“I remember I saw I Am Legend during the writer’s strike, and I had a panic attack and I had to go lie down in the public bathroom because it was a combination of out of work, too much time, movie in the middle of the day and then spoiler alert, Will Smith has to kill his dog and I was like, ‘Oh f—!’ And then I laid down in a New York movie theater bathroom and an old lady came in and she said, ‘Are you okay?’ And I said, ‘Oh, god! I Am Legend!’”—Amy Poehler (x)
Some of us who live in arid parts of the world think about water with a reverence others might find excessive. The water I will draw tomorrow from my tap in Malibu is today crossing the Mojave Desert from the Colorado River, and I like to think…
This is my favorite thing I did critically this year. It’s a color coded breakdown of some Hiroaki Samura fight scenes from Blade of the Immortal. My year critically can be chunked into the period where I only wrote about Crepax, the period where I only wrote about Breccia, and the period where I only wrote about Samura, and the period where I only wrote about Pretty Deadly. I mean that’s not true, but I do like to write multiple things on the same artists and comics. For me that’s what it is to really study a work critically. I think there’s a lot of merit to really focusing in on a particular work, and studying it from a lot of different angles over an extended period of time.
What drew you to comics and graphic narrative as the focus for your writing, as opposed to traditional prose (novels, etc.). Have you considered/tried writing a novel or something similar before?
I was about to kill myself and I thought I should do something for myself, something I can do to make myself happy, something that won’t be based in someone else’s approval, but solely in my own approval of my actions. So I realized I wanted to make comics.
I want to make movies, write novels, short stories, essays, more. I want to create a new art form. And I have considered it, tried it, and I am working on it all.
How do you feel about the casual racism and hypocrisy of comic book fans? Does it make you ashamed to be associated with these backwards people on some level just by writing comics?
The same way I feel about the casual racism and hypocrisy of anyone else; it’s a case-by-case thing. I am not interested in labeling someone as a “backwards person”, because I don’t believe labels help.
If I see a problem, I deal with it on a case-by-case basis. I believe that helps. And I believe keeping an open mind helps. When someone acts racist or hypocritical, I find that it’s usually because of a wound they have and often don’t connect it with their attitudes and behavior. So, if the behavior itself is stopped and the moment feels right for it, I then ask questions and I listen. Things develop from there.
Also, as written previously, I have no interest in giving my time and energy to guilt and shame.
Of all the works and creators that have inspired you in your work, which of them are you embarrassed to admit has had a sizable influence on your output?
None. Be it Jean-Claude van Damme movies, listening to Backstreet Boys when I was eleven, that ridiculous Oedipal poem my kindergarten teacher taught me or anything else: I have no time and energy for guilt and shame.
If you could bring together a group of any three musicians living or dead for a single album, who would they be and what type of music would they be playing?
What a great question! Right now my answer is Brian Eno, Venetian Snares and Nas. Or Julianna Barwick, Trish Keenan and Howard Shore. Or Avey Tare, Merzbow and Trent Reznor. Or Shigeto, Philip Glass and Miles Davis. Or Nick Cave and Autechre (two people, one band). Plenty more.
Your work is obviously rooted deeply in politics, and I want to avoid the relevancy question, so what do you think defines relevancy? Is relevancy a timeless concept to be applied to any piece of art or is relevancy inherently defined by social issues of the now?
What defines relevancy first is the creator. Is it relevant to me, is it alive in me, do I feel a deep need to write it out? Then it’s relevant and that’s it.
I love New York dearly. I wish I could move it wherever I go, just so it can always be near. I love LA, too, because it’s a perfect counterbalance to NY spatially, and not just. I love Prague, although that’s mostly memories, I suspect: so nostalgia and old buildings. I love Ostrava, in a Baudelarian sense of loving a bloated corpse surrounded by heavy machinery and deep woods. I love London and the blood underneath its pavements. There are so many. I don’t want to play favorites. So many to discover. Right now it’s NY I think of the most.
Wittgenstein: Twenty years ago I would have regarded Newman’s action as incomprehensible, perhaps even insincere. But no more…
Somebody: But what changed in you that you no longer think so?
W.: I came gradually to see that life is not what it seems.
[very long silence]
W.: It’s like this: In the city, streets are nicely laid out. And you drive on the right and you have traffic lights, and so on. There are rules. When you leave the city, there are still roads, but no traffic lights. And when you get far off, there are no roads, no lights, no rules, nothing to guide you. It’s all woods. And when you return to the city you may feel that the rules are wrong, that there should be no rules.
S.: I still don’t understand.
W.: It comes to something like this—If you have a light, I say: Follow it. It may be right. Certainly life in the city won’t do.
What's the real story with the whole Suicide Squad thing? Were you just contracted for a few issues at the very beginning or was it creative differences/focusing on other work (Zero) that made you leave? Also, you need to do another book with Riley. Wild Children was such a great example of ideas and art blending together.
As answered below. I said everything on the issue I currently want to say in my original statement. This is not me wanting to avoid telling what happened — it’s simply that I want certain conversations to happen first, and I am patient.
Thank you for the kind words on Wild Children! As for what I need — although you probably didn’t mean it this way — I am the only person that knows what I need, not you. Riley & I want to work together again, and I believe it will happen.
if you could live in another country than the usa, where would it be, and why?
I am currently dealing with this very question. Some Scandinavian countries, for one, are looking quite exciting, as I like their ethics, government systems…and I want to pay taxes in a country that puts most — if not all — of my money into things I wholeheartedly support. Other currently considered long-term prospects include some (mostly) South American countries.
Change is such a beautiful comic. I write this having, probably, not understood it entirely and having been broken up with the week before for the first time. It's a weird, dumb feeling, being dumped, but I think your comic is helping me get by for at least today. (This polish vodka and cranberry juice and captain crunch too, I guess.) Thanks for it. It's a comic I'd cuddle with, if that's alright with you and Morgan Jeske.
Thank you very much! I am glad the comic is helping.
I'd really love to know what happened between you and DC with Suicide Squad. I don't mean this as a slight towards you or DC, but I'm fairly interested in the corporate side of how the big two operate. Can you shed some light/provide some insight on that situation?
I can. However, I currently do not want to. There are still some conversations left to be had, and I am interested in them happening first. I don’t like to to air things out publicly unless I first make all steps towards changing the situation directly. As far as I am concerned, it feels professional — and just ethically right — to do it this way.
Hello ! A short message to tell you that i've just read the three first issues of Zero, and i found them really-really good and well-written (in fact, i'm already impatient for the next issue). #2 was well-balanced, but the final of #3 was so surprising. Now, i can't wait to read & discover your Wild Child story. Your sincerely (plz, be indulgent with my poor english) !
Hi, Ales! I have a writing problem: my story contstantly evolves. I only have time to write it on weekends, but on the week I plan plot and think about characters. I came up with good ideas for my book pretty often, but because of that I keep rewriting first chapter over and over for a month now. Idea of the story is still the same, but told with different characters and in different place than I first planned. And I don't know when to stop. Did you ever had the same problem?
Ha. So you feel stuck on the first chapter? Just stop writing and go to the second one. These things will evolve over time. You might go back to the first chapter later on. What this sounds like right now is a loop situation where you might want to move further just to prove yourself that you can do it and life will go on.
Stories evolve. It’s totally fine. Trust in the story and let it lead you. I believe you will lose nothing by disappearing further into the story when writing; in fact, I believe you will gain much, and the story will become better for it.
Does that help? I hope it does.
As for having the same problem — indeed, or at least a similar one. Nowadays this usually happens when I don’t set a schedule for myself and get started on a new project. However, there’s also a film script that is stuck on 20 pages for three months now, simply because the time doesn’t feel right, something feels off. It’s a big project that could easily bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars — scratch that, even millions — but finishing it in its current iteration doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel like the story is in sync. So I let it sit and work on other projects in the meantime.
Also: long walks. I recommend walking around and thinking about stories after you write. I learned this from J.G. Ballard.
Thank you for your last post. I come up against the same anxieties in the music world: a buzz band comes along and makes me worry that my band is going to get shoved out of people's hearts (as if there were finite space in there). I never could have identified my fear of other's success until Morrissey put a name to it, but now I notice it right away. My coping mechanism? I think to myself, "ANY rock band that gets big is good for rock in general, including my band." Same with comics, right?
For me it’s a case of “Who am I to decide who other people should like/love/buy comics from?” — and then I go and focus on myself instead. There’s room enough for everyone.
I think as you that Spider-Woman wish a normal life and sometimes she is confused Do you think to explore her personal life and her relationship with Hawkeye and Black Widow a love triangule maybe?
Lordy. Well, I am most certainly interested in exploring the lives of all characters I am writing, including Spider-Woman in Secret Avengers, so that is a “yes” — and as for a love triangle, they sort of happen to be naked in a sauna in Secret Avengers #1, although maybe not exactly in a classic love triangle way.
I believe good stories come from need to express a sentiment, an opinion or a point of view, and one does that well by drawing from personal experience. No experience feels worthy of making a story-with people, places, events. A poem or essay,but never a story. My question is do you draw upon your experiences for your stories,even the most surreal ? I feel there's more to it than exaggerating,altering or make metaphors upon our experiences. I ask since you never come off as too autobiographical.
Thank you very much, I appreciate the kind words.
Yes, I do draw upon my experiences. I believe the right way to write, for me, is to connect to what is alive in me, and then work to put that on paper/screen. I find that writing that way can be a very powerful way of therapy, improvement of the present and also short and long-term future adjustment. The way to make my writing resonate for the readers is to make it resonate for myself, and that can only work if it is connected to me, my experiences, my beliefs, my fears, my thoughts, feelings, emotions, enthusiasms, organs, everything.
"I believe that balance in my life can only be achieved if I respect and work with both order and chaos. Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about Black Swans -- events that are so unexpected that there is no easy way of preparing for them. The way I live, I choose to see every situation as a potential positive thing. The only being I have continuous power over in this world -- because we're not talking role-play scenarios here -- is my own self. So instead of attempting to change the world, I usually focus on changing myself, because when I change myself, the world/universe responds to that change by changing itself as well. It's all waves, it's all music -- change one piano key or one second of a bass line and you get an entirely different track, because the overall harmony changes. As for the sorts of power games where one tries to swerve other people to further their own goals in a manner that is not honest or otherwise not ethical -- I have no time for it in my life decisions. Exploring it in fiction is often tremendously exhilarating. I do my best to be continuously aware of my own shadow, in the Jungian sense of a shadow, and that means dealing with dark, bleak things that sometime come up from inside of me. The beauty is, I can get them into [my Image series] "Zero" and "Secret Avengers," explore them, see why they don't work, remind myself why they don't work, and do something creative instead. And if I'm overloaded, I go boxing. Or run. Or swim. Or meditate. And such. So -- the nature of power in this world: I believe there is real power, the one we have over ourselves, each one over our own self. I believe change comes from that power, from the power of our own, individual belief, and from our willingness to follow it however seemingly unrealizable it might seem. I also believe there is such a thing as illusory power, a parasite meme that uses us, a belief that some people are less and others are more, a belief that we need to be led by strong people because we can't govern ourselves, a belief that says this is a dog-eat-dog society. And it's not. We're only taught it is. And we are responsible for the stories we tell. Each one of us is responsible for our own story, and also for the stories we put into the world. And all of this is something the Secret Avengers stories are -- and will be -- dealing with."
"I was the model minority — absent, yet present. The yardstick to which other minorities were measured. If I could finish high school and college, why couldn’t so many African-American people find their way out of their hoods and pull themselves up by their bootstraps? If I could speak English without using a single ebonic slang, why do others call themselves “niggas”? If I managed to make it through 23 years without contracting an STD or getting pregnant, why do black women have the highest statistical risk of disease and teenage motherhood? Daddy America looked to me to prove that he did something right. After all, one of his children turned out all right. The others must simply be problem kids."