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Thursday, November 05, 2020 

Why screenwriter Rylend Grant turned to writing graphic novels

Monkeys Fighting Robots interviewed a film writer and graphic novelist named Rylend Grant on his new GN called Peacekeepers, and let's see what he had to tell them. For example, the people he thinks are geniuses:
Monkeys Fighting Robots: Well, first off, your comic BANJAX was nominated for four awards at this year’s Ringo Awards, including Best Series, so huge congrats on that. Combining that with your nominations and win at last year’s Ringos, how does it feel to receive that kind of recognition so early in your comics career? Is there anything you would attribute that critical success to?

Rylend Grant: My first published comic book series – the political action thriller Aberrant – won a Ringo Award last year for BEST VILLAIN and was nominated for two others… BEST SINGLE ISSUE and I was nominated for BEST WRITER along-side Scotty Snyder, Jeff Lemire, Brian Michael Bendis, and Brian K. Vaughan. Banjax was nominated for BEST SERIES this year along-side Bitter Root, Black Hammer: Age of Doom, and Something’s Killing the Children…
Oh, he thinks it's such a big deal to be "up there" with those overrated hacks, does he? Yawn. But what an eyebrow raiser he's got there with the citation of a "best villain" category at the Ringos (which were named after the late artist Mike Wieringo). I checked their website, where it was cited as a fan-picked nomination. Though there is a "favorite hero" nomination, I still find the Ringo staff's use of a villainous award category annoying, because of the bad influence I feel comes with the huge emphasis that can be found today on villains. I also tend to get wary of a story cited as political in nature. The next part is more interesting for what it says about moviedom today:
MFR: What can you tell us about PEACEKEEPERS? What excites you most about working on this book compared to your previous ones?

RG: The Peacekeepers is a story I’ve wanted to tell for 15+ years, but haven’t been able to. I grew up amid the Sundance movement. I saw Pulp Fiction and said, “Hey, I want to do that!” I went to AFI and got my snooty filmmaker education. But by the time I got spit out into the workforce, Hollywood stopped making those movies.

I spend my days writing big poppy action flicks now and it’s a great time, but there is this other, more cerebral side of me that doesn’t always get nourished. Hollywood is a frustrating place. What you’re allowed to do as a writer there you can essentially fit on a postage stamp. They’re only making about five different kinds movies these days. They want you to tell those stories in a very specific way. I’m pretty damn good at writing those movies, but I needed to find another outlet to stay creatively sane.

The beauty of comics is you can tell any kind of story, in any kind of way, as long as it’s GOOD… and I think this is pretty damn good. The Peacekeepers is my Pulp Fiction.
Depending on how and where you can publish it, yes, I suppose comicdom is the perfect place to tell any kind of tale. Certainly so long as you avoid the Big Two in their modern incarnations, because it makes little difference whether you can tell any kind of story there; they only hire people with a destructive view of their wares, not the least being the aforementioned Bendis, and look where he got Marvel in just a few years when he was working with them. Ditto DC and Superman.

It goes without saying the Big Two, by today's standards, want you to tell a story in a specific way, and that's not one intended to entertain, so much as to lecture, not to mention tie in with a company wide crossover at the expense of self-contained and plausible storytelling. And come to think of it, when Grant cites a fairly violent film like Pulp Fiction as an influence, the problem is that he's not much different from countless other filmmakers obsessed with producing violence-prone, R-rated action films, with Keanu Reeves another recent example of one who crossed to another medium. When they bring up Kickstarter funding, Grant said:
It’s such a wonderful time to take a book to Kickstarter. There is a rabid and wildly enthusiastic fanbase there. If your book is good, it will be embraced wholeheartedly… and you can actually make a few dollars! Seriously. Very few of us make money putting books in comic shops and when you’re dealing with creator-owned titles like these, you’re often sinking tens of thousands of dollars – your own money – into art and printing… the idea that you can go to a website and make some of that money back is earth-shattering/a game-changer for a lot of creators.
Well that's why a lot of corporate mainstream aren't being embraced by contrast - because the majority just aren't good, surrendered as they were to hack writers and editors with no respect for what made them work to begin with. Even so, the company Grant keeps is pretty suspect, as seen in his closing paragraph:
Anyway, we put our heads together and figured out a way to approximate that in podcast form. The show is called THE WRITERS BLOCK. It airs on a number of YouTube channels now (most notably the COMIC CORPS YouTube channel) and will make the jump to Apple/Spotify very soon. Basically, we get a couple of our fancy creator friends together and just throw a party for an hour or so. The fan/viewer is cast as a fly on that wall. We’ve had some really great guests on… Matt Fraction (Sex Criminals), David F. Walker (Bitter Root), Kevin Eastman (TMNT), Stan Sakai (Usagi Yojimbo)… It’s something that we really look forward to every week and it’s something we’ll definitely keep doing once this COVID ship rights itself. Look, 95% of comics podcasts are exactly the same… one hour, one-on-one interviews… How did you get into comics? What are you promoting right now? There are a few good ones out there. Don’t get me wrong. But we didn’t want to do that. This is something new. It’s something exciting. It’s something real. And folks really seem to be digging it. Tune in!
Fraction and Walker...there's 2 far-left writers I'd rather have nothing to do with, and that's why I won't be tuning in to hear them. Grant may recognize the vitality of writing quality, but the company he keeps isn't very encouraging. Good luck with his new venture, but I can't help feel he's another guy doing little more than push the same aggravating cliche of ultra-violence in entertainment, and that's only narrowing the variety of choices you could find on the market. If you can't emphasize fanciful adventure and escapism as an alternative, what good does it do to get into this medium as much as the movies when you're only continuing to push the same old thing in one as much as the other?

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About me

  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
  • I was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. I also enjoyed reading a lot of comics when I was young, the first being Fantastic Four. I maintain a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy in facts. I like to think of myself as a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. I don't expect to be perfect at the job, but I do my best.
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