109. GETTING READY TO MOVE, DUMPING OLD SKINS AND COMICS, July 6, 2006

Being finished with the Dr. DeBunko book, I was anxious to jump back into the Doris Danger sixteen books as well.

This is the way I write Doris Danger stories. I don’t think about them, and I do other things. I’ll just be going through my day, driving somewhere, sitting at work, watching tv, reading a book, going for a walk, running errands, or whatever, and I’ll get a weird idea in my head, that makes me laugh, or hopefully at least smile. Then I jot that idea down on a scrap of paper, or in a notebook if I’ve got one with me.

The other way I write Doris Danger stories, is I read any old Stan Lee-Jack Kirby comic, and I laugh at some of their plot-lines or artwork, and usually that inspires me with cornball ideas.

And last of all, if I read through any of my old Doris Danger stories, I leave so many holes and untapped, uncompleted ideas, that browsing through will remind me how many other things I can have happen, or expand upon.

But all these ideas, I just jot on pieces of paper. So I’ve got stacks of these unused ideas, just waiting to be thrown together. Since all the Doris Danger stories are disjointed and usually pretty brief, I know that when it comes time, I’ll lump a series of these completely unrelated ideas together, and that’s all I do for my actual “scripting.”

I read through some old plots I’d jotted down, and picked the one that made me laugh the hardest. If I find something that really tickles me, I’ll read it to Elizabeth, but she never thinks it’s as funny as I find it. I don’t care. I decided long ago to write to my audience, and pretty much as far as I can tell based on my sales numbers, my audience is just me. So I’ve got to please that audience.

We’re moving next week. We’re just in a two-bedroom apartment, and with a baby one the way, we’re just going to need more room. So I got this wild hair to go through my comics collection yet again, and see if there’s anything I can’t dump. I tend to do this every few years, because the rooms get too full of comics. My biggest, most embarrassing dump was when I first got married. Twenty-two long boxes out the door.

The reason I say wild hair this time around is that I just started yanking all kinds of stuff out of my collection and putting it in the dump pile. I’m realizing, I’ll never read any of this again. And that has become my criteria. Even if I enjoyed it the first time. Even if I really liked the art. If I don’t think I’ll read it, or even look at it again, dump it. Dump it.

If I wasn’t sure, I would open it up and flip through and read it. And what I found is that, even if I thought the art was really good, I often still didn’t have any interest in keeping a lot of it. I didn’t really get rid of much older stuff. It was a lot of newer books. A lot of them were popular books too. But I just am not interested any more.

I would read them, and the style of writing would get on my nerves. Everything is so cute and clever and in-fashion. It’s about cell phones and reality tv and everything that’s “in” right now, and it all felt like a big gimmick to be “popular” and “cool,” and I realized, I don’t want to be “popular” and “cool,” I just want to tell the goddamn stories I want to tell. And obviously this is a sign I’m getting old, because I can’t stand anything that’s “cool” any more. It’s a bad sign.

It’s like when you realize you don’t know what movies are cool, or what music is cool anymore. And you just start watching all the old movies, or listening to all the old music you liked when you were younger. Bad sign. Bad sign. I’m getting old.

And worse, all the artists seem so talented. I can’t draw like that. It’s humiliating. They’re so good. Their line work is so amazing. Right now, clean-lined photo-realism is in, and even if that’s what I attempt, I just can’t quite accomplish it.

I finally began admitting to myself this week, I don’t really want to do superhero comics.

I never really realized it before. I always assumed I’d wind up there eventually, and it’s just what I’d do. But now I’m resigned. It’s not what I do. I don’t have any desire to do it.

It’s a big step for me. Because of course, superhero books are pretty much the only place people can make a paycheck in the industry. The page rates are simply better, and the work is steadier. Most successful people in the industry, even if they begin with indie books, wind up on superhero titles.

And I assumed this would happen to me. I assumed the big companies would eventually see my work and say, this guy is the guy for us. He should work for us. But here we are, two years into my publishing career, and no one is asking yet.

And meanwhile, I’m reading a couple superhero books here and there, and thinking, sure I liked this stuff when I was in sixth grade. I found it really intellectual and realistic, but honestly, I’ve gotten older now. I still appreciate it. I still have those emotional and psychological bonds to it. But I’m just not such interested in it anymore. It isn’t a reality that “works” for me. I’ve been writing about mad scientists and private detectives. Or if I write about fantastic giant monsters, I’m parodying it. I have trouble imagining I could take a superhero format seriously if I were doing it. And besides, I’m enjoying what I’m doing, NOT doing superheroes.

So all that forced me to realize, I don’t really want to do superheroes.

So on the one hand I feel really alienated, and like, I can’t fit in and I don’t want to. I don’t belong in this medium. But on the other hand, I realize, I have a day job, and I can afford to just do whatever project I feel like, on my own terms. I don’t really want to get work-for-hire and weird random projects. I don’t want to fill in for other artists and get put on who-knows-what books. I just want to do the stories I want to do, and I’m doing that. I’m choosing my stories, and making up my own characters. I can continue to put out regular comics, or I could make more mini-comics, or start doing web comics, and try to not lose a thousand bucks every issue I put out. Even if financially my career continues to lose me money every time I release something, I can afford to do that. I can afford to do what I want creatively. So, really, I’m very lucky. I’m living the American dream. I have no creative limits or overseers to keep me tied back. What am I complaining about?

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