Frank

I’d forgive you for thinking I’d just jacked in the blogging thing. I don’t have a great track record of keeping it regular. The past week’s absence, though, isn’t that. I came down with the flu and tonsillitis and was just pretty wiped out. Trying to write something coherent between dizzy spells and stroking a picture of my bed just wasn’t going to happen. Hopefully this is the resumption of regular service.

I’ve seen comic writers online talk about how, if you’re freelance, you don’t get sickdays like I just had. You get sick, you lose money, it’s that simple. And horrible. And while that’s a particular peril of freelance work that needs to be addressed, it puts me in mind of what I think is a particularly nasty, narrow minded school of thought – suffer for your art . The idea that you need pain to make your work worthwhile, that you need to grind it out. I’m all for hard work to create something, but I draw the line at actual suffering. Art isn’t supposed to be like that. There’s nothing noble or magical or beautiful about suffering, whether you’re creating something or not. Suffering is suffering and anyone who tells you that you *need* to suffer or that it will ennoble you is someone you need to get out of your life. There’s nothing worthwhile in the world that can only be achieved through suffering. There’s always another way.

This puts me in mind too of the related idea of mental illness being some kind of magical creativity enhancer. That the trade off for depression or any other illness is talent. It’s not. (I’d recommend the film Frank if you want to see a great takedown of the mental-illness-as-muse trope.) Mental illness will no more help your creativity than the flu.

Anyway,  just a short one today to get back into things. It’s December tomorrow so expect me to become annoyingly festive as the weeks go on. You’ve been warned.

 

 

 

All Filler, No Killer

First off, an apology. I had always intended to keep my deadlines for the blog, and I was due one yesterday. It didn’t happen. I have no defence other than “I was busy”, which I don’t like so much. I’ll try not to let it happen again, as I know you guys were utterly furious yesterday. Yes, in my head you were all furious. All 18 of you.

The truth is, I’m not sure what to write today. My media intake has been, while steady, also pretty stagnant of late. There’s only so many times I can wax lyrical about the TV shows I watch and the comics I read (the number of which is dwindling rapidly). It’s at the point where, instead of watching something new, I’m rewatching The West Wing. Again. My love for the West Wing is no secret, and one will will be the subject of a much longer blog than the one I am writing today. (Yes, even the post Sorkin stuff. Santos ftw.)

I find that I often go all-in on one medium at a time. I’m either watching a TON of TV, reading a TON of books, listening to a TON of music etc, but never little bits of everything all at once. I’m not sure why. Perhaps my attention span is a little TOO great. This generally leads to me getting really far behind on one thing or another – I haven’t discovered a new band since Chvrches, who aren’t new at all. I have a reading pile that’s approaching my height. I’m tall. Does anyone else work like this? Please, let me know. And let me know if you have any tips on how I can vary my intake a bit without going down rabbit holes.

I wonder if I’m just too entrenched in the “box-set” mentality, so that even when I’m not watching TV I still feel the need to marathon things. (First person to say that my generation lacks patience and we get everything we want instantly gets punched in the face, instantly. Millenials aren’t a thing. Baby boomers who wrecked the world and blame it on my generation are a thing.)

I know, this kind of sucks as a blog entry and is entirely too navel-gazey and quite obviously a piece of filler till I get the time to write something properly. It’ll happen, I promise.

In the meantime, do yourselves a favour and go watch Steve Jobs in the cinema. If you’re more of a plot person over a character person then you might be left a little cold, but the character work in here is absolutely stellar. Not quite The Social Network good, but still fantastic and insightful. Fassbender, Rogen, Winslet and Daniels all put in star turns, too. Oscars all round, if the Oscars were fair.

 

 

 

Page one, panel one

So NaNoWriMo isn’t going well, he says, to the shock and alarm of approximately no one. The project requires 1600 words a day, and I barely manage three blogs a week. I’m not being down on myself here, I work a lot and have other things to do. If I could write more, I would. Taking on NaNo along with the blog was always more to just spur me on to write, rather than to have a novel at the end of November. I’m still writing the blog, so it’s helped.

Thing is though, I just want to write comics.

See, I’ve spent the weekend looking at photos and Facebook updates from friends who were attending Though Bubble Comic Arts Festival in Leeds. It’s basically the best comics convention in the UK, filled with panels, high profile guests and signings and everyone in the UK comics community. Which I count myself a part of. And I wasn’t there. You see where this is going.

I love making comics. I want to be making comic right this minute. I love the community (not the industry, such as it is). The people. The enthusiasm. Did I mention I love comics?

I’ve been a comic book fan since I could recognise basic pictures. Blame my brothers. I grew up reading comics, from Superman and Batman to the X-men and Spider-Man and the Beano and the Broons and Oor Wullie and on and on. Eventually I started reading about comics. Books on the form, how they do what they do, what makes a comic different and how we’re criminally squandering their potential.

In a comic, the world of the comic, the whole universe, is the page. The panels. And as the creator, you have control over that. You can change panel six and frequency to control your reader’s sense of space and time. You can render things that Hollywood budgets couldn’t reach in a thousand years.  You have complete control, which appeals to a control freak like myself. As much as I love books and film and music, I’ve never been as affected by any of them as I have been by comics.

So, while I tried to focus on the blog or NaNoWriMo, I couldn’t help but imagine new comics. I can’t walk away from them even when I turn the other direction and break into a sprint. And that’s just fine by me. Why would I walk away from control over time and space?

Insert Boomtown Rats Reference Here

It’s Monday when you’re reading this,(for me it’s Thursday, I try and write in advance) so that means it’s a writing blog. Contain your excitement, yeah? It’s only the first paragraph. As with the last two, I’ll just be giving a quick update on where I’m at with my writing endeavours before getting into more meaty stuff next week.

As most of you are likely aware, the main focus of my writing is usually comics. Can’t get enough of em. Can’t afford to make them, either, which means comic book writing is going to have to take a back seat for a little while. I love it, I always will, but a huge part of making comics is actually making the things, which means working with and paying an artist, colourist, letterer etc and I can’t quite get there right now. I still have a few projects simmering – a political thriller, a coming-of-age drama, and an exercise in comics form disguised as a coming-of-age drama. I’ll get them done in time, I’ll keep working on them, but they’re not a priority.

NaNoWriMo, because apparently I love self harm and am drowning in free time, is the priority for the next month. For those who don’t know, NaNo is National Novel Writing Month, the challenge being that you sign up and try and knock out the first draft of a novel by the end of November, 50,000 words. “Ambitious” doesn’t quite cover the size of that task given my usual time constraints, but I’ll give it a whirl. Goals and all that, If anyone else is taking part, search for me on the site as Sudge. We can weep into each others virtual arms.

Then there’s this blog. It’s here because I need to write more often, preferably every day, and I need something to write about that isn’t a big meaty piece of work that I need more time than I have to complete. That doesn’t mean it’ll be an afterthought though. I’ll put all the time and consideration I can into updates. The plan is to always have a post or two queued so I don’t miss a scheduled post. Doing OK so far, but it’s early.

That’s all for now. Comic and novels and blogs, I also snark on twitter as @StephenSuthes, should your timeline be oddly quiet when Question Time is on and you just want to liven things up.

NaNoWriMo: 1,243 words

Trajectory

Hey, so here’s a weird, thing, I’m using WordPress again! It’s been a while. It was between this and Tumblr but I just prefer WordPress for regular blogging. Which I’m attempting. Again. I’ve been very tired lately, and very busy and as such I’ve missed writing an awful lot. I’ve kept my toe in the water with stuff I don’t publish, but it’s time to get back out there. Time to do it right.

I’m going to try something a bit different this time. I realised when I was in training for Tough Mudder some time ago that I do much better with targets and goals and deadlines rather than a hazy notion of “I feel like blogging”. So I’m setting some targets.

Mondays I’ll likely write about writing – I’m attempting NaNoWriMo this year, so please, if you’re interested in that or are participating yourself, look me up. User name is Sudge. Between that, blogging and comics projects, I’ll hopefully have plenty to talk about.

Wednesdays I’m giving over to my inner (read: outer) nerd and will likely be commenting on stuff I’ve been reading or watching or listening to. This might be in the form of articles or reviews or me shouting “WOW DOCTOR WHO WAS GREAT THIS WEEK” over and over.

Fridays will be more niche I think, as I’ll be trying to talk about general wellbeing and lifestyle stuff – I’m becoming a fitness nerd so expect progress reports on my workouts and such. This could very easily descend into half-journal style entries, as the workouts seem to help my general mental health a lot. Could also tangent off into current affairs, futurism etc. A more grounded entry than “I’ve been writing this piece of fiction” or “HOLY CRAP THE DALEK EMPEROR”.

Please, always feel free to comment or get in touch with anything you think would be interesting for me to talk about. Listen to me, talking like I have an audience already.

Let’s do this.

Conversations with the Universe

I used to fight with the Universe. Seriously. It was Me Vs It, every single year. The Universe would try and take things from me, hold me back, thwart whatever ambition or desire I had. It would claim lives, uncles, aunts, grandparents. It would claim hope. I would try and wrestle whatever I could from its ever expanding grip and further the cause of Me in every way I could. It’s a hard bastard, the Universe, but I was pretty sure I was equal of it. Every New Year’s Eve would see us taking stock of losses and gains. One of us would come out on top, the other would retreat to lick their wounds in that hovering moment of timelessness between this year and the next. Then it begins again. Sometimes I’d sleep through the change, so confident in my ability to come out victorious that I believed I could rest for 8 or so hours while the world was celebrating still being there. I was wrong, of course. If the Universe catches you sleeping on the job that’s as good as exposing your flank to an armoured cavalry division with laser guns and Me-Seeking Torpedoes. Never again.

However, after nearly 26 years of fighting my worthy adversary, it occurs to me that it’s time for a new approach. Peace in our time. I can’t nuke the Universe, like some one-man USA exacting atomic revenge on my aggressor. Pretty sure the Doctor would stop me. I can’t give in, either. It’s a pride thing. But maybe we can talk, the Universe and I. Maybe we can reach an agreement. Mistakes have been made on both sides. I, perhaps, have been too greedy in my yearly ambitions. The Universe, for its part, has been an unutterable capital-B Bastard. But for the cessation of hostilities, I’m willing to put it behind us. Start anew. The truth is, I love you, Universe. You’re big and shiny and full of mad stuff. You put a face on Mars just to mess with conspiracy nuts and you’ve laced metaphors all over yourself for me to contemplate long into my super extended phase of adolescent introspection. You’ve given me the moon, for which to shoot, and stars to always look at. Without you I wouldn’t have apples, from which apple pie is made of. And I love apple pie. Coffee beans, too. You saucy minx. I could list things all day, or until I got bored of it. Instead, I’ll write for you an ode to 2011. 20 things I learned, and 11 things I’m looking forward to. Here you are, you big, sexy expanding cosmic space of mentalness. It’s been a good fight, but it’s time to kiss and make up.

20 things I learned in 2011

1 – Drinking on New Year’s Eve when you have work the next day and a flu coming on is just the worst idea ever.

2 – People don’t notice if you fall asleep upright at your desk on New Year’s Day. Or if they do they don’t tell you.

3 – The comics industry still has some courage and daring. It’s not going anywhere.

4 – Always remember solicitor’s fees when you’re buying a house.

5 – Houses are expensive.

6 – Though not as expensive as babies, in the long run.

7 – Babies are worth every penny. Especially mine.

8 – Even a year on, a random, mental year at that, my girlfriend can still surprise me. I won’t say she’s the best girlfriend ever, but only because I learned that in November 2010.

9 – People are generous. Between house and baby, the help I received was enormous. Thank you, all.

10 – I think I like mussels and paella. And here I thought seafood was the one gastronomic area that was safe from me.

11 – I STILL love steak. It’s just amazing.

12 – You’re never too old to make new friends.

13 – And you’re never too far from the ones you’ve always had.

14 – Never – NEVER – trust the pictures on a holiday rental website. They don’t show you the suspiciously-like-a-brothel place outside.

15 – I’m actually really unfit.

16 – How long it takes to paint walls and a roof. Hint: Ages.

17 – Babies are FUNNY.

18 – I still get nervous before dates. (We have one tonight – Sherlock Holmes 2 or Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?)

19 – The Conservative Party aren’t as bad as I thought. They’re so, so much worse.

20 – I’m much stronger than I think.

11 things I’m looking forward to in 2012

1 – My first day off. The festive period is EXHAUSTING.

2 – My first birthday with my son.

3 – Our second Valentine’s Day. I’m a sap, it’s documented, I’m OK with it.

4 – The Avengers, The Hobbit, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. AKAGeek Movie Heaven.

5 – Creating my first comic with a new friend. It begins.

6 – My son’s first birthday.

7 – Bruce Springsteen in Dublin, courtesy of a very tolerant girlfriend. Born to run, baby.

8 – Never saying “baby” in a sentence again.

9 – Watchmen prequels. Yeah, I’m that guy. Oh stop your complaining, you know you’ll buy it.

10 – Our second anniversary. See second sentence of #3.

11 – New Year’s Eve 2012. Just to prove the Mayans wrong.

Life in the Third Dimension

 “Real life?” What’s that?”

– Grant Morrison

For those who don’t know who Grant Morrison is, the above quote pretty much sums him up.

The 51-year-old comic book writer has long been my favourite in the field. In my experience, no one has thought as big as he has, written with as much flair or immediacy or pushed the boundaries of the comic book form quite as far. In my own writing endeavors, I try to honour and not emulate. To think big without changing the way I think. To try and look ahead and look deeper, without changing my direction. I don’t think I’ll ever follow him and agree with him on a lot of things, but I’ll do my best to learn from him. You can only imagine how I felt meeting him.

Morrison recently gave a talk at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which I was lucky enough to attend. The talk was primarily about his new book, Supergods, Just like the book, he talked about the history of the superhero, and what the concept could mean in real life. He talked about the how he thought the concept was designed to be indestructible, unassailable. No matter what happened to them, the superhero would always stand up again. I liked that. He talked about how he thought there was a superhero in everyone, that everyone had a part of them that was their perfect self, their wisest, their strongest, their most hopeful and unstoppable self. I liked that even more.

That’s when it got weird.

Anyone familiar with Morrison’s work and ideas will know he’s always been fairly meta, placing himself inside his fictional works and pulling fiction into the world as far as he can. He’s even met Superman, or at least that’s how he’s chosen to interpret it. Morrison went on to talk about his experiences writing King Mob in the Invisibles, and how what he did to the character was reflected back onto himself. He even went as far as to have a conversation with the virus that was eating his flesh at the time. (They negotiated a truce, whereby the virus would be written into the Invisibles in exchange for not killing him. Told you it got weird.) I’ve always chosen to believe that when Morrison talks about putting on a “fiction suit” and stepping into literature, it’s all just a bit of performance art designed to emphasise how he looks at our relationship with books and comics and our entire culture. Ideas have power, and an idea on a page can have huge, lasting consequences in the real world. The truth is, I never know what to make of it when he goes off on a meta tangent like that, but it’s entertaining at the very least.

I can’t really go any further without mentioning this – in a move that all but surgically attached the crown of “world’s best girlfriend” to her head, my long suffering girlfriend made the trip to Edinburgh with me, went to the talk and waited with me for an autograph. We waited for three hours, missing the train and getting a 3am bus home. Just another reminder of how lucky I am. I can’t thank her enough and owe her big time. I see a 90s boyband concert in my future…

While in the queue, we got talking to some fellow fans and made some new friends. It always surprises me how many people are looking to make their way into the comic book industry like I am. It’s encouraging, and after a talk like that, it’s inspiring. Writing comic books for a living didn’t seem so far away. Imagination could become reality. I have the girl of my dreams and an amazing son, why can’t the dream job be next?

Real life? What’s that?

Whatever I want it to be.