Writing About What You Don’t Know: How I Stopped Googling & Learned To Love Comic Books

So I’ve been working pretty tirelessly on a new book, and I found myself in a bit of a jam regarding some of the content. Something I don’t really explore all that much.

Comic books.

Here’s the thing. I’m a geek. I play tons of video games, dress up as video game characters, obsess over collector’s edition action figures and vinyl toys, read lots of web comics… but I don’t read that many comic books. I mean, I love graphic novels. But going into a shop to pick up individual comic books? In issues? I just can’t do it.

It’s like watching episodes of a great television series. I couldn’t watch individual episodes of The Wire or Deadwood. I tried that with Battlestar Galactica and almost lost my mind waiting for new episodes. I need it all at once. To quote the great poet Jay-Z, “I got no patience, and I hate waitin’.”

When it came time to sit down and write several pages about comic book characters… I was a bit lost. Fiddling around on Wikipedia (or the Marvelpedia for that matter) wasn’t enough. If you’re writing about something you don’t know and using outside sources like that, well, it’s going to come off as ingenuine. Which it is.

So I called in the troops.

Over chicken wings and enormous glasses of beer, I sat down with Brian Johnson, Robert LeFevre, and Adam Teterus. Philly geeks will recognize the first two dudes as the gentlemen of Brave New Worlds in Old City, Philadelphia. You’ve likely met Adam at Indy Hall or through What Say Co., his design group who made the famous @horse_ebooks t-shirts.

As the hours ticked by, the gentlemen dished out tons of advice, plenty of which I wouldn’t have gotten from wasting my time on Google or Wikis. You don’t get passion from websites like that, just facts and plot lines. We talked about characters, their motivation and wild histories. I learned about the artists, the writers, the process. It was fantastic, and I got a ton of material.

And then something unexpected happened.

The next day, I went into Brian and Rob’s shop and picked up the first three hardcover volumes of Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan. I devoured the first in three days, the other two quickly after. On New Year’s Eve, I picked up the first two hardcover volumes of Preacher, as well as the first two hardcover volumes of Ex Machina, another comic by Vaughan. Last week, I finished the Ex Machina series.

Something crazy had happened. I started getting into comics.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there’s a HUGE difference between genuine comic book fans who have an encyclopedic knowledge of the medium and a dude like me just poking around at a few books… but still, it’s exciting and something new.

Point is, in the end, spending time genuinely researching something with people who knew the genre, made me want to understand and share their passion.

Who knew?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go shopping. Apparently I should be reading 100 Bullets and the Fables series (I already have one volume). Wish me luck.

Comments

Ben Winters
Reply

That top photograph makes me so worried that that drink is going to spill on that computer. Good luck with your project, but please, move that drink.

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