Last night – probably too late last night, I tweeted this:

At the time, I was watching a movie that featured a few ex-Spetsnaz characters, which got me thinking about the incredible novel REAMDE from Neal Stephenson, which also features one of those scary, tough, extraordinarily competent dudes.  I decided to re-read that book as soon as I finished the one I’m on now (which I’m liking but not loving – good thing about books, though, is that there’s always another one).  From there, I moved on to a quick mental overview of Stephenson’s entire output (the movie clearly wasn’t really grabbing me) and realized that he’s what I would consider unassailable – everything he’s published is at a certain level of creative excellence, from essays to novels. Not a dud in the bunch. If you don’t know his work, please, see for yourself.

That led to the tweet above, which led to a pretty busy time on my feed. Seems like there’s plenty of brilliance out there (or at least the perception of brilliance).  The following names popped up in, in order of posting:

Wes Anderson, Charlie Chaplin, Quentin Tarantino, Jack White, George Carlin, John Williams, Seth**, Alfred Bester, Spalding Gray, Robert Fripp, David Bowie, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Lynch, Slayer, Twain, Vonnegut, Toni Morrison, Kurosawa, Toth, Paul Newman, Bryan Fuller, Daniel Day Lewis, Manet, Cormac McCarthy, Nikola Tesla?, Jack Kirby, Michael Jordan?, Christopher Nolan, Charles Soule (uh huh, sure), Scott Snyder, Brian Bendis, George Eliot***, Quentin Tarantino, Lewis Carroll, Hitchcock, Alan Moore, Otomo, Warren Buffet, Chen Kenichi**, Shigeru Miyamoto, Randall Munroe**, Bryan Lee O’Malley, Rush, Charles Schulz, Miyazaki, Aretha Franklin, Kate Beaton, Miles Davis, David Bowie, Eminem, Kurosawa, Harryhausen, Orson Welles, Jules Verne, Westlake, Hitchcock, Freddie Mercury, Will Eisner, Frazetta, Jimmy Stewart, Maurice Sendak, Osamu Tezuka*, Tom Waits, Akira Kurosawa, Alastair Reynolds, Bill Watterson, John Cassavetes, Warren Ellis, Tarkovsky*, Jack Cardiff*, Christopher Doyle*, Bach, Bowie, Whitman, Naoki Urasawa**, Shel Silverstein, Theodore Seuss Geisel, Alex Ross, Coen Bothers, Calvino, Saramago, Taiyo Matsumoto*, Hiroaki Samura**, Andre 3000, Phonte**, Madlib*, Mingus, Tolkien, Salinger, Faulkner, Emerson & Fuller*, Flannery O’Connor*, Norman Rockwell, Bill Watterson, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Daniel Day Lewis, Jim Henson, Coltrane, Moebius, Jack Kirby, Glenn Gould, Mamoru Hosoda**, Philip Glass, Rothko, Vonnegut, Kara Walker**, Hitchcock, Poe, Miles Davis, Stravinsky, Joyce, Saramago, Moebius, Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Kubrick, Kurosawa, Steve Reich**, Hendrix, Kafka, Kurosawa, Wool*, Dostoevsky, Bach, Rothko, Dali, Goddard, Mozart, Warhol, Trent Reznor, Vandana Shiva**, Leslie Nielsen, Coen Brothers, Bella Tarr*, John Candy, Gregory Peck, Meryl Streep, Rimbaud, Plath, West, Cronenberg, Burroughs, Ballard, Philip K. Dick, Brautigan*, Melville, Lynch, Bjork, Reed, Davis, Jodorowski, Otomo, McCartney, Andy Kaufman, Charlie Kaufman, Tezuka, Alex Toth, Moebius, Louis CK, Plath, Proust, Garcia Marquez, Flaubert, George Lucas, Freddie Mercury, Joe Strummer, Bill Finger, Borges, Metallica, Hendrix, Clapton, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, George Lucas (1977), Spielberg, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, The Beatles, David Lynch, Borges, Scorcese, Scorcese, Alphonse Mucha**, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Osamu Tezuka, Lynch, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Alexander McQueen, Coco Chanel, Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser**, The Brothers Quay**, Jane Austen, Hilary Mantel** and… as of this morning, the last pick was, sigh, Charles Soule.

Wow, right? A few thoughts on that list:

–First, it’s a pretty recent group. You’ve got plenty of 20th century folks, but then it drops off a cliff. Earliest name that I’m seeing as I scan through that is Bach. I think that’s legitimate, though, because we don’t necessarily know Bach’s entire output the way we do, say, the films of George Lucas, or the Coen Brothers. I know Bach was brilliant through and through because I’ve had the pleasure of listening to a huge cross-section of his stuff – same with Mozart and Beethoven. But Homer? I know two works, the same ones everyone else knows. For all I know, everything he wrote other than The Iliad and the Odyssey was a bunch of crap.

–There’s a difference between “genius” and “unassailable brilliance.” I think you could make a case for Star Wars being a work of genius, but I’m not sure I would agree with the idea that George Lucas is unassailably brilliant. Howard the Duck.

–No Shakespeare. No James Ellroy. No Frank Lloyd Wright. No Leonardo Da Vinci. No Michelangelo. No Julia Child. No Dickens.

–Few painters, few fashion designers… the focus was mostly filmmakers, writers and musicians. I wonder if that’s because I framed the original question using those, or because those are the people current society tends to elevate, or because that’s who my feed focuses on? Not much as far as popular novelists, either. I think you could make a case for Stephen King – although I’m sure it would spur fervent debate.

–We seem to really like David Lynch, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Miles Davis, Hendrix, Bowie, Borges, Rothko, Moebius, Jack Kirby, , Tezuka, Alex Toth and Saramago.

–Here’s the best part about this, for me – every name on that list with at least one asterisk next to it is someone whose work I’m not particularly familiar with. I’ve heard of most of them (although not all), but I just haven’t checked out their work yet. To put it another way, THANK YOU, TWITTER, for giving me a fantastic series of recommendations for the next little while. I’m particularly intrigued by the ones I haven’t heard of. Those folks have two stars. Do I know everything and everyone? Come on – of course not. I’d be an idiot to pretend I do.

In fact, thank god there is more brilliance out there to find. I hope I never find it all.

–George Eliot gets three stars because of this lovely exchange with my friend Jennifer de Guzman:

I knew George Eliot wrote Silas Marner and Middlemarch, and I’m pretty sure that at some point I knew “George Eliot” was the pseudonym of a female writer – but not last night at 1 AM, apparently. I also might have mixed up Ms. Evans with this other pseudonymic writer. Anyway, no shame! I’ll never make that mistake again.

–Finally, I have no business being on that list.

So, last point – man, I love looking at that block of names. Pure distilled incredible. So much of culture is disposable – which is not necessarily a bad thing, as I think disposability serves a valuable purpose – but sometimes, we transcend.

And maybe the best part? Many of those people are still alive.

Who would you add?

It’s been a bit, but it’s become pretty clear to me that unless things slow down, that blog posts will be a luxury for a while. Perhaps I’ll just assign blogging to of the clones I keep being accused of having, but I prefer to save those guys for the books. Blogs need the personal touch, I think.

Anyway, I decided to take a few minutes to type something up today with respect to a new milestone in my writing career – and for once, it’s not about a new project I’m taking on.  Nope, this one’s about the first book I’m leaving.

As was reported this week, my time on the very cool Marvel series Thunderbolts will be coming to an end with issue 26. I took the book over from the infinitely capable Daniel Way with issue 12, and I will be succeeded by the equally skilled Ben Acker and Ben Blacker (of the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast, among other delightful things.) When all is said and done, I will have done sixteen issues with the ‘Bolts, a little over a year’s worth of work (Marvel double-ships some titles, which means they put out more than one book per month on occasion.) Three hundred and twenty pages worth of dark action/comedy featuring some of my favorite characters in all of comics, including the Punisher and Elektra, not to mention newer faves like Red Leader and Johnny Blaze, the Ghost Rider. Tbolts scripts are always a joy to write – it’s work, sure, but it’s work I look forward to every month (or every three weeks, really – double-shipping, remember?)

So, if I like it that much, why am I leaving the book? Ultimately, there are a few reasons, but mostly, it’s workload. I am currently on seven titles (that we know of), and that is a tremendous amount of material to generate. I’m up to it, but here’s how I think about it – if I’m carrying everything I can, then I can’t really pick anything else up, you know? You guys know what my Tbolts is like – and so do I – but it’s also a song I’ve sung, at this point. To stick with the musical metaphor, I think of Thunderbolts as a track on my first record (my first MAJOR LABEL record, anyway…) but it might be time to think about what my second album is going to sound like.

Change is good, development as a writer is good, and part of that is setting new challenges for myself ALL THE TIME. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on that second album…

1. SWAMP THING – still love it, still love that people love it.

2. SUPERMAN / WONDER WOMAN – Issue 6 is a HUGE issue. It’s out Wednesday, March 12, and it’s stunningly drawn by Tony Daniel and the crew.  I know everything in comics is “Big, Amazing, Don’t Miss!!!” but this really IS. It pulls together everything from the first five issues and really, really goes out with a bang. If you haven’t picked up any issues of this series, get this one. I feel like that once word gets out about what we actually DID in this issue, Twitter will crack, Tumblrs will tumble, Faces will Book… you know.

3. SHE-HULK – wow, you guys dig this book. So do we. THANK YOU.

4. INHUMAN – Coming soon. Bunch of info and incredible colored Joe Mad art just released yesterday – see it here! Very pleased with how this series is coming together. The scope is huge, and it feels like a different kind of layered “powered people” storytelling than we usually see. Err… if I do say so myself.

5. RED LANTERNS – Mustache Guy! We’re building to a huge crescendo in this story of our space biker gang ruffians. The response to the Green/Red flipbook issue was tremendous, and I want to thank everyone who’s been supporting the book. If you miss my Tbolts when it’s gone, you really might enjoy my Red Lanterns, starting with Issue 21. Different, of course, but in the same family.

6. LETTER 44 – oh yeah. Big things coming. First trade’s out in July, there’s plenty of big news about this series that has been hinted at before… buy a ticket on the rocket. It’s going all the way.

7. KICKSTARTER – I’m doing one, pretty soon. What it’s about… you’ll have to see, but it’s related in part to a project I’ve talked about before on this blog. Nervous about it, and it’s a lot of work, but still very exciting. I hope you guys support it when it launches – I know KS is a little bit of a roll of the dice, but I won’t let you down.

8. THE GREY BOOK – Biggest thing I’ve ever done. You’ll see.

9. CASH – Soon.

10. SHIPS – Soon.

So, yeah. Plenty going on. And don’t worry about sophomore slump. None of this.

I’m currently putting some finishing touches on the lettering pass for She-Hulk #1, out in just about a month from Marvel Comics.  Some amazing pages have been released online already, so I do not feel bad re-releasing them here. Here you go  – pages 2-6 from She-Hulk #1, with pencils/inks from Javier Pulido and colors from Muntsa Vicente.

she-hulk1-1-625x948 she-hulk1-2-625x948 she-hulk1-3-625x948 she-hulk1-4-625x948 she-hulk1-5-625x948I love Javier’s storytelling. It’s just fantastic. Everything you need to know is right there. It’s not the photorealistic superhero art you sometimes see (hell, you often see), and I think that’s its strength.  The art here perfectly fits the story I’m telling, and Javier is just a killer asset. I’m so happy to be working with him (and Muntsa, who really gives this stuff the pop sensibility it needs.) I’ve been saying all along that She-Hulk is a fun book, and now hopefully you’ll start to get the idea.

Now, to post up something that hasn’t been released online yet – an unused script page from this issue. I’m not going to say where it would have appeared (other than to say that it clearly wasn’t within pages 2-6). This doesn’t really spoil anything – it’s just a fun little look at the tone of the story, and a quick snapshot of the way I script. Hope you enjoy!

SH1 Unused PageReally looking forward to reactions next month – Issue 1 hits February 12! Feel free to let me know what you think on Twitter, as always!

I’m getting one question more than any other these days – whether it’s phrased as a comment (e.g. “I don’t know how you…”) or a straight up query (“How do you…”), people want to know how I’m managing my workload. I’m way overdue for a post here in any case, and it seems like this will be a good opportunity to talk about the projects I have happening right now as well as reflect a bit on the insane year that has been 2013. So, this, then, is…

…HOW I DO IT.

I am currently writing seven monthly titles – Superman / Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing and Red Lanterns for DC; Thunderbolts, She-Hulk and Inhuman for Marvel; and a creator-owned title called Letter 44 from Oni Press (read the entire first issue for free here!) That essentially means I’m generating 140 pages of script per month, every month.  My pagecount for 2013 is 1116. If I stay on this path, my pagecount for 2014 will be something like 1680. Every script that gets turned in also (usually) requires at least one rewrite to incorporate editorial notes (those are thankfully pretty quick, most of the time), art review and then a lettering pass, all of which have their own deadlines. There’s also a PR component, represented by interviews, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, convention appearances and store signings.

In addition, I’m running a law practice – it’s small, but that doesn’t really matter as far as workload. (Small aside, for years, while I was breaking in, I never mentioned the day job. I was concerned about negative associations with that profession, and intimations that it was somehow easier for me than it might be for others who didn’t have massive student loans and 80-hour work weeks to contend with… seems silly in retrospect.)

There are other things I do that take up time as well, but I don’t know that you actually need my minute-to-minute itinerary.  Suffice it to say that my ass is BOOKED UP.

It is extremely important to me that the work doesn’t suffer in quality because of obligations towards quantity. That’s obviously very important on the creative side, but also professionally crucial on the law side. I’ve always had to handle significant workloads, ever since graduating from law school, but these days it’s on an entirely different level. Here are a few strategies I use to hold things together and make sure the books remain entertaining and deadlines get hit:

1. Decide. This is ultimately the most important point. I considered this path carefully, and I have decided that I can handle it, and I will do what is required to make the preceding clause true. We all have much more time and focus than we think we do. We’re capable of amazing things. We just have to decide to do them.

2. Organize. I make lists constantly. I have a to-do list that appears in several different places (phone, email, whiteboard, desktop), which I update as new obligations hit my desk. (The idea being that I’m constantly being confronted with reminders of the next set of tasks on my plate). I have a stack of different-colored moleskines, each assigned to a different title, so I can quickly grab whichever book I need and all of the notes remain in one place moving forward. Everyone will have their own system, but I think that it is crucial to have a system. I have a good memory, but if I can offload mental processing power that I would otherwise use trying to remember what I have to do next, or what I’ve already done, so much the better.

3. Recognize. The world is constantly vying for your attention. That’s the entire purpose of the adspace that invades our consciousness during almost every waking moment. Try to eliminate distractions, to the extent possible – shut off your internet and phone when you’re working, write longhand first drafts, all of that. Beyond involuntary timesucks, there are the ones we choose – video games/TV/Netflix, screwing around online, getting hammered or high, just generally bumming around. “Wait,” you’re thinking, “that shit is what some would call fun.” Yup. I haven’t cut out the good times, but see (1) – I try to restrict that stuff to what I need, instead of what I want. This is where I might lose people, but it’s one of the most honest answers to the “how I do it” question. I do it by deciding that I want to do the truly important stuff well instead of spending time on stuff that, ultimately, doesn’t matter.

4. Say No. I turn down things all the time. You might not think so, based on the workload, but I do. I just said no to a gigantic project, because I didn’t think I could do that without compromising some of the other work I’m doing. I turn down(some) interview requests, store appearances, convention appearances, social stuff, even clients – this goes back to (3) – I know what I want to achieve, and if I can’t draw a relatively straight line between [x] (a potential obligation) and [y] (a goal), then I just say no. Hmm. It’s possible that I’m coming across as a bit psychotic, but it’s not really that bad – I love doing the work, otherwise I wouldn’t be so focused on trying to do it well.

5. Run. I’ve learned that, despite points 2-4 above apparently being concerned solely with locking my life down as tightly as possible and micro-managing the hell out of every second of every day, that’s not great for mental health or creativity. So, I put myself in situations where my brain can just do its thing, away from the lists and schedules and rigor. I run every other day, usually for about an hour. I often set myself a question at the beginning of a run (what will Red Lanterns 30 be about? How should the final battle between Swampy and Seeder play out?) and then by the end of it, I often have my answer. It’s not a conscious thing – it’s about letting my mind just work, and the exercise tends to let that happen. I don’t know what the equivalent would be for others, but this is a crucial part for me – without it, I’d have cracked in half a long time ago. Plus, it’s, you know, healthy.

6. Pre-Write. I don’t often sit down to write without having a pretty solid idea of what’s going to happen on each page of a script. I do this by outlining issues in several phases ahead of time – usually in those multicolored moleskines I mentioned above. My first pass is just a general splorch of every idea or plot point that I think might fit in the issue. That isn’t always done all at once – it can happen over several days, as I have new ideas. That gets refined into a second pass that starts to look like an actual story outline – it’s a list of the plot points that need to be in the issue. Then that turns into a page breakdown, where I say that pages 1-3 will cover scene X, with points A-D covered, and sample dialogue. From there, I script. So, I’m almost never sitting and staring at a blank page. If nothing else, I can type in the page breakdowns to the script, so I have, say, 50% of the finished product that I can shape if I have to. I’m a firm believer in the idea that you don’t have all of your good ideas at once. Your subconscious needs time to work on a story, to build on existing ideas, and getting your first version of those ideas down (somewhere, anywhere) frees up your mind to find the next iteration of those thoughts.

7. Sit Down and Don’t Stand Up. When it’s time to script, sit down and don’t stand up until it’s done. I usually write a full script in a day, most often in 3-5 hours. I often go somewhere that isn’t my usual environment, like one of several local coffee shops or bars (bars, I find, are better for pre-writing, while coffee shops are better for scripting, but each to their own), but your mileage may vary.  The point is that I try to put myself in a situation where I can just do that – turn off phone, turn off internet, etc. (see (3).) This one might not work for everyone – some people write in chunks and it works just fine – but this post isn’t about how they do it, it’s about how I do it.

8. Decide. Seemed important enough to put it on the list twice.

So there you have it. More or less, how I do it.  I expect that this will evolve – I don’t know that I’ll always be writing seven monthly titles – I’m doing it now because I don’t want to drop off books that I don’t feel like I’ve “finished,” or where I might be letting people down if I did. However, several of the books I’m writing do have planned endpoints (for me, not necessarily for the books), and so I think I’ll move along to new projects here and there in time. Seven is a lot. I’m not pretending it’s not.

Now that you’ve slogged through all of that, here are a few more general thoughts on the books I’m working on, in no particular order:

1. Superman / Wonder Woman – This project made me nervous, initially, but that’s one of the reasons I knew I should do it. I also really wanted to write Superman and Wonder Woman, and the idea of getting to explore emotional beats with them that might not otherwise be available was a huge attraction as well. The reception has been fantastic, better than I could have hoped – I’ve heard from a lot of people who thought they’d hate it, but have been won over, and that’s one of the best things a writer can hear.  Tony Daniel is doing some of the best work of his career (in my opinion), and I am incredibly excited with the way the first arc (which runs through #6) wraps up. I’d never really done gigantic-scale superhero action before this series, but I think it will read as epic and very emotionally satisfying. I hope!

2. Inhuman – I’m applying many of the lessons I learned on S/WW to this series. Epic scope with many strong character beats. The great thing about this series is that it’s not going to feel like anything else Marvel’s doing, and it’s going to be able to utilize surprise in a cool way because so much of it is new. Plus, of course, Joe Mad – I’m so lucky to be working with the artists I’m working with these days. Speaking of that…

3. She-Hulk – …Javier Pulido.  The man is brilliant. If you missed it, Axel Alonso tweeted a few pages from She-Hulk #2 that will explain what I’m talking about. In the script, that’s just a page of two folks chatting, but Mr. Pulido brings it to life like nobody’s business.  And if he can do that with a conversation page, wait until you see the action stuff. She-Hulk is an incredibly fun, funny series, and I’m really looking forward to it showing up on the shelf in six weeks or so.

4. Letter 44 – this is my first creator-owned project since Strange Attractors, and I could not have asked for a better reception. The first issue sold out, the numbers are very healthy on subsequent issues, and fingers crossed, we’ll get to tell the whole story as planned.  If you haven’t had a chance to check it out, and you enjoy any of my other books or cool real-world sci-fi in general, I urge you to click on the link to the first issue above. It’s about a Presidential conspiracy to cover up a manned mission to the asteroid belt to meet aliens who have set up residence there, and it should appeal to fans of anything and everything.

5. Red LanternsGuy Gardner now has a ‘stache! DC has been incredibly cool about letting me turn this book into a revenge saga based around sort of a space biker gang.  People seem to dig it, and we’re really just getting rolling.  The pieces will start to fit together soon, and you’ll be able to see where I’ve been heading since my first issue (#21). There’s a definite plan in mind here, and it’s going to be big.

6. Thunderbolts – man, this book is fun. I love the lineup, and I love being able to write stories in essentially any tone. You want grim, write about Punisher. You want tragic, write about Red Hulk or Venom. You want idiotic, write about Deadpool. I can do ANYTHING!!! There’s an upcoming arc written with sort of an Indiana Jones-esque feel to it, to which I say “Yay comics!”

7. Swamp Thing – my first book in the Big 2, and where I think I’m doing some of the most creative work of my career so far. Swamp Thing has always been a book about risk-taking, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s followed me on the Avatar’s journey after Scott Snyder stepped away with Issue 18. Swamp Thing has made a bunch of 2013 best of lists, which is hugely due to the incredible work of artists Jesus Saiz, Kano and Javier Pina and the colors from Matt Wilson. Just stunning work. There are amazing things on the way in Swamp Thing in 2014 – we’re just going to grow from here.

Beyond those projects, I also have some new creator-owned stuff I’m working on, including sort of a jam project, as well as an epic I’ve been working on for years, and more. It’s truly astonishing to me to think about where I was just a year ago (no Big 2 work announced, although I had the Swamp Thing job by then) and where I am now. I’m incredibly thankful to everyone who’s taken the time to read, review or talk about my work in 2013, and I’m looking forward to great things in 2014. Happy New Year!

Wow, this has been a week and a half. Superman / Wonder Woman #1 hit last Wednesday, then we had New York Comicon, and today, the first issue of my new creator-owned series Letter 44 is hitting the shelves, published by Oni Press.

The book is a science fiction series about a newly-elected President (sort of an Obama-analogue) who discovers that the previous Prez (sort of a Bush) covered up the discovery of an alien construction project in the asteroid during his term. Now it’s the new guy’s job to deal with it, as well as take care of a crew of astronauts sent up to investigate three years before. Something like 24 meets 2001.

Here’s the cover:

Image

and here’s the cover for the super cool variant edition:

Image

The incredible art on the series is by Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, a FANTASTIC talent and wonderful guy whom I had the pleasure of hanging out with all weekend at NYCC. Colors are by Guy Major, and letters are by Shawn DePasquale, with editing by Jill Beaton at Oni.

I actually did a fun post a little while ago about this project, back when it was in its earliest stages. Now that the book’s out, you might enjoy putting together some of the dots.  Advance reaction has been very strong, with Bleeding Cool calling it the next Saga (I don’t know about that, but hey, why not?), and strong orders. The first issue is priced at only a buck, and a bunch of awesome retailers have been getting behind it in a big way (shout-outs to Larry’s Comics, A Comic Shop, Double Midnight, Friendly Comics, Third Eye, ACME and so many others that have been helping to push the book.) If you don’t have a shop near you that’s carrying the book, you can order it directly from Oni here, or you can get a digital version for your i-readers and e-pads and whatnot here.

The series will hit monthly – I’m so happy that it’s finally in the world, and I hope you’ll give it a spin. Go Space!

We’re coming up on New York Comicon, the very first New York Comicon since New York Comicon happened last year.  Much has changed for me since the last New York Comicon last year. (I’m just going to keep typing New York Comicon as many times as I can.)

At NYCC (couldn’t do it) last year, I was a guy a few of you had heard of, but most of you hadn’t.  I had a well-received Image series called 27 in 2010-2011, and prior to that I had a book come out through SLG called Strongman.  While I had deals for two other creator-owned projects (Strange Attractors and Letter 44), neither had arrived yet.  I knew a lot of creators (which remains one of the best things about being a comic book guy, and I suspect always will be), but I didn’t have much of a foothold in the mainstream comics world.  That was fine.  I figured Strange Attractors and Letter 44 would come out, and maybe the next thing after that, and maybe by then my profile would be high enough that I would start having conversations about Big 2 work.  No rush.

And then I was introduced to a DC editor who asked me to pitch on Swamp Thing.  I ended up getting that job – it all locked into place around the beginning of December last year.  Still, it feels to me like NYCC 2012 was where what I’ve been calling the “crazy year” started.  As of the announcement yesterday that I’ll be working on a relaunch of She-Hulk for Marvel with the incredibly talented Javier Pulido, I have six ongoing titles, five with the Big 2 and one creator-owned. SIX.  I say that not in a “holy shit, look how awesome I am” sort of way but more of a “holy shit what is happening???” way.  They are, listed in the order I began to work on them:

Letter 44 (Oni)

Swamp Thing (DC)

Red Lanterns (DC)

Thunderbolts (Marvel)

Superman / Wonder Woman (DC)

She-Hulk (Marvel)

That is a wide spread of material. Realistic sci-fi/political thriller; supernatural weirdness with strong horror overtones; aggressive space opera; street-level antihero super gang; superhero epic with a romantically involved lead couple; and a superhero legal drama.

None of those are like any of the others, and that is, frankly, one of the only reasons I am able to handle this workload. My Red Lanterns mindset doesn’t take up the same headspace as my Superman / Wonder Woman mindset. So, ideas don’t really bleed across books, and I can snap myself into whichever one I need to focus on at the time.  I’ve also become a pretty lean, clean, writing machine. Not a lot of fat in my schedule right now.  Part of that is, of course, my increasingly-mentioned day job, which I discuss in more detail here.  In the abstract, it might sound a little intense and focused and miserable, but in truth it is only the first two things.  Who wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible doing something they love?

It all seemed to happen very organically.  I could draw you a road map on the way one gig led to the next, which you might find a little bit surprising.  I can tell you that there’s a LOT that goes on behind the scenes that never gets out there, which is as it should be.  Still, the tricks to doing well in mainstream comics seem to be the same as doing well in life in general – be cool, do your best, do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it, and help people out when you can.

Another tip – work with great people. The artists, editors, colorists, letterers I get to work with… holy goddamn.  They are magicians, and yet they are mostly humble about their incredible powers. It’s awe-inspiring.

Now I find myself in a strange position.  I have the storytelling platform I have always wanted.  It’s not necessarily about going higher for me right now. It’s about going deeper.  Seeing if I can get better, seeing if I can find new angles.  Navigating the weird waters of having a wide audience – especially one that feels very free to comment on my work to me directly (follow me on Twitter!) Figuring out how much of myself to put out in the world (or in the stories), and how much to hold back (you don’t get to have everything!!)  Thinking about things like the creative impulse, and where it comes from, and how in the world to sustain high-level work over a career.  Thinking about the next round of stories I want to tell.

Strange Attractors came out in May, Letter 44 hits next month (and people seem pretty excited about it, which is awesome), and so I’ve been thinking a lot about the next stories of my own I’d like to tell.  Here’s what I’m mulling over right now:

–A battle of wits

–A common cause

–A story in the water, that will be very hard to draw

–The circus

–A terrifying Thanksgiving

Who knows if any of that will come together, but it’s nice to think that it could.

So that’s where things are these days. Amazing what a year can do. My next post will be all about New York Comicon (got one more New York Comicon in after all – no, two!), which is just a few weeks away.  See you there!

 

 

UPDATE: The Lady Weeds release hit on DC’s website, so I’ve added some information about her (and images) below. If you’re here for the first time today (or ever), then read on!

The Swamp Thing Annual hits in October.  Annuals are double-sized issues that come out once a year (more or less).  They’re a lot of fun, because they often allow the creators to dive into some story element a bit more deeply than they would otherwise be able to in a 20- or 22-page regular issue.

In the Swamp Thing Annual, I decided to delve  into the history of the Green (which refers to a sort of shared consciousness of all plant life on Earth) and the Parliament of Trees, specifically with respect to how it affects the life and ongoing tenure as the champion of the Green of Dr. Alec Holland, aka Swamp Thing, aka the main character of the book.

The Parliament of Trees is sort of an advisory body made up of previous champions (also known as Avatars), who hang around and give the current Avatar tips and tricks as needed based on their millennia-long collective memory.  One of the fun things about that concept is that it means you can tell stories from many different eras in history and still have them fit into the main thread.  I’m doing that in the Annual in spades.  At last count, eleven different Swamp Things make an appearance.

DC Comics is previewing the designs for a few of them on their “What’s New in the New 52″ feature on their blog – we had one yesterday, the Burgher Thing, and another should debut today – Lady Weeds.  I thought it might be fun to give a bit of additional context to these images here, in case anyone’s curious.  First, Burgher Thing:

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

Burgher Thing, as designed by Jesus Saiz.

How about that design, eh?  The work is from the spectacular Jesus Saiz, who drew Swamp Thing 21 as well as the Villains Month issue with Anton Arcane, out in September. Thankfully, he’ll be doing much more work on the series going forward.  This fellow isn’t actually named Burgher Thing – that’s just a name I put into the script that sort of stuck around the office.  His actual name is something else that you’ll discover in the Annual.  I gave him the Burgher Thing title in the script because the character’s identity as a human was a burgher – a member of the German middle class in the 1600s.  They were mostly prosperous merchants – not nobility, but doing pretty well for themselves nonetheless.  There’s an even more specific reference – this dude is based on a particular figure from history – but I’ll let that come out via the book in October. (And, honestly, calling him Burgher Thing made me laugh.  I do that sort of thing a lot in my scripts – I called the Franciscan monk character from 21 the Monk Thing, for obvious reasons, and the Annual is packed with many more placeholder script names that may or may not ever see the light of day.)

This gentleman is Swamp Thing’s patron – he takes him under his wing to offer some very specific guidance in light of some challenges Swampy’s facing (of which you will hear more in Issue 24.)  He’s a bit self-serving and fairly pompous, but he’s very cool, and I think you’ll like him a lot once you see how he works in the story.

The second character to get a design from Jesus Saiz is the batshit Lady Weeds.  Check her out:

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Lady Weeds, by Jesus Saiz.

Looook behinnnd the veilllll....

Looook behinnnd the veilllll….

Lady Weeds is a Swamp Thing from the 1800s.  She’s named not so much for the fact that she’s made of plants (although that’s certainly a factor), but because she’s wearing what were known as “widow’s weeds,” clothes worn by women in mourning in those days.  Here’s a historically accurate version:

3440563994_d8b019230c_o

Poor, sad Mrs. Kintner wore a variant on widow’s weeds after her boy Alex was chomped to death by a certain titular shark, too (such a bummer – the kid just wanted to splash around on a raft on a hot day – why won’t Sheriff Brody DO SOMETHING???):

I wanted you to know that.

I wanted you to know that.

 

Anyway, so that’s the deal with widow’s weeds. Why Lady Weeds wears them? Well, it seems like EVERYONE died back then. I don’t think a single person from those days is still alive today.  Lady Weeds undoubtedly has plenty of people to mourn… not least because she killed MANY, MANY of them.  Lady Weeds did horrible things.  Her character came out of an idea that not every Swamp Thing was necessarily heroic.  As long as they do their “job” of protecting plants, the Green doesn’t care how they use their powers, and Lady Weeds took that license to an extreme.  You’ll learn much more about who she is and what she did in the Annual, out this October.

Cool stuff coming up in Swamp Thing! It’s the era-spanning weird epic I’ve always dreamed of writing, and I’m so glad you guys are along for the ride.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,988 other followers