Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Black Sails and Crossbones: Two more pirate TV series in development



Because Port Royal, Pyrates, and The Republic of Pirates aren't enough, there are two more pirate TV shows on the horizon. First, Michael Bay is working on Black Sails, a Treasure Island prequel for Starz. There are a couple of troublesome ingredients in that recipe, but okay.

Meanwhile, NBC has ordered ten episodes of a show called Crossbones. According to the AV Club, it's about "Blackbeard and the undercover assassin who was sent to bring him to justice, only to discover that pirates are actually kind of fun." Even without Michael Bay, it seems.

Hmm. Cross-referencing this news with the earlier announcements, I notice that The Republic of Pirates was also being developed for NBC and would feature Blackbeard as well as other historical pirates like Anne Bonny and Mary Read. Without having any inside information, I'm guessing that someone figured out they could develop their own pirate show without paying royalties for the Republic of Pirates name. Sort of like Once Upon a Time did with Fables. I'm okay with that (Crossbones is a cooler name, for starters), but it probably does mean that - if they all make it to TV - we're looking at four pirate shows and not five. I'm okay with that too so long as Bonny and Read make it into one of them.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday to me, part two (or, Comics are awesome and I love my friends)



Ben Zmith draws the hilarious and awesome Rooster Jack comics. Turns out, he also draws an amazing birthday card featuring my favorite chicken-handed fantasy hero. Thanks again, Ben!

I'm seriously humbled and awed by all the love I've gotten today: here on the blog, through Facebook and Twitter, on the phone, and in person. Thanks to everyone for a fantastic birthday.

Happy Birthday to me



I know it's weird to wish myself a Happy Birthday, but I really just want to show off this awesome drawing my even more awesome friend Jessica Hickman made for me. Thank you, Jess!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Have a meaningful Memorial Day



If you live in the US, I hope you find time to eat some bratwurst and remember our fallen soldiers. Maybe not in that order.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Happy Birthday, Star Wars



Because of what it led to, I sometimes forget how much Star Wars inspired me as a kid. And I don't mean the Star Wars franchise, I mean Star Wars, the movie that came out on this day in 1977. The franchise is "what it led to" and that's the part I've had to figure out how to deal with.

I hate the "Episode IV: A New Hope" title that got added to the name of the first film much later, because it takes my favorite movie of all time and reduces it to just another cog in the Star Wars merchandising machine. Yes, technically, The Empire Strikes Back is a better movie. It looks better and it's thematically richer and c'mon: Lando Calrissian. But because of the cliffhanger ending, I can't appreciate it by itself without thinking about all the stuff that followed it: Sy Snootles and Boba Fett's lame death and Ewoks and the Skywalker Twins. Over time, I've drawn the circle of my Star Wars love tighter and tighter around the first movie.

It's not that I hate the others; not even the prequels. They're fine for what they are. It's just that as the Star Wars universe expands, the impact of that first film diminishes. I don't love them like I love that first movie. In fact, I've grown to think of them as non-canonical. I wish I'd known I had that option when I was 13 and rebelling against the idea that Darth Vader is Luke's dad. I still think that's a bogus story development.



Vader has some really cool moments in Empire, but I can't forget that that movie cuts Vader's coolness factor in half by giving us a peek of him without his helmet, and then halves it again by planting the seeds for his redemption. Vader in Star Wars is the greatest movie villain of all time with unlimited potential. Vader after Empire is a sloppy character on an even messier journey.

By thinking of all the sequels and prequels as non-canonical, I can enjoy the many, many parts of them I like without letting the parts I don't pollute my feelings for the original movie. Because man, that movie. It sounds like an exaggeration to say that it changed my life, but I think maybe that's an accurate statement. It's certainly true in the sense that Star Wars cracked my imagination wide open and made me want to tell my own stories in a ridiculously futile attempt to create something half as cool. It's sad that I don't always remember that, so when I do remember, it makes me very protective of the film.

From one point of view, sure, it belongs to George Lucas and he can do whatever he wants to it. But from another point of view, it's all mine because of what it means to me personally. I don't have to let what came later change that.









King Kong Tweets (and the LXB confesses!)



This week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is a little out of my - er - league. It's a fun idea (Take a peek at a fictional character’s social media account. What would his or her Twitter feed or Facebook page look like?) and I've seen it done really well on Fakebook, but constructing one of my own would require more time than I have this week. Instead, I'll point you toward Brian's (Cool and Collected) awesome and hilarious King Kong Twitter account. It's a thing of beauty and I hope he keeps it going for a long, long time.

In other LXB news, the League has made its geek confessions and there are some shockers. Like people who've never seen an episode of Star Trek, don't like Pixar (any Pixar), and love the New Monkees. To which I say: Vive la différence.

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SpringCon and fur bikinis



If I wait until I download the pictures from my camera, my SpringCon report will never happen, so here are a couple I snagged with my iPod on Saturday. The one above is right before the show and David's stapling his copies of Hulkasaurus. You can also see a Transformer (we make it fight Godzilla on the table) and the pile of candy the convention always has waiting for creators. That's Darla Ecklund in the background, but more on her in a minute.

David sold three copies of his comic before the show even started (and he continued to outsell me the whole show). The first sale was to the awesome Sam Hiti. Sam is extremely supportive of young artists and for several years has had a protege or two at his table. They've left the nest now, but Sam's enthusiasm for David and his book show that he still has a huge heart for kids who cartoon.



Saturday morning was very busy and the line to get into the show was enormous even a couple of hours after we opened. The crowd thinned out a little as the day progressed, but it never got small. There were always lots of people around and even when my table was slow, there was plenty of people-watching to do. Sunday's line wasn't quite as long, but it was still impressive and the show buzzed and hummed all weekend.

I sat between my friends Grant Gould and Darla Ecklund. Grant always draws a crowd to his table with his great Star Wars art and his awesome sketchbook covers. Darla had a great show too and was working on some samples for an upcoming pirate festival she's going to in Wisconsin. She and a writer friend will have a table where Darla will sketch you as a pirate on a special card and her friend will write an excerpt from your "legend" on the back. It's a cool idea and even though her friend wasn't at SpringCon, I asked Darla to draw me.



I didn't sell a ton of comics, but everything I had for actual sale was material that's been out for a while. I did give away all of my Artist Alley preview ashcans, so that (and David's experience with his book) made the show successful for me.

Well, that and that I met Bill Willingham without turning into a slackjawed fool. He signed the first two Fables collections for me and I think I managed to not be awkward as I pointed out that I wrote one of the review quotes on the back of Volume 2. He was awesome.

The only disappointment about the show was that Jessica Hickman couldn't make it. One of her cats was ill and needed care, so Jess took care of that. But our friend Uko Smith, who drove in from Ohio, and I were able to catch up with her after the show on Sunday and grab some Mexican food. One of the things that always makes a show for me is sitting next to Jess and laughing as we brainstorm crazy ideas for future projects. We didn't get to do that at the convention this year, but we sure did it at dinner. Jess, Uko, and I came up with a great idea with the working title Fur Bikini. That's all I can say about it now, except that Jess went home afterwards and - inspired by the project - drew this.



And that's all you need to know.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing update | Monsters killed; girl needs jungle



Just a quick writing update today. Last week I finished the first draft of the complete script for Kill All Monsters. Or for the first volume of Kill All Monsters, anyway. I'm not saying whether or not the Kill Team succeeds in its mission to take out all the monsters, but I will say that there's definitely room for a sequel if the first book does well. That first book is a complete story though, with a definite end, and that end is now written. That's a huge deal for me.

Our editor, James Powell is looking over the draft and there will be rewriting, but in the meantime, I'm able to move on to others things. I have four projects in the queue and the first is a short text story for a jungle girl anthology. I don't want to say what it's about yet, but I will say that the book's editor sent me the above Alberto Vargas painting with a note that it reminded him of my story. And I can totally see why.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Artist Alley Comics...In Color!



SpringCon went very well. I'll work on a real (but short) report, but one of the highlights was getting to tell a lot of people about Artist Alley Comics. I passed out all the preview ashcans I had except for one that I kept for myself.

Those were of course in black-and-white, but progress on the color preview for Heroes continues, starting with this awesome cover. It features Spencer's Lionbot from Kill All Monsters surrounded by other awesome, Artist Alley characters like Annie Ammo (the woman with the baby), Kyrra the Alien Jungle Girl (the purple, cat-like woman), Red Vengeance (the masked man with the gun), and so many more. If you haven't checked out the free PDF preview yet, I hope you will because there's some outstanding stuff in there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hulkasaurus: One more thing for SpringCon



My son David will be at SpringCon with me tomorrow with a very limited number of copies of his own comic, Hulkasaurus. It's a 12-page booklet containing a giant-monster story and a back-up feature introducing a creature he plans to use in future issues. Only a buck. Get 'em while they last.

Get your new Kill All Monsters at SpringCon!



FedEx cooperated and my copies of the Artist Alley preview ashcan - featuring six, all-new pages of Kill All Monsters! action - are sitting on my dining room table. I'll have them at SpringCon tomorrow and will be giving them away FOR FREE. So if you're in the area, stop by my table and I'll hand one over. Until I run out anyway.

Don't forget, in addition to KAM, the preview book also has new material by Craig Rousseau, Rich Woodall, Kelly Yates, Richard Case, Chris Kemple, and Randy Green. What's more, that new material has names like Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl, MonstHer, Annie Ammo, Red Vengeance, and Dollz. This is going to be so cool, you guys.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Impossible Missions Force hates cephalopods



Check out Slay Monstrobot of the Deep for the whole exciting battle!

LXB | True Geek Confessions



This week's League assignment:

What is something you absolutely hate or love or just don’t get, or maybe it’s something you have never even seen or read. What is your deepest, darkest geek confession?

I came up with something that fits each of those categories.
  • Something I Hate That Everyone Else Loves: The first season of Heroes. I knew after two or three episodes that the show wasn't for me. I'm not saying that I'm cooler than anyone else because of that; just that whatever qualities the show had early on that everyone liked and that it eventually lost: I wasn't able to see them.
  • Something I Love That Everyone Else Hates: Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I explained why at the time.
  • Something I Don't Get That Everyone Else Seems To: Transformers. The cartoons, the movies, the toys. All of it. I probably understand most why the toys are cool, but I was just older than the target audience when the cartoon came out and was never able to get into it. Michael Bay did nothing to help me out with that.
  • Something I've Never Seen That Everyone Else Has: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I saw the Kristy Swanson movie in the theater and - while I liked it okay - it wasn't anything that I thought I should watch on a weekly basis. By the time everyone was saying how great it was, it was far enough along that I wanted to start from the beginning and have just never gotten around to it. 

Do you have a pop culture secret? Share below!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

LXB | The League's Ultimate Crossovers



Brian's posted the rest of the League of Extraordinary Blogger's responses about their ultimate movie crossovers and there are several that I'd pay big bucks to see on the big screen. The image above was created by Sideshow Cinema for an imaginary crossover that I cannot believe Dark Horse hasn't yet done. Other ones I want to be real are:
  • Memories of Toymorrow's goofy, fun mash-up of famous movie and TV bachelors competing for the affection of the cat from the Pepe LePew cartoons. I just can't decide if it's the ultimate romantic comedy or the ultimate horror film.
  • Branded in the 80s created a sequel to '80s movies that pitted kids against a sinister government: Wargames, Cloak and Dagger, and The Manhattan Project. In his version, the kids are grown and pulled into another plot in which they have to prevent World War III. (In his comments section, a reader talks about his idea for a Dukes of Hazzard/Knight Rider crossover that would also be awesome.)
  • Tupa's Treasures has three cool ideas, but my favorite is combining the casts of the two Raiders of the Lost Ark TV knock offs: Tales of the Gold Monkey and Bring 'Em Back Alive.
  • Speaking of Raiders, AEIOU and Sometimes Why would love to see Indiana Jones meet the Doctor. And so would I.
  • The Man Who Stares at Toys sold me on his idea for Wookiees and Klingons teaming up to fight Xenomorphs.
  • Dave Lowe wins at life by coming up with Indiana Jones' exploring King Kong's Skull Island.
There are a lot of cool ideas out there though, so check out Cool and Collected for the whole list, including Tombstone meets Deadwood, and Batman vs Ace Ventura.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

SpringCon reminder



If you live in or around Minneapolis/Saint Paul, don't forget that SpringCon is this weekend. I'll be there with  - FedEx willing - something exciting, new, and Kill All Monsters related. More details once I have the items in my hands.

Hope you can stop by!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Meet Jason Copland tomorrow at Vancouver Comic-Con



Gah! I should have posted this earlier this week. Kill All Monsters' Jason Copland and Ed Brisson will both be special guests at Vancouver Comic-Con tomorrow along with Joe Keatinge and Moritat. That's a show I wouldn't miss if I were anywhere near there.

If you are anywhere near there, please stop by and tell them "hi." Jason probably has Kill All Monsters ashcans left and some of those Artist Alley ashcans. He'll definitely have pretty art for you to look at.

Friday, May 11, 2012

LXB | Leaving Neverland



Gonna go back for a League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment that I skipped in order to catch up this week: Grab Rufus and head to the phone booth, because this week, we’re going back in time! Dial up the year you turned 12, and revisit the last official year of your “childhood.”

I never thought of 12 as the last year of childhood. I always thought that was 17, which of course is ridiculous because teenage-years and childhood are in no way the same thing. This is a cool exercise, because it lets me go back and re-evaluate that year the way I always should have thought of it.

I have a few strong memories of 12, most of which have to do with starting a new school and making new friends. My best pals were the McLanahan twins, who introduced me to a life-long passion for New Wave music (they hooked me with Talking Heads and Adam Ant) and a shorter-lived infatuation with 18-wheelers. We all had our dream rigs picked out; mine was a black, conventional Kenworth with chrome highlights.

I'd already discovered girls a year or four before, but they were of course still vitally important to 12-year-old me. Not that I totally knew how to talk to them yet, but I started making friends with girls around that time and felt more comfortable around them than I had up to that point. So it was a milestone.

I remember that the Florida State Seminoles football team was undefeated that year (but had forgotten until researching this that they lost to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl).

Because of all of that, for years after I thought back on 12 as a Perfect Year; the benchmark to measure all other years by. That makes me happy, realizing now that it was my last year of childhood and that I enjoyed the heck out of it. It also makes me happy that I turned 12 in 1979, so my childhood ended at the same time as the '70s. That got me ready for the '80s as a teenager, which was awesome.

I did some research to remind me of other things that happened that year. This is from May 29 (my birthday), 1979 to May 29, 1980; not the calendar year. It's a long list, so I'm putting it behind a break.


Wednesday, May 09, 2012

LXB | Avengers, but with spies, but without Steed and Peel



For nerds of a certain age, there can be some confusion around the name Avengers. Most people are going to think of the Marvel superheroes, but there's still a dedicated group of fans for whom the name automatically brings to mind Patrick Macnee in a bowler and Diana Rigg in a catsuit. I neither blame nor pity them. Those are excellent things to spring to mind under any circumstances. But when I say "spy Avengers," that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about my response to this week's assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers. Inspired by the Joss Whedon movie, Brian asks:

What pop culture heroes or stories would make for the ultimate crossover?

My mind immediately went to that March Madness bracket we did with all the action heroes. How cool would it be to do The Expendables the way we all want to see it done? Not with new characters, but with Stallone actually playing John Rambo and with Bruce Willis playing John McClane. Clint Eastwood could still play a threatening Dirty Harry. Maybe Schwarzenegger could bring back Dutch from Predator. That would be something to see.

But as I kept adding in characters from that bracket, I grew less pleased with the result. Snake Plissken and Indiana Jones wouldn't work without a time travel angle that would take over the whole movie. It also makes my head hurt to figure out a plot in which cops, spies, and soldiers all have something to do and can interact with each other for an entire film. So I decided to pick one genre and expand on it.

I picked spies partly because Bond and Bourne did so well in the bracket, but mostly because a) it's my favorite of those three genres, b) it's easy to add women to the cast, and c) there have been a ton of spy movies lately. That last one is important because it means that it's much easier to believe that these characters are all active and available to team up. With Rambo and Dutch, we'd have to spend the entire first act explaining why they're still (or back) in the game.

I already revealed them in the header image, but my ultimate spy team would be a 50-50 male/female mix: James Bond, Natasha Romanoff, Evelyn Salt, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, and Hanna. I stopped it at six to keep it manageable (and limited myself to movie characters), but there's plenty of room for additional characters in cameos or whatnot: Mallory Kane, Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath, or any of the surviving cast of Red. Maybe not Maxwell Smart, but Anne Hathaway as Agent 99? Heck yeah. You could even throw in some TV spies for fun: Michael Westen, Jack Bauer, Annie Walker, or Carrie Mathison, for example.

What do you think? Would you pay good money to see that? What would your ultimate movie crossover be?

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Kill All Monsters returns: Artist Alley Comics



It's finally happening, you guys. Kill All Monsters is coming back and it'll start June 22 at Heroes Con. We'll unveil more details later, but the gist of it is that Jason and I were invited to join a creator-driven digital comics initiative called Artist Alley Comics. It was created by some folks you may have heard of: Rich Woodall (Johnny Raygun), Craig Rousseau (The Perhapanauts, Impulse, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane), and Kelly Yates (Doctor Who, Amber Atoms).

Rich and Craig's Artist Alley comic will be the previously teased Kyrra: Alien Jungle Girl; Kelly's is an awesome looking deal called MonstHer. Other creators participating in the launch are Richard Case (Hunter: The Age of Magic), Chris Kemple (Negative Burn), and Randy Green (Tomb Raider, New X-Men). Richard's comic will be called Annie Ammo, Chris' is Red Vengeance, and Randy's is Dollz. Kill All Monsters! is the sixth title in the initial launch and I'm extremely proud and pleased to be associated with this group. I'd give you brief descriptions of each series, but there's a preview PDF that gives a great peek at them, including six, never-before-seen pages from Kill All Monsters!

Next steps for the group are to launch a color preview at Heroes and I imagine we'll be releasing details about the full, digital launch at that time. In the meantime, here's one of KAM's six preview pages (there are actual monsters in the other five), so please check out the PDF and see everything that Arist Alley has to offer.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Girl World: The ignorance and oppression of female culture

This cartoon by Eleanor Davis makes me sad. The first panel is sad and it just gets worse with each panel after it. It's especially miserable to me, because I'm reading it at a time that I'm just starting to realize how different my world is from a lot of the women I share it with.

I didn't grow up around many women. We adopted my sister when I was starting my teenage years, but my entire childhood was spent with two brothers. Girls and women were a mystery to me and it wasn't until college that I started making friends with women and realized that they were pretty cool and that, generally speaking, I  actually preferred their company to guys.

A large part of the reason for that was simply that they were different. Having spent my entire life with boys up to then, I loved the change. I was fascinated by the insight of getting to know women and learning about their culture.

I know it sounds very anthropological (gynopological?), but that's not how I saw it at the time. I wasn't overthinking it then; it's only recently that I've been questioning my relationship with and attitudes about the female gender and where those things began. Back in the day, I was just, "Hey, cool! Girls!" But now I'm realizing that women do indeed have a different culture when they're by themselves. I just haven't recognized it.

There are a couple of reasons for my ignorance and I'll start with the most personally damning one: I'm a man in a traditionally patriarchal culture and that means that I've been privileged enough not to have to think about these things. I've been able to live successfully under the assumption that my culture is not just the dominant one, but really the only one. That men and women share a culture and that their experiences in that culture are more or less the same. I've always known that women have it tougher than men, but I never grasped the idea that the way they experience the world is fundamentally different from the way I do.

That's related to the other reason I've never thought about this. Since my gender has traditionally controlled the way the world is presented through media, my ignorance has never been challenged. Until just recently.

Since I've been married (15 years next month!), I haven't had a lot of opportunity to just hang out with groups of women. I have male friends I hang out with and my family and I do a lot with other couples and families, but the only view I currently have into female culture is through stuff like Sex and the City, Bridesmaids, or the recent episode of Pop Culture Happy Hour where Linda Holmes kicked out the boys for a week to bring in Parul Sehgal, Barrie Hardymon, and Tanya Ballard Brown. I kind of crave that.

It's Linda Holmes who's mostly responsible for pulling off my blindfold. In talking about things like Bridesmaids, she often mentions how refreshing it is to watch women on a screen talking the way that she and her friends talk when there are no guys around. She's not the first person who's mentioned that, but she says it consistently enough that it's finally sunk in. I've never stopped long enough to consider what it might be like to so rarely see yourself in movies and TV shows.

What's most disturbing though is the way my (that is, male) culture not only ignores female culture, but actively oppresses it. One example is offered by psychology professor Richard Beck, a Christian of the best possible kind who frequently blogs about theological and social issues and how they intersect with psychology. In a post on the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, Beck explains that "while most males fantasize about having sex with the Whore - the sexually uninhibited and insatiable female - they don't want to be married to such a woman. When it comes to marriage men want the Madonna, the virginal and faithful bride." He then goes on to observe that "in point of fact, women aren't very much like whores at all," observing that for prostitutes, their vocation is about economics and not sexual insatiability.

The actual origin of the insatiable whore idea is horrifying:
It is a product of Freudian projection. Throughout history, religiously conservative males have had to confront one of the greatest sources of their moral failure: the male libido. The male libido - the fact that men are sluts - is a sore spot of any male community wanting to pursue purity and holiness. And what has happened, by and large, is that rather than admit that males struggle mightily in the sexual realm, males have externalized the blame and projected their libido onto women. Rather than blaming themselves for sexual sin males have, throughout history, blamed women for being temptresses. The Whore was created to be the scapegoat to preserve male self-righteousness. Rather than turning inward, in personal and collective repentance, men could blame women, blame the whores, for their sexual and moral failures. It's not our fault, the men say, it's the whore's fault. 
Courtney Stoker offers another example of male culture's oppression of female culture: the objectification of women in geek society, particularly when it comes to cosplay. Stoker's talk is fascinating, especially because she brings in the observation that women often objectify themselves in their choice of costumes and the way they pose while wearing them. However, she argues that men aren't completely off the hook for that:
...one of the reasons geek women seek the approval of geek men is that geek men have positions of power and privilege in both geek industries and in geek fan communities. While women understand that sexy cosplay won’t get them respect, per se, they also know that it is most likely to get them positive attention, recognition, and limited acceptance in geek communities. Women who do not or cannot seek sexual approval from the male geek community are more likely to be ignored, derided, or dismissed.
That's a simplified argument, of course. There are as many reasons for a woman to dress sexily as there are women who do it. But it does highlight the indisputable and unignorable fact that women are rewarded with attention by presenting themselves as sexually approachable. Because for too many men, that's the beginning and end of their interest in women. That's a terrible thought when men are the ones with the power. It's easy to see how it leads to the kind of thinking by some women that's illustrated in Eleanor Davis' cartoon.

Fortunately, the world is changing. Less and less women are willing to be have their culture ignored and oppressed, while more and more men are becoming eager to learn about and from women so that the two genders can become equal partners in directing the human race from here on. There's still a long way to go though and a lot of work to do, but it begins with more men realizing that there's a problem.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!



Unfortunately, I'll be nowhere near a mariachi band or a burrito all day, but that doesn't mean you have to deny yourself. Hope it's a good one.

Photo lifted from Helldini Chronicles.

Friday, May 04, 2012

LXB | That little droid and I have been through a lot together



I'm steadily catching up to the rest of the League, but thanks to the wise council of our intrepid leader, Brian, starting next week I'm going to skip ahead a bit and go live with the group. I'll still play makeup on the assignments I've missed, but even though it'll hurt my pretend OCD to go out of order, it'll be more fun to get back in the game earlier. To finish up this week though, here's another catch-up assignment.

What is the one item in your collection you would save if your house was being swallowed by a sink hole, carried off in a tornado, and then swept away in a flood?

This took some thinking. Like I said earlier, I don't really collect much anymore. A lot of what I've collected in the past is in storage bins, but I do have a few things on bookshelves in my office. I figure that's a good indication that I value them more than - say - that old Six Million Dollar Man action figure with the threadbare uniform or even the re-issued Millenium Falcon playset I was so happy to finally get as an adult after not having it as a child. In the Falcon's case, not displaying it is more about size than it is the value I place on it, but still...if it was that important to me, I'd likely make room.

One of the reasons that it's not is that it's a re-issue. That means that it came with some cool features that the original Falcon playsets didn't, but it also means that I don't have as much emotional attachment to it. I took it out of the box and flew it around a little while, blowing up the cat with my pretend blasters, but I didn't spend hours making up stories about it the way I did with other toys when I was little. Like my Star Wars figures.

What I'd grab first from my collection is the small handful of original Star Wars figures I still have: R2-D2, Han Solo, and Chewbacca. I may have a lightsaber-less Luke Skywalker somewhere, but he's not on the shelf with those other three. I have no idea what happened to Darth Vader, Obi-Wan, Leia, C-3PO, the Tusken Raider, the stormtrooper, and the Death Star commander. Maybe my brothers have those. It doesn't really matter. It's not about the figures themselves.

Though Han and Chewie were always my favorites (that's why I coveted that Falcon playset so much) and I love the cool, clicking noise R2 makes when you turn his head, those toys are special because they represent a huge part of my childhood: both emotionally and in terms of time spent playing with them with my brothers. Nothing else on any of those shelves comes close.

The rest of the League also has stuff they wouldn't want to lose and, like me, a couple of them are particular childhood toys. Life With Fandom is attached to one from another series, while Branded in the '80s has a different Star Wars toy that he can't give up. There are also some awesome items in other people's collection. I especially love Brian's King Kong model and Lair of the Dork Horde's Mego Conan. But my favorite post of all is the one by Flashlights Are Something to Eat that not only explains his blog title and URL, but includes clips from the cassette tapes he and his brother made as kids. Such awesome memories. That's what collecting is really about for me.

May the Fourth be with you



Happy Star Wars Day, everyone. I got you an ecard that Grant Gould made for StarWars.com.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Writing is Hard: Get your dress dirty


Photo by Michelle Kennedy.

The only reason you need to follow Ben Caldwell's blog is the art he puts up there, but lately he's been doing some great process posts too. A lot of them are about design and visual storytelling, but last week he talked about some things that apply to writing too. In discussing creative block, he said:
start drawing/writing whatever is giving you trouble, without trying to make it good. even if you throw away everything you just did, at least you'll have done SOMETHING, and at least clarified certain things you DON'T want to have. it's always easier to fix something that exists, than worry about something that doesn't. also, no one ever accomplished something by not doing it.

if you're working on a script or drawing and unsure how to get past a certain point, then save a copy of whatever you're doing, then go ahead and finish it however the hell you want. follow your ideas through to their logical conclusion, because this can help you see if perhaps you were asking yourself the wrong questions in the first place -- which is the best way to get the wrong answers.
Writer Angela Booth describes this as "making mud."
Writing is creative work, not typing. [...] I look on my first drafts of all writing as making mud -- making a mess. You've got to get some words written so you know what you're thinking about a topic, and you can't know until you write it.
I love that analogy and it's helped me a lot with Kill All Monsters. I'm not as obsessed about turning in a perfect draft to James (my editor), because I know that it's just the material that I'm building the actual story with. I also love what Ben adds to that point: that the process of creating mud and playing in it is also educational. It's the creative equivalent of Edison's famous statement about knowing a thousand ways not to build a lightbulb.

Basically, it's about fearlessness. It's a cheap kind of fearlessness, because it doesn't even require showing your practice stuff to anyone else, but it's still important. Every creator either admits to struggling with doubts about his or her work, or is a big fat liar. So anything that helps deal with that fear - however small - is valuable.

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