Saturday, October 09, 2010

Fiction, Meta-Fiction and Heroes in Grey

I sometimes wonder if other people have the problem that i have: that the stories come too frequently to put down, not in pieces but in whole and complete downloads from elsewhere, well, from somewhere, and then they wait for you to try and figure out what to do with them.

and the best of them need craft to make them better, to sand the rough edges into fitting, making the whole thing make sense. I sometimes wish that i didn't sit at this drawing board working away listening to music and reveling in the direct feedback that comes from hearing a beautifully played chorus. Is there anything in our medium that comes across as succinctly and directly? (current example playing as i right this: Green day's "Holiday") I don't think that there is. We're the medium of quiet comtemplation and hours of lonely work, in direct opposition to the performing arts. our work is to be digested over time and the in the peace and quiet of the reader's mind. If we do our job right then hopefully the scene that we create will play over and over in their head upon subsequent rereadings. We can only hope.

Did any of the writers and artists that were cranking out some of my favorite comics from the 1970s ans 1980s realize that they were creating works that lasted? I doubt it. When i brought up to Alan Weiss just how reverential i was to those issues of Jim Starlin's Captain Marvel, he wasn't surprised, but neither did he betray that Jim had idea that they would be as profound a piece of fiction as they became. I have the idea that Marshall Rogers knew, just fucking knew in his bones that his Batman was practically definitive, at least definitive to him, but as he was a Batman fan down to his DNA, it was work that carried weight of truth to it.

There is fictional truth and then there is TRUTH. This is the same truth that Kirby alluded to in his scattered work in Fourth World series. Jack wanted to create an entire mythology without a master plan spread out over the three books, and he went at it full bore and it was a mess, a glorious mess that contained kernels of greatness like the final fight of Terrible Turnpin, and others like the Black Racer and the hippy nonsense of the Forever People. There was truth in Englehart and Roger's Joker, and chilling horrible nihilistic truth that fueled heath Ledger's performance. (It was here that Englehart and Rogers out Kane'd Kane: In understanding the depths of the Joker as the agent of un-logic, he moves into the realm of myth and terror as the embodiment of horror that cannot be reasoned with. A jewel thief? A man under a Red hood? Are you kidding me? he is the horror of the Un coming to get you and you're never going understand him.)

I tried to explain the idea of what makes good fiction to my 9 year old daughter the other day. The idea that conflict was the necessary content to make the story happen. She understood almost immediately, having read more than enough fiction to realize that perfect people make for a boring story, and that the protagonist has to have obstacles in his/her path to make it interesting. Explaining characters that are shades of grey was a little harder. And while its true, I do still enjoy that idea that there are some heroes left somewhere out there, so that we can occasionally hang our hat on the idea of the morally simple ending rather than the murky grey toned one.

I'm writing the last page of The Human Hourglass and working on the layouts right now. It ends as messily by the next to last panel as i originally thought, with no real winners and only losers and its far more like real life. and I have to keep from making a happy ending. It doesn't deserve it, nor does anyone who's read the first 21 pages. They deserve the ending that is supposed to happen.

McKee was right: you have to be brutal to your characters. And it hurts.

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