I got a couple of messages recently enquiring if I’m alright, so it seemed like a good time to send out one more of these.
Turns out that people who know me mainly through my newsletter aren’t social media people, so to them, it must have looked like I disappeared for three months at a stretch.
In fact, I’m doing quite well, both work-wise and personally. My health could use some improvement, though. While the hip injury that precipitated my semi-retirement is nearly gone (it pops up once in a while when the weather gets cold just to say hello, but it never stays long), I seem to have developed a major back problem that I’m now getting seen to.
But basically, I’m good. Definitely alive.
One thing I did want to let my newsletter readers know – and it’s a reason I’ve been less frequent here – is that I’ve started properly blogging again. It took me a while to figure out what I might want to say through the blog, and to re-format the look of the blog to go with it, but it’s working now, and I’m fairly active there these days.
Conversely, I’m far less active on social media, on purpose, and I plan to “live” on the blog for the foreseeable future. I think it’s a better format to tackle the internet these days, and I’m taking it seriously.
You can visit it at http://adityab.net/ and you can add it to your feed readers too. (As the social internet slowly dies, I highly recommend you get a feed reader – I use a Feedly account that’s plugged into NetNewsWire on all my devices, and both of those are free.)
The newsletter will continue at about this frequency – 4-6 times a year. Most of the time, you’ll find me on the blog.
Speaking of the blog, I iterated some of my thoughts about writing from the last newsletter into two related blog posts that I’m quite happy with:
The blog was very helpful for this – taking the same thought and running with it for as many posts as I felt like, till I got somewhere. It’s a good way to do it, and it’s one of those things neither Twitter is good for (thinking in big chunks) nor newsletters (allowing myself to not be definitive).
While you’re there, feel free to check out my other posts – some updates, some anecdotes, some thoughts on drawing as I learn to do it.
Work-wise, let’s see what’s out this week.
There’s w0rldtr33 #5, which concludes the first arc in a way I honestly didn’t see coming – reminds me that one of the best things about being a letterer for cool comics is that you get to read them before everyone else. There’s going to be a break of three months while Volume 1 is released, and then we’ll be back with #6.
Something extra cool: issues 1-4 went back to print one more time, making this the fifth printing for #1.
New comic-book publisher DSTLRY’s opening one-shot, The Devil’s Cut, is out this week, containing 5-page stories by everyone involved in the publishing imprint. I lettered three of these, one of which – James Tynion IV and Christian Ward’s Spectregraph – will be going to series next year. But I also have stuff cooking with the other two creators I lettered stories for in this – Jamie McKelvie and my old colleague Ram V – so you can look forward to those.
Other than that, The Oddly Pedestrian Life of Christopher Chaos continues its run at Dark Horse, and Blue Book finished up the first story that I lettered (1961) and has moved on to the second, which is lettered by Tom Napolitano, though I continue lettering the True Weird backups for that series.
Behind the scenes, I just finished lettering an original graphic novel for a very old collaborator. We’ve been working on this since before the pandemic, but for obvious reasons, there was a break in the middle. I can’t wait for everyone to see this one – it’s breathtaking.
Like I said above, I’ve been having some back issues, so I had to convert a book I intended to hand-letter into a digitally lettered one (I don’t want to do those long hours hunched over a drawing board if I can’t take them). This week was spent working on a style that kept the spirit of the hand-lettered version while playing to the strengths of digital lettering.
August was my busiest month of this year, but I was very happy to note that even at my busiest, I was doing fewer pages than my least busy months of the last few years, so the discipline of not taking on new work is paying off.
Writing-wise, I’ve finished a first draft of the detailed beat-sheet for the horror mini-series I’ve been plotting for a while – codenamed SEASIDE. If we were talking about screenplays, I guess you’d call this a “treatment”, but basically, this is a breakdown of everything that happens in the book and why, with no dialogue or details on how it’s going to be visually presented.
I’m going over this a few times before I send it to my friends and first readers. While I wait for their responses, I’m going to do some directed research now that I know what the story entails (I tend to get lost in research rabbitholes, and wanted to avoid that this time around). Then, based on the responses, I’ll either rejig this beat-sheet if I decide to make a lot of changes, or plunge into doing a (very rough) first draft of the script before shopping around for an artist.
As a bonus, for being loyal followers of my mid-length essays for a longer time than whoever’s reading my blog right now, here’s a short essay I wrote for the blog, which you get a week before I post it there.
I’ll be doing less of this going forward, so once again, I exhort you to follow my blog at http://adityab.net/.
There is a tendency in commercial art to “create to brief”. That is, as a creative, you fulfil the assignment you’ve been given, but don’t add much to it. If you work like this, your work is likely to be interchangeable with that of hundreds of other people. Presumably fun to experience once, but forgettable after that.
You see a tendency to do this in superhero comics, movies and kids’ films in particular because so many of those begin from a formula. I think, in part, rather than thinking about what you specifically can do with a concept/brief, you get into a cycle of thinking about what your audience wants from you and delivering to that expectation.
For one, that makes your work non-distinctive. But as a creator, it must also be frustrating to only work to some of your potential rather than all of it.
This came up in a private conversation about lettering – a rookie letterer asked me how I think about a new lettering project – but also in some discussions I initiated with writer friends on how to approach writing corporate comics without losing one’s creative impulse, and without sounding like a generic “house voice”, let’s say.
A lot of the advice I’ve given and received can get lost in the nitty-gritty – follow your heart, make all the creative choices you can, put yourself into the story, approach it like you’d approach a creator-owned project on one hand, and subvert traditional structure, confound expectations, try different things on the other.
I figure there is a simpler and more elegant way to think about this – a lodestone, if you will. Why are you doing this and not someone else? What do you bring to this project that nobody else could in your place?
Basically: Why you and nobody else?
I feel having this at the back of my mind – stepping back once in a while and looking at any project with this as a lens – has allowed me to be more precise in my decision-making as a creator instead of either following whatever the newest trend is, or, alternatively, following my muse into self-indulgence (which I’ve had a tendency towards in the past).
This has also let me step away from projects where, thinking honestly, I realise either that I have nothing to bring to the book, or that the project doesn’t need my specific point of view. If someone else could do it, then maybe someone else should.
In short, working in commercial art, you need a way to keep your individual perspective, digest your influences, yet produce something that is coherent and can be read by an audience outside of yourself.
What you want is not just all possible choices, but a specificity of choices.
Therefore: Why you and nobody else?
As I mentioned, I’ll be reposting this to the blog next week. Apart from reposting some of the better pieces from the newsletter, I’ll be reposting old essays/critical pieces as well as writing new posts especially for the blog.
See you there, and bide well!