Monday, January 28, 2013

Young Avengers: 1 Assorted Thinky Writer Notes

That probably went as well as we could have hoped for. It’s reviewed phenomenally. Lowest from any big site was an 8, which is better than being punched by Miss America. It’s done well enough to get a “What’s the big deal?” backlash, which is natural, and a compliment of a sort. Young Avengers fanbase mostly more positive than I could have hoped for, which is nice. A good chunk of the people who were more luke-warm to cold about it were like that for reasons I at least understand and often agree with. And the people I were expecting to hate it hated it, which is always fine. In fact, I’d be more worried if they liked it. Probably the worst thing was a couple of problems slipped through, which we’ll fix in the second-print/trade.

Anyway - I wrote a proverbial shitload here. It goes way behind the curtain in terms of the cold hard maths of comic creation. Next lot will be fluffier, I swear.

And I’ll stress before we go in – this is relatively candid, inside-baseball, picking over choices stuff. Some people find this intrudes on their reading, in a “I didn’t think that worked/I didn’t think that was a problem” way. If you’re one of them, I’d recommend staying away, though it’s worth stressing that all responses to the work are just responses to the work, including my own.

And I’ll put it behind a cut, as it’s really bloody enormous.

1.1

Always look for opening lines to series or runs. I once had a lengthy argument with someone who didn’t see how Morrison having Cyclops’ opening address to Wolverine as he’s slashing at a fallen Sentinel be “you can probably stop doing that now” meant anything other than Logan should stop hitting that Sentinel. Dude! Like, DUDE!

Anyway, here’s Kate, the closest-to-normal girl leading us into the universe. Hi Kate!

1.3-1.4

You have flickers of feelings even if you know the feelings are bullshit.

The hair-flick is his Jamie’s first immortal expression in the book.

1.6

What’s that? Why, it’s Matt Wilson foreshadowing the METAPHOR with some lovely sunlight colouring.

2.1

You know I talked about the whole idea of YA is using the superheroic metaphor to explore these 18-type situations. Basically this is “waking up in a strange boy’s bed for the first time and you have no idea where you are”. We’re in orbit and the boy’s an alien. METAPHOR.

Second page of the book and we’ve stated: this is us and this is a big part of what it does.

2.2

I typoed KATE HUDSON when I wrote this. I am the worst at names. The real reason I didn’t include Tommy is that I typo enough with Teddy and Billy.

3.4-3.5

The dialogue being the exact moment when people realise this is a comic by me.

Also, we get Kate’s female-gaze on Noh-varr, another part of the opening I like a lot.

3.6

A last minute editing past removed a word from here, as it was thought to be a repeated typo. I originally wrote PARENTS’ PARENTS rather than PARENTS, to stress that distance in time. This is a great pop record, but it’s also a very old one, and lets me stress the generational aspect to it all.

I think we’re tweaking that back for the second-printing/trade.

As the title credits say, he’s listening to Be My Baby. Which some people got even before they reached the credits, which is testament to how amazing the drums in Be My Baby are.

3.7

Kate’s quirked brow because the Skrull has arrived. Bloody skrulls!

4-5

We’ve shown one half of what we do, and now we show the other. I write most of the crazy DPS with no idea how they’re going to be possible to execute, and every time Jamie surprises me.

Fave bits here include Kate’s WTF expression at the controls, the Vinyl floating off into space, the ludicrous cannon and the integration of text. Thanks to friend Hannah Donovan for the assistance with the kerning on the letters here.

6-7
AND TITLE DROP!

(Shameless trolling and/or laying of critical landmines, obv.)

As an aside, text pages in Marvel comics are “free”. As in, they don’t come from the budget. So when we do something like this, you’re not getting less pages of story. In fact, thinking about it, we may be saving you from Advertisements by filling up the space.

It serves a purpose here bar triumphalism. It’s a cold hard break between the opening and the rest of the story – a hard re-set. Lauren did ask about the justification for this seemingly non-related intro, and I explained it to her as a PULP FICTION opening. You’ve seen Pulp Fiction? Annoyingly, I can’t find a good version of the whole intro online.


Essentially, it goes quiet-conversation in the style of the film setting mood, exploding into shouted sweary gun-wielding violence, freeze-frame and hard cut to the black screen with the titles and that Dick Dale Guitar. We don’t come back to the young robbers until way into the film, but it doesn’t matter- its initial purpose is that it explains Pulp Fiction in miniature, right there. And then we go to a much slower paced section which builds, etc. You know what the film is from then on in.

That’s what the opening was for. The rest of the book is relatively grounded, but in the opening I give a concentrated portrait of the whole vision. This is what we do.

The opening was the first thing I conceived. I had it before anything else, and was reciting it outside bars to random people for the last six months or so. It’s essentially the YA pitch – the example I told people when they asked “what is it about?”. It’s also gone down enormously well.

I almost cut it several times when writing it. I had the nagging suspicion it could be a Darling. Because these 5pages come with a cost – namely, that there’s only 15 pages to tell the rest of the story.

Which was fun.

Page 8

The most classic/cliched superhero scene of all time – hero prevents mugging - presented in the same autobiographic style as we do the low key stuff. Point being, this isn’t special. This is just the usual.

8.3

Good work Jamie with the slightly off Spider-man drawing. It’s a bad copy of spider-man.

8.4

Kid With Knife! What are you doing, man?

9.1

Jamie had to redraw the tentacles because they originally looked like big ol’ cocks.

9.6

I’ve been on tumblr too much.

Page 10-13

I mentioned me questioning about killing the darlings? That I had those 5 pages meant I had to do the following in 4.

Let’s list the emotional shape of the scene:

Teddy has been a superhero on the quiet, breaking the promise they made not to do that any more, as it went so bad last time.

Billy is angry – however he’s also extremely emotionally volatile on this point. By implication, why Teddy both did it behind Billy’s back and why he has been avoiding this topic.

Teddy comes clean – about what he hasn’t talked about and what he doesn’t like talking about.

It makes Billy realise he’s not the only one who’s been suffering and has been self-involved.

Billy promises to be a better boyfriend.

They kiss and make up.

Let’s list the facts we introduce in this scene, in order:

Teddy lives in the Chelsea part of New York. Teddy is a fan of Captain America and the Fantastic Four. Teddy when superheroing could be mistaken for an alien called “The Skrulls”. The boy in his room is another superhero called Wiccan. Teddy’s superhero name is Hulkling. They both agreed they wouldn’t do superheroing. They previously decided to try to be Avengers, and a bunch of people died. Wiccan blames himself for it all. Wiccan’s real name is Billy. Billy’s mum is the Scarlet Witch, a superhero who is apparently glamourous and important on par with a major figure in a Tolkein book. Teddy is something of a geek. Billy lives with two people who aren’t his “actual” parents. The parents are very understanding and nice. Teddy and Billy are going out. This is Billy’s parents’ house in Chelsea, and they’re living all together. There was another person who lived here called “Speed”, who gets annoyed with nice people and has moved out because of that. Billy’s power is a reality warping and magic. Teddy’s power is shape-changing. Teddy is an alien. Teddy’s mom died when she was burned alive. Teddy has been a supportive boyfriend to Billy, and kept his inner anguish buried. The events that made them stop superheroing happened a year ago. Teddy is a fan of the NY Jets.

All of that in four pages. First issues are a right fucker.

(I accept with a nod anyone who complains about the exposition in the first issue hurting pacing. I glare at anyone who says no-one but the initiated could follow the book. Everything you need to know to follow the story is in the first issue. If you don’t know something it’s because it’s the story (“What is Loki up to?”) or something you don’t need to know (“Why is Loki a Kid?”).)

We return to my kill your darlings stuff: I lose the first five pages, what would I gain here? A couple of pages in here which would extend the argument, and perhaps an opening scene with Hawkeye, Wiccan and Hulkling in a coffee-bar (to set up some of the “we agreed not to do this” as well as a shared glance between Hakweye and Hulkling to imply they aren’t telling Wiccan something) before we have the superheroing scene with Hulkling and then onto Wiccan finding out.

(A couple of pages could have done it, even – 2 pages for coffeehouse scene before the Spider-man stuff, and the confrontation playing out in the same space. If it was a couple of years ago when comics were 22 pages, that’s probably what I’d have done. That said, if I was being honest, I’d just as likely have splurged it on extending an action sequence. Easy to spend pages when you don’t have them.)

Of course, you also have to think what you’d have lost. I think we may have reduced the vehemence of some of some of the negative opinions, but we’d also have lost all those 10/10 reviews. It would have been a much more evidently mainstream superhero comic. It’d also be even more Wiccan/Hulkling centric than now, is a problem anyway.

I think I made the right choice. This was the sequence most people seem to stumble over for what I consider “reasonable” reasons (i.e. about the book’s failings) But that other people totally bought into it and got properly emotional makes me feel better. It didn’t break the book for a whole bunch of people.

Heh. I’ve wrote most about the most traditional scene in the book.

11.3

You know, I think we designed the Hulkling outfit before Hawkeye’s new one was shown. Man! We should have spotted that. Though cosplaying is totally within Teddy’s personality.

11.5

Foster? Yeah, would have been better as Adopted. Still isn’t correct, of course.

This is one of those necessary things. How do you swiftly explain the “truth” of Wiccan’s parentage without derailing everything? I just cut to the emotional core. Wiccan’s history is a classic “discovering who your ‘real’ parents are” story, but made even more extreme because of the metaphor. Normally it’s a case of “It doesn’t matter if they raised you – you’ve got another mom”. In this case it’s “It doesn’t matter if they gave birth to you – you’ve got another mom.”

So to newcomers, I need to set up that dynamic to the reader, and because the story isn’t going to be about the specifics of how Wiccan was conceived the “Scarlet Witch is his actual parent and the Kaplans aren’t” is what they need to understand to get on with the story. So that’s what I did.

But Foster? I can see Teddy saying it as a mistake in the heat of the argument but it’s still shit. In the second printing and trade we’re tweaking “Foster” to “Adoptive”. I’m sorry to anyone we’ve offended.

11.6

Speed or Tommy? I went for Speed. Lets people know that the person who moved out was probably a superhero, and all the “y” names are actually confusing when dropped en masse. Or that was my initial thinking.

12.6

YA involves walking a very fine line. It’s trying to be a pop song, which requires making certain gestures and not worrying about it being too cool. I almost called the first arc ON THE NOSE, in a STYLE > SUBSTANCE-esque “Come At Me, Bro”. I did worry that whether the “Phone Booth” is a line that was a bit too much. But I haven’t seen anyone pick up on it, so it seems it was just one I was hypersensitive too.

13.6

You know, as great as Jamie does the kiss, this is the panel that kills. A kiss is a kiss. This is intimate. You almost feel like you’re intruding.

14.2

Wiccan’s costume, in the closet. ON THE NOSE.

14.3

This pastiches a scene in The Singles Club where Lloyd tries to make sense of the evening he just experienced. The differences are minor, but telling. There’s a recurring theme in JIM of playing with our own automythology, because making it clear This Is A Book By Us is definitely part of the fun. It’s not us trying to do a Marvel book. It’s a Marvel Book that’s done by us.

Yet more lovely colouring. I’m trying to check the posters – Dazzler is fun. I had to ask Jamie who the other one was, which was – ah! - Doctor Strange. Yes, that makes sense.

(You may be surprised I didn’t know both off the top of my head. Jamie and I are in IM with each other constantly, so a lot of these conversations happened there. It would have been a “How about a Strange poster?” “Sure” “Aces!”)

15.1

And here’s our Loki and a nod towards the Cosplay folk. A device to let Loki talk about himself and give a potted bio.

Should I have explained why Loki’s a kid? I dunno. It’s entirely unnecessary exposition that’d have slowed down the pace even more, but clearly trips some people up.

Also: we go from Wiccan making magic circles out of the air itself in a ritual of awesome mind-blowing power to Loki doing his rituals in cheap breakfast food.

15.2

The sausage is clearly the breakout character of 2013. Breakfast meats is something of a theme in the book. It’s probably a metaphor, but it may just be because who doesn’t love breakfast meat?

Vegetarians. That’s who. And animals.

15.4

This is a particularly nice bit of storytelling by the guys. Re-establishing the relationship of Wiccan in his room and Loki on the roof, via the tall panel,

15.5

Loki, up to something mysterious.

15.6

I’m not 100% sold on characters who drop bits of a foreign language into their dialogue. I follow Casey in him doing it with Miss America, but it’s going to be relatively minor feature.

16.1

Miss America, acting all mysterious, as is her wont.

Also, violent.

16.2

It’s funny. I got away with the Phone Booth but some people tripped over Terribad, when it’s absolutely IC for Loki in his mix of bad internet gibberish and old norse. I suspect that’s people who’ve never read any of Kid Loki before. C’est la vie.

16.4-17.1

The panel transition still makes me smile, which considering the number of times I’ve picked over this issue is saying something. I almost added a MYSTERIOUS to Loki’s ironic exposition burst, but decided that was one of the things that was a note too much. The joke is the fact Loki knows all too well that she can beat the living shit out of him and is acting like he hasn’t realised it.

17-18

Man! The first DPS has got most of the discussion online, but this one is – to my mind – the real technical showcase. I was expecting to have to rewrite it to try it a different way, but Jamie and Mike got everything in here. I think my opening description was “I AM BANE. YOU ARE BATMAN. I WILL BREAK YOU” or something.

Miss America’s kick is my favourite transition in the issue, I think. It’s just the big ol’ hoof.

Most of the alt-dimensions are Jamie’s ideas, I believe. The Fantastic Things and a male Captain Marvel are my faves. Was Lizard Doom one of mine? I can’t remember. No, that was Jamie too.

Worth noting that the story makes it explicit is that this is Wiccan seizing an opportunity rather than something that was deliberately planned. He was experimenting with his abilities again, and this option turned up.

The CAPLAN is a typo. Will be fixed in the reprint and trade. It was one of the latest additions to the comic in the final round of proofing, when we decided we may as well point out these are the parents and not just two random people running around the Kaplan household.

The three-tiers works as well as I could have hoped. Some of my favourite transitions are the linking between Miss America’s stomp and Teddy waking up, and Loki’s spell-casting at the same moment as Billy does his own spell. Nice work, McK.

The letters decode to COOKS IN THE BROTH. His other spells are all ELSEWHERE. The former probably requires a little interpretation, related to the saying its referencing, but that only supports what you can ascertain or guess-at via the art. I don’t hide anything important behind a cipher.


Yes, Miss America and Loki are meant to be puzzles. There’s more going on here that appears. Which is handy, because if there wasn’t, we probably wouldn’t have a story.

19.6

We demonstrate Miss America can fly. Flying exposition is the best kind of exposition!

20.4

We debated various colours for the background to the hug, but we settled on the white. To give the sense if nothing else existed for that moment.

21.2

I had to sweat blood to work out a way to have the parents name-checked here.

21.4

Another great couple of expressions. Yes, parents. Altman is totally strange. Let’s hope she doesn’t freak out and attack you with goo.

21.6

Oh no! The goo!

Page 22

One thing Lauren and I bounced around was whether this beat was big enough to actually end the first issue. That it has seemed to cause a response makes me think we were okay.

So, yes. One of the themes of the previous incarnation of Young Avengers was about the cast discovering their real lineage. I wanted to move the focus back to the people who actually raised them, as those relationships seemed relatively unexplored.

And… about a month to the next one, where we pick up the morning after. I’m sure everything will be fine. Mrs Altman just wanted to show the Kaplans’ her home made peach ice-cream..

Notes

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    And her last name is Chavez. She may be my favourite character from this new series, I love them all though tbh. (Yes,...
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    Absolutely wonderful.
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