Pete Chianca over at Pete's Pop Culture and Parenting Blog did double duty this week, reviewing both "The Entropy of Everything" and "Like a Comet" for his blog. I love this review--it picks up on things I haven't thought about since writing Entropy and brought all the feels back to me with the Kate and Titus drama from both books.
Also, as a reviewer, he always seems to pick up some of my favorite quotes from the book as well. This review actually makes me want to go back and reread them.
Actually, let's be honest: this review makes me really psyched to start working on Book 5. Guys, Book 5 has a title already. It's a secret (I'll announce it after the spinoff book, "Echo and the Sea," is back from the wonderful editors who are reviewing it right now).
From Pete's review:
It's that deft plotting and precise character work, combined with knowing winks at his pop culture predecessors and action sequences that continue to dazzle in their detail and scope, that make these YA novels accessible to anybody, from the starry-eyed 11-year-old to the middle-aged former comic book reader who never quite grew out of it. (We know who we are.) Four books in, Phillion has guaranteed that wherever this series goes, he'll have a following of loyal readers who will go with it.
Superhero philosophy time:
Thinking about the "Logan" opening tonight and the concept of the hero who outlives his peers. It's not an unexplored theme--everything from Kingdom Come and Earth X to Old Man Logan and "The End" series has explored it--even the old, pre-Star-Lord Guardians of the Galaxy was really big on it, with guys like Vance Astro or Wonder Man outliving their friends and loved ones by millennia. (I really want to write the story of Simon Williams, who didn't have the benefit of Astro's long nap in space flight. Simon lives those centuries, awake. He sees his friends shuffle off this mortal coil in real time. I don't know who had it worse, him or Vance.)
But it makes for an interesting exploration of the concept of the superhuman, doesn't it? Because we tell these stories about heroes trying to save the present, trying to change the world, whether it's stopping street crime or rescuing a kitten from a tree or preventing World War III. But it's pretty likely that anyone that "special," be they Kryptonian or a mutant with a healing ability or a guy injected with some sort of serum that lets him look like he did during WWII seventy years later or if he's a science experiment gone wrong or the fastest man alive...
It's almost inevitable they're going to outlive every single person they've saved. The existential crisis of that concept amazes me. That's a story I want to tell.
I figure in the Indestructibles universe, we've got one or two characters this could happen to. (One for sure--it's been hinted at in some of the stories that one of the Indestructibles will live three hundred years or more if someone doesn't kill that person intentionally first.) What happens to that sort of hero? Do they just keep going, continuing the good fight? Do they lose their minds after everyone they've ever known is dead? Do they surrender to the ebb and flow of time? Or do they, Gandalf-style, play the long game, because they know they've got all the time in the world?
What does a hero do when they have what feels like forever stretched out in front of them?
The writing process is a funny thing. I fall pretty solidly in the "plotter" category (versus "pantser" writing, or writing by the seat of your pants). But at least once in each book something weaves itself into a scene I never expected, and it's often some small personal reference that's been really important to me for a long, long time.
In the Entropy of Everything, we found out Jane knows the lyrics to the Parting Glass (and that Jane can sing--another bit of improvisation). Working on The Indestructibles spinoff book tonight, I unexpectedly found a way to reference one of my favorite poems. Tennyson's "Ulysses." "Come my friends / Tis not too late to seek a newer world."
That one line is a talisman for me. "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
(Ulysses, the mythological figure, is also an important character for me, because I like tricksters over standard issue heroes, and because he was a thinking man in a world full of warriors.)
Anyway. I'm entering the third act of the new book, and the characters are coming together for me in ways I didn't expect. This is the best part of writing, y'know. When it surprises you.
So hey everybody. We made it. 2016 is almost over. Pretty sure a lot of us are really looking forward to a fresh start in 2017. But I wanted to take a minute to thank you all once again for making it a great year the Indestructibles. Book 4, "Like a Comet," came out, the biggest book in the series both in terms of scope and, well, page length. (It's enormous.)
I was able to get three Indestructibles One-Shots out, too, and even able to make sure there was a chance for everyone following the series to get a free copy if they wanted, which made me really happy.
A bunch of really successful comic cons, where I got a chance to talk to so many of you in person (meeting some folks for the first time!). Cosplayers appearing at Doc Silence and Emily and Dancer (maybe next year someone'll take on the challenge of Bedlam or Valkyrie?). I can't do this without you guys, so every single interaction this year was a huge boost to keep the series going.
Looking ahead, and since people have been asking: there will be fifth book. I've already got the theme ready and the bones of the plot. (A No-Prize to anyone who guesses what kind of Big Bad the gang goes up against next!). One of the things I heard a lot this year though is that the series is coming out TOO fast, so I'm also working on a side project taking place in the same universe (which I think of as the Indestructiverse, which makes me laugh every time I say it). Every superhero universe has an Atlantis, and the spinoff book, "Echo and the Sea," will involve the Atlantis of the Indestructiverse, plus a lot of mythological themes and concepts, too. Stay tuned for that in 2017!
I'd like to put out at least a One-Shot per quarter next year, and if inspiration and time works out, maybe more. I'd like to ask you (feel free to comment below): who would you like to see starring in some of these shorts? We've had Dancer and Titus and Alley Hawk get their own solo stories... is there anyone you'd like to see more of outside the main series?
Also: let me know which comic cons you're headed to in 2017! I've got two shows squared away I'll be returning to, but I'm open to ideas for new venues... comment below or shoot me a message if you have a suggestion.
Okay. Long post. (It's a writer problem. Verbose.) So all this said: have a fantastic New Year's Eve. I'm looking forward to adventuring with all of you in the New Year.
Let's steal a line from Mr. Stan Lee, who celebrated his birthday this week:
This year, as it marches to its to a drumbeat of mortality, we've all felt some sort of loss--whether music or film, literature or sports or science... If you take part in the world at all, someone who has enriched your life somehow has shuffled off this mortal coil this year.
There's the inevitable cynicism that goes along with the mourning of celebrities, a rush by those who had no attachment to the fallen star of the day to mock the social media tidal wave of remembrances.
But if there's a light in all this--and it has to be a very bright light to chase off even a little bit of this year's shadow--it's this: art matters. Whatever your art; pop or esoteric, poetic or plain, child-like or infinitely complex, for every one of these people the world lost (and it is the world's loss, when we lose artists, no matter their chosen craft)... that outcry says that what they did with their time in this world mattered. To so many people. It's proof they left the world better than they found it. They've left something lasting behind.
And that's beautiful.
So those of us left, as we stare down the barrel of a year that could be worse than the one we've just survived... Make art. Create something lasting. Strive to be remembered, and to live bravely, and to never be content. Remember that art matters. Enjoy the people who make it while they are here with us.
And let's all leave this place better than we found it. That's our job now. Let's not let each other down.
In the latest edition of 1 Panel, 1 Page, an ongoing series of articles about a single panel or page that has stuck with the writer forever, I've invited my colleague, artist and teacher Robert Perry to offer his thoughts on his own 1 Panel 1 Page memory. He's got a great choice, too: a page from Frank Miller's iconic Daredevil run.
Robert, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this very memorable run. And without further delay:
Daredevil #180: "The Damned"
First of all, I’d like to thank Matt for inviting me to contribute to his blog and his very cool concept: 1 panel or 1 page that has stayed in your memory even if years (hell, even decades!) have passed since you first encountered it. These panels can hang in your memory long after the story they once helped tell is lost, like a lyric or a melody from a song whose name you can’t remember. Those little hanging paintings in your own personal comics geek gallery.
I must admit my own gallery is not very well curated; it resembles more a cluttered attic of various Marvel, DC and Amazing Fantasy pictures with a splattering of Calvin & Hobbes and Beanos (there may even be some Citizen Kane stills in there too — I really must clean this place up). But the very first thing that popped in my brain was a page from Daredevil, Issue No. 180 “The Damned”, second to last page. I had to check which issue, though, because as I said the page stuck in my memory while the details of the story have grown hazy.
Anyone reading this blog probably doesn’t need a summary of Frank Miller’s contribution to comics. Though his more recent output has been eclipsed by his reputation for semi-coherent, right-wing ranting, it can’t erase the two decades of uniformly exceptional comics work, from Daredevil through to Ronin, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City, Martha Washington, and on and on. Whether as a full-on auteur creating his own book (he started writing and penciling Daredevil at the age of 22!) or writing for other artists, Miller’s world-weary, nicotine stained voice is always clear. So clear, in fact, it surprised me when I re-examined the page — the penultimate issue of an ongoing three-year arc of city corruption, doomed love and urban decay that introduced Elektra and Bulls-Eye — that Miller had by this time had begun to relinquish finishing duties to long-time collaborator Klaus Janson. Miller and Janson have been one of the great art teams of the modern era, so it’s easy to ignore any change in continuity; but even in its breakdowns this page is a lesson in narrative impact and efficiency.
I remember what initially caught me about this page was its irregularity. Mainstream comics at the beginning of the eighties were still quite conservative; panels were maintained in neat order, borders were standard and bleeds were almost unheard of. So to a ten year old kid thumbing through the issue on the newsstand in 1982 it just looked plain cool. But subsequent readings of this issue (and much of Miller’s Daredevil run) seem to reveal something new every time.
Miller subverts that Marvel “house-style” convention by actually emphasizing the white space, making the page asymmetrical. Partly this allows him to exploit his signature “TV panel” device, something he’d use to ultimate satirical effect in Dark Knight. He reuses this technique three times throughout the issue, always in the same spot and always with the same emptiness surrounding it. Then below a wide establishing panel of Kingpin in a deep focus shot that contextualizes the TV and emphasizes the mob boss’ power and isolation; the ring (his missing wife’s ring, retrieved from a dark and horrible place) cuts across the panel, always pulling our eye inward to the left of the page. Once we’re in the room, Miller slows time with a series of rhythmic, heavily-cropped vertical close-ups that capture Kingpin’s enormous face. It’s broken only once by Daredevil’s looming figure which dominates an increasingly powerless Wilson Fisk in the lower left of the frame. He’s now defeated and we’re allowed to close in on Fisk’s personal space, his private emotional state. Employed effectively, this technique can be devastating, and it’s something Miller almost certainly picked up from his mentor Wil Eisner. Eisner knew the difference between time and ‘timing,’ and that using timing creates a strong emotional rhythm. That rhythm is then punctuated by a final, extreme close-up of DD’s eyes like the last stab of a slowly beating drum. And always the layout seems to be pushing us to the left, creating an undeniable sense of claustrophobia that all started with that empty space at the top of the page.
Now ten year old me certainly wasn’t thinking all this when I first grabbed Daredevil #180. But I do remember pausing on it for a long time – it was something special, a kind of storytelling and attention to detail I’d never previously experienced. And it made me pay attention to comics, the good ones, in a way I hadn't before.
Thanks again for the opportunity to reminisce about a great piece of comics art, Matt. Your No-Prize is in the mail.
Robert Perry is an art and media teacher and graphic designer living in Ottawa, Canada. He has been a comic book geek since as long as he can remember, has taught courses on the art of comics and sequential art, and has met Mr. T.
Just found out both of the Indestructibles holiday stories, "Gifted" and "Krampus in the City," will be available for free tomorrow, December 24, on Amazon Kindle.
You can find both on my author page on Amazon here. Pick up a free copy of each!
Hey, everybody. I'm trying to keep the tradition of writing and giving away an Indestructibles holiday story every year as a thank you to everyone who reads the series. Well, "Krampus in the City," a 40-page One-Shot short story in which Entropy Emily goes head to toe with Krampus, is free Saturday, December 17 and Sunday, December 18.
Grab a free copy while you can! (Or don't worry, it'll only be 99 cents after the promotion is over if you miss it, like the last holiday story).
The last holiday story, "Gifted," is also available on Kindle for less than a dollar. Plus don't miss out on the other One-Shots there as well, including solo stories about the Dancer, Titus, and the mysterious Alley Hawk!
Thanks for supporting the Indestructibles books all year. Happy holidays!
So some of you know I live in Halloween Central here in Salem. I've decided to do something fun for the holiday this year – I've been working on a Titus solo adventure for a while, in which he meets... another creature of the night, and I've decided to make this 46 page "One Shot" story exploring the Indestructiverse's monstrous, supernatural underbelly free all weekend (Friday the 28th through Sunday the 30th of October).
It's available on Kindle, and it'll still be available after this weekend (for $.99) but grab your free copy while you can!
Let me know what you think of Titus on his own. He's one of the Indestructibles I'm most looking forward to writing outside the team for. I think his world has a lot of dark corners to explore.
And stay tuned for another short story soon, in which a few team members take on another supernatural threat just in time for Christmas...
Just a quick post today because I'm on the move, but I wanted to let everyone know--the solo Alley Hawk story, "The Monsters We Make," is free on Amazon Kindle all weekend. I'm giving it away in honor of Another Anime Convention in Manchester, NH, where I'll be presenting a few times on writing all weekend.
If you're in the area, check it out! If not... hey, free e-book! Grab your copy today if you're interested. Available October 14, 15, and 16.
Matthew Phillion is the writer of "The Indestructibles," part-time actor, occasional filmmaker. Currently on the lam in Salem with his trusty dog, Watson.