Grindhouse of X
Abandon All Trip Hop Who Enter Here
We’re back with the fifth part, which picks up from the last and doesn’t really slow down. While I haven’t seen a final of issue 6 yet, this is probably my favourite of the series. That said, this speaks to my aesthetic as much as anything else. It’s 20 pages of a lot, and Valerio and Marte set the world aflame in style.
Last issue went down better than I thought it would, which was a nice surprise. The things folks liked and folks didn’t were what I was expecting, but the mix of the positive to the negative definitely leaned higher than I felt. Which is nice! For something as caption-heavy as this to catch people is a surprise and a delight – that folks are imprinting on the human characters is something that especially makes me happy. Trying to put the humanity on the page was one of my goals with Judgment Day, so that it’s working for folks is heartening.
You can find a preview here, which starts like this…
Next we enter the bit where we go full mind melt down, as between now and Judgment Day #6 I write six tie-ins, all set after the end of #5 and before #6 (or slightly overlapping with the end of 5 in the case of Death to the Mutants 3 and Immortal X-men 7). I’ll save talking about that for next time, which I believe is AXE: Avengers, which is another one I really like, in a completely different way to this.
Oh – I was interviewed by This Week In Marvel last week, talking about issue 4. I dunno how it edited down, but I think it’s where I first say what one of the key bits of inspiration for Judgment Day was. I’ll probably say more down the line. I can already imagine certain questions I’m going to be asked a lot.
And Decompressed is back, with me talking to Leah Williams about X-Terminators #1, which I love. Here’s its cold open, which is my fave one for a superhero comic for ages. This even skips the excellent parental advisory sticker at the start.
I went through a bunch of Tumblr asks and asked for some new ones. Here’s a few edited ones of the better ones, and there’s more here. You can always ask more – though if it’s a question about a comic that’s coming out, it’s likely I won’t answer and the answer any implicit silence is the always-annoying “Wait and see.”
Any advice for an aspiring comic writer with no ability to draw? I’ve written a couple of scripts but idk what to do with them.
You don’t need to draw. You can execute a comic in many ways.
I did a Photocomic OGN of just shy of 300 pages called Negativeland. It was primarily photos I took when clubbing (and similar things), and then me working out how to turn it into an episode of this continuing story every two weeks.
I did other comics which were made from found art, by cutting pasting pictures of robot toys.
Some comics-which-aren’t-traditionally drawn are hugely successful. Look at Dinosaur Comics or XKCD, to choose two.
Clearly these aren’t comics that allow you to do a traditional action comic… but that’s the point. As a comic writer, you’re always writing to an artist, trying to write things they can do, and working out what they can’t. When the artist is you, and you have no talent whatsoever, you’re playing in hard mode.
And trust me: doing any comic will teach you more than writing any number of scripts. You’ll see on the page what works, and what doesn’t, and you can fold that back into your work. You don’t even need to share with folks if you think they’re too terrible.
But doing comics is totally its own reward. What can you do? Do it.
I recently found out you went to the uni of bath too so I was wondering if you have any places you recommend visiting while I study there?
Hah. It’s been so long that I don’t know what’s still there.
I lived in Bath for a decade and only went to the actual Baths after I left - it really was worth it for a nose.
Also, I have no idea if you can get in there any more, but on the far side of the golf course at the back of the university, there’s a cave system. The LARP society did games down there, but it’s just a good place to go down with a candle and nose. I did a date down there once.
Yes, very goth.
Best piece of GM advice?
Heh. I want to do this properly, and only choose one, and also assume that this is literally the only bit of advice anyone can get - as in, they don’t get any other advice from any other source. So I’m looking for one which will impact play as much as possible.
I don’t think I’d stick to it though. It may be a simple “You’re a player too. Your needs don’t matter more than anyone else at the table, but certainly don’t matter less.” Or even “Don’t beat yourself up. It’s a cool thing you’re doing to facilitate a game. They’re grateful, and if they’re not, fuck ‘em.” I have a better bit of “best” bit of Player advice, which I’ve chewed over, and basically works for every sort of game, from hard tactical wargames to the fluffiest of story games.
“Make choices that support the aesthetic goals of the table.”
(I think after that it’ll be the PBTA “Be fans of the other players”)
Any advice on balancing freelance writing with another job/the rest of life? Hard to juggle all the balls.
I was always in a weird situation - I’ve been a freelance writer since 2003. Back when I was starting to write comics, I had a basic rule - if it pays, I do it during my work day. If it doesn’t, I do it in the evening.
As my comics started paying, I started moving stuff into the day from the night, and eventually realised I was no longer a journalist who did comics on the side - but a comic writer who did journalism as a side-hustle.
The level of flexibility there was a real boon, and that’s not one most folks have. The Day/Night thing also gave me space to basically treat them as two different jobs, which is motivating, in a weird way. A Change is as good as a rest. Ish.
As said, I would not recommend this.
Earlier, when I was on staff at a magazine (or going further back, when I was working bars)… oh, it’s tricky. When I was on a mag circa 98-00, I was a dervish. I was writing so much for PCG, and then writing even more for magazines in the evening (mostly when I got back from the pub or even club). Later - 01-02, I was applying the similar energies to other stuff I cared about - comics, videogame writing, music writing. When I was in bars, knowing if I didn’t write my way out of the situation was a huge motivation to do stuff when I got off shift.
Let’s try this as advice: choose a time slot and commit to it as hard as anything else in your life. Sure, it’s negotiable - everything is. But it’s not less important than anything else either, just because it’s something you’re doing for “yourself”.
A Room Of One’s Own cuts all sorts of ways. If you read Woolf, she wasn’t just talking about the physical space to write. She was talking about the emotional space too - to approach the page without distraction. You need to find a room, in whatever way that fits into your life, and to take that seriously, because if you don’t find a way to make it work, it’ll never work.
Really - this speaks to my damage as much as anything else. I was driven. The idea of not writing was more frightening than anything else.
Hello. I read your comic on Dr. Aphra, and I have to say, I’m very disgusted by your character. Now, don’t get me wrong; the writing was excellent, the story was fantastic, and the art was, above all, perfect. But I’m very surprised that your character is so popular, when she should realistically come across as a Hate Sink. Can you explain why so many people like her, in spite of her Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, or the very little redeeming qualities about her? I’m just not seeing it. Thanks.
I swear that this isn’t as sharp as it sounds.
You seem to working on the idea that fiction is based around “heroes” rather than “protagonists” and that a protagonist’s merits are based on whether we admire and aspire to their positive moral qualities rather than how interesting they are to watch doing their thing. Aphra and characters like her are interesting not despite that they’re a hot mess, but because they’re a hot mess.
As a broader point “I find this character unlikeable and impossible to empathise with” is really about what people you find likeable or possible to empathise with.
I may be writing a bit about this idea in the newsletter eventually, as I hit a book recently whose lead I just hated, and I’m interested in unpicking that. As always, it’s more about me than it.
Hmm. What a big block of text. Let’s throw in something dumb I posted on twitter.
I never tell how many of you are terminally online so see my crap jokes on twiter. Part of me is tempted to include some of them here more regularly. The other part has mercy.
A few months ago Gita Jackson got on a call with me, and we yabbered about fantasy, in a wide, expansive kind of way – basically what is fantasy for. They’ve pulled together their full piece over at Vice, and you can read it here.
Elizabeth Sandifer on Gretchen Felker-Martin’s debut novel Manhunt and the broadening of trans aesthetics in pop-culture.
Laurie Penny joins the queue, meets people and has a little think. I’ll admit, even as someone who leans so far anti-monarchist that I’ve fell over, I felt the lure of the queue. It was a desire which I had best explained by the tweet which described the queue as the end of level queue-boss we brits have been training to face all our lives. Laurie goes a lot deeper, and a lot funnier.
I’ll let you into a secret: there is no newsletter more hurriedly read by comics professionals than Tom Brevoort’s. Someone needs to compile all Tom’s essays into Tommy B’s gleefully revealing history of comics. This week it touches on U-Decide, which is pure popcorn made of fire.
An excerpt of Terry Pratchett’s unfinished autobiography turned into an Biography by Rob Wilkins. Been thinking about Pratchett a lot recently, and this gives a lot to think about. The whole section about him just turning down advances because they were too large alone is something else. Also: ““He once phoned me up in exasperation that he was being totally taken for granted by his publishers,” his friend Dave Busby told me. “He was fuming. He had had enough. He was going to take a sabbatical. No more writing for at least six months. I felt very pleased for him. He needed that break. I think he planned to do a lot of travelling. I did not hear from him for about six months and when we made contact again, I asked him what he had done in his sabbatical. He replied, irritably, ‘I wrote two books.’”
Thomas Manuel’s sort-of review of Trophy Gold, the present game I”m running. I like Trophy Gold a lot – we’ve been looking for something that scratches an old-school fantasy itch in a rules lite, but absolutely unforgiving form, and to that urge Trophy Gold is one of those big things covered in nobs which you can huge to attack the awkward unreachable bits of your back.
Okay, that plan to spend the month on the OGN is out the window, due to the fact I sort of had a holiday. There was only 2 days back home, before I heading up to York for Chrissy having a Golden Rage signing, which segued into visiting my brother’s family in Sheffield, and back on Monday. And now it’s the 20th (as I’m writing this) and I realise I do have a script to hand in by the end of the Month. And as that script should involve at least breaking the previous script a little, I should give it more time than usual.
(Wait - “previous script?” This is a series I’m writing out of order, due to the need to feed different artists at different times. This means I”m writing later issues before earlier ones, which is basically being Ginger Rogers, doing it backwards in heels. In a real way, I’m quite fond of anything which makes my life harder. It keeps me alert. Don’t tell my editors, obv. Someone will have the bright idea of releasing a Predator into my house on deadline day, so I have to somehow hand in a script while fashioning a primitive death-trap from old warhammer sprues.)
I said I’d talk more about media, but my heart isn’t in doing the book reviews this time, and I’m still chewing over what actually works in the Dragon Show and the Ring Show. I am basically enjoying them a lot. In the latter, it’s a shame how the media has let racists lead the conversation, which means that there’s not been nearly enough chewing over how more diverse casting has meaningfully moved what LoTR does, in way that’s additive to Tolkein’s real themes. Also, when watching the reveal of Numenor on a small tablet, with one earphone in, I did note that I suspect this is not the ideal watching experience for this. At the least, it’s made me rethink about playing the Middle- Earth miniatures game, which says something right? Dragons has some sections which I simply can’t take seriously, but I’ve really liked how they’ve just drilled down on the familial aspect of it. It’s not Succession, but if you squint, you can see it, and reminds me of the uncanny-but-relatable aspect of looking at I, Claudius. I’m not familiar with the original text for this one, so it’s all a surprise, and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes – but even at this point, even as empathisable as her goals often are, Rhaenyra is having the “she clearly has a bunch of problems” handled better than (say) Daenerys did. In the first episodes it also did the classic grimdark thing of making me say sentences I’ve never said aloud before – such as “I don’t ever want to be eaten alive by crabs”.
Barry Season 3 actively annoyed me with how good it was. When I hit the episode which was basically GTA as an art movie I was agog, and trying to work out how I could do something nearly half as good. It’s really pushing what a comedy can be. People have been having some trouble understanding genre is more than just the emotions it provokes – Barry is emotionally gruelling, but its form is of a comedy, Succession is as funny as fuck, but its form is of a drama. That some of the most interesting works have been that kind of heightened comedy in the last decade is something worth unpacking, and I chew over a bunch. That said, it’s easy to slip a bit. The charm remains with Only Murders In The Building S2, but I’ve played more tightly plotted games of Fiasco. Much better, but still not up with Season One, is Russian Doll S2, though I spent most of my time thinking “Natasha Lyonne really should be cast as Doctor Who”.
Most importantly, it is the week of the Sockpocalypse, a phrase I’ve lifted from Brian Michael Bendis. This sequence from his excellent comics-in-hollywood memoir Fortune & Glory has stuck in my mind since I first read it, 15 or so years ago. What did he spend his first Holywood option money on? Socks. He threw out his hellish unmatched pair drawer and bought a bunch of matching socks.
I read it, and thought “That sounds like a good idea. I should do that.” I never have, because (er) I am not good at stuff which doesn’t involve giving people comic scripts when they need them. However, my sock drawer has reached a point of no return. I don’t think there’s a single pair of socks in it. Let me show you…
I managed to rescue pairs of running socks, and Chrissy has noted some of her long socks are in here. Otherwise, I’m recycling them. I have bought 10 sets of matching socks. It is a brand new era, of brand new socks.
There’s nothing I can’t do, if you give me 15 years to get around to doing it.