I work for professional comic book artist David Chelsea, and we spend a lot of time talking about comic books and art. Whenever anyone visits the studio, people remark on how profound and insightful our observations are, and urge us to share them with the world.
So, we did.
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So I’ve been thinking about my unexplored beliefs lately, partly inspired by The Lean Startup‘s description of “leaps of faith,” or untested assumptions made by businesses in the early stages of development (such as “is anybody actually going to buy this shit”). This idea led me to realize that I have been operating on a series of assumptions about my own work for some time — some plausible, some reasonable but untested, and some pretty far out there. What follows is a brief outline of my theory of fiction:
I’ve taken some heat in the last few weeks after I announced we would have a permanent moon base by the end of my second term. Some of my opponents have resorted to cheap name calling, like “crazy” or “Manuel Garcia O’Kelly-Davis” or “lunatic” except emphasizing the first half so you can tell they’re referring to the word’s Latinate origins.
You are one of the most popular comic book writers in America. You’ve written comics for Marvel and DC and your independent projects like WANTED and KICK ASS have been sold to Hollywood and become cultural icons.
You are writing a comic book inspired by Superman and Captain Marvel. You are on the last issue, and the hero has defeated the villain, Abraxas. You are working on the denouement, and you are trying to figure out what happens to him.
You have made a career out of putting new spins on old ideas — “what if Batman was a bad guy?” “What if Wolverine was mind controlled?” “What if superheroes were real?” “What if the Avengers were dicks?” You are pretty good at this but you worry that maybe sometimes you don’t spin them enough.
You also know that endings are tricky to write; that a delicate balance must be–
Fuck it, let’s just stick him in a warehouse like in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Wait, no. That’s way too obvious.
Well, let’s hang a lampshade on it by calling it out in the dialog. If you SAY it’s just like Raiders of the Lost Ark, that makes it meta! And thus clever! There we go! Off to lunch!
No, Mark Millar. No.
This is like ripping off the Matrix lobby scene while your characters say “this is just like the lobby scene from the Matrix!” This is the comic book equivalent of Scary Movie, only you’re doing it with a straight face. This is embarrassing.
It’s not clever or meta or hip. It’s lazy and obnoxious.