That’s What I’m Talking About – BKV on Collaboration and Saga

Writing is often discussed as a solitary act. Yes, it’s often just you and the keyboard in the room when the words first pour out of you, but you’re far from the last person to read, interpret, and possibly alter the work. Novelists have editors. Playwrights and screenwriters have directors, actors, and countless technical professionals. People working together to create something; it’s the nature of collaboration. And in comics, one person has more effect on the written words than anyone else – the artist. (In this case, by artist I’m mostly referring to the penciler, but inkers, colorists, etc. have their roles as well and the boundaries between each can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine).

People who write about comics often compare artists to a screen director. But that’s reductive. The artist is the director, sure. But their other jobs include acting, photography, set and prop design, lighting, wardrobe, special effects, and casting. Next time you see a film’s credits, really think about how many of those listed people affected the visual aspect of the film. A comics artist is all those people. A writer who respects that fact and encourages collaboration on their work will always get the best results.

The past twenty years have seen some truly great writer and artist collaborations. Azzarello and Risso. Loeb and Sale. Gillen and McKelvie. But you can’t tie BKV to any one artist. Almost every one of his books has had a singular artist connected to it. Y: The Last Man had Pia Guerra. Runaways had Adrian Alphona. Ex Machina had Tony Harris. The Private Eye has Marcos Martin. Though there were fill-ins and one shots drawn by others, those artists defined the look of those series from beginning to end. Which brings us to Vaughan’s current book, Saga, and that book’s artist, Fiona Staples.

For those of you unfamiliar, Saga tells the story of Alana and Marko, new parents from warring societies. Her people have wings. His people have horns. Drama ensues.

Alana from Saga, by Fiona StaplesFair enough.

Staples has previously worked with Steve Niles on the IDW-published Mystery Society as well as an Authority miniseries focused on Jack Hawksmoor. As she did on those books, she pencils, inks, and colors the book herself. She even does part of the lettering. And so, the multiple Eisner-winning Saga looks like nothing else on the stands. The book is hers. Should she break her right hand tomorrow, I have no doubt the series would go on hiatus until she was drawing again.

Marko from Saga, by Fiona StaplesDuring a Brian K. Vaughan spotlight panel at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, he said some great things about Saga, Staples and their process.

“Yeah, we do have a weird working relationship. We talk before each arc very generally where we sit down and I’ll ask what she hated drawing and what she’d like to draw more of, and what kind of themes she thinks we should explore.”

That relationship shouldn’t be weird. It should be commonplace. Empowering an artist that way is only going to create a better book. Being a stakeholder and a driver of the story, not just a pencil monkey, results in true investment. If they don’t like to draw cars, maybe don’t have a chase seen in the next issue. Vaughan knew that Staples didn’t like drawing machinery, so the family’s home/spaceship is made of wood. Likewise, when my best bud told me to write something for him to draw, my first question was what he wanted to draw. His quick response was “Monsters.” So I found my way into a werewolf story. One day, maybe we’ll see those pages.

But in addition to what she wants to draw, Vaughan also asks what themes Staples would like to explore. Her ideas, leading back into his writing, a cycle of creation. Saga may have started as Vaughan reflecting on parenthood, but their collaboration is making it much more.

“I write the book for one person — for Fiona … I spend a lot of time just thinking how she’ll react to things and manipulating her into drawing perverse, horrific things. It’s a really weird job but I enjoy it.”

While I don’t believe that he writes only for Staples, it’s clear she weighs on his mind. Staples gives feedback to Vaughan. He writes the story. She draws the story. A big cycle of collaboration, a collaboration has already resulted in an obese creature with a prodigious scrotum and a blue space-cat with a smaller vocabulary than Groot.

But let’s not forget ourselves, the readers. If we didn’t buy the book, they wouldn’t publish it. BKV and Staples may be the first steps, but as Vaughan himself said through D. Oswald Heist:

Oswald Heist from Saga, by Fiona Staples. Cheers!We read. We interpret. We write letters and our feedback is inserted into the loop. The cycle of collaboration begins again.

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Saga is published by Image Comics. The most recent issue, #23, was released to physical and digital retailers on September 25. All art in the post is by Fiona Staples with letters in the first and third by Fonografiks.

Links with the Quickness

Just a few notes before these stories become completely irrelevant. I hate when people just present a list of links as an article, so I’ll be sure to give you my thought, brief they may be.

Ellen Page in talks to play Tara Chace in a Queen and Country film.

Love Queen and Country. Love Ellen Page. But I’ll believe it when I see a trailer. And for all of our sakes, I hope it turns out better than Whiteout did.

All-New Marvel Now Titles

Marvel is prepping their second wave of Marvel Now! titles. That’s fine. Hopefully, there are some new fun titles I can start reading. But here’s the line that really got me: “Select .NOW! titles will also come with a digital code for the entire first collection of that series absolutely free!” Now that I dig. A free digital trade for buying a $3-4 issue? That’s smart. I’d pick up almost anything for that.

Grant Morrison thinks Batman killed the Joker at the end of The Killing Joke

Here’s the thing. Maybe Grant Morrison is right. And maybe that’s what Alan Moore wanted to depict. But let’s be honest. All that stuff really did happen to Barbara Gordon, so the story happened. And the Joker is still alive, so he couldn’t have been killed. Unless that was the real Joker and everything we’ve read since then has been an actor portraying the Joker!

Yes, I’m kidding.

I hope.

Comics Should Be Good’s The Line it is Drawn #152 – Muppet Superhero Mash-Ups!

Each week, I read this art collection on CSBG. And each week there’s something great. But last month, their Muppet/hero mashups were all great. From Alan Moore and a collection of his characters by Axel Medellin

Alan Moore and his characters

to Bill Walko‘s art of Bert and Ernie cosplaying as Blue Beetle and Booster Gold …

Bert, Ernie, Blue Beetle, Booster Gold

to Kermit and friends lamenting being green by Steve Howard.

Kermit, She-Hulk, Hulk, Beast Boy

Poor stupid red Beast Boy.

___

That’s all I’ve got for now, but come back soon. I have some ideas bubbling.

Mark Waid Talks Digital Comics at Tools of Change for Publishing

An experiment here. First I want to talk about Mark Waid and his thoughts/advancements in digital comics. After that I have some thoughts on our digital lifestyles. And to finish off, we’ll see if I can tie them together nicely. Here we go.

Some months back, (seriously, it’s been in my Google Reader [now Feedly] for 143 days upon writing this), Mark Waid presented his thoughts on comics in the digital age at the O’Reilly Tools of Change Publishing Conference. Waid’s resume includes well-remembered runs on The Flash, Captain America, 52, his current work on Daredevil, and plenty more. But recently, he’s placed a special focus on the new capabilities of digital comics, I.E. comics viewed on our modern electronics, including desktop computers, a tablet, or a smartphone. One of Waid’s allies is Yves Bigerel, who created the best example of what comics can do now. Though Bigerel does not come up in the video, I know how integral he has been in much of Waid and Marvel Comics’ attempts at digital comics. If you have any interest in the evolution of an artform, it’s worth a watch.


For more examples, you can read my post from last April. Then, as now, I loved this stuff.

And here is where we switch tracks. I swear, it ties together. I think.

So why did the video sit in my Reader for so long? It’s 22 minutes! It’s not tl;dr, it’s too long, didn’t watch.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose computer is less comfortable to sit at than his couch. And on the computer, I’m so much more likely to find another distraction. Many videos don’t need to be videos; the visuals are unnecessary. I can shift the video’s window to the side and do something else. If something catches my eye from the side of the screen, I can look over. But for the most part, it has the attention of my ears, but not my eyes.

If I’m scrolling though Facebook or Tumblr, I don’t want to stop to watch some video. I really don’t. A dog walking on two legs? Two minutes is too long. When on my computer or phone, I’m in charge. I control what’s on the screen and the pace at which I progress to the next image or story or whatever. Once I’m actually watching a video, I’m frozen. I’m not doing anything else, I’m slave to that video’s creators. At 22 minutes, you have be dedicated to watching that video. You carve out time to watch your favorite TV show. Conveniently, the 22 minutes of story are split by commercial breaks, even in our Age of DVR. We need those breaks, not only to pay for the production of the show, but to go to the bathroom or the fridge. We get released from servitude for three minutes.

And now for the dismount …

Control is also what was lacking in the early attempts at comics in the digital age. Motion comics weren’t comics. They were bad, limited animation. Most had lackluster voiceovers. Remember the one for Watchmen? One voiceactor for all the parts, including the women. And you can’t control the pacing. You hit play and 26 minutes later, it’s over. Sure, you can pause to study the background elements or rewind to hear a piece of dialogue again. But no one watches TV like that. We assume we see what we need to notice and if we don’t quite understand something, we can fill in the blanks soon. But reading, we’ll go back to savor a certain line or trace where a shadow came from. And though they’re on a brightly lit screen and not a dead tree, digital comics are all about that level of control. Each tap or swipe, a door opens, a punch is thrown. We take control.

Lady Sabre & The Kickstarter of the Ineffable Aether

Apologies for the lack of posts, but this time I have a good excuse, I swear.

I moved three weeks ago. And not down the street, but from Massachusetts to New York. I got offered a job I couldn’t turn down and here we are! The Kitchen is now located in a different … house?

ANYWAY, I came for an urgent reason. The Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether Kickstarter. Writer Greg Rucka and artist Rich Burchett are creating the first collection of their webcomic, the aforementioned Lady Sabre.

Lady Sabre Hardcover

In the creators’ own words:

Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether is a webcomic created by Eisner Award winners Rick Burchett (The Batman and Robin Adventures, The Superman Adventures, Blackhawk, She-Hulk) and Greg Rucka (Whiteout, Stumptown, The Punisher, Detective Comics, Queen & Country, Alpha). Rick handles the beautiful art and Greg provides the story and the words. The whole work is overseen by editor, designer, and web-guru Eric Newsom.

Lady Sabre’s world is one of danger, adventure, and deception, filled with clockwork monstrosities, dire magic, and noble hearts. It is a world flavored by Victorian England and late 19th century Europe and the Old West. It is a world of cannon fire and steel meeting steel, brass gears meshing seamlessly with steam-driven pistons, a world of passion and humor and a dash of romance.”

They are now in the “hours, not days” countdown of the campaign. I wanted to post earlier, but this is only the second time I’ve spent any real time on my computer since I moved. And though it was a success by the end of its first day, there’s still plenty of reasons to donate now. The primary reason is that this will be the only way to get the collection in the format it is being offered, and the only way to get it at all for at least a year.

What started as a 192-page book has now expanded into that book, two additional books (one an in-world almanac, the other a compilation of scripts and process materials, and maps of the world. And all this for as low as $20 for PDFs ($10 for just the comic), $30 for physical copies. Having already upgraded the book’s general quality as well as the materials used to create the comic, the only stretch goal that remains is to create deckplans for the HMS Pegasus, Lady Sabre’s vessel.

Higher pledges receive gifts ranging from swag (dogtags, tintype portraits), to signatures and art, to even appearing in the strip. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (Or at least, that’s how I explained it to my bank account.)

Only $7,000 separates that goal and the current amount of pledges. Hell, if the campaign raises $14,000 more, it’ll have raised $100,000 more than its original goal! And with the way some Kickstarters blow up in their final days, that’s not too much to expect.

So go back to the beginning read some strips or jump in now if you like dragons. If it seems like something you’d be into, pony up some cash. It’ll be worth it. When top creators are left to their own loves and devices, it usually is.

Donate, or the Lady will make you smuggle this map in your keister.

Boston: Get Out and Love This City

I was flying from Denver to Dallas when all the shit when down yesterday.
The guy next to me asked, “You have a connection to catch?”
“Yeah, heading to Boston.”
“What’s going on there?”
“It’s home.”
“I got an email from my son, who lives there. All he said was ‘I’m fine.’ Didn’t know what he meant.”
I pulled up Boston.com and read all about it. And kept reading as I took the SkyLink through the airport and caught my plane. To Logan, which you may remember as an airport of … infamy?

These are hard times. Every time a person, or a group, or a giant squid attacks a city, its citizens near and far bond together. But it’s not a time to shut down.

Stop crying. Get off your couch. That’s what these assholes want, whoever they are. And that’s not what Boston does. You love this city? Find someone you care about, hold their hand and get out and fucking love this city.

What can you do?

Boston, baby!

From Avenging Spider-Man #10 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Terry Dodson.

Kitchen readers have heard of Kelly Sue DeConnick and Carol Danvers AKA Captain Marvel before. Carol is Boston’s premiere superhero. So on a more serious note, Tumblrer Flatbear has called on the Captain Marvel’s fans, collectively known as the Carol Corps, to donate to the Red Cross. A similar campaign was undertaken by DeConnick and husband Matt Fraction for Hurricane Sandy relief. Part of this is entering a special name in the “Make this Donation in Honor of” box. For Sandy, the code was “I’m Great at Boats.” For Boston, it’s “Carol Corps.” Donate money. Donate blood. Donate what you can.

There were a lot of feelings going through my head as I flew back to Massachusetts yesterday. Confusion. Anger. Disappointment. And I may be what you call “emotionally unavailable,” but I didn’t even think to be scared. I’m from Boston.

Thinking About … Spoilers!

Editor’s note: I did it again. I had a post all written and ready to go. And forgot about it. I had a final draft of this post 21 days ago. I’m awesome. It wasn’t until I heard today’s big news (which I won’t spoil until Wednesday) that I thought about it. Anyway, here you go.

Last month(?) on her Tumblr, Gail Simone posed a question about spoilers.

We live in a world where people want to see the sausage being made.
I understand, I have some of that myself, but now we want transparent casings on EVERYTHING. We want to see the works, we want to see the gears move.
Even with our very favorite media and storytellers, we like the previews, we read the advance reviews, we download the trailers that we KNOW will spoil the ending.
It’s interesting. Do you ever find knowing too much in advance ruins things?
Do you think it detracts from the experience of reading or seeing a story, or does it simply keep enthusiasm high?

What do you think…spoilers or no?

Spoilers are something that get brought up every time you mention the words “Breaking Bad” or “The Walking Dead” in public. But how much do I actually care? The simple answer is “it depends how much I like the book/show/whatever.”

To use the shows above as examples, if someone told me how the next eight episodes of Breaking Bad are gonna go, I’d be wicked pissed. But I gave up Walking Dead after Season 2. Tell me all you want. Who died? What’s the Governor like? Is Maggie still super hot? It won’t bother me.

And over at my comics shelf, part of the reason I go to the shop each week is to not get spoiled. I want to be part of the conversation on the Before Watchmen books and Batman. But before those discussions, I want to discover their twists and turns on my own, as the creators intended.

Spider-Man Spoiler

On the other hand, there are many books I’ve picked up because of the spoilers I heard. I like Spider-Man, but never enough to read his books up regularly. With the right creative team, I’ll pick up an issue here or there, but I don’t have the love I do for characters like Flash or Daredevil. When Amazing Spider-Man was approaching issue #700, Dan Slott warned readers and retailers “This is gonna be big. You are going to want these issues.” It got my attention, but I still wasn’t ready to buy it. Then #698 came out. I heard about the last page reveal. I heard how that reveal could change the way you read the 21 pages before it. Slott was right; I wanted that issue. So I picked it up on my next trip to the store. But only because I already knew what happened.

A month later I did the same thing. Issue #700 came out. (I skipped #699.) Again, it was knowing what happened that made me want to read it. They seriously let him die? I gotta read this. I gotta see what the loophole is. I need to have an opinion, a guess on how they bring Pete back.

And hell, I’ve read enough Batman stories for a lifetime. But every once in a while, I’ll pick up the first issue of a new story arc, flip to the last page hoping to see the villain of the story revealed. Penguin? Eh, no thanks. Mad Hatter? Now I’m listening.

And what about creators spoiling their own story? All-New X-Men #1 was never going to have a sales problem. But writer Brian Michael Bendis spoke loud and clear all over the internet about the hook of the series. In the interest of a good story, he spent the entire first issue getting the original five X-Men to the present. But he knew that last page moment was the hook. It would have come as a big shock to anyone coming in blind, but he knew that a little knowledge was going to get more people more interested. I’m not sure I would have picked it up the day it came out if I hadn’t heard. But I did and I’m eagerly waiting for issue #8.

Here’s another way to look at it: you ever read or watch a prequel? You now the big strokes about how this is all gonna end (this annoying kid will become Darth Vader, Laurie is going to follow her mother’s career and become Silk Spectre.) It can be that spoiler-ish information that makes the story interesting.

So being on those spoilers. Because the real question is not “What happens”? but “How does this happen?”

Bells’ Kitchen Now on Tumblr

Hey ya’ll.

Just a quick update to let you know that Bells’ Kitchen is spreading over more of the internet  – with a Tumblr page! It’s like Manifest Destiny, but instead of thinking it’s God’s will for the United States to expand to the Pacific Ocean, it’s quick posts like photos and videos.

So yeah, if you want to see some fun videos and some great comic art, come on down to bellskitchen.tumblr.com.

Thanks.

New Con: Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo

Just in case the Boston Comic Con and New England Webcomics Weekend weren’t enough, September 25th brings the first Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo or MICE. MICE is a show dedicated to independent, alternative, small-press and self-published comics, webcomics and ‘zines.

I’ll be the first to admit my ignorance on truly independent comics. I understand that there is going to be some diamonds in the rough, but that’s just it: there’s a lot of rough. There may be some quality behind that random table at a comic convention, but I don’t have the time or desire to  talk to each creator about why their book is new or interesting. A more focused convention is perfect for this sort of thing. Without the distraction of big name creators, visitors will be forced to take some time and find something they just don’t get at the shop every Wednesday.

For more information, visit http://www.masscomics.com/.

Tip of the hat to Thom Wilk for the heads up on MICE.

Bells' Kitchen Goes Social Media!

As you can see in the handy-dandy widget on the right, Bells Kitchen has joined the Twitter. I still don’t get Twitter 100%, but it’ll let me announce new posts and give me a place to put short, to the point ideas. For example, I just posted my thoughts on the new Man Without Fear. Check it out and follow along. Thanks.

www.twitter.com/bellskitchen

Sale Alert: Top Shelf's Massive 2010 $3 Sale!

A heads-up to all the readers out there: Top Shelf Productions has started their huge annual sale. Great deals up and down their catalog. From Alan Moore to Jeffrey Brown, all kinds of great stuff is discounted. I haven’t read much of the offering, but I can surely suggest Matt Kindt’s Superspy: Lost Dossiers, Craig Thompson’s Carnet de Voyage and Jeff Lemire’s Essex County (paperback or HC).

I also picked up two things for myself:

Lost Girls HCLost Girls (Single-Volume Hardcover Edition)

What if you took Dorothy Gale, Wendy Darling and Alice from Wonderland and had them recount their sexual awakenings on the eve of World War I? Written by Alan Moore and drawn by Melinda Gebbie, Lost Girls is Moore’s admitted attempt at literary pornography. I’ve wanted to read this since its release, but the price has always been too high. Regularly $50, this all-in-one volume is available at half-price, only $25.

Hopefully it lives up to the cleverness of the title. OH! LOST GIRLS!

Surrogates Owner's ManualThe Surrogates Owner’s Manual

Another all-in-one hardcover, this volume includes both volumes of The Surrogates with bonus material. I thought the movie was really underrated or at least too ignored. I haven’t read the second series, but I liked where the first book left off, which was very different from the movie.

Regularly $75, this collection is only $10. Wow.

Top Shelf doesn’t put out bad books. Check them out. At these prices, it’s worth taking a chance.