Always Write

Peter Rogers – Writer

Month: September, 2011

My daughter and the superheroes (inspired by Tom Katers)

I thoroughly enjoyed this week’s episode of Word Balloon , the excellent interview based comics podcast by Chicago radio man John “Principal” Suintres.  I always look forward to the show, but this one was rather special.   All three sections of the triple bill were fascinating, but I was particularly pleased that a certain Tom Katers was one of the guests.

Tom is the host of Tom v Aquaman, an ifanboy writer and former Around Comics alumni (hopefully soon to be again, we live in hope).  From listening to him on podcasts over the years I’ve got a lot of time for Tom, he’s hilariously funny but also really smart, the kind of guy who can make you laugh while talking a great deal of sense.    Tom’s role on the show was to talk about the new DCU from the perspective of someone who’s been reading DC Comics for a very long time.  And it was really refreshing to hear his view on fan reaction and any closed minded negativity that fans may have to the relaunch, born from their love of the medium.      He talked about how much his nephew likes Batman, Superman, and Spider-man  based on their simple premises (he loves Superman because he flies, he’s strong and he helps people) rather than on decades of continuity heavy  history.   Make sure you download it from Word Balloon if you haven’t already it’s well worth your time.

A must listen podcast

One of the things that Tom suggested was that  every comic fan aged over 18 should be assigned a 3 or 4 year old that likes Superman. I’m lucky enough to have been assigned my own 4 year old that loves superheroes, my daughter Maisey and what he had to say made me think about her relationship with these icons.    Because I am someone who enjoys reading comics, including superhero books,  as well as writing them she has had a much higher than average exposure to these characters than most children her age, especially girls.

The fact that I like superhero comics and that her older male cousins also do has certainly played a part in her interest in this area.  But the resurgence of these icons in mainstream media has also been a factor, she sees characters with enhanced abilities everywhere she turns.    She doesn’t see the boundaries of universes or companies and is happy to put Superman, Batman and Spider-Man  together with Dr Who (she still calls Daleks Garlics though), Harry Potter, Ben 10 and Power Rangers.    Someone to come to the rescue if there’s a big enough threat that your parents can’t handle.

She attended two different day care nurseries prior to starting school last week and would come home from both of them talking about playing superheroes (mainly with the boys) and they’d interchange between various DC and Marvel heroes like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman  and Iron Man  usually with the cry of “insert hero name…to the rescue”.   Occasionally she’d want to be Cyclops or Storm (thanks to my Secret Wars t-shirt) which usually confused her playmates no end.   As she’s gotten older she’s asked me more about the different characters, especially the female ones.  The fact that She-Hulk is the Hulk’s cousin is a big deal to her, but Wonder Woman leaves her completely cold as she’s not tied to a family or group of people with a similar name and look.   But it was when she found out there was a character called Batgirl that she really got interested,  “You mean like Batman, but a girl like me? Wow”.  It also meant she didn’t have to be Robin in nursery any more, a character she’d discovered from watching the Adam West 60s movie she uncovered in my DVD collection.  She liked the notion of Supergirl and Spider-girl, but for her it was definitely Batgirl all the way.

Batgirl…to the rescue.

Now that Batgirl was firmly established on the same importance level as Peppa Pig and the Disney Princesses I decided  to pick up Tiny Titans to read with her.     Her verdict – “They’re heroes, but they’re little like me and their friends are there and some of them are girls and they like pink and they’re still good at rescuing people”.  As a starting school present I finally gave in and bought her the Batgirl outfit she’s been asking for endlessly all year.   And she is over the moon.   Our garden shed, previously named The Adventure Shed, is now the Bat Cave, I’m Batman, my wife is Batwoman, her Fisher Price dog is Batdog(!).  And she has invisible Robin helping us catch invisible Joker, Penguin, The Riddler and Catwoman with an old piece of rope.   In fact she now has two uniforms she wears on a daily basis, because as soon as she gets home from school she puts it on and starts righting wrongs.  She doesn’t have all the background, she doesn’t know all the intricate details, she just thinks it’s good fun and wants the good guys and girls to win.  Looks like Tom was right.

My week in comics

This week if you’ve visited the Comics Bulletin website you will have seen The Interactives getting a lot of coverage, which I’m really pleased about.   They reviewed the book and gave it a very respectable 3/12 silver bullets out of 5 describing the book as “a thoroughly satisfying comic book” commenting “I loved Luciano Vecchio’s artwork on the book.”.

I was especially excited about the interview they conducted with me, it was great to get some different questions from the norm and they really wanted to get under the surface to talk about the influences and motivations behind the story.  I think it might be the best interview I’ve done yet.  A big thank you to Jason Sacks for this.

I’ve also been getting some positive feedback from the session I did at Cyfle  last week, I set the comic writing brief this week and I’m itching to read the 5  page shorts the students will be writing.   One of them let me know on twitter that they’d bought a copy of Comic Book Tattoo after hearing me talk about it on the course, I’m pleased to be helping people discover more books.  

I’ve also been talking about Cardiff Comic Expo 2012 with organiser Mike Allwood and fellow creators and close friends Simon Wyatt and Chris Lynch.  All I can say is roll on February.  With so much going on I’m well over due a return to the writing saddle, it’s very much a case of watch this space.



Creating comics at Cyfle

This morning I got to be a guest tutor for Cyfle on their Transmedia Methods course talking about Creating Comics.  It was great to have the opportunity to combine my previous teacher training with my experience writing comics.

We spent much of the two hour session looking at pacing and page construction using examples from books like Powers, Fell, 100 Bullets, All Star Superman, Shadow of the Bat, World of Warcraft, The Walking Dead and Tom Strong along with my own work in the Unseen Shadows universe and on The Interactives.

I recommended books like Understanding Comics by Scott McLoud, Panel One, Powers: script book and the Queen and Country script book.  We also looked at the relationship between comics and  film, tv, gaming and music (using Melissa Auf Der Maur‘s Out of our minds as an example).  We discussed the role of digital as well as how to assemble a team to work on your book, where to look, what to consider, how best to collaborate etc.  I even managed to sneak in a Pop Will Eat Itself lyric and a pun based around an Olivia Newton John song into the  presentation along the way too.  And if ever there had been a drinking game for mentioning Brian Michael Bendis my liver would have completely failed by now.

I set two exercises during the class, one on page layout and the other on character creation and I was extremely impressed by what all three groups came up with.  We ended the session by setting a writing brief and I’m looking forward to seeing the 5 page stories that I’ll be providing feedback on in the coming weeks.  All in all a throughly enjoyable morning and something I would be very keen to do again in the future.