Welcome to my 50th blog and thanks for inspiring me to reach this tremendous milestone! I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I’ve been by all the positive feedback I’ve received from readers. I hope that the experiences and ideas that I’ve shared with you thus far have helped you make steps towards advancing your career!
Today I want to talk about something that I often get ridiculed for. It’s one of the nasty pleasures that I have as a creator—and that’s reading and analyzing crappy entertainment.
Be it comics, TV, or film, it goes without saying that all forms of media have a huge assortment of crap. And I have to admit, I’m one of those people who can’t help but stare when I see a train wreck. Sometimes when something is so bad, I absolutely must see it in order to discover just how bad it is.
But why? What possible pleasure could I have in exposing myself to crap? Why on God’s green earth would I waste what precious time I have on this planet reading stuff that makes me cringe?
So I can learn from it of course!
Studying the mistakes of others is an excellent way to help you learn to avoid falling into a similar or worse trap. It can also inspire you to seek greater aspirations for your own work.
The point of this particular blog is not to justify crap or to encourage you to read and enjoy crap. It is to teach you how to absorb crap in a creative way so that you can use it to inspire you. All you need to do is ask yourself three simple questions once the crap has been ingested.
1.) WHY DO OTHER PEOPLE LOVE WHAT I HATE?
The other day, I read one of the worst Goddamn comics I have ever come across in my entire life. It was the biggest piece of crap I have ever suffered through. There is nothing about this book that warrants it being published and yet it was–by a BIG name publisher! If it were up to me, I would force the entire creative team to eat an enormous pile of feces ala SALO (if you haven’t seen that movie…well you can either read about it and imagine vomiting or you can see it and actually vomit) to make up for the awful work they have pushed right out of their butt and into the world.
CRAP–IT’S WHAT’S FOR THE DINNER.
However, out of what little respect I have for said creators for actually getting their book done and out into the market, their names and the title of their craptastic book shall sadly go unmentioned.
But despite how crappy their book is, and believe me it’s crappy, it has been optioned for a film and is currently in production! Yes, some idiot producer is ACTUALLY making a crappy comic book into a movie! Go figure.
Throughout your life, there will be countless things that you come across as a creator that you will downright despise and that other people will love. As a creator, you should always be thinking about why that is the case.
You should know why something that is so base and obtuse in your opinion is getting nothing but praise and attention from the world at large. Could it be because the subject matter is high concept or as I’ve been hearing as of late, “low hanging fruit”? Could it be that the creators have fooled the audience into thinking that they are brilliant without even realizing it themselves because they are that dense? Or could it be that it simply doesn’t sit well with you because of your own personal feelings.
Obviously, the crap is getting attention for a reason. What could that reason be? Find out and you will only be the wiser. Studying crap from time to time can be a great way to relate to the world at large. If they like it, then chances are something is being done right. It may not be much according to your standards, but being a creator isn’t about you–it’s about your audience.
I’ll be honest in saying that I am not a fan of the latest movies, TV shows, or comics but I immerse myself regardless because I need to understand what’s hot. I need to know what people are enjoying and why.
Inspiring yourself by only exposing yourself to the stuff you like is limiting. Stepping out of your own boundaries allows you to discover things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise because you wrote it off so quickly.
2.) WHY DO I LOVE SOMETHING OTHER PEOPLE HATE?
Face the facts, all of us like something that others can’t stand. For example, I LOVED the CLONE SAGA in the 90’s SPIDER-MAN books. I was hooked as a kid and despite what anyone says, I will always love it…even though it ultimately turned out to be crap.
Sometimes we have to stop and think about why we love the things that others hate. It helps us understand what the audience doesn’t like and by analyzing it, you might find a few things that actually work and that can be applied to your own work.
Always remember that not every element of crap is crap. Some of it can actually be good. It’s rare, but it’s true. Case in point, most people hated the CLONE SAGA because it kept dragging on and didn’t have an end.
However, I loved the CLONE SAGA because of how the creators brought back Spider-Man’s old villain, the Jackal. This was a villain that I didn’t really care for in the SPIDER-MAN universe but when he came back, it was a strong re-introduction for the character. It worked. At least for me.
It was actually through the CLONE SAGA that I learned to appreciate villains far more than superheroes because let’s face it–the villains are always more interesting anyway.
It was also through the CLONE SAGA that I learned that every story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. When things drag on forever, your audience eventually gets bored and moves onto something else. I believe it’s better to go out with a bang than a whimper.
You’re not untalented for liking something that other people hate. In fact, you’re unique because you like something everyone hates. As a creator, you need to put on your detective cap and find out what acorn of good there is in bad crap and use it to make stuff that isn’t crap.
3.) WHAT WOULD I HAVE DONE TO MAKE IT BETTER?
Here’s a good exercise. Take the time to revisit something you hated or expose yourself to something that you are certain is going to suck ass. But instead of rolling your eyes every five seconds, try making note of all the things you would change to tell the story better than it’s currently being told.
When it comes to comics, sometimes a simple flip of a panel or a swapping of two panels can make a world of difference. Sometimes leaving out a page or switching dialogue can improve a story as well. Maybe even expounding upon or revisiting certain plot points that were overlooked can turn crap into gold.
This type of training is excellent because it teaches you to analyze your own work the same way. On top of that, it’ll become easier for you to spot inconsistencies and problem solve when you come across challenges during production.
Now one thing you should know is that nobody makes comics, TV, or film with the intent of making something bad. Gerry Conway actually wrote an outstanding blog about this a while ago. Check it out here. Everyone wants the stuff they work on to be great. Sometimes what results in crap isn’t the fault of just one person but dozens.
That being said, always be mindful as a creator and think of ways to improve communication with the people you work with. There are some pretty tough personalities in the entertainment business so learning to be flexible and open minded can go a long way.
When two parties can’t agree on something, you can be the middleman that solves a major conflict. Learning to do that effectively will get you far so long as you know when to step in and when to back off.
So with all that being said, you are now free to expose yourself to crap without feeling that your time has been lost!