Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Peter David: BADASS.

I love Peter David. I've been in love with PAD since 1991, when I picked up Incredible Hulk # 382 for no goddamn reason other than I felt like it. You must understand, dear reader, that in 1991 your standard comic book was $1 and you could do things like that.

I devoured that first David issue and was instantly pummeled by how smart it was. People were saying clever and unexpected things inside that book. Funny things. Awfully bloody funny things.

Characters defied expectations, situations defied expectations. This was a book written by a guy who knew what he was doing, cared about what he was doing, wanted you to care about what he was doing.

He was refreshing. And nearly twenty years later, he still does care, and he still is refreshing.

I was reminded of this fact while reading a interview with PAD regarding X-Factor. The 'Rama talks to all the X-writers on a regular basis, and I mostly forgive them for it. In this case, that interview was a special treat. Here's David on what's coming up in X-Factor:

Here’s the problem: I don’t want to give anything away. Nothing. Anything I would feel comfortable discussing would be so vague that it would ultimately be unsatisfying. As much as I want to get publicity for X-Factor, I'm not sure how to go about it without blowing key points. I can't discuss what happens with the baby without blowing the story. I can't discuss the Sentinels without blowing the story. What I'm trying to establish with X-Factor is that anything can happen and be wholly unexpected when it does. The internet seems to exist almost solely to provide major revelations and thus take the element of surprise out of the writer's hands and ultimately be harmful to comics.

Amen, brother. The thing that I have always appreciated about Peter David's snark is its purity and sincerity. This is not spin, this is a man casting a critical gaze at the current state of affairs and finding it lacking. And you know what? He's right.

In the internet age of instant information and pre-emptive gratification, we don't wait for things any more. By the time a movie, TV show, or comic book actually arrives, the juice has been sucked out of it. We have become a culture that no longer cares so much about artifacts, but about the discussion of the idea of artifacts.

Cloverfield comes to mind as the most egregious example. The goddamn name of the film was changed because there was so much essence poured into talking about the fucking thing before it came out, it seemed wrong to call it whatever it should have been. The hype and the speculation and the bullshit and forums and the message boarding was all in the name of Cloverfield - so that's what it became. That's some powerful bullshit, friends.

And we do it to everything now. Watchmen movie, check. Secret Invasion, check. Heroes, check. Once something is known to exist, it must be examined and judged immediately. There must be reams and reams of mindless yammering on the subject from people with no reason and no taste, every hour of every day.

We need the script leaked before the producer has approved it, we need the cast revealed before the director is phoned, and God Forbid there be any surprises. We don't open our presents on Christmas in 2009. We steal cell phone footage of our parents buying the gifts and then squeeze a giant dump on them before they're ever wrapped.

It SUCKS. It's unnecessary, it's counter productive, and it SUCKS. You don't hear much bitching about it from creators, certainly not comic creators. It's considered poor taste, biting the inbred hands that just barely feed you. It's considered bad business to upset the cyber-boat, the supposed Templars of the Comic Grail.

I say bullshit. I say it's a good thing that there are still men like Peter David who actually care and actually have a pair to put nonsense in its place.

Listen, I recognize that I'm old. I'm old, and I don't belong here. When I was reading comics back in The Day, you didn't get solicitation copy months in advance, and there was no newsarama to kill the things before they were born. You read things, you tried new things, you talked about them with your friends or with cronies at the comic shop. There was still bitching, and there was still anticipation, but there was also wonder and surprise.

Where is surprise in 2009? We're numb to it. Most everything is given away and old news before the actual copy hits the page, and even if an unrevealed twist did sneak in - what of it? In 2009, it just gives way to the next twist next month. Worlds crumble every week now, what of it?

So here's Peter David to the rescue as outlined later in the interview:

People feel the book has been unfocused or less compelling than it should be. I agree. Beginning with issue #39, I am taking proactive steps to answer all those criticisms and more. My goal is more than just to turn this book around. My goal is nothing less than to triple sales before year's end. I want X-Factor to be a book for which waiting for the trade is simply not an option: Readers have to pick up the latest issue. I want them to feel that nothing is off limits; that anything can happen, and that they absolutely have to be there when it does. I want fans to get to the last page of an issue and they can't believe what they're seen. I want them to feel emotionally wrung out by the end of the book. I want there to be at least one, if not more, ‘Oh my God’ moments in every damned issue.

Do you see what I mean about the caring? He's turned his caustic glare at himself and recognized that his own work has been lacking. And it has. I've been with X-Factor from issue # 1, and I'll tell you that it's still been better than 98% of what's out there, but since Layla disappeared the book has been missing something. And he's dedicated himself to getting it back. And I'll bet you he does.

Notice that he didn't say the usual excrement about "new direction" or "things will never be the same again". He's not talking about an "event" book, he's talking about making interesting things happen in each issue.

He's not talking about changing the way we view X-Factor forever. He's talking about making you want to read the next issue when you finish the one in your hands. This is a very simple concept that is sorely lacking in comics today.

Events promise (or more accurately over-promise) about the brave new worlds they are taking us to. This is why Peter David and my new found friends Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning will always have a place in my heart. It aint about the destination, it's about the ride.

Here's a promise you can trust- beginning with X-Factor # 39, you're going to want to be on that ride.

- Ryan

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