Friday, January 13, 2012

A brief deviation: comics. Cultural DNA.

Oh, gee this post has been so long waiting to be posted that I've lost the point. I may have to revisit this.


One of my loves is comics. They are another form of media that has been around my life since I was born, whether my dad's Peanuts books, or my mum's Superman and Batman omnibuses, or Noggin the Nod, or Asterix or Tintin or Footrot Flats round at Grandma and Grandad's. Comics have been around me, provided to me by family, as essential as books and music. Creative oxygen.

For a long time in my late teens and very early twenties I read nothing but comics. I would say
"A comic takes 20 to 30 minutes to read, and usually I'll get at least one good idea. If not, I've only lost 20 minutes. A book can take a lot longer, and the ratio isn't usually as good."
This idea isn't originally mine (I suspect I mangled Alan Moore), but I adopted it wholeheartedly as a motto when talking to people about comics.

I think about this attitude now and I cringe. Critically thinking things like that through was a couple of years away, probably the 3rd year of university. I must have been reading some utter garbage back then.  Sure, I was reading some good comics, but there are ways to find good books.

I'd started this post with the intention of talking about continuity and a comic called the Doom Patrol (a magic name that captivated me when I first read it in a short writer interview in 2000AD). The Doom Patrol had the distinction of being one of the few comics I bought regardless of the writer. I liked it because it was such a marginal comic in the DC comics universe that it didn't suffer a reboot until the 5th incarnation of the comic. This meant that the story of the characters in the comic had remained unbroken since the 60s, that the characters had aged in near real time. Which was incredibly important to me- somehow I sensed that this comic embraced the ridiculousness of a medium where Batman was eternally 30, Superman had his history restarted, and many character's war experiences shifted from WW2 to Korea to Vietnam to the Gulf. There was something attractive about a comic where changes happened and, more importantly, stuck.

The original comic that began in 1963 ended in 1968 with the Doom Patrol sacrificing themselves to protect strangers.

Here endeth the first draft work.

I'm drawing a line under the work I've done so far. I'm finding that I have increasingly been generating material that, while it follows the research, does not make for a clear story. I've hamstrung myself by not deciding what the focus of this play will be.

This first draft is nowhere near a finished work.

I will collate a PDF of the draft and post it in the next few days. This will form the raw material for the 2nd draft.


Distractions are the biggest barriers to writing. If I'm doing the crossword, or reading the funnies, or playing on facebook; I am not writing. I have an abysmal writing practice. Which, for something I have been doing for the best parts of almost 18 years, is a source of personal irritation. Have I hit my 10 000 hours to be considered whatever it is that I would be considered after 10 000 hours of writing? I hope not, if only because I'd feel like the worst writer if I had surpassed that 10 000 hour mark.

[The 10000 hours comes from the book Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell.]


Next draft will be about story and the characters. It will be interesting to see if I can walk the tightrope to create scenes that remain true to the reality of the people involved.

I sometimes consider giving up this writing lark. There is sometimes too much fear involved in sharing my words with others. The fear is sometimes overwhelming and it makes it easy to see the flaws in my writing instead of enjoying the good stuff.

Before I even consider the next draft there will come some palate cleansers. I need to exercise other writing muscles.