February 2021: Vitality of Thought

Hey folks,

Once again, the end of February crept up on me out of nowhere – I thought I had a couple of extra days to write this post! Let’s get into it.

The Usual

I’ve had something rattling around in my brain this month that I wanted to dig into here – inspired partly by some of the discourse on Comics Twitter™, and compounded by having spent a chunk of the month wrestling with writer’s block.

I’ve spent a lot of my “brain-idle” time this month dwelling on the question of why I enjoy writing stories. Not in a particularly negative way, but just out of curiosity – what’s my reason for creating characters, worlds and narratives? What does that energy expenditure mean? It feels very much like there’s a constant tug-of-war between the impetus to write stories which are “meaningful” and “important” and the desire to write what I’m passionate about. In some cases, those two things can co-exist, but often I’m reminded that the stories I most want to tell aren’t “important” or “vital”, and aren’t exactly a new and unique vision.

There’s an easy answer to this, which is that every story someone creates is unique to some degree because it’s informed by who they are as a person – how they grew up, how they staple words together, what life and upbringing they’ve had. But I don’t personally find that answer all that helpful, especially when I routinely see discussion about how stories (and the comics medium in particular) should be used to tell stories that nobody has seen before, in a way that’s never been done before. The implication (at least in my mind) is that since there are a lot of other people like me, I should strive to find experimental or downright weird methods of storytelling in order to stand out.

Don’t get me wrong – experimental storytelling can be great, and I certainly wouldn’t tell anybody not to get weird with their writing. But my personal interest is less in pushing the boundaries of the form and more in clarity – I want to tell stories which will stick with people, move and inspire them, and for me that means focusing more on content and less on the form itself. My main hope is that after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, I’ll leave behind something more concrete than just memories, and I don’t need to push myself into a writing style I’m not comfortable with to achieve that.

The Record

*1 page of SENGOKU written
*SPACE COWBOYS issue #2 redrafted
*Notes/basic story summary for THE BLACK RUBRIC sequel
*Two pitches submitted to an anthology
*Lettering work – 12 pages of Professor Elemental: NEMESIS lettered

I’ve taken a little break from SENGOKU writing this month – the first scene is scripted, but I’ve been reconsidering my approach to the “voice” of the protagonist. Rather than the first-person captions I would normally default to, I’d like to try something which is stylistically a bit closer to the incredible series Lone Wolf and Cub (by Kazuo Koike & Goseki Kojima). It’ll mean letting the artwork do a lot more of the storytelling, but I think it’ll make for a stronger result.

SPACE COWBOYS #2 has been redrafted based on Claire’s feedback, and next up is issue #3. I can’t overstate the positives of working with a good editor – Claire’s great at pushing me not to take the lazy/easy approach and to really find the dialogue/ideas which will make this story stand out. I’ve even drawn some location maps/reference sketches for this one so hopefully it’ll make life easier for the artist!

I really had fun making THE BLACK RUBRIC with Katie Fleming, so I’ve been idly toying with the idea of doing a longer (maybe 50/60 pages or so?) sequel since we wrapped up the Kickstarter and launched it. Earlier this month, I hit on what the central premise of the sequel could be – as well as still being a loving spoof of black metal, I think I can see an angle to make it about creative burnout and the struggles of artist desire vs. fan expectation. If that sounds rather more serious than the last issue, don’t worry – I’m still determined to make it funny!

The Tunes

The playlist is a pretty long one this month! As usual, it’s a fairly even mix of stuff that’s new to me and more familiar tracks; Together to the Stars were recommended by a friend and this is a great slab of atmospheric black metal with plenty of melody to keep things interesting. Tides From Nebula make what I can only describe as… synthy post-metal? They (along with Harakiri for the Sky) have a knack for BIG RIFFS and soaring choruses which I’m particularly into. Wormwitch and Tribulation are both in catchier, head-banging territory – not quite black’n’roll, but they know their way around a groove. Palehorse/Palerider are a new discovery, and I’d highly recommend the full album this track is from – it’s like doomy, gloomy, darkness-soaked cowboy music with a metallic edge. Blood Ceremony are one of my favourites – hints of Jethro Tull but modern, more witchy, and fronted by an incredibly talented flautist/organist/singer Alia O’Brien who I’m a little bit in love with. Of Monsters and Men are a pop recommendation from the same friend who directed me to the first track on this playlist (because only listening to one kind of music is boring) and I really enjoyed this song – any act that sounds similar to Chvrches is a winner in my book. Next up is the most pristine rendition of Aerith’s Theme (technically called ‘Flowers Blooming in The Church’) I’ve heard, from the FFVII Remake Soundtrack – this song always makes me emotional because it’s so delicate and sad and hopeful, all at the same time. Lastly, please enjoy 9 minutes of ancient Egyptian/desert temple atmosphere from Karl Sanders, also known as the guitarist of brutal/technical death metal band Nile – his solo project sounds nothing like his day job and it’s a nice, chilled end to the list!

And that’s all from me – the sun is shining for what seems like the first time in months, vaccinations are happening and I might actually be able to play some live shows towards the end of the year. How’s that for something to look forward to, eh?

All the best,

Chris

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