And then it’s over
This was the issue I wrote to send off on January 1st 2020. You get it a year later. That feel like a distinctly Eternals mood.
Eternals is a Jack Kirby creation, which was folded into the Marvel Universe. It was drawing on 1970s Chariots of the Gods ideas, presenting warring alien-created species called Eternals and Deviants who had been mistaken by all the historical gods and demons.
This is a clean start. Jump on.
I say if you want to read something that exists, the Gaiman/Romita Jr mini and the original Kirby run are the first places I’d direct you, but the book is an entry into the world. I will explain to you everything you need to know as you need to know it. That journey is part of the fun.
Early reviews are out, which seem to have mostly enjoyed it. ComicsXF don’t do scores, so here’s a plug for their big review-o-chat and a round up of who all the Eternals are for those intimidated by not knowing ‘em. Also, Comicbook.com did one without a score too, And Games Radar.
I’m pleased people are going with us. Part of me was worried that it is a less going-for-the-throat than most number ones in the mainstream – we’re demonstrating what we’re doing in a controlled manner. There’s showing of potential, showing the scale of the ideas we’ve considered, and letting you meet folks. I think that’s necessary with Eternals – they’re not characters which people necessarily know that well, so you have to establish them and make people fall in love. We take our time. We show why we’re different.
I admit, we skew the odds heavily with what Esad Ribic and Matt Wilson bring to the page. I’ve worked with Matt a bunch with WicDiv, but it’s the first time I’ve had the honour of dancing with Esad. I’ve said he’s the premier fantasy artist working in comics today, and I don’t feel any need to take it back. Esad does scale like no-one else, and the pages he and Matt do here just stretch out in every direction – into the distance, into the past, into the future.
(I also aware that I worry about every single issue I put out, so this is all is all usual.)
Tonally, I’m trying to find a place for them in the Marvel Universe. Play their mysterious. Play their scale. Play their weirdness. Play their quirk. Be aware and enjoy the tension between these ideas. I couldn’t feel like a Thor book or a Guardians book or a Silver Surfer book or anything else. Trying to find something that is both straight-faced Epic with significant quirk is the main axis. I talk about Tron and Disco and Abba a lot to Clayton Cowles, who’s doing the lettering and the design pages, trying to get to the glacial sadness of the best of all that, the retro-futurism. There’s a choice with a narrator which came from me thinking about narrators in comics and what could be a fun angle. Weirdly, I find myself thinking of I, Tonya a lot when writing it, or even 24 Hour Party People. None of this will likely be visible to anyone else – it’s just all thought process. There’s also a lot that comes from my research of Tolkien in DIE, certainly – looking at the whole of the Eternals history and trying to make it feel like not continuity but mythology is very much in there. I don’t know if I’m ever going to do anything with Uranos, but in my head, he carries all the weight that Morgoth does.
It’s got a lot of covers. I think this is all of them? I can’t be sure. I can only count to 10, so this is all very confusing. I did an interview with Gamesradar here, which hits a lot of things I’ve touched in other interviews, but also catches me in a terribly fey mood.
Never Die. Never Win. Eternals.
Jamie did a huge newsletter, updating everyone with his 2020. If you’ve been following him when he’s been on twitter, you’ll know about his ADHD diagnosis, but this is an indepth look at everything. It’s a lot.
James Tynion IV has had a hell of a year, and did a three part round up for his newsletter, including his plans for 2021. The first part is the one to chew over – he lays out what he considers his principles for creation at the moment, which is always interesting. He’s asked
I’ve done a tracks of the year ever since the ancient period when my opinion about popular music may have been worth a damn. The traditional format was 40 – because 40 is a holy number in pop – arranged in order of preference. One track by each artist, can be an album track, gleefully otp justifications for why including a track from the previous year is okay, etc.
In the last few years I’ve made it less strict. I wouldn’t try to fill the 40 if I didn’t feel the need, and I wouldn’t necessarily write about them all. The point was to get it out in a reasonable time.
This year, I’m doing that but more-so.
As I talk about in the sign off, this year is going to require a lot of focus, and I need to get things off my to-do list as soon as they can be. Do I want to do a full Tracks of the Year list and go through all the tracks I’ve put in my various playlists and listen to other people’s lists to see what I’ve missed and try and pull something together? Sure. Do I want to do it more than write another chapter in the DIE manual, as it takes about as much time? Hell, no. It’s not a choice I want to make, but it’s a choice that you make passively if you try to do it all. This is the sort of thinking which I was trying to beat into myself when I wrote Dionysus in WicDiv.
As such, I’m going to lob a playlist to listen to. For once, it is in actual order rather than reverse order – so the first track is my track of the year. After that, it’s in order until I don’t write about something. From that point on, it’s just some nifty stuff I pulled together at various points. I know there’s a load I’m missing, but I didn’t go through in detail in my vague scratch pad. Maybe you’ll enjoy that – it’s not all 2020, but various “I wanna nose at this some more” is in here.
That said, in this trapped year, my music eye hasn’t exactly been keeping up. It’s been in a more internal conversation, and often looking back at stuff I missed, or didn’t give enough time to. Chart Music has made me think of how the Music Press essentially acted as an older siblings, and this deep-shallow-pop focus via a filter of Top of the Pop episodes has a bunch of my fave 90s Melody Maker journos has got me thinking about a lot of old music, and digging. Then Tom Ewing running the polls on People’s Pop has been a lifeline for a bunch of people, and a gateaway to a whole load of music.
I think the biggest missing hole I filled this year was the two weeks I spent obsessed with Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, which as someone who was both a Midlander and a Metalhead is a weird fucking hole to have just lurking there. I suspect the fact they are arguably the most Midlands band of all time may have been part of it.
(Side point: Generally speaking, if you are a spotify user, if you don’t own your most listened to albums or tracks, buy ‘em. I’m going to try and be better at this.)
Anyway – here’s some writing on some of them. Playlist below.
9) WAP (Funk Version) – Jay Diggs
While the original WAP is one of the tracks of the year, I first heard this at the exact moment when I relaxed into the party at the virtual Thought Bubble dancefloor this. Ivan dropped it, I realised what it was and it was like an oceanic warm bath, which summed up the whole night. The only time I went dancing. Mainly chair-dancing. Mainly. I miss you all. The full playlist for the night is here.
8) The Rot in the Field is Holy – Feminazgul
It’s been a hell year, so there’s been some a significant part of music which sounds like it emerges from hell, filling the sky with bloody wings. I discovered the Eastern-orthodox-tinged Black Metal of Batushka’s 2016 Yekteniya. Mer lead me to this absolute howl of a band, which has a pun name, and a reference in the album title (“No Dawn for Men”) and it just brings it all together. It reimagines re-imagine a cherished landscape in a whole new way, and I shiver.
7) Science Fair – Black Country, New Road
I’d loved their previous Sunglasses, but this was brought to my attention by an old 90s bandmate who thought they sounded like what I was trying to reach towards. I was both complimented and offended, and when I hit the “Just to think I could've left the fair with my dignity intact/And fled from the stage with the world's second-best Slint tribute act” and realise he may be onto something. I wish I could have done this.
6) Who Are You – Diet Cig
Yes, I remain someone who would march into the very abyss if someone told me there were handclaps down there.
5) the 1 – Taylor Swift
When I did that Spotify Analysis Mockery Thing it made me smile for various reasons, not least the bot not realising someone listening to both so much Taylor Swift and Sisters of Mercy deserves some special teasing. She had a good year – going lowkey was the obvious move after her last few, but it doesn’t make it a wrong one. I remain amazed every time she drops the “In my defence/I have none” line in this, which is just wonderful writing.
4) I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go Into Space – Fightmilk
No handclaps, but there is a part of me which always is going to root for anything which sounds like it was a Fierce Panda single, with an overlong title, a mixture of fuzz and melancholy and a whole lot of geek namedropping references, but also a whole lot of geek namedropping references as a metaphor. Metaphors are amazing. “Watching interstellar/didn’t make it better” has some pure 2020 feels.
3) I Disagree – Poppy
In another year, I think this could have been my track of the year. The pugnacious fuck-you blend of the sharp and the sweet was very much how I was feeling. I think I joked that the video would be basically be what I’d be like when I walked into the Marvel Summit. “Kieron! Why are you wearing a spiked collar and red shoulder-high PVC gloves? Kieron… Get down off the table!” That disappeared, and the playful nihilism of this became something I that wasn’t as much fun to flirt with. Still – when it’s there, this is there for me.
2) Tin King – Ultraista
Conversely, this was an instant lockdown record for me, transporting me to wandering, late night, half-drunk, trying to find my way back to Shoreditch station from Old Street, the strobe lights and the club soundsystem still shaking through me, building and echoing and the pace of just moving, moving through those streets. So strange to have a fantasy about something that was once commonplace. The real shock was when I found the video was 100% just wandering around that exact are of London.
1) You’ve Had Me Everywhere – of Montreal
And I think, “We’ve come a long way”.
I only got into Of Montreal late, a few years after 2006’s Hissing Fauna You Are The Destroyer. That came to me exactly the right time, which means exactly the wrong time. It’s an album which is just falling apart. It’s a hot mess. It exists at the moment when you’re a cord pulled and pulled and pulled and you know in every part of you that in exactly no time in the future you will snap, and you will be both free and over.
14 years later, the album UR Fun finds Of Montreal in an actively poppy place. Kevin Barnes sounds happy and playful, or at least as happy and playful as Kevin can. This is a pure love song, but clearly one which has travelled to get there. I’m reminded of the reason why PJ Harvey’s Good Fortune is so good - because it implicitly admits that it is good fortune, and if one can have good fortune, one can have bad, and likely have and likely will again. There is a lot of that here.
There’s a lot of songs which use the throwaway idea that life is meaningless without someone, but I can’t think of any which are so obsessed with it, so willing to try and keep it in its head – and do that when you’re in the heart of it rather than having lost what made your heart beat. We get Kevin trying to shrug it off – I don’t even want to think about that – and clearly failing, because iof they’d succeeded, the song wouldn’t have been written. It would be saccharine if it wasn’t a sweet constructed with a black hole in the centre.
(As the song says: “Diamanda Galas said that mortality is insulting/And now I tend to agree.”)
In a year where I did nothing bar being locked away with a precious human, besieged by death, You’ve Had Me Everywhere absolutely bottled my feelings. I’m lucky to have survived to be here, but it is luck, and knowing that dice are rolling is nothing but petrifying.
The holidays basically went to plan. I took it slow, and I did work which wasn’t strictly speaking essential. My project to tie off and send just after midnight was a Spec Script. My agent has been telling me to do one forever, and towards the back end of last year I realised that he was right. Or rather, I always knew he was right, but him being right aligned with my own internal metrics. There was also bits of DIE RPG writing, plus me explicitly playing an actual videogame for a significant period of time for the first time in years. Hades, for the record, as I was finally ground down by you lot.
I’m still early, but if anything bad happens to the Medusa, I will murder everyone in the entire world.
This week was my first step in. I decided to spend this week with Eternals, and may actually press into a second script next week. I know if I have a good January in terms of getting things written everything else becomes easier later in the year, and this is a year where I really want to create as much space as possible.
My list of projects I mentioned is the map there. I can see what I need to do by when for certain other things to happen. That a lot of the things on the lists are things I can’t be sure will happen or not makes it even worse. My fear is that I won’t be able to get DIE RPG finished off, because of all the things, that’s the one which could slip. That something can slip means it’s the one which is always sacrificed. I don’t want it to. As such, I need to be more organised than usual.
I’ll likely write about some of my work methods down the line. My new keyboard is helping a lot.
Right – I still need to go back and write a bit about the tracks of the year, and then onto some rewrites on (er) something? Yes, something.