After 18 months on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, Kieron Gillen has given an extensive interview with Q Magazine’s Colin Smith on his UK based blog TOO BUSY THINKING ABOUT MY COMICS and tweeted:
The first part of my enormous interview with
@Colin_TBTAMC is up. Probably my most candid interview ever.
He also added:
(This part includes my plans for the last 2 years and where they went wrong, literary patricide, and my burning hate of Elves)
Gillen specifically focuses on the writer’s experience working on comics in these ongoing interviews, and particularly on trying to establish strong storytelling on a title that proved, as time went on, that it was far from any “minor league” expectations from readers. He’s hard-hitting about his own mistakes, for instance, and as hypothetical advice to his former self, says:
When the more self-aware strand of wannabe writers are looking at the industry they pick apart people’s careers and decide which bits worked and which bits are mistakes. You try your best to use the former and avoid the latter. The problem with the “mistakes” is that i) you realise what caused a chunk of those mis-steps, and they were in fact the only sane response to an insane world and ii) you end up making a shitload of new mistakes all of your own, which the next generation will try to learn from. I’m aware that I’m well on the way to being a cautionary tale now. C’est La Vie.
He answers big questions, like “why Loki” and considers whether his master-plans really panned out:
I sort of had a master-plan for my last two years of work, which like all plans didn’t survive first contact with the enemy (i.e. Reality).
In terms of my career, I was aware that I hadn’t had to do even a medium-length run on a book that showed what I was capable of. Finding a place slightly out of the way in the modern mainstream, and cultivating it in my own image. Basically, I wanted to do something that fit into my creative history the way that Animal Man or Secret Warriors fitted into Morrison’s and Hickman’s. Knowing the marketplace, I was thinking conservatively in terms of length. If it took off, 20-30 issues would be feasible. Having the experience of dancing around the current Marvel comics universe, I was always thinking about making it being able to robustly survive and even subvert whatever crossover it found itself in contact with. Which, when 75% of the story ended up being crossovers, was thinking time well spent.
Probably the most entertaining aspect of the first part of the interview is Gillen geeking-out on whether he sees himself as a “fantasy writer” and how fantasy literature has played a role in his personal history:
(Don’t start me on Elves. My perennial bugbear. Elves are basically “What If Aryans were right about there being a master race”. Fucking Elves.)
In short: I resisted defining myself as a fantasy writer because fantasy tends to be iffy. I became fine with it when I realised how core it was to how I processed and commented upon the world. And, of course, the tradition of anti-trad-Fantasy Fantasy writers is always looking for recruits. Hell, the problematic nature of the genre makes it almost too easy. In any other genre would I got away with THE MANCHESTER GODS ARE ACTUALLY THE GOOD GUYS as a reveal? But in a genre that demonises technological progress and hails the status quo of inherited power, you just put someone in a black hat and a bit of soot and everyone presumes they’re another working-class/foreigner-surrogate to be stomped on by the pretty blonde people.
I find myself laughing at how much bile I end up spewing when you get me on this topic. Magic Swords +3 Against Scarabs Are Serious Business.
This is heady stuff, and only a first installment of this rambling deconstruction of comics taking readers on a Gillen-guided tour. Coming up soon is Gillen’s discussion of the Kid Loki character on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY. The fact that Gillen has taken the time to really reveal his mindset and the issues he’s recently grappled with in such a conversational way is a gold-mine for fans, with more to come.
Hannah Means-Shannon writes and blogs about comics for TRIP CITY and Sequart.org and is currently working on books about Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore for Sequart. She is @hannahmenzies on Twitter and hannahmenziesblog on WordPress.