My Life as an Irish Fanboy- Chapter 15

by Glenn Matchett

I’m not sure at one point I decided I wanted to write comic books.  I think it’s something that has crossed the mind of many comic fans.  The thought of ‘Hey I want to do this too’ and that’s something else unique about comics.  Many of the fans also want to be part of the industry they love but sadly wanting to do it and actually doing it is very difficult.  Many try and many fail, it’s not merely a question of talent either as with most things I’m sure many people go unrecognised.  Arguably the biggest writer in comics today Brian Michael Bendis spent many years on the indie scene struggling to find work and nobody would give him a second glance.  It was only by chance he got a shot and now it’s hard to imagine Marvel without him considering how influential he’s been in the companies creative direction the last few years.  Then we have cases like Robert Kirkman who perhaps didn’t click at the big two the same effect to Bendis but revolutionised how successful independent comics could be and proved that not only super hero colour comics can be successful.  There are many success stories and most of them are different but for every success there is no doubt 1000 failures.  Where did my journey begin?  Well it was quite a few years ago.

I started just writing things for fun in English class and loved creative writing from an early age.  If something took my interest like a novel or movie or TV show or comic I would be eager to write my own version.  Most of it I don’t recall and was probably quite terrible but it made me happy when I was young.  Sadly my handwriting left much to be desired so until I got access to the new revolutionary invention the hip kids call a ‘computer’ me and creative writing kept a fair distance.  I instead pursued factual writing like journalism and even had the notion of perhaps one day becoming a reviewer.  I also found I had a natural flair for business and especially marketing which blended together my business and creative sides.  With marketing and advertising I was allowed to explore how subjective the medium could be and how one advert be it in motion or a still image could say so much with so little.  In my latter High School days when I was really deep into my love of comics which continues to this day the creative bug hit me again and I began to write.  I knew professionals like Stephen King and JMS wrote a certain number of words per day, every day and I sought to do the same.  Since the age of 17 or 18 I have written every single day unless I have been unable to access my computer (or any computer) or when I give myself the day off on my birthday and Christmas.  Like any muscle the brain needs to be exercised or taking a break for one day soon becomes two and then that becomes a week, then a month and so on and so forth.

My daily writing mainly consists of fun personal projects that I use to work on various areas I personally feel I need to work as a writer.  I had a lot to learn and thought that with practice it may make me improve.  I was aware there was material by many esteemed writers on how to write but I feel creative writing is not something that can be taught or learnt.  There has to be a natural aptitude that can’t be taught.  I have studied how to write certain things (such as comic scripts which we’ll get to in a bit) but haven’t really read much about how to write full stop.  I don’t think it can be taught and you either have it in you or you don’t.  Many think they do but I can tell from personal experience they don’t, no matter how much they wish to think otherwise.  This may sound especially arrogant or cruel of me and I’m not saying I’m the best writer or even anywhere close to being of medium talent but I’ve read enough to know who has it and who doesn’t and usually I’m right.

Indeed it’s true I’m not the best writer.  There is still a lot I have to work on to be a very good writer.  My English teacher once told me as a writer if you ever write something you completely are happy with its time to stop writing.  It’s an odd statement but a very true one as people who are writers should always be looking to push themselves.  If you’ve written something you consider perfect then you’ve said all you can and carrying on with those rose tinted glasses could be very well to your detriment.   I’ve seen great writers be told they are genius so many times that they begin to believe it and they feel no matter what they do it’ll automatically be genius.  No matter how talented the writer there is always room for fault and I think as creative types we have to remember our humility.

I do think I have some strengths mainly in characterisation.  I like getting into a character’s head and knowing what they will so or do.  It’s made me quite good at working out what a character will do in a movie or novel or indeed a comic.  I’ve predicted things that sound a little crazy that make sense from a character perspective that people have turned their noses up at only for it to turn out to be correct.  I also feel I have good instincts to what makes a good story.  My tastes are of course objective but I feel I can disconnect myself from my personal taste to dive into what is strong or weak about any story.  My faults are numerous, I like dialogue way too much and like the slow build to name a few.  I’m sure my friends and critics out there can name more but that’s what I like to hear.  I think I know what I need to work on but since humans are rarely very self-aware it is always refreshing to hear another’s observations.

So I was writing daily and I enjoyed the heck out of it.  I had decided that one day I would write for comic books probably around the age of 16.  I’m not sure how I was led to that decision but I knew what I wanted to do but didn’t know how to obtain it.  I knew it was difficult so I continued on with my regular education as a backup just in case.  Around this age among crafting ideas for corporate characters I came up with my first original idea that eventually became Sparks.  I worked on that thing for quite a while and had a few pieces of input here and there but after about a year I kind of had the revolution with the idea and it changed the whole concept and potential dynamic.  I tried for a while to get it off the ground myself and plotted out many stories in my mind but nothing ever went anywhere.  I couldn’t draw, even a little and did not know how to seek out an artist or more importantly how to pay for one.  I was frustrated and it’s only now this year that Spark’s will come to life with the help of Grayhaven publishing and rising artist Cassandra James who is more than I could have ever asked for in terms of bringing Melanie Sparks and her world to life.  Still I’m getting ahead of myself a little as the road to finally getting Sparks published began many years later without me realizing it.

It all started with that comic book retailer giving me that first issue of Ultimate Spider-man.  Doesn’t make sense right?  How that comic which probably best represents the rejuvenation of the industry links into my own work getting published?  Well like I said last week that comic brought me in to enjoying other books and led me eventually to the message boards of the writer Jinxworld.  I made a lot of good friends over the years on this message board and since the comic community where I live is so small it was great to be able to talk ‘shop’ so to speak with people that knew what they were talking about.  However before Jinxworld but after the purchase of Ultimate Spider-man another thing happened, also seemingly unrelated to me happened.  I became interested in the background of how the comics were made; I thought it was important to know because this was the industry I wanted to get into so I did my homework.  It wasn’t always pretty and some really old disputes regarding creator rights and who owns what and who created whom still goes on to this day.  One especially fascinating series regarding the background of the production of comics was a series of articles ‘The Life Of Reilly’

‘The Life Of Reilly’ was written by Andrew Goletz and Glenn Greenburg who had been the editor of many Spider-man titles in the 90’s.  The articles spoke about the concept and production of one of the most controversial periods of Spider-man ever in ‘the clone saga’ which was the period I was introduced to when I started reading ‘real’ Spider-man comics.  The articles are really interesting and well worth a read and documented that troubled period of time in the Spider-man offices and the many twists and turns editorial and creative had to deal with during this very long period in the characters history.  I read it from start to finish and although I may be remembering wrong wrote an e-mail to Mr. Goletz expressing how much I enjoyed it (5 bucks saying he doesn’t remember).  Little did I know this person would not only would become a close friend who I literally e-mail on a daily basis but would help me on the path to becoming a comic creator than I ever dared dream.

Next: The Gathering

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