Sketch Fridays #31 – Logan
Although it has been nearly a month since Logan was released to theaters, and even though I’ve seen the film twice, I still can’t gather my feelings and thoughts together into a cohesive, singular response. To be honest, I may still be exhausted from the long talk I had about it on my nerd discussion podcast, A Podcast [ , ] For All Intents and Purposes, where I shared my thoughts about the movie as well as pondered its context within the greater superhero cinema (and my frustrations with both the praise and the criticism the movie drew). The audio link connected to this post is the isolated segment about Logan, in case you wanted to listen to it (though I heartily recommend you go subscribe to the show on iTunes or through whatever podcast feed system you use). My bottom line, however, is just another voice amid the chorus: I very much liked the movie.
More than that, it was inspirational.
My basic approach to creating Long John has been equal parts planning, improvisation, and focused revision. A lot of that was intentional because I didn’t want to sit and deconstruct my favorite westerns or other movies and ask, “What are the best parts from each?” and then compile them into a 150-page genre-referencing pastiche. I wanted it to be “a D. Bethel comic,” representative of my own, innate values and tendencies about storytelling, tone, and theme (and I’m proud to say that it very much is). However, because of the requirement to rely on my own talent and understanding of this world and these characters, I also put a lot of stress on myself. Even though I know I can tell a good story, there’s part of me that still doesn’t trust that I can write a good story. So, there has always been a part of me trying to lay down the track that will lead me all the way to the station at the end.
Up until now, I’ve had broad strokes in mind. Some parts were outlined while others were still gauzy collections of images that I was confident would be sorted out later.
What watching Logan did––and why I’m thankful for it––is tell a completely sober, character-focused story while still being bold and big and a bit ridiculous, too (all terms I would easily use to describe Long John). I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m not a plot-heavy writer. I like characters and watching them move forward; I like getting into people’s personalities and showing their flaws and nuances. I like to break them down and build them back up (for readers of my previous comic, see this in action with the character Ninja Dan’s arc through the storyline, “3-Ring Bound”). That is exciting for me, even if all of that happens during the course of a car ride. That is what Logan does to its title character and it’s really kind of beautiful.
It showed me that a character-focused story (again, the plot is pretty simple, much like Long John. In Logan, the plot is simple, “He takes a child north”) but its success proves that simple can be engaging if the characters are rich and volatile enough. Rather than being a direct influence, Logan ended up being the pep talk I needed. And now, Long John‘s track runs all the way to the station and I couldn’t be more excited about getting the train there.