Monday, October 02, 2006


Reposting again.
I'm a comic book reader/fan. That's no secret. I've been reading the things since I was 7, which was 45 years ago. I stopped for a while because I got annoyed and was mostly boycotting DC Comics and since that was mostly what I was reading in 1985, that pretty much stopped my comic book reading for a few years in protest over the death of Supergirl. We kinda grew up together, Kara Supergirl and me, so that felt like they'd killed a member of my family.

So what does that have to do with writing? Right now, a lot. Comics -- along with TV, movies, and real life -- is a source of inspiration for me. And right now, the inspiring aspect of comics in general, and the DCU in particular, has my imagination in overdrive.

Supergirl was killed, as was the Barry Allen Flash, in a major DCU event called "Crisis on Infinite Earths" which collapsed the multiverse DC had created (a version of multiple universes that I loved) into one true universe. Essentially, they rebooted the line. I've been reading about this, how it was done, because DC is doing a major event again, only this time, it's bigger and better and the writer in me is incredibly envious of the toys the writers are getting to play with.

"Wizard" has had a number of articles on the current event, "Infinite Crisis," which was kicked off by Brad Meltzer's "Identity Crisis" mini-series. The details of the story and plot don't matter. What matters is that for the past couple of years and continuing over the next year, just about all comics in the DCU (Vertigo and Wildstorm are not included, nor are special titles like the All-Star titles) are participating in this event that will change the face of the universe.

I just read an interview with Marv Wolfman and George Perez who wrote and drew the original Crisis. Back then, in 1985, what they did ended up affecting all the books, but until things were pretty much set on course, the other books didn't show any involvement in the story. This time, the writers of the other books jumped in and pitched ideas when invited in. Last time, folks didn't know what to expect or even if such a big project would work. Then, in the '90s and early '00s (eek, that looks awful, let's go with early 2000s), a few crossover events were written as if rammed down the writers throats, which they probably were. Some did well with them, but others either barely mentioned the big event, or butchered their part. This time, it's different.

What really caught my eye in an interview with Geoff Johns and others involved with "Infinite Crisis" is how seemingly unrelated books from 2 years ago were actually plotted out to lead to the Crisis. That events and actions by bad guys that seemed unrelated or unusual, were connected and had a definite puppetmaster behind the scenes who has since been revealed. And they're pulling this off. For example, and unless you know the titles, this won't mean much, but humor me here, there was a mini-series and follow-ups called The Rann-Thanagar War, focusing on war between Rann, adopted homeworld of Adam Strange and Thanagar, the homeworld of Hawkman. We knew this was part of the Crisis, and it followed nicely from the Adam Strange mini-series that brought Adam back to the DCU after many years' absence. But until I read the articles, I had no idea the Adam Strange mini was planned as one of the Crisis lead-ins, that the ending which led into the war had been planned from the start. I'm impressed.

The relevance here is that I write collaboratively with some friends. We do a spy series based on my old Man from UNCLE fan fic. I'd changed the MFU universe so much, it seemed to make sense to change names, adjust personalities, and concentrate on my original characters with the altered versions of the show's characters moving to supporting roles. And one thing I've tried to do and have learned it's damned difficult to do, is coordinate a long, complex storyline.

My first inspiration in this was Hercules and Xena which also managed complex continuing storylines that crossed over from one show to the other. That had most of the same people working on both so it was likely easier to keep track of things than coordinating dozens of writers and artists who are working at DC now. But trying to coordinate the three of us (now 4) has proven almost impossible. It's difficult to get us all to agree. It's difficult to keep the egos to the side. It's hard to have to put my foot down as creator of the universe and therefore the last word on what can or can't be done. And it's hard to maintain this sort of thing over time. Folks keep writing things in that don't fit and the two times we've attempted such a complex storyline, we've ended up ending the thing prematurely, with a quick fix that fits but isn't what I'd hoped for.

DC is currently moving the DCU forward one year and will start, in May, a one-year long weekly series called 52 that will fill in the gaps between the end of Infinite Crisis and where the One Year Later books pick up. Again, I'm impressed, as they had to figure out that whole year and where all the books will start.

I write as I go and in working on the Mars books, I'm trying to keep to a general timeline Deb and I created for the universe. But the WIR is over a century before the first books we planned and I've already changed things at that time that will have repercussions for the not yet written "future" books. When we get to them, we'll need to adjust things, see where the dominoes ended up falling. I like that mystery element. I'd lose interest in writing the thing without it. But I also like, admire, and even envy the ability to plan it all out. I'd like to find a way to do both, work out something complex that's still loose enough to allow me wiggle room as needed. I think it's starting to gell that way in my reluctant brain, but it's not yet quite where I need it to be.

It's damn difficult, for me, and I'm just one writer, not the committee DC has, although one or two people are coordinating the project, making sure there are no contradictions. Just from my feeble attempts so far, I've come to really admire folks who can make something like this not only happen, but work and work well.
Stating my strengths and weaknesses in relation to those of my one-time collaborator.

1. Dialogue
2. Drafting. I can write off the top of my head or from someone else's scene list/outline.
3. Plotting and Complications
4. Characterization
5. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar
6. Proofreading

1. Action
2. I can't write from an outline I make, and I really can't outline worth a damn, anyway.
3. Description

Could Go Either Way
1. Revision. I write in layers, so that works well, but I'm not as good when I have to edit a finished full-length draft.

Deb, my collaborator, has these strengths:
1. Outlining
2. Seeing patterns in stories, including what I write and can't see.
3. Revision
4. Action
5. Description
6. Characterization

Her weaknesses:
1. Drafting. Her health has been the main problem, but she often has trouble getting started.
2. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar. She's dyslexic.
3. Proofreading
4. Complex plotting. She can do it, but she does better when she can bounce ideas off someone

See a pattern here? One great thing is how we'll both feel something is wrong, but we don't know what, but I think it's one thing and she thinks it's something else, so we'll fight argue discuss it and we come to a solution which so far has always been something entirely different than either of us originally thought.

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