December 2011


I’ve always had mixed feelings about Los Angeles.  I live in New York City, and I’ve been here for fifteen years.  While I have my issues with this town from time to time as well, it’s home, and I wouldn’t stay if I didn’t love it to death.  Los Angeles has always felt very unnatural to me.  In its own way, it feels just as tough to inhabit as NYC can be, but since it’s not my kind of tough to inhabit, I just end up asking why the hell people live there and put up with all that crap?

However, I’ve ended up in town from time to time, and last week I zipped out for six days to have a few meetings, see friends, do some writing and take care of some other business.  It was an entirely comics-focused business trip, which I thought was pretty cool.  First time I’d gone out there for that reason.  I hadn’t been to LA since I was on Jeopardy in 2009, so about two years.

First night, I swung by a comics shop to pick up the latest issue of 27 Second Set (#4, if you’re counting), and who happened to be there but Brian Michael Bendis!  He wasn’t doing a signing – he just stopped by to look at comics.  I don’t know Brian very well, although we’ve briefly met a few times here and there.  Super gracious guy, and it was fun to chat with him for a minute.  The experience well and truly reinforced the LA stereotype that you see celebrities everywhere (even though he’s from Portland, and I didn’t see any other celebs while I was there.  Still!)

I had an honest-to-goodness Hollywood meeting the next morning, which was pretty much as advertised.  Nothing life-changing even if the opportunity comes through, but it was good to have the experience.  I think one of the things I really took away from the LA trip is that ideas are capital out there (other places too, of course, but really out there), and it’s worth thinking about what my own ideas are worth and how I can use them.  Personally, I think it makes more sense to write a great comic that I own (or share with the artist) rather than get paid a small amount to write something for someone else.  I’ll do hired gigs when they come by (and I picked up two while in LA that I’m very excited about), but it has to be made worth my time.  I mean, I could spend that time working on one of my own stories, for better or for worse.

This attitude was generated in part by a conversation I had with a good friend of mine out there – a comics writer who I’ll decline to name at this point.  In a nutshell, he helped me to the realization that if someone thinks your ideas are worth something, then don’t sell them cheap just because you’re excited that someone will pay you at all.  There are a lot of ways to get screwed in the business (for example, write a work-for-hire comic that gets turned into a movie, and the upside belongs to the person who hired you, even though they can hire you for basically nothing to write the comic but would have to pay five figures to hire a Writer’s Guild person to write them a treatment, and more for a script.)  Anyway, it just made me decide to be a bit careful about the jobs I take, assuming I continue to get offered stuff at all, which is not a foregone conclusion.  I have a ton on my plate right now, which is phenomenal, but that doesn’t mean people will keep putting things on it.

Returning to the LA trip rundown – I checked out the La Brea Tar Pits, which were super cool and weird.  In fact, here’s a photo!

TAR. EVERYWHERE.

I’m sure Los Angelenos think that’s no big thing, but for me, the idea of a huge lake of tar filled with the corpses of Ice Age animals is wild enough, without sticking it right in the middle of one of the largest cities in the US!  The air smells like new asphalt, and the little museum (just visible in that photo in the upper right) was very interesting, particularly the restoration room in the middle, where they’re actually working on the bones found in this and other pits.  By the way, those elephant-looking things must have just escaped from the circus.  I thought it was pretty sad that no one was doing anything to help (that baby creature in the middle there was obviously super bummed), but what can you do?  I guess if everyone helped the animals to get out of the pit the museum would go out of business.  One of those moral conundrums you hear about.

Also while in Los Angeles, right across the street from the lake of tar, I visited the G4TV network offices to tape an appearance on Blair Butler’s Fresh Ink Online.  Really fun.  We each ran down our favorite five recently-released single issues, and then I did a little bonus interview on breaking in, some upcoming projects, etc.  I like Blair a lot – she’s very genuine and truly, truly loves comics.  The shows are up, if you care to watch.  Here’s the first:

http://www.g4tv.com/videos/56714/charles-soule-reviews-walking-dead-locke-key-batwoman/

and here’s the second:

http://www.g4tv.com/videos/56713/charles-soule-bonus-interview/

Other than some good times with various awesome friends and colleagues who live in the city, the other part of the trip worth noting from a comics perspective was a visit to the offices of Archaia Comics, the publisher of one of my next big books, Strange Attractors.  I’ve already shown a bit of artwork here, and I’m excited about how the book is coming together.  This was the first time I’d gotten to speak with the book’s editor, Rebecca Taylor, about the finished script, and it was extremely enjoyable.  You never know how it’s going to be when you get notes from an editor, but Ms. Taylor (or Tay, as she’s known around the office) had some excellent thoughts.  Pages are coming in on that one steadily, and I think we’re on target for a mid-2012 release (or so).  More on that soon.

So, that was LA, pretty much. Saw a few movies (you have to, right?), left with enough new projects to pay for the trip and then some, and got to hang out with friends I don’t see that often.  I’m not going to say it flipped my opinion around on Los Angeles – it’s still a weird town – but it was definitely one of my better trips out there.

If you’re reading this on December 20, 2011 wish me luck.  I’m supposed to get a phone call or email today about something big that I’m dying to have come through.  Fingers crossed.

This post was spurred, in part, by this article, about the upcoming debut of Brian K. Vaughan’s new title Saga, with Image Comics.  I read the article, and I looked at the preview pages, and I was struck by a feeling I hadn’t felt in a while – I’m genuinely excited in an unabashed fanboy way for the debut of that book.  BKV (as he’s known around the comics biz) is one of my all-time favorite writers in comics, up there with Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Garth Ennis.  The other thing he shares with those folks is that I haven’t met him in person (although we’ve emailed a few times.)  More on why that matters in a moment.

I thought for a minute about how thrilled I am that soon I’ll be able to read new comics work from an ultra-talented writer whose stuff I’ve loved in the past, and was surprised that I hadn’t felt exactly that way in a bit.  Now, that absolutely does NOT mean that I haven’t been excited about new work from other creators.  I read tons of comics, and I absolutely get jazzed when I see a new issue from Jim Zubkavich or Josh Fialkov or B. Clay Moore or Nathan Edmondson or Cullen Bunn or any of the many other writers whose work I love.  The difference is that I know those guys personally, in either a big or a small way.  And while I can’t totally pin down why it’s different when we’re all sort of putting out work together as opposed to me just being a guy at home finding new books and digging them, it absolutely is.  I suppose it’s the difference between on a sports team and rooting for it to win and rooting for the Detroit Lions.  You can do both, but the reasoning behind each is different, as is the way each one feels.

In a way, I sort of miss the old days, because for some reason I don’t get as much of the ‘holy shit I can’t wait’ feeling anymore (Saga and books like it being something of an exception).  I’m rooting for the people more than I am the books, because I think that any one book isn’t (or shouldn’t be) what defines your career.  I want all the guys I know to succeed (which is a thing that’s pretty cool about comics – I don’t see a lot of petty jealousies and rivalries, for the most part.) That’s not to say that there’s not a sense of healthy competition between comics writers, of course.  There’s definitely some, “what’s he doing that I’m not?” when people level up, or get a nomination, etc.  But as long as the people getting those bumps are cool (and they are) and talented (and they are), then it’s usually just a reason to buckle down even harder on my own work to get myself to the next step, whatever that will be.

I meet more people in the business all the time, at all levels, and it makes me wonder if things will continue to evolve this way.  We’ll see.

In other updates, I’m headed to LA this coming weekend for a bunch of adventures.  I’ll be appearing on Fresh Ink Online this Thursday with Blair Butler to discuss this week’s coolest new books (and perhaps a certain final issue of 27: Second Set hitting shops tomorrow, 12/14), I have a signing at Meltdown Comics on Saturday, December 17 from 3-5 PM, and I have meetings with a number of very cool people about a number of very cool projects.  2012 is looking quite good from a new stuff standpoint, actually.  I have two things already locked down, and by the end of the week I could have another four set up at various spots.  That’s not even including two or three projects in the pitch development stage… busy!

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