Posts tagged with 'process'.

X-Men Interview for Wired, full text

So here’s the article, but below is the full interview for people who want to see the whole thing:

WIRED/Laura Hudson: Obligatory opening question: How did the idea for an all-female X-team come about? What made this the right time?

BW: It’s a little hard to pin down exactly when and how, as there was a lot of common thinking between myself and editorial and plans morphing into new plans.  But the basic timeline was: last year when I was writing this title, it was essentially an all female team, Colossus being the one guy on the roster.  I had originally signed up to do eight issues of that, but they wanted me to keep it going, and thought it could be cool to do a soft relaunch at #40 and go all the way and make it an all-female team.  Then, they decided to make a bigger deal out of it and relaunch it for real, so I was taken off the book at that point to give me the time to develop this new book.  So it was definitely Marvel’s idea, but I think my X-Men from last year got the ball rolling.

Everyone is really excited at the idea of an all-female team, but we’re not trying to make it all ABOUT that.  It’s an X-Men book, first and foremost, and these characters are all X-Men, not “X-Women”.  Last year, when I had a team of four women and one man, they were all called X-Men back then, you know?  And as far as this being the right time, that’s probably something Marvel could answer better than I.  It seems like a no-brainer to me, now, or last year. or ten years ago.  The female X-Men are amazing characters, they always have been, everyone knows that.  They’ve been the best thing about the franchise.

WIRED: What’s the rationale behind forming the all-female team within the context of the plot? How do the male X-Men feel about it?

BW: Who cares!  Haha.  I hope I never have to write that scene, because even the suggestion that anyone would see a problem with these particular X-Men together on a team is enough to suggest there’s something wrong with the idea, when of course there isn’t.  As far as the rationale, well, its sort of wrapped up in the first issue’s story, and this far out I don’t want to tell too much of it.  But in broad strokes they rally around one of their own in a time of personal crisis, and that crisis has bigger implications than anyone thought, and they next thing they know villains old and new are showing up at the Jean Grey School and there we go.  But at the core of it is they’re friends, they care about each other and so of course they’ll all help.  They’re family.

WIRED: X-Men has a long history of having both strong female characters — the real ones, not the Kate Beaton kind — and also a demographically larger number of female team members than a lot of other superhero teams. Why do you think this is, and what has that meant for both the team and its readership over the years?

BW: I don’t know why it was at the start, but I’m glad its the case now.  I think the X-Men have a demographically larger number of female READERS, too.  I see proof of that just anecdotally, but I think you would agree.  My editor, Jeanine Schaefer, tells a story I hear a lot, about being young and seeing the cartoon and reading her brother’s X-Men comics first, and so on.  I think a big part of the appeal is the flawed nature of the characters, in a human sense, in a relatable sense.  If you compare to the DC characters, they are the jocks and cheerleaders, but on the Marvel side, and especially the X-Men side, they are the freaks and geeks and misfits and weirdos and outcasts and anyone who doesn’t fit into some mold.  AKA the most interesting people. 

WIRED: I’ve talked with comics pros and editors in the past about the perception (sometimes substantiated by sales) that female heroines are less likely to have the iconic/star power to really anchor solo titles or translate into “sure-fire” hits. (http://www.comicsalliance.com/2011/12/08/marvel-women-comics-editors/). Do you see that as an issue for superhero comics? Or do you think it might function differently within the context of a group dynamic — or within the context of the X-Men specifically, given their history of strong female leads and general brand prominence?

BW: I think this title here will be an interesting test case, to see if a high profile book with an high profile artist and marquee characters can indeed overcome what often happens to books starring female heroes.  I think we have a good shot, but even now, based only off the announcement, there’s all sorts of negative feedback that ranges from generic sexism, to open hostility, and to lame charges of reverse sexism.  Fear of a female character being ‘real’ in that she has a relationship and/or sex (something I’ve hinted at happening in my book, also something we’ve seen in the X-Men before).  I think this resistance is most common to superhero comics, but exists generally.  My character Megan McKeenan from LOCAL inspired a lot of hate and anger from male readers simply for being female and imperfect.

I think its important to not only push back when that happens, and to keep trying by doing books like this one, but also to be aware of how the material is presented.  There’s too much cheesecake out there that is sold, or at least marketed, as a “strong female” character or book when its anything but, and it just reinforces the worst opinions of the most sexist fans, and we gain no new ground.  We probably lose ground.  I’m not approaching this new X-Men as a “female book”, but I’m writing it as a high action X-Men comic, and with some luck that will nullify some of these poisonous critics who go looking for something to feel angry/uncomfortable/threatened by.

WIRED: Another complaint you sometimes hear about female superhero characters is that they are often written as though their primary character trait is simply to be female (or be sexy). What is your take on how to best write female characters, and how has that informed your approach to the new X-Men book?

BW: My big secret - and I do think I have a decent track record - is that I write men and women fundamentally the same.  I approach the page with the belief that, as people, we all have universal reactions on a basic level to things and thats where the truth lies, where primal human emotions can be found.  With that as a foundation, you can tweak the details according to character and gender and personality.  So what you get here, if done well, is a very relatable character that should transcend gender lines and have mass appeal.  When you approach the page with the thought, “okay, so what should this WOMAN do now…”, you start off from a place of stereotype and bad writing, and there’s no fixing it because that is now your foundation.

It’s not complicated, but it does require the writer to see the characters as people first and gender later.

WIRED: Relatedly, you’ve done quite a bit of comics writing specifically about female characters in the world beyond superheroes (Local, Supermarket, Mara). Do you find that it’s a different experience to write women in the superhero world? If so, how?

BW: Its not that different for me.  The very first comic I made, Channel Zero, had a female lead, and that wasn’t a deliberate thing.  Well, it was deliberate in that this was a character I enjoyed drawing, but I had zero sense of the comics world and it never occurred to me there was a dearth of female leads.  Once I was told there was, and that Channel Zero was a little unusual in that sense, I decided I should continue to create characters, write books to meet that need and for readers who were looking for them.  I don’t make a big distinction in approach whether it be The New York Four or Ultimate X-Men - I try to do everything the same.  But the style of art can make a HUGE difference, and that’s why something like Mara with Ming Doyle will have such a radically different feel than Ultimate X-Men with Carlo Barbieri (a much more straightforward superhero artist).  And that’s the reason I work with Ming, and with Ryan and Becky, because it does make such a big difference.

Mara is a good example, because as we go and as you see the story develop, its a very classic sort of superhero narrative, a familiar progression, but with Ming’s art its this totally unusual, really weird experience, but in a good way.  Its a cliche to say it, but it does feel like a new take on familiar material.  It completely flies in the face of every convention of the “female superhero”.

WIRED: What are the implications of having an all-female team, from a storytelling perspective? What excites you (or worries you) most about the opportunity to write a title like this?

BW: The only thing that is a concern is just the need to live up to expectations and to make this a success.  Chances are this book will launch very high, but if we can keep it high and resist the typical decline that happens to female-led superhero comics, we’ll have proved something and maybe even set a precedent, and that would be fantastic.

DMZ TV Pitch

At DC’s request, I wrote the following treatment for a DMZ TV show (my second; they requested a film treatment from me in 2007).  I had a few mandates, the first was to create a larger, younger-overall cast and introduce them at the start, and to create The Wire-like arcs that had a unifying concept to each.  I actually liked this, I liked introducing Parco at the start, and making him a young guy.

This, of course, went nowhere.  If anyone read it, I never heard about it.  But this exists, its mine, and I figured I’d share it.

http://www.brianwood.com/DMZ_TV_2009.pdf

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My workbooks.  Everything I write gets broken in these, first.
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My workbooks.  Everything I write gets broken in these, first.

Los Angeles Times piece on The Massive

Here’s a short interview re: The Massive.  I tried to be really candid with this one, and there’s interesting bits about research and writing and format, and also this:

HC:  There’s been so much post-apocalyptic fiction in recent years and wonder whether it’s because we are so anxious in an age when technology has advanced so far while ethics have not — intelligence run rampant, wisdom withering. Then part of me thinks that maybe it’s just a way for storytellers to find a wild frontier now that the western is gone…

BW: It’s certainly a rich genre for writers to tap into, and there is a real coolness factor to it. But for me what drives me to it is fear. Meaning, actual tangible, real-life fear, mostly as a dad of two little kids. I believe hard times are coming, and maybe I’ll grow old and die before it hits, but I bet my kids won’t, and it’s tough to think about the reality that they’ll probably not have enough free water to drink, or will suffer in some other way like that. Will they be able to spend time in the sun? For their entire lives they’ve lived in an America at war — ones of its own choosing. Will they never know a different America? Maybe I’m exorcising demons in writing about this. But maybe I just can’t stop thinking about it.

Conan The Barbarian #1 Commentary, commentary

(I wrote this originally for the Dark Horse blog, meant to air before the comic was released, which is why it’s only a partial-issue commentary)

THE COMMENTARY TRACK: BRIAN WOOD’S “CONAN THE BARBARIAN” #1

This is primarily about the process of adapting, what to leave in, what to exclude, how to re-work things moving from one medium to another.  In the case of The Queen Of The Black Coast, what I have here is a short story, the original Robert E Howard story, that stands at 27 pages of almost entirely prose, very little dialog.  And comics, obviously, are nothing if not almost entirely dialog.  That was the first, and probably the biggest, challenge.  The first arc of this comic, 66 pages worth of comics, will be adapted from about 9 or 10 pages of the original.

Here’s an excerpt, more in the link:

The section of the original that matches up to this page here is utterly devoid of dialogue, so all of what you see here is gleaned from descriptions. Tito, the bearded fellow, is describing to Conan what Robert E. Howard wrote to his readers, like so:

"Nor did master Tito pull into the broad bay where the Styx river emptied its gigantic flood into the ocean, and the massive black castles of Khemi loomed over the blue waters. Ships did not put unasked into this port, where dusky sorcerers wove awful spells in the murk of sacrificial smoke mounting eternally from blood-stained altars where naked women screamed, and where Set, the Old Serpent, arch-demon of the Hyborians but god of the Stygians, was said to writhe his shining coils among his worshippers."

You can see how I used it, and also how I didn’t. Early on I was faced with the decision on how to adapt this, and there is an argument to be made (I know because lots of fans made it to me) that the best way is to literally adapt, use no words that aren’t Howard’s, to cut and paste from the original. But the parameters of the job, common sense, and the need to actually put dialogue on these pages made this impossible. It was necessary to take the prose, and rework and reframe it into scenes and conversations. 


Maps for The Massive.  Just arrived from eBay, a haul of 60’s-era Nat Geo maps.  When it comes to research, I can’t ever turn down a good map.
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Maps for The Massive.  Just arrived from eBay, a haul of 60’s-era Nat Geo maps.  When it comes to research, I can’t ever turn down a good map.

Channel Zero

Andy Khouri gives me the Channel Zero interview I’d been waiting for, and also gets more out of me re: my “bleeding” essay from last week.  I enjoyed the hell out of this.

Please read, and comment.

CA: One of the things that people took notice of when Channel Zero was originally released (and rereleased) was its strong zine vibe. Here was this professionally published comic with a sophisticated narrative that was seemingly created in a method us kids could comprehend. I think it’s safe to say CZ inspired a lot of people in that way, making “making comics” seem like something demystified and attainable. I recall a distinct sense of community around this book in the comics scene, don’t you? 

BW: One mistake that is often made is for this book, and for me, to be labeled as a product of the [Warren Ellis Forum, a heavily trafficked comics advocacy/criticism/meme discussion board that ran from 1998 to late 2002] when the reality is that Warren and I connected, I believe, before the WEF started. I forget exactly when, but it was early enough that I was able to get a pull-quote from him to run on the cover of Channel Zero #2, which was released around April of 1998 [by Image Comics]. I started my own Delphi forum right around the time the WEF was born. But I was very active on the WEF, and most people who read CZ were, like you, reading the 2000 [trade paperback] edition from AIT.

And CZ had that strong zine vibe because that’s exactly how I created it. I didn’t own a computer. I used ink, paper, glue sticks, and a lot of blackmarket Kinko’s copy cards (I had friends on the inside). I eventually bought my own desktop photocopier, which changed my world. But by that point I had a lot of experience in making photocopied minicomics… we all did, that was what you did… and there was no other way I could have approached the making of Channel Zero at the time. Looking back, I’m struck at how easy it was: you make your marks on paper, paste it up, run off copies, and staple it. The end product is rough, sure, but there is no way that is harder than doing it all digitally. You just need the tools, and space. I guess you need a lot of space for that. It’s messy.

Not to sound old and overly nostalgic, but that was just a magical time for me, where I felt more creativity and freedom in a single day than I do in a week or a month now.

Work Update 12/19/10

I’m sitting here, working on a very short, company-owned project that is one of the biggest names out there, something with huge, global awareness, and its more fun than I would have thought.

2010 sucked for me.  Hardly anyone on the outside could tell that, but aside from obvious things like the birth of my son Ian, there’s been too much stress, fear, and disappointments on the creative side.  But I did get a lot done.  Here’s what I wrote in 2010 (not what was necessarily published during that time):

DMZ 50-64

Northlanders 26-37, 40

The New York Five 1-4

DV8 6-8

Demo 5-6

Thirty-six scripts, roughly 800 pages of comics.

Despite that, or rather not counting that, it was rough.  A lot of pitches were written and rejected, always for reasons beyond my control.  I’m determined to take better control over this in 2011.  One of the side effects of being exclusive while working on long-running monthly books is the lack of time or room to launch new projects.  I have proposals for a half-dozen monthly series, and several mini-series that I’ve been sitting on for years, and I feel I need to get some of these moving while they’re still relevant.

It’s hard to make any kind of comment on the state of the comics industry without it sounding cliche or bitter.  I’m not the sort of writer who seeks shelter in the Big Two properties, although who knows, maybe I should?  For 14 years I’ve strived to carve out a place for myself where I can have an actual career, a lucrative one, writing creator-owned books, but can that last forever?  At what point can I say: there, look, I did it.

What I do know is everyone is taking a hit, in one way or another.

Writing comics is a dream job, but its also work, and my 3 scripts a month during 2010 often made comics feel like a grind, and in the new year I want to do something about that.  I love working hard, but I hate the grind, and before this past year the last time I felt the grind was when I was sitting in a cubicle at Rockstar Games.  For me, the joy is in creating something new, and 2011 needs to see a lot of new stuff from me.

I have 42 pages of script to write before the end of this year, then its off to spend New Year’s Eve in a quiet place in Upstate New York.  Thanks, everyone, for buying and reading.  My ability to do what I have done in my career is solely down to the strength and power of my readership, and that’s you guys.  

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"The Northmen came to Paris with 700 sailing ships… At one stretch the Seine was lined with the vessels for more than two leagues, so that one might ask in astonishment in what cavern the river had been swallowed up, since it was not to be seen."
– recalled by ABBO THE MONK in Wars Of Count Odo With The Northmen In The Reign Of Charles The Fat