writes about nerdy things, and celebrates those things as an English teacher. He lives in the mountains. Thanks for reading; feel free to leave a message.

Tom Spurgeon interviews X.O. Manowar writer Robert Venditti. →

Quite a number of gems in this Sunday interview. People watch Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and whatever other Sunday morning news talk program, I read Spurgeon’s Sunday interview. 

VENDITTI: The thing about Chris’s [Staros] style that I really appreciate is he doesn’t try to turn your story into his story. Instead, he finds out what it is you’re trying to say, and he points out the places where you drop the ball, or maybe aren’t saying it as clearly as you think. You can’t ask for much more from an editor than that. 

If there is another thing that I study the hell out of when I’m working on putting something together is the editors I like and what they do, because that is a job I’d like to understand better. The fortunate thing about comics in terms of other forms of publishing is how small it is, chances are you’ve read an editors’ work so you have some idea what they’re into. Chris Staros likes cerebral, quirky work that is grounded in character, Scott Allie likes horror (Hellboy, Buffy), Robert Kirkman and Image like high concept but decompressed storytelling about people, Will Dennis at Vertigo likes crime noir.

The discussion on the use of color is another intriguing bit:

SPURGEON: Another thing that kind of leaps out is the use of color: limited at times, wildly expressive and kind of swirling at others. How would you describe what you’re attempting with the color there — or if that’s not you, what the book achieves by these shifts in approach?

VENDITTI: One of the things I’ve learned from the artists I’ve worked with is how important color can be to storytelling. Coming from a non-comics background and starting out with more traditional mainstream fare, that wasn’t something that was immediately obvious to me. All of the comics I read in the beginning had coloring styles that were based in realism, so that was the way I tended to think. It wasn’t until I started working for Top Shelf and started reading more indie comics that I realized the extent of the possibilities. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a time and place for realistic coloring; there absolutely is. It just doesn’t always have to be that way. 

More than anything, the coloring in The Homeland Directive establishes the mood in each scene, but it also reinforces the subtext. During the scenes in the Oval Office, Mike uses a hazy gray coloring scheme, which supports the political tone — after all, politics isn’t as black and white as politicians would like us to believe. During more action-oriented scenes, he goes heavy on red to bolster the violence taking place.

I don’t really think about color that much besides every day stuff and the normal coloring, but this is an interesting point, because I feel like if I did try that it would be doing something I dislike—micromanaging

There are even more gems from this piece, especially regarding Venditti’s book The Homeland Directive, which I have not read, but it sounds exactly like my kind of thing. The question involved is government monitoring people, that kind of rends the point of a show like Person of Interest mute:

I was on a commercial flight flying into Philadelphia on the first anniversary of 9/11. There ended up being an incident during the flight, where a passenger was being disruptive. Things escalated, and two plainclothes air marshals decided to arrest the passenger and spend the remaining 45 minutes of the flight guarding the cockpit with their guns drawn. All of this happened less than ten feet from me. When I tell you one of the air marshals had his gun pointed right over my wife’s head, I’m not exaggerating in the least. The thing is, though, in my opinion, the air marshals acted appropriately. Like I said, this was the first anniversary of 9/11, and we were flying into one of the most target-rich cities in the country. They did what they felt they had to do to keep us safe.

The next morning, the incident was all over the news. Several passengers had spoken out, saying how terrified they were, making it sound like the air marshals were waving their guns all around the cabin. It made me wonder: If the same events had taken place, but there hadn’t been any air marshals to arrest the disruptive passenger, then those same people might’ve complained that they were terrified that a passenger could engage in disruptive behavior on a commercial flight and no one was there to stop it. “What if that passenger had been a terrorist?” and so on. 

Now add to that a second layer of contradiction, where the freedoms we fight so hard for in the face of government intervention, we often give away willingly for the sake of something as simple as convenience. In The Homeland Directive, the government doesn’t use satellites or cameras on street corners. There are no listening devices in bedside lamps or homing beacons under the bumpers of cars. They don’t need them. There is already so much self-induced surveillance going on. Whether it’s Facebook or smartphones or credit cards or prepaid electronic toll devices… we already leave a digital record of just about everything we do. Not because we have to, but because we choose to. Because it makes life easier. 

These contradictions must be terribly frustrating for the people we entrust and elect to deal with the issue of public safety. I’m not passing judgment or assessing blame. I tweet from my iPhone while I’m zipping through the tollbooth just like everyone else does. Okay, maybe I’m not that bad, but you see what I mean. I don’t know what the answer is here. I’m just aware there’s a question. 

Exactly, the government doesn’t need to monitor us, we do it willingly. I’m doing it right now and it is based around the question of trying to reach a higher audience, or showing who I am to get others to care about what interests me. Is any of this a valid exercise or is it all an ego trip? A cry for help? I don’t know, but I didn’t make one single touch of human contact this weekend. I spoke to a lot of people on the phone, said “thanks” to the clerk at the Duane Reade who just checked out my double-doucer of Stella and my pretzels and went home to watch Cowboys & Aliens, and I spoke to you all.

There’s alot to take away from this interview including the bullshit that is the concept of a brand identity and the important lesson is: don’t quit your day job.

VENDITTI: I do still work for Top Shelf, though I’m not full-time anymore. The way the day breaks down, I work on whatever needs to be done at any given moment. Sometimes that’s a script I’m writing, and other times it’s something for Top Shelf. I’m always multitasking, unless I’m behind the Top Shelf booth at a convention, and someone comes up to buy one of my books. Then it’s synergy!

It’d be hard to explain just how important my job at Top Shelf has been to my career as a writer. Aside from the obvious benefits like having them publish my first book, there are so many intangibles, too. One I’d like to stress, though, something that might not occur to most people, is that when you’re in the early stages of your career as a writer — and I like to think that’s where I am — it pays to have a day job. I have a family, and they deserve a good life, so knowing the bills are paid takes a ton of pressure off. And it has kept me from ever taking a writing job because I had to put food on the table.

A great interview, thanks alot Rob and Tom. 

  1. davepress posted this