The Goldilocks Syndrome!

Here it is.  The moment you’ve all been waiting for.  My first blog entry.

I’m not really sure where to go from here.  I started this thing to practice writing.  But now that I’m here, I don’t really have anything to say.  Which is discouraging.

I remember being at Comic-Con, I want to say in 2005, and happening to be at the Marvel booth as Olivier Coipel and Mark Brooks happened to sit down.  I immediately had Coipel sign an issue of what was his then-current run on The Uncanny X-Men (which I believe ended up only being two issues) and asked him to draw a sketch for me.  When he asked what I wanted, I replied “One of the X-Men“.  He decided on Nightcrawler and began doodling what would become one of my favorite pieces of original art.

A Nightcrawler sketch by Olivier Coipel from San Diego International Comic-Con 2005

A Nightcrawler sketch by Olivier Coipel from San Diego International Comic-Con 2005

All this isn’t really important.  I mean, it is.  Particularly to me.  And maybe at the time to a virtually unknown French comic book artist that had yet to make an industry splash on Brian Michael Bendis’ House Of M.  But while Coipel was sketching out the demonic Mr. Wagner, I engaged in conversation with the more English-proficient Mark Brooks.  We talked about comic books and super-heroes and nothing in particular.

And then the two other chairs at the crowdless table were filled.  The first guy, I knew from many photographs in Wizard.  His name was Peter David.  He wrote The Incredible Hulk and X-Factor during the ’90s and was very popular.  Being the humongous X-Men fan that I was, I had many of his X-Factor issues and knew them well.  His Hulk stuff, I knew from reading about the storylines from the backs of trading cards and thumbing through Wizard articles.  I also connected him to “Seinfeld”.  As a child of the ’90s, I remember watching “Seinfeld” with my parents and being amused by Kramer but didn’t really appreciate it until years later.  But I remember seeing the name Larry David in the credits.  And being a kid, for whatever reason, I always assumed that the guy that wrote about the Hulk and X-Factor was the same guy that created Jerry Seinfeld’s TV show with him.

Then this other older gentleman sits down next to him and it takes me a minute to realize who it is.  Sitting before me is Chris Claremont.  Prolific comic book author and basically the whole reason why I’ve always spent more time thinking about super powers and science fiction than sports and cars.  Now, I know that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby originated the X-Men in 1963.  I know that Len Wein and Dave Cockrum introduced the “all-new, all-different” team in Giant-Size X-Men #1 in 1975.  But as far as I was concerned, Chris Claremont created the X-Men.

The cover to X-Men Classic #71, May 1992

The cover to X-Men Classic #71, May 1992

The cover to The Uncanny X-Men #167, March 1983

The cover to The Uncanny X-Men #167, March 1983

The first comic book I ever read was The Uncanny X-Men #167 from March 1983.  Well, technically, the first comic book I ever read was X-Men Classic #71 from May 1992.  But it was a reprint of Uncanny #167 that I got in 1992’s Easter basket.  (It can be noted that I also got a then-recent issue of Action Comics that introduced me to the Hellgrammite and a bearded, long-haired Lex Luthor, but that didn’t have nearly the impact on me.)  It introduced me to the X-Men: Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Binary, Sprite, Wolverine, and their leader, Professor Charles Xavier, who turned into a Brood Queen in this particular issue.  It also introduced me to the freshly minted New Mutants (Cannonball, Karma, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, and Psyche), Cyclops’ dad, Corsair, and his band of space pirates, the Starjammers, Colossus’ kid sister Illyana, Sprite’s pet dragon Lockheed, the Imperial Guardsman Gladiator, Xavier’s ex-girlfriend Dr. Moira MacTaggert, Xavier’s Shi’ar Empress girlfriend Lilandra, and the Fantastic Four (in their pajamas).  It was called “The Goldilocks Syndrome! (or ‘Who’s Been Sleeping in My Head?’)”, it was illustrated by Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek, and Glynis Wein, and it was written by none other than Chris Claremont.  I had no idea who any of them were or what was going on, but it started something that hasn’t stopped twenty years later.  From there, I jumped in, head first.  I grabbed anything X-Men related I could, from back issues and reprints to the newly introduced Toy Biz action figure line.  I scoured arcades for the video game (Colossus was my favorite) and got up early on Saturday mornings hoping to find a different episode of the animated series that featured the Wolverine with the Australian accent.  (Unbeknownst to me, the more prominent Fox animated series was still months away from its debut.)  Everything about my 8-year-old life was X-Men and I owed all of it to Chris Claremont.

So sitting there, waiting for Mr. Coipel to finish his very detailed sketch for me, I chatted with these titans of the comic book industry.  I sat there for probably half an hour (as Coipel inked the sketch) and absorbed all the wisdom I could, as well as the new perspective brought by Brooks.  They all shared favorites from when they were kids that lead them to want to work in the field, as well as how they each initially cracked the industry’s defenses.  By now, they were all well aware of my want to write a comic book of my own.  Which brought me to a question:  How did they come up with all of those stories for all those years and not run out of ideas?  And then Chris Claremont told me perhaps one of the most influential things anyone’s told me about writing:

We don’t come up with stories to have something to write about, we write stories because we have something to say.”

Any time I’ve sat down to write in the eight years since, I’ve thought about that.  Because it goes hand-in-hand with the last thing that Peter David told me before I finally left them alone:  “Write.  Every day.  Even if you don’t know what to write before you sit down, just start writing.”  Every single time I’ve sat down to write, I’ve thought about what those two said to me.  And I’ve struggled.  Because all day long, I come up with ideas for stories.  In the shower.  Driving to and from work.  Even at work.  And lying in bed in the middle of the night.  But when it comes time to formulate those thoughts and ideas into words on a page, I never know where to start.  I know what I picture in my head as the end result, but all the thoughts are on top of each other and kind of overtake me to the point where I don’t know how to get them out.  I don’t know what it is I want to say.  So I’ve typically not said anything.  On my hard drive, there are dozens of folders filled with files that would lend one to believe that I’ve got a library’s worth of screenplays, novels, and songs to get out into the world.  But if you open them, you’ll find that most are just a handful of sentences, a few are a couple paragraphs and one or two actually have more than a page.  I’ll set something up.  But I won’t know what I want to say with it and something else will pop up and I’ll move on to my next unfinished genius idea.

So, again, I don’t know what to write.  But I’m writing.  Because that’s what Peter David told me to do.  And maybe the more I do it, I’ll figure out what it is I’m trying to say.

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