I'm bored. That's the sum total of it. Here I am, grinding out graphic novels day in and day out. The script for WHISPER: DAY X is finally finished and on its way to eventual print courtesy of Aman Chaudhary (artist) and Larry Young (AIT/PlanetLar publisher). Finally have out of the way a Superman graphic novel that was started by Gil Kane as a bookend to the DISTANT FIRES graphic novel he, Howard Chaykin and Kevin Nowlan, except this one's about Superman's first ancestor on barbaric ancient Krypton, and since Gil died only a third of the way into the book we got John Buscema to finish it (I should say editor Joey Cavalieri got John to finish it – thanks, John), and I'm not sure when it'll be out but it's out of my hands now. Finishing up a crime graphic novel, GUILTY, for Platinum Studios. Got another graphic novel in the works for Larry that we'll be announcing very soon, and I'll probably be doing a western for him as well. Got some special work that I can't talk about and you'll probably read but you'll never know I had anything to do with it. Finished the dialogue for new X-MEN UNLIMITED editor David Bogart for a Sunfire story that I started for Lysa Hawkins when she was editing the book, before she jumped ship for Fortress Batman. Work a BIRDS OF PREY issue for her and Matt Idelson. And just for fun, over at GRAPHIC VIOLENCE, tag-teamed an improvised short story with Adi Tantimedh over the weekend.
In other words, despite not much of mine having appeared in print since X-MAN shuffled the coil (unless you count the GREEN LANTERN: TRAITOR trade paperback and PUNISHER: CIRCLE OF BLOOD reissue coming out from DC and Marvel this month respectively, or the STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN collection Chaos released a couple months back), I've been churning out an awful lot of work. That's a lot of hours at the word processor. The rest of my work day is spent the way most freelancers spend their days these days, beating down editors and clogging their answering machines until they finally get around to calling back. (You know who you are.)
And when I get done, I want entertainment, dammit!
I don't ask much from entertainment. Like a lot of people, all I really want from entertainment is to be distracted for a little while and not have to think. Most people think this seems to mean things can be stupid, but that's not the case at all, because when things are stupid it makes me think about how stupid they are. Which defeats the purpose, makes me unhappy, and strains my native good nature. And that's when I get bored.
This must've been the most boring damn week on the face of time. In the movies, we've got a choice between goofy comedy monsters, Jet Li as two different people, or a guy who wasn't good enough to hold his marriage together but is too good to let his son stand up to his wife's new husband. Y'know, you look at movie ads these days and mentally sort the offerings into a) worth going to a theater for, b) I'll rent the DVD, c) I'll watch it on HBO and d) not a snowball's chance in hell. It's not just me, everyone does it. With the various delivery options, you're stupid not to. Theater fare? Not this week.
Okay, so there's music. I haven't seen a new CD I wanted to buy in months. I'm in the process of transferring most of the CD collection to WMA, which is more compact than MP3 and sounds just as good, then I can transfer 300 songs to a CD-R, buy a cheap RioVolt CD player and a car cassette adapter, and I'm ready for ten straight hours of driving back and forth to Los Angeles without having to figure out how to change the cassette and keep the car on the road at the same time. But, christ, there was a time I bought 20 albums a week and music's gotten so boring and corporatized it's rare I even buy that many a year anymore. Music goes through this cycle of inspiration and corporatization, but as time crawls on there's so much less of the former and more of the latter. I'm expecting a new surge of inventive independent music anytime now but it hasn't happened yet, and there are only so many times you can listen to even old Elvis Costello or Diamanda Galas albums, and I wouldn't mind seeing something new, genuinely new, before culture dies of sheer boredom.
Television? The British SECOND SIGHT series has been running on PBS' MYSTERY and if you get past the formulaic elements of SMALLVILLE (they were always meant to be there) it remains just kooky enough to be interesting, so I guess two out of... what, 500?... ain't bad, I guess, and maybe 24 HOURS, which debuts tonight, will live up to the hype, and by next week Comedy Central will have debuted new episodes of ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, so there's hope on the horizon, but right now? Most recently cancelled, by the way: BOB PATTERSON, WOLF LAKE, CITIZEN BAINES. Kiss television off. Even pro wrestling, the last refuge of low kicks, has become appallingly tedious (and I mean, I <>like> wrestling and it's too boring to watch these days, since nothing makes sense to the point where even wrestling fans are no longer willing to overlook it). I only watch about an hour of TV a night these days (not bragging, it just works out that way) and I'm finding it tough to fill a week's worth. And (sorry, Howard) the first one to suggest MUTANT X gets it.
Books? Finally catching up on reading I should have done a long time ago. Kent Harrington's 1996 debut DARK RIDE, a noir set in California's Sonoma County about a sex crazed homicidal dead end insurance salesman, doesn't have quite the anarchic craziness of Harrington's later DIA DE LOS MEURTOS (which, like DARK RIDE, has unfortunately gone out of print) but is still an pleasantly poisonous confection. I'm trying to track down his 2000 AMERICAN BOYS now. Also read Thomas Disch's 1999 horror novel THE SUB, which, like his previous run of THE M.D., THE BUSINESSMAN and THE PRIEST takes place in an occult tainted Minnesota that nonetheless are more representations of the real world than anything else and steeped in dark satire. In THE SUB, Disch, still one of our best writers, takes on vegetarianism, child abuse, Satan panics, "recovered memory," and various other foibles and horrors of modern society, and never falters for an instant. (Disch also produced a wonderful exegesis of science fiction's relationship with the real world, THE DREAMS OUR STUFF IS MADE OF, which is must reading.) The problem with even light fiction is that, after sitting writing for five or six hours a day, looking at more words is too much of a busman's holiday. I love books, but it's hard to think of them as entertainment anymore.
Comics. Where the hell are all the Warren Ellis comics? I'm Jokerized to death. Had a discussion with another writer a few weeks back about how DC really only has five truly major villains – Lex Luthor, Ra's Al-Ghul, The Joker, Darkseid and Vandal Savage (sure, you could toss second rate clowns like Kobra in there, but get real) – and they've all been done to death. The Joker, for instance, makes an interesting foible used sparingly, but 40 times in one month? Oy. And the way people write him as a maniac, I'm starting to pine for the days he was little more than a grotesque thief. Following the more or less back to back "Emperor Joker" and "Joker's Last Laugh" events, DC should put him on ice for a few years. Of course, then who would they use? Ra's Al-Ghul's got an unpronounceable name and is boring as hell as well (someone get him a speech tutor, quick!), Luthor as president is more of a fixture than ever, Darkseid and Vandal Savage (who's still a cinder courtesy of Grant Morrison, as far as I know) have both failed so often no one can take them seriously anymore. Not that anyone does many interesting villains anymore... On the bright side is Wildstorm's THE ESTABLISHMENT, by my chums Ian Edginton and Charlie Adlard. It's not a good book because they're doing it, it's good because they're doing it well – and it doesn't hurt it's not trying to be THE AUTHORITY, like everyone thought it would. Read it. When someone can get a good story out of Daemonites (though, admittedly, Joe Casey got one out of them in the last WILDC.A.T.S as well), that's saying something. Still...
Even politics have ground to tedium. Nothing but bombings. The government still can't get its story straight. The Taliban are entrenched and resisting. The Taliban have all but crumbled. They're based in Kabul. They're based in Kandahar. Now we've taken to vaguely threatening nations that "aren't doing enough" for the War On Terrorism. But the good news is that in about six more months interest will be a thing of the past the way the Fed keeps cutting rates. If only filling my tank at 1989 prices was good for more than 150 seconds of entertainment per week...
Or maybe it's just a November thing, the lizard brain remembering those dark eons when the body went into hibernation when the sun went down in late afternoon. Oh well...
THE WRITER'S BLOCK ($3.50) and CLIFF DIVER, PROFESSIONAL TEEN CLIFF DIVER! ($2.95) from David N. Miller (5629 Sutherland Court, Burke VA 22015) at least provide a couple spurts of entertainment value. CLIFF DIVER's an odd little comic, reminding me in both style and content of fan comics of the early 70s. The eponymous hero has a devoted following for his diving gymnastics, a father who doesn't want him cliffdiving (it killed Cliff's mother!), a teen girl assistant who wants to be a cliffdiver too (Cliff forbids it), and the ability to get into wacky trouble just by breathing hard. Miller claims JONNY QUEST and Bart Simpsons as the big influences on the book, but it still reads more like SPEED RACER to me. Lighthearted fun. THE WRITER'S BLOCK is a genuine old style fanzine, with a twist. In addition to the interviews with Jim Shooter, Mike Baron and Roy Thomas, Miller has also gotten them to write short scripts for him. The gimmick here is that Miller has sent each of them the same pages to dialogue. I like Baron's version best, but it makes for an interesting experiment.
So to amuse myself, I started a couple of writing challenges at GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. The first is to write the opening paragraph for a story, then let other people come in to continue it and see where it goes. The rules are: play it straight and stick with the style, genre and general subject matter of the original paragraph. As I mentioned above, Adi Tantimedh and I "collaborated" on a story this way, batting it back and forth like we were in the finals at Wimbledon, which can be found under the header "An Opening Paragraph" in the Fiction section there. The second challenge is "the Found Story," as I call it: select ten novels or anthologies at random, take the first one, open it at random, put your finger down, and whatever paragraph you hit, change the proper nouns to pronouns and copy down the paragraph. Repeat for the other nine books. See what story your ten paragraphs create when your done. DO NOT consciously choose the books or make conscious paragraph selections. Try it.
Which led one correspondent to ask for advice on writing dialogue. I have only one bit of advice: dialogue is only dialogue if it sounds like something someone might actually say. Most exposition is monologue, not dialogue, and fitting exposition into dialogue is one of the trickiest aspects of writing. A general rule of thumb: read the dialogue aloud. (You should do this with whole conversations at a time as well as single lines.) If it sounds like something someone might actually say, you're probably all right. If it doesn't, get rid of it. (In other words, "Zounds! Curse you, blaggart!" won't pass the test unless you've got a really tin ear.)
Next week: a special report from Comdex. What's the computer industry got in store for you for the next year? By the end of two weeks, this bout of sheer boredom should pass.
Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. You can also leave messages for me and have discussions on other topics at my Delphi forum, GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.
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I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.
If you enjoy PERMANENT DAMAGE, check out our brother column, Larry Young's LOOSE CANNON.
If you want to know something about me, you can probably find the answer at Steven Grant's Alleged Fictions.