Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Brett Williams, This Is Your Life!

So there was college. That didn't work out. So I tried it again and it worked out a little better, but ultimately it wasn't for me. I would, eventually, try it one more time. It lasted less than a month that third time, so maybe what they say about third times and charms isn't always true.

Or maybe it is. If I'd stayed in school that third time I might never have devoted myself to comics the way I have now. I probably would have devoted myself to being a librarian or a high school teacher. Admirable, but not comics.

I moved to Chattanooga, TN after high school. I moved there to go to college but as I mentioned above, college didn't take. Chattanooga didn't take either, even though I stayed well into my twenties. Chattanooga is a strange place. Everyone who has never lived there thinks its beautiful and everyone who ever lived there thinks its a giant waste of space in the otherwise lush and gorgeous wilderness that is East Tennessee. That's hyperbolic. I'm sure there are people who live in Chattanooga who love it, but I wasn't one of them.

My time in Chattanooga was strange. I dropped out of college my first semester and moved in with my girlfriend of two years. I had a live-in girlfriend and a full time job by the time I was 19, which was fine with me. School had always bored me, had never really challenged me, and having money in my pocket and a girl at home at the end of every day was just fine with me. That job was in a major chain entertainment store, the kind that sold books, movies, software, music, video games, etc. I worked in the book department, which afforded me a ludicrous discount off cover prices and access to the entire Baker & Taylor ordering system. I bought a LOT of graphic novels.

During that time I really discovered Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Mark Waid. It was Kingdom Come that eventually got me back into comic books, followed shortly after by Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. The dystopian view of the superhero comic presented by Moore in Watchmen and Miller in DKR had a profound effect on my rebellious young mind. I was discovering punk rock at the same time I discovered those titles and I longed for more "adult" comics, more "adult" themes. So I rebelled long and hard against superheroes, choosing instead to turn my eye toward Vertigo. That's when I really got into the comics that would shape my tastes as a young adult. Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Preacher, Sandman, these were the books I clamored for, the stories I devoured.

It was at this time in my life that I really got back into comic books and for the first time realized that this wasn't just a medium for children and that comics could be a genuine career. I wish I could say that I diligently began pursuing that career but I can't lay claim to that until much later. Like many people in their early twenties, I spent a lot of time, well...wasting time. I drank, chased girls, got caught up in a bad relationship, got the shit kicked out of me mentally and took more than a little time to recover. I suppose that happens to the best of us, but there are moments, in the shadow of younger creators who have accomplished so much more than me, where I want to flog myself for my misspent youth.

I know that hard work gets rewarded and that ultimately it's nobody's fault but my own that it took me this long to make even the tiniest of ripples in this industry, but it doesn't make reminiscing about days that could have been better spent any easier.

What was it that sapped such a will as mine and made me lose sight of my dream for a time? Well, that would be telling. I know I promised to be candid but there are some things that not even you, fearless reader, get to know. Needless to say things got dark for a while and then, as they tend to do, things got a hell of a lot better.

How did they get better? Well, I met a girl. Not just a girl, but the girl. And not long after that I made a friend. The collective fire they lit under my ass led to the man you (figuratively) see before you today.

More on that next time.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Do you guys know anything about me?

I realize that you can glean a few things about my various tastes by what I write about. I realize you even know a little bit about my personal life, as I've occasionally talked about my wife, posted pics from my wedding or given you con updates that include some info about my friends. But do you guys really know anything about me? I realized today that, while I've promised to be as candid as possible here, I've not been exactly true to that.

Some people would probably say, "So?" I mean, the thought of airing all your personal stuff on the internet is a pretty mortifying one for many people. But I grew up online (for better or worse) and the idea of people out there in the ether knowing more about me doesn't frighten me at all.

I have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, and you can learn things about me there if you're willing to seek them out, but this blog is supposed to be about my life, not just about what comics I'm reading. So, in the interest of getting to know you guys, I'm going to help you get to know more about me.

I live in Nashville, TN. I haven't lived here my entire life, but it still feels like home. I grew up about an hour and a half from here, small town called Lawrenceburg near the Alabama border. Our claim to fame is being the (supposed) birthplace of American folk hero (or cowering coward) Davy Crockett. It's the kind of small town you hear about in Bruce Springsteen or John Mellencamp songs. Growing up there wasn't easy. I was a very smart kid with very little access to decent education, so I wasn't always the best student because I had very few challenges to hold my interest. I went to a local Catholic school (almost everyone in the school was a relative. My family is pretty much 90% of Lawrenceburg's Catholic population) and that's where I first discovered comics.

My best friend at the time, a kid named Jeff Brink (if any of my friends from the past who read this know how two get in touch with Jeff, please let me know) introduced me to comics on a class trip to the circus. That story has been told elsewhere in the blog, so I won't bore you with a repeat performance. Jeff was big into comics, specifically X-Men, and he got me involved in it as well. My favorite comic growing up was the Infinity Gauntlet and I can remember Jeff and I collecting it together, each of us spending allowance on alternating issues and sharing them back and forth. I still engage in the activity of sharing comics with my friends today.

High school in Lawerenceburg wasn't great but it wasn't as horrifying as high school was for a lot of geeks. I had close friends who were interested in much of the same stuff as I, a steady girlfriend who loved comics (and her older sister who taught us a bunch about guys like Moore and Gaiman) and a steady diet of theatre to keep me safe from the rigors of small town geek life. Theatre was my big passion at the time and I thought for a while that I wanted to be an actor. The biggest obstacle was the fact that I hated most of the college drama kids I knew and didn't really want to be a part of their world that seemed rife with backstabbing and ladder climbing. In the back of my mind writing was always the thing that drove me and comic writing always the thing that excited me.

Of course I would go a long way toward screwing that up and tearing it down before I finally came out the other side ready to work. I'll expound on that in the next segment of this trip down memory lane.

I mentioned earlier that Nashville felt like home. It was the largest city in close proximity to my hometown so we spent a lot of time here when I was a kid. When I got to high school, my friends and I would escape to Nashville and the surrounding areas a lot to mallrat around and basically do dumb, fun kid shit. Laser tag, coffee houses, all ages punk shows (though not as often as I'd have liked), etc. I had a lot of baggage as a teenager (some of it I'm still dealing with, in various forms, as an adult) but for all rights and purposes, I had a pretty good teenage life. And through it all, comic books were always present. I didn't always focus on them as much as I should have, never got the collector bug that so many of my other friends had, but I never forgot them, never stopped wondering what it would be like to create them.

It would be a long time before I took the steps toward making that a reality, but I was surprised to find that the steps were a lot easier to take than I'd always feared...

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Brief Apology

Sorry that I haven't been around all week. I work in a bar in the really real world and St. Patrick's Day sort of kicked the crap out of all of us this week. I spent most of my week just trying to relax before the big event and celebrating afterward. I know that isn't the most professional of approaches to my blog, but hey, at least I'm honest. Expect increased output from me this week as a way of apologizing to my many (six or seven) fans.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Comic Script Archive

I've recently discovered a site that, as a creator, I value as a very important research tool. It's called the Comic Book Script Archive and it is as simple as its straightforward name. Culling contributions from various creators, the site provides a very accessible database of comic book scripts. There aren't a lot of resources for people trying to break into this industry, especially people breaking in as writers, so I can't recommend this one highly enough. It's simple to navigate and very, very helpful. Check it out.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Batman XXX - Suprisingly SFW

Bleeding Cool reported on this recently and I was so amused at the prospect of it that I went out and did a little more research. There's not much I can say, it sort of speaks for itself. Here is a link to the Examiner's article about the film. Look below for a very Safe For Work trailer for the film.

J. Michael Straczynski to write Wonder Woman and Superman.

Comic Book Resources (and every other comics news site) released a report earlier today relaying the information that Eisner-winning writer J. Michael Straczynski will be taking over both Superman and Wonder Woman in July. Straczynski, the creator of Babylon 5 and man responsible for fan favorite runs of Amazing Spider-Man and Thor will be joining both titles after the release of milestone issues: #600 for Diana and #700 for Kal-El.

There hasn't been much time to react to the announcement, but I assume most fan reaction will be positive. I'm not certain how I feel yet. Straczynski has always been hit or miss with me. I was a fan of his Image series, Rising Stars, but it frustrated me that he just let it peter out. I've often thought of him as a strong creator with lack of focus, a guy who has great ideas but rarely has the interest or the will to see them through to their end. As I've learned more about the various situations he's found himself involved in over the years, I learn that I was perhaps wrong about him. While I thought he abandoned Amazing Spider-Man and Thor, it appears that he made the decision to leave those books due to editorial shifting in a direction that he didn't completely agree with. Rather than stay on a book that he felt he couldn't give his all, he moved on, and that's commendable.

That said, his Thor run, while feeling again that it died before its time, was one of the best runs on a character I've ever read. And as I see it, if you can write a character like Thor well, then Superman and Wonder Woman really shouldn't be that difficult. They all share a great deal of similarity that I believe will make writing Kal and Diana feel a lot like coming home for JMS.

I hope I'm right, because the more I think about this the more excited I become. Superman deserves the best possible creators DC can give him, and considering he's been written most recently by James Robinson and Greg Rucka, you'd think that was the case. But Robinson has come a long way from his glory days as the steward of Jack Knight and Opal City and Rucka, while a great storyteller, always seems a lot more at home in Gotham than in Metropolis. JMS has proven time and again that he gets superheroes and that he enjoys them. Add to that the fact that Superman is his dream project and you create the possibility for something truly great.

DC has yet to announce who his collaborators will be on the projects (may I suggest his Brave and the Bold collaborator Jesus Saiz for at least one of the books) but I'm hopeful its someone truly worthy of these larger than life characters and the stories JMS will no doubt bring to their world. Does JMS's Thor collaborator, Olivier Coipel, have an exclusive contract with Marvel? Can we steal him and put him on Superman please?

If DC is serious about Brightest Day restoring the kind of hope and heroism we've come to expect from their characters, then I could think of far worse creators to shepherd us in that new direction than J. Michael Straczynski. So here's to hope.

Up, Up and Away!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I gotta say it was a good day.

Two days ago I e-mailed to my editor the initial proposal for a series of young adult novels I'm pitching to the licensed publishing division of DC Comics. I'm not going to discuss the project for fear that I'll jinx it, nor do I want what I'm about to tell you to let your hopes soar to high, but the initial reaction to the pitch was very positive.

The editor's response was one of genuine excitement and he made me a promise he'd try as hard as he could to find a home for the series. The next step (and this is what excites me beyond belief) is showing the pitch around the offices there at DC to get some feedback and ultimately determine the best possible home for the story. Then, from there, we tweak tweak tweak and persist persist persist in the hopes of convincing a publisher to carry it.

This is by no means a promise of work, but it is a very good first step down that path. So keep your fingers crossed, say your prayers, ask Superman for help, whatever it is you do. And thanks for all the support up to this point. You guys are great.

The Surfing the Bleed Review - The Great Ten by special contributor Bill Melville

On Wednesday, I anxiously scanned the racks for the team book I couldn't bear to miss.

I'm not talking about the finale to Cry for Justice, which I dropped at issue two. I long ago accepted James Robinson's collapse as a writer, as well as DC's successful efforts to turn its flagship team into a punchline.

Since tearing through the first three issues in a sitting, I found myself unable to skip the Great Ten, not surprising given the years DC made fans wait for this series.

Working off a Grant Morrison concept first fleshed out in 52 and recurring in Greg Rucka's late, underrated Checkmate series, the Ten finally get their due. At first glance, the Great Ten felt like Watchmen-lite, with the story chopped up by origins and these heroes who don't especially like each other gathered together. Despite the basic format, it works.

Past misgivings about Tony Bedard's work aside, it's quickly obvious this writer doesn't just view China as 2 billion people with slanted eyes and jet-black hair. Reviewers too often take issues in a vacuum, but often a series needs a little time to open up like a fine Bordeaux.

My fear over first issues proved correct; at first glance, Great Ten felt formulaic on the front end, full of condemnations of China's dictatorship with a scene from the Tibetan riots and subsequent military reprisal.

But amid that insurrection, a flicker of clever plotting emerged. The soldier who becomes Accomplished Perfect Physician fled his unit, accidentally becomes the 17th bearer of that title by killing the heir apparent. His new powers do not let his cowardice go forgotten. Team leader August General in Iron won't ignore a deserter. He wants to know root of the physician's powers so he can turn them off, then administer a beating.

The storyline has the Great Ten facing off against gods from Chinese folklore, with their origins sliced between the action. Bedard has obviously read the opening arc of Grant Morrison's JLA, with some similar story threads emerging.

Thanks to his origin, and witnessing heavenly lands, Celestial Archer sides with the invading gods. Thankfully, Bedard imparts a cultural literacy that avoids creation of a Hawkeye or Green Arrow knockoff. Thundermind is China's Superman analogue, a teacher whose object of affection pines for the superhero in the same fashion as a certain Metropolis reporter. Throw in a dash of Rick Jones due to his origin - he read an ancient scroll at a museum, unlocking powers buried in his DNA - and this Bodhisattva treads some new ground.

But it isn't all archetypes. Both August General in Iron and Immortal Man have origins steeped in alien technology, and Immortal Man in Darkness has an origin much darker than his name. I won't repeat it here, but as a small taste, he definitely isn't immortal. Nothing from the sometimes light-hearted Thundermind tale can escape the gravitational pull of how Immortal Man in Darkness came to fight for the Chinese.

The fifth issue finally arrived at the member most visible to DC readers: their leader. August General in Iron comes off as an egotistical, Sun Tzu-studying Ben Grimm, his mind still sharp in a body turned to rusting metal. At first, the alien origin concept felt tired, but Bedard really nails it on the final five pages with a key plot advancement and a moment for August General in Iron to establish a connection with teammate Ghost Fox Killer.

Having repudiated event comics, Great Ten was just the tonic I needed. If members of the team got Lantern rings in Blackest Night, I could care less. Well-plotted with decent art by Scott McDaniel, it has fallen under the radar, but this original tale should given the Great Ten staying power in the DCU.

I'll stick through the end, so long as the Chinese gods don't rape the Mother of Champions and leave Accomplished Perfect Physician to mind-wipe them. DC cannot be trusted with its team books; if the Justice League can fall into editorial ruin, any team can.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Response

In response to fellow comics blogger and geek ingenue Jill Pantozzi's latest article, a Geek Girl's Guide to Getting Girls, I give you this.

A Guy's Guide to Getting Girls

1. Be a man.

Regardless of what this article may lead you to believe, girls don't require that you like everything that they like and act exactly how they act. My wife, a beautiful, talented "geek girl" doesn't give a damn if I go shopping with her, doesn't make me watch "chick flicks" and would probably lose her mind if I lit a bunch of scented candles around the house. She just wants me to be myself, to be strong, to remind her how incredible I think she is and to occasionally geek out with her about things we find mutually appealing.

You don't have to be exactly like your girlfriend, you don't have to spend every minute with her or like ALL the things she likes. If she's attracted to men, then I'm guessing she wants you to act like one. Does that mean you can't enjoy the occasional rom com or show genuine interest in the things she's interested in? Quite the contrary. But by all means, don't follow some list of guidelines intended, I suppose, to make you more palpable by making you more like she is.

Be respectful, be yourself, be a man...and, if you can, learn to dance. That generally impresses most ladies.

All this said, I tend to agree with Jill about most things and I recognize that this is an article meant to be taken with a general lack of sincerity, but it got my ire up nonetheless.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pull List - 3/3/2010

BOOM! Studios

Incredibles #6 - Mark Waid, Landry Walker & Marcio Takara

Dark Horse

Buffy Season 8 #33 - Brad Meltzer & Georges Jeanty

DC Comics

Detective Comics #862 - Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams, III, Jock & Cully Hammer
First Wave #1 - Brian Azzarello & Rags Morales
Jonah Hex #53 - Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti & Billy Tucci
Sweet Tooth #7 - Jeff Lemire

Marvel Comics

Girl Comics #1 - Devin Grayson, Laura Martin, Ming Doyle, Molly Crabapple, et al.