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Issue #43

Deadlines.

Gha! I hate them.

Hell, we all do.

But there's something about a deadline -- a clock on the wall, ticking -- that forces you to get off your ass and perform -- to get the job done. The whole notion of letting things take the time it takes is foreign to most creators in comics. Oh, sure, there are people who will say it's an open deadline and imply that you can take as long as you need, but they don't mean it. In most cases, it will get to a point where they'll pull the plug or find a replacement.

I've worked without a deadline. It was awful. It took me forever. I dragged my sorry ass and pencilled and re-pencilled and wrote it in bits and pieces and when it was all done -- when all that time had passed - the end result wasn't half the comic that it could have been had there not been somebody yelling at me to get the damned thing done.

I hate that.

The fact of the matter is that I need deadlines -- and I need the pressure. I like having comics come out and stack up.

The thing is...

Well, there's the old saying, "Do you want it good or do you want it on time?"

The answer is, of course, both, but both is not always an option.

And yeah, Stan and Jack managed to do it, but they're not human, damn it, and there was that one issue of "Thor" which was largely a reprint and when things got really tight...

Well, it showed.

Yes, they did an incredible amount of great stuff, but there were some spots that were brighter than others.

I dunno.

I mean, a lot of incredible material has been produced under tight deadlines. Many a classic book was serialized and written under tight deadlines. Thousands of comics have been churned out.

The willingness to "get it right tomorrow" and let things slide in terms of quality is an essential ingredient for those that make their deadlines as opposed to those who don't.

I heard that Jack Kirby advised people to throw away their eraser. I've heard the phrase "you're paid to pencil not erase" bandied about and I've heard the much quoted, and labor saving advice passed on by the late great Wally Wood, "Never draw what you can copy. Never copy what you can trace. And never trace what you can cut out and paste down."

Wally often took his own advice.

But I don't always make it because, truth be told, I've got to live with the lines I put down for the rest of my life and I'd rather get it right than get it wrong.

I try -- I really do -- but if the choice is to have it look awful or great, I'll go with great, or at least okay. I don't want to become that guy. You know the one -- that guy who's lucky to draw an issue a year and who sweats every line because he knows that it will be his only book that year and the expectations are high so he'd better not blow it.

I don't want to go down that path. That path leads to madness or worse.

Years ago, they'd run reprints or spring these shitty album issues on you or fill-in issues drawn over a weekend. Even some of those were pretty good -- Kirby drew an issue of "Captain America once" in a few days and Todd McFarlane (yes, the same guy that took three fucking years to do his part in the Image Hardcover) drew an issue of "Spitfire and the Troubleshooters" in three days

At one point Todd drew 120 pages in a month!

And yeah, they weren't all beautiful.

I've pencilled books in a week. Several times, in fact. At one point I was doing "Spider-Man" and "Thor" and "Savage Dragon" simultaneously (I was writing and inking "Savage Dragon," as well) and it's a mad rush to be producing that kind of volume. It's actually fun.

Hell, I took Scott McCloud's challenge -- I did my 24-hour comic and it was actually pretty good.

But I'm a human being and sometimes human beings fail.

It happens. Even now, the clock on the wall tells me it's 11:15. I'm supposed to have this column done and posted by midnight only I'm just the guy doing the typing, not the posting, so I can't be sure I'll make it.

But I'll try.

And in the end, that's sometimes the best we can hope for:

A good effort.

Do I want every comic book I work on to be the best they can be? Sure. But I know that without a deadline, I'll over think it and overwork it and it can't be as good as it can be. So I do the best I can in the time I have to do it in and I don't let anything go through that I can't live with. If it's a week late, so be it.

Better that than a reprint or album issue.

But that's just one fan's opinion. I'm willing to concede that I could be wrong.

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