Newsletter #124: Under Pressure (Part 1)
Recapping my Colorado mini-vacation and the impending avalanche of work ahead of me, PLUS a Grant Morrison story!
Hey guys, it's Scott.
It is Friday, March 3rd, and I'm back from vacation. Thank you for being patient with me, I took my 16 year-old son Jack to Colorado and we went skiing, just the two of us. And things have been really stressful to be totally honest up to now with his school, and he had to practice SATs stuff, and just a lot, a lot of work on him. And to be able to get away and connect outside of the rut of like, “did you do your homework?” and “come on, we're going to be late for school,” and “did you study enough?” and that whole thing was just fantastic. Getting to sort of escape the constraints and the patterns that you're in, to be able to just be someplace open and different and connect with each other.
And we talked about movies and books and things going on in his life and things going on in my life, and we didn't argue or fight even once, It was just a great, great time. And we had a fun time skiing! He's getting really good and I grew up doing it, so I really enjoy it and it was a blast! He’s soon gonna be way better than me. But a lot of the fun was we drove from where we were staying in Snowmass to Denver and got to drive through the mountains and see the old mining towns and explore a little bit and just see some natural beauty.
I mean, for me, I don't know if I've talked about this, but I love it out there. I love seeing giant natural landscapes. I feel like in this country, so much of the architecture is built in the last hundred years, much a lot less. Like, most places you live, it's strip malls and fast food stuff and everything and it all feels very young. None of it is hundreds of years old. You go to Europe and you'll be in a town that's 500 years old, sometimes, like Angoulême or some of those conventions.
But here, it's hard to find things that are over a hundred years old, and nothing is wrong with that, except I think sometimes, if you're a person that has anxiety or is stressed out is dealing with whatever problems you're dealing with, there's a sense that the youth of everything around you and the fact that it's sort of built for your generation, or only a generation or two old, reinforces the importance of your own problems, because it's like a set you're walking through that's built for your life. And so there's a kind of reverberation or echo effect where it's kind of confirming that your life and the things that you're dealing with are all there is. It removes you from the context of history and smallness and the feeling of humility, I think. that that comes from seeing age-old generational structures and buildings and streets.
And so in this country, I feel like one of the ways you get that, and there's no better place, are the grand variety of these majestic vistas, whether you go to Utah and see Arches or down to Arizona and see the Red Rock or out to California and see the Redwoods are just any of it. And Colorado is just stunning. The mountains there just dwarf everything and give you this intense sense of smallness. And weirdly, for me, at least, the smaller I feel, the less stressed I am. The smaller my problems feel. You think it would be the opposite, but it's this odd paradox where the more insignificant I feel, honestly, the more insignificant my problems feel and the more I feel grounded and in my own life in a balanced way.
So it was just a fantastic trip. And my kid, he was funny, he convinced me to buy myself a ring that I said I would buy myself last time when we were there, but I didn't want to because I was nervous and it wasn't super expensive, but it was pricey. And he was like, “I really liked it though.” And the it was the kind of thing that Greg Capullo and I would both wear and he was like” you should buy it because Wytches is gonna go through as a series!” And I was like, “no, it's not. I don't know, I'm worried about it. What if it doesn't?” And he was like, “buy it, because I know it will!” And I was like, “ehhh,” and I didn't. And then we went back this year and I bought it as a reminder to me that my kid believed that it was going to happen even when I was nervous about it, and I should have just bought it then as a sign of confidence. So it was it was a great trip. And thank you guys all for saying nice things. And Tyler’s gonna post the pictures here.
A couple housekeeping things. We're going to have class in two weeks. So March 16th, Thursday of the week after this coming week. We're going to use two great pieces, long and short. Again, I'll talk about the theme and we'll post them next week so you guys can take a look. So we'll be back on track with that. I'm loving doing the one-on-ones. The Black Jackett Club is not really open right now, but I'm thinking we'll open it again at the end of the month for a little bit, because people seem to really want to get in there and do these meetings, the one-on-ones, and start to show work and all that. And hopefully I can manage it, but I got to see because the writers room, that's the other thing, it's supposed to start a week from Monday, so I'm really nervous and excited but I love the people that we've gotten in there. I feel terrible that there were a couple people that I dearly love that we were unable to get in there, but ultimately, the group is tremendously gifted and I'm very excited that Amazon and Plan B were so supportive of the room itself. We have twenty weeks to do season one. And yeah, wish us luck.
Also housekeeping, Clear #1 is out from Dark Horse Comics next week, this coming Wednesday, so please go pick it up. It's a double-size issued, it collects what was digitally released as issue #1 and 2. It's massive, it's got extras, and Tyler will confirm it, but it's the truth—Francis and I had been on calls for the last week, we're really lucky, there's a ton of interest in this one for TV and film. We’ve already met with a bunch of people we think are great, so you can definitely expect something in the next few months, I would assume, by way of announcement that we'll have been able to find a home for it. So we're really, really thrilled and grateful. And it's still going on, we're still meeting people for the first time, so we're really excited.
But yeah, this series is one of the ones I'm proudest of. It's personal and it's hugely high concept. It's about a future where we all connect to the internet neurologically, and the big trend is to kind of veil everything however you want. So everybody sort of exists in a subjective reality where the superstructure of the world is permanent, but you can cosmetically skin it to however you want it to look. So if you want to have your rundown apartment look beautiful, it does. If you want your wife or husband to look like somebody different, they can. If you want to live in a 1940s noir black and white veil, you can, and there's different costs for different things. And it's a murder mystery that takes place in this world and it takes you from the back alleys to the top of elite power in this future. So I really hope you'll check it out. Francis Manapul and I are incredibly proud of it. And yeah, out from Dark Horse Wednesday.
So I wanted to talk a tiny bit about stress, because I've mentioned it a few times. It's been a stressful period over here. I'm happy, everything is good, but just the amount of work, the preparation for the writer’s room, finishing some of the series as powerfully as I can with my co creators, making sure we stick the landing really hard on some of the series—Canary and Barnstormers, and Dudley and some of the second wave books, and Book of Evil, which I'm in the last quarter of. Really, there's pressure. I'm very proud of that I've never let a comic out of the gate on my end that I haven't felt like I've done my best to make as good as I can. That doesn't mean that my talents like, fall way short of where I'd like them to be a lot of times, but I've never phoned it in. And so there can be an overwhelming amount of stress when you care about yourself that way I'm sure most of you guys out there that are creators do.
And so for me, one of the strategies has been, just like I did, to get outside of it, even when it's a bad time to do it like this, like going away with my son. But also there's a reconnection to your priorities way of doing it. And those are priorities. For me, these are life priorities, and they’re priorities as a creative person. I had an idea just being away with them, meeting new people, experiencing new things, always challenging yourself to get outside your comfort zone and talk to people that you might not meet otherwise, like one of the people I met with, a construction worker on site where we were staying, he was talking about his friend because there was an avalanche blasting going on in the backwoods in the mountains, and his friend does this and like, walks through with a backpack with explosive caps. And that's literally how they do it. They walk along the ridge with a backpack of explosive things and throw them down with these fuses. And that gave me an idea for a story, obviously, and something I really want to do, like the next kind of thing like Wildfire, which was a small, tight, noir/thriller heist story.
So anyway, getting outside your zone is an odd way of re-confirming a lot of the time, I think, your priorities—re-engaging with the things that make you inspired and want to write, whether that's family or landscape. And for me, it can mean reading your favorite book over, it can mean meeting with students, I love these one-on-ones because looking at student work and how brave people are in their own stuff a lot of the time, submitting it, exploring things that are outside their comfort zones or deeply intimate, but also uncomfortable to share…those things make me reconnect to my priorities as a writer and say, “listen, that's what I want to do.”
And I'll never forget, I've been meaning to tell the story about Grant Morrison. But the first time I ever met them in person was at San Diego back in what must have been like, 2011 or so. I'm probably getting it wrong. And we were at the buffet at the hotel and I was prepared to meet them later when we were going to meet with retailers and book buyers for Barnes and Noble. But this was before that and we were like, at the buffet we always meet in these ways that are totally unprepared and casual. I always bumped into them at San Diego in a way where I'm like, coming out of the pool or something weird. And so we were there and I saw them and I said, “Mx. Morrison, it's a pleasure. I'm Scott.” They knew who I was. They were like “Scott, you're on Detective!” and I said yes and I said how much I loved their work. And then I just went into it. And they asked me what I was doing on Detective and I told them this whole theory about Gatham and how the city changes to adapt to its Batman and how it's like, a goat infected with the blood of a bat and the bat bites it in that infection causes it to change and that's why villains are specific to the Batman.
And they were great listening and I was like, “what are you working on with Incorporated? What's coming up? I can't wait! It's so awesome.” And they did the same thing I did instead of talking about the big broad strokes. Because I felt like an idiot. And I was like, why don't I just talk about the point of the whole story instead of talking about what happens? And I didn't give any of the action, any of the villains, any of like, the whole plot. I just talked about this odd theory at the core of it. And then they were like, “well, I'm working on this short story, and it's about a bat…” They went into this whole thing about a bat and this bat that's like, hurt and wounded and fights its way through and I'm like, “What is this?” And then they're like, “and then the bat gets up after all this and flies up in the air…” And I saw coming. They were like, “and then it goes through the window and it's the bat that inspired Bruce to become Batman.” And I was like, “that's amazing! I love it!”
And the point is, it was a short piece. Out of all the things Grant was working on at that time, that piece was one of the core things that the run was about. Not the only thing, but a core pillar of what that amazing run, my favorite Batman run, was about. And in that way, Grant was speaking to the priorities that they felt were essential to the storytelling they were doing. Not the big architecture of the plot and what was going to happen in Batman Incorporated and all the cool villains and Lord Death Man and everything—Damian and Mandrakk and whatever. It was all very grounded, grounded in what this whole thing was about. And that's another reconnection to priorities when you're stressed out, talk to people who have priorities that inspire you, that are about what the things are about in their story, okay?
P.S. Grant’s doing super exciting things over on the Xanaduum Substack, so throw a subscription their way: