Our Best Jackett
Our Best Jackett
Newsletter #140: The Forever Machine

Newsletter #140: The Forever Machine

New issues of DUDLEY DATSON and BOOK OF EVIL, plus my thoughts on what makes comic books a great medium and some ruminations on the threat of AI takeover

Hey guys, it's Scott.

And it is Tuesday, May 23rd. I know it's the 23rd because it is our middle son's birthday. Emmett is twelve today. I can't believe that he’s twelve, he's still such a boy. It's like that magical age where they haven’t really hit adolescence quite yet. They still have those friendships with like, all video games and Nerf gun fights and all that. It's like that Stand by Me age that I just love. And he's crazy into baseball, we're going to the Yankee game tomorrow night against the Orioles to watch Nestor pitch, should be fun. But yeah, I hope none of his teachers listen to this, but I let him stay home from school today so that he could enjoy his birthday and eat doughnuts and cheetos and play Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and we're going to have a little party for him later. But he deserves it, he's an awesome kid. I'm proud to be his dad. He's like my one that worries too much. And it's sort of just like me at that age where he’s like, nervous and creative and socially a little bit a little awkward, but has a good inner confidence in his way and he knows what he likes and doesn't get involved in bullshit or drama. And I don't know, he's a great kid.

But also, speaking of creative children, today the finale of Dudley Datson and the Forever Machine, co-created with the great Jamal Igle, is out. This book was a real thrill and joy to do. Totally different thing than anything I've ever tried. I've never written for like, an all ages kind of thing where I don't get to like, chop people's heads off and have cannibals dismember people. So for me, doing something along these lines was a whole new bag. And Jamal was such a fantastic partner and I'm really proud of what we did and the message of the book. And we're really hoping to continue it, so I hope you'll check it out. I'm deeply proud of it.

And also, at the other end of the spectrum, Book of Evil #3's out today co-created with Jock. That one is about future in which like 90+ percent of the population are born sociopaths. So an absolute pitch black story, but one that I really, really love and honestly contains all my fears about the future for my kids. So they're sort of absolute polar opposites. One is like a cosmic hopeful adventure about the next generation and the other is sort of about the terrifying circumstances in which we've left our kids in a pure horror book. So I hope you'll check them out!

I mean, the other thing is that Barnstormers: A Ballad of Love and Murder, co-created with Tula Lotay has been nominated for an Eisner. I'm really blown away. I can't thank the judges enough for considering this book. It's probably the oldest idea that I've had in my head for a really long time. I mean, it's a story that I started working on in my prose days, but I couldn't really crack it. I couldn't quite figure it out. And it wasn't until I revisited it a few years ago and talked to Lisa (Tula) about it, and said, “listen, I think this thing speaks more to this moment than it did to the moment that I was trying to write it in, when it was more whimsical. It feels more desperate and more about kids taking the failed machines of the past and making something wonderful and wondrous and dangerous and interesting and rebellious and all of that.” So Lisa came on and the book just came to life and I'm so proud of it. But it's, again, another wildly unconventional story for me. It's just historical fiction. So there's no supernatural elements, there's no monsters, there's no capes.

And the thing about being nominated for the Eisner, I mean, people are like, “does it matter to you?” It does really matter to me. And the reason it matters to me, honestly, is, in a lot of ways it’s a validation for me of following the priorities I try and tell all you guys to follow. It's not easy, and sometimes it's deeply frightening, to step out of a comfort zone and try things that you're not sure you're going to be able to pull off and might not be as commercial. And sometimes you can't. I'm not saying everyone has the privilege or the opportunity to suddenly do stuff that's experimental or left of center or pushing the boundaries of their own kind of creative limits. I'm just saying that when you do have the chance, trying to stay the most exciting writer to yourself, not worrying about what people think, but doing it just for you, is again, one of those twin golden rules of the class and Our Best Jackett, right? First one being write the story that you'd like to find on the shelves more than any other day and the second one being always try to be the most exciting writer to yourself.

And to try these three different books the same year, one that explores my hopes about the inventiveness and ingenuity and determination and morality of the next generation, one that sort of paints a really dark and bleak picture of the world that we're giving our kids, and one that uses the past to look at the present day through a new lens and say, “maybe it's both, maybe there are things that are really horrific and systemically challenging and oppressive and there are also ways that we haven't thought of that young people might use to be able to change things in bigger ways than we suspect.” So to have these three out right now and to have Barnstormers nominated, it does really mean a lot to me. Also, I won a few of these early in my career for books that I love, for American Vampire and The Wake and such, and I think it was ten years ago, the last time I won one.

But at that time, I absolutely appreciated the significance of it. I really did. But I was so terrified of the position that I had been given in comics. I was writing Batman and Detective Comics and I had the series that Stephen King was on, which I didn't know was going to happen and all of this stuff. I've said it before, but it was like an exponential case of imposter syndrome. Everything was like, I don't deserve all of this and all I'm going to do is work every minute of the day at the expense of my friendships and marriage and all of it to try and earn it. And it wasn't a healthy way to be at all. And winning the Eisners really only compounded it, honestly. It wasn't something that I felt like I could enjoy in earnest.

So being at the other end of that tunnel and being in a place now where I feel like I love the work that I'm doing. I don't feel the same kind of pressure. I know I'm not the best, I don't not have impostor syndrome, I always do, we all do, right? But I mean, I'm not wracked with anxiety and panic attacks and all that stuff that was like, a daily problem. I was sort of starting out back in those days. So being able to be acknowledged by people that you respect and are inspired by means a lot, especially when it's a year when you've taken some risks or tried things that you didn't know would work. And so it feels a bit nicer than I thought it would. It matters to me a little bit more than I thought seeing it. And ultimately, too, I hope you'll vote for our book because Lisa (Tula) deserves all the accolades in the world, both for the influence that she's been, and continues to be, in comics, creating Thought Bubble, sponsoring all kinds of programs, and just being a wonderful artist who hasn't won one yet. So again, thanks a lot for considering us if you're eligible to vote for the Eisners.

Now for the two questions:

Charlie Adams asks, “were you a fan of Chris Pratt as Mario?”

I watched the Mario movie with my kids the other night. It was funny because I was coming off a conversation with James Tynion and about great things to see and read. And he was watching some terrific movie that night and I was like, “I'm gonna watch some movie with my kids!” But you know what? I really enjoyed it. I don't have very strong feelings on Chris Pratt. I felt like it was a bit of a vanilla version of Mario, but I enjoyed it and the kids loved it. Or my little kid loved it, Quinn was totally riveted. He was like, “what the heck?” Actually, I'll give you a picture here. You can see. But yes, thumbs up for the Mario movie!

Second question:

Bill Spears asks, “what do you love most about comics as a storytelling medium?”

Wow, that's a big one. What do I love most? The truth is, I mean, I love the collaborative aspect of it. I started off in books, like I've said before. I had always thought I’d enjoy it. I wanted to do comics growing up, but then I fell into sort of prose because it was what I could study in school, and it was a moment when there's a lot of really exciting young writers and I was really enamored of it. And because I was always writing around other people who were writing, whether it was in college or grad school, it always felt collaborative. And then it wasn't until I graduated and I was working on my book of stories. and Jeanie and I got engaged and she got into medical school out in Long Island, we moved out to Long Island, the two of us, and I was like, suddenly alone in a condo all day. We didn't have any money then, I was like, alone in a condo working on these stories alone all day and there's nobody to talk to, and that writing goes on for months. And I just got really depressed, I mean really depressed, dangerously so. And for me, it made me realize very quickly that a lot of my issues are exacerbated by being completely isolated in my own thoughts. At least at that time in my life, I'm better about it now. But 15 years ago or so it really didn't serve me at all, to be staring in the mirror of the screen trying to create things out of your deep hopes and fears with no one to talk to at all.

Now I feel I could do better with prose, but I give such credit to people that love that medium because it's just so isolated. And comics, once I began breaking in, it became clear to me very quickly that it was absolutely suited to the things I love. It gave me a little room to make a story but then it was all about sharing that story with someone who was going to make it their own and elevate it and change it, evolve it. And so for me, that's the absolute best part of comics is that you're making some weird thing with somebody else that is changing it, and then you change it to fit them, and it's that only the two of you could make this thing, or the three or four or five of you, because it's the colorist and the letterer. It's the team, it's that effort where you're building something that's not just you in isolation, it's the magic of a bunch of different imaginations coming together.

And this is one of the things that I wanted to say. I wanted to talk about AI for a second, because people keep asking me what I think of it. So I'm gonna jump over to the paid part and talk really quickly about some thoughts on it and see what you guys think. All right, bye!

Exploring some Dark Spaces with friend and IDW senior editor to the stars Mark Doyle

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