For more than a decade, I’ve counted my book-writing year to run from February to January, because of school break. And it’s late February, so it’s time to update you on what I’ve done all year.
I’ll start by noting that 2021 wasn’t great for writing, and my last year in review in fact arrived here two months late. You may have noted in the photo of me at the header of that blog post, I wasn’t even working on my book. Symbolism!
That sort of means that the “2022” book year was actually only 10 months.
Anyway, last year I noted that I needed to take a break from teaching, that there wasn’t enough time to do that and my other projects and also to write. I still was teaching in the spring when I stated that, so you might think the big time off would start as soon as that spring semester ended. But school is involved enough that it takes several weeks to unwind even in a normal year. The last day of classes isn’t the end of it, nor is filing final grades a few weeks later. I spent some of the summer and the fall managing syllabi and course assets for the people who were taking over courses that I had taught for many years. And there’s a big field trip the Animation department takes each September, and I did a bunch of work on that. I’ve long been involved with that project. Unfortunately, in the pandemic there were fewer people at school to help organize that trip, so yes, even though I wasn’t teaching, I was around a bit. This amounted to just about no writing in summer or fall.
That’s embarrassing. To step back from this job at the end of May and still not open up the ol’ laptop through December, basically. But there was a lot of the other normal stuff going on. And it was, somehow, a great year for writing. Here’s the breakdown:
Some days I’m at my shop, and every day I do something for it at home sitting at my computer. Plus we had four in-person events, each of which takes time to promote, set up, and run. If you’re curious, that’s Free Comic Book Day, a signing, a reading, and a party for a convention. I also took some initial steps to replace our computer and POS software, which meant research and Zoom meetings, to be continued in 2023.
And while the renovation of the shop is done, there was some construction-type work that took place behind Hub Comics that required attention. That’s done, and all good.
SHORT FILMS – HUB COMICS
Every Tuesday or so, I direct, write (or co-write), star (or co-star) in, edit, render, and post (or co-post — so many social media outlets) a one-minute video. I find that calling them “short films” is much more impressive than “60-second ads.” Here’s one with Darth Vader:
I realized after going overboard on costumes and make-up that I was definitely spending too much time on them, time better spent writing my damn book, so most of them are just me and an employee telling you about a few graphic novels. Here’s one that’s straightforward, and the right kind of silly:
These are a lot of fun to do, but I’m not sure they translate into many additional books sold, which may suggest slowing down the output or taking a few months off.
VIDEO ESSAYS – ATOMIC ABE
My creative partners in New York and a few freelance editors are more involved in the day-to-day, but I’m Executive Producer, so I get to make comments on all rough cuts. The black and white logotype below is is just a jpeg.
Rather than distract you with a live link to our winning combination of smart/funny, I’ll just state here in not-hyperlinked wording that we make video essays about film and television. I mean, you’re here for G.I. Joe, right? These are definitely not about G.I. Joe. Okay, okay, I’ll put some links in the first comment below, but if you’re wasting time on my G.I. Joe blog, shouldn’t you look at the Ice Viper painting or something? But the team researched, wrote, edited, and posted over a dozen videos, and our YouTube channel got 2.2 million views in actual-calendar year 2022. Plus two short films from earlier finished out their film festival runs and won some awards, although we’re focused on social media rather than festivals.
PODCASTING – TALKING JOE
Along with host and social media beast “No Last Name” Mark, I participated in I-believe-it’s 41 episodes of the Talking Joe podcast. (Again, this is mid-April to now.) That’s about 3720 minutes of talking about G.I. Joe. Most episodes were audio-centric (but still listenable on YouTube) reviews of new IDW issues of Real American Hero or 2004-ish Devil’s Due arcs. But a bunch were interviews that “Jingle Machine” Mark set up with a killer variety of Joe alums, past and present. Highlights include (these are all YouTube links, audio-only ones are available if you’re willing to scroll) Marvel EIC Jim Shooter, writer Larry Hama, toy designer Ron Rudat, writer/artist Tim Seeley, Hasbro VP Michael Kelly, cover artist Freddie Williams II, cover artist Jamie Sullivan, voice actor/poet Bill Ratner, the entire creative team of Saturday Morning Adventures, toy marketing VP Kirk Bozigian, and more.
I do wish to point out that with several guests who have granted many interviews over the years and appeared at many conventions, like Hama, Rudat, and Bozigian, we endeavored to ask questions you haven’t heard and cover less trodden material.
Some years I list books I’ve read that relate to toy history, animation, and comics, and we can pretend they helped my G.I. Joe book. I did read this year, but nothing that quite connects. Oh, David Bianculli’s The Platinum Age of Television and American Daredevil: Comics, Communism, and the Battles of Lev Gleason by Brett Dakin were great.
Along with Claudia Covert, Special Collections Librarian, and Bill Adler, Music Journalist and Hip Hop Documentarian, I participated in a panel at the Fleet Library at Rhode Island School of Design called Collecting Comics. I definitely mentioned G.I. Joe (also, spot the G.I. Joe book in the photo), but this connected more with teaching and selling and curating comics than with toy/comics/cartoons trifectas.
Let’s get back to things related to G.I. Joe. I posted 7 articles here at A Real American Book! That’s not many, but once again, I’m counting the year as a 10-month span. Ideally I’d post every two or three weeks, with a mix of art you’ve not seen and musings on G.I. Joe. I like how that last one, about final issues, turned out. A medium-length opinion piece that doesn’t require too much managing of scans and jpegs and fact checks made for a nice change of pace.
I attended Assembly Required and wrote all about it.
Separate from Talking Joe, I conducted one interview with that guy who helped build that particular website. I need this for Chapter 13 (or 14?). Indeed, one interview is a tiny number, but that’s been the natural trend the last few years: more writing based on existing interviews, less need for new interviews.
At last! A lesson I needed to relearn is that I need to get out of the house. Home is where I order books for my shop, or post to social media, or get distracted by a dozen things that aren’t writing. Most weekdays since the new year I have gone somewhere, most often a cafe a few subway stops away, opened my laptop, and worked on my G.I. Joe history book. Some of those sessions involved checking transcripts, which isn’t dramatic, but is important. For example, that sculptor I visited some years ago. I already had a draft of the paragraph on him that I wanted to add to Chapter 6 or so, but at his home I turned on the recorder and let it run for five and half hours while we chatted and looked at toys and paperwork. Will any of this make it into my book? Probably not. Did I need to make sure? Yes.
More importantly, two interviews that “Funky Bunch” Mark and I conducted for Talking Joe turned out to fill in gaps, so I had those episodes transcribed. But the meat of this entire blog post is the new writing and rewriting I’ve been doing.
For many years, when people have asked “how is the book going?” or “when is the book coming out?”, my reply has been that in addition to finishing the final chapter, I also need to revise the first ten. They were written so long ago that A) some new information has surfaced that needs to be incorporated and B) I wrote the back half of the book with more detail, and wanted to bring up the first half to match that. I’ve been intimidated about doing this, because I’ve been saying that Chapters 1 through 10 are “finished” for a long time — finished text and finished layouts. But that’s not true. They were never finished. They were finished enough for a first pass of the book while I was still writing the final chapter, not exactly knowing the shape of the whole thing. They were “finished” for 2009 or 2012, and it’s hard to go in and alter something actually finished or merely-in-quotations “finished.” But were always going to need more work. And that has finally started.
Anyway, what have I done all year? Added that art director guy to Chapter 1, a full new page. Added a new paragraph to Chapter 2, better introducing that figure designer, and another paragraph introducing that comics editor. Chapter 3 got a whole page on packaging and package art and a whole page on that jingle writer. Added two-thirds of a page to Chapter 4 on that theme song, and four paragraphs on the early issues of the comic, and paragraphs on video games. In Chapter 5 I highlighted a paragraph that may need to be cut down or moved earlier, and added a page on video games. Added and changed a few paragraphs on that comics editor and comics writer and some early/middle issues and the company that owned that company in Chapter 7. Found that place in Chapter 8 where that director’s quote needs to go. Added a paragraph on that comics writer’s philosophy in Chapter 9. And dramatically, I’ve gone back into Chapter 20, which was always missing a key voice. It’s the big wrap up, and now I have that material, so I’ve added many paragraphs and am hammering it into a first draft.
Also, most of these chapters have a few notes-to-self in them, like “MOVE TO PREVIOUS CHAPTER?” or “IS THIS WHERE YOU BRING BACK IN [SO-AND-SO]?”, so I’m starting to manage those.
More writing. Sending out forms to nice people who’ve lent materials. Getting published. But 2022 was good for writing.