Tag Archive: Quotes


You come up with a ridiculous idea that you think MIGHT be brilliant. You IMMEDIATELY want to call a friend so they can pass judgement on the idea and confirm (or deny) its quality. It’s AGONIZING wondering if an idea is genius or utter shit — and that line is much finer than you’d imagine.

 

“If an idea is any good, it’s on the verge of being stupid.” — Michel Gondry

 

That’s probably my favorite quote on creativity, ever. Seriously. That’s basically my litmus test for an idea. When I think back on their conception, all my best ideas made me laugh out loud. Because they were ridiculous and they were awesome. And that’s how I’d hope that people would describe my work. Ridiculously awesome. Which in my mind, ridiculously awesome = fun.

Truth is, you’ve got to let your “brilliant” idea rattle around in your head (and subconscious) for a few days. I like to print a cliffs-note version of my idea out on a piece of a paper and leave it around everywhere (in the studio, bedroom, copy in the car) so it’s constantly confronting me (not even making that up). Be patient and sleep on the idea for a couple days. Come to your own conclusions, THEN call your consigliere (in my case, Ben Dale) and bounce the idea off them.

Opinions of your inner-circle are invaluable, but if you call on them too soon, the idea (and your ego) are too fragile to get true assessment of the idea’s worth.

So, Ben, expect a call in couple days, cause this one just might be brilliant.

 

An artist friend of mine is working on writing his own comic and asked my advice on the following:

“There is a sequence I want to put in my comic, but it’s not essential to the main plot. It’s a scene that gives insight into the main character, his motivations and the world the story takes place in, but it’s not vital to the story. Do I keep it or cut it?”


Good question. And this will sound kinda like a cop-out, but that’s really part of your voice as a storyteller. What do you choose to keep in and take out?

How self-indulgent do you get? Do you go Mignola’s route and show lots of aspect-to-aspect panels — they help set the mood and establish location but don’t advance the plot at all. Do you go Tarantino’s route and show a scene of two characters talking just because they play off each other well and not because they advance the story? How cutthroat are you with your story and pacing?

My general approach is to see if I can’t take the idea you’re talking about (something that shows characterization and world) and add that into another “important” scene that DOES move the story along. I forget who called it this, but someone used the word “telescopic” storytelling. Like adding multiple storytelling functions, one on top of the other, so that a scene is doing like ten things at once. And that is really fucking hard to do as a creator, but I also feel it works great for reader participation and immersion.

Off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure that every single scene in The Happy Samurais #1 “turns”. There’s a point to every scene.  Some value in the scene (trust, loyalty, love, hope) goes from positive to negative, or negative to positive. And once the scene turns (and I’ve made my point), I get the hell out of there (start the scene as late as possible, and end it as soon as possible).

If a scene DOESN’T turn, it better be really fucking interesting on SOME level. There is a super-popular series out there that used to piss me off with this constantly. I’d get done reading a scene and be like, “WTF?!  Why did you even show me that? That scene had no point (except to piss me off) and had no bearing on the outcome of things.” If a scene is entertaining and you’ve got space for it, then fuck it and put it in there.  Most monthly books don’t have the pages to spare on scenes non-essential to the plot.

When in doubt on what storytelling decision to make, I generally go back to Walt Simonson’s advice: “For every decision ask, ‘does it make the story better?”.

“The struggle is glorious.  It is long.  And it is punishing.” — Brian Michael Bendis
“There ain’t no way but the hard way.  So get used to it.” — Airbourne

 

I was listening to an episode of the “Bendis Tapes” recently — the long Q&A interviews Brian Michael Bendis does for John Siuntres’ Word Balloon podcast (my highest recommendation) — and Bendis spoke about how tough it is for ANYONE to break into the field they really want to be in (comics or otherwise).  As Bendis was trying to break into comics, his “day job” was doing caricatures (at parties & bar mitzvahs) and a one page comic strip for The Cleveland Plain Dealer.  He kept doing both of those freelance gigs for YEARS even after he’d started getting some mainstream work.

He’d already done Jinx & Torso at Image. He’d done Sam & Twitch and Hellspawn for Todd McFarlane.  He’d done Fortune and Glory at Oni Press and launched Powers at Image.  He’d sold two film options.  And he’d started on Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man at Marvel.  In fact, it wasn’t until Ultimate Spider-Man #5 that he finally took the plunge and quit his day job.

No one gets to where they want to be easily.  It’s a relentlessly brutal grind.  You prepare yourself for the possibility that the struggle might take years and years.  But really, it takes years and years LONGER than the years and years you think it’ll take.

And doubt will inevitably start to creep in.  Can I REALLY do this?  Am I deluding myself??  Why will I succeed when so many talented others have failed???  Was it really THIS HARD for everyone else????

It’s difficult to answer those questions.  Well, all of those questions except for the last.  Yes.  Yes, it was THAT difficult for everyone else.  And somehow knowing that your struggle isn’t any more difficult than others who’ve succeeded gives you strength to keep fighting (maybe a little of “if they can do it, so can I”).

Bendis was 33 when he wrote his first comic for Marvel.  Joathan Hickman was 37 when he wrote his first for Marvel.  JJ Abrams was 40 when he directed his first feature film.  Brad Bird was 42 when he directed his.

You have to grind it out.  You pay your dues and prove that you’re an unstoppable force on a quest.  And if you grind it out long enough, you’ll get A shot.  It won’t be THE shot, where they hand you a set of keys to the kingdom and say, “welcome to paradise!”  It’ll most likely be the tiniest sliver of a shot.  But that’s all you need.

It takes a long time to get your shot.  But the Bendises, Hickmans, Abramses and Birds weren’t sitting around WAITING for it to fall in their lap.  They were out there busting their ass, fighting, grinding, working, improving.  They’d battled every day up until their shot, to capitalize on it when it finally presented itself.  And then when they got their shot, they fucking killed it.

You never fail if you never give up.

Brian Michael Bendis
– born August 18, 1967
– 26 when did Fire
– 27 when did Goldfish
– 29 when did Jinx
– 31 when did Torso
– 32 when did Sam & Twitch
– 33 when did Powers (April 2000)
– 33 when did Hellspawn (August 2000)
– 33 when did Ultimate Spider-Man (October 2000)
– 34 when did Daredevil
– finally became full-time comic creator!
– 38 when did New Avengers
– 38 when did House of M
– 41 when did Secret Invasion
– 43 when did The Siege

Jonathan Hickman
– born September 3, 1972
– 34 when wrote/drew did Nightly News
– 36 when wrote/drew Pax Romana
– 36 when wrote Transhuman
– 36 when wrote Red Mass for Mars
– 37 when wrote Secret Warriors
– 37 when wrote Fantastic Four
– 38 when wrote S.H.I.E.L.D.
– 39 when wrote FF (Future Foundation)

JJ Abrams
– born June 27, 1966
– 25 when wrote Regarding Henry
– 32 when wrote Armageddon
– 32 when created Felicity
– 35 when created Alias
– 38 when co-created Lost
– 40 when directed/c0-wrote Mission Impossible III
– 43 when directed Star Trek
– 45 when directed/wrote Super 8

Brad Bird
– born September 15, 1957
– 24 when worked as animator on The Fox and the Hound
– 30 when created/wrote/directed Family Dog
– 33 when directed episodes of The Simpsons
– 40 when consultant/advisor on King of the Hill
– 42 when directed/wrote The Iron Giant
– 47 when directed/wrote The Incredibles
– 50 when directed/wrote Ratatouille
– 53 when directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Actually, as I publish this, it’s the 50th anniversary of Fantastic Four #1 being published by Marvel Comics.  That was the first of the silver-age superhero comics Marvel published, with X-Men, Spider-Man, Hulk etc. to follow.  When they co-created the Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby was 44 and Stan Lee was 38.  That was Stan’s first big hit, though Jack already had one under his belt as he’d co-created Captain America when he was 24.

“Too many people spend their lives climbing the ladder only to realize when they reach the top

that they climbed the wrong ladder.”      – Simon Sinek

 

After a lot of soul searching and deliberation, I’ve decided to make some big changes in my life.  I’ve reached the point where I feel I must make the choice between being a teacher/administrator, or a an artist/creator.

And when put in those terms, it’s really no choice at all.

So I’ve decided to leave the Kubert School to focus full-time on being a creator.

Don’t get me wrong. I can’t begin to tell you what an incredibly difficult decision this was to make.  As those that know me will attest, I have an absolute PASSION for teaching.  It’s part of my DNA.  I can’t NOT do it.

But I don’t want to be the world’s best administrator.  I want to be the world’s best cartoonist.

I’ve spent 13 years attending or working for The Kubert School.  It’s a huge chapter of my life.  And it will continue to be.  I’ll still be involved with the school here and there, consulting and helping out.  Definitely gonna miss everyone at the school, they’ve become my family away from home. Great people, one and all.  And my sincere apologies to all the students coming back in the fall that were looking forward to my class.  I really do feel guilty that I won’t be there for you next year, but I’m always available if you need help.

Part of focusing on creating involves me leaving New Jersey to move back home to Illinois (someplace more affordable) so the last couple weeks have been pretty hectic.  Once I’m settled in, I’ll start posting a lot more art and progress on how The Happy Samurais is coming along.

So the bad news is I won’t be teaching or helping develop the Kubert School’s program anymore.

But the good news is, you’ll get to see a lot more comics from me!


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