bcreatures16-deactivated2013032 asked: I've noticed a lot of your books have food themes in them. Muffins in Batgirl, eggs and taffy (Ragdoll!) in Secret Six & lots of Italian food in Birds of Prey. Any particular reason for their inclusion or were you just craving them when you were writing?
I am actually gluten intolerant and can’t have most of those foods.
It’s actually about sense memory.
So much of what current comics are about are the same handful of themes and tropes over and over again. Due to space limitations, there’s a tendency to make every issue of every book somewhat climactic in some way, and it has the net effect of making the characters a little less relatable, in my view. I will often read a book, and it’s thrilling, but I know nothing about the character when the book is done.
People are the sum of their actions, choices, and beliefs…I can’t always control what a character wears, precisely, the artist has final say on that. But life choices, things a character loves or hates, the things that make them swoon, those things I can write in the script.
In particular, I am looking for keys to their emotions. Barbara wants those muffins because one of her most precious memories is her mother baking when Barbara was just a kid. They evoke that for her, and when she has a certain muffin, it unconsciously reminds her of a happier time before her family was so filled with tragedy. Same with the Huntress, she came from a family that valued food culture inextricably with family gatherings and happy times. Having good pasta reminds her of when she wasn’t quite so alone.
Ragdoll, well, he didn’t get to be a child. So taffy is the opposite for him, a symbol of a happy childhood he was never allowed to glimpse, let alone participate in. So he surrounds himself with the childish things he never had…monkeys, clown clothing, and candy.
That’s for the characters. But for the readers, I think they pick up on that, even if it’s not a conscious thought, perhaps…readers are astute. They look for verisimilitude.
And most of us do have emotions, for good or ill, tied up in things like food, or music, or sounds, or visuals. Comics are silent and static. So I want to evoke the other senses when possible. That shared memory we nearly all have helps bring life and emotion to the page.
It’s not just food, I often talk about the weather, or particular sounds, or other tactile sensations. In particular, I talk about physical internal sensations—nausea, pain, swelling, elation. We’ve all felt these things, I think it brings the reader into the realm of the story, and it’s almost a bonding effect.
When I read a fight scene and there isn’t a thought given to what the characters are feeling, I find that pretty dry and empty, as a rule.
The classic example I use is, the first panel I wrote featuring Diana wasn’t her punching an alien, it was her feet in icy cold water…we’ve almost all felt that sensation, and we are immediately thinking of what that feels like, we suddenly now KNOW a little of what Diana is experiencing, and in a way, that makes US Diana.
This is a long answer, but basically, it’s a thing I do to try to break down the wall between character and reader, a little bit.
Hope that makes sense. :)