This is the first in what may or may not be an occasional series where I ask friends six questions about stuff that’s important to them. This first one is an interview with Sudge, an aspiring writer, all about comics, writing and writing comics… When you’ve read this, check out his blog…
1. When did you discover comic books? What was your first comic and why did it grab you?
The truth is, I can’t actually remember when I discovered comics, or even what my first comic was, as I think I’ve just always been around them. I have two older brothers who were into all the typical 80s cartoons and was just raised with that kind of entertainment. I remember an old Marvel annual we had with Spider-man taking on the Rhino and Wolverine fighting Sabretooth to protect Psylocke. But the comic I’ll always count as my "first" was the Adventures of Superman 508 featuring the Challengers of the Unknown. Time-travelling daredevil heroes fighting elemental monsters and being saved by Superman. You can bet your ass I was hooked. But that must have been after the Death of Superman, which I remember reading about, or at least being aware of. (for "aware of" read "gutted by")
2. When did you go from just reading comics to wanting to write your own stories for them? Or did the writing come first?
Having been around comics for as long as I can remember, they were also what I "played at" as a kid. Pyjama top round my neck, fastened with one button – instant cape. And it was always Superman. In that sense, I’d been coming up with my own comic stories for as long as I can remember, too. But as for writing my own stuff seriously, I’d been doing that since I was a kid – longer imaginative stuff in school than the other kids, and a particularly bad Power Rangers fan-fic when I was 9. Eventually it hit me that comics were what I loved. I remember being at a school show in high school, and one of the school chaplains asked what I wanted to do when I left. I didnt blink and said with a completely serious face and voice "I want to write Superman comics." "Well," he said, "someone has to!"
3. Why do you love writing? What is it about the writing process that attracts you?
The click, man. When the light comes on and you see the story in front of you. I think it was Stephen King who described writing as being like an archeologist. The story is there, you just need to keep dusting away all the dross and the dust till you reach it. Writing feels like that for me, the creative stuff does anyway. My latest endeavour went from "currently missing Superhero whose girlfriend is trying to find her" to "19-year-old Buffy meets Spooks" and it happened naturally. It all just gestated and presented itself to me one day. I also love the sense of achievement of having written something, and being an incredible egotist, I love the reactions you get when you write something really good. I think someone told me they cried once, which I kinda loved. The other thing is, the act – the physical act of writing – is so dull, so tedious it almost puts me off. 90% of your writing happens in your head, the other 10% is tying it down to reality. Ironically, it’s that 10% that can make or break you, give you the perspective you need.
4. Who – or what – are your influences? Why? How did you get introduced to them?
Creatively, in terms of trying new things and trying to be a bit outside the box, you know I have to go with Grant Morrison. He’s Scottish, doesn’t live far from me and he hit the big time. Not only that, but he’s responsible for some of the most innovative, crazy and oftentimes touching comics I’ve ever read. If I can have even half of the ideas in my head that he has on your average afternoon, I’ll be doing OK. I first came across Morrison when I bought the first trade of his JLA series, New World Order (The hyperclan stuff) Justice League vs Martians. "I know your secret." "That’s escape velocity, by the way. Flash fact." "YOU’RE MARTIANS!" Just tremendous stuff, and to this day the best opening storyarc of a comic I’ve ever read.
I’m also pretty heavily influenced by Japanese manga. They method of storytelling, the pacing and the scale are often radically different from western stuff. If I take any lessons from manga, then I hope it’s how to put emotion into my work, and depth to my characters. I dont sympathise with western villains so much, but almost always with the manga villains (unless they’re just plain irredeemable). Manga was another thing that I just always remember being about, in the form of anime. One of the first anime I ever saw (discounting Tansformers) was The Heroic Legend of Arislan. Got it from the local video shop. Then there was Guyver. Oh, sweet, ridiculous Guyver.
Literarily, To Kill A Mockingbird just destroys me every time. If I can reach people like that book reached me…yeah. I’d die happy.
5. What do you want to achieve through your writing? Is is a storytelling thing or a wider ambition?
As I said above, the impact that To Kill a Mockingbird had on me was just immense, but weighed against the impact Superman has had on me since childhood, it doesn’t even compare. The stuff we read can affect us, even if we dont realise it. If I can help people with my writing – like with an All Star Superman/Regan style moment, or even just cheer them up like every issue of Young Justice did, then that’s just amazing.
On the other hand, I just have too many stories in my head. I need to write to tell them, it’s as simple as that!
6. Has there been a formative moment when you though "Yeah, I can do this!", or is it more a case of trying to balance insecurity against self-confidence?
I think I’ve only recently had the more self belief moments. Up until then it was just a necessity. I remember being 8 years old and the teachers asking everyone in the class what they wanted to do when they grew up. "A writer." I said. "What kind of writer?" she asked. "I dunno. Any. I just wanna write." Writing really isn’t a choice for me anymore. But when it comes to success, I’m gonna defer this one back to Neil Gaiman. I met him last year at a signing and asked for writing advice. "Just write." he told me. "Just keep putting one word in front of the other. Keep writing, and one day, you get good." I sure hope he’s right.