Thursday, November 20, 2008

Push #1: Two Conflicting Views

Here are two reviews of the first issue of Push. The first, from Hannibal Tabu over at Comic Book Resources:

"Much like Larry Hama did with "Spooks Omega Team," WIldstorm wunderkinds Adam Freeman and Marc Bernardin showcase some team dynamics between professionals, all of whom exhibit mental powers. Telekinesis, mental suggestion, precognizance, even taking latent impressions from inanimate objects. In a relatively small amount of space, they're all given some chance to shine. All of which brilliantly sets up the twist at the end, and this is an interesting start to a new project, and yet another home run for Bernardin and Freeman, who are surely showing up as some of the most interesting new voices in comics."

And here's an (edited for space) excerpt from Tom Spurgeon's take on The Comics Reporter:

"I hate saying this, because creating is hard, and people almost always work on things with the best of intentions and with as much integrity as they can muster, but this is almost a parody of a certain kind of adventure story, where the entire world presented bends itself to an inauthentic plot line and demands of the genre as if they were the Holy Scripture made real at a wild-eyed camp meeting.... It's like something a machine might create cutting and pasting from old Caliber comics and grocery store serial adventure novels. I guess it could work as a film because it's certainly a blank slate of comfortable plot elements that someone could make come to life.... But as a comic, particularly a comic for anyone who's read any type of similar work at any time in their lives and doesn't have a bottomless appetite for seeing one more thing working that same tired ground, Push #1 doesn't say a whole lot and what it does it says in a very, very tired voice."

Well, we got tagged. As ever, I'm okay with negative criticism, provided that criticism comes from a well-reasoned, well-argued place. I don't need to agree with it—and, for the record, I think Push is just as good as Mr. Tabu says—but having been a critic, I can respect it. And I won't hide from it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Son, The Vault of Information

A little preamble: I am a fan of the Yankee Football. My team is the New York Giants. Because I grew up in New York, and that's what you do. For Christmas a few years ago, my wife bought me a Tiki Barber jersey, which I wore to games with pride until last year, when a freshly retired Tiki became a persona non grata by criticising his former team. Everything Tiki-related was loudly and heartily booed in Giants Stadium. (Which is a shame, because he was one hell of an athlete—one of the best to ever play for any team.) My wife asked me, idly, who I'd want on a new jersey. I told her that rather than risk a current player once again falling out of favor, I wanted someone immortal. I wanted Lawrence Taylor.

Flash forward to this past weekend. My wife and four-year-old son, Luc, come back from running some errands. Luc bounds over and says "Daddy, you got a prize."

"Really?" I say. "What'd did I win?"

"No, you got a surprise. Number 56."

Barely stifling my laughter, I say "No,'re supposed to keep a surprise to yourself."

"A blue 56. On a shirt. For you."

The cutest ruining of a birthday surprise EVER.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Push #1

Is out today. I'm pretty pleased with pleased as a fella can be about a book that doesn't star his own characters, operating in a world not of his own creation—it's a licensed comic, based on the universe created by the makers of the feature film Push, out next Spring. Actually, that first statement is only partly true, given that only one character is a holdover from the film; the rest of the populace are ours. Still, we were not free to do as we pleased with the story. Approvals needed getting from the production company, plot points needed vetting. The approvers were aces, but still...the most comfortable prison and all.

It's the closest we've come to writing company-owned characters—not counting a four-page Lobo story we did for a DC Halloween anthology last year—and, I've gotta say, I'm not in love with it. Can we do it? Sure. But I find myself way more invested in a story when it's a wholly organic creation. It was an interesting exercise, though, but I don't relish the extra work that goes into work-for-hire.

If I'm pitching a creator-owned book, there's one story: the one I want to tell. If the editor doesn't like it, he passes on it, and I move on to the next lucky victim. And if no one bites, the idea goes in a drawer, to be brought out when time passes and either I make it a better pitch with the benefit of fresh eyes, or the person who passed on it is replaced by a fresh editor with regular eyes. But if I'm coming up with springboards for Batman or Spider-Man, I'm doing a lot more work with a lot less opportunity for reward. Plus, that's story generation with only one possible market. And, you know what? I'm a busy guy.

I don't write comics to keep the lights on, or my kids in new shoes. I'm doing it because I love it. I want to love the entire process, from beginning to end. I've got a full-time job in a deadline-oriented business. I've got a family that I want to see—a lot. If I don't love the thing that I'm doing that takes me away from those two, then it's not worth it. And, frankly, I don't love thinking up 10 different stories that have probably already been told in different ways about a character that's been around since WWII. I'm not gonna crack it. Or, if I did, they're not gonna let me do it.

I had an idea a few years ago that centered around Bruce Wayne having a son that he didn't know, or know about. I thought it was a pretty neat way to play a little Count of Monte Cristo in the Batman Universe. I sent it to a guy I knew in the Bat-office. Never heard anything back. And I wasn't surprised. Because would-be freelancers don't get to tell those stories, Grant Morrisons do. And I understand why only dudes like that get to monkey with continuity. Doesn't mean I have to agree with it. Instead, freelancers have to pitch sitcom stories for superheroes: tales that start and end with the characters in the same place they began, both emotion-wise and continuity-wise. "Put the toys back where you found them, in the same condition." I've got nothing against the guys that do that work, and do it well. Power to 'em. But, I'm sorry, that's not the way I want to spend the little free time I've got.

Are there conditions under which I'd consider it? Absolutely. You wanna talk about more than an inventory story that's gonna lie around for years before getting dusted off and slotted in? You wanna talk about examining, evolving, and in some cases, killing the characters? Awesome. Like the man said, sometimes folks just need killing. But I'm not up for spinning the wheels.

So, hey, go buy Push. It was an experiment for us. Not sure how many more experiments like it we'll do, so get it while the getting's good.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Gift of Silence

When I was a boy, of maybe eight or nine, my favorite show on television was The Dukes of Hazzard. I loved the Duke boys, and the way they shot dynamite arrows and blew up nothing more important than randomly placed piles of tires or barrels. I loved Roscoe P. Coltrane—who I thought was named Roscoe Peco Train—for the silly way that he talked. And I wasn't sure at the time why I loved Daisy Duke, but it eventually became evident.

But most of all, I loved the car. That screaming orange 1969 Dodge Charger with the doors welded shut could outrun anything, anytime. It could fly over ravines and barricades. It kicked up rooster tails of dirt even when it was rolling on pavement. I was a model builder when I was a kid, and the General Lee was one of the first cars I ever completed, and I took great pride in the finishing touches: making sure the paint was as smooth as shitty brushes would allow, ensuring that the plastichrome pieces were super-shiny, and using a protractor to get the Confederate flag on the roof perfectly aligned.

It never occurred to me, until very recently, what my parents must have thought of this. My father, an immigrant from the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, and my mother, who was a girl during the Civil Rights era—they must've been appalled that their young black son was infatuated with this show that glorified the very symbol of southern aggression and oppression. That he was playing, every day, with the a toy emblazoned with a flag that had been co-opted as a banner of hate.

But they never said anything. Never a word of discouragement, never a hint of disapproval. They just let me play, knowing that, in time, The Dukes of Hazzard would dim in my estimation, to be replaced by something else just as temporary. And that, someday, I'd learn who General Lee was, what the Civil War was, and why the Dixie flag is such a firestarter.

They never said anything. The strength it must've taken to remain silent, when what I was doing must have bristled against the very core of their being.... They didn't teach hate even though it'd be perfectly understandable if they did. Only a parent can understand that sacrifice in the service of making a better world for their children. A better world that takes root in each small mind.

I thought about that a lot these past couple of days; what it must feel like to finally gaze upon that better world.