Saturday, August 25, 2012

Creating Things the Old-Fashioned Way

Scott D Parker

For about a month now, I have had a crush on Kevin Smith. I have known about him the better part of 20 years, but never really paid attention to him. I've never seen one of his films, never listened to any of his podcasts (didn't even know he podcasted), and never read anything he's written.* And I would have likely continued on that trajectory for, well, ever if I hadn't happened upon another podcast over at SF Signal, THE site for all things science fiction and fantasy related. In episode 139, the discussion moved to include Batman (there's your crime fiction reference for you) and one of the panelists mentioned how ever good Star Wars fan needed to listen to the Kevin Smith podcast where he interviews Mark Hamill. Being such a fan, I searched out said podcast.

Kevin Smith and I, it turns out, share an abiding passion for Batman. His love of the Dark Knight is so great that he has created a unique podcast, Fatman on Batman, where he discusses Batman with a special guest. The Hamill episode, the first I listened to, was so good that the two of them talked for nearly three hours broken out into two podcasts. Now, to be honest, as much as I love Batman, based on the tip from the SF Signal podcast, I was expecting some great Star Wars anecdotes.

What I got was something completely different. The Hamill episodes barely touched on his days as Luke Skywalker. I didn't care, however, because what I learned is that one of my boyhood heroes is really a comic book geek like me. Throughout the two episodes, Hamill and Smith wax poetic about the life of a comic book and Batman fan in the pre-internet days. So engrossing were these two episodes that I've now listened to them twice.

And, joy for me, the new listener, Smith has posted an additional 9 podcasts. The interviews range from Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, the creative forces behind Batman: The Animated Series, to some of the other voice actors on that show, a friend of Smith's, Walt Flanagan, and Ralph Garman, a long-time fan of the Adam West Batman TV show. Aside from the sheer, unadulterated joy these folks derive from their shared love of Batman and comics is something that's so obvious for a creative type that it's easy to overlook.

At the beginning of each episode, Smith has the guest basically give their origin story. That is the chain of events that led them to their moment in Bat-History. Every one of these folks, no matter if they are artists, writers, or actors, all paid their dues, Smith included. In these days of "overnight" successes no matter the field, it's great to see that normal folks who have dreams and talent, can, after a lot of hard work, make their mark on the world.

So many potential authors have, as their secret dream, the desire to write The Book, the surprise hit that will vault them to stratospheric sales and monies. I don't think that some authors want to write More Than One Book. I do, and I work at it. And that's why, in listening to the stories of the Bat-Folk I'm reminded that good, hard, consistent work while not always being flashy can, in the end, pay dividends.

If you love good discussion about the creative process, have an affinity for Batman and comics, and are not bothered by profane language, I cannot recommend Smith's Batman podcasts highly enough.

*In these past weeks, I have not only listened to all of Smith's Batman podcasts (some twice), I've read his first Batman book, Cacophony, checked out his next Bat-Book, The Widening Gyre, and two of his Green Hornet comic trade paperbacks from the library, got a copy of his first film, Clerks, and started the audio version of his non-fiction book, Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. Yeah, I'm infatuated, but I'm loving what I'm consuming. Anyone have any recommendations?

Album of the Week: John Mellencamp's The Lonesome Jubilee

I read that yesterday was the 25th (!) anniversary of this album's release. While I tend to prefer his 1985 album, Scarecrow, as a whole, Jubilee has my all-time favorite Mellencamp song, "Cherry Bomb." For a young man who had graduated from high school that summer of '87, this tune spoke to a longing for a place I never knew. And in that crucial summer when I moved out of the house and off to college, that song captured the closing of one phase of life and the opening of another coupled with the knowledge I had at the time that life, for all that may be ahead, would never be quite so simple again. At the age of 18, when I listened to his words "...seventeen has turned to thirty-five...", I could not comprehend being in my middle thirties. Now, from a vantage point beyond the age of 35, I'm listening again to this album a quarter century removed from that summer and welcome the nostalgia. I am content with my life as it is and have few, if any, regrets. Life has been good to me and, as Mellencamp sings, "When I think back about those days/All I can do is sit and smile."


David Cranmer said...

I remember buying The Lonesome Jubilee the week it came out. That and Scarecrow are two of my favorites from the 80s. And, I believe, it was Scarecrow with all the references to Paul Newman's HUD. (And I guess we will have to send Hamill and Smith SUPERHERO when it comes out.)

Anonymous-9 said...

Ah Batman, what a career. The actors who play him should be so lucky. Thanks Scott.

formulaic666 said...

If you're going to do the films, do them in order and watch the trajectory. Some are great (both Clerks films, Chasing Amy, Red State) some less so (Jay and Silent Bob strike back, Zach and Miri) but all are worth a watch. Except Cop Out. For the love of God don't watch that.