THE WORKS OF LAST YEAR'S MAN
"Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Like a worm on a hook
Like a knight from some old-fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee"
Jamie: Year 2
Today is my real birthday. I am two years old.
My second year was better than my first. I am fitter, happier, healthier than I have ever been in my life. I may not have produced as much as I did in my first year as a full-time writer, but I am seeing more things come to fruition, pushing my career forward in ways I had only imagined possible.
In the last 365 days:
* I put The Everlasting into production; it will be at the printer in two weeks and published in two months via Oni Press.
* Wrote the second and third scripts for Love the Way You Love, and have sent the first to the printer; it will be released in four weeks. The script for #4 is already started. Marc Ellerby is drawing.
* co-wrote the Love the Way You Love theme song, to be recorded in early July
* wrote first 46,000 words of Have You Seen The Horizon Lately? (goal for completion: 80-100K; end of summer)
* wrote two short comic book stories for anthologies, one already published in the Belle & Sebastian anthology
* 2 completed prose short stories ("Send Me My Best Regrets" and "Ev'rybody Wants to Be a Cat"); started a third, as yet untitled
* one short story, "Chevelu," accepted by Bottle Rocket magazine, to be published in July in their inaugural issue
* an online prose serial ("Yoga Girls" - 17,000 words) published last summer; and the first draft of a second ("Romeo May Be Bleeding, But Mercutio is Dead" - 13,600 words) to be serialized in August
* pitched Dog Man Star to 33 1/3; rejected (you can't win them all)
* basic pitch for a licensed comic book series; currently no progress
* article for Strangetown #1
* continued "Can You Picture That?"
* started scripting a crime graphic novel, You Have Killed Me, to be drawn by Joëlle Jones; 1/4 complete
* 21 manga/manwha scripts
* Maintained the weekly deadlines of the "Permanent Records" series
* Started reviewing for DVD Talk; 13 reviews so far
I collected 57 rejection letters from agents, publishers, and magazines last year. That's more than one a week, and it's up from the 7 I had garnered the previous year. So, while the writing may not have been as prolific, I was working it harder. Amidst all this, I wasn't dragged down, but rather, learned a stronger lesson about myself and what I wanted to do. I fortified my resolve to be an independent creator, to pursue my own goals on my own terms.
It's funny, because I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how things get done. On the Mr. Arkadin DVD, the Orson Welles biographers doing the commentary track argue that Welles is miscast as a failed Hollywood player when in reality he was a successful independent filmmaker. He began with Citizen Kane, where he had absolute control from within the system, and the rest of his career was a fight to try to maintain that control, to go against restraint. This made him a prototype for a more recently acquired hero, John Cassavetes. As an actor, Cassavetes had been in the system, as well, and he learned that there was a better way.
It's fascinating to me that in movies and music, we celebrate mavericks who do their own thing. There is no shame in being independent, it's admirable. It's the road less traveled. In book publishing, however, there seems to be disdain for it. If you self-publish, you are met with skepticism. If you choose a smaller or alternative route, it's merely a stepping stone. Everyone wants the big contract, they want the big money. Of course, when big money is involved, the people shelling out the dough are going to want to have their say, and the author has to surrender control. Essentially, you're asking to be paid up front so people can interfere with your work. What end does that serve you artistically? Isn't it better to maintain your grip and gamble on yourself in the long run?
Comics is almost like a middle ground. We've had a healthy independent scene for decades now. I've spoken often about how it was when I was a teenager reading Comico and First and Eclipse comics. It seemed to me then that creator-owned work was a step up. Artists and writers paid their dues in the mainstream to be rewarded with their own series. Frank Miller did Daredevil to get the weight to do Ronin and then Dark Knight lead to Sin City. I remember Matt Wagner as a rebel who bucked that system, doing his own stuff and then turning to the mainstream on his terms. That to me was the way it should be done. Make them come to you.
That opinion has shifted over the years. Right now, the larger readership often seems to think that indie comics are the trenches. You live in indentured servitude until they give you the keys to the kingdom and let you write The Defenders. Well, I say nuts to that. I'm growing my own beef, why do I want to go make hamburgers at McDonald's?
Which, yes, sounds very harsh. I don't mean to besmirch people who want to pursue their dreams of working in mainstream comics, or even writers who would rather be part of the larger publishing system. If that works for them, that works for them. In fact, I think a greater respect should be given to those who somehow pull off both (beyond Messrs. Miller and Wagner, I have many friends who do: Rucka, Bendis, Fraction, Ellis--to name a talented few). I'm not even adverse to trying it myself someday. After all, Godard conceded to make a film for big money producers, and the result was Contempt (oh, titular irony). It's just that people ask me all the time when I will write for the "Big Two," and I wonder, does the guy drawing Legion of Superheroes ever get asked when he's going to do creator-owned work? Should it matter? I'm my own Big One*. I'm pursuing the way that works for me, and I'm simply shocked that more people don't do it. "And a pretty woman in her darkened door,/ She cried to me, 'Hey, why not ask for more?'"
This is where I stand. I am fierce in my convictions. I am proud of what I am doing, and I can't imagine there is a better way for me to do it.
I am two years old, and I've only just begun. I thank you all for standing behind this crazy old fool in his rantings and ravings. If I truly am mad, thanks for indulging me; when I fail and sell out, please forgive me; and when it's good, just enjoy it.
* The "Bite the Big One" jokes are a freebie. Have at it!
Current Soundtrack: Leonard Cohen, The Best Of...
Current Mood: accomplished
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich