The Singapore Toy, Game & Comic Convention (STGCC) is just a day away, and I had the chance to have a quick chat with one of their invited guests Nick Spencer, at the STGCC media preview.
The comic book writer is responsible for the insanely engaging Morning Glories series, about a gang of misfits at the Morning Glory Academy, a prestigious prep School. And of course, Spencer wrote the highly controversial Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 where he turned America’s boy scout into a Hydra Agent which resulted in a lot of negative online feedback to the point of death threats.
The former politician – he ran for the Cincinnati City Council as a candidate of the progressive Charter Party – tells Geek Crusade his perspectives on how to handle negative feedback, the state of representation in the comic book industry and his love for storytelling.
Q: What is the difference between the creative decisions in writing Morning Glories and Captain America?
It is a different set of muscles. Morning Glories is a little more personal, and we had a little more freedom as we owned the characters. Nobody told you what can or cannot be done with those characters.
I also enjoy working on Marvel characters. You’re trading on the currency of what past creators have done. You’re adding on to the legacy of the broad appreciation of these characters. I enjoy both a lot.
Q: You like to pepper your characters with mundane things to do, like in your Ant-Man and The Superior Foes of Spiderman stories. What is the inspiration for that?
I like writing comedy, so that helps. Also, I find that the comedic books are more realistic. These characters are also human beings and it is fun to think what a life of a superhero would be like in a practical sense. Like, we don’t consider often like, how they would pay their bills, or where they get their equipment. And these questions point towards the absurdity of the genre.
There is a suspension of disbelief that comes with any superhero story, and comedy in a superhero story is pushing back on that and how you ground the character in the real world. I grew up reading books like The Tick and Justice League International, which was the inspiration for Superior Foes and Ant-Man.
Q: Has your political background helped you in your comic book writing?
Maybe a little bit. Like with the Sam Wilson Captain America book, which is very topical. Being a political junkie helps. I can take a look at the newspapers and get ideas for stories and approach [it] with some fluency on the subject. It is an area of major interest for me so it did help with Captain America books, particularly the Sam Wilson Captain America, which is about the world that we live in.
Q: What advice would you give to a fresh writer on how to deal with violent or negative fan reactions?
Well with ‘violent’ reactions, you need to call the police! (laughs) I do see a lot of writers who encounter this kind of feedback and it throws them off balance. It is important to remember that the audience is not your family or your friends. You have to understand that there is a transaction in play. I think where a lot of writers get ripped up is that while they would want the accolades and appreciation, in order to tell good stories, sometimes you have to do things that people are not going to like.
That audience can turn on you at any time and decide that they don’t like your work, that they don’t like what you’re doing in this particular story. It may not the be fairest assessment, but that is the nature of the job.
Every writer in comics has a honeymoon period and then they have their sophomore slump, and invariably over time they are hearing both. I can Google my name and half the people will be saying they love what I do and half the people will say that they hate what I do. You just do your best to tell the best story that you can.
Q: What is your opinion on the state of diversity in comics these days?
Not good enough! I think its improving in terms of voices that are making the books and representation inside the books. We have made some pretty good strides on the representation side, but we still have a long way to go on the voices side.
We need it really badly. The reason we need different kinds of voices in the room [is to] to create better stories. It is in everyone’s interest to have diverse voices telling their stories because you get more viewpoints inside those stories, and [it] will make for a richer reading experience for everybody.
Q: So come November, will it be a Trump or Hilary presidency?
On behalf of the United States, I apologise! (Laughs)
STGCC 2016 takes place this weekend from Sept 10 – 11. Nick Spencer’s STGCC Walk of Fame schedule is available here.