Monday, May 30, 2011

Imagining A New World With Help From A Blue Hen

The world of reality has bounds, the world of imagination is boundless -Rousseau
The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact -Shakespeare
Recently I was waltzing down the aisles at my local bookstore (yes I said waltzing) and I actually took a moment to truly look at what was available to read. I was stunned to realize how bland the selections before me actually were. Seriously. How uninspired the books felt.
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You make your way into your favorite bookstore. You’re greeted at the door with the aroma of overpriced yet delicious coffee and baked goods; the sight of aisles upon aisles of books waiting to be chosen like pound puppies sends your heart a flutter, and the store owner’s offers of a foot massage. Okay, aside from the last part, you are in a slice of heaven right now. You come across your favorite section; check what actually lines the shelves. Am I wrong? About ninety percent is the same book told in a different voice. Even in a category like Sci-fi/ fantasy you’re hard pressed to find many new ideas. Dragons, orcs, trolls, wyverns, oh this one has the fabled golden dragon, wait, I just read that one.
Where did all the imagination go? Where is that spark of originality? Where is that next ‘I never read anything like this’ or the next ‘This is a whole new take on the genre’? Hmmm. I for one blame the invention of cold cuts, something about the salt levels. However are there ways to combat the insidious lunch meats that manage to box us in to a mindset of ‘well it works for everyone else.’ Perhaps.
Hear me out and don’t send hate mail too soon. Maybe as you leave the bookstore with bundles of books in arm, perhaps you can swing by your local comic shop. HEY!! I said hear me out! I can hear the cries of ‘who allowed this fool on the blog’ and ‘he can’t be serious’ and ‘this is his first and last blog. Hurrumph!’ Give me a moment to make my case.
You’re first thought of comics is of superheroes dressed in tights, and wielding impossible powers. For the most part you are right, but only if you stop at the first rack for sure. Look beyond this to the independently owned comics, and there you will find a fresh crop of new and fresh ideas. You might even see some familiar names adding themselves to mix.
I still see arched eyebrows and fingers hovering over the send button to deliver a series of scathing emails on how horribly misguided and delusional I am. To put your mind at rest here are some established authors who contribute to comics: Jodi Picoult (Wonder Woman), Reginald Hudlin (Black Panther), Laurell K. Hamilton (her Anita Blake series), Neil Gaiman (Sandman/ Batman), Brad Meltzer (Superman/ Justice League), Joe Hill (Locke and Key), and many more. {For the hardcore nerds I didn’t add Stephen King because technically his assistant writes his Dark Tower and The Stand comics.} Okay, can you ease up a bit? Good. Now where was I?
I love independent comics because they have to be different. They can’t make an average superhero comic because it’s already been done to death. Sure there are fabulous writers manning these titles, yet it’s still a tried and true formula being used. For the independent comic creator however, they have to take ideas far beyond what the ordinary is to stand out and be profitable in what is considered to be a dying sub-culture.
Here are a couple of examples of the originality and imagination roaming out there. Joe Hill’s Locke and Key series is phenomenal. Three orphans wind up in a house full of door with different keys to open them. Each door leads to another world and adventure. One such door even allows one of the kids to enter her own mind to get rid of her fears which has the side effect of her now having no fear at all. But one door opens up a world of darkness which can destroy the world. Now you may say that some of that sounds like when Alice fell down the rabbit hole and saw all the doors surrounding her. What would happen if she went through another door instead of the one to Wonderland? True, but has anyone done it?
A personal favorite of mine and soon to be a show on the cable network Showtime is Chew by John Layman. On the surface it may seem like a run of the mill detective story, but when you add in the main character, Tony Chu’s, condition the premise elevates. His condition you ask; he is cibopathic. That means he can see and experience the final moments of anything he eats. As a detective he may be called upon to nibble on a corpse to figure out how the death occurred. Eww, right? But again who else has that kind of story?
I’m not saying that all imagination comes from trolling the funny books but what I am saying is that imagination comes from having no fear. The independent comic creator has no fear of new ideas. They step out of the box with both feet and don’t look back. That’s an attitude and mindset that requires a massive bag of testicular fortitude. You can fall in line with the other lemmings or you can be the lemming that calls itself an octopus and behave as such. Stretch those limbs into the unknown, wrap those slippery tentacles around whatever comes your way and build, build, build. Whether it is new worlds, new creatures, or new situations, the path to newness starts with one bold step.
We can sometimes allow the publishing industry to contain us and basically tell us how and what to write. Come on, be honest. There’s a story, a poem, a generally twisted tale burning in you that you’ve pushed to the side because you were concerned with what people would say. Or maybe you didn’t pursue it because the industry is more into hot teen vampires with emotional issues. Now you look in the bookstore and see that you wacky crazy idea has been done or that vampires are on the way out and angels and demons are in. Ugh! You tear the book off the shelf screaming “They stole my idea! Inception is real!!” Well, maybe that’s just me. All this could be avoided however if you took the plunge into the rabbit hole, dear Alice.
Whatever ideas you have chase them, pursue them, tackle them down and make them beg for mercy on the page. Dare to be original. Dare to be brilliant. Dare to be the trendsetter, just like you’re your fellow writers in the comic/ graphic novel field. Phew! Okay, are you still sending the hate mail? It’s okay. I’ll imagine them as something else :P


  1. I was so hoping that this comment glitch would be fixed by now but since it's not, I'll just comment anonymously like the page said. Lol.
    Omg this was great! YES I have wondered where the heck imagination went! Ugh. So many teenage weepy stories about lovesick girls who can't have that 'special' vampire guy. Makes me wanna hurl. And what's worse is that they're selling. They're selling! Meanwhile so many great and unique stories are going unnoticed.
    You did a great job pointint out some very obvious things that we tend to overlook. Thanks for this! I'm going to keep writing what I like, the 'norm' be damned :D

  2. Yay!! That's one vote to stay! LMBO :) I totally agree with you Cherri. If I have to walk into the Twilight wannabe aisle one more time I'm gonna blow chunks. I yearn for what is new and to heck with what is normal.

  3. I agree with everything said above and in this post. Wonderful job Matthew. I am so tired of the same old stories lining the shelves.
    Oh and don't worry, no hate mail coming from me :) I truly loved this post--I look forward to more from you!
    ~Lucy R.

  4. Grr with the comment thing. Lol. I had to say it.
    Fantastic post. So true. Why follow the trend? Make one! Ignore the bar and raise up your own. It bugs me when ppl say you can't have this type of character do this or you can't take your story in that direction because it's 'just not done.'
    Jodi Picoult and Wonder Woman? I didn't know that. Hmm..learn something new every day.

  5. Yes! Two more votes! Maybe I'll be allowed to stay. LOL And yes Jodi Picoult wrote for a year I believe on Wonder Woman. She may have single handedly saved it from being cancelled. Too many men who had no idea what to do with her.

  6. There are so many vampire books still out in the YA section. It amazes me that they are still able to sell this stuff.


  7. That tv show series sounds gross but you're right, I've never seen or heard anything like it. I really liked this post. Your style is a great addition to this group of bloggers.
    I was surprised by Jodi Piccoult too.
    @Joyce--totally agree. You know there is actually a book called Nightlight. It's a parady on Twilight. Lol. I couldn't stop laughing when I read it. :)

  8. @Mae
    I have read Nightlight and you're right--Hilarious! I was laughing all the way through! :D

  9. Everything you said is so true, Matthew. I've been wondering where all the new ideas are for the last few years. I barely read now, because there's hardly anything that doesn't feel like a redo of something that's been done a hundred times. And I know, bad for a writer not to read. LOL. It's good to know there is at least someone who encourages us to think outside the box. Thanks for this. :D.

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