Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Run For Your Life.

Kevin Smith used to have a podcast called Fatman On Batman, and I hope it's just on hiatus, because it was excellent. The feeling of being fascinated by a celebrity for the sake of their status has never much appealed to me, and has pretty much disappeared from my consciousness as the years have passed. In short, I don't feel starstruck by anyone. In a world hanging on the edge every time Kim Kardashian changes her hair colour, what I do admire in notable people is their talent.

When I am interested, it is because of what they have to say, or their craft, and the work they have put in. If I ever had to speak to them and tell them that, I would happily do so, but autographs and pushing through the masses for a photo opportunity remain unfathomable to my worldview.

Back to Kevin Smith, who produced three hour plus shows interviewing everyone from Kevin Conroy from Batman The Animated Series to Stan Lee, some of the most interesting nuggets came from Kevin Smith's own life experience. Here's a man who broke all the rules to become a cinematic sensation, then broke all the rules again by refusing to conform to how an independent film-maker becomes a media darling. In short, Kevin Smith will not be directing a Superman movie anytime soon, and the world may be poorer for that, but Kevin Smith is not.

Instead, he has managed to create a community of like-minded individuals replete with content that is interesting and true to his craft. He has several podcasts, he owns a comic store, he has a TV show, he continues to make interesting films.

In one of his shows, he talks about when he first dipped his toe into writing for comics. He was tasked with the relaunch of a little-known character (outside of comics) called Daredevil, whose book had been failing miserably for about a decade and had finally reached a wheezing death rattle. It's been close to fifteen years since I picked up that first issue of Daredevil, and although at the time it had excited me and I could recognize a new form of storytelling, time has passed and I didn't think much of it when Kevin Smith started talking about his difficulties writing it.

"Makes sense", I thought, "the man had never written a comic in his life". He talked about how Joe Quesada (artist and editor) would guide him through the scripts, telling him not to write so much, and how he really cut his teeth on that book.

It wasn't until last week, when I was listening to the sensational Word Balloon podcast hosted by John Siuntres, that I experienced an epiphany around Kevin Smith. Sometimes I'll skip a few episodes of Word Balloon if the subject matter doesn't interest me too much, but it's about a three hour podcast on comics focusing on in-depth interviews as opposed to fanboy ranting. I listened to this one because it had an interview with Top Cow Comics president Matt Hawkins. I went through a Top Cow period a few years ago, I really loved what they had done with one of their characters, Witchblade. It was a great interview about the writing process, and where Matt Hawkins has got the idea for his latest series.

The interview I wasn't expecting and has stayed with me these past few days is the one that came after, with Tom King. It turns he's not just a comic book writer, but an ex-CIA operative and novelist. It was a fascinating interview and he's one of my new favourite people, but what really got me was what he had to say about Kevin Smith.

He cited Kevin Smith and his Daredevil run as the thing that single-handedly changed the face of comics as we know them today. The way Kevin Smith wrote, in a cinematic style, and the success of that book opened the gates for other screenwriters to come into comics and work in that way. It gave us Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man), and Mark Millar (Kick-Ass). It made Daredevil a viable option for a movie (think of that movie what you will) and next month we're having a Daredevil TV Show on Netflix. It made comics more cinematic, it helped bring comics to the big screen, it gave a life back to a medium that was on the brink of a collapse, and a company that was on the verge of bankrupty.

Of course, we have to credit other influences including Joe Quesada's bravery and vision for Marvel Comics as an editor. However, Kevin Smith helped change the face of comics (and in turn, movies) and we have all these great stories because of what he did. However, in Kevin Smith's eyes, all he did was sit in front of a computer screen and be terrified of writing a script and getting it right. Yet, instead of thinking of it as insurmountable odd and quitting, he carried on writing and learning.

It seems to me like the greatest moments come in retrospect. Nobody sits there thinking "this is going to change the world", that happens later. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby just wanted to get paid, and tell the best stories they could. They made it up as they went along each month, and look what has endured.

My very long point is, I need to stop being so precious and just write, because not everything is a plan and not everything needs preparation. Sometimes you just have to put one foot in front of the other every single day and run. Eventually you'll reach further than you thought possible.

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