Two shaggy haired, semi-bearded men of nearly thirty-one sit across from each other. The interviewer is dressed in a corduroy jacket, twill pants and an Oxford shirt unbuttoned at the neck. He sits cross-legged upon a floating vibranium chair, while the writer sit at the opposite end of a polished onyx rectangle in a flannel shirt and blue jeans. Spread before them are an array of bagels, pickled, salted, and smoked fish, heirloom tomatoes, and cream cheese. In the distance the Earth drifts across the slick black cosmos like a drop of water suspended in motor oil. Here at the citadel of Uatu, in the blue area of the moon, our talk begins.
Interviewer: So first and foremost thank you for bringing this spread. I don’t typically eat during these things for fear that I will get something in my teeth, but obviously that’s not going to matter today is it?
Scott Buros (Looking at the large evergreen chive that blots out the interviewer’s front tooth): No not really, because the original idea for this was to have someone cartoon our exchange, but that became impractical.
Interviewer (taking off his coat and draping it over the chair behind him before rifling through the box of bagels like a pre-computer secretary going through a file cabinet) Let’s start there. Why not draw it yourself? Not that I’m complaining. It’s nice not to be hungry during this exchange it’s just. (waving his hand towards the distant earth) It’s quite a setting.
Scott Buros: Well, fewer people want to see my art than want to read my text. This year in comics has actually made me a better artist, at least when it comes to drawing with my two-year-old, however, I’m not much better than her. I agree this is quite a setting though, and given that the Watcher was recently killed I figured, why let it sit empty?
Interviewer (holding a pickled herring high above his head with his thumb and forefinger and then lowering it into his mouth) Well said. ( He consumes another herring in the same manner) So what were your goals when you set out to write this blog?
Scott Buros: The adoration of millions, treasure unimaginable, a cameo as an Asguardian in a Thor: God of Thunder comic that then becomes a part of the next Avengers movie, and a squadron of cosplay Emma Frosts, Elizabeth Braddocks, and Jean Greys vying for my attention.
Interviewer: (Unbuckling his belt and then preparing another bagel. Sesame seeds from the last one have pooled into a dimple in his dress shirt. A liberal blotch of cream cheese edges the corners of his mouth.) Did any of that happen?
Scott Buros: No. And in truth I didn’t really expect any of those things to happen. I did get what I really wanted out of the experience however, which was several ideas for the next writing project I want to do, a whole lot better understanding of how to tell a story, and a treasure trove of Marvel comic book knowledge that makes me slightly more annoying to discuss the current film landscape with, and slightly more helpful at trivia contests.
Interviewer (swallowing the remnants of the last bagel and perusing the table, ultimately settling on a package of smoked salmon that he opens, removes the contents of, and folds around three tomato slices, eating the entire thing in two bites.) I’d like to ask you about each of those three things, because I want to know how they actually benefit you and what you’re going to do with this new found information. Let’s start with everything you learned about comics and Marvel comics themselves. Did your vision of the Marvel Universe change over the course of your reading?
Scott Buros: Oh it absolutely changed. I knew very little of what went on in the Marvelverse prior to this project, except for the handful of things I’d picked up when I was 11 and most of that was from the old X-Men cartoon. Now I can talk intelligently about the status of mutants in the current Marvelverse, and about what exactly the Illuminati does, and I know the rough geography of both the local and cosmic marvel worlds, but that’s not really the best part of what I learned about reading comics during this last year.
Interviewer: (rolling several sardine fillets inside a piece of smoked salmon and then swallowing the whole pink cigar) Well by all means tell us what that was.
Scott Buros: Well what I learned was a whole lot more about what kind of comics I like to read and what sort of characters I really don’t have much interest in. Before this I liked the mutant world, and I still enjoy spending time with those folks. In fact, I still have a hard time not reading just mutant stories because I like the familial aspect of those books so much. Mutants are the outcast community that I most identify with in the Marvelverse, but just as I realized when I was in college that everyone I went to high school with, from the most popular student to the biggest pariah was a person and that it was possible that they were a person who could be my friend, I had to open up my mind to the idea that every character in the Marvelverse might be my favorite character as I quickly found myself adoring the likes of Thor, Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer, and even Man Thing who I still just want to know more about.
Interviewer (taking the lid off of a tub of cream cheese and then plunging a bagel into it) A couple of times this year you’ve spoken about the role of humor in storytelling. Is this one of the lessons you learned during this last year? And as a follow up, what else did you learn about the craft of writing?
Scott Buros: Well, I ‘d already had a very good writing teacher in college who ‘d convinced me that you can’t have a story without the charisma and introspection humor brings. However, comics were a nice reminder to actually try and edit the humor down to the jokes you think work or matter. That was part of a larger lesson I really learned though about cutting text in the editing process. I still write too many words on many of these posts. This post for example is on pace to go well beyond the goal I set for myself of 1500 words or less per post, but I finally found the place I need to go to when I want to do more than trim fat from a written work and actually cut out whole sections of excess so that the important parts can shine through.
I also finally understood something that I’ve heard a lot of writers say in the past, which is that you really have to sit in all the chairs and try to figure out what each character wants out of a scene. It’s still very hard for me to do this, but I’m excited to try again on my next writing project. In comics this is just so much easier to see, because you have these characters who have such long and storied histories, and often times they have to reference that history so that you understand why they are making the choice they are, because that’s part of the contract comic book writers have agreed to with comic book readers, that if a character makes a choice, they are going to take their entire experience into consideration when they make that choice. So when Cyclops decides to forgo the teachings of Charles Xavier after spending his entire life following them, he doesn’t make that decision just because Brian Bendis or Jason Aaron thinks that would be a fun choice for him to make, he makes that decision because his life experience has led him to that decision and he references the key points in his biography, the fallout of M day, his absorbing the Phoenix force, his losing his wife and child and countless team members, guide him towards that choice.
The last thing, and I think the most important thing I learned from comics is also tied to this idea that you need to place yourself in all the character’s spandex, which is that my characters need to be asking far more questions, because if I’m really seeing things through their laser blasting eyes, then I wouldn’t know what is mapped out for them ten minutes down the road let alone ten day or ten weeks. The fact that my characters don’t ask a lot of questions in my stories means I’m not asking a lot of questions when I’m writing a story, and if I’m not asking a lot of questions that means that I’m not giving my story an opportunity to take on a life of its own.
Interviewer (with a fork he cleans and stacks the meat from two smoked carp, which he then squeezes an entire tub of cream cheese onto before eating the whole mound of food in golf ball sized wads that he rolls between his thumb and fingers. The buttons on his shirt have begun to tense around his midsection and as he inhales and exhales the bits and bobs that have fallen onto his lap through the meal begin to fall either onto the floor or into the small opening in his shirt front caused by the tensing buttons.) So you might ask then why am I eating like such a hog today?
Scott Buros: Exactly. Although my initial thought was that it was because no one can see us since I’m not drawing this, and I thought I might need some sort of gimmick to liven up what some might consider a dry interview, and what I might consider an embarrassing writing piece.
Interviewer: (Surveying the table which is a landscape of bones, foil covers, and crumbs. He plucks one of the foil covers off of the table and licks the cream cheese off of it.) Well see that’s why you need to ask. I’m eating because I have low self-esteem and I’m terribly sad that I can’t eat like this all the time and still look like a presentable member of society. (as if punctuating his sentence one of the interviewer’s shirt buttons pops loose and bounces off the window. He shrugs and shakes his head) Is there anything that makes you sad about this being the end of your journey?
Scott Buros: Well just like your relationship to food its complicated. I can’t say I’m not excited to write about something new, someone other than myself, since ultimately this blog was as much about me and my family as it was about comics. At the same time it isn’t like I have to give up on comics completely just because I’m no longer writing a comic book blog. I’m going to keep reading comics, Marvel as well as several non-Marvel titles I’ve set aside over the last year. Hopefully I also get to still write about comics once in a while too. I’ve put some feelers out to write comic book reviews over the last month, so we will see how that goes.
Interviewer: (taking a second piece of foil and licking it clean before placing it atop the previously cleansed one) We’re almost done here, that is, unless you have another spread on order, but you haven’t mentioned that so I assume you don’t. However, before we go, while I digest a little, can you talk briefly about what you plan on writing next?
Scott Buros: Well whatever I write it will be a work of fiction, and it’s going to be very fictional. What I mean by that last part is that I’m not quite ready to delve into serious realism, which is a bit surprising because I’ve spent so much time in the world of fantasy that you’d think I’d be over-served on space adventures and time travel and gods and monsters, but perhaps I’m at the time in my life when reality is a shade too real, too stark and pale compared to the world I see my daughters starting to discover. Instead I’d like to write a book for my girls I think. Heck, maybe a series of books. I’m thinking it’s going to deal with a number of fictional worlds, because one of the things I enjoyed the most about all the realms of the Marvelverse is the world-building that went into them. To construct landscapes like these seems like the correct adventure to take now that I’m armed with these new found writing tools.
Interviewer: (taking a napkin and from the table he attempts to tidy himself, first by brushing the crumbs off of his shirtfront and then by wiping his face clean. He runs his tongue across his teeth three times to make sure they are free of debris and then he takes a second napkin, spreads it wide like a picnic blanket, and drapes it over the opening in his shirt where he’s lost his button.) One last question. What was the best thing about this writing project?
Scott Buros: Well like I said, I learned a lot about comics and writing and about myself and where I plan to go, but the best thing about this writing project was all the thank you’s I got to write. Sometimes these were pretty straight forward fan letters like what I put together for Jason Aaron and Alex Pappademas, and sometimes they were more subtle love letters to my wife and kids and family and friends. The two pieces I’m probably most proud of are the Howard the Duck piece and the Annihilation Lunch piece, both of which were the sort of homage’s to those members of my extended circle who I really adore. I suppose that I can say the best thing about this writing project was that I got to have moments like that, which were only partially earned by me sitting at my laptop every day despite whatever madness was going on in my life, and were partially earned by my family who put up with me sitting at my laptop every day when they would much rather I were contributing to the household in some way. I really can’t thank them enough for that.
Interviewer: (Subconsciously pinching crumbs off the table and putting them into his mouth he looks at his reflection in the window that shows against the black of space) That seems like a good place to end. Thank you for your time and for the food. And if I can give you just one piece of advice. When you do find yourself placed before a great spread like this one, gorge yourself, because you don’t know when you’ll ever have such an opportunity again.