Music crushes these week is Imarhan's Tumast and Idles' Samartians. The latter is one of the best songs about toxic masculinity I've ever heard. I have no idea what the former is about, but it makes me want to throw down. Of course, I'm also sitting here, twiddling my fingers, waiting for Robyn to arrive. Oh, Robyn. Return to us! You are our pop Aslan.
More anecdotes, several
UBER INVASION 15! If I was splitting the final year of Uber into two arcs, this would be the penultimate part of Mother Russia. Lots of battles on the Eastern front. A few of my favourite panels that Daniel has ever drawn. Lots of brutality. Also, no essay – the print deadlines keep on getting the jump on me. I definitely want to get one in the next issue, to wrap up the whole arc.
STAR WARS 52! The third issue in HOPE DIES, which is primarily a dogfight between Han Solo and Darth Vader. When starting the run, I did have a think of “What things which everyone really wants to see that we've never seen?” and this was pretty high up the list. After all, do you honestly think Darth Vader would forget being sucker-shot in the Death Star run? So this was fun.
(Also, one of my fave covers.)
Plus it's ending is... oh, it's also fun. Preview here.
Assorted small things!
Firstly, more on Thought Bubble details have been released. September 22-23. It's the only UK con that Jamie and me will be at this year, so if you want to see us, grab us here. Also, they've announced a The Wicked + the Divine immersive theatre event. I can't tell you any more about it yet, but we gave the blessing for its development, and sounds excellent. More when I know. Get tickets to the show! It's always my favourite weekend of the year.
Erika's Cute KO is amazing. Cute things, in a vote off. Yay!
Hipsterhammer officially surrendered to Games Workshop, as they have clearly beat us at our own game (of their games). Within a couple of hours, they announce they've doubled their their profits in the last year. Clearly, we take full credit.
The Nine Worlds schedule is up! I'm DJing on Friday night. Go nose.
Comrade Rossignol was in a smalltown comic book shop the other week with some of his friends. He drops me a line, telling me the following.
Flicking through the shelves, he finds one by me. The guy behind the counter chips in.
“I've actually met Kieron Gillen,” he says, “He destroyed my dreams of being a comic book author.”
"Yes," he says says "I asked him whether working for one of the big two is selling out. I mean, writing Star Wars is like a dreamjob, right? And he said: 'it is a dream, but one that eats your soul'. And I value my soul."
"That sounds like Kieron advice," says Jim.
"I'm going to write for 2000AD!" says the guy. "Much less dangerous."
"Good idea," Jim says, moving on.
I laughed and winced at this one. Knowing words you release casually take on a life of their own is a little like that. Simultaneously, I know exactly why I said it, and why Jim thinks it sounds exactly like the sort of advice I give, and have been giving as long as I knew Jim.
We were both working at PC Gamer at Future Publishing. I was 25, been working there for a couple of years, and felt hyperaware that most the people working at Future weren't aware of the machine they were becoming part of. In the period, the first thing I basically said to every single new writer in the company was “what's your exit plan?” Point being, this is not a job for life, and as great as the job is, it will suck you dry if you let it, and you should be aware exactly how much your employer is using you and your enthusiasm to generate money. The problem is always you thinking the deal is something other than what it is.
Yes, I was even more unbearable then than I am now. I had a T-shirt that read KILLBADWRITERS which I wore to get a rise from people around the office. I was the worst.
But as blunt as I was, I wasn't wrong. Especially in that period, there was little education of new staff writers about the reality of the job, and how the machine worked. As most are untrained in traditional journalism, their lessons are learned from their first editors and publishers, and they need to become aware that the interests of your bosses are not necessarily your interests.
In a later period when I was the Grand Old Man Of Videogame Letters, a friend who was an editor and I used to joke what would be useful is if they took their new writer to the pub, buy them a drink, and leave them there. And then, entirely deniably, I walk in the pub, sit opposite the new writer, and explain the entire industry to them. The only surprise is we never actually did it.
I took the mellowed version of all that into comics. So when I meet someone like the person in the shop, I'm worrying for them. When people walk up to me and talk about Dream Jobs you can tell they're looking at the “Dream” rather than the “Job”. Even a Dream Job is a job, and exists in the employer/worker axis, and you forget that at your peril. When talking about Work For Hire, I regularly talk about “Emotional Contraceptives.” As in, you have to set your boundaries carefully, and police them. I often use the metaphor that you're a nanny, not a parent. You need to know that, intimately, as if you don't, the job will eat you alive.
I also always come back to William Goldman's observation in one of his books on writing for the screen business – he urges, in his strongest possible terms, that you have to write something other than screenplays. Novels. Short stories. Poetry. Diaries. Anything. Just write something which isn't part of this enormous system, as being trapped in the space will slowly erode and eventually destroy your talent.
I tend to think Work For Hire comics are a little like that, and if someone's aims seems too solely weighted towards that side of the medium, I have to urge them to get their emotional contraceptives in place. It's a hell of a job, and one I love... but it's a job, and the stories are the fantasy that I want to sell rather than its means of production.
So, guy, if you're reading, that's what I was trying to say.
That said, I was given this during the Star Wars London Film & Comic Con panel, and was genuinely overcome.
It is a bit of a dream job sometimes.
Yesterday, I started writing a script for an artist I've never worked with before, and wrote one of my standard personal letters at the start, to explain what I try to do with my scripts. I then lobbed it online. Here it is...
Yes, I did add the missing "It" afterwards.
It actually ties in with the short seminar I ran at London Film and Comic Con. A bunch of people did 20 minute craft talks. I did one called “How to manipulate your artist ;)”
;) is always important.
The speech was structured so it started with me talking about how best to make your artist do their best work, and moved into a series of tactics – the backbone was an extrapolation of the concept of page budgets I wrote about here – but all were basically “have an understanding of their job and to treat them with respect.” Happy, undistracted artists are productive artists doing their best work, and if they do their best work, the resulting comic will be better. The point being, even if you were an ethical monster, you still should treat people well, because if you don't, it hurts your work.
There's the pernicious idea in our culture that ethical stances and effective stance are always antagonistic. Frankly, fuck that.
Huge week work wise, which continues as I'm writing. Later today I need to break the back of an mini outline, which I need to start writing in a week or two. I've think I've found the artist, who's a new creator, whose work I've loved and am looking forward to seeing what we can cook up together. Ideally, I can fit in the start of a lettering draft for the third issue of Spangly New Thing, who is pulling together for solicitation. I'm meeting with a logo designer tomorrow to chew over what to do – I suspect it'll be a non-traditional logo treatment.
In which case, I'll stop now. There's a lot to do. See you next time.