AMBIDEXTROUS: There Is Another

AMBIDEXTROUS: There Is Another

So yeah, Lee and I spent several hours on the phone last week…

Lot of folks checked in with words of encouragement and advice in going forward, and as suggested by the opening, Lee and I have discussed much of it in recent days. Figuring out the best way to handle ASP’s restructuring is going to be a significant part of this next month, and for now we’re continuing to produce the book, which is the one thing we can actually control. The other business type stuff is more complicated, but bottom line, we’re all committed to getting more Miranda Mercury comics out to the people and once the specifics are resolved, we’ll let folks know. Past that, we’ve officially entered G-14 classified territory where things become increasingly vague and non-committal. One of our friends keeps tellin’ us that it’s possible to turn any situation into a positive one, and we’ve already had quite a few ideas we want to try on the back of the eventual re-launch. Ain’t it always the way in comics…one issue comes out and we’re already talking reboot.

But there are four words that we’ve all been throwing at each other religiously, something of a personal mantra in response to this latest setback---Miranda Mercury MUST continue. That’s what’s up, so watch this space for more information, soon as it’s available.

I’d like to now turn some attention to another project that’s been trapped in development hell for quite a bit, but appears to be slowly emerging. Problem being, it was conceived years ago and feels a little dated in comparison to my more recent works. A true product of how I not only approached writing, but how I approached life back in 2003, the relative style and voice of The God Complex is something I feel I’ve definitely outgrown. This presents me with a really exciting opportunity, given some recent developments…

The God Complex is the project that never dies…or perhaps just the one that can never get finished. Its origins lie in a Luke Cage series that Lee Ferguson and I were developing for Marvel’s Epic imprint, which was an incredible experience to say the least. Though we never got the opportunity to deliver what we believed was a somewhat progressive take on the character, the further I get away from it, the more thankful I am for the whole thing. Much has been said about the initiative, but I can’t complain---it was gratifying and exciting to be interacting directly with Marvel editors, and one or two times, even Bill Jemas. I still remember him being a little upset about a scene in the first book where a guy was smoking a cigarette while waiting to meet Cage. Plus, the lengthy process put me in position to sell that Spider-Man Unlimited story. And I met Lee Ferguson, who is not only a great artist and collaborator, but a great friend as well. And in the spirit of leaving no idea behind, the work we’d done for several months became the foundation for what eventually became The God Complex.

Strange as it sounds, the first thing we did after deciding to take it creator-owned was to further define and intensify the more “emotional” aspects of the series, which we always felt gave the thing its real hook. The action and physicality of the world was easy stuff, but if we could live up to the ambitious “action/adventure romance comic” billing, we thought we’d have something cool. Relationships are weird things in comics, especially in mainstream stuff, because most of the things that happen on those books (life, death, rebirth, re-death, etc.) occur in a somewhat endless circle to preserve whatever the “core” of that character is. Relationships seem to thrive on the type of evolution that just isn’t possible in most fictional universes, so taking this creator-owned really opened everything up. And even from the beginning, there was a personal mandate that the interactions between Kara Wells (who I can’t remember if we renamed) and Luke Cage (who ultimately became Damon Cross) feel like the ones between real people in serious relationships.

How many times did Peter Parker just disappear in the middle of a date with Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy? Have you ever tried that more than once? Hell, doing something like that even once could stamp your relationship dead. These were the types of consequences we wanted from this, where we really portrayed the damage and long-lasting dysfunction secrets can have on two people just trying to be together despite them. When Damon doesn’t show up when he’s supposed to, because he was being blown out of a building, Kara almost immediately assumes that he’s cheating on her with someone at his office. He’s not of course, but how then does he convince this highly intelligent woman that he’s not without explaining his nearly unbreakable skin, and more importantly, how he got it? Flowers only go so far, you know. Besides, the invulnerable man who can only be touched by the woman he loves is something pretty tough to screw up.

Then we changed the origin and increased the presence of The God Complex, which is the organization that once employed and empowered Damon. Another funny thing---apparently Warren Ellis and I are always tripping over each other’s character names, because originally we wanted to just call the book Damon Cross, but changed it because Ellis was launching Jack Cross around the same time. But naming it after the Complex is something that I quickly warmed to, just because it’s not immediately obvious what the title even refers to, and I liked that. It also was an opportunity to merge the concepts and ideologies of religion and government, two of the more powerful driving forces of human behavior. Cage’s beginnings are certainly compelling, but the history and motivation of Damon Cross ultimately ended up much stronger, because we had to emphasize the fundamental differences between the two characters---even though they were once the same one.

Unfortunately, these widespread changes extended to the art chores as well, as Lee was forced to bow out, so it went to another guy, who produced some amazing pages that got us the attention of a major publisher shortly after they were posted online. It also got him the attention of a major publisher and I don’t think he’s been without paying work since. The third attached artist did the most pages and remained on the project the longest, but a very demanding gig in graphic design kept him away most times and has finally pulled him away from the book. This again leaves me in a position to rethink large chunks of the project while finding yet another artist to bring it to life. Fortunately, there’s a publisher already interested in this (as the constant delays probably cost me the original deal) and I have a strong lead on a new artist. So it was only a matter of time before going back and re-reading the current scripts, which triggered this whole flashback in the first place.

From a technical standpoint, the thing that’s obvious to me from combing through the four completed scripts is how slow everything moves. Well, that and how much dialogue I’m asking for on the pages. I’ve spent years complaining about how much I dislike writing self-contained stories, but most of the things on my little resume are just that and I already know it’s going to change how I now look at Complex. There are bits that I’m still really excited about, that have aged surprisingly well, but the stories have so much wasted space in them it’s ridiculous. Lot of stat panels and reaction shots that I can’t wait to snatch out and set on fire. Think The Ultimates was probably my favorite book at the time and you can tell from reading some of this stuff. The pacing was so methodical, even plodding in places, and is me very obviously trying to “write for trades,” without completely understanding what I was doing.

Next week, I start going through everything and kick the frame into a more current state of mind. Everything is still there---the characters, the conflicts, the action, the relationships, but it just needs some more aggressive storytelling. So, now I get to approach it from a more mature perspective on all fronts. I’m in a very serious relationship now that is obviously going to influence just how I portray the one between Damon and Kara, which was conceived by a mind admittedly filled with all kinds of youthful nonsense. In the same way I’m a lot more knowledgeable on the actual mechanics of writing comic books, I know so much more about building and sustaining a more successful relationship. Back then I was just talking it, but now I get to live it, if that makes any sense. And there’s no question this is all going be reflected in a more modern interpretation of what The God Complex actually is.

Just something I’ve been thinking about as another of my long-gestating projects hits an unexpected delay. Sometimes, there are reasons things don’t necessarily go according to the original plan, but a good idea doesn’t automatically become stale, and just like Damon Cross will benefit from a set of fresh eyes, Miranda is going to return stronger than before. Will probably be a feature or two about taking something old and making it all new in the near future. Hope everyone had a great holiday and we’ll be back on schedule next week.

No quick reviews this time, but here are my Five from a week back. Will likely make up for this oversight in the next installment, as the shipping list for Thursday is awe-inspiring, led by three books from Grant Morrison. Might break down my entire stack, just to show ya’ll how I do this…

5. Scalped #17 (Jason Aaron/R.M. Guera)

4. Justice League of America #21 (Dwayne McDuffie/Carlos Pacheco/Jesus Merino)

3. Ghost Rider #23 (Jason Aaron/Roland Boschi)

2. Mighty Avengers #14 (Brian Michael Bendis/Khoi Pham/Danny Miki)

1. Amazing Spider-Man #560 (Dan Slott/Marcos Martin/Javier Rodriguez)

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