January 27, 2010


"What's holding me back?"

It's a question I've been asking a lot recently. And I've realized part of the answer.

I've been facing some of that Ye Olde Writer's Block lately. It's not for lack of trying. I just can't get myself to move forward. Something has been holding me back. I think I've figured out the answer to that question . . . although, the answer to the answer is proving a little more elusive.

Of course you, dear reader, have already figured out what I have to say because, frankly, you know how to read. And you've read this far. So you've probably read the title of this entry.

What's holding me back?


Whenever I start to work lately, I've found myself wracked with doubt. "What if it's not good enough?" "What if I'm biting off more than I can chew with this project?" "What if no one wants to read it?" "What if people finally figure out that I'm really no good?" "What if I can't support my family doing this?" (That last question has particular power recently, when a client did not pay me for a long period of time, at a time when it was really needed.)

I think these doubts are common for any artist. If an artist doesn't have doubts like this, they are either: 1. Delusional; 2. Arrogant; 3. Genius; or, 4. Terrible.

I think that my current round of fear comes not from a lack of ideas or motivation, but instead from some recent success and failure. The success I've had is prompting the doubt: "You'll never be able to keep this up" while the failure I've had is backing it up with a "See, I told you so."

So there's the answer to the question . . . but what's the answer to the answer?

In nature, fear is a good thing and it prompts the whole "flight or fight" response. In facing off with writer's block? I mean, let's face it, writer's block is nowhere near the same as a deer being stalked by a pack of wolves. Even so, the principle remains the same, I think.

You can face it head on, or you can run away. In my case, running is not an option. And yet it's been the option I've chosen. Instead of writing, I've cleaned my desk . . . repaired the harddrive that was holding some files hostage . . . cleaned my desk again (it gets messy fast) . . . watched Farscape (man, that show is amazing . . . why didn't I watch it before?) . . . cleaned out a filing cabinet . . .

I should be fighting. I should be working.

Hmmm, perhaps I shouldn't be blogging. Of course, writing this blog is a good warm up, right? Or is it just another thing that I'm attaching importance to in an excuse to avoid what I should be doing?

Time to face those fears head on. Time to lower my head, stomp my foot, and launch my antlers headlong into that pack of wolves!

After I make some tea . . .

~ Ben

PS -- I love swamp monsters.

Samurai art by Tim Baron, (c) 2009

January 4, 2010


I'm not a big fan of big events, mainly because I don't have money to follow them. So, halfway through I find out that Blackest Night might be awesome . . . but I'm just going to have to hope my library gets the collected editions.

But I like the characters. I like Hulk . . . I'm just not going to buy the latest run of Hulk crossover event stuff. (Speaking of, I have the entire run of Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, including Amazing Fantasy #15 which debuted Amadeus Cho -- is that the kid's name? -- and the four issue storyarc that led to Hulk getting launched into space, I'm willing to part with it . . . cheap. Any takers?) I like Green Lantern and the Corps, I'm just not going to buy five titles a week to keep up with the storyline.

So, on the opposite end of the spectrum, we get One Shots. I like One Shots. A lot. They are single, self-contained stories (or a group of self-contained stories . . . or a group of stories that add up to a self-contained story . . . or, in some cases, a trick because they're really a prologue to a big event . . .).

Last month, Dark Horse put out a bunch of one shots -- two Star Wars ones, a Buffy one, a Conan one, Hellboy, Good, etc. -- and used the tagline "Suffering from crossover fatigue?" Nice! "One-shot wonders", they called them. I like it. A lot. I only bought one (although I plan to buy the second Star Wars one-shot), but I love the sentiment. And I'd love to see more stuff like this.

So here's some quickie reviews of some recent one shots and why you might like to buy them too:

Marvel Comics, Black Knight One Shot -- This was a fun superhero fantasy that feels like they might be rebooting the character a bit to start some sort of new series. It's an origin story, and really it's one of those stories that when you get to the end you realize it's really "the beginning", but from end to finish it's a fun romp with some fun twists and turns, that takes place in a medieval fantasy period. I like the character Black Knight, although I don't understand much of his backstory (because I don't know much of his backstory) so this was, as I said, a fun read. I have no idea how much was added to the backstory for this presentation, but reading it felt like much had been added to the mythos that may not have been there before, or at least much that had not been organized like this before. There's some interesting struggles with the concept of good and evil and how that battle works in our own life . . . and a cool sword! Written by Tom DeFalco, so you know it's going to be good (although, with limited space, you can see where he wished he were writing a four issue limited or something).

Marvel Comics, Hulk: Winter Guard -- This is exactly the kind of one-shot I like, although I think it should be retitled "Winter Guard: Hulk". It's really more about Winter Guard dealing with Hulk than Hulk dealing with Winder Guard . . . but who cares? It's a good story, it cleverly weaves a classic Hulk story into it, reprints said classic Hulk story as a flashback, and delivers a couple nice twists that let you look at the classic story slightly different and also make for a fun ride. David Gallaher always delivers exactly the kinds of stories I like to read and write, and consistently does so much better than I could ever do.

Dark Horse, Star Wars: Purge "Seconds to Die" -- This is a quick little story taking place between trilogies, as Darth Vader is tracking down some of the Jedi who may have fallen through the cracks when the Jedi were mass-murdered in Revenge of the Sith. The story follows her and her desperate plan in the aftermath. It's an interesting little story with a concise beginning, middle, and end, although it may resound more with fans of the original trilogy.

Like I said, I'd love to see more of these kinds of one shots. I can't buy all of them, but the ones that interest me are far more likely to make it into my "buy pile" than the big, grand crossover event type things. At $4 a pop, it's a good read, and a little longer than your usual comic book.

But don't wait for the collection!

~ Ben

January 2, 2010

A thought on "religious" works . . .

"It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it. The motive is everything."

~ A.W. Tozer