It's been quite a selection of weeks. My rhythm for these things has been thrown off due to a variety of things – frankly, there's been some newsletters I haven't written as I've been too angry to trust my words entirely. So there's fun stuff and dark stuff I've spared you, and saved for the work. Pah.
I have a cold again, btw. I'm not normally ill. Clearly, end-times, but at least I got to use the phrase “mucustard” earlier, which I suspect has legs.
Spanglier and Spanglier
Hass forwarded me an early copy, and I gave him the quote “The most visionary, necessary and NOW comic publication since Matt Fraction’s Savant, the best looking one since ever. I like it so much I’m writing a review for it as soon as I finish this sentence.” Because I'd seen he was needing some more capsule reviews, so I hammered out a couple of hundred words about Hannah Berry's Livestock.
While I admire Strip Panel Naked's formalist analysis videos, my own personal preference for criticism is always text. I read quicker than I can watch, and I inevitably get frustrated at a form which is working slower than I'd like. I'm a podcast-at-1.25-1.5x listener. As such, I was excited to see that kind of thought thrown into this, while also maintaining a broad church.
Like any zine – and this is where it got me thinking about Savant – is that it's a manifesto for a vision of how comics could operate. It's a broad church, but clearly has a focus on what it believes in, and how it would prefer the medium to be. The most striking thing is 50% of its ninety pages is about a single comic. The comic is Beautiful Canvas by Ryan K Lindsay, Sami Kivelä and Triona Farrell. Beautiful Canvas came out today. Next issue is about Redlands, by Jordie Bellaire and Vanessa Del Ray, which will also be contemporary about release.
In other words, it believes that new art is worth talking about, with no other consideration. Coverage of books without the full force of the big two in the specialist press often reads like a PAY ATTENTION TO THIS! The “the best comic you're not reading!” approach, which always comes across as desperately needy. Panel x Panel takes the opposite approach, rendering confidence and frankly swagger to the work. This is interesting. You know we think it's interesting as we've done so many different sorts of pieces about it, teasing it apart in dozens of ways. It's not trying to convince you of anything. From the tone of the writing to the strikingly beautiful design work, this presents its own view of a world where this is the conversation they are having.
I like this. I find a smart organ devoted to why people care about comics anyway refreshing and necessary, and I can't wait to see more.
The first Doctor Aphra trade dropped when you were away, where Kevin and I dig (ahahahaha!) into the archeologist hero. While obviously it'll reward anyone who followed her adventures through Darth Vader, it's designed as a clean start. My approach with Star Wars comics has always been to make them Star Wars. They have to feel like the silver screen on paper, in all those immaterial ways. As such, we've tried to find something that merges the Indiana Jones structure with the Star Wars one.
Plus there's Kevin Walker, who I adore, and is one of the most writerly-artists I've ever worked with. For me, this is a comics action master-class, and it's the sort of thing I'd love to pick apart.
Anyway – grab for fun space adventures.
Out this week is the last part of the current Aphra storyline, the crossover THE SCREAMING CITADEL where... oh, man. Lots of stuff happens, including multiple sequences I can't quite believe we're doing. Also, my favourite two Aphra/Sana panels in the whole comic, which probably says a lot about me.
When I've been away we've handed in the plan for year two of Aphra, which is suitably chaotic. I'm also deep in Star Wars research mode generally – I was doing a close reading of Rogue One yesterday, and am working through all the current novels set in the New Hope period. I like to see what there is to play with. It also made me smile when the Ante – an infobroker character Salva and me invented during Darth Vader – was referenced in passing in Rebel Rising. That story group really is doing fascinating things in terms of encouraging interconnectivity.
I just don't shut up. Here's some other places where I don't just shut up.
Breaking The Glass Slipper is a podcast which is about women in fantasy, sci-fi and similar, and interviewed me about writing women in my own work, and generally. Which is always intimidating, and I suspect you can hear me triangulating a half dozen things I should say to any answer, but hopefully interesting.
Blank Cassette is a podcast about mix-tapes. Clearly, I'm an easy date for this. I talk about the WicDiv playlist generally, and songs related to Imperial Phase (Part I) specifically. If I remember correctly, involves talking about Bojack Horseman more than you'd expect.
It was the 30th anniversary of Warhammer 40k recently. French Site SyFantasy, after doing a bunch of French press which inevitably turned towards WarhammerChat, ask to do an interview about it. I do, including terrible photos of 1990-era my painting, hailing the Harlequinn Kiss and extended whining about how awful the first version of the Imperial Guard list was. It is a fun time.
On Warhammer notes, the 8th edition is out and is very lovely.
Here's an Ask I Answered on Series Bibles people seemed to like...
Q: Could I ask what's your process for series bibles? I keep seeing references online to like a 10,000 word doc for Uber and you mentioned Spangly New Thing being 14,000 and unfinished, both of which seem significantly bigger than say, the publicly available bible for Battlestar Galactica. So what is it that goes in there.
A: I normally quote Uber’s one at 25,000. I think that includes the cover document though. The WicDiv bible was about 13,000, but includes a lot less stuff than Uber (perhaps obviously). Spangly New Thing will be… oh, I’m really not sure. Spangly New Thing is complicated, and multifarious. I may not formally bible-ify the remaining stuff.
(I suspect Uber leans long because of my stage in my career, which was all about the Working Too Much.)
A bible, for me, is basically…
1) Background crap/what the fuck this thing is actually about.
2) Character Stuff.
3) Any weird stuff about the world.
5) The long term plan for the rest of the book.
So the WicDiv bible would have included…
1) Top view of the book with themes, what it’s about, clever wanky stuff, background. This bit actually includes stuff like - say - the whole first Pantheon, etc.
2) Big bios of each of the gods, including anything which Jamie would need to know.
3) Power crap.
4) A full breakdown of the first arc, issue by issue.
5) An arc by arc breakdown of the rest of the series.
That I do books with big casts tends to balloon it. The majority of the WicDiv bible was character stuff, laying out everyone’s arcs.
Bibles are abstractly created for TV shows to communicate stuff about it to everyone (Some are for pitches, others are more like show dictionaries.) I think I’ve seen… maybe one bible in my life?
My Bibles are primarily for me, and only secondarily for the artist. It’s me getting the thoughts down on paper. It’s not gospel - I do tweak stuff all the time - but this is my plan of engagement and an overview of the terrain ahead.
If you want a crappy metaphor, my Bibles are the sourcebook for the campaign I’m planning to run.
That was prompted by me talking about how I'd lobbed another chunk of the Bible of Spangly New Thing over to the artist. It's the sort of project that has a lot of text attached for various reasons, as it's got some of Uber's hard-mechanics bubbling beneath it. This also means I'm writing a lot more than I'm ever going to show them. That 13k is pretty tight, and I've just checked the other, completely separate document, and that's another 20k.
I was thinking that this project may actually be more elegant, but it's crossed over to the point where it goes Full Gillen and is in danger of rupturing and spilling ideas everywhere.
But I'm excited for many reasons, not least as we're in the character design sequence, so the cast are starting to be drawn, which is changing the book in fundamental ways. Despite all the planning done my side, it's also designed as an improvisational book, and a showcase for the artist in question. I wanted to build a world with them, to show what a world built by the artist could like. So seeing fragments of that come into existence is altering the book's nature in all the ways I'd hoped it would. It feels alive and frightening, which is what I needed.
No idea when we're going to announce it. Maybe NYCC? We'll see.
I'm also unsure why we're not just saying who the artist is, except that we like secrets and surprises.
Oh – I also just did the third and hopefully final rewrite of the first Ludocrats script. Jim and I had a meeting a month or so ago, which was basically to try and work out how we could tweak the script so people didn't read it as an analogy for the current political situation of the world, because it's really not (and if people did, they'd also take completely the wrong implications from THAT.)
It's in a stronger state for it though – it feels more elegant, and also funnier. There was one search-and-replace to the script which rendered the whole thing at least 17% funnier, which is a good tweak to do if your'e writing a comedy.
Oh – WicDiv 29, out next week.
Worth noting that last time I said there's a year of scripts left to write. I stress, that doesn't mean there's a year left in the book. I'd say there's 17 issues of the main series to go, plus two specials. And maybe a few more, depending how it goes. Oh - solicits for 31 went up, which has a lovely alt cover by Sophie Campell. I purr!
I just got the solicit proof for previews for issue 32 this morning which i) features what I think is Jamie's and Matt's best cover in the whole run so far and ii) made me enormously proud to get to do this. So I'll say that, punch your arm affectionately and then run out the room before I have to express a sincere emotion in front of another human being, as that shit is terrifying.