POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don’t get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE’s purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.
New York City in December. Everything’s soaked in gorgeous fake light, and from the right angles all the buildings dance for you. I’m staying at the Cosmopolitan down in Tribeca, where the only thing colder than the rooms is the disposition of the front desk staff. Apparently you gotta pay more for polysyllabic. I’m not entirely certain why we’ve been sequestered waydowntown when all of our meetings are in midtown, but it makes for good conversation and we get to see a whole bunch of stuff from the back of cabs. I’ve been taking weird pictures, blown out exposures and slow shutter speeds, digging the digital distortion of light and color. It’s like Wong Kar Wai’s holiday snaps, and feels like memory more than photographs. I like them, anyway.
I’ve been surrounded by the number 23 lately, dutifully jotting their occurrences down when I notice them and what I notice them doing. My room is 203. I take it as an omen of sorts for a project I think Kel and Peter Artbomb Rose nudged me into trying to do this past weekend. The luggage tram was 23. This being comics, I can’t mention much more than the oblique and obfuscated, but. But yeah. There’s a thing, and the number 23 plays into it. The moment I noticed it, I began seeing 23 everywhere. A volume of a book I brought with me is the 23rd in the set. I blame Peter Artbomb Rose and Kel. I tried to get revenge by making Peter watch CONQUEST OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, but it didn’t take.
Maybe this is the kind of thing that, you know, if you put your mind to seeing, you see. Like, if I decided that 17 was the magic number, I’d see little 17’s everywhere, I dunno. Or the word “orchard,” or something similarly random. One day I want to wake up and live for a day as though the entire world is a secret message directed at me; I want to wander through my life for a day as though each and every bit of stimuli I encounter is in fact a message, a warning, a clue, a hint, a joke, a flirt or a come-on by powers greater than I understand. Maybe that’s the very definition of magic, in some ways: learning to read the world like everything’s just a line of code for you to unravel, and the wisdom contained therein yours to utilize. One morning, I’ll I wake up and I wont be tired and I’ll remember to try. Just to see what happens.
Peter, Kel, Xtop and myself managed to get together in a room with about 19 other young comics hopefuls in Kansas City this past weekend. It was really kind of fascinating. Steven Sanders brought his vintage Geiger counter. Hector let me look on his drawing table and I felt butterflies in my bones. B. Clay Moore showed up with a first look at his new book HAWAIIAN DICK, and it looks fantastic even if it printed too dark and too green (according to him). Hector and a guy named John Parker made it happen. There were two factions in the same place at the same time, the Art Institute kids like myself that were more into the gonzo, gung ho creation angle of things, the Art For Art’s Sake kinds, and the other half of the room were all, at first
blush anyway, steel-eyed young professionals constructing elaborate cross-network opportunities and so forth. They were, on top of being creators, the organizers of expos and the senders-out of press releases. I had the feeling that if both halves of the room came together, everyone would walk out a whole lot smarter.
But now I’m in New York and the last thing I’m thinking about is that stuff. New York gets jealous when you think about other cities.
MK12 pitched a thing to some people today, and I guess it went well. It went well enough that they called about half an hour after we left to tell us that it went well, which is a first. We proposed two different solutions, and I’m kind of hoping on some weird level that we don’t get the job. This is because I think the whole of MK12 have fallen in love with one of the looks and we want to adapt it for our own means. It’s too much for TV; people that run TV never let stuff like it on the air. So we do stuff like it for ourselves, which get us meetings with TV people who want us to do more stuff for them, which gets us to thinking about what kind of stuff they never let on TV. Then next thing you know, I’m in a skyscraper taking pictures of corporate Christmas trees and drinking all the bottled water they can bring me.
At one point during the meeting, everyone in the room began bagging on how the CEO is stupid. It was, without a doubt, the weirdest moment I’ve had in a pitch meeting, and I’ve had some doozies. Manpaste and Nova agree– it was pretty fucking weird. Seriously– the gist seemed to be that some of our work was too smart for the Big Man, and not only would he not get it, but he wouldn’t like it because he didn’t get it and our work will make him feel stupid. They said this, in near-exactly those words. We had specifically rejected an element they provided us for a number of reasons, most of all being that it just didn’t work graphically or conceptually, so as we were explaining our decision to ignore their directive (which everyone in the room agreed with, yes, it should be ignored), someone mentioned how that was in fact their CEO’s idea and not theirs, oh no, never in a million years would they crap out such a ridiculously bad notion, not them. They were, we were assured, bright and cunning Network Executives. Not like their CEO, oh no.
And then the whole of our audience began to make fun of the poor bastard. And, I mean, sure, I don’t doubt what they were saying; I mean, I’ve seen who they are and what they do and I’ve read their creative brief and have absolutely no doubt that I’ve got hammers smarter than these guys. But– but, but, but holy SHIT, was that weird. And as the guy that wore a white t-shirt with little holes in it and a toboggan to the meeting, that’s saying a lot.
The whole time these Vice Presidents and Senior Consultants and Executive Producers talked, the whole time they unleashed and let the venom fly, I kept imagining the poor guy coming down the hall and overhearing what was being said about him inside. I imagined him listening silently from the hallway. Listening to his friends and coworkers burn him in verbal effigy. He would start composing his ‘you’re fired’ speeches in his head, one at a time as each of his VPs spoke. Then he’d have a brief crisis of conscience, worried that firing people before Christmas makes him a monster, so he’d stop thinking so loud and just listen to the knives go in. Eventually the eavesdropping would get to be too much, and as he folded his arms across his chest– this would be just after they started in on how he always uses big words without understanding what they mean, so all of his subordinates have to put together a kind of lexicon to understand what the hell he’s talking about, but just before they go on about how he throws inarticulate tantrums no one understands– and he beings sobbing, crying, cold and alone in a New York hallway six days away from Christmas. His chest heaves up and down and he has a vision of himself dying alone, or worse, dying early, dying before his loving wife. He imagines her leaning over his casket politely, kissing him on the forehead with lips dry in spite of their funerary lipstick adornment. A smudge of beige on his dead, cold forehead and she says to no one in particular “I loved him, but god was he stupid,” and that’s pretty much the end of that. For a time he was a CEO, and a man of impressive power and resources, but everyone that worked for him thought he was a colossal dumbass. Because he was.
Sometimes I get bored in meetings and my thoughts drift.
It’s Wednesday, December 18th, and THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! is not yet available at your local comics store, even though it was supposed to be. Apparently it got bumped at the printer to make way for bigger runs, more important annotated comics about self-hating monkeys that satirize annotated comics about self-hating monkeys. I understand how it is. This is comics. The word is that it will now be out on Thursday, December 26th; just in time to squander grandma’s Christmas check to you and yours.
This is a very strange business. I was staggered when I realized that this was the forty-fifth POPLIFE. Almost a year, really. Almost. And it seems that it’s only now that all my plans from this time last year are starting to come to fruition.
I’ve officially wiped out all of my POPLIFE lead-time, as I’m writing this a scant few hours before it gets posted to the site. It’s been kinda hectic this past week. Right now, I’ve dodged out of the post-triumphant pitch dinner with Shaun of MK12, Manpaste, and Nova (he of the gunmetal Nova that drives over LA the way Godzilla runs Tokyo) to type it all out from my little notes. I’m in a quiet cyber café just off of Times Square, oddly enough; it’s the first moment of real quiet I’ve had since I got here. Some mindless and droning sex-soaked drum&bass plays, flat panel terminals and a giant projection screen flicker against a wall. The lighting is all paper-lantern Scandinavian and the sofas are all post-cool, post-comfort chic. Whatever. The coffee is hot and I can weasel onto a wi-fi node around here and fire this off when I’m done. I’d like to wander tonight; I’d like to drift. I want to play human snowflake and suck it all in. I want to get cappuccinos every two blocks and see a movie in a palace. I want to be tourist scum, I want to hug buildings and think about everything all at once.
One cup of coffee and I’ll go.
Order THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! (OCT022287) from your local retailer today for 12.95 and enjoy it just in time for Boxing Day. Or grab the fucker online from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1932051058/
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