Boris Karloff in “The Mummy” (1932) dir. by Karl Freund
Harold Lloyd, Bebe Daniels, William Gillespie, Snub Pollard and a skeleton friend in “Are Crooks Dishonest?” (1918)
One of the most transformative parts about parenthood is watching a new person experience things, and despite all attempts and appearances of a different life, to see that child experience the same things that you did over and over.
She was laying in bed sobbing an hour ago because she felt alone. She knew that we were just in the other room, a few feet away, and that the dogs were sleeping on the floor outside her door, and that each of us (dog and human alike) would come in and check on her repeatedly until she fell asleep and dote on her and tell her how much we love her, still, she felt alone.
I felt like that. I remember the nights in our house in Penn Hills, PA, before we moved out to the suburbs, with my brother and sisters rooms feet away from mine. I remember the thumping of my heart telling me that something was going to happen, something terrible. Something that would haunt me and destroy me and reshape me against all of my loved ones best attempts to do otherwise.
I’d hear marching. The march of the monsters coming from beneath my bed. The sound of nightmares getting in lock step and marching around the headboard of my bed, up the mattress and into my bed to pierce my skin and burn my flesh and cut my muscles. I felt powerless. I felt scared. And I felt alone. Every night for years I’d crawl into my parents bed sobbing because I felt alone.
Just like her.
Laying there, holding her, comforting her, wrapped between four arms and eight canine appendages, the fear of a life away from anyone who cares and cherishes her eats at her. I know this because that’s how I felt. Hell, that’s how I feel. Not all the time, no, but, there’s always moments.
I can talk about these things, even though the specific may be different, because I know that each of you at some point has felt the same way too. By talking and writing about the emotional truths of my life, I can, hopefully, connect to something in your life.
We all feel like we’re beautiful, unique snowflakes for so much of our lives, and, my generation in particular, is bred to believe it whole heartedly. But the fact is that all snowflakes might look different, they might have different crystalline structures going here and there, but, every single one is still just H2O.
Find the truth in your fears and loves, your wants and desires, and you will find the thing that makes your stories resonant for your audience. And hug someone you love, cause I guarantee you they feel the same way she does.
Print this up and get it to your comic store!
Here’s a handy-dandy Retailer Order Form for COPRA: ROUND ONE! Print this sucker out at home and bring it to your local comic shop. Easy!
Also, in case the above JPG gives you any grief, here’s a higher-quality PDF: http://tinyurl.com/copraform
Tremendous work from my pal Michel Fiffe. GO GET SOME.
As a writer, you are your brand. How you behave, how you speak, how you joke, it’s all seen by your fans, by your friends, and by your prospective employers. I’ve suggested a few people for jobs I couldn’t take recently who’ve been rejected for said jobs because of their social media presence. Being nasty online, complaining about the work that they have, being overly shrill, or misogynistic, or whatever. Now more than ever each of us responsible for what we say, and, in turn, your employers and publishing partners are, too.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I find a lot of mainstream comics to be mediocre. You wouldn’t know that from my social media though (other than this, drat.) Because I focus on the things that I love. The things that inspire me. But, put me and one of my good, real world friends together, and, of course, the venom will spew. Or, it did. I try and be better about that now, too.
My point, though, is that the first impression you make on people is no longer the one you make when you shake their hand or roll up to the job interview. It’s who you are online.
It seems like such a basic principle of modern life, and yet day after day I see talented, smart people who just don’t get it.
Be opinionated, be brash, be yourself, but, never forget people are watching you. People who could help you move up, down, and all around.
Never forget that you will be held responsible for whatever it is you say and it’ll never go away.
I never got Superman as a kid. Batman was gritty and grim and had cool gadgets and was just a dude. Wolverine was tough and mean. Spider-Man was just like me, only with Spider powers. But Superman? Who the hell thinks they’re just like him. From the aw shucks Clark to the holier than thou Superman, the image in my head of Superman was one that felt old, out-dated, and super, super dumb.
And then I got older. I started to realize that no Superman story is about the powers. No good one, anyways. No good story is about how invincible he is, or how strong he is. No the thing that has made Superman one of the most well known pop culture icons of all time is something much simpler than that.
He’s not Superman.
I wrote a Superman one-shot for DC that will likely never see the light of day. Just after an adventure where he realizes that he can’t save everyone, he finds himself at the mercy of Lois’s shit talking. This capper at the end essentially leads to Lois ribbing Clark who’s missed out on yet another story and is taking it badly. She chastises him by pointing out that Clark can’t do everything. ”I mean, c’mon, you’re not Superman.”
It’s a joke and maybe a bad one, but it’s also my core belief about the power of that character. Some people are always going to die, some people are always going to suffer. He wears both costumes. The Clark Kent aw shucks AND the perfect flyboy, and neither is really him. Just like we put on masks to hide ourselves in our day to day lives, pretending to be confident with things we’re secretly terrified of, the way we walk arrogantly on a tight rope that at any second can snap out from under us, that’s our super powers. That’s the thing that lets us survive.
But the fact is that none of us can be perfect. None of us can always be right. We all make mistakes. None of us are Superman. And neither is he. He’s putting on a show for the world, pretending to be a warm and loving father to us all, patting us on the head and saying, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there and it’ll all be alright.”
But the fact is, your parents aren’t always there. Sometimes Bullies win and good guys lose, and sometimes innocents suffer while the corrupt thrive.
That’s true in our lives, and it’s true in the stories about Superman. Even though for a good chunk of his 75 years he’s been the perpetual winner, the truth of the character is that every win comes with a bitter pill, whether it’s Lois ignoring Clark while fawning over Superman, or, the damage that his lies cause to him and the people he loves, and, in a very basic way, the lives of the people he can’t save because he’s too busy saving others.
That’s a burden. It’s a burden that he has to take on. Just like each of us have to decide which path we walk or face the consequence of walking none at all.
I love Superman because he’s all of us. He’s the id, ego, and superego at once. He’s the best parts of us and the worst parts of us simultaneously.
There’s been a handful of attempts to gritty up the character by making him conflicted or morally complex, but, the fact is, that moral complexity is baked into the character. You don’t need to add it by giving him angst or a crappy home life. That complexity is alread there. It’s who he is. No matter how fast he moves, no matter how strong he is, he can’t save everyone, and yet, by definition, he has to save everyone.
I love Superman because he’s NOT Superman.
The first volume of Colonial Comics focused on little-known stories of colonial New England between the years 1620 and 1750. The book featured a collection of historians, writers, and illustrators telling stories of female business owners, slaves, Native Americans, Jewish settlers, and…
My pal, Jason Rodriguez is putting together a stunningly cool Anthology. Go check it out.