I wore shorts once this week. It’s been a bad time for everyone.
I'll Miss You
It’s Wednesday 26th July.
Four to two I send C a mail with WicDiv 45. I’ve left it to the last minute, as Jamie is just finishing off the inks of issue 44 across the next couple of days. It leaves C time to make sure it’s in a fit state for drawing and have the associated conversations. I don’t expect to get any fundamental notes back, so it’s essentially done.
I have an interview at 2. I wait for it. It turns out we’ve got the time difference wrong, and the interview is at 3.
I twiddle my thumbs.
The deadline extension of WicDiv has left it as an odd slow goodbye. Jamie is still living with it, but I’d done the work. It wasn’t finished, but it was done. As such, WicDiv has slipped somehow into the Old Work mental file. If asked to list books I’ve got coming out, I normally forget it. I think I’ve basically done an Irish Goodbye on it. I’m out, without the awful goodbye.
Except I’ve handed it over, and now it’s strange.
I figure I deserve a diet coke.
I decide to take a scenic route, passing through the Graveyard. Hassan asked for some pages of script for the Panel x Panel issue, including the opening of the book. I lobbed them over, and in the process was reminded that I went for a walk through the same graveyard upon finishing the first issue. Once more we return and all that.
The WicDiv playlist is obviously playin, so I transfer it to my headphones, and step out.
The song moves from Mansun’s Legacy (whose coked out existential ennui always seemed pure Imperial Phase) and into the dinosaur riff of Enter Sandman. I smile as I head across the road, almost walking into an oncoming cars. I watch them go past and think of my perpetual terror when I was writing Phonogram – as in, I’d die mid-story. I had that with WicDiv too, but for a lesser degree. You can’t keep that level of terror for five years. But now I’m done, and I’ve done The Big One. I think of what on earth the world would think if I’d finished this fucking book and walked outside and instantly got killed.
People would think it was some kind of statement, when really, it’s just me having my head in the clouds. That’d be an irony. It’s a deeply anti-mythic mythic book, and feeding into that kind of thinking would be deeply counter-productive.
Still – Metallica do add a swagger as I march into the graveyard. Too much swagger. I flick forward in the playlist a half dozen songs until I hit Lazy Line Painter Jane by Belle & Sebastian.
About a decade ago, I realised that Belle & Sebastian are my favourite band of all time. This depresses me. I really don’t want to be the sort of person whose favourite band is Belle & Sebastian, yet here we are. Something like this is hard to deny. Lazy Line Painter Jane is one of their biggest songs, in its soft/powerful duet mode and its rainy bus-seat bisexuality and ambition is a pure burst of WicDiv (“Wondering how you/Got your name/And what you’re going to do about it”).
I lose myself in it and realise I’ve walked straight through the Cemetery, by instinct. I normally get lost. This seems meaningful, but I’m aware everything would seem meaningful right now.
By the time I’m out the other side, I decide that I also deserve an ice-cream and C deserves flowers. This book has not been easy.
I angle towards the local flower-shop as the music switches to Pulp’s Common People. I smile. Jamie and I are aware that folks presume we listen to Britpop a bunch, but it’s never something I go to deliberately anymore. Still – if you were to choose a band from the period, you’d choose Pulp, and if you’d choose a song to capture them, it’d be Common People. The older I get the more survivor guilt I feel around the song. The tension in it is always that it’s a song about people who don’t have the choice of escape being used as a holiday destination, being sang by someone who is in the process of escaping. I empathise with that, in that I am successful to a level which I couldn’t ever meaningfully hope for.
Still – whatever WicDiv is, was part of that, it solidified it. The guilt that a book as a response to grief has earned me a lot of money powered WicDiv’s third year, and the loathing of Imperial Phase.
I get the flowers. “Why are you getting flowers?” asks the lady. No reason at all, I half-lie. I just wanted to buy her flowers.
I turn around, get a white chocolate magnum – a signifier of luxury and decadence akin to a Viennetta in my Staffordian imagination – and a diet coke, and head to home.
I think of what people did when they finish their own epic books. There’s not that many people who have done big chunky Creator Owned runs. They all seem exhausted afterwards. Five years and a week from the first issue dropping, I did mine. I actually met Brian K Vaughan for the first time the night he finished Y: The Last Man. It was at Bristol Comic Con, the year that Phonogram had dropped. We were outside, when a friend grabbed us and said BKV would like to say hello, dragging us in. We all were off our heads, so it took three circles of the bar to locate him. He was very nice. At least that I haven’t got to be nice to two very inebriated creators when I’ve just hammered out my last script. Instead, I get a white chocolate magnum and a diet coke.
I arrive at the door, completing my circular walk around the neighbourhood and the song changes. I Saw Her Standing There, by the Beatles. The first song that is referenced in WicDiv, in Laura’s head at the gig. The start of the cycle. Once more we return. Everything is circles, everything changes, nothing changes.
I give C the flowers, say thank you, and write as much of this as I can before doing my interview.
I’ll never do anything like WicDiv ever again. That’s both freeing and petrifying. I’m glad I had the chance.
(In Phonogram days I used to write down every song I wrote an episode to. I don’t go that far any more, but noting what’s playing when a Draft is being finished is a holdover.)
The Guardian asked me if I’d like to do a Masterclass on comics writing next year. I said yes. I’ve done various bits of craft and teaching stuff before, but I was looking for a chance to do a big codification of everything.
On February 5th 2020, it’s from 6:30 to 9:30 and it’s 49 a ticket. I’m told they’re selling well, so I’d get it sooner rather than later if you’re interested. You can do so here.
Panel x Panel is the Eisner Award nominated monthly journal of comics. Every issue they focus half their space on a book. As we head towards the end of WicDiv, Hassan and his team look at WicDiv.
There’s a huge interview with us lot, plus a lot of essays about the book, and all their usual content. It’s a huge chunk of comics crit and at $2.50 an absolute steal. Go get here.
I’ve actually got a lot more to plug and write about this week, but I need to pop out shortly. It can await until next week, really. I went on an adventure near Bradford and got photos. It also allowed me to finally complete a draft of DIE 9.
Oh – WicDiv 44 went to the printers, which means it will be coming out. We can’t wait until everyone reads it.
Jamie likes the script for 45 too. Phew.