The Culture Hole, Episode 15: 2011's End, Being a Nerd and a Good Dose of Crazy

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Episode 15: 2011’s End, Being a Nerd and a Good Dose of Crazy

I do not think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I, a Person Who Writes About Comics On The Internet, has a healthy interest in things that are geeky, nerdy, or whatever-you-want-to-call-them-that-is-literally-the-most-ridiculous-argument-I-think-it-is-possible-to-have-and-I-once-argued-about-the-lyrics-to-Rainbow-Connection-for-two-hours.  Neither will it come as a surprise that when it comes to these sorts of topics, I have certain… compulsions.  No, it’s nothing dirty, and I’m not talking about the counting-things-or-else-something-terrible-will-happen-to-your-family kind, though I have those, too. But “James’ potentially serious mental health issues” don’t really make for a cheery feature.

I feel like I am getting off-topic.

It’s the end of the year and, customarily, it is the time to reflect on the twelve months past and assess both where you are and where you want to be.  All things considered, 2011 has been a pretty good year.  I started this site with my closest friend, got to do some fun pieces and interviews and received a great response.  I moved into a great apartment and have fallen in love all over again with the revitalized downtown of my home.  And, of course, I fell in love with a bunch of new comics, shows, movies, games and activities.  Of course, what I’ve truly realized this year is that I am incapable of liking something without being an obsessive nerd about it.

It might have been the move that kickstarted this realization; when you have to move a few hundred pounds each of comics, books, DVDs, CDs and video games and then organize your plastic Batmen, Batgirls & Simpsons/Futurama characters, it is hard to avoid the fact that you tend to Get Very Into Things.  I’m not sure why I do; it might be an ingrained desire to know and experience as much as possible – my dad is very much the same way – or it could be something slightly more sinister.  Whichever it is, I figured it would be interesting to look at some of the things my obsessive side has turned to this year that aren’t comics, because I write about those frequently already.  I’m highlighting three different things – some new to me, some with which I was already familiar – that fell victim to my inability to not be a nerd in 2011:

01. DOCTOR WHO

I know!  A nerd who likes Doctor Who, the longest-running science fiction television series in history?  Who knew?  Truth be told, I’m not surprised that I have fallen in love with the show as much as I have, but that I fell in love so completely and absorbingly as I did.  This is a show I “decided” to watch in 2009 and then didn’t for almost a year and a half, but that I finally watched in the spring and immediately started inhaling.

Of course I’m absorbing the series like a madman.  Of course I watched the 2011 Christmas Special with my family earlier this week.  Of course.  Again, that in itself is no big deal.  However, I didn’t just watch the series.  I threw viewing parties.  Not singular.  Plural.  I debated plot points in person while eating TARDIS-blue cupcakes and comparing my 11th Doctor sonic screwdriver flashlight with the toy replica Brandon’s girlfriend has.  Last weekend, I realized that I was watching Doctor Who while drinking tea out of a TARDIS mug, wearing a shirt with hundreds of damask TARDISes on it and tweeting about it on my iPhone with a TARDIS case.  Afterward, I might have read a Doctor Who comic.  This is more or less par for the course.

Of course, I got Brandon into it too, since we share a brain and it was literally as simple as showing him a single episode.  I at least try to be a good friend.

02. BASEBALL

This is one that, technically speaking, is nothing new.  I enjoyed baseball as a kid, and staying up late with my mum watching the Toronto Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series is still a fond memory almost 20 years later.  During the mid-90s, I frequently attended games of the local Triple-A team, affiliated at first with the Oakland Athletics and finally the Montreal Expos before both teams moved on.  My grandpa had season tickets and attendance was a family outing.  During these years, my dad taught me how to keep a box score on a hot summer night in the back yard while listening to a game on the radio.  And if you think following baseball closely can be nerdy, then you need to be introduced to the practice of charting a game play-by-play so that you can revisit it in the future.

In the 90s, I was absolutely a baseball nerd.  But then I fell away from it for some forgotten reason (I’m guessing it was the New York Yankees), and excepting the rare World Series game I caught on TV and the 2002 Oakland Athletics’ 20-game winning streak, I didn’t really pay attention to it anymore.  Until Matt Fraction and John Siuntres, that is.

Now, I’m pretty sure that if it’s not necessarily nerdy to fall back in love with a sport, it’s at least a little bit nerdy to fall back in love with it because of a 15-minute tangent your favourite comic book writer went on with an interviewer during a two-hour podcast.  I did, and that was it for me.  Suddenly I was watching games on TV again, reading game recaps and buying $15 iPad apps so that I could watch games even when they weren’t on local TV and analyze every single pitch and call, which I compared to statistics popularized by Bill James.  Suddenly, I was looking for a new Oakland Athletics cap.  I convinced people to see Moneyball.  I had an opinion about the Boston Red Sox again.

The cap to everything was that when pressed for weeks to actually give my mum ideas for things she could get me for my birthday, I immediately wrote down:

Baseball, A Film By Ken Burns (DVD)

That’s right, my ideal holiday gift was a 23 hour-long documentary about the history of baseball.  And I got it!  And I am incredibly excited to have literally a full day of baseball ephemera to nerd out over.  That is a real thing that I now have to accept about myself, that I cannot just like baseball, I have to obsess about it.

03. COOKING

I’ll confess, I have been a bit of a nerd about cooking for a lot longer than just this year.  I remember the first thing I ever cooked, an Egg in a Basket I saw the kids on Camp Cariboo make in the early 90s and immediately woke up my dad at 7am so that he could teach me how to use the stove.  I was raised to cook.  I have a lot of cookbooks, read food websites, pay Eat Your Books a monthly fee to keep the two organized and pay three different branches of America’s Test Kitchen subscription money.  A couple of years ago, I even took over my parents’ backyard with an ambitious garden so that I could have access to cheap organic fruits and vegetables.  I am not, strictly speaking, new to being a cooking nerd; 2011 was just the year that I started really obsessing about it all.

A big part of it was my aforementioned move.  In my old area of town, the main restaurants available are generally chains, with the occasional family restaurant thrown in.  The downtown, however, has started to see an explosion of restaurants and food trucks dedicated to adventurous cooking that’s locally sourced.  Why get tacos that aren’t authentic Mexican ones at Tres Carnales?  Why get a fast food breakfast sandwich when I can stop at the Elm Cafe and get a giant one made entirely with entirely local food?  Why go to Starbucks, as much as I like them, when Transcend Coffee (host to Canada’s currently crowned best barista) roasts everything in-house based on beans the owner personally sourced from Latin America and serves it alongside coxinhas, pao de queijo and pupusas?  The places I eat out got exciting this year and it inspired me to get a bit more serious about things.

So did having a farmer’s market literally two blocks from my apartment.  On a Saturday morning in the summer, all I have to do is walk out my door, turn right and walk for a couple of minutes.  I will physically run into small local businesses selling fresh ingredients and artisan products.  It’s easy to get really into food when there are so many wonderful ingredients, so close.

It also helps that I started watching shows like Chopped.  I’m not generally into reality competition shows, but when I watch some chefs open baskets full of mystery ingredients, I’m impressed with the improvisation and technique they have to show just to make something that is technically submittable to the judges.  For all the drama the show tries to create – and is usually pretty good at, actually – what I really love is watching people who know food just trying out new things.

All of these things got me interested in not just trying making new types of dishes, but going even more basic than that.  I have two recipes for homemade sriracha sauce and I want to see which is better.  I want to learn about butchering my own meat from primal cuts and how to make exciting loaves of bread.  Every staple in my fridge, freezer and pantry is now looking like a challenge.  Can I make it myself?  Can I make it better?  Can I learn techniques well enough to truly improvise with whatever I have on hand?  I’m looking at classes.  I’m seriously considering starting at the beginning and working my way up systematically.  I’ve made a connection at a local brewery who wants to help me learn how to make my own beer.  I want to make my own sausage.  Why should I have to pay for mayonnaise?

Goddammit, I’m a nerd.  I don’t know how not to be.  At work I play with numbers and turn them into manuscripts.  At home, I’m no different.  It’s how I view the world, and I’m wondering what 2012 will do to bring it out in new and interesting ways.

Happy everything, everybody.

The Spirit of Van Der Thanksgiving

Greetings fair rabble of the internet! How is your post Van Der Thanksgiving Day coma treating you today?

What’s that? You say you’ve never heard of Van Der Thanksgiving before? And that you live in the town of Footloose where all dancing is banned because of that one time those kids died? Presumably from car related AIDS? Well. Sounds like someone needs a lesson in what the spirit of Van Der Thanksgiving is all about.

01. THE ORIGIN (B)

Before we get too deep into the spirit of the thing, we should probably talk about how Van Der Thanksgiving came to be.

In general, there are two widely accepted origins for the holiday. The first stems from a long ago time called “The Nineties”.

Simpler times, right? Anyway, back in this time, it is said that James Van Der Beek would appear once a week a deliver unto the people theatrical performances the likes of which none had ever seen before.

He did this for six whole years, before disappearing from the hearts and minds of many for a long period of time. This absence hit Canadians quite hard. Many attempted Canadian suicide by leaving their front house holes open and inviting the cold to bring unto them the sweet release of death. Roughly 100 of Canada’s boisterous 230,000 died that year – a tragedy that spurred the people of Canada to… not mourn the absence of the Beek, to but celebrate his time amoung us by starting Van Der Thanksgiving.

(Note: it is said that Americans did not experience such a harsh feeling of separation, as they had already dealt with similar emotions when Party of Five was cancelled, and Scott Wolf was no longer around. Canadians had no such problem as Party of Five never aired in the deep north, due to some strict legislation involving wolves in general.)

The second origin – one that seems to have been making the rounds quite a bit lately – is one that involves a Canadian sitting at his work, bored out of his mind on fake Thanksgiving, creating a holiday involving James Van Der Beek as an excuse to watch Varsity Blues at least once a year.

Personally, I think that last one is a bit bullshit, but you can’t really stop rumour from spreading, now can you.

02. THE CELEBRATION (B)

Now, Van Der Thanksgiving is celebrated the world over by Canadians. This once a year festival of a lifetime takes place on what Americans would like to call Thanksgiving – or what is properly known as fake Thanksgiving.

Every year, Canadians gather in various houses, cook a fantastic meal, and digest by watching their choice of Beek flavoured pleasures, such as select episodes of Dawson’s Creek or my personal favourite, Varsity Blues. During this day, we often talk about what we are Van Der Thankful for, and talk about our hopes for the Van Der Future.

This year was the first year that I spent Van Der Thanksgiving with James – and boy, did we have a time. James cooked an amazing meal, but instead of having me stumble over the details, I’ll let James take over from here.

03. THE MEAL (J)

What would Van Der Thanksgiving be without a Van Der Thanksgiving feast? Nothing, that’s what. It would be trash. It would be like you just pooped all over the noblest of all holidays. Listen up, internet.

Of course, while Americans were celebrating Fake Thanksgiving with amazing turkey feasts (seriously, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s, judging from her tweets, might have been the absolute best thing), we had to do something different. Why? Because here in Canada we don’t take a day off for a false holiday, that’s why, and Van Der Thanksgiving hasn’t really blown up like Chrismukkah yet.

Yet.

So since I couldn’t actually make a turkey in the few hours after I got off work and before Brandon did, I did the next best thing that isn’t a duck: chicken! Specifically, Cook’s Illustrated’s Weeknight Roast Chicken recipe, which Is so simple that it is literally:

  • Rub chicken with oil, salt and pepper (plus garlic, because come on)
  • Put chicken in preheated skillet in hot oven
  • One hour later, eat.

That’s it! The oven isn’t even on for half that time! If you have an oven and a pan, you can make this recipe, and what is Van Der Thanksgiving about if not realizing your own inner potential and building your confidence?

And seriously, this thing looks amazing. Because you’re not actually applying heat for half of the cooking, juices don’t evaporate and you end up with white meat that’s actually juicy and not the worst part of poultry, like it is as a general rule. Luckily, even the worst part is still poultry. Plus, if you add a lemon sage pan sauce [Ed. Note: Substitute tarragon in the recipe above], anything gets extra delicious.

And to go with that, how about some easy side dishes? I am nothing if not magnanimous, after all. First, boil some new potatoes. Drain and squish them like they done you wrong, baby. Then toss them with some pesto! If you’re like me, that’s something you just have sitting around left over from a previous meal. If not, just add some oil, parmesan, garlic, pine nuts and either basil or spinach in a food processor (or finely chop them by hand like a peasant). It takes 10 seconds! If you go to a restaurant and they try to make it sound like they are being super fancy by giving you pesto, they are doin’ you wrong, baby. Squish ‘em.

I also made brussels sprouts so simple that it’s “toss with bacon fat [Ed Note: Because you are awesome], cover in foil, bake, remove foil, bake.” I know a lot of people aren’t down with the brussels like they should be, but “Born to Run” was playing in the grocery store as my eye fell upon them and I knew it was a sign from on high.

And how does this all turn out? Brandon made undignified noises like a champ.

 

And there you have it! Van Der Thanksgiving dinner, nice and easy, yet incredibly delicious. This isn’t some Thanksgiving dinner that takes an entire day to put together and then someone doesn’t like gravy and you murder them. Like the rest of C!TB, Van Der Thanksgiving is about making things accessible and sharing what’s important: love and the Beek. If not everyone can do it, we’re not that interested.

Whatever you like, have fun with the High Holiday. Make what you like, watch your favourite bit of Van Der Acting and be cool to each other.

04. VAN DER THANKS

And of course, what Van Der Thanksgiving is complete without giving Van Der Thanks?

LEASK: As corny as it sounds, I am Van Der Thankful for Brandon. Not only is he my incredible comic book guy, but he’s one of my closest friends and making him laugh is pretty much the only goal I have when writing anything on this site.

And this site, oh man, this site. Last autumn, Brandon came to me about starting a site together, where we could talk about things we liked and not have to worry about format or numbers or ratings or anything but the reason we read comics in the first place. Against all likelihood, people actually read the crazy things we write, and we’re looking to expand our minor empire of ridiculousness in new and exciting ways in the coming months. My life is pretty great, and that is pretty dang rad.

SCHATZ: Oh dang. Um… ignore the wiskey tears, the pollen is just ridiculous in the room right now.

Of course, I’m thankful that we get to do this site – and thankful that people seem to like what we do here. Honestly our main goal with the site doesn’t go far beyond just amusing ourselves and making horrifying jokes, and the fact that people want to read what we want to talk about? Well, that’s pretty rad. Also, we’ve gotten pretty good at spreading the good word of comics – and I’m thankful for that too.

I’m also thankful for my special lady friend – as well as the fact that she seems to get all of this craziness – and is right now having a Twitter war with James making jokes about yiffing and cheese racism. She’s a keeper.

And finally, there’s James. I’m thankful to be his special lady friend. More so, I’m thankful that we can spend hours making terrible jokes to one another, and take a good one hour detour while watching an episode of The Walking Dead to talk about our favourite eras of TGIF. Seriously, that guy is rad, am I’m more than glad to call him my friend.

But now that Van Der Thanksgiving is officially over, it’s time to look forward to the future. It’s looking pretty bright. Christmas is around the corner, and I have it on good authority that if you’re all very, very good, a video of a young Brandon figure skating to the elevator music version of the old Spider-Man cartoon theme song will make its way to the internet.

God bless us everyone.

Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Warning: She WILL cut you.
Photo by Doug Hesse

Interview: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Just who is Kelly Sue DeConnick?

She writes comics!  Great ones!  Like Sif and Rescue one-shots, or her Osborn: Evil Incarcerated miniseries!  This week brings the end of her three-issue arc on Supergirl, and on September 28th Castle: Richard Storm’s Deadly Storm, based on the wonderful TV series Castle and co-written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Lan Medina, will be released.  Order it now!

Besides writing comics, she used to translate manga into English!  All of a sudden, I have the urge to read over a dozen volumes of a basketball manga series!

She’s married!  To fellow comics writer Matt Fraction!  They have two children!

Back in July, she raised a metric poopload of money for an awesome cause: Women for Women International’s programs in the Congo!

But enough exclamation points, it’s time for QUESTIONS.

01. SUMMER READING LISTS

C!TB: What are your favourite things you’re reading these days?  It can be anything – books, comics, magazines, etc.

Kelly Sue:  Nonfiction-wise, I’m reading Mercury 13 and Promised the Moon, both about the women of the early astronaut program.  Excellent, excellent, heartbreaking story.  Mercury 13 is particularly well-written.

And I just got an Amazon gift card that I think I’m going to use for the kindle edition of Mind in the Making – a book my son’s school recommends.

Comics-wise, I’m reading Guggenheim and Chaykin’s Blade run—loving the structure.  I think I was six issues or so in before I saw the big picture.  Disciplined crafting—and holy shit, the covers!  What else?  Making my way through the Dr. Strange essentials in preparation for Fraction’s Defenders…which, by the by, is going to blow the top of your head clean off.  Let’s see… right here on my desk today is Jen Van Meter’s Cinnamon: El Ciclo—a title I would not even know about had John Siuntres not mentioned it during our last Wordballoon interview.  I’m hoping to start that today.

I just picked up some American Vampire and Batman Detective because I’ve heard really good things about Scott Snyder.  Really looking forward to those.

What else have I got laying about here… Jon Hickman’s Red Wing (which didn’t really hook me until the last page of the first issue, but once he got me, he got me good), Emma Rios & Nick Spencer’s Cloak & Dagger—which is PAINFUL for me to read, because I’m so crazy about Emma and I seethe with jealousy that she’s working with Nick… who I’m sure is lovely, but I kind of want to get hit by a bus, in the way that you wish horrible fates on your girlfriend’s new boyfriends.  Lucky for Nick, John Boehner and my own karma, I don’t happen to be psychokinetic, so I can give in to my baser instincts a little without actually risking anyone’s neck.

I wish I was reading a novel right now, but I haven’t had time.  I have an ARC of Maria Dahvana Headley’s Queen of Kings by my bed that I haven’t gotten to read yet and the book is already out!  What fun is an ARC if the book is out, I ask you??

Every once in a while I stroke it lovingly.

C!TB: I totally understand the ARC thing; I got an ARC of Alice Bradley & Eden Kennedy’s humour book Let’s Panic About Babies!: How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant Who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain, and Finally Turn You into a Worthwhile Human Being and so far it just sits on the shelf (on top of a Saved By the Bell comic Brandon found me).  It taunts me, though every time I have a chance to pick it up, it sends me into fits of laughter.  I absolutely recommend it, even if that’s just adding to your pile.

Kelly Sue: I love the title!  Have you read Happiest Baby on the Block?  I highly recommend that one if you’ve got an infant.  Though, honestly, you can just rent the DVD and get all the fundamentals.

C!TB: Neither of us at C!TB have children – I follow Alice Bradley’s writing, which is how I found her book – but I’m sure some of our readers are or will be soon, so I’m happy to pass it along!  Recently, I’ve been digging into A Game of Thrones on friends’ recommendations.  Have you checked out Grant Morrison’s Supergods yet?  I keep it on my desk at home to spur me to read faster so I can get to it.  The blurbs and excerpts I’ve read so far definitely make it sound like it’s a must-read for anyone who wants to talk about superhero comics ever again.

Kelly Sue: I haven’t read Supergods.  My favorite excerpt I’ve run across is the one about how a “prolific and popular comics writer could make the same amount [$20,000] in a week.”

Bless his heart, Mr. Morrison lives in a very different universe from ANYONE else I know… Except maybe Neil Gaiman.  Who could absolutely bring in that sum in a week, but wouldn’t do it writing comics.

02. SUPERHEROES, BRIEFLY

C!TB: Your take on Norman Osborn was one that we don’t see as often as we do his more supervillainous side.  How did you approach the character?

Kelly Sue: Carefully and from behind…?

Sorry.  That was awful.

Um… hm.  I’m not sure I know how to answer that question.  I guess I thought I was writing the same Osborn that Bendis wrote, the same Osborn that Ellis wrote in Thunderbolts…?  That was my intention anyway. If it didn’t work, I don’t want to know.

C!TB: Oh, it absolutely worked.  The Osborn you wrote is definitely identifiable as the same Osborn that Bendis and Ellis wrote.  I don’t know if it was your dialogue, the setting (no superheroes), Emma’s genius art, or a combination thereof, though, but this was the first incarnation of the character that absolutely truly scared me.  And kudos for that!

Kelly Sue: Aw, thanks man.  That warms my heart…which makes me a weirdo, I think.  But still.

C!TB: From Osborn, you went to something quite tonally different with Supergirl, which is so lovingly indebted to 80s teen movies.  What would “Kelly Sue’s Must Watch 80s Teen Movie Extravaganza” consist of?

Kelly Sue: Ohhhh, hm. Probably the same movies as everyone else, but let’s go… Off the top of my head, in no particular order, some of which are not really teen movies…

  • The Last Starfighter
  • Tremors
  • Goonies
  • Real Genius
  • Night of the Comet
  • Who’s that Girl?
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Heathers
  • The Lost Boys
  • Some Kind of Wonderful
  • Adventures in Babysitting
  • The Hidden
  • The Princess Bride

C!TB: I’m especially glad to see The Princess Bride on there!  It’s definitely one of my favourite movies, which makes it even more maddening that my office hires an intern every year and I’m just going into a third year sharing an office with a university student who either doesn’t it like or hasn’t seen it.    One didn’t even know who Peter Falk and Columbo were!

Kelly Sue: WHAT?!

Have you seen Wings of Desire?  (Most pretentious thing I’ve said today, btw.  Course it’s only 11:40 am here, so there’s still time.)

C!TB: I haven’t seen Wings of Desire yet, but seeing as how I have seen the Goo Goo Dolls’ video for “Iris,” which was on the soundtrack for the English-language adaptation City of Angels, I feel like I’ve seen the original already.

Kelly Sue: I… I… I…

C!TB: Now that I’ve given you a minor stroke, I’ll alleviate your worries of being pretentious by giving an even worse example: in university, I wrote not one but two papers about Disney fairy tale movies, including one where I compared the narrative structure of Aladdin to that of the original story in The Thousand and One Nights, complete with some Michel Foucault and Northrop Frye literary theory.  I also wrote on noir cinematography and detective pulp conceits, but that was just fun.  Ah, the life of a liberal arts student.  I’ll have to check out the few on your list that I haven’t seen.

Kelly Sue: So jealous.  I went the fine arts route. (I did audit a class on the cultural construction of the vampire, taught by a guy named Gudni, who was white as snow and wore black turtlenecks every day… in Texas.) Which ones haven’t you seen?

C!TB: On your list, I think I’ve seen everything except Night of the Comet, Some Kind of Wonderful and The Hidden.  

Kelly Sue: Man, I hope The Hidden holds up.  Here’s the opening car chase.

C!TB: Some of the others like Who’s That Girl? are far back in my metaphorical rear view mirror, but I remember seeing them way back in the mists of time.  Growing up in the 90s, however, has gifted me with a deep and abiding love for any kind of teen comedy from that era, from Empire Records to Can’t Hardly Wait (common thread?  Ethan Embry) with 10 Things I Hate About You making it just before the decade’s clock rolled over.

Kelly Sue: I had to look Embry up on IMDB.  (Sorry.)  You know he was on a TV series called Fear Itself?

C!TB: I didn’t!  Considering my deep and abiding love of both Embry and Marvel’s blockbuster summer event, I’m calling that kismet.

Back to Supergirl, how much did the recent authors’ storylines for the series impact how you pitched your arc?  

Kelly Sue: A good bit, I guess.  I was mostly trying to find a way to stay true to the established character and at the same time distinguish myself from what had already been done.

03. CASTLES IN THE SKY

C!TB: You’ve mentioned that Brian Bendis wrote the first 30 pages of the Castle/Derrick Storm OGN and you did the scripting for the rest of the book from Brian’s plan.  How much freedom did you have in the parts of the book you scripted?  What was (or still is) the back-and-forth and editing process of that like?

Kelly Sue: Brian was really great and gave me tons of freedom.  Maybe he’ll regret it when the book comes out, but for the most part, he read my pages as I turned them in and okay’d them.

C!TB: Does one of you “lead” the art review process or is it a team effort?

Kelly Sue: Because of some scheduling hijinks, I didn’t actually see pages as they came in–I’m not sure if Brian did either.  Long story, but that was handled on this book by our fabulous and capable editors.

C!TB: Is it different at all writing a favourite comic book property than it is a TV property?  What are other dream properties – TV, comics or other – you’d like to tackle some day?

Kelly Sue: Modesty Blaise.  But that’s the dream of me and half the universe.  The half that doesn’t want to write James Bond, I think.

And I’m not sure it was any different, honestly.  I guess… I had an actor solidly in my head, but… I’m not sure that made a real difference in the writing process.

The only thing that was really any different for me process-wise between, say, Castle and Osborn, was that I was trying to be an active student of Brian’s for Castle.  So, like, there’s a two page spread where I’m clearly aping his style.  And I am not as comfortable with internal monologue caption boxes as Brian is, so I had to consciously choose to use them so it didn’t seem like Storm’s inner voice suddenly went must after page 30.

C!TB: Did you learn anything specifically from being a student of Brian’s?

Kelly Sue: He is a master of the double-page spread and I am a chicken shit.  Does that qualify as a lesson?

C!TB: Of course!  Looking at other writers’ work and being ashamed of your own is simply a fact of life, or at least I’m telling myself that to save my own ego.  It’s like that Ira Glass quote that’s going around these days about how persistence and art consumption/taste are basically the only ways you become any good.

Kelly Sue: Is the Ira Glass thing going around?  Is there, like, a recording or a written piece?  [Ed Note: Yes, there isI had coffee with Wil Wheaton on Monday and he told me about it (Can we just stop here for a moment and acknowledge what a name-dropper I am? Yeah… I had coffee with my buddy Wil on Monday… If the Wings of Desire bit didn’t make you hate me, that ought to do it.) — I don’t remember how we got to it.  Something about… I dunno… beginner’s mind, maybe?  I think we were talking about strengths and weaknesses in our own work and the patience and perspective it takes to just trust that you’ll improve and… not be content with with where you are exactly, but not to waste too much energy lamenting it.  I guess being content with where you are in your evolution isn’t such a bad way of phrasing it.

Anyway, I was saying that I’d written more than ten thousand pages of manga adaptation dialogue before I got my first American comics gig.  So I’m pretty confident in my ability to craft dialogue.  I’ve put ten thousand pages in that pit, you know? And then I think Wil told me about Ira Glass and “the gap,” which is, I gather, the same idea, only less ham-fisted in its articulation.

I should google it, huh?

My pacing and plotting gaps still hunger for pages, I’m afraid.

C!TB: Care to tell the Derrick Storm actor you had in your head, or would you prefer to keep that private so it doesn’t influence readers’ impressions while reading?

Kelly Sue: Nathan Fillion!  C’mon.

C!TB: I’m kicking myself over not immediately thinking of that.  I’m really hoping something like that comes up in the series, as a fun meta joke.  I can’t remember, but I think you’ve said before (maybe on Word Balloon) that the comic itself will come up in the series.  Will it be credited on-air to you and Brian?  Will you be involved in anything past the actual making of the comic or will that be it?

Kelly Sue: Not me.  I think Brian might have a thing happening, but I’m certain I shouldn’t expound on that.

05. WHEREIN EYES ARE THREATENED, BUT WITH A GOOD REASON

C!TB: With so much being said about DC’s relaunch, its lacking of female creators & other issues of gender and diversity, we’re trying to take positive approach.  What can readers do to affect change?

Kelly Sue: I love you dearly.  Truly, I do.  i like your website, your twitter feed and your sense of humor.  I believe that you want to help.  I adore you for wanting to be positive.

But if anyone else asks me about being a woman in the comic industry this week I’m going to pop their eyes out with a heroin spoon.

Don’t make me take your eyes, James.  They’re beautiful eyes.  Let’s leave them right where they belong.

C!TB: Absolutely understood!  I’m definitely trying to keep my remaining working eye (long story), so I’ll do my best not to deserve the spoon.  I definitely understand not wanting to talk about it more for the time being, so my apologies for not guessing that before I asked.

Kelly Sue: You only have one working eye?!  Well now I feel like a heel for threatening the other.

Are you actually blind in one eye?  My friend Jane is blind in one eye–she was born with one blue eye and one brown.  She’s like a gorgeous version of David Bowie… though, honestly, David Bowie is a gorgeous version of David Bowie, isn’t he?

Anyway.  Your eye is safe.  In the future I will threaten your thumbs or something.

(Really, I just… it’s complicated, right?  Diversity needs to be discussed.  But not, right now, by me.)

C!TB: I am actually blind in one eye.  Childhood, “mild” hit to the head, partially detached retina, glaucoma, yadda yadda yadda.  Long story short, my tennis game is not particularly good for much other than my opponent’s laughs.  I didn’t get any of the cool Bowie-ness, sadly.

Kelly Sue: Let’s just pretend you’re Odin. Wait, does that work if you still have the eye?

You might have to cough up the eye.

04. JAMES AND KELLY SUE’S MEALTIME VARIETY HOUR

C!TB: What is your workday like?  Do you and Matt both work from home or in the same office?

Kelly Sue: We both work from home but we have separate offices.

Summer schedule:

I get up with the kids, generally around 6:30/7:00.  We hang out until around 9, when the sitter arrives.  When Fraction wakes up varies wildly, depending on when he went to bed.  Once Beth arrives I, take my coffee and go down to my desk.  If it’s a good, orderly week, I have blocks of time chopped out for various projects, if it’s not, I’m in panic mode. I usually start with email and try to set a time limit for myself so I don’t get stuck.

At 5pm, we knock off, send Beth home and play with the kids.  I usually make dinner.  After dinner, we have some family time (hello, dance party!) then Fraction gives them their baths while I clean the kitchen.  Story time, then bed. I go to sleep with the kids, Fraction goes back to work.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

C!TB: What dishes have you been enjoying cooking lately?  I’ve recently been dipping my toes into the world of pan-seared meats and homemade ice cream.  Last weekend I made a saskatoon berry chutney without a recipe that really surprised me with how good it was.

Kelly Sue: I love you for saying saskatoon.

Let’s see… I made some blueberry frozen yogurt and coconut crumble the other day.  That was pretty great.  I just a few minutes ago put some chicken breasts in the crock pot with onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, cilantro, ginger, coconut milk and broth.  I was just kind of throwing stuff in… no idea if this’ll turn out.  We might be ordering pizza–who knows?

(My confidence is waning a bit because I made some marshmallows over the weekend that weren’t very good.  And I took them to a party where a couple of teenaged girls tried to hide that they were throwing away the ones they’d bitten.  I wanted to chase after them and explain that I’d used the wrong pot and I couldn’t get the sugar to the right temp without it boiling over, consequently they were on too long too low… I came to my senses and decided just to live with the failure.)

C!TB: Don’t feel bad, I wouldn’t even attempt marshmallows; recipes always make them sound so finicky.  I’m scared of making/ruining candy in general – I really only make orangettes at Christmastime, since it’s only moderately easy to set my apartment on fire while candying orange peels.  Candy making is not for me and I admire you for even trying.

Kelly Sue: Given my recent failure, you’re not going to believe me when I say this, but they’re not that hard.

C!TB: I don’t!  Truthfully, I stick to savoury dishes more than sweet ones; I’ll make galettes now and again, or a pavlova with some jam, but roasts, savoury tarts, biscuits and vegetables (I make a mean layered ratatouille) are my wheelhouse.  I also made pea pesto for the last time last night, which I am bragging about because I spent too long shucking peas last night to not be at least a little proud of myself.

Kelly Sue: Oh, I hear you.  Have you ever made anything with fresh fava beans? They’re awesome, but you have to peel them TWICE.

C!TB:  I haven’t, and I don’t mean to point fingers, but you might have ensured I never do.  Actually, I’m really looking forward to making that lamb recipe that was in Casanova and posting the process and results as an article on the site when Avaritia comes out, under the CASANOVANAUTS banner.

Kelly Sue: Sweet.  Did you submit a letter for the new letters column?  You totally should.

C!TB: It’s been sitting open on my home computer for a few days now.  It might be a tad unseemly to just write, in all caps, “THANK YOU YOUR COMIC IT HAS BEEN A MASSIVE INFLUENCE ON ME I RECOMMEND IT TO EVERYONE I CAN,” you know?  I’ll figure something out.

Kelly Sue: Matt and I used to cook together more.  I miss that.  We should do that again.  With the kids, one of us is on baby duty while the other one is preparing the meal – save for once or twice a year when we make a Timpano.  The last two of those have been rushed though.

Wahwah.  Look at me with my beautiful happy family and dream job!  Don’t you feel sorry for me that we don’t get to cook together like we used to??

::sad trombones::

05. SHIT GETS SERIOUS, GUYS

C!TB: Some creators have mentioned that having children has had a big effect on their writing, in terms of the projects they take and how they tackle the actual subject matter – like gender and violence.  Have you noticed this with yourself?

Kelly Sue: It’s certainly affected what media I consume.  I used to love salacious violence–true crime crap.  Guilty pleasure.  I can’t stomach it anymore. And I get pissed when people use violence against animals or children (or rape) as a lazy writing device.  I did it myself once (I killed a dog to show that a villain was Really Bad) and I haaaate myself for it. It’s shit writing and there’s no excuse.

C!TB: I had a similar experience with crime procedural shows.  I spent two years working at an inpatient treatment program for convicted sex offenders and, while I learned all sorts of incredible skills and things about my own capabilities, it pretty much took away my ability to enjoy any true crime or crime procedural and absolutely destroyed my ability to stomach any kind of fictionalized sexual violence.  I never liked it, but now Law & Order: SVU will send me out of a room faster than anything.   

Kelly Sue: Oh… oh my god.

Holy shit.

I simultaneously want to pick your brain and beg you to never tell me a single thing.  Are you… okay?  Jesus.

I kind want to feed you spaghetti now.

C!TB: Don’t worry, I’m okay.  It’s definitely an intense work environment and they actually hired me afterwards to design some research on what kind of effects (“vicarious traumatization”) those environments could potentially have, but the combination of tremendous and supportive coworkers, necessary black humour and a long commute home really helped.  It was a great experience working there, but a few years of no longer having to hear firsthand descriptions of some of the worst things people can do to one another has definitely been good.  But yeah, needless to say, there are a lot of TV shows and movies that have become off-limits for me.  

Should you ever have any questions, feel free to ask me; I’ll answer as much as I am legally allowed to divulge.  And I’ll always accept spaghetti.

Kelly Sue: Okay.

Can I mail spaghetti?

06. I AM NOT TOO PROUD TO BEG, PEOPLE

C!TB: You’ve said a dream project of yours is a 70s-style revenge western comic done with Emma Rios.  First, please make this happen, we want to buy this.  

Kelly Sue: Well… okay.

07. WHEREIN C!TB GETS A NEW FAMILY, I AM HOLDING YOU TO THAT, KELLY SUE

C!TB: Finally, a C!TB tradition: Will you adopt us?

Kelly Sue: Yes. But you have to share a room.

C!TB: I call top bunk.

XX. THE PART WHERE YOU BUY THINGS

Wasn’t that great?  Talking to Kelly Sue was definitely just about the best thing this site has ever led to me doing, so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to run around the office pumping my fists in the air for a minute.

While I’m doing that, check out Kelly Sue’s author page at Amazon.ca (Americans, go here ; Europeans?  Work for it) and buy everything you can.  Just clean them out.  Should you want to empty the shelves at a physical store, visit your local comic book shop and remember to ask them to save you a copy of Castle: Richard Castle’s Deadly Storm on September 28th.

This isn’t an option.