Ghost King is a great adventure. Like Never Before & Like Never Again is a great legend. Mission Arizona is a great cautionary tale about selling your soul. The Bird Caller is a great – if bleak – story about man and machine. And Treadwell is a great allegory about the many planes of existence.
At each new book, I created a distinct style appropriate to the story. Each one is different, and sets the tone for the progress of the characters.
It’s almost 400 pages of stories, each one unique, and yet I feel that I have failed to impress based on my potential. Sure, they sold, but that’s not what I mean. I mean a story with art and words that reflect me through and through. I feel that these stories point to it, like a finger towards the moon, but it isn’t the moon. I want to give you the moon. Once and for all.
I sincerely think that my current project is – so to speak – the moon I intend to offer you.
The art is fresh, angular, robust, simple yet detailed. I have grown so much since my first comics over 25 years ago.
The story is insanely complex, and yet I’ve managed to break it down into simple chapters.
I speak to humanity, elaborate on our universal essence, our history and our future as one. I broach the line between mysticism and quantum physics. I speak of Gods and ghosts, love, loss, power and responsibility.
Part of me wants to delegate the art to others, but I know I’ve reached a point in my path that makes me unique, and both simple and intense all at once.
I would love to delegate the dialogue, but I’ve lived with these characters for over a quarter of a century and no one know them as well as I do.
So I’m stuck in the unique quandary of creating something only I could come up with.
Even if I managed to gather my favourite writers and artists in one room, I could not properly convey my instructions, tone, hope and care. They would just do their own thing and it wouldn’t be the same.
I’ve hit a sweet spot, the moon, and I will finish this even if it kills me. Not that it will… I’m just saying.
What does that unique responsibility feel like?
... Frikking amazing.
It’s like I’ve distilled the approach of a thousand amazing creators and made them my own. I’ve been studying comics my whole life. And hopefully it will show in the final product. So far, so good.
I sometimes find it hard to sit down, ass-to-chair, and just work, but when I get over that, I’m... fast, I’m efficient. I create enough detail but not so much that it bogs you down. I’m happy with my layouts. My line work improves with each new page. My characters are like real people to me. They care. They love. They lose. They win. It’s very real to me.
Instead of extrapolating a style that is outside of me, I’m bringing all possible approaches into my mind and heart and focusing all my energies into my own best personal style. And it is so refreshing. I love it.
Finally, I’m creating something not to please this-or-that segment of comics, but something that I myself could not live without. Artistic success.
Because of my versatility, some of my peers have ventured that I am an “artist’s artist.” And that is incredible. But I wonder what they will say when they see this.
I’m not aiming for flashy or erudite or classically trained or deep and profound or heavy or even ‘artistic.’
I want friends and fans to use simple modern expressions…
Awesome. Cool. Amazing. Sick.
That would please me most. Cool. Slick. Sick ass. Dope. I want to thrill my readers with what they see. I want to touch people’s hearts.
At long last I think I am achieving this.
I worry about the art sometimes, as this is what I’m working on these days. I wonder if it really is my best, and I hope to arrive. As my entourage of mentors tells me, it’s not a concern.
As my mother told me when I asked her about the art, she said the irony of comics is that people will READ it, not write an essay on the qualities of the art, not critique the art if it is decent. It all comes down to the story. [Funny enough, I feel the story IS good enough]. The visuals are a vehicle for the story, not an end in and of themselves.
Recently I arrived at a place I call ‘no-style,’ with my art, where it became impossible for me to discern any clear influence from this or that artist. It wasn’t Jim Lee or Moebius or Dave McKean or Sean Murphy or Kenneth Rocafort, all of whom are huge in my pantheon of favourites [among others]. It existed free of all styles – hence ‘no-style.’ When I reported this to my mentor, he simply said : “Welcome, you have made it.” The following drawings were all ‘me.’
When I tell my friends about my progress, they simply marvel at the fact that on a good day I can draw three or four or six pages. And they tell me to continue as is. There is no guillotine deadline. Just love and support.
The art has to be good enough. I’m there. The story has to be original. It is. And I have an infinite amount of time to create this… actually that last part is not true.
As the years passed by, I noticed more and more similarities between my concept and other stories appearing in pop culture.
I gather in 5 years someone will create something with a similar flavour. An exact duplicate is highly UN-likely but the flavour, well… it is almost upon us.
That is why I’m giving myself one to two years to finish this beast, this monstrous 700-800 page behemoth. And so I will.
By this time next year I hope to be done 95% of the pencilling. I’ll finish up, find an inker [I hope!] to do a few sample pages, create a lettered pitch and take my chances.
Some of my friends think I’m crazy NOT to pitch right away now that I’m 150 pages into it. And that is indeed traditional wisdom, so I don’t blame them for thinking this. But the truth is that I want to do my own thing, without editorial interference DURING the creation of it all. I want to communicate MY vision, this is not a potluck party. This is MY party, and I’ll adjust when I’m ready to have someone pick at my spelling and sentence structures.
Plus, an editor who meddles is someone I want to categorically avoid.
I want to find a true champion. Someone who loves what I’ve done and will help make it BETTER, NOT different.
As for the art, minor tweaks here and there to clarify the action is okay with me, but I don’t want to write and draw based on someone else’s tastes.
I’ve been around long enough that I’ve developed my own tastes, and I know they are rooted in a lifetime of learning, mistakes and successes. I am now a fine tuned machine.
I have faith that this publisher exists. I believe they are out there and will want nothing more than to give me ‘carte blanche.’ So I’m taking it now.
It’s not a freedom I take for granted. I will honour this blank slate with my best superhuman effort. And when we meet it will be as equals, nothing more, nothing less.
The point is that by all accounts… this is by far the best comic book story I’ve ever created. I love it, I hope you love it, and I trust that a publisher will see that creator and reader will connect for real on this one, and so will champion both the creative product and the final reading experience. It’s going to be awesome.
I’ve had to put aside many projects in order to focus on this one. In a way I feel bad, but not as bad as if I’d not done it at all. I know my priorities, and if friends and readers can be patient enough, we’ll meet on the page again soon enough.
In the meantime, I’ll keep updating you with cryptic messages, hinting at the story and art. It won’t be Alan Moore and it won’t be Dave McKean, it will be little old me and my little saga. But I think you’ll find it sufficiently complex and intricate, and hopefully, even if it’s just for a little while, it can become one of your favourite efforts by a comics creator.
Comics are my life. With this… I will prove it.
I will return to my pages and continue improving the no-style.
I will review my dialogues and make them even better than the last draft. I will finish the dialogues of the second half, even if it’s after I’ve drawn the pages, Marvel style.
It will be grand. It will be great. And I hope you’ll feel that you are a part of it as I share my journey with you from time to time.
I would also like to ask you for a favour during this time as I push through. Please send me good vibes, pray for me, and think good thoughts when you imagine me hunched over a page, drawing for you.
This is the biggest task I’ve ever tackled, and though I am creating it alone, technically speaking, I can feel the encouragement of those around me, both near and far.
Let’s do this.
All the best,