(Short ‘N Curlies) — #6
The Keyboard Is My FuckMonkey:
Writing comics and writing novels are two brainshittingly different disciplines, and you’d have to be thicker than Ronald McDonald’s arteries not to know it. Different media, different cultures, different worlds. Yes? Yes.
Consider: one’s the preserve of overweight, pasty-skinned writers in cheap T-Shirts, trawling the Internets with the desperate desire to secure a publicity-venting Presence; frightened but obsessed by Going Digital; fixated on the notion of Hollywood Deals; gathering annually at steaming schmoozefest conventions to breathe the stink of fear and humiliation, to wade through biblical bullshit, to pretend they’re doing well, to scrabble for invitations to parties, and to industriously bitch about That Wanker, you know the one, What A Cunt, until he shows-up with his dickish grin being all friendly — the fuck — and won’t go away.
The other is Comics.
One’s a dying artform, helplessly underappreciated, getting-by on the evaporating glory of a few of yesteryear’s masterstrokes, crying-out for a shakeup in its gutless pigeonholing of stagnant sub-genres and gagging for a paradigm-changing cultureshock to expand its increasingly apathetic audience.
The other is Comics.
One’s crippled by marketing wundertwats, a disposition towards spiralling unit-prices, and a clutch of psychotic distributors with a deathrattle grip on the marketplace and a perverse desire to snuff-out the slightest flicker of point-of-sale ubiquity with the diarrhoetic splatter of Shelfspace Politics.
The other is–… Well. You know.
Anyway, they’re totally and completely different, honest injun, and you’d have to be crazy like a weaselfucking mountainman to see the slightest similarity. I won’t harp-on about the gulf between the crafts: partly because the McClouds and Maughams of the world have written everything you need to know about each one; mainly because I’ve already stretched the whole “the other is comics” gag further than a Kiwi’s quim. But there’s one seemingly minor distinction which deserves mention too, purely because it provides an interesting lead-in to what I think is the deepest and most glorious difference between the two media of all. I’ve chosen to call it the Theory In Temporal Writing And Nerve-Killing External Review. That’s TITWANKER to you and me. Fnar.
It’s essentially a system by which one measures the relationship between how much of a piece of work one needs to read out loud — in order to properly review it — and how much of a cock-jockey it makes you sound when you do so.
For instance: prose. You’ve spent all day writing. You’ve diligently avoided the minefield of Twitter and the industry-buggering inanity it brings out in you. You’ve unplugged the broadband, hidden your cellphone in the fridge, restricted yourself to a measly dozen cups of tea and thrown away all the snacks. You’ve built-up some serious momentum, and all day long you’ve avoided the pitfall of Stopping To ReRead What You’ve Just Done. That, you know, is the Little Death of Progress.
But now the time has come. You’ve stopped shitting out New Wurds, you’ve hit your pagecount target, and now is the time to tidy up the mess. You settle yourself into a comfy seat, laptop softly irradiating your genitalia, and start to Review.
And even though you know most normal people — if anyone ever actually buys the fucking novel — are going to read it with mouths firmly shut and attention spans on an ungrateful setting somewhere between Blissfully Unaware and Absorbing One Word In Ten, you find yourself reading it aloud. Why? Uncle Si will tell you:
Because prose has a secret, natural, internal rhythm and poetry. Because even if the eye skips merrily across an uncomfortable grammatical jag which doesn’t quite scan, or an awkward fuck-knuckle of a sentence with too many adjectives and a retarded Crime Against Semicolons in the middle, your ear will pick it up.
The written word is, and always has been, a cage for spoken language — like noises caught in amber — and when rereading your own prose the ear remains your greatest friend. Even better, it’s almost impossible to sound like a wanker while you’re doing it: the art of self-analysis becomes a pleasing under-the-breath rhythm — something almost spookily soporific — and many’s the time the SheSpur has nodded-off in the next room to the muffled white noise of my rhubarb rhubarb reviewings.
Comics couldn’t be more different. In comics the only thing the paranoid writerly brain wants to read aloud is the dialogue: usually to make sure it sounds plausible, often to check an unfamiliar accent against the inner-linguist of the eardrum, occasionally to spend long hours trying to figure out how to spell the sound effect made by — say — an incendiary maggot squirming from the energised pisshole of a diseased mutant.
Bltsssfk, for the record.
And that’s problem #1 right there. If you’re writing comics, through no fault of your own, there’s automatically a higher-than-normal chance you’re also writing about monsters, robots, Vikings, aliens, dinosaurs, ninjas, more Vikings, sinister motherfuckers with guns and no pupils, or unfeasibly steroidal men and women with a fetish for silly costumes.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just saying that if you want to read dialogue out loud within earshot of Normal People while you’re doing so, be warned: you’re going to sound like a twunt.
But that’s not even the real problem. No. Because if written prose is The Spoken Word on Freezeframe — and the ear is the natural authority when it comes to rhythm — then comics are real-life tableaus frozen inside a four-dimensional glacier, sounds and all. And those two pulpy spheres in the front of your face need to be paying attention.
See, comics have a secret internal poetry too — one even more complex and sophisticated than prose’s — which is entirely the preserve of the eye. Reading out odd snatches in review is like taking that hot blind chick — y’know, that one whose knickers you’ve been trying to invade for months — to a photography exhibition and only reading out the titles of each piece. Then expecting her to be impressed. ‘Donkey Cock.’ ‘Because You Thought AIDs Was Bad.’ ‘AuntViolate.’ And so on.
Yes, oh comics writer: the story is king. Yes, the need to Know What Happens Next is far more important than any daffy gimmicky panel-transition bollocks. But mate: if you ain’t got FLOW, YOU AIN’T GOT DICK.
As a writer, you can’t check how a comic scans — how its rhythm grips you, sends little mouse-nipple bumbs racing up your neck — until you’ve seen the bloody art. And by that point — thanks to a little thing called All Artists Are Contrary Cunts — it’s too late.
Unless, of course, you take the TITWANKER theory to its logical extension and act out every panel as you write it. Unless, in other words, you’re prepared to hold each pose — gurning expression, Adamantium claws, cape a-billowing and all — for precisely the length of time it takes to read the dialogue. Then spontaneously jump to the next setup. If this ever caught-on it would be a New And Wonderful Artform, with an only-slightly-ironic title like “NEOSLIDESHOW PANTOMIME.”
…And everyone who did it would look like a big fucking numpty anyway. So, no: this Does Not Happen.
On the other hand, I’ll bet you a billion nuggets of fried gold that if you stuck a hidden camera in front of a comic writer in the middle of typing-up a panel description, his face would be scrunching and snarling in sympathy with his characters’ emotions; he’d be making “pow” and “kaspuk” noises for every bullethole he invoked; and he’d be sneering like a braindamaged goblin with every supervillain cackle rendered in blistering onomatopoeia on his screen.
Here, then, is the Big Difference I mentioned up top:
The Secret Poetry of prose works best when the reader lets it guide and giftwrap the story; like a sea of white noise.
The Secret Poetry of comics works best when the reader — or the writer, for that matter — doesn’t realise it’s there at all.
Okay. IDEA. We’re going to get motherfucking RICH on this one, oh yes.
Consider: You’ve got a bladder infection? You’ve got a corkscrewed shithole? You’ve got kidneys like lumps of pumice and a urethra more clogged than a salad-dodger’s colon? IT’S FINE. Clever men with white coats and sharp little knives can hack a pink toothless mouth in your skin and poke tubes inside to drain you out. They’ve been doing it for years, the sly fuckers, and pretending it’s a last-ditch cure for problem patients. FOOLS! WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY! We can make neat fleshy mole-hole tunnels in your MEAT, gentle reader, SKIN VALVES, damn you, to access the wobbly gutbits inside. THINK OF THE POSSIBILITIES.
Wait, no, stop. Not those possibilities. SICK.
No, here it is. Are you ready? You better be ready. Ok? OK:
BAM. SHOW ME THE MONEY.
It’s the cure for Lardass America! It’s bulimia without the barfing! It’s What The Romans Did For Us!
You hunger for glorious bacon? You yearn for Dead Things soaked in the fat of Other Dead Things? You Demand Crunchy Greasy Guzzles beyond your digestive power? Of course you do! IT’S ALL FINE!
Simply screw-on your fashionably-coloured Gastric Accessory (with new iGut pulmonary-speakers) and EAT EAT EAT. All the taste, none of the calories! No need for inconvenient chunk-blowing!
Hippies: FEAR NOT THE MUNCHIE MANGUT! Students: EAT IT ONCE, UNSCREW, EAT IT AGAIN! Bleeding Hearts: SEND YOUR UNDIGESTED CHEWINGS TO AFRICA!
It’s FUN! It’s ECONOMICAL! It’s HEALTHY!
Patent pending, you thieving donkeyfucks.
(Um… Anyone out there with the slightest Actual Grasp Of Medicine, let me know how possible this is. I’m not even all that interested in the money. I just want one. SO MANY TWIGLETS, SO LITTLE TIME.)
This Week I Have Been Mostly Hating
…the instant that your cellphone demands my attention.
Golly gosh, it cost you two thousand groats and can calculate pi to the four-billionth digit? Amazing! It plays MP3s, washes your car at the weekend, and comes complete with a Digifit epilepsy app which transmits hypnogogic messages from Beyond The Veil into your psyche? Crikey Moses! It’s smaller than a beetle’s ballbag, squirts uncut smack into your ear and has a carrycase made from the shadow of a fucking unicorn? Con-cocking-gratu-shitsmeared-lations! So very pleased for you!
1. Keep it in your fucking pocket, 2. don’t lay it out on the pub table the second you sit down, thereby broadcasting to everyone
present that your next vacuous little TXT MSG is more interesting to you than ACTL PPLE having ACTL CNVRSTNS, and 3. above all, you disastrous little cockgoblin FUCK, if you dare to pause longer than three seconds before answering it when it rings — just so we can all be Really Really Impressed at the dicking Imperial March theme or a line from Monty Python, or some fucktrastrophe of a musically-leprous Emo Shitespasm — then your midget gadget will be dipped in cider and brutally inserted into your eye-socket, where it shall remain until you cry fucking radiowaves. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.
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Send wurdz, thoughts, stories, HATINGS, and Dreaming Whirlwinds Of Fur And Gristle to the ONLY CHECKED OCCASIONALLY AND I MIGHT NOT BOTHER REPLYING AT ALL HA HA HA email address:
Or the IT MIGHT NOT GET TO ME AT ALL BUT IF IT DOES I PROMISE TO RECYCLE IT snailmail address:
C/O William Christensen,
515 N. Century Blvd.
Rantoul, IL 61866
(Disclaimer: Secretly, I’m nice.)