140: Jaded regular readers

Hullo.

I meant to do this yesterday, but I decided to start my 2020 schedule with a full day of wrestling with a difficult hangover.

Arcana
Art
Once
Byyyyeeee!!!

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Just before Christmas we released the new version of the DIE RPG. It’s the updated version of the main manual (including a bunch of tweaks, typo fixing and some new rules) and the character sheets (including a new design, moretypo fixing and some new stuff.)

Most of all it’s the DIE Arcana (as seen above) which is a secondary manual of extra material. Some of it is aimed to help new players run their own games (with six walk-throughs of how six different GMs have ran their own games of DIE). Some of it is for GMs who want to run the game with completely different set-ups other than the one in the core DIE manual. There’s also a whole new extended magic system and three pre-generated scenarios for you to run. Plus some more essays on narrative structure and RPGs and all that jazz. Stuff for everyone who cares about DIE, basically, whether you play RPGs or not.

In short: a bunch of new stuff, for free. You can download it all here.

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Artists! Wanna do a thing in your spare time? We have a thing to do in your spare time.

Stephen Byrne and Declan Shavley dropped me a line a while back with an idea. We all talk in the abstract about how an artist’s choices change the nature of a comic script, but we sometimes suspect that’s something people only grasp broadly rather than specifically. The idea was that I should just write a single page story and then we’ll get various artists to treat it in their style, so show how hugely different the experience was.

We just decided it could be even more effective with more artists.

If you’re an artist and wants to start the new year with one page and think this sounds like a fun way to spend your line, drop me an e-mail to the wicdiv address and I’ll send you the script.

The deadline for finished art is 20th of January.

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Dan Mora drew the cover art for the Boom Xmas card and it is totally delightful.

I did a chunky interview about all things Once & Future over at Newsarama too. Lots of stuff about its future, bits of research and what it’s like to work with Dan.

Oh – we also had the Boom solicits for March, which included the first ONCE & FUTURE trade plus the start of the second arc. Here’s the solicitation…

ONCE & FUTURE #7
JAN201324
(W) Kieron Gillen (A/CA) Dan Mora
Although Bridgette and Duncan were able to escape the Otherworld, their adventure is only just beginning! As the chaos of Arthur’s return reaches London, an artifact at the British Museum is stolen. But is it Arthur who’s interested in the relic… or someone, or something, new?

Which is all very mysterious, right?

Finally, here’s Comicon’s annotations for Once & Future 5, which is going deeper into Galahad.

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Regular readers may expect my tracks of the year in this mail. Well, not all regular readers. Hopeful regular readers. Those more jaded regular readers know that you’ve basically got a 50:50 chance of it happening in the first week of a year, and this year it hasn’t. I’ve just had my attention elsewhere – I haven’t even managed to compile the shortlist from my various playlists. I’m looking forward to it. It’s always a focus on the year, a little perspective. What was I listening to? Why? What does that say about where I was? It ties the bow.

2019 on a critical and commercial level felt like a year with a bow on it. Personally, it often felt like a year with a noose on it, for me and my extended family. I could list three events which happened to the extended Gillens which would be enough to notably bad year. All three happened on the same day.

So the contrast between the critical and commercial success of almost everything I’ve written and the context it’s been experienced in has been difficult. That tends to be a theme in my creative work. My worst years personally are often breakthrough years in the work. 2006-2007. 2013-2014. 2019. The strain between the two is difficult, to say the least. I’d add that I would be wary about anyone out there thinking pain = art thoughts. Most of the work was in progress well before those periods (Phonogram, DIE) and some of the work born in those periods suffered because my head was on fire (Young Avengers, The Wicked + the Divine).

(Comixology’s sale is still on if you want to grab some of these, btw. The under-the-radar book that’s on sale was  Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt mini that Caspar, Hassan, Mary and I did. It did as well as anything else critically, but this will be the deep cut one. There is an irony that as a book that is about Watchmen, it’s very much my Flex Mentallo. It’s out in hardback soon, but at the moment, this is the only way to get it. Our five issues are entirely stand alone and I think it’s the best Superhero Comic I ever wrote. As DIE is to RPGs, Phonogram was to Pop Music, this is to comics.)

Still – even putting aside how the work was received in 2019, I was still in the rare position of being pleased with what I was doing. Like most creators, I normally look at the work in regret. 2019 doesn’t have that as much. 2019 may be the first year I felt like I was being the writer I was trying to be – at least, the first since 2000, and 2000-era me knew nothing. Of course, having done 2019, I already am on the move to try and find something else.

There’s still the rush of shame of talking about this stuff candidly. I think I sound like a shit, even if it’s objectively true I’ve been on a hot streak this year. When my friends have noted it’s been a great year for me, I’ve noted that it’s just a perfect storm. This year I got to finish big long projects (people like seeing plans end) and bring the new hotness (comics desperately loves new things for about 12 issues) especially from people who haven’t dropped their science in a while (I had done new major work since the start of WicDiv and Darth Vader).  Next year, by definition, won’t be as critically hot – DIE and Once & Future will be moving into “familiar” by the end of the year, and while I’m excited about the new work I’m dropping this year, it won’t have the pure rush of surprise due to this year.

Of course, this is also me being classically British and seeing all success in the context of ultimate failure and death. I don’t know. This is clearly all trying to both reduce the ego of all I wrote above, and emotionally protect myself when next year isn’t this year. Writers lie to you. Writers lie to themselves.

I spent Christmas with the family, which was lovely. As is traditional, I cleared my desk of work (Once & Future 7, Ludocrats 4, Project Bukowski) and spent time on a big new project. It’s PROJECT COWBOY and (as is equally traditional) I sent it off just after midnight. The second it’s signed off on, I’ll dive into it.

I sent the mail at Ram V’s party, watching fireworks explode over London. Shortly later (or possibly before – alcohol had rearranged time) I tried to explain how much I loved the entrance of Zhukov in Death of Stalin, by miming it. Caspar Wijngaard proceeded to film me doing it, and doing on the spot editing to nail the effect.

Here it is.

Happy New Year.

Kieron Gillen
London
2.1.2020