Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Spike Conundrum or What the Hell is He Doing?

There were a bunch of different ways I* considered writing about this, but the one that I think makes the most sense is to just start with a deceptively simple question:

Why do we love Spike?

Every Spike fan will likely have a different set of specific reasons. But what I think they’ll all have in common is what a complex and amazing character arc he’s had. To go from where he started to where he is now has been a true hero’s journey. 

I’d like to state for the record that I wholeheartedly love Spike. I root for him. I think any story with him in it is better for it. No one the Angel team has an agenda when it comes to his relationships. Well, that’s not entirely true. I think he and Angel should probably settle down in a little house somewhere and just admit that they need one another. The way he and Angel play off each other, complement each other, and force each other to be better, is probably my favorite partnership in both series.  But really, the only thing I want to see from Spike is continuing his character evolution. Because as far as he’s come, I don’t think his character is done exploring and growing.

I’ve loved every mistake Spike’s made, even the ones I really hated seeing him make. Sometimes the best characters make the worst decisions.

And he’s making some now.

I know that some of them are really hard to reconcile with who Spike has become. I know they’re unpleasant and uncomfortable. I can’t tell you why just yet, but I can tell you this: It does have a reason, and it will make sense. Issue #35 starts dealing with it more directly and it’s building to something really important for the character that I think you’ll all want to see. Seriously.

To me, what sets Spike apart from Angel, more than anything else, is that he fought for and earned his soul. The journey that led him there is every bit as important as the good he’s done since. Because without that, it just wouldn’t mean as much. It wouldn’t be as significant or important, or downright epic. And that’s true for the next stage of Spike’s development, too.

As an editor, my first responsibility is to the story. As much as I may love a character I have to be willing to let them mess up. Sometimes that means they do things I don’t like personally for the sake of their arc. No one is supposed to like some of the things Spike is doing right now. But he went through a lot in After the Fall and we’re just now seeing some of the fallout. As heroic as Spike is, he’s still flawed. That’s a basic concept in the Whedonverse, all heroes are flawed, and I think we owe it to the character not to forget that. Because I think he is as heroic and important as Angel or Buffy. I think he’s earned the right to make mistakes and come out the other side. With all he’s been through, I think he can handle it. Besides, there’s always more at work here than initially meets the eye. I don’t think anyone wants to see Spike stagnate as a character.

Just as I completely respect canon and know when we’ve done things that may seem to contradict it, nothing is being done accidentally, we’re just expanding on and enriching the world. Everyone on the Angel team has watched the show, I can personally attest to that. Things like the limb-dusting are not arbitrary and it’s explained, at least partially, in issue #33. Along with who James really is and a bunch of other story elements that set up the arc. It’s all part of what we’re exploring. And it’s very much based on what’s been previously established. The same is true for Spike. We know how he’s acting, we know it’s rough, and we’re moving towards something big and incredibly important for him.

To my mind, the worst thing we could do to these characters is not respect them enough to allow them to be flawed and mess up.  Right now we’re exploring the consequences of AtF and the time shift that occurred to reset everything. In a world like this, time shenanigans open up a lot of possibilities and the potential for some really strange things to happen. Some of that is certain characters questioning their purpose, redefining their roles, deciding what they’re going to do now, and what they really want. Other characters are growing and changing based on what they’ve been through, like Connor, and we’re allowing them the chance to prove themselves. Each character deserves the same care and attention, and they all deserve a real arc that takes them from one point to another.

Where Spike is headed as a character is going to be one of the most important leaps he’s ever made. On par, I think, with him earning his soul.  It's going to be brave and compelling and something that should make every Spike fan proud to call him a hero. I hope you’ll stick around to see it.

* You may be wondering who I am. I edit the current storyline of Angel for IDW. And now you know!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another Year Older

Today was my 31st birthday. It's one of those strange, not really significant ages, that still feels really weird and almost impossible to be. I mean, just yesterday I was 16. Or 25. Or 29.

For whatever reason, in the last few weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the inverse of this age. Of me at 13. Of all the ages I've been it's one that still stands out. Just not really in any good way. 13 was the year I lost my grandfather. The year my mom struggled with grief and alcoholism. The year my dad lost perspective and my family started its real descent into broken.

It was also the year I learned what it felt like to be hated. A defining thing, that.

I don't talk about that year much with people I don't know very well. Even though that year, above any other, has deeply shaped the person that I am and have become. And I'm not sure why I'm choosing to talk about it here, or now. I know why it's significant. I've come a long way since then. I've grown. I've changed. I'm in a different and much better place in pretty much every possible way. And as far as I've come and as grateful as I am for all the things in my life that have moved on from such a painful place...I'm still not sure I've really forgiven myself for that year.

So why is this coming up on what was an otherwise good day? As I get older I find myself getting more reflective about birthdays. I notice the changes. The way my hair has gone inescapably white. The lines that don't go away on my face. The way my body has changed shape. And as strange and difficult as I find these changes sometimes, there will be more of them. And I want to accept them gracefully, even joyfully, though I know that they'll also make me sad. Mostly for the ways I won't see myself until it's gone.

At 31 I look back at my awkward adolescent self and I want to tell her how much better things will be. I want to tell her that while time doesn't heal everything, it can give you perspective. And I want to tell her that it wasn't her fault and that she did and still does deserve kindness and love. And I would give her the most amazing hug you can imagine. And I'd wish her a happy birthday, because I remember that no one else really did.

Saturday, April 10, 2010


There are certain hours of the evening, or very early morning, when things just become...peculiar. A little less real. Whenever that happens I tend to get a little bit maudlin' and a little bit prone to writing poetry. I'm not sorry about either, but, you know. Forewarned.

sit awhile with me and say
you love the different ways
i find to peel back my skin
and wallow in the frustrated ugly

i seek redemption through this
my endless flaw list
we could compare notes
(mine will always be worse)

and while i will meticulously discover
new ways to find you beautiful
for me there is only this damaged skin
to peel back and hate again

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I Like to Art

So, long before I started editing comics, I wrote and drew and painted. A lot. Constantly, really. Of all the things I tried doing, from sports like soccer to singing in children's opera's, or playing way too many instruments poorly...drawing and writing and painting were the only constants. And they still are. They are the things that I have to do or I'll go quietly insane. 

Over the years my artwork has shifted and changed, though often not as much as I think it has, and sometimes more than I ever thought it would. I have a BFA in Illustration from The School of Visual Arts in NYC. Back then I drew pretty girls. Guess what I draw now? Pretty girls. 

For a long time I didn't really show my work a whole lot. Mostly because I never felt it was good enough. And I'm not sure I think it is now. But it's reached a point where I have to show it as much as I have to do it. 

I sketch a lot and I draw a lot and I paint as often as I can. I challenge myself and I try new things. But I can't seem to shake this need to draw pretty girls who, aside from being beautiful, are also just a little bit strange. Sometimes dramatically, with horns or tentacles. Sometimes a little more subtly with a just a touch of something weird about the eyes. 

I guess I'm just drawn to monstrous beauty, however you might think to define that.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Of Tentacles and Random Thingyness

Whoo, first blog. Well, first blog here. And the first time I'm not using my usual screen-name. Which feels uber strange but it was about time. I'm feeling more squidy these days than fey.

It's midnight and I should really be asleep. But my brain is kind of on tired overdrive which means I feel like writing and sharing. I don't know why that combination always happens post 10pm but it does.

I'll likely use this for a lot of random stuff, including sketches and new artwork. I'll try not to get too personal as I've become increasingly more "visible" online. Which is mostly a good thing but requires more careful consideration of what I say.

However, I will always be honest and myself here. I don't see much point in a blog otherwise. I mean, they're kind of narcissistic by definition. Might as well not pretend that won't happen sometimes.

This blog won't be affiliated with my job in the sense that I will only be speaking for myself here. I will talk about comics, but only as me. Not for the company I work for.

Okay! This was terribly uninteresting. I promise my other posts will, at the very least, involve more squidly things.

And just so the title isn't completely irrelevant: I don't now why I've suddenly become so enamored of all things tentacled, but I've always loved the idea of monstrously pretty girls. Let's face it, beauty is kind of a terrible thing sometimes. And tentacles have a wonderful, fluid, strangeness that speaks to me both artistically as an element of design and as something almost inherently inhuman. And I don't know about you, but I often feel inherently inhuman myself.