The cycle of a year's end and the eventful non-event of a new one starting always makes every member of society ruminate on the contents of the previous twelve months and look forward to the events they hope to shoehorn into the impending twelve months. I saw the "Top 10 List of Year-End Top 10 Lists" joke done multiple times in the past week, which shows that even making fun of making fun of year-end lists is played out. Perhaps a "Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists of Year-End Top 10 Lists" will be all the rage at the end of 2013?
I don't point this out to somehow act like I am above all that. Quite the opposite! I point all of that out as preface to my own rumination and forward-hoping! I go with all the flows, especially if said flows involve top ten lists, organization, and setting goals. If it's good enough for every other website, it's good enough for me.
2012 was my first full year of involvement with CBR, a feat that would surely have surprised any version of me that existed prior to the year 2012. This is a great site made up of even greater people providing a great service to a great community. This site has given my writing focus and a home, as well as an audience of passionate people who I enjoy interacting with on Twitter and Twitter alone (never in the comments). I saw a quote pulled from my article about the apparent lack of female inclusion in the latest Avengers relaunch garner thousands of notes on Tumblr, which is the modern-day Internet equivalent of winning the Nobel Prize, I think. I hereby dub 2012 "successful" with much pomp and pageantry. Cue the lights, load up the t-shirt cannon and fire up the Quad City DJ's on the boombox. 2012, you were successful.
But what about 2013? I just dubbed 2012 a "success," so one could reason that it would be perfectly fine for me to sit back, chillax, and just keep on keepin' on (the "one" that reasons that sounds a lot like Matthew McConaughey). But that's not the case. Yes, the only thing really different between today and Monday are the numbers of the year, month and day. But this is the arbitrary-ish time for setting goals and, like I established earlier, if it's good enough for everyone else it's good enough for me.
I have two comic book related resolutions for 2013, and they are somehow both unoriginal and tailored specifically to me. In 2013, I want to broaden my comic book exposure and awareness, and I want to write comic books. See? There's a 95% chance that you share 50% of those resolutions with me. Unoriginal. But, as I will now explain, personal.
Anytime I find myself bewildered by friends who claim that reading superhero comics is too daunting a task to mount, I just have to remind myself how I feel about all comics other than superhero ones. You can drop me in the middle of an issue with a three-digit number and the third incarnation of a seventy-year-old name stuck smack-dab in the middle of a sixteen-part crossover without a compass, and I will be able to orientate myself with ridiculous ease. I got superhero comics on lock, y'all. But the instant a publisher isn't a name that I've been around for decades, like Marvel, DC, Dark Horse or Image, I get...wary. If I have to recognize characters based solely on how their face looks and not how their spandex looks, I start sweating. If the story being presented to me isn't being told in a twenty-ish page, full-color single issue, I give up. I know what I'm doing with Chris Claremont. I have no idea what I'm doing with Chris Ware.
This is my secret shame. I'm not so narrow-minded as to think that super heroics are the only stories worth telling in this medium; I know that's not true. I know there's greatness out there that doesn't have "X-Factor" slapped on the cover (and doesn't involve a trick mayo jar). I just have a comfort zone that extends from a school in Westchester to a mansion on Fifth Avenue, and not much further out. Truthfully, it's because I don't know how to leap anymore. I don't know how to swim out into the water, without a life preserver. I can browse the shelves at Midtown Comics and latch onto names I've heard of superhero writers, artists and characters. But once I get out of that section, I don't know what's supposed to be great and what's supposed to be grating. I fear purchasing something I'm not going to like. That's a dumb fear.
This is the second year in a row that I've participated in CBR's annual, year-end top 100 list, so it's the second year that I've found out that a seeming majority of my peers do read more than just Marvel and DC (as well they should). I want to do that, too. Not because I find anything lacking in the Big Two's output, but because I feel I am doing this medium a disservice. I think 2012 put me into the big leagues. I work for a big website now. Somehow, I have inched ever-closer to becoming a comic book...professional. As a spokesman for comics, I owe it to myself and whomever I can convince to listen to me to actually have a wider knowledge of this stuff. Right?
Speaking of inching closer to becoming a comic book pro, the other resolution I've set for myself was done in hopes of turning those mere inches into something closer to a foot. Yes, I want to write comics. Yes, I know this is unremarkable considering how literally everyone who has ever read a superhero comic fancies themselves a writer. And no, maybe you don't have aspirations of getting paid to write, but you have definitely at least muttered the phrase, "if I was writing X, I would have done Y." Every comic book fan has an opinion on how stories should be told, and of those fans, a disproportionate amount of them want to write. I am one of them. And I've done nothing about it.
Well, I've done nothing about it since 1998. My most ambitious streak as a creator took place from 1995 to 1998, when I was in the fifth-through-eighth grades. During that time I wrote and drew twenty-nine issues of my own comic book series (of course called "X-Kids"), each of them around ten pages long. I wove an incredibly tapestry rich with ripped-off characters starring in four-part epics. Then I got to high school and all that stopped. As an adult, my writing pursuits wandered elsewhere I dabbled in screenwriting in college and just spent the past three years of my life writing sketch comedy for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City. I haven't written a single comic book, but I have written numerous sketches starring sassy ladies who tell things like they are (and also, rap songs).
I just didn't have the time.
Of course I always told myself that writing comic books was my end-goal, even if I was doing none of the work. I do think that I learned many useful skills while studying sketch comedy, ones that can definitely be applied to writing comics, but I won't really know that unless I try to...write comics. I have ideas. I have characters. I have premises. I have listened to days worth of podcasts devoted to making comics. I've read books. I have soundtracks, even, because that's how my brain works. I just don't have a script. My goal for 2013 is to put metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper and write.
I love comics and, as deeply involved as I got in 2012, I want to see if I can go even deeper. I've got the equipment, and I'm ready to go spelunking down the cave of my fandom. Is there an area related to comics that you think you can better yourself in? Is there a series you've always wanted to read, or something you've always wanted to write? Make it a priority to do that in 2013. Hold me accountable to all of this, too, and we'll see what happens come next December.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).