A post from my ancient Marvel blog about how it’s necessary to remain courageous in your storytelling in order to keep your characters and your universe fresh and alive.
For whatever reason, my mind seems to be turning towards big, broad subjects when it comes time to pound out some prose for this blog of late. I’m not sure if any of these observations are useful to anyone, but hopefully they’re at least universal enough to be worth talking about.
So, switching from Ego to Fear for a moment. In theory, Fear serves a useful purpose. It’s your early-warning system, preventing you from doing or saying things that are likely to get you hurt or killed. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be there for.
But too often, fear goes beyond its survival parameters, and expands into more mundane situations. Fear keeps people from trying things, from attempting to grow, from stretching and taking that leap into the unknown that might end badly, but through which all good things are possible.
I’m sure almost everybody has experienced that moment of self-consciousness, that worry that we’re going to be mocked for our opinions, our likes, our tastes. This has always been especially potent among comic book readers in years gone by, at a less-enlightened time when reading comics was socially considered a pastime only for little children and emotional retards. And so you hide your true feelings away, for fear of being mocked or ostracized. Fear of being cut down, emotionally.
This can be paralyzing within an organization as well. A climate can be created where liking anything is seen as a sign of weakness. It takes a decent amount of personal courage to champion a story or an idea or a creator that you believe in. And even when you do, you then have to be proven right, to the degree that it’s acknowledged, or the whole exercise is self-defeating. Once you’ve built up a certain track record, it gets easier to get people to trust you and your judgment-but getting there can be extremely difficult, and fraught with peril. It’s way too easy to be pigeon-holed as the “Indy” guy, or the “Noir” guy, or the “Teen Angst” guy, both as a creator and an editor, to the point where that’s looked upon as a shorthand for the only game you know how to play.
We talk a lot about Fearlessness at our Retreats, whenever creators are in town, because what’s gotten Marvel to this point over the last decade or so, a willingness to experiment and shake things up, and not be ruled by old demons (nor, for that matter, simply shaking things up to see them shake-there’s often a reason a particular demon is standing there.) If you want to do this job, in almost any capacity, you’re going to need to put your self-esteem on the line along the way, and that requires Fearlessness.
Speaking of which, I’ve got an AVENGERS retreat going on during the back half of this week, so I’m not sure how consistent blogging will be for the next few days. I guess we’ll all find out together.