Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Are You a Mignola or a Liefeld?

Been listening to the LET’S TALK COMICS podcast recently, catching up on a few eps — and if you haven’t scoped the show yet with your earholes then get on that because it’s ace for comic creators just idly chatting the super secrets of their process and humble origin stories.
So, anyway, I’m catching up and I’ve just listened to two very different eps with one featuring Rob Liefeld, and the other Mike Mignola. And in each ep we see how wildly different the two are.
Liefeld blew up the scene as a teenager, his style dynamic, his enthusiasm electric, but admittedly his craftmanship was lacking in certain respects. Regardless, he shot out of the stratosphere quickly and then soon splintered off from Marvel to start his own imprint with a few other mates which you might have heard of, Image Comics.
Liefeld’s star rises meteorically, the coin rains, but he has now supernova’d somewhat as his carcass is slowly washing up on the sandy shores of comics. Despite all this, Liefeld loves his work, loves who he is, and will only pause talking about himself and his designs to drop a Todd Mcfarland impression (which is, admittedly, pretty ace).
Then we look at Mignola and he admits when he started he put out some inking work that wasn’t superlative. Then he bounced around various Marvel projects, most of which I rarely see mentioned among the ‘classics’ and then he just dropped out of favour with Marvel. He was good, never great. This is how he saw himself, he felt alright about some things, he loathed others. He’s incredibly humble.
But then, Mignola comes out with Hellboy and begins a four colour journey that will take over two decades, multiple titles, a slew of insane creative talents, and will slowly but surely prove Mignola to be a modern master of the craft.

Reading HELLBOY IN HELL recently showed me how dominant Mignola is as a tone setter and a storyteller. Reading HAWK & DOVE or THE INFINITE did not do the same for me with Liefeld’s modern work.
I found it fascinating that one of these men was the clear break out success, and that man probably did get, and still has, more money then the other, but the other has become a respected titan in the industry and he did it slowly, with missteps, but then huge leaps forward – not in money but in craft.
So it got me to think – are you a Mignola or a Liefeld? Which would you want to be? How do you think you could be either? What steps would you take?
For me, Mignola is the clear winner. I want to chip away at the craft and process and finally do something of deep meaning, something that’s clinically amazing. Because while it’s fun to get paid I would absolutely hate to be a flash in the pan. I am in this to tell stories, money is merely there to help me do it, I’m not doing it necessarily for the money, y’know? It’s also worth noting that one of these stories features more initial failure, and self-doubt, and will take longer, and be a muddied path. It’s not for the lighthearted, but tell me it isn’t worth it.
Hurm, which makes me think, Frank Miller most definitely sits squarely between these two at present. Make of that what you will.
These are the career thoughts that plague me while I clean the kitchen. I hope you dig.

GONE GIRL – A Study in How To Investigate 21st Century Film Noir

GONE GIRL really blew my hair back and here’s exactly why.

SPOILERS — natch.

All I knew about the flick was that the wife goes missing. Boom, that’s it. So imagine my pleasure when I’m presented with this LAW & ORDER style examination of the case, the details, the suspect, the cops, and it’s done in this beautifully intense and exhaustive way that made me love the depth of Fincher’s ZODIAC.

I’m right into this case, it’s fitting into the same headspace I’m currently listen to SERIAL with, and generally reading nice long true crime articles. This flick is doing good things. Then halfway through it gets very good. The twist hits (spoilers, right, we covered that already) – the wife is alive. It’s an intricate frame up. Now I’m really digging it. We follow the wife, we see her things go south, and all the while Affleck is rocking the homefront and showing what an oaf he is by us discovering his affair. It’s a dick move, no doubt, but a dick is not a murderer and yet society really trashes him for it. So did my wife, in our post-game analysis driving home, so make of that what you will.

So now we have this cool twisted story, maybe as intricate as something James Patterson would write, a top shelf John Grisham, yeah? Just good old fashioned narrative engine with all the bells and whistles dingling and dangling.

But all of the above means I would have enjoyed the movie. It’s totally solid, enjoyable, dare I say safe. But I truly loved this flick, and why?

GONE GIRL is film noir and I barely even realised it at first. I mean, it’s clear we have a femme in the house, this wife is koo-koo-kachoo, she’s the problem, she’s nuts, and yet whip smart and razor sharp. She concocts a slick plan but it’s how she reacts and rolls with it all as it unfolds that captivated me.

Once the wife calls up Barney (I’m butchering names, you all know who I mean), things take this crazy turn. We’ve gone from conniving wife scorned to cold blooded killer very quickly. Or so it seems for us. We only just discovered her ways, but she’s actually been like this for years. So then it should make more sense and be in character.

But then I started wondering why the flick levelled up like that, the box cutter is particularly gratuitous, but it’s that scene that sells it all for me. The third act of any film noir sees the plan go awry and people scramble to get back on track. Usually, violence ensues. Taking the flick as some sort of CSI: Affleck meant the box cutter was out of place, but as a film noir, man, that’s just femmes being femmes, right? She should be capable of anything before the light ends.

By the final moments, I’m seeing that real noir ending coming, the sinker tied to our lead, him slowly disappearing down and down. There is nothing he can do. It’s perfect, and so hidden. As I walked out I had to slow clap Fincher in my head for using two crime genres to hide each other and leave me thoroughly impressed.

Though, I thought that final reel, all the aftermath, would have worked much better interspersed in the credits and dropped thus more obliquely, and experimentally. But I guess Fincher isn’t the hungry young gun he once was.

Now, GONE GIRL suddenly stands next to BODY HEAT and THE LAST SEDUCTION as one of my favourite modern noirs. I did not see that coming, and a noir ambush is always welcome in my media.

 

HEADSPACE #5 on ComiXology

Chart a course for Carpenter Cove and set four colour phasers for insanity.

headspace05_cvr
HEADSPACE #5 is now available on ComiXology for 99c
This issue leads us on a tour of Max’s mind, messed up locale that it is, and then drops us into two interesting places by issue’s end, both in the Cove with Shane, and IRL with Max.
Sebastian Piriz and Marissa Louise finally close the first leg of Max’s journey IRL and we see who he truly is, and what his next step will be.
Then Eric Zawadzki delivers two very different and yet both astoundingly awesome splash pages to better let us understand where Shane is, and why it is indeed rocky terrain – and you can see both splashes in the preview Eric threw up on his site.
It’s this issue that slows everything down, for a breath, and then #6 begins the amped up descent into madness.
I’ll hopefully have some annotations up soon for this issue, I’m a little swamped with a script for another thing, so it might be late.
Otherwise, the usual rules apply, tweet it out, talk to your uncle on a long distance telephone call, gift a copy to your peeps, indie books live and die on the vine due to word of mouth.
If you’re scoping the book out, or just discussing its merits anywhere in the world, we thank you for your time.

Loathe, Need, Ignore, Rinse, Repeat

I see a weird cycle permeate indie comics – here goes :)

——-

People submit their newest comic to ComiXology Submit, their hearts aflutter with excitement.

People lament how long the approval process takes.

People shit on ComiXology for taking so long.

People get excited that their book is approved.

People gleefully share the link to their book on ComiXology.

People lament the lack of sales (against their lofty expectations).

People shit on ComiXology for offering this free global publishing option.

People submit their next comic to ComiXology Submit.

Rinse.

Repeat.

——-

I cannot understand what people are expecting will happen. I heard of one person who thought it would/might be possible to make a full time living from Submit Dollahs. Some people carry on because ComiXology did nothing to promote their title.

I cannot stress this enough — ComiXology gives up this privilege for free. They accept your comic, they change it into Guided View, and they put it out globally on the same front page as all the other titans of the publishing world, and they do it FOR FREE*.

I remember when this was announced, so I remember when it wasn’t an option. Trust me, this is good for indie books/creators. This is global outreach. Will you make much coin? Nope. *Will ComiXology take a big wet bite out of what you do earn? Yep. Should they? Absolutely. See above what they do/offer. They aren’t a charity, they need to have some reason to put someone in front of the screen to change your file to Guided View.

I’m not saying this is the future of indie books and we should all put down payments on yachts with quality names like “Wave Goodbye” or “Yacht Kippur” – this is just another avenue, but in the indie game, you need as many avenues as you can find. And you need to be grateful for every single one. And then you also need to pimp it out. Get the word out, send people there. It’s a huge international market, with convenience of readability.

And as for people complaining about their PDFs being knocked back. Yeah, that’s not ComiXology’s fault. Fix your PDFs.

All I ever want to hear from indie creators are two words for this service – thank. you.

Linkatron 3am

Iced coffee fuelled dreams and ending books while starting new ones.
Wild times to be alive.
‘Let her go!” – the action flick trope you didn’t even know you’d seen/heard a million times across all the flicks – man, once you start looking, you see really crummy things everywhere – I wanna write a female hero telling a villain to “Let him go!” one of these days – http://www.fastcocreate.com/3036966/this-supercut-of-action-dudes-saying-let-her-go-to-villains-is-a-reminder-of-how-action-movi
Be seeing you. – a collection of all the fond farewells in THE PRISONER – this is my jam -

A fascinating look into the mythos of the Joker over at SequArt – I dig the Joker, but he’s a character I don’t want to see stripped down and used in the works of others – there really is only one – http://sequart.org/magazine/52185/theorizing-about-the-joker-in-all-seriousness/

Kelly Thompson is a good friend, and a great writer – she’s someone I admire because she gets her ass in the seat – read this short interview with her about NaNoWriMo, Kickstarter, and just doing the doing of writing – http://www.popsugar.com/love/Tips-National-Novel-Writing-Month-36152230

A list of the 13 best flicks about newspapers – I will always love newspaper movies – I was super excited to write DEER EDITOR because it’s a newspaper story :) – this link starts you at my favourite on, THE PAPER is quite simply the best – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturepicturegalleries/10017366/10-great-films-about-newspapers.html?frame=2546510

Storytelling/script advice from Joss Whedon – these 5 points are good stuff, hearty and true – http://moviepilot.com/posts/2014/11/21/the-avengers-director-tells-you-the-5-things-your-script-has-to-have-2444768?lt_source=external,manual

Download yourself some Oscan nommed screenplays – FOR FREE – I love this time of year – having a sneaky script on the iPad is always a good idea, somethingt o get lost in, it’s easy to read, you already watched the flick – so you’re just picking process apart, looking at the pacing and how it works with words – I wish all Eisner nommed comics did this :) – http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2014/11/update-award-season-screenplay-downloads-new-locke.html

Shared universes – for me, they’re problematic in the same way when someone creates a story and instantly wants to turn it into shirts and mugs and merch and swag – you gotta just tell a more than decent story first, let the rest come later – and you can see something like IRON MAN was set up to be just bloody good, the rest flowed out naturally after the initial success – just something to consider – http://toybox.io9.com/the-one-big-problem-of-the-shared-universe-boom-1662756721

An Ant-Man novel – it doesn’t even make sense that I’m this excited for such a prospect – it just feels so right – http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=57165

These Lando Calrissian novel covers are boss – ’nuff said – http://space1970.blogspot.com.au/2014/11/the-adventures-of-lando-calrissian.html

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as a modern trailer is worthy because it got me to watch the old trailer again – I love old trailers – my youth was completely misspent with old trailers – I want to do an old VHS trailer for one of my comics one day – http://www.dailydot.com/geek/empire-strikes-back-modern-trailer/

I recently asked myself whether I’d like to write for tv or film, or which one I’d want my comic work adapted into, and strangely enough I found myself answering both questions with tv – this is because tv is episodic, much like comics, and can be parcelled into great little standalone morsels that also add up to a greater whole, like comics – I love both but tv is doing something right now much closer to my heart and my creative brain – this dicsussion coming out of a festival in Austin is good grist for the mill – http://www.spectator.co.uk/arts/arts-feature/9382612/how-hollywood-is-killing-the-art-of-screenwriting/

Mack Chater just pointed me towards this fantastic youtube mix of themes from John Carpenter flicks – enjoy while writing -

I can remember a few spinner racks from my youth, I always loved them – but my most common childhood comic memories were of riding my bike from suburb to suburb scouring for new comics at the newsagents – these were my saturday mornings with my brother, we’d pack food, get on the bikes, and just spend like 4 hours riding the neighbourhood looking in different newsagencies because each one had different stock at different times, it was crazy – I miss those days – http://panels.net/my-not-so-secret-history-with-the-comics-spinner-rack/

NaNoWriMo is always something I’ll dig – though I’ll most likely never do it – but what Wendig writes here is so true, do not rush these words out the door – November is the month for writing – take Dec through Jun to proof and edit and get feedback on those words before you slip them into someone’s back pocket and hope they care – http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/12/01/nanowrimo-doesnt-matter/

Joe Dante is often a spirit guide on my stories – The ‘burbs remains a staunch favourite – this is a quality chat about his work on The Twilight Zone (film and tv) as well as Amazing Stories – http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/12/03/joe-dante-reflects-on-his-trips-to-the-twilight-zone/

Is HOME ALONE a prequel to the SAW flicks? – I’m voting: absolutely – some might say internet conspiracy, I just call this good investigative journalism – http://grantland.com/hollywood-prospectus/did-kevin-from-home-alone-grow-up-to-be-jigsaw-a-deadly-serious-investigation/

Stand Against Hot Garbage Media

I kinda just wish more megacorps would take a stand against shitty media not because of any other reason than because they think it’s hot garbage.

The Kardashians are renowned oxygen thieves, so don’t stock them for that reason alone. Jersey Shore is gutter trash, leave it off the palettes. It’s not a moral high ground so much as it is we vote with our wallets. If we contribute to the circle of life that is money funding these machines then that’s what we’ll keep getting. We constantly remind consumers to put their money where their mouth is without expecting the higher ups to make any fine decisions at all.

If I owned a store, I’d happily take a dent in my quarterly just to take a stand and say I, personally, would not be participating in the proliferation in anything GTA V related. You wanna get it elsewhere, knock yourself out – literally – but I’d be stepping out of that hamster wheel.

These are my extended thoughts on the subject.

And I understand I grew up on video nasties and am certain people wanted them shitcanned for much of the 80s and if certain stores wanted to draw their line in the sand and not stock Troma flicks, that’d be fine, because others would allow a teen Ryan to hustle in and get himself some Toxie. Every store should be allowed that personal touch of making a choice to stock whatever the hell they please. I wish more would use some discretion rather than slowly adding to societal corrosion through the ‘hands up shrug’ excuse of “Money, y’all!”

What Level Are You On?

I often think – can I even write a Casanova level work? Do I have that level of talent to produce something only, statistically speaking, like 5% of all creators manage to do (5%, jeez, probably only like 2%)

Honestly, I doubt I do.

How many of ‘those’ books are ever made? They aren’t the benchmark, they are the stars.

But I stand by HEADSPACE as something at the very top of the rung below those works (it’s def on the ladder), and DEER EDITOR is loitering nearby. Neither are instant classics that’ll span millennia but they are not half bad. I think my next mini could/should get close. And who knows, maybe down the track I’ll level up, or something will just click. If you work long enough, and steep in enough process chatter, you are bound to value add.

I often consider when people write those beyond phantasmagorical works in their career. Y, Scalped, Casanova, Fear Agent, they all come early in a career. But they don’t come first. You gotta get out your Rex Mantooths, Ripclaws, terrible BKV Marvel work, that Captain Scrotum or whatever Remender made first, and then level up later.

Maybe I’m in that phase right now. And if I am, I gotta be happy with it, and I gotta work daily to inch upwards, ever upwards. And if I never crack the 2%, I think I’d still be happy to be creating work I’m proud of, work I enjoy, and work I stand by. If you can’t do that, man, this game’ll crush you for sure.

I Make You A Mixtape at Eat.Geek.Play

Over at Eat.Geek.Play they asked me to make them a mixtape.

The RKL Mixjams Vol. 2

I tried to slap together a variety of things, the sorts of things that inspire me and fuel my process. A peek into what’s on as I work, but also what’s been on before that’s shaped my brain. Because when I work, I have playlists for tone and projects and I use them like prescription. Music has always been a great mental trigger for me. That’s why music also attaches to memories so well for me. Certain songs/albums/bands really define periods of my life, friendships, and relationships. I like having that ability to delve into an album and have my heart transported somewhere else for 45 minutes. It can really help the writing sometimes.

Rereading the post, I realise how real I get in a few entries. It’s nice to write about real stuff. We should always be honest.

Enjoy the tunes, peeps.

What To Do Next

There’s always that moment where you stop and wonder to yourself, “Huh, what’s next?”
You’ve just wrapped a script and it’s off to the editor/artist brainhive, or your pitch is off to the publisher and you have to wait for a greenlight, and you know there’s nothing ‘next’ that needs your immediate glance.
So, what’re you going to work on? What’re you going to dream up?
I mean, there’s always revisions to do, snark to drop on twitter, fractions of something in your future in ideas and lines and fun, there is always ‘something’ to do but some days you gotta start prepping the materials for the next gig.
There’s lots of ways to break new ideas into your headspace but here’s something to consider.
Widen your scope. Stretch yourself. Be bold.
You just did a crime book, try a romance book. You’re waiting for art on that sci fi horror book, try some slice of life on the side.
I got thinking about this idea when I was considering the chronology of some of my favourite creative minds. Let’s have a look at the progression of genius. Because you don’t need to limit yourself, and maybe you don’t know how well you’re going to tell that steampunk bromance.

JOEL and ETHAN COEN

I love the Coen Brothers. So many of their films sit high atop my must see lists and I find it inspirational to look over their career path and see how insanely headstrong they quite clearly are. Look at the fact they never pander, they don’t make Oscar Bait – though I’m sure it seems that way these days but cast back to a time where they were the kooky uncles of quality cult cinema.

Look at how they would conquer a genre and then move onto another genre straight after it. It never felt like the Coen Brothers were colouring by numbers, they were telling stories they absolutely had to tell. Genre be damned. Audience demand be damned. Never let it be said they phoned it in, these guys delve right into their narratives like it’s Scrooge McDuck’s money bin.

The Coen Brothers started with a simple bang, a crime story. BLOOD SIMPLE put them on the map with this visceral noir punch. Brutality, death, terrible people. This was a huge stake to drive into the ground as a debut.

So, how did they follow it up? With a slapstick gonzo trip about babies, and a mythical bikie bounty hunter, and how far we’ll go for true love. While RAISING ARIZONA is centred around a crime, it is miles away from BLOOD SIMPLE.

It’s such an incredibly bold move to just go from this black crime flick to something that’s bright and innovative and zany. Consider this, Quentin Tarantino debuted with RESERVOIR DOGS, a darkly comedic straight crime flick. How did he follow this up? He made the darkly comedic straight crime flick PULP FICTION.

It’s natural to want to replicate success, and feed the beast, but sometimes you gotta follow your heart.

Now, the Coen Brothers followed RAISING ARIZONA with MILLER’S CROSSING which is a little closer in heart to their debut. But whereas BLOOD SIMPLE was very new wave, MILLER’S CROSSING is very much more classical. This is Dashiell Hammett opposed to Gold Medal paperback pulp – both crime, each different.

From here, we can see the common vein in Coen flicks – besides vomiting fat men – is crime. But the crime is always tinted with very different lenses, and even genres. The Coen Brothers like to study flawed people, which nearly always strays to crimes of various levels, but the way they attack these narratives changes so often in fantastic ways.

Look at BARTON FINK, there are certainly crimes committed but it isn’t a crime flick. This is a deconstruction of a creative mind breaking in its own heartbreaking way. Then they roll into THE HUDSUCKER PROXY – a flick whose title alone tells you these guys just don’t care – and the farcical approach to this flick is genius but almost defies definition.

It would take over a decade before the Coen Brothers would tell another story close in tone and theme to BLOOD SIMPLE as they allowed people to end up in woodchippers, and wives to be kidnapped. And with FARGO they finally cracked the code and were allowed into the winner’s circle. They became touted as something we’d known they’d been for years – genius.

They dial it back with THE BIG LEBOWSKI – the sort of tonal fall from grace that saw them once more shunned at the Oscars, despite making the flick that would now have the deepest and most avid fanbase. You’d think once the brothers got into the Oscar Auditorium they’d scramble to stay there? Nope. And not for some time.

O, BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU? is kind of genre insanity in that it’s a loose adaptation of a classic text via the film tropes of the 20s. It’s Clooney looking weird and acting weirder. It’s so well put together and yet those who came for/from FARGO or even THE BIG LEBOWSKI were going to have no idea what would hit them. A film with layers, that’s aged well, but not the sort of surefire follow up to anything. Because what the Coens want to do is explore genres, which they then show with their next two outings.

THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE is straight up James M Cain (you can see them slowly go through all their favourite crime authors in good time) and in doing so it’s staying so close to the original tone of those flicks from the 50s that you know it turned some people away, but no doubt lured in the purists, who they have to have shunned by that final scene. It’s like they didn’t want anyone in particular to be the core for this flick, and yet the people they’d get, the few, would be there for life.

And as for INTOLERABLE CRUELTY, well now we can just see they want to play in genres that are about as close to box office poison as you can get without trying to replicate the magic of a GREASE2/TEEN WITCH double bill.

I guess we can all forget THE LADYKILLERS – which is a shame because a Coen/Hanks jam should’ve been better, but I guess all this navel gazing genre crushing fun leads us to…

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN – a film so far removed from the past five outings – count ‘em, FIVE – that it’s like they were putting that cattle gun to the past decade and wiping it out. And it worked. Everyone forgot THE CAREERKILLERS and the golden siblings were back. This is nowhere near their best flick, and it certainly didn’t deserve to beat THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but it’s straddling that line of tight storytelling, brutal Coenesque world views, and commercial appeal without asking for it that this was the revival they needed/deserved. FARGO worked, so did this, the data shows the formula, and so then they instead stay true to heart and make…

BURN AFTER READING – because apparently every BLOOD SIMPLE needs a RAISING ARIZONA, in the same way THE BIG LEBOWSKI clearly cleanses the palette after FARGO. They go deep and dark, and then they become bioluminescent. It’s a wonderful skill, but I get their agent – trying to skim from profits and not street cred – hates it. This flick is another genre mess. Crime, yes, but totally wacky and weird and Malkoviched out.

The brothers sink really deep again for A SERIOUS MAN, a flick more towards BARTON FINK in that it defies genre or audience expectation or dollar drive. And you could never foresee this flick leading them towards TRUE GRIT, a Western, a remake of a classic, an adaptation of a classic. Or by now, maybe we should see that coming. Maybe we should know when we are in the weird calm before the bombastic storm. Because this is what the brothers do, they defy you to guess their next step. I guarantee no one saw INSIDE LLEWELYN DAVIS coming.

And true, they haven’t done horror, or war, or every genre, but you can see each project stretches them in new ways. That’s clearly a good thing when you look at the quality they produce, and that there’s no burn out on what they do. You can barely compare flicks because they’re all so different.

Whereas if you look at the godfather of ganster crime flicks, I sometimes struggle to compare because they’re all playing strings on the same harp. But let’s try, just quickly, to look at the diversity of:

MARTIN SCORSESE

You’d think Scorsese’s flicks would all be the same, and so many of them are. After some rough and tumble early indie credits, Scorsese lands on the scene with MEAN STREETS, a very street level view of crime on the streets of New York. And while he follows up with the dramatic romance of ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE, he’s back into the NY filth with TAXI DRIVER. He’s tried and been shown that his dark NY crime flicks are going to work, and going to work exceptionally well. So how does he treat the news of having a guaranteed successful genre on his hands?

NEW YORK, NEW YORK might reference his useful location but it doesn’t hold the same flavour at all, even with the screen stand in of Robert De Niro yet again taking the lead. You could call this flick a mistep and not many would argue. From perfect crime to some music/romance/slice of life hybrid, the flick just didn’t register as the usual Scorsese goods and so it flopped. From there, we get nearly the whole decade of the 80s with Scorsese hiding inside the genre that works.

Sorta.

Scorsese packs a lot of crime into the 80s, but it’s skewed through different genres. RAGING BULL is certainly a step removed from the mean streets, a boxing flick with black heart, and it’s a raging success on all levels. THE KING OF COMEDY defies expectations and reflections, a genre Frankenstein’s monster that’s ultimately a failure but stands proud because it shows Scorsese was happy to play the game, but on his terms. He’d do dark people – none of this saxophone playing anymore – but he’d still be trying out new irons on the green to see how to get the ball to move.

AFTER HOURS is the black mirror version of NEW YORK, NEW YORK, and while again a flop, it’s certainly worth its place in the back catalogue. It just also marks the end of the slide for Scorsese, as he accepts a sequel, THE COLOR OF MONEY, and while it’s good enough to land him his next flick – the very personal THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, about perhaps man’s greatest crime – it all swirls inevitably towards the next flick that will define Scorsese’s name for an entire generation.

GOODFELLAS.

This flick is the obvious next step from MEAN STREETS –> TAXI DRIVER, and yet Scorsese took a decade and a half to get there. Those many years were spent looking at romance, and sporting flick as introspective downfall, to the Greatest Story Ever Told. Scorsese didn’t rest on his laurels, he didn’t go back in for the easy beat, he worked his ass off to do things that mattered to him. Maybe this is why he came back stronger and defined the genre with GOODFELLAS?

CAPE FEAR follows, then we dovetail into THE AGE OF INNOCENCE, before hitting GOODFELLAS-lite in CASINO. Scorsese knows how to game the system and he delivers one for them so he can do one for him. KUNDUN is his exploration, BRINGING IN THE DEAD, and to some lesser extent GANGS OF NEW YORK is what we expect but it’s not a carbon copy. He’s pushing niches into the crime genre he now owns. THE AVIATOR is for him, then he gives them THE DEPARTED and by this stage he’s doing the same genre but in a totally different way. It’s not the 70s anymore and this flick is the clear signifier of his growth.

SHUTTER ISLAND is such a fun pulp paperback, dropping down to HUGO which is a beast unto itself, and WOLF OF WALL STREET is something new in a myriad of ways – tone being a huge slice of it.

I know I think Scorsese just did crime flicks, with a few personal puff pieces between, but upon inspection you soon see a Coen level of differentiation.

And these are just two examples. You can look at so many creatives and see them stretch themselves constantly.

BKV did weird sci fi/travel/growth story, while doing political cape book. A masterful slice of life anthropomorphism allegory on war (PRIDE OF BAGHDAD), or the slice of life book about comic creators and what it is to create (THE ESCAPISTS). Now he’s doing romance as sci fi and dystopia sci fi as a PI commentary on social media on the side. You can see his throughline, sci fi, but it’s always something new, always pushing himself.

RICK REMENDER is currently doing a hard sci fi book, a weird school of assassins book that’s navel gazing into his teen years (and is absolutely brilliant), an underwater sci fi journey tale, and an upcoming weird looking sci fi book. This is all on the side of a mammoth Marvel event. Again, see the throughline, but see how it’s constantly different. BLACK SCIENCE might be a true sister title to FEAR AGENT but DEADLY CLASS is like nothing else.

MATT FRACTION is writing SEX CRIMINALS, to defy genre because it sounded like some warped sci fi time stopping tale but is really one of the sweetest relationship breakdown stories going. He’s also writing some crime homage to the early days of television, and a Marvel book that’s really just this lazy PI tale, and he has upcoming Odyssey meets sci fi book coming on. And all this atop a history of a talking gorilla, the greatest superspy fu comic ever, and a variety of Marvel books from wacky to straight up cape style. He’s constantly expanding his horizons, and is always better when he is.

The exception that proves the rule, for me, is ED BRUBAKER. He’s writing crime fiction, always crime fiction. He has a dash of spy in one of them now, and in the past injected capes into the mess, but otherwise, Brubaker, mostly with Sean Phillips, just rocks the mic for crime and rightfully so because he’s become a master of it.

So while looking at all this, I consider myself. What’s next?
I’ve just done this sci fi/thriller mash up, as well as an anthropomorphic/journalism/crime tale. I’ve tackled fatherhood, as well as a sci fi/Australian political/thriller mash up. I did boxing noir for my Vertigo short. So what’s next?

A PKD-sci fi/thriller about depression

An all-female Viking ghost story

An intergalactic espionage sci fi

An all ages sci fi romp

A hard sci fi journey periodical

A straight up lady kung fu bonanza

I hope an Australian warped historical thriller

And hopefully more anthropomorphic/journalism/crime, too

Maybe eventually that beach noir surf crime tale…

There’s other stuff, but let’s not prognosticate beyond our abilities.

My point is – I have a throughline, but I’m constantly poking what I can get away with. All ages, hardcore fight fu, devastating ghost tales, depression. I have a lot of sci fi, but it’s nearly always a different level of it. I’m also interested in looking into different emotions, themes. I’m not necessarily doing it perfect, the Coen Brothers are the true masters of diversification, but I know I want to knock about a bit, try lots of everything before I, hopefully, settle into mastering one or two of them very well. I’m keen to continue to ape that PKD style I dig of tone and a warped reality but I’m also excited to see what else I might do well. I have yet to do war, or cape, though I have a prison take in the works, and I’d love to try my hand at a western of sorts. All in good time, just gotta make sure I don’t get bogged down spinning the same wheels I am now.

Lord knows I’ve yet to get deep into my Cronenberg romance book. Yet.

tl;dr version – as a creator, are you trying brand new genres, or mash ups, or takes on genres, or are you doing the same old formula every time? Expand your horizons, most of your heroes do.

5Q Process

“Keep asking questions until the pattern becomes clear.”

–PAX AMERICANA, Frank Quitely + Grant Morrison

This is how you break story. I constantly scribble questions to myself in my notebooks to help me work out character motivations, structural problems, and overall ideas of what should happen next in a story – or what has to happen before to allow that next thing to happen.

Don’t just imagine what can happen, ask yourself why something should happen. Ask what someone would feel in a situation. This will bring truth to the page. At certain points, ask yourself ‘Why?’ five times and see where you answers lead you. It’s fun.
Also, PAX AMERICANA is pretty damn amazing. Process and craft lessons all night long as you reread the goodness.
Have a great weekend of creating on the page, in your mind, and whatever you want. I’m off to break this story down for the eyes of an editor. Like preparing some zany sushi meal for a shark, I feel I gotta lay it out perfect, make it all pretty, but all they want is something that makes them voraciously want to gorge.

I hope we meet in the middle.

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