It’s not really writer’s block. Not in the traditional sense of the word at least.
Writer’s block is where a person simply can’t put words to a page in any form. The words don’t come. There’s nothing there.
That’s never been my problem. I’ve got something else going on and it trips me up just the same.
The problem I have is that I’ve got too many ideas.
And I have trouble sorting them all out and deciding what to do and in what order. I can just do whatever, but that doesn’t always work out so well. The problem is that I see all of the possible ramifications and I’ll be damned if I can pick just one.
Take Savage Dragon’s wife (please). She’s missing. When she was last seen, she was in sorry shape. It looked as though she’d never walk again. She was in a hospital bed. She had a conversation with her husband and the next time somebody looked in on her, she was gone.
Nice little cliffhanger, eh? Dragon’s concerned — nobody’s seen or heard anything. So it’s up to him to piece all the pieces together and track her down.
There are simply too many options to choose from. And frankly, I’m not sure where to go with it.
Now, Jennifer Dragon had superpowers. When Dragon first met her, she’d splattered her first husband’s brains all over her apartment. After a series of events it came out that her powers had manifested themselves in a moment of stress. Her husband was an abusive sort and the one time she fought back — POW — it was all over for him. Her baby was crying, there was blood everywhere and the police were called and she met a certain green-skinned police officer.
Some years later, the two were wed. Jennifer fought crime at Dragon’s side. He moved on from the police and the two fought crime on their own.
And one day they ran into a villain named Negate and her powers were taken away and then a house fell on her head and she was in the hospital and — and then she was missing.
Dragon had talked to her about getting powers. He’d mentioned looking up the Creator or the Ancient One or the Power Broker.
And, at this point — it’s been a while. It’s been over a year, in real time. And there are any number of places I can go and I try to play them out in my head and try to imagine what my book would be like with each scenario. She could be dead. She could have been abducted. She could have acquired superpowers that changed her in some disturbing way. Her best friend, or a relative, or any number of things could be caring her for, really.
There are simply too many options and I could see me doing any number of them.
Jennifer Dragon is not a hugely popular character. I know that. Readers have found her to be too pretty, too perfect — the kind of criticisms hurled at Gwen Stacy back when she was still alive (and before she was ret-conned into being something less than wholesome).
But I don’t like letting fans’ opinions sway me. I’d rather try and make them love her than take the easy way out and just have her buy the farm orkick the bucket or even die.
Not all solutions are good ones. They don’t all follow logically or even make sense. The fact that some time has passed makes things more difficult because now I not only have to come up with “what happened?” but I also need to come up with a “and where has she been hiding all this time?”
It bothers people, sometimes, to think that I’m just winging it — that I didn’t have this whole story mapped out from day one — but how could I? How could I know that I’d still be doing this book 15 years later and know everything beforehand? Sure, I keep track of it all and make every effort to have it make sense. Sure, I know the resolution to most mysteries when they’re introduced, but I couldn’t possibly have everything all figured out! And what if I had and Image Comics fell apart the way all of our critics predicted it would? What then? I’d have a couple hundred stories all worked out and nowhere to use them!
In any case — that’s not the problem.
Mysteries suck anyway. With the advent of the Internet, fans are able to compare notes and discuss things in an open forum and figure stuff out and spoil everything! It really makes life difficult, I tell you.
And then there’s this artist that I work with — myself! There are things I don’t like to draw or, worse, can’t draw and then there’s that part of me that gets bored of doing the same thing over and over again. I try to keep the artist happy. Keep him coming back for more. Thing is — I can’t give him those big explosive fight scenes that he likes to draw each and every month. I need to have these characters converse from time to time and finding new and inventive ways of doing that can be taxing, to say the least.
Life isn’t a neat little story. Real life isn’t like fiction. In the real world the bad guys win and they manipulate the media and they pillage and steal and get richer and richer and we seldom even hear about it. In the real world you bump into somebody at a party, have a brief but intense conversation and then never see that person again. In the real world people die off camera and you hear about it days or weeks or years after the fact. If somebody made a movie or TV show or comic book about a typical two-hour period from any of our lives, viewers or readers would be bored to tears. Most of our lives are filled with mundane tasks and mind-numbingly boring routine. Shaving, bathing, washing dishes and buying groceries make for dull reading. Comics, by their very nature have to pick and choose.
When I started doing "Savage Dragon," I wanted to do a book that was more realistic. I set it in real time and had time pass and characters age and even though the situations were often overblown and outrageous, I made an effort to treat them in a relatively realistic way.
And like real life, it doesn’t all flow in a predictable fashion. Sometimes things go off in wild directions. Sometimes characters get sidetracked. And there’s never enough room. I can never depict a month’s worth of action and adventure. I always end up having to play catch up at some point because a continued yarn only covered a few weeks, but six months flew by in the real world.
It’s no easy task.
I can see why most folks do some kind of comic book time where nobody ages and relatively few changes occur. I can see why comic book characters never get old and why ones that do die — eventually come back (and Captain America will be back. Sheesh. How gullible are you guys anyway? They dug up Bucky for crying out loud — BUCKY! The guy that used to be our example of "really, truly dead." We used to say “Bucky dead” when we meant
never-coming-back-ever and now he is back! Cap will be back. It may not be next month or even next year but he’ll be back.).
But I digress…
I’ve never suffered true writer’s block. There’s always too much to do. I don’t have time for that. I can always do a million other things. I’ve got covers to draw and pages to ink and color and letter and I’ve got submissions to wade through and e-mails to answer and a thousand other tasks.
I don’t know if there’s a name for this — but it’s not writer’s block.
It is, however, driving me up the wall.
I can see a hundred options. I can see so many different paths to take and there’s no editor looking over my shoulder and saying, "you can’t do that one — you can’t maim that character — we need them for Underoos and Slurpie Cups and Happy Meals."
Is this the curse of creator-owned comics? Are we being tested with too many options?
I love doing "Savage Dragon." I have my days when I’d like to do other things and tell other stories, but writing and drawing "Savage Dragon" has been a dream come true. This book is the book I was born to write and draw. Each day is awesome.
But there are those days where simply taking dictation and drawing somebody else’s stuff has a certain appeal. A few years back I did a short stint on "Thor" and "Spider-Man" and the "Defenders" and it was a welcome break.
It also helped me appreciate what I have at Image that much more. It’s nice to be able to do whatever you want and not have to insert tab A into slot B. It’s nice to do something other than paint by numbers.
I’ll sort it all out. I always do.
And I needed to write another column.
I’m done with that at least.