Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

The Walking Reread Vol. 2

In which I tackle the second volume, where the scope of the story really opens up and the interpersonal drama dials it up to 11. My thoughts are usually scattershot, jotted down as I write, they don’t pretend to be fleshed out essays, or necessarily all that insightful, it’s just the stuff I saw and thought about as I worked through this volume, ymmv.

I’m not intending this to be a reread with a feminist slant, but the more you know in this life and the more you notice, I guess. This volume opens up with the history of Lori cheating on Rick. She’s not painted as horrible, so I guess there’s that. It’s a wild situation to survive a zombie apocalypse, so there’s some context to it all. But you can see the concept of “betrayal” is at the heart of Lori’s character, and I think a wife/mother just trying to hold things together might have more to her than just cheater and fun buster.

Then Dale tells Rick the group could use a new strong man to look up to in the role of leader/protector, “especially the women.” It’s a throwaway quote that doesn’t age well. Not very well at all.

Tyreese turns up and in his first issue gets more characterisation than any of the other women did in 6 issues, *and* we get the corker that his back story contains his emotional turmoil over his daughter nearly being raped by another survivor. None of these things so far are Red Flags enough to stop the book or the reread, but they’re things I know I wouldn’t write now. I’m not here to harpoon Kirkman, but rather to spotlight this now to see if it improves. I know Andrea gets a much more prominent role moving forward, but I’ll have to track how Lori goes because I can’t remember from memory.

The first issue here ends with her revealing she’s pregnant, which is a shame for her [given the state of medical care available], but fantastic for the zombie/drama element of this comic.

Charlie Adlard comes in on this volume and he’s instantly awesome. There are shades of Phil Hester to his work sometimes, but otherwise he’s setting up the look of the characters in his own style.

The discovery of the Wiltshire Estate is a good narrative progression. Zombie stories are often categorised by the location they take, Romero’s trilogy making that firm in my mind, and the fact if I got stuck in the zombie apocalypse [or wrote a story in one] then the location would be the first puzzle piece to secure. There’s even part of me that appreciates how inept the group is at doing their due diligence – Rick opens a door straight into 2 zombies, they miss the snow covered sign, but I can’t help feeling like Donna standing there and letting one get the drop on her so it can bite her eyeball is a bit lazy.

Donna gets complacent and finally happy so of course she doesn’t notice a zombie until it’s biting her in the eyeball. Feels a little convenient on the writing side of things, and makes me want to keep a kill chart to see how stupid people are, and what the gender mix of deaths is. But I won’t, because this reread just isn’t that organised, sorry.

The estate goes belly up as quickly as it appears, but then we get an invite to the farm. Now, a farm is a fine place to hole up through the whole mess of the zombie days. This means the cast explodes by over a half dozen people, and that kind of ensemble is wild, and yet it fills out the wallpaper of this group nicely. Kirkman is clearly setting up characters for A-B-C plots. I wouldn’t be shocked if the Levitz Paradigm worked well over how things shuffle and organise through all of this story. Just ongoing rolling thunder.

Plus introducing new characters means having more fodder available to kill when the stakes need to go up and you don’t want to lose 3 of the primary characters. You get someone else who’s been given maybe 1-2 scenes of quality exposition/interaction and then you kill them with the feeling of it being ongoing high tension, though I’ll give credit to Kirkman that he does indeed kill off a lot of big name characters, which I always did appreciate.

Ooh, Allan drops the C-bomb, and I forgot about that. It sells his emotional state in that moment, he’s just lost his wife, but it still jars. It’s a real line in the sand between course language and absolutely NSFW.

By this stage, I really see how the zombie attacks are few and far between, and they’re usually there to offer a new interpersonal dynamic for certain characters. There’s also the danger and death aspect, especially as Kirkman always says no one is safe, so you never know who’s going to die, which does make each zombie skirmish feel more tense.

The growing relationship between Carl and Sophie is an interest mix; she’s forward, he’s gross and weird about it. I can’t remember where they’re building this up to, so I’m interested to go along with it.

The Glenn and Maggie relationship starts on a strange page – basically, Maggie says she’s DTF with Glenn, and it’s some solid female agency of sexuality and not presented in a shameful way because the rest of the times we see the two of them, usually sneaking around in the B plot on any page, it genuinely seems fun and happy. These two crazy kids get to focus on something else for a minute and that’s a very cool thing to find in this world. The proclamations of love towards the end of the volume don’t quite ring as true, but any reasoning based on lust and realistic visions of the future certainly add up.

Also, remembering what I know, this relationship certainly gets time to fly in the future, and it’s really strong at times, so seeing its simple booty call origins is pretty much just fun.

The other young love of Tyreese’s daughter and her boyfriend, both names escape me and that says a lot about their characters and how they are portrayed, is the opposite end of the scale. It’s subtle, but that sinister angle shows through here, but that might also be me projecting because I know what’s coming [or, at least, I’m pretty sure I remember it clearly].

What a thought that Kirkman sold this book as a zombie apocalypse masquerading as an alien invasion story and really it’s just a Z-apoc story excuse to get down with some O.C. relationships in middle America. And this is no complaint from me. But this volume makes it clear it’s all about pairing people off so they can feel bad when something happens to the other, or there is other drama. Which is classic human behaviour, we invest because of emotion, and we assign emotion best to other people, and Kirkman weaves it all together pretty well here.

Ah, mention of the barn. Woof, the show botched this one, but let’s focus on the comic. The mention here looks like it comes on the end of an issue, and if so that’s a great needle drop. The concept of Hershell viewing the whole situation as different is fascinating, he’s got a thoughtful approach, though not one built out of sound reasoning. Him also being upset about the Thompson’s house being in the background of the gun firing range is well-meaning, but absolutely ridiculous. I love the fact Kirkman could consider that these views would pile up around the country, in different ways, and we have the space and scope to showcase them. It’s the kind of thing your leading characters in a zombie flick would never do, but this is well put in.

Once that barn is opened, Herschel realises he’s a fool for such sentimentality in the face of the end of the world. The five page sequence of the barn zombies causing havoc is manic and tense and it leaves Hershell feeling bad, and everyone else not quite knowing how to handle it. It’s a brilliant use of a zombie attack.

The final issue of the volume has couples going through morning sickness, and getting caught in bed, and dealing with the past. It’s all very simple, really, but effective in making us care. Then Hershell kicks the crew out and we see life on the road in the cold is a bust. It feels very bleak until we get one of the best reveals of the comic, and something that sets up the book for the coming years [I think it lasted for years]…

The Prison.

I don’t think I’ve seen a zombie flick in a prison, and it’s a great idea. There’s a feeling when it’s revealed, and I remember it from way back when, where you just quietly hold your breath and realise this is going to be interesting and fun.

I also dig that this reveal comes at the end of an issue, and the end of a volume, and the end of a hardcover which would cover 12 issues. Great planning on that from Kirkman and the team.

Overall, the first volume is the ballad of Rick and his return, and the second volume is about how all these people interact, try to move forward, and sometimes drag each other back and down. This volume is all about settling in for the long haul, the fact this isn’t a siege, it’s a long drama, as long as life itself, and still just as difficult to survive.

This post originally appeared on my Patreon – it is free to view there, but your support of a follow or a dollar is greatly appreciated!

Small Connection, Deep Connection

When you write a comic, it doesn’t feel real until it’s in the hands of some readers.

The most real of this – usually, though maybe erroneously – is when the comic is available in comic shops across the world because a publisher picked it up and distributed it. This, for me, has always been when a comic really feels like it made it, it’s the highest form of success I can describe.

But it’s a hard one to attain. There are only so many comic publishers, so many successful pitches, and even then sometimes a comic tanks. The times I’ve had comics out with a publisher, I’ve gotten 4-figure sales, but never have I crossed into 5-figure territory [except when I wrote that My Little Pony one-shot, and I hit something ludicrous like 32k copies sold, but that isn’t really *my* success to speak of, is it?]. So going with publishers is good, the numbers of readers/buyers goes up, and while that’s difficult to attain, I’ve managed it a few times.

COVID. Now there’s this word, and what it’s meant to comics. The central comic distributor closed down for a minute, comic shops felt the heat, and while things are “back on track” at present, many places are still doing their best to advocate for social distancing or staying home unless necessary and I can’t help but feel that might impact comic sales and outreach a little. I know I’m going to get my pull list sent to me by my local, Impact Comics, but some people might just be missing out and numbers might be affected, though I hope not.

On my end, I’ve been lucky to have some writing gigs that I’ve been able to continue on with through COVID, and we’ll see what they look like and yield on the other side of this mess [if there is another side to it all]. Alongside this, or maybe beneath or all around it, I’ve had the smaller scale of comic creation.

Usually, selling at comic conventions is the small scale stuff, you physically place your comic into someone’s hand, you chat with them, it’s a personal transaction. I’ve never sold 4-figures worth of a comic at a convention, but I’ve had just as much of a high from the success just by selling 50. Putting a comic up on Kickstarter might not get me 6,000 backers, but it gives me 500 people I can hold as an engaged audience through updates and extra stuff I can deliver to them. Recently, I’ve had strong sales through my online shop front at ownaindi, and that’s been a great way to send stories and pages out into the world.

When a publisher handles the sales of your book, you don’t tape a single box, you don’t shelve any of the book, so the numbers are up but it’s impersonal. Through Kickstarter, cons, or an online store, the numbers are way down but you get a name to every sale. You can see follow up when they read it, or they catch your personalised message. It’s a deeper connection, and there’s something to be said for that, even if it is much harder work.

This past week I boxed up scores of copies of SHE Vol. 1 to send around Australia, and all the while I was selling copies of SKYSCRAPER online and sending them out, too. It was a great feeling, it made me feel invigorated to make comics some more, and that’s the energy you need to go into your office late at night and peck away at these strange stories.

While I’ve always yearned for the validation and success of a big audience, COVID has shown me the bright side of a smaller audience with a deeper connection. If you’ve been a backer or a buyer in one of those more intimate settings, thank you. Each package I send out gives me the strength to keep making more. I hope to send you the next one in the mail.

Books. Forever books.

The following diatribe appeared in my weekly newsletter THE TWO FISTED HOMEOPAPE – a place wherein I collect my weekly progress update, mental health, thoughts about writing, links to cool reads or Kickstarters, and general thoughts about writing/teaching/parenting/living through 2020. Sub if you’re keen on more.
Apparently e-waste is on the rise, just junk and gadgets throw into the landfill that time forgot, and I have no idea where this shit will land us in another decade. If you ever imagine a future where Mad Max style cars are built out of five thousand little Anko gyros from K Mart, then I guess we’re well on our way.
The solution, buy less of this shit. And what you buy, use it.
Am I guilty of doing this wrong? Yep, probably, sure, almost certainly. Am I trying…every day. Having kids means you open yourself up to a tonne of fads, and bullshit, and plastic, and gyros, and it could be never ending. Those little LOL Dolls…they’ll be waiting for us all “downstairs” with pitchforks as we burn for eternity. My kids go through these fads, and I try my best to mitigate them. I’ll admit, buying those Ooshies is awesome when it’s obscure Marvel characters, but otherwise they’re just $3 junk that gets lost in the garden, I mean, the garden if you’re lucky. They’re semi-solidified petroleum junk. But I own plenty.
I’m lucky my kids love Lego, the toy that lasts forever, and we use every single week. It’s brain food, it’s awesome, and while it’s expensive, we’ve never sent any of it to landfill for nearly a decade. I can’t say the same for…pretty much every else we’ve bought our kids except for the best balance to Lego…BOOKS! Even when we’re done with books, we swap/gift ’em with other families, we donate to charity, I take them into my classroom, something. No book is ever wasted, and while that’s a lot of paper, it’s also a whole lot of literacy skills, and empathy, and imagination, and experience, and I will buy books for people until the day I die. They’re always be the perfect present because even if they aren’t wanted, burn ’em to keep warm, you can’t do that with a small reindeer that poops jelly beans [hilarious as it is].
Lego and books. Usually the latter, and this year they’ve been a massive help. I’ve read more books, a whole mess of comics, and they keep my brain sane, my heart full, and my ability to go on buoyed. I’ve noticed the same with my kids, we’ve read WOLF GIRL, and ARTEMIS FOWL, and 5 trades of USAGI YOJIMBO, with AMULET as a chaser. Copious D&D manuals have been devoured, stats memorised, characters created, stories pondered. In fact, after having finally gone back to school for 5 weeks, we are in the midst of a 2 week break, and the whole house is reading more than usual and I think it’s to help us cope with what’s going on. The world is in a weird place, the kids know it, everyone with a phone or social media account knows it all too well, and switching off from the world and into a book is a great solution [I think, don’t quote me, I’m not the counsellor in the family].
I know when I was young, after my father died, I dove so far down into books that I probably smelt like the binding most days. I read/played the FIGHTING FANTASY books so many damn times, and I devoured every Roald Dahl book i could find, and I read comics at every turn, and it helped me hide, and helped me process, and helped me grow like a branch that’s been cut, badly, but still has more to offer. So I advocate for books for mental health, and books for presents, and books for the home, and books to stop e-waste landfill.
I know, a writer pushing books, who would think it? But I’m genuinely pushing books as a person of the world, first, and a teacher, and a father, and a mate. Order online – from local booksellers, because F Amazon and their shitty practices [and they own Book Depository, so F them, too] – or from an independent creator if they have stuff online, and if you’re in a position where you can travel outside, visit a book seller, or a secondhand book store, I did the other day, or even hit up the library. On the last day of school, I walked outta there with a shopping bag of books for me and the kids because 2 weeks is a long time, and books are medicine, and…thanks for coming to my TED talk, I guess. Here’s the pic of my secondhand haul the other day as I got to sneak out for some mental health retail therapy!

FIRE POWER Vol. 1 Is A Whole Mess of F U N

I’m always keen to pick up a new Robert Kirkman comic, I think after THE WALKING DEAD he’s bought a lifetime supply of my attention.

This book looked like ‘Iron Fist Lite’ in its concept, and I’m sure it sparked initially years ago as such, but it’s really far beyond that now in execution. In fact, I love how this book is a hell of a lot of fun in how it handles this set up and then takes it elsewhere in many ways.

Samnee and Wilson are on another level with the beauty of each page, this is something you could sit with a whole second time and just soak in so many of the pages. From the establishing pages of scenery and tone, to the absolute bonkers action moments, this is a book looking to claim your eyeballs for life.

This volume is a mammoth origin story that chews through story because it’s still got more to go. You could see the volume being everything someone planned to tell, and dragging elements of it out to fill maybe 2-3 volumes and call it done, but here they clip through whole sections of it in a way to invest the reader and move them into the real guts of the issue. I went into this only knowing the one note, and was pleasantly surprised when it shows there is plenty more it wants to get around to showing us.

Really glad I picked this up, it’s a beauty, a delight to read, and something I think would be really friendly to readers new to comics and old looking for something fun to lose a weekend morning with.

The Walking Reread Vol. 1

Precis. I’m about to embark on a reread of THE WALKING DEAD.

Why? Because this comic was my return to comics. I grew up reading whatever comics my big bro had around. Then I dropped off during university years, due to money and access. I started teaching, and focused hard on the job, but then a few years in the same big bro bought me THE WALKING DEAD Vol. 1 because we’re a huge zombie family and he’d heard good things.

Hooboy, did I fall in love. I got the next 2-4 volumes online asap, devoured them all, and would even reread them as each new volume came out from then on – a practice that lasted maybe 10 volumes deep. I then held on for about 22 volumes in total, from memory, then dropped off for some stupid reason along the way.

But now I’m back because I wanna reread those 22 so I can slowly chew through the remaining volumes until I hit the finale, which is somewhere in the 30s, I think. I’m excited about this because I dug the book, I’m keen to see how it ends, but I also remember loving these opening volumes and storylines so so much. I wanna see how they hold up, and if they transport me back to those days a little, too.

As such, I’ll slowly chip away at these, time permitting, there’s no hard schedule, but I thought I could jot down some thoughts and do it just for my own process brain food to unpack the story and what I can take away from it now.

Okay, here goes…this might take a while.

Volume 1 – Days Gone Bye

I still really dig this comic. That’s a good feeling. It’s still got that comfort food feeling to it, yay.

The first issue is just Rick. Just all Rick, all the time. We meet him, follow him, centre him in the response. For such an ensemble comic, that’s an interesting way to start. We follow him out of the hospital, through some danger, and out onto the road. In fact, it’s even fairly slow and quiet. Just pages of Rick existing, walking, looking around. I feel like this is all to make us invested in Rick as our lead, and I think it does that job. I mean, I’m not “in love” with him here, but I remember as the series wore on I definitely found him fascinating [even with his flaws – hrmm, Rick Grimes has that same broken man charm that Matt Murdock does…this is something to consider moving forward]. We see him get emotional at times, he cries maybe 3 times in this trade, and I like that. A lot. There’s always been something emotional about Rick’s journey, and his mental health along the way in the future, so to see it set up here that he isn’t the hardened cop is a breath of fresh air. In fact, the hardened cop is pretty much Shane, larger, squarer jaw, and he’s fairly toxic in the way he thinks he can control Lori, but it’s really just a manifestation of his own emotional bullshit that he can’t process properly at all. But more on that later.

Sidebar: I hate that there are no covers in these trades, so I cannot tell where the issue breaks are. A small pet peeve, and I assume Kirkman loves this as just one long run/soap, but I wanna know where the damn issue breaks are. Especially if I’m trying to pin point where events happen, or how sequences play out.

Lori. Where to start? She’s gotta assume her husband’s dead, then she’s reunited with him, and the elation that must bring would be through the roof. And still, she’s assigned the role of Resident Shrew, the fun police to her police husband, exceptionally quickly. We don’t get her point of view too often, and actions reinforce Rick’s ideas, so she really comes across as almost an adversary to Rick and his path forward.

It’s interesting to then note that Kirkman had initially planned for Rick and Lori to divorce later on, something I assume she wouldn’t have come out of looking very good. She’s a silent shrew, a combatant to his ideas, AND she cheated on him. So far as quality female characters in the book go, it’s her, the other unpleasant housewife Donna, the timid Carol with little airtime, and the sisters who don’t get much to do just yet. And, to be fair, that puts them against Rick, Shane is well put together as this dark heroic figure who is broken, Glenn gets a fair amount of action, and Dale feels a little more integral to thinks than Donna or Carol. Jim, the silent mechanic is more of a background elemental plot wave, and the other husband…bearded guy, well I can’t remember his name, so I’m gonna say he’s a wash. Even 7yo Carl is an idiot and yet still saves the day, twice. There are thin guy characters, too, but there are also guy heroes, and yet the female side of the cast gets…not very much. At least, at this stage.

When Rick meets Glenn in Atlanta, Glenn treats Rick like he’s new to it all and so explains everything to him, even though as default you’d have to assume anyone you met was just another traveller in this world. It’s a few pages before he asks where Rick has been, whereupon Rick confesses his very very unique situation. A small bugbear to focus on, but it stood out to me on this read – but never on the previous dozens of reads, so ymmv.

Rick takes a horse from a barn, admittedly, where it would probably die, and he rides it into Atlanta, which works for him, and then he instantly abandons it when zombies attack and the horse gets absolutely annihilated. This is some great foreshadowing for Rick’s ability as a protector moving forward, but also in how he uses others. He brings them into the fold, they can help him, and then he leads them to their demise.

You get a lot of cool takes on Kirkman’s personal take on zombies. Their speed, their need of blunt force trauma to the head, their intellect, these are all fairly standard. The fact they spread fatal disease in their scratches and bites, and they they on even when incapacitated. That Rick wouldn’t eat a deer a zombie had been munching on. The whole “cover yourself in zombie guts and they won’t smell you so they won’t attack” schtick is interesting, though I can’t help it isn’t something that’ll become an overall “canon” outside of this book, it’s a touch goofy. There’s some “zombie world-building” done deftly throughout these 6 issues, and it leaves a lot of room for the soap that expands between all the people of the RV crew. There’s time for judgemental tut-tutting, and talk of washing powder, and it all sets up the idea this is a story about the survivors, not just survival.

Tony Moore really was a stellar start to this comic. A pity the contract/rights blew up between them, as that’ll no doubt leave a sour taste in the mouths of many. I didn’t remember Moore doing so many 9 panel grids as he does, and while his gore and zombies are great, sometimes it’s his quiet panels that truly stick with you after the book closes.

I was impressed that Moore does this thing where Shane eventually loses the detail in his eyes, he looks like the white triangles Batman has, and it coincides with Shane’s emotional state as the story progresses. But then there’s one panel towards the end where Shane really pops off and his eye becomes a perfect circle and it’s so jarring. I love Moore’s faces more than anything, usually. So much character on display.

That beef brewing between Rick and Shane is forced up out of nowhere, though, isn’t it? Dale mentions something well away from being asked, and Shane lets his shit boil over and show really damn quickly. Rereading this, I see the show did a better job with dragging it out to really twist the knife in every gut it could. Here, we go from Shane his friend, to Shane happy he’s back, to Shane brooding, to Shane going absolutely bananas at Rick constantly in about 3 issues.

But the speed with which Shane froths up works because of how quickly it’s also put to bed. Having Carl kill him is a hell of a hook for the end of a first volume. That’s a bold statement, and one I think has hooked hundreds of thousands of readers by this point. It’s a great scene, well set up for Carl to have the gun, and you know it’s great drama set up for what comes directly after it…once you buy the next volume. So as a strategic choice, not to bury the lede, it was the right thing to do.

It was such a joy to sit in the winter sun and devour this first volume. Hopefully I can carve out time soon to reconnect with the RV crew and see how they deal with the death of Shane. If anyone else wants to reread along with me, I’d love to hear your scattershot thoughts about this volume, so feel free to drop me a comment below. And if you don’t have a copy, hit up your LCS, or a local library, they’ll help you out.

Until then, good night, and good luck.

Note: this was originally posted on my Patreon, as a public post. If you wish to follow me there, or support my writing, it is greatly appreciated, though not necessary.

Self-Care with a Watermelon Sour

That beer can is for the Melon Degeneres – a watermelon sour ale, and it’s sweet and delicious.

I love a good sour. And I only ever need 1 or 2. My days of drinking for half a 24 hour cycle through dozens of standard drinks, most of which taste like goblin ass rinsed through hag hair are over. I just want to sit with a nice thing and enjoy it in that moment.

I think it’s important to identify what these things are, and then structure time and tide to have those little things now. Of course I’d love another NZ holiday, or an Artist’s Edition book of some Lark/Brubaker Daredevil, but those are the mountains we climb, between those should be the walks we dawdle through.

It’s why I like the mornings where I read for 10 minutes. It’s why I don’t drink absolute pisswater coffee made from the finest carcinogenic granules you can find. It’s why I’d prefer to support small business and get something a little more expensive, and a whole lot more delicious. It’s why I use my damn notebooks as I buy them.

I enjoy a delicious ale when I make my own pizzas. I like a coffee from a pot with my wife when we can. I buy mostly creator owned comics, and do so from my LCS and not Amazon. I try to push myself to make better desserts [tastier, and not just SHOOGARR!] – tonight will be bread and butter pudding again.

If I keep putting off the stuff I love, I don’t know if I’ll make it long enough to get them. Tell your mates you love them, have a laugh and a biscuit now, mix peanut butter with as many substances as you can – lately it’s peanut butter on cheese for me.

It’s not decadent, it’s reasonable, and it’s self-care, and it’s what gets me through sometimes. I’m aware of my scope of influence, it’s small, and I’m at the centre of it and if I neglect myself then I’ll whither on the vine, and then I won’t do anyone any good.

Find your own watermelon beer – and let me know if it’s a good drop.

Comics Curriculum Choice Board 2020 May

The idea is: click the link, see the live version of it, and all the hyperlinks will be real.
Each section of the board takes you to something I think can be a vital piece of the study arena for making comics and loving comics.
This was fun to put together – I tried to get an assortment of things: podcasts, videos, magazines, books. I wanted creators and people with different experiences and angles of expertise. I also wanted a little corner to shill my own business, because something has t pay the bills around here.
It’s nothing overly special, but if it exposes you to something cool, then I’ll be happy I did it.
I have no idea when/if I’ll make another one, but it was fun to tinker with, it let me think about curriculum materials I dig, and now I’ll try to keep my eyes peeled for more. I certainly only want to put in the things that really pushed my brain forward on thinking about the world’s finest medium.
If you want to make your own, click here for the Google Drawing and you can save it as your own into your Google Drive!
I originally posted this to my Patreon – if you want to support me making more strange little comic study devices, please click here and support me with a follow, or anything else you can afford.

Sometimes, You’ve Just Gotta Make Comics

A new comic is out, through Patreon, from Jacob Phillips and Chris Condon, titled BRUTAL DARK, and it’s pretty awesome!

You should definitely check out BRUTAL DARK and pledge $1 a month for a copy of each new mini-issue as they’re released.


What I appreciate most about this comic is how much it feels like the kind of thing where you just have to make it.

The creators already both have a book together coming out from Image Comics soon [once the world gets back online after it’s 2020 reboot]. They’ve gotten a very sweet level up, assisted by the fact Jacob Phillips is the son of Sean Phillips, but honestly slam dunked by the fact Jacob Phillips is a phenomenal artist. He might’ve got more eyes, but he’s earned their attention through talent and hard work.

With a grand horizon before them, albeit delayed, they still just have to make comics. So they’re putting this thing out through Patreon, for $1 a month, and they are short 8 page issues with a gorgeous cover and some back matter. I’m in – the issue is great, reall gorgeous art, really moody colours, and the framing/pacing is so beautifully done throughout. The pages flow very nicely.

Beyond the enjoyment of the comic, I love that idea that you’ve just gotta create, and then you scale it appropriately. There’s a great New York Times cartoon showing someone in a boat, maybe just one oar, they’ve survived a huge boat sinking, there might be a storm a-brewing, and the caption says “Now’s the time to finish that novel you always wanted to write.”

And I agree with the sentiment. These are wild times, there’s no expectation that we step up, improve our lives, when really we’re just trying to survive and continue our lives in whatever form they might crawl forward in.

But, I know some people just gotta do something to get through all this time. They want a distraction, they want to feel their hands move, they gotta swim or they’ll drown. And I think that’s where this stuff comes in. Keep yourself busy with some little stuff, something you can peck away at, something that makes you happy.

I don’t personally think drawing 8 pages a month is something little, but I can’t draw any pages at all, so that makes sense. But I’ve been setting small challenges. 1-2 pages of script a night. Chipping away at short form 300 word flash fic pieces for the Patreon. Getting 10 minutes for the guitar so I can master that Spider-Man cartoon theme song. If I cfould draw, man, I’d absolutely be working on little things – a book of themed sketches [like that Spider-Ham zine I picked up one time] or just weird one page comics].

Being realistic, I didn’t think Covid-19 isolation was going to suddenly yield a third draft on my novel. I’m not going to build a chicken shed. In fact, the first week of isolation, my mind was roadkill. It was really hard to concentrate, probably a mix of, well, everything, and my need to adapt to teaching online and all of the stress and anxiety that came with that.

I got little done in that first week. I tried not to beat myself up about it. Then things slowly got back on track, but slowly. Consistently writing 1 page of script a day is better than asking for 7 pages, only getting 3, but hating that i didn’t get 7 so the next night I get 0, and the spiral pulls me down.

Phillips and Condon are making this comic, it fills their void. I’m doing my best, too.

I have no doubt you’re doing whatever it is you need, and I’d love to know what that is. What are you creating during this time that brings you joy, maybe some piece, and leaves you with something productive you’ve done?

ONWARDS – Initial Thoughts and Pixar Downloads

I gotta tell you, I dig Pixar on most every level.
I just recently watched ONWARD – which I *loved* – and so I stumbled across a site linking to the dowload opportunities for most of the Pixar stable of flicks – there are some ommissions, and there’s no ONWARD yet, but these are all shared online, usually for awards season, and are for *educational purposes only* so I think there would be some people here who would dig on them.
May the link provide you with joy, insight, laughter, and tears – oh so many Pixar fuelled tears.
Oh, and here’s a mild ONWARD review I posted to my newsletter:
ONWARD – mild spoilers after the first two paragraphs
Hooboy, this flick was 100% for me. I’m not even in a place to analyse it from a storytelling/craft perspective, I loved it too much to be able to do that. I went into this thing ready to love it, ready to cry, and ready to enjoy myself.
I did all 3 things, but I didn’t realise just how much these things would happen. The flick is basically “What if people in the D&D world discovered electricity and realised it’s hella simpler than magic so they stopped being mystical and just morphed into lazy modern society, but with weird creatures?” and that set up is so simple and genius. I genuinely believe if we had magic on Earth, and it was difficult, then people wouldn’t commit to it in great numbers.
So right from the intro, I was in. But then we get the lead character/s – this is Barley’s flick as much as it is Ian’s – and they sell me on the throughline of someone missing their father who died when they were young, and I was more of a mess than the opening of UP [and not comparing/stating a quality difference, just saying my personal emotional buy in was 100%].
From there we get laughs, we get some awesome world moments, and we get the usual Pixar callbacks I’ve come to expect. I was so happy to live in this world and explore it with them, but in the end it’s the brotherly relationship that completely reeled me in. They nail the dichotomy of the two, the ways they relate, the ways they don’t. The fact neither starts as a seemingly aspirational character, and both need to grow enough to love each other and then transition to loving themselves is nice. Although, with thought, Barley seems to love himself and his brother pretty unconditionally frmo the start, he’s very inspirational in that regard.
I won’t dive into deep spoilers, but I will say if you dig Pixar flicks, D&D, and/or emotionally resonant storytelling – ONWARD is most definitely going to be up your alley. I want to story clock this thing really badly – which means I’ll make any excuse to rewatch it again very soon.

Case A –> Case B –> Case C –> Etc.

Got CAVERNS OF THE SNOW WITCH down from the shelf for a play with the kids recently, and it’s a ripper of a book, but it also gave me a solid little lesson.
It’s a small storytelling lesson, but it’s something I enjoyed being reminded of: Start your story/quest/adventure/case/crime small. Here, you go out to hunt a yeti. From there you avenge a fur trapper and hunt a Snow Witch. Along the way, there are other small parts, you meet a servant elf who wants to be freed. It’s all these little pieces leading you towards the end, and not just you setting out to kill a witch. It’s a great way to go, and it plays into crime structure well. You start by investigating case A, but it leads into Case B, and while A is solved, you learn enough to connect it to Case C, and that’s the big case. And if your character doesn’t figure it out, then you have an NPC wander in and bring some small element, and it leads to Case C. Reminds me of the Pixar rule: coincidence to get your character into trouble is fine, but you can’t use it to get them out.
It’s something I’ll take into my D&D planning, that escalating narrative scale, but also into my own writing. And again, this isn’t something new to me, but it’s nice to be reminded. I don’t always carry every one of the 22 Pixar Rules in my head, no less all the thousands of other things I’m supposed to know and use, so a refresher is always welcome.
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