Devourer of Words 035: The Commitments
There are going to be a score (and then a score more) of thinking pieces about Deadpool and what its success means. (In case you missed it, Deadpool grossed $150 million over the Presidents Day holiday weekend, pulling down more in it’s opening than any other R-Rated movie—and every other X-Men movie.) In the halls of every studio, someone will be wondering how they can “Deadpool” whatever superhero film they’re currently cooking. Every writers’ agent will be asking their clients if they have a Deadpool idea lying around. And all of them will be missing the point.
The thing that made Deadpool work—and the thing that audiences have responded to, even if they’re not entirely able to recognize and verbalize it—is commitment. Deadpool is committed to being exactly what it should be. The filmmakers decided early on that THIS would be the movie they wanted to make, even though the prevailing market wisdom would say that superhero movies should be PG-13. They should play to as broad an audience as possible. Kids will be going, so don’t go nuts. And definitely don’t SHOW nuts.
So what does this mean for you, the comic book writer? Well, to me, it means that while building the next story you write, make sure that it’s the most IT it can be.
Commit to the thing you’re writing 100%. If you’re writing a romance, making it the most romantic. If you’re writing a western, I should be able to feel the dust in my mouth. If it’s a horror book, scare the fluids out of me. Half-measures do no one any good.
But note that I’m NOT saying that if you’re writing a romance, you should also try and make it a vile and profane romance, because the kids love the Deadpool.
In most cases, chasing what’s popular leads to wasted time and abject madness. For one, the sheer amount of time it takes to produce anything—even something as quickfire as a webcomic—combined with the inherent fickleness of popularity means that you’ll have missed whatever trend you were trying to capitalize on. And even if you do manage to land on the tail end of a trend, you’ll never enjoy the benefits—financial, emotional—that come with being the first through the door.
All too often—and sometimes, with good reason—we worry about what kind of stories readers want. Or, more precisely, what kind of stories publishers will buy to then sell to those readers. And that’s fine. This is the business we’ve chosen and the marketplace is the Vengeful God that needs to be sated.
Since you can’t predict what’s going to be popular—unless you can, in which case, you need to let me borrow the keys to your time-traveling roadster—the only recourse is to do the best work you can with something you believe in. To truly commit and make whatever you’re doing the most IT it can be.
Marc Bernardin’s Devourer of Words appears the third Tuesday of every month here on Toucan!