“When It Works, It’s #$*&ing Awesome”
I do a lot of things. I often don’t know how to do these things before I start doing them. I’ve told you this before, but I only listed my successes. This time around, it’s all about failure.
But first, take a look at this:
Nice, right? I built that out of a pile of two-by-fours for my new baby daughter. I didn’t use any kind of building plan and I’m definitely not a trained woodworker — I just went at it with a saw and a (really bad) sketch of what I had in mind. I think it came out pretty well… and, it should be mentioned, my baby’s Japanese-American grandparents are mightily impressed, as well.
Less so with my attempt at plumbing.
That’s the ceiling of my kitchen about a week and a half ago. And it’s all my fault. How? The goddamn Bum Genius diaper sprayer, that’s how. Oh, and also because I don’t know a single fucking thing about plumbing. But mostly because I didn’t let that last fact stop me in any way.
Kimi and I, after deciding that we were going to be using cloth diapers, purchased a diaper sprayer (for de-pooping diapers prior to washing them in the machine) that attaches to the water line between the wall and the toilet tank. It’s a simple procedure, and the directions were mercifully clear. How, then, did things go so horrifically wrong? Keep reading.
Unfortunately, because the original plumber had used rigid pipe (and then, for some reason, WELDED THAT PIPE INTO PLACE), patching the diaper sprayer unit into the water supply line caused one side of the toilet tank to rise by two inches. Not both sides, mind you; one side. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work.
So I decided to fix it.
Utilizing absolutely no plumbing skills or knowledge, I reasoned that the simple solution would be to insert risers between the toilet tank and the bowl (thereby raising the whole thing the required two inches and keeping the tank level) and then fabricate an “extension” out of PVC pipe between the bottom of the tank and the port beneath, using gaskets on each end to make sure it stayed watertight. I even beaded in some silicone sealant, just to make sure.
I built it, installed it, tested it (umm… kinda? I flushed it a few times) and it worked! Not a single leak. Well, except for one.
Kimi’s water broke early the next morning. Off to the hospital we went to have a baby.
Right about the time hard labor began, though, I got a frantic message from our pet-sitter. She was standing in our kitchen… in an inch of water. The ceiling above her was bulging and sagging.
Did I mention that this was happening at the same time my baby was being born?
I told her how to turn off the water to the upstairs/guest bathroom and then called a plumber. The plumber told me to call a restoration specialist (to dry up the water), so I did. When the restoration specialist asked if it was okay to put me on hold, I said, “No. It isn’t. I’m at the hospital right now, having a baby. Right now. Just go to the house and fix it. Please.”
They were very understanding. I wasn’t sure how Kimi would feel about it, though, so I kinda didn’t mention anything about it until… I dunno, maybe five hours later? Luckily, she was so tired she just didn’t care. And I didn’t either, really. We were too busy being happy about finally meeting our new daughter, Violet.
Poor thing had to spend the first five days of her life living in a wind tunnel. Seriously; there were, like, seven huge fans plus some kinda huge dryer/extractor unit and they ran around the clock.
But that’s how it goes when you get it into your head that you can just cowboy any given situation. That, essentially, is how it’s gone for me most of my life… and for the entirety of my career thus far.
Pretty sweet transition, huh? And not a single college writing course taken.
Like a lot of big creative projects, “Wolverine: Origins” happened very quickly but over a long period of time. Yes; I know how that sounds but that’s just the way it is.
At one point, maybe nine years ago, Axel Alonso asked me to pitch him anything I had — the doors were wide open. I can’t remember every project I came back to him with, but the two that stick in my memory are a Taskmaster pitch (very close in tone to what I’d do years later with “Deadpool”) and a “Terror, Inc.” pitch (Nazi zombies — no shit — pulling a massive currency heist). If you were to ask Axel today about either of those ideas, he’d probably have zero recollection. And that’s not because he has a bad memory; in fact, his memory is pretty damned impressive because years later, out of the blue, he called and asked me about a story I’d pitched him (and then promptly forgot) titled “A Shadow on the Sun,” that revealed the existence of Wolverine’s son — a son Wolverine didn’t know he had — and that he’d been following (shadowing) Wolverine for years.
Essentially, the story was about a son who, having grown up not knowing or understanding what he is, finds himself following — in this case, literally — in his father’s footsteps in a desperate attempt to finally answer those questions. This, of course, is exactly the opposite of what Wolverine — were he to know he had a son — would want for his son… especially when he’s away from the X-Men, doing what he does best. Which is exactly what Wolverine was doing over the course of this particular story.
At the climax of the story, Wolverine finally closes in on his intended target… only to find that the target’s already been slaughtered. By Wolverine’s son. This, the son reasons, is what he “is” — this is his destiny. When Wolverine sees this, he’s revolted because his son is the literal embodiment of everything Wolverine hates about himself. I’m not going to give away the resolution (because I’ll probably use it in something else) but obviously it gets pretty heavy. And that’s from where “Wolverine: Origins” was born.
So Axel calls and says he wants me to turn my short story idea not just a long-form storyline for “Wolverine” but into an entire new series. Sure, I say. No problem. Even though I’d previously only written one other ongoing series — “Venom” — and I’d wanted to quit that book before it even started (mostly due to the fact I’d been told at the last minute that I had to do a “Venom” series without Flash Thompson or Venom). How was I gonna do that? Research.
The first thing that I noticed, when going through Wolverine’s history, was how often — and how closely — that history repeated itself. Now, I know that this is in fact due to Marvel and writers working with Marvel reasoning that if an idea was successful once then it would be again, it nonetheless got me thinking. Cycles of abuse are often reiterated or repeated simply because the victims involved can’t… I dunno, “get clear” of them before they begin again. This, I noticed, was especially true of Wolverine:
Wolverine shambles out of the wilderness, more animal than man. He encounters a woman. She shows him kindness. The animal falls away and the man steps forward. They fall in love. An uneasy peace is achieved, but never balance. Then, the woman is slaughtered. Wolverine, the man, can do nothing about this and so the animal returns, taking over completely. Wolverine was foolish to ever think he could be a man. Off he goes, indulging that animalistic, berserker rage, headlong into oblivion. Anyone who gets in his way is cut down. Because it cannot let anyone else in, the animal feeds and feeds upon itself until there’s nothing left but a despondent savage, shambling through the wilderness…
Because all of this echoed the major theme of my short story idea, I thought I had the key. I could make it work. I’d even incorporate the son into the series, acting as a White Rabbit-type character for Wolverine to chase after. My idea was that Wolverine wouldn’t set out to reconcile his past; he’d be led to it unwittingly by his son, who was following in his father’s footsteps. Ultimately, identifying and then breaking the vicious cycle in which he’d been trapped for almost a century would be the only way for Wolverine to save his son. Boom. Nailed it.
Except that’s still an idea for a short story. At least, it is by comic book series standards.
An ongoing series is meant to be just that; ongoing. It’s propelled forward by broad themes upon which the characters riff endlessly but with only minor variation. Character progression is illusory, transient. Arcs are resonant but fleeting, interwoven and overlapping. An ongoing series should open at critical mass and then stay there, its characters forever in turmoil. Y’know what kills an ongoing series? Resolution. And what I’d come up with — and then went forward with — was something that was all about resolution… hell, pretty much from the first page. It was something that was sure to not only annihilate itself but stood a fair chance of taking down one of Marvel’s best characters with it. And I didn’t even realize it. Because I had no idea what I was doing. And I really, really hope that doesn’t seem like a flippant thing to say because it’s actually really hard for me.
I blew it. I flooded the kitchen while the baby was being born.