171: I construct delusions
Brighter Shade of Blue
2023-2024 Project Update
I've got nothing out this week, but I wanted to draw your attention to this.
X-men Blue: Origins is doing big stuff, which absolutely impacts what I'll be doing in X-men Forever (aka the Further Adventures of Immortal X-men).
As always with anything not in one of my stories which is important, I'll be introducing stuff so folks aren't lost, but if you're invested in all things Mystique and Destiny, you'll likely want this.
I'll be there, running D36, the brand new 36 player DIE megagame from 2-6. The tickets are all sold out, as far as I'm aware, but god knows what happens if folks don't turn up. Anyway – I'll be about. There's no signing times, but Rowan Rook & Decard will be selling all the DIE RPG and DIE stuff at Table 8 on the Lower Trade Hall across the day.
Say Hi if you see me, though not when I'm actually running the game, as that would be disastrous.
I was asked for this on blue skies and realise it's overdue. Here's quick run down of what my projects are right now.
Immortal X-men ends in December. Rise of the Powers of X starts in January and X-men Forever (which basically continues Immortal X-men) hits in March. I've likely got another issue's worth of X-stuff in the mix, but after that it'll be the end of my time in the X-office and Marvel (at least, for now). Time for new things.
The codename for my new big ongoing comic – it's an acronym for the real title. Likely out summer 2024. I haven't said a huge amount about this yet, deliberately so, though anyone who follows me on Blue Skies could put some clues together. It's with an artist I've worked on before. It feels like the real deal.
Stephanie is wrapping this up, hopefully by the end of the year. Being a book, I suspect it'll actually be after TPF (as the hype cycle is longer) but I'd be surprised if it's not out before the end of 2024. A few details have leaked out – Stephanie is the artist and I've described it as about a rapture-y end of the world, features some kind of weird giants and has a vaguely Gaiman-y tone. I'm still not sure if it's YA or not. I think that'll depend how brutal Stephanie draws certain scenes. That said, if folks count Monstress as YA, this certainly fits in that area.
Non-Comics Thing #1
I've alluded to it, but I'm going to give it an official title. The #1 is basically me future proofing – I'm not doing anything else bar what's listed here, but I suspect I will be. This is a WFH bit of writing for a non-comics thing. It's about equivalent to 5-10 issues of comics work.
Rowan Rook & Decard are releasing a quarterly series of scenario books for DIE RPG. Stephanie is doing the covers, and I'm doing a scenario for each one. As well as DIE Scenarios, I've also written a quickstart for DIE, and various con things. Basically, expect more DIE bits and bobs as we progress, but the Scenarios are the main one.
I should have a draft of all of Non-Comics Thing #1 done by the end of the year. I've got 5-6 issues of X-stuff to do – 1-2 of them will be done before the end of the year, and 2-3 more of them by the end of January. The OGN is already written. That means of the above, I should only be actively new material for TPF and the DIE Scenarios by around March. In other words, I've actively carved more space from my schedule, and I'll be working out what else I want to do. Likely another comic - perhaps two? Maybe I'll squeeze in a novella? Maybe I'll sleep?
It won't be WFH inside comics, unless something irresistible comes calling. That said, I just remembered the major character idea I've deliberately not pitched to the relevant publisher, as I'm pretty sure that they'll say yes to it immediately and I don't want anything else on my plate. Yet.
This may be delusional. I construct delusions. It's literally my job.
On bluesky, I asked if there was a good single volume guide to writing RPGs. Basically, no – there's a lot of good stuff, but it's distributed widely. This led Luke Beardynoise saying then it sounds like Grant and my next project.
Here you go.
Though, really, if it was by me it'd have (1/847) at the bottom of the page.
Due to general plague and teeth, Iris has been sleeping lightly over the last month and a half. As such, she's been taking a while to settle and go deep to sleep, so I've found myself sitting with her on me, reading books on my phone. Which has mainly led to be finishing a book, then scrolling to see what else I bought in the last two years which I didn't finish due to new parenthood.
But one which led me back to reading on the phone was a new purchase – Naomi Klein's DOPPELGÄNGER which had been recommended by a critical mass of people that meant I wanted to carve out time for it. It's a self-confessedly less focused and perhaps more self-indulgent book than her others – it starts with her annoyance at being confused with the feminist-turned-carcrash Naomi Wolf, follows her obsession down the rabbit hole and – to use Klein's metaphor – through the mirror, where she basically writes about everything.
This only occurred to me when reading Aditya's take here, but the fascinatingly meandering and ever-growing structure actually reminded me of one of the few things I remember hammering out in my English GCSE, which basically started at annoyance at something to do with RPGs and expanded, via various steps, to a furious disgust at the House at Commons. It's like that, but infinitely more so. It looks at how someone who is (narcissism of small differences aside) a lot like her end up like someone like them. As such, it becomes a lot about about Us vs Them, and the distortions that creates, which ripple across the world. A lot is petrifying, and a lot is essential. It's lingered.
As anyone who's followed my playlists would know, I love The Mountain Goats, but I had never read any of John Darnielle's prose. WOLF IN WHITE VAN is a novel about a Play-by-Mail GM with an tragic past whose game was involved in the death of two of its players. Despite its realist mode, you can see the emotional resonances with DIE, which is why I gravitated to it. Hell, PBM is such a high frequency geek thing, even I'd be nervous about hanging a whole book off it. Despite that genre-sounding description above, this is a literary novel, which slowly reveals its protagonist in tantalising details. It's a book which makes you follow in search of answers, and – when it gives you them – leaves the actual truth a little beyond your fingertips. As such, it lingers like a chord in the air, and I suspct that Darneille is sick of that kind of metaphor, so I'll stop.
I also went back to Brian Michael Bendis, WORDS FOR PICTURES, his book on writing comics. This is a book of the absolute fundamentals, with an eye for people looking for a career in writing comics. Brian is also very generous in sharing the mike - he gives focused interviews to people like Brubaker and Fraction. Then he also highlights artists like David Mack and Alex Maleev in the same way. And a bunch more, including an editors chapter which is worth the book alone. She interviews his wife and business partner Alissa Benids, which is just great. Here's a quote from her...
What’s the biggest mistake you see comic creators making businesswise?
A. BENDIS: Just not being bothered with it. They don’t read their contracts because the contracts bore them. Or they don’t even make contracts. They take the first offer a company makes, as they are so excited to be making comics that they forget to negotiate. They don’t know it’s okay to say no. These contracts and page rates you agree to are life- and career-defining choices. You have to take them seriously. I have discovered that some of these companies are counting on some of the creators setting themselves up to be taken advantage of. It’s almost like an unwritten rule in comics. Creators don’t care about the money, and the companies are happy to oblige them.
When I came into comics, at the start of the internet age, there was much more information than the generation before, but certainly nothing as focused, unpretentious, practical and complete as this. If you're wanting to write comics, I'd still say start with Understanding Comics, but the second you need to get practical, this is here, waiting for you.
I was also relieved it's absolutely nothing like the book on writing comics I would do. Phew.
- Hurrah. Kissinger is dead. Spencer Ackerman's obituary is good work. I'm aware that some of you are likely young enough to not know where the bodies are buried with Kissinger. In which case, do read. TL;DR: There's bodies buried everywhere. Most of them aren't buried.
- Boo. Shane McGowan is dead. If you haven't, here's Rum, Sodomy and the Lash.
- Gita Jackson writes about her frustration with an anthology of non-fictoin on games pretending it's a new thing. I want to write more about this, as Gita is expressly writing something I helped coalesce back in the 00s in my previous life, but I haven't time today. Go read. Gita's always good.
- Tabletop Gaming is the UK's biggest tabletop games mag, I believe, so seeing them review DIE RPG so favourably was lovely. It picked up a MUST-PLAY badge. As someone who has spent a whole previous career deciding whether to give something a badge or not, it's really touching to actually get given one. Aw.
- David Brothers' latest newsletter writes about her relationship with Frank Miller's mid period work and his pain and regret at seeing the late period work. You don't get a lot of this kind of writing about Miller now. Brothers always excels with complexity without sacrificing a stance
- In my search for useful “how to write RPG stuff” I hit Vincent Baker's essay on defining PBTA, which includes linked essays which basically take you through how to make a PBTA game (or not – I especially like “maybe it's not PBTA” as a step). (via Indie RPG Newsletter)
For a quick one, this has ended up being meatier than I'd expected, so I'll keep the endpiece short.
The march to the end of the year continues, and things seem on target. Last week was doing a draft for 40% of Non-Comics Thing #1, which I pulled off – it's working off a tight synopsis, so it definitely could be worse. The first three days of this week were polishing TPF #1 up to a state where I was able to give to the artist and get input on execution – I'll likely talk about this down the line, but trying to change up my method is key. There's no captions, and that's been the backbone of my style since DIE. There's also lots of space to find ways of doing it, which is key for this – I want it to have its own feeling, and that needs the interpretation.
Anyway, luckily the artist seems to dig the script, and we'll be getting on a zoom to talk about that execution on Monday.
Until then I'm back to working on the OGN – we're adding a 10 page sequence to Act 4, transforming what was a montage into a fully developed sequence. It'd have worked in a montage, but I'm glad we're doing this, as it'll work significantly better if we get to live it. Before I started the process, I re-read the whole script, and welled up, which I'll consider a good sign.