It’s not that I’ve never written a comic.
As it happens, one way or another, I’ve written quite a few of them over the years.
It’s just that, right now, for whatever reasons, and I have no idea what they might be, I’ve got a bit of an urge.
Comics are the husband’s thing. He’s been writing them for longer than he’s been doing anything else. He started writing them when he worked as an editor for Marvel UK, straight out of university, and he’s been doing it ever since.
He’s written for the big American comic book publishers, and the smaller ones, and the indies, and he’s written for the UK comic book publishers. He’s written for the junior titles and for digital comics. He’s famous for the Cosmic stuff, of course. Some of you might know that his work on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was the basis for the movie of the same name coming out this summer.
Some of you will know his work on titles like Sinister Dexter for 2000AD or Kingdom, or Grey Area, perhaps.
Some of you will remember his run on The Legion of Superheroes.
He’s written stuff that might be considered more esoteric, too. The New Deadwardians was a big hit not so very long ago.
The husband was a comic book writer before he was a novelist, and the man’s a multiple New York Times best seller for crying out loud.
Me? Not so much.
I don’t have a track record.
I do, however, have a very long apprenticeship.
Having written comics, one way or another, and having read and edited and discussed comics for a very long time. Having worked on the husband’s work and having been part of his life, this stuff kind of rubs off.
I’ve written nine novels back to back in less than five years, and I’ve got two more scheduled. I’ve got plots for another... wow... goodness knows how many. Between those nine novels I’ve written a number of short stories and I’ve run the husband’s office. I’m his first reader and editor on pretty well everything.
Now, I’ve got an itch. I’ve had it before and I’ve ignored it.
The thing is, it’s a pretty itchy itch. It’s that thing between the shoulder blades that you can’t reach kind of an itch.
I know how this is done. I’ve seen it done. I’ve done it myself. I can write comic book scripts. I can write panel descriptions and dialogue. I can pace. I know how to work page turns. I know left hand pages from rights. I know about reading order. I know how many panels to work on a page, how many balloons, how many words to a balloon. I know about layout and storytelling. I know how to work with an artist.
I’ve worked with this stuff, in this world for a long time.
Here’s the thing, though. I haven’t yet done my own version of this thing. I haven’t taken my own original idea and developed it. I haven’t worked directly with an editor. I haven’t had my own stories commissioned.
Here’s another thing. I’m not the husband and I don’t want to be him. I can’t be him. One of the husband is enough. To try to be him would make me less than myself.
I want to do something else, something new, something other. I want to find out what that might be.
Technically, I know I have the skills. Practically, I can do this. The question is, will anyone give me the opportunity? Will anyone buy into this?
Because there’s a downside.
The downside is the husband.
It’s not that I’m a woman, although heaven only knows there aren’t a great many women in comics. I hope and believe that talent rises, that if anyone is any good at something, they will work. It might not always be true. There might be prejudice against women and minority groups, and when there is, in any arena, but particularly in the arts, we should all be ashamed, but I don’t think this is that.
I think this is something else.
Firstly, I think that people are afraid of nepotism. I think people are afraid to give jobs to associates and relations of people who are well known in their field.
My answer to that is: What makes you think the husband wouldn’t be married to someone who is his equal? What makes you think the husband wouldn’t be married to someone who can do what he can do? Don’t doctors marry other doctors? Don’t couples meet at school and at work? Don’t they marry because they have things in common?
Secondly, I think that people are cautious because I have no track record.
That’s my fault.
I do, as it happens, have a track record. It is my own fault that my track record is invisible.
Because the husband is well known for what he does, and because I know the impact that can have on a life, I have always been cautious about putting my name to anything. I have always avoided publicity. I have always guarded my privacy and kept myself to myself.
|me by James K Barnett|
It could have been otherwise, but it wasn’t. I chose that.
I would choose it again.
Times change, and circumstances change, and I have changed.
I’m not looking for fame or fortune, but I would like now to work. I would like now to be recognised for the work that I do. I would like to put my name to my work, because that’s the only way that I’m going to get more work.
Anonymity is lovely. I have enjoyed it, but being able to point to something and have people know, definitively that you earned the right to call it your own is invaluable in any business.
I’d like to write a comic book.
I don’t know what it will be yet, but I do know that I’m going to have to work pretty hard to convince anyone that it’s a good idea to pay me to write a comic book.
Who knows, maybe I’ll manage it. I’m hoping so.