Slow Cinema Comics, The Graphic Language Of Narrative, Falling Down A Hole
I wrote this for my newsletter back in March. I preserve it here.
I was talking to a publisher friend about a project I was working on a few years ago, before my Brain Thing happened. The project was never announced, because we wanted it done before anyone knew about it. But I was getting sick and didn’t know it, and the project was going through some format changes, and my brain couldn’t deal properly with the changes because it was getting sick and I didn’t know it, and then my Brain Thing happened, and I couldn’t work for a few months, which for a freelancer is bad bad bad, and so I had to go into new and simpler projects where there was immediate money, and this project I’m discussing here now sat in a cloud of confusion and stress-memory and complex calculations that my brain even now still can’t do very well. So we were talking about it, and I discovered that my brain had actually deleted the memory of seeing some of the art. I was being shown pages that were completely new to me, because the chemical chains that held the memory of receiving the scans were just wiped out. The structure of my brain is unharmed, but there’s a lot of chemical soup in there now, and I can’t do things like process spreadsheets or read mirror writing or handle complex documents. It’s been weird, discovering all these little cognitive deficits.
And I was trying to describe what I remember my original goals with the book being, and it came out out like this:
“I was trying to re-find a language for comics that would accept all forms of graphics, because all forms of graphics already exist inside comics. I always tell people when doing talks that they’ve all already read comics if they’ve been on a plane — the safety card. I still work, in my own notes, on that language and approach. I think of it as enrichment. Like, I like what Hickman does with graphics and text on BLACK MONDAY, for example, but I want the “diegetic,” in-story version, where the jumps between conventional narrative art, graphics and icons, and all the other things aren’t jumps at all, but a flow inside the same language.”
Which isn’t original, but I was trying to find my own way to do these things. My process isn’t as tortuous as Matt Fraction’s, because I don’t need a mile of index cards and a serial killer wall, but it’s just as bizarre in its way, and my notebooks will not, let us just say, be preserved for the ages like da Vinci’s. Except possibly as artifacts of outsider art by an uneducated delusional.
I can still hold a lot in my head. Since Thursday I have been spending 12 to 14 hours a day working on three episodes of the show at once, holding the structures of all three in my head and jumping between them as I find the voices and the ways to write discrete sections.
But I suspect a certain kind of work is beyond me. Which may be why my brain has been pushing me towards slow cinema as a model for the last year or two — Fraction calls them my “weird slow murder stories.” I’ve actually been working on one in spare moments here and there, exclusively for my own amusement.
(I picture them in my head. They would straight up kill any artist, so no artist will ever see them. I have a note at the top for one of the stories which says “this is either 40 pages or 480 pages.” It will never exist, except for me. This is fine and good.)
It is not as complex an undertaking as the project that fell over. I’ve gone back and read the script for the project that fell over – I wrote half of it, and then there was a call to extend it by half again, and I couldn’t find 50% more story that worked, and my brain just [insert sound of a cow farting and the fart lighting on fire] because I didn’t know that it was fixing to shut off the right side of my body one morning in the near future. I’m honestly not sure if I can finish it — and right now, in the middle of writing the season, and finishing WILD STORM, and the other things, I’m not even sure when I’d do it. But I’d like to. I’d like to find a way to finish that personal opening statement about the language of comics.
We all leave bodies in our wake, in this business. You just know more about mine than other people’s. I regret them all, but this particular one still stings, because it comes with the memory of falling down a hole while trying to write it.