Hi, Readers, Friends, and Curious Bystanders!
I haven’t updated this particular blog in a while, but I haven’t forsaken it, either. For my grand return I’m taking part in the blog hop. It’s sort of like a chain letter for the power of good. I was asked to participate by the former link in the chain, my wife Benita at her blog basicallybenita.com. Her answers are well worth reading as well. To participate, one must answer the following four questions:
Question One: “What am I working on?” This is pretty straightforward. I’m continuing to to format the third “Johnny Saturn” graphic novel for publication, as well as writing future Johnny Saturn stories, painting a picture, tackling the drawing of hundred different faces in a hundred days, a Johnny Saturn game resource and series bible, a prose anthology, and more. My slate is full. Most of my attention goes toward my self-published Johnny Saturn work, because I believe that is what I’ll be remembered for. I also have a collection of digital textures I’m collecting for publication, and I also take time out to mentor artists in training.
Question Two: “How does my work differ from others of its genre?” This is a tough one. I could say that my take on the superhero genre (because that’s what “Johnny Saturn” is) is character based focusing on metaphorical politics, mental illness, social trends, and perhaps a bit of a deconstructionist view of the genre overall. Other comics have done these things individually, but not in this mix. My heroes and villains are hard to tell apart, because they all have flawed motivations and a gray moral scale that they are willing to bend as needed. Murder for love? Revenge for righteousness? Another difference is that the supers (or “metas” as we call them) change and/or update costumes regularly, because who never changes their clothes? None of my characters wear spandex or Lycra–their super uniforms are practical and much more realistic. Another difference is that violence and injury are far more realistic–I’m somewhat offended by bloodless fictional fighting, and believe that we do no service to our young people if they think that fighting is as real and relatively safe as professional wrestling. Violence has consequences. Death and crippling are very real possibilities. Well, I could go on about all this, but lets put it this way–in the great scheme of things, my writing is more like Warren Ellis or Grant Morrison than Stan Lee’s.
Question Three: “Why do I write/create what I do?”This is a tough one. When things get hard, and life offers lots of excuses to stay away from being creative, it’s easy to wonder why we do the things we do. Is it pride in being one of the elect, the storytellers who entertain others and share our views? Is it a need to actively pursue anything we are interested in and enjoy, like writing or comics? Is it a desire for a personal legacy, a creative thing that could outlive us? Is it the reaction of people who read our work and reward us with their appreciation, confirming our self value? Is it a restless imagination that will not be silenced, and the frustration and depression that come from a stymied, blocked creative drive. For me, it’s all of those. All.
More specifically, if you were to ask me why I create fantasy and superhero stories, that’s easy. Those are the things I’ve dug since I was a kid. I grew up on geek culture before it became mainstream. I was was one of the fanboys who didn’t get the girls, and made up for it with tales of Elric, or Captain Kirk, or Gandalf, or Hercules, or… Well, you get the idea.
Question Four: “How does my writing/creative process work?” It wasn’t always this way, because I used to try to move the wet noodle with a bulldozer, and force creativity into a mold. Those days are decades past now. Now, I let stories come to me. I don’t write them down, because the good ideas stay and grow, and bad ones fall away. Sometimes two or three ideas will grow together into something really unusual and interesting. I don’t force it. I don’t write them down because that merely spends their energy and gives you permission to never pursue them. The ideas are ready when they are ready, no sooner. If you try to force them to become ready, they disintegrate into unreadable muck. I no longer read any books on storytelling, or dialogue, or writing at all. It has to be organic and flourish on its own–it’s not about my skill as a designer of plots. If I have to rely on my skill, then it’s stilted unlovable crap I produce. Instead, you nourish it by leaving those ideas alone until they are good and ready to kick in the door.
Over the years my drawing techniques have become much the same. I don’t do thumbnails and charts and research or any of that. The pictures come to me whole, and I practice life drawing from what I see in my mind. If I try to construct the drawing, compose it by all the rules and armatures and fleshing out, it looks like stilted crap. Stiff and stupid and immature. That stuff is rubbish. I can see whatever I’m drawing in my mind’s eye in pretty good resolution (usually), and I can rotate and rearrange the scene, change the lighting and colors, and pick what I want to draw. Once it’s on paper I almost always rearrange it some, because the mere act of getting it sketched in offers up ways I can improve it. In other words, there is little that is mechanical to my drawing process–it’s organic through and through, and I feel the emotions charging through me almost as if I was there, on the paper and in the picture.