Give the Devil His Due
Sometimes You Have to See to Believe
Here’s what you get with every Into the Storymaze: writing insights or a work-in-progress; something creative I’m digging; a highlight from my comics-writing credits; plus a quote that’s got me thinking — both about right now and what’s next.
Twisty Little Passages
OK, this wasn’t the intended second episode. But a Storymaze is rarely predictable. That’s its appeal, to me — and sometimes you gotta go where it takes you. More than one reader of last week’s Into the Storymaze took me to task for not enough detail on creating Daredevil #300 — the milestone issue that wrapped the “Last Rites” story, more popularly known as “The Fall of the Kingpin.” A rapid return to that tale isn’t for the end-all, tell-all of that particular issue and the storyline that led to it. Or to change my well laid plans 🧐 in order to keep readers happy. (I’m looking at you, Evan and Steve W.!) I see it as a lesson (for me, at least) in the value of literally inserting yourself into a story. Here’s one angle (or many) on creating that issue’s climactic fight scene.
That modern day sheen of chrome and neon and Krispy Kreme outlets can't hide the Port Authority I first met. When theaters with double bills of "Maniac Cop" and "ET" and businesses built on XXX promises flowed like a crusty river down 42nd Street to deposit their vice into the crime-grime-diesel-fuel delta that was the bus terminal at 8th Avenue in New York City.
I admit my perception was forever twisted by the law officer I sat next to one night, on an outward bound journey. After his Dirty Harry hand cannon slipped into view, he assured me, "It's cool, I'm a cop." I nodded in eager agreement — I was trapped on the inside seat, don'tcha know. He then proceeded to school me in the terminal's history of rape, murder, kidnapping and other shadows reaching out from the garage's creepy corners. "Have a nice trip back to the city, kid."
What better setting to unleash the devil? Specifically, the superhero Daredevil. At that time, I had the privilege of fashioning stories that tapped the raw power of comic book mayhem, staging combat between great forces of good and evil. Milestone issue numbers are excellent places to line up events of import, and Daredevil #300 was to be a monumental throwdown between the hero and his long time adversary, Wilson Fisk — the Kingpin of Crime.
But how best to stage the hostilities? Better known, higher paid comic auteurs had gotten away with writing, "Pages 12 to 28 — they fight!" — and left it to the artist to figure the incidents and angles. That seemed lazy… and disrespectful to my illustrator-partner, the ferociously talented Lee Weeks. Mad respect — and the detail of an epic battle — was inside the Story Maze.
That's where you go deep into a situation, a concept — in this case, a location. You're making a choice to mine its twists and turns. Because the act of purposeful exploration is where you discover the rich and unique narrative that is going to impress and stay with an audience. In the case of the good, the bad and the Port Authority, this meant I would literally walk the fight.
Pre-dating The Google for ready reference, it would be my eye, my camera capturing visual beats that would translate into sequential storytelling. Greedy eyes targeted my pricey photo gear and my seeming lack of guile.
But with my dear friend Bill Battle (an alliterative comic book name if ever there was one) literally watching my back, I could turn down my inner city radar and tune in to craning over precipices and squeezing into crevices. Hunting opportunities that would inform and inspire Lee.
What did I find in those dim lit passages, under flickering fluorescent? Clanking escalators to create narrow avenues of pursuit. Structures to shatter and crash and smash. Living dialogue in the jeers and rants and threats and tears of broken people.
What did I bring out? Anxiety and exhilaration to channel into a proper page-by-page, panel-to-panel. The rhythms of conflict that elevated the action from mayhem to meaning: a showdown that honored their relationship and served the characters.
Wondering how it all went down between Big Willie and hornhead? I made sure the devil got his due. Privileges of being the writer. :)
However and wherever your story journey takes you…
There's a bit of an artist in all of us, we're all creating something: writing, film, that Bob Ross inspired canvas, a new biz plan, a craft, a crafty plan to take over the world. What's also true is the existence of that devil "Resistance" who is looking to trip us up. Those are the opposing forces that The War of Art calls out and motivates you to overcome.
The book's three parts define Resistance; encourage you to step up to combat; and be ready and willing to open yourself up to the Muse that's out there, waiting to bring you something good. It's not so much a "how to" as it is a recruitment to "fight for your art."
One of the best I've read, and one I often cite to other creative spirits — of all walks. I gifted my copy to a shared business bookshelf at a gig 4 or 5 years ago, thinking I'd "absorbed" its lessons. Kicking myself over that — should have stayed selfish ! — and now I’m thinking it’s high time to reclaim a copy, to keep hold of this time.
The Comics Labyrinth
Legends of the Law was intended to bring the Mega City adventures of 2000 AD’s ranking lawman — the uncompromising jaw in a helmet known as Judge Dredd — to a U.S. centric audience. I was jazzed to take a crack at the character, indulging in his world of wild action, pulp scenarios, and tough guy humor.
Mega City’s weird sci-fi vibe allowed for some fast and loose futuro-fun — in this case, genetic engineering that spawned an insectoid baddie that needed putting down. And the many years of backstory and mechanics of the Judge judicial system provided good fodder for Dredd to contend with old allies (that is, ones I’d newly invented for this story), as well as scheming up-and-comers. Naming the ultimate foil “Quisling” was way too on the nose — but I’m sure I thought I was being sooo erudite clever.
This cover was one of a multi-part storyline, and I’d like to have done more — there was a sense I was being considered for just that. But as comics work got less consistent after the mid-nineties comics market crash, I got to feeling — and acting — a bit woe-is-me. I’m sorry to say I let that take me down a bad path in terms of work ethic, in this case. I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself with an uncharacteristic lax attention to deadlines. Lesson learned, judgement rendered. Dredd would have put me down, rightly so.
Web of Intrigue
“We [fiction writers] are much more of a maze than we are a motorway. Things are always in flux, they're always in movement, they're always twisting back on each other. I think the straight line is such a lie.” — Jeanette Winterson
How’d we end up here together? Maybe a detour off the dark web! But I’m hoping it’s because you subscribed to this share-out of projects I’m working on plus things that have me jazzed. I’m D.G. Chichester. Which sounds very pretentious, and tweed jacket and pipe — so feel free to just call me “Dan”, and have a go at the last name as Chai (like the tea) Chester (just like it looks). I earned my word-cred writing comic book titles like Daredevil, Terror Inc., Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD and Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, along with all manner of digital widgets and websites in the world wide web of advertising. I keep my storytelling cred by trying new things — this is one of ‘em. I like weird and sometimes creepy tales, so if things here bend that way — now you know why!
Folks seem to like the comic book adventures I’ve written, so if you haven’t checked one out — please do. Many are now available in fab collected editions.
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