Other Ten Percent 6/23/14

Jun 23 2014

Oh hey, this is actually going out at the start of a day. Been a while since that’s happened. Hey, let’s go back to talking about writers because actually sticking to formats is for suckers.

Oh man you know who Friday would have been the perfect day for discussing? Kieron Gillen. Dude is friends with Leigh Alexander so that transitions well. At least I THINK I remember her writing about him as a good friend. I know they know each other and he is friends with the also awesome Cara Ellison who did this year’s best writeup of E3. It was kinda like what I wrote except she made her points much more effectively, and they were better points, and really it’s not very much like what I wrote up at all. It’s just good.

Oh right, Kieron Gillen. He was a longtime music/games critic for years which is why he knows all the critics I like but over the last ten years he’s transitioned more and more into comics writing to the point where he’s now a full time writer doing a lot of cool stuff over at Marvel. Unfortunately, on Friday I had not read his new comic The Wicked + The Divine yet so I did not know how much stuff I suddenly had to say about the dude.

I’d always felt a kind of kinship with Gillen in that he was very clearly a writer who clearly loved batting around big ideas even when it kinda got in the way of wrapping them up in genre trappings and exploring them. I mean read this Pitchfork interview where he lays out the big ideas brilliantly (And where he also casually dismantles “Superheroes as Celebrities” one of my least favorite tropes in comics. If you want me to like you just make an elaborate intelectual framework. If you want me to LOVE YOU have that framework demolish something I hate.) and you’ll get a sense of the kind of stuff he likes exploring in comics.

But I’ve been hesitant to recommend his comics to a ton of people because he can often be so engaged with the ideas that the work feels very insular. His oldest comics are often meant for people who’ve already done the reading rather than for everybody. They’ve often been more engaged with the ideas than the storytelling.

I don’t mean this as a huge knock on his writing. He’s pretty much said as much himself in interviews and God knows I’ve never completed a project that wasn’t so far up its own ass it could see teeth. Instead I want to say that Gillen was writing good comics even before he crossed that magical barrier where writers can make writing look effortless and invisible. I often read Gillen’s stuff with a sense that there was an untapped potential in his writing.

He’s tapped into it now.

It’s not just dealing more directly with ideas I would have been obsessed with in the first place; I think this is genuinely the best first issue of something I’ve read since Y the Last Man and that first issue is spoken of in hushed tones in the comics community.

Oh, also, Jamie McKelvie‘s art on this book is amazing as well but I am a writer-focused narrative obsessive/goddamn philistine when it comes to comics art. I have very little ability to evaluate artistic work that falls in between distractingly awful and, like, this. McKelvie’s art’s way closer to the latter by the way. Except they use much simpler panel layouts which is a deliberate choice they talk about in that Pitchfork interview to help people who don’t usually read comics try this one out. Christ, see? I’m awful at this. The art’s really good.

And now, way too far into this piece, I’m afraid the mixed agendas of this are dooming it. I’m trying to explain what this comic is, why I love this comic, who Gillen is, AND what I think makes his writing special. I am achieving, at best, 1.5 of those. So let’s do each of them in one sentence then get the hell out of here.

The Wicked + The Divine is about popstars as Gods and art as ritual and what it means to try to create things that last forever when you’re inherently mortal.

I love it because it’s saying the things about music and performance and creation and the relationship between them I try and say in my 2000 word explorations of Yeezus but there are explosions in this so it’s inherently better.

Kieron Gillan is a brilliant comics writer who’s the kind of obsessive that makes 14 hour playlists for his comics projects.

And I love him because we share a ton of obsessions, and, even if we didn’t, watching somebody discover what they can REALLY do is inherently exciting anyway.

There. I cheated with some run-ons, but, of course, I always do that.

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