I just saw an old clip from Late Night With David Letterman with guest Jerry Lewis. They were talking about Jerry’s comic persona, the troublesome, noisy nine-year old kid who couldn’t resist stirring up trouble. After Jerry had performed a particularly manic “Hey, laaaaady!” Dave said that the beauty of Jerry’s comedy was its “purity to the intent.” He likened it to (the then popular) Beavis and Butthead animated series: It was a thing that was always exactly what it presented itself to be, a comedic bit of business that never wavered from its purpose.
That phrase, “purity to the intent” struck a cord with me. That sort of creative intent is something I’ve found to be missing in so much of current pop culture. I watch the coming attractions for new movies and am left wondering exactly what kind of movie it’s trying to be. Trailers seem to be tailored to sell to specific demographics rather than to represent the film that’s been made. A couple or three years back, my son and I saw the trailer for a new George Clooney movie, The American, which looked like a great action/adventure shoot ‘em up. But when we went to see it, The American was anything but a great action/adventure shoot ‘em up; in fact, just about every bit of action, adventure, and shooting in the film had been gathered into the two minute trailer. The remaining 103-minutes was a contemplative study of an assassin facing life, love, and his conscience. Contemplative movies, even those starring George Clooney, don’t sell. Blockbuster shoot ‘em ups, especially those starring George Clooney, do.
The book world has more or less adopted the film industry model of shooting for blockbusters, publishing books that stress the quantity of readers over the quality of the writing. “Blockbusters” like Fifty Shades of Gray would have once enabled a publisher to subsidize twenty or thirty titles by lesser known authors that might not break even; today, with all the major houses owned by big corporations expecting the biggest return on every buck they spend, that is less and less likely to be the case.
One of the things that impressed me about Crazy 8 Press even before joining its ranks was the purity to its intent. Here was a group of writers with stories to tell but without an outlet through which to tell them. Some had begun series before the paradigm shift that they hadn’t been able to finish in its aftermath. Others had ideas that couldn’t find homes, and some, like my own The Same Old Story, were stories that we were going to tell regardless of whether or not said stories ever found a home. Nobody tells us what we can or can not publish. To paraphrase The Field of Dreams, we work on the principle that “if we publish it, they will come.” And we’re in it for the long haul; unlike new movies or TV shows, we don’t rely on a blockbuster opening weekend or through the roof ratings to determine success or failure. Our books are in print to stay.
The other day, Crazy 8 Press announced it would be publishing Hey Kids, Comics: True Life Tales from the Spinner Rack, a collection of essays by various and sundry comic book fans and professionals (including fellow Crazy 8 author Bob Greenberger and myself), edited by Robert J. Kelly. Talk about purity to the intent! I don’t recall how many years ago I wrote “An All-Star Collection of the Greatest Super-Stories Ever Published!” my piece for the collection, but I know at the time I did it, publication of the book was nothing more than a vague and distant hope. It didn’t matter, though. It was one of those stories I wanted to tell and I told it, even if all it ever ended up being was an entry on Rob’s or my own blog.
Science fiction. Fantasy. Mystery. Humor. Non-fiction. Crazy 8 will do them all, and as different as any one project is from any and all the others that we’re publishing, they all share one common bond: That of being exactly the things that we’d intended them to be from the start, pure to the intent of their authors.
Hey Kids, Comics: True Life Tales from the Spinner Rack will be available in print and digital editions in September.