Technically there are four winners, we all won, so it isn’t like I was the best, just one of the top four people who submitted. I want to congratulate the other three finalists as well and I can’t wait to read their stories.
I wanted to share my thoughts on how this came about with you, to show you how your crazy the universe is. There is balm in Gilead after all.
Most of you know my back story; angry man teaches himself comics, hits the wall and crashes hard. I had two boys and developed a pretty complex mental illness that makes it difficult to deal with depression and anger during those years making comics. I walked away from the industry, putting all my energy into writing novels. When the first talent search started I wanted to be involved because Top Cow was one of the few companies that I respected; their work always showed a certain consideration and care, they were cool and they never published ‘desperation’ books to tap into trends or pop culture. I put ten years into comics and made only two books and spend way more money than I should have and I caused more damage than I was able to handle, both professionally and personally. So I had to walk away, for my sake, for the sake of my non-existent career and for the sake of all those who worked with me that I didn’t want to burn by blowing up everything around me. Frankly I needed a break at the very least.
So when the first contest started I wanted to be involved but I never quite had a comfortable grasp of the characters. I created this elaborate plot with two different versions of the same character fighting over the Pandora’s Box or Odin Stone from the Artifacts book. It was too complex, too far reaching, too much work, frankly, for a format I was tired of writing. As much as I wanted to work with Top Cow, I just didn’t feel right with the story I had and I decided to focus that energy instead on finishing my first novel. Sometimes you just have to follow your gut and mine said “forget it”. Luckily the amazing Hannibal Tabu was one of the winners, a guy I really respect (who I really want to write WHITE ZOMBIE some time . . )
You see writing isn’t just about putting in the work, it’s about understanding the flow of energy from idea, to page, to print. I know my work isn’t as clean and professional as it would be if I had an established publisher behind me but part of the charm of it is that my work is coming directly to you, the reader, straight from my brain. When the Talent Search started again this year, I immediately had an idea based on their submission agreement. This year they wanted a past or future incarnation of either the Witchblade or The Darkness (and perhaps some others from Artifacts, not quite sure). But I’ve always kind of liked the Darkness, he was one of the few 90’s era anti-heroes that survived and thrived under the guidance of Matt Hawkins and Top Cow. I felt a more positive charge from this concept than I did the year before. Also, I am a petty and competitive person by nature. Some big name talent have contributed to the Darkness mythology over the years creating some pretty interesting previous incarnations. I wanted to top them all.
As King Osric once said about me “What daring! What outrageousness! What insolence! What arrogance!” Or was that Conan?
Anyway. . I decided to participate. Then I did nothing. Not for months. I continued working on the Legion novels and I worked on The Corrupter and I played way too much Infinite Crisis. With all the ups and downs with my mental illness and the stress of holidays (and birthdays and Valentine’s Day) I just never bothered to do it. Until the last weekend before it was due. I took a couple hours and wrote out the entire script. Then the next day I took a couple more hours and wrote the submission letter and tweaked everything slightly, added the trim and submitted it. It took more no longer than 3-4 hours tops to write the 22 page script and submission letter. I just did it, without any effort, and sent it off on a whim.
Imagine my surprise when I got selected as one of the four finalists. I was surprised and happy and I told the wife what happened and how little effort it actually took to write the submission. Know what she said?
“It’s because you didn’t care.”
She was right.
One of my favorite films is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. There is a scene where Clementine asks Joel to break into a cottage with her. Instead he runs. That mistake tainted their entire relationship until it collapsed. That was how my relationship with comics was; damaged from the start. As a fan I resented all the terrible decisions and comics that were being put out, as a writer I hated the lack of talent and creativity in an industry that should be thriving with it. I resented everything and I challenged everyone and everything and eventually I jut burned out and drifted off. When I wrote the submission from Top Cow I’d begun letting go of the anger, I’d moved my career to a better, healthier place and I am proud of the books I’ve done. Comics were my first love, but they were the past, not the future and I was happy with where I was going when I wrote it.
Now you could say anything contributed to my being chosen as a finalist; maybe it was luck, maybe the editor or the boss at Top Cow was in the right mood when he read it and it struck him/her the right way, maybe I’m as good as I keep saying I am. But I think my wife was right, I think by letting go I was able to write with more freedom and energy. I didn’t need to win, I didn’t want to win, I just wanted to participate and I think that is why the story I wanted to tell came across as clearly as it did. By letting go I was able to relax and let the story tell itself. My desperate need to succeed was gone and I just wrote for the sake of writing.
So what have I learned from all this? Well I’ve learned that I can’t change other people, I can’t change the industry, but maybe if I just relax and let all that other stuff go, I can change one character, one issue at a time. I can’t make the industry better but I can make the books better. I’ll continue to write my novels and if the opportunity to write more comics comes along I’ll take it. But I won’t worry about it. A good career is like a good romance, it can’t be forced or rushed or achieved with anger and aggression. These lessons though ultimately make me a better person and a better writer. I chose to write the Darkness because I understood the Darkness and I gave them exactly what they asked for in the script. I did not try to impress anyone, I kept it simple and to the point. I know to those who are standing where I was, the angry ones, they aren’t going to understand this. I can’t really teach anyone anything, all I can say is that when the rage is gone the creativity WILL still be there. Letting go of the past is not surrendering, it is regrouping.
Now, the last thing you are probably wondering is why did I use the alias Raven Heisenberg? Well, he’s the professional, the person I want to become. He’s the guy who always handles everything just right, who comes through every time, who is immune to stress and depression and anger. Aliases are cool. Like the Ultimate Warrior, he’s the guy who runs in, makes a big statement with his work and disappears. I don’t want to get deep into comics again, I really have no interest in creating my own unless I have a budget for it that makes it easy to hire and produce. I will always love the format and the fans though and for them, Raven Heisenberg exists. Now that I’ve got my first professional comic coming out, I’ll try to line up some more work. Anger can be a useful tool, until it isn’t. Now it’s time to be cool again. I make things cool, its what I do, Raven Heisenberg just does it better.
I won’t be one of those guys who tries to tell you how to break in, because I could never break in. All I can say is Relax. Be Cool. I tried to break in with force, but a raven does not use force. A raven taps gently, rapping at the chamber door.
But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered – not a feather then he fluttered –
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before –
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.’
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.’
Patience. Persistence. Writing comics is easy. Learning those two skills, THAT is hard. You can do it too, though. Especially if you are more sane than I am. Eventually someone will open that door and when they do, you seize the bust of palast for as long as you can.