versus content” is a dichotomy question that’s phrased by people who implicitly from the story side of the equation. The question assumes that there is only one kind of content, and that’s This Happened And Then That Happened. “Form versus Story” would perhaps be fairer, I’d say, but I dislike the word “story” in there as it implies that narrative is the only part of it but I just don’t want to go back to the word “content,” due to how culture has unduly elevated that word. If I was using content, it’d mean solely “What is in the jug.” It could be champagne. It could be sulphuric acid. It could be poop.
(It’s also a reason why I was trying to draw a separation between structuralist and formalists. Structuralism is an architecturally rigorous way of telling stories, and very much the “Content” side of the equation. I’m also reticent to separate formalists from the effect of formalism - doing something in a more unusual way can create powerful storytelling effects, and that’s why - for example - I do them.)
Readers of UNDERSTANDING COMICS may recognise that this is pretty akin to where McCloud ended up in his growth of a creator analysis - between those who are most interested in WHAT COMICS CAN DO and those who are most interested in TELLING STORIES IN COMICS. This is, as I believe was mentioned in a later book, probably the area which is most contentious, and that I’m throwing a few caveats in, you may assume that I also think it’s a simplification. Creators work on many more axis.
Heh. For someone who likes structure, this is a scattershot answer.
Re: Warren. I think that was Alan, wasn’t it? By implication and context, it’s that he rejects postmodernism and fights against it in an attempt to continue the modernist experiment. You may think that strange, with Authority and (especially) Planetary in the period it was said, but Planetary uses postmodernist tools to aggressively attack and critique the malaise. Planetary is a book about homage that believes that homage and corporate funded homage is shackling us all and it is creators duty to burn it all down. In short: Warren is always interested in the future, whatever that means.
Q: If you’re not too busy could you explain the push to turn every single independent comic series into a tv show? I’m not trying to be antagonistic, if it’s about the money I completely understand. But it just doesn’t make sense to me it feels like something that will cheapen the overall experience. I’m just wondering what the perspective of the creator of such works is?
There’s a few areas where I think your prejudices and/or presumptions are getting in the way, and the one where you’re most mistaken is the word “push.”
I’d rather say the word is “pull.”
Most indie comics folks don’t push to get their comic turned into a series (or movie.) There’s exceptions, but in our case, we did our comic, and we had something like 16 serious inquiries sitting ignored in our inbox before we could be bothered to get around to getting an agent.
(This finally happened over brunch with Matt and Kelly-Sue. We mentioned it to them, they were horrified and introduced us to theirs.)
We’re an extreme case, as we live in fear of any conversation involving contracts and generally suck, but the basic argument of who is the suitor in the relationship remains.
There is more TV of a certain mode being made now than ever before. As such, there is an attempt to find interesting and novel concepts to use. Comics are a relatively under-exploited field. They’re also a field which is arguably closer to the screen than the novel - at the least, there is a visual element that may be of use. At the ABSOLUTE least, it’s easier for a TV exec to flick through a comic and have a vague idea about it than actually reading prose, but that may be overtly cynical.
That’s what’s off with your opening, which now inverts the whole second part of the question. It becomes not “why are you pursuing this?” but “why are you allowing this to happen?”
I think the answer remains James M Cain’s - and yes, I had to google to check the actual source, as I’d always heard it applied to Chandler…
“People tell me, don’t you care what they’ve done to your book? I tell them, they haven’t done anything to my book. It’s right there on the shelf.”
So, no. It doesn’t cheapen the book. The book is the book. Anyone who cares about anything other than the book are really revealing their true ambivalence to the book and the medium. I’m actually deeply suspicious of the trend in comics reporting of comic sites to primarily cover TV shows based on comics, and the elements of fandom who are more excited by the idea of a TV show than the actuality of comics. Moving visual mediums do not sit above all other art in any field other than commerce.
I love comics. As such, I feel comfortable with people exploring a story in another medium, because it is another medium.
Of course, acquisition also means little. The vast majority of acquisitions never go anywhere. That’s the nature of the beast. For most comics, the possibility of a TV show’s primary use is actually to advertise the existence of the book and draw more eyes to it.
That said, money is always nice.
On a personal note, I’d urge you to consider why you think it could cheapen the experience. If we were in a pub, it’s the sort of thing I’d prod you into unpacking.
Okay – I was going to write a little about the script I’m battling with this week, how a random song on the radio crushed me (Mama Cas, Make Your Own Kind Of Music) and a basic grounding on industry mysteries like “why is there a variant cover from this artist on this book?”, NaNoWriMo, how Sheffield Library was at the weekend and actually what Paris Con was like for us. But it’s already 3000 words, and I better stop avoiding work, and if I write much more, you’re never going to actually read it.
I was bitten by a radioactive TL;DR and now have all its awful powers. Fear me and all my works.
One last bit of Kevin lushness to sign off on? I think so.
Thanks for reading.