2 posts categorized "Gabe Soria, guest blogger"

May 19, 2008

Do Something Boring*

[From the desk of Gabe Soria]


"The Rut" – it sounds like an epic boogie rock instrumental, doesn't it? A real choogly Leslie West-meets-Billy Squier jam. Well, I wish it was. To me, though, it's a daily challenge that I have to strive to get over. Most of us "creatives" probably have a similar story. Hell, that's arrogant – most people, period, have ruts they have to get over in their daily lives to allow them to continue what they're doing and keep on keepin' on.

But right now, as I start working on my next book for First Second with St. John Frizell and Simon Fraser, I'm concerned pretty much with my own Rut, my creative one. It's the impulse that drives me to distraction and frippery when I'm sitting at the old typing machine, trying to pound out some inspiration. The only REAL answer to the Rut, at least to me, is discipline – turn off that internet connection, don't check that email or that movie blog and just put nose to grindstone for hours on end.

Unfortunately, I'm a bad disciplinarian, and the Rut rears its ugly head again and again, from day to day. And when discipline doesn't work, I have to look to other avenues to help spur the creative impulse, and that's what this blog entry is about – things I use to inspire and push myself to actually get good (should that last word be in quotes) stuff done. And in the interest of brevity, I'm just going to drop one of the many methods I use.

One of my favorite techniques to spur creativity is to use Oblique Strategies, a method for spurring creative thought developed by one of my heroes, Brian Eno, along with the artist Peter Schmidt in the mid-70s. Taking the form of a deck of cards with a cryptic zen-like koan printed on each, the Oblique Strategies are little, gnomic pushes in directions you may or may not want to go with your work. Meant to be taken as seriously (or un-seriously) as you'd like, they're pretty neat little things – kind of like having a deck of tarot cards crossed with Yoda and a hyper-intelligent record producer in your back pocket. I was introduced to the cards through a scene in Richard Linklater's 1991 film Slacker, which is one of my favorite films ever and which might explain a lot.

Unfortunately, "real" decks of Oblique Strategies can cost quite a bit of money. You could make your own, if you're so inclined, but I just use an elegant little Dashboard widget for my Mac, available here:


But I'm thinking that soon I might have to switch to a completely analog version of everything – notebook for writing and real deck of Oblique Strategies for inspiration, because constantly going to my Dashboard to pick a card… well, it can be kind of distracting sometimes.

Gabe Soria

*(The title of this blog post is the motto on the Oblique Strategy card I pulled when trying to figure out what to write for this entry.)

More information about the Oblique Strategies:


Another Brian Eno creative inspiration game, in which he invented William Gibson/Neal Stephenson-esque sci-fi alter-egos for David Bowie and his band during the recording of the latter's 1995 album:


PS: Um, can somebody out there please do a comics version of the Oblique Strategies? Please?


November 19, 2007

Four Color Rock and Roll

From the Drawing Board of Gabe Soria


Comics and music have been inextricably linked in my head since the beginnings of my fascination with each art form. Where did it begin? Nelson Riddle's goony score and songs for the 1960s live-action Batman series? Spider-Man's catchy themes from his Ralph Bakshi animated days and his later mute incarnation on The Electric Company? That first fateful day I read an issue of Heavy Metal while Physical Graffiti droned on majestically, coincidentally in the back ground? Whatever it was, I can't imagine NOT wanting to put on some sort of record to accompany kicking back with a comic, and I'm astounded that more comics don't have soundtracks.

The purists out there might cry that pure comics don't need music to complete them. Well, they're right. You don't NEED music to make a complete comic book experience, but the right mood setter can make a great comic book even better. Artist and writer James Kochalka's band James Kochalka Superstar makes music that could be the pop music his violent robots and horny elves listen to on their radios; Craig Thompson's award-winning doorstop graphic novel Blankets actually has a very commendable original soundtrack of atmospheric instrumental indie rock by the Oregon band Tracker; and many comics creators are hip to the idea of listing the records that have informed their work in the back of the newest issue of whatever they're working on (Paul Pope's comics, with their name-checking of Nick Cave and being titled after pretty good boogie rock songs ("Heavy Liquid" by Thee Hypnotics) come to mind).

But I'm digressing. My point is: Why not more? Why aren't there more original soundtracks to comic books? Why aren't more creators listing the records that inspire them? Why don't more comics come with suggested listening?

Well, there's no reason why, which is why I'm suggesting the following recommended listening for some favorite comics (I'm stopping at two, because otherwise this erstwhile music journalist would go on forever).

Jack Kirby Comics


Unsurprisingly, the heavy-duty head trip comics of Jack Kirby (especially, but not exclusively, his Fourth World stuff) lend themselves to being sound-tracked by prog rock, doom metal and the like. I have no idea why more of his art wasn't featured on the side of custom vans in the mid-70s. Vaughn Bode and Frank Frazetta won THAT battle, I guess. The great stoner rock/acid metal band Monster Magnet wrote possibly the greatest, most to-the-point rock lyric about the world of comics in "Melt", the lead track from their 2001 album God Says No:

"And I was thinkin' how the world should have cried/
On the Day Jack Kirby died/
I wonder if I'm ill"

How awesome is that? Monster Magnet rontman/songwriter Dave Wyndorf LOVES to sprinkle the band's records with not-so sly references to "classic" (pre-emptive quotes for the contrarians out there) comic books and characters, including the utterly bizarre Marvel Comics villain M.O.D.O.K. It's a great lyrical conceit, since these references tend to make one remember some comics more fondly than they deserve, perhaps, and in essence make the listener actually CREATE beautiful Platonic-ideals of psychedelic comics from the 70s in their heads. Hopefully one day this will come full-circle and somebody will actually make comic books inspired by this stuff. (For the record, the world SHOULD have cried on the day Jack Kirby died.)

Recommendations: In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson; Dopesmoker by Sleep; Ladies and Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized; Spine of God, Dopes to Infinity, Powertrip, God Says No, by Monster Magnet

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen


I'm currently reading the long-delayed hardback graphic novel The Black Dossier, the second and a half volume of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's history of the creative world/literary superhero opus and am marveling at its formal gymnastics and pure storytelling chutzpah. It's really a marvel, well worth the thirty dollar (!) cover price on re-reading value alone, but I'm feeling a little bummed upon realizing the promised flexi-disc of a faux fifties rock song was not included. I'm assuming the twin boogeymen of enormous cost and lack of readers actually possessing a turntable on which to play the thing scotched the idea. Anyway, here's to it appearing online one day, or being issued by a VERY smart indie record label as a limited edition seven-inch. In my mind, the LOEG musically lends itself to the theatrical, the baroque and the circus-like, so with that in mind:

Recommendations: Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards by Tom Waits; a nice recording of The Threepenny Opera, preferably in German and featuring Lotte Lenya; Working for the Man by Tindersticks; Vol 1: Soft Emergencies by the New Orleans Bingo! Show; Trouble is a Lonesome Town by Lee Hazlewood


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