I write SORRY in every copy of MANTOOTH that comes my way.
--Matt Fraction, Casanova: Gula #2.
I bought The Annotated Mantooth because of two things: 1. Warren Ellis vouched for Fraction. 2. Fraction's column on CBR. (Or was it columns? Was he doing the Basement Tapes then? I'd check, but I'd rather keep that in doubt, honestly...)
What that makes me think about now is that there was a time when those two things were enough to make me spend thirteen bucks on something. But, that was the end of 2002 and I was a month away from turning twenty. Somehow, that time seems so long ago and, yet, it seems like yesterday that Matt Fraction was on my 'will buy anything he writes' list. He's not anymore and that's because I think his old stuff was better. Give me Mantooth over Iron Man any day of the week! And, yet, I bet Iron Man is better in almost every aspect of craft. How fucked up is that? I prefer the amateurish thing that is one of Fraction's first pieces of comics work to something he now writes with eight years of experience under his belt.
Shit, this isn't fair to Fraction... but, the comparison between his early work before Marvel and his current work for Marvel has been on my mind lately. Tim and I have discussed it. Graeme and Jeff have discussed it. I've seen it talked about on Twitter. It's not really about Fraction, because it's a common enough thing: young person does work that people love, continues to do work as he/she grows older, people love it less and blame things like 'selling out' and 'being lazy' and 'too much cocaine.' I think there's just something that kills you a little when you've 'made it' whatever that means. Not to everyone, of course.
Because I'm the self-centred sort, I've been thinking about myself in a similar way. Was my older stuff better? That same hunger that made me an angry young man is also what drove some of my earlier writing. Back when I'd churn out comic scripts no one has ever read, planned out a 100-issue series called "Superfucks," wrote stupid blog posts, wrote a weekly column on my own website for five years straight... Now, I write reviews for Comic Book Resources, I blog for Comics Should be Good, I write about wrestling for 411mania, and... I maybe sometimes blog? I do the odd month-long 'event' or something like the Blogathon, but... that's it.
I don't want to blame the CBR reviews, but that's a big reason for my lack of productivity when it comes to writing about comics. Some people can do five or six reviews a week and still write a lot more. I try. I can't. Or do I tell myself I can't? Is it just easier to not? Is it easier to sit in the safe comfort of 500-word chunks churned out on a weekly basis? I try to do my best, to say new things, to even try new things, but it doesn't always work that way. It's a fucking job, man, and no matter how hard you try, more often than not, the JOB wins. Except for the best of us. And, if this year is about anything, it's about me trying to get it through my head that I'm not 'the best of us' and learning how to live with that.
So... The Annotated Mantooth.
It's not my favourite Fraction comic, because Casanova exists, but, it's in second place. And it's the comic he apologises to people about. It's funny and goofy and everything that people who talk about 'awesome comics' want. Not everything works... but there's so much energy. So much hunger. A hunger that just isn't there anymore. For Fraction and I. How do you sustain that energy, that hunger, especially after you've 'made it?' Can anyone do it? Can you work in a deadline-based position for an extended period of time and match the work of people who do it only when they feel the urge?
I sure as fuck hope so, because, otherwise, I'm doomed. And so is Fraction. And a lot of other great people.
I honestly didn't intend for this month's (late) post to be another bit of masturbation. I meant to discuss the comic, but kept getting sidetracked by this idea of safety in 'making it.' Of the grind getting you down. And competiting with your younger self. But, I will say this: for everything I envy about myself in my late teens/early twenties, I'm living the life he dreamed of in some twisted form. I bet Fraction is, too. And that seems like it means something.