Hello, grownups :)
Okay, amongst all the extremely sad and alarming stuff that's been going on in the world recently, please allow me a moment to gush about something that brings me enormous joy.
I can finally talk about the Super-Secret Project I’ve been working on. DRUMROLL PLEASE…
It’s Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire, a serialised fiction project that’s going to be available on Serialbox this May.
I was gobsmackingly privileged to be able to work on this with some of my favourite writers: Lauren Beukes, Vita Ayala, Zoe Quinn and Elsa Sjunneson.
The reason this means so much to me is that Jessica Jones was the first Super Hero character I ever fell in love with.
I still remember the day that I met her. I was sitting in my friend Andrew's room, telling him that while I’d recently been getting into Graaaaaphic Noooooovels (pushes glasses up pretentiously) I felt like Super Hero comic books weren’t really my jam. I’d based this perception entirely on my stereotypes about what Super Hero stories were and who they were for, you understand, not on ever having actually read any.
I remember Andrew squinting at me, and grabbing a copy of Alias: Volume 1 off his bookshelf and handing it to me. "Just ... give this one a try," he said, with his usual understated perceptiveness.
That book was a revelation.
Inside those pages was Jessica Jones, the self-destructive alcoholic ex-hero turned-P.I. who’s strong enough to throw cars over her head but still wrestling with PTSD, someone whose strength had been used as someone else's weapon, trying to figure out what it means to be a good person. I loved her immediately.
Jessica was my gateway drug to many other Super Heroes. Jessica lead me to Black Panther and Ms Marvel and X-Menand Gwenpool and Squirrel Girl, and eventually, even to Superman. These stories were nothing like the black-and-white, hero-vs-villain, wish-fulfilment stories I'd expected. They were complex, likeable characters wrestling with questions about good and evil, and with their own flaws.
And the thing about them that I found so intriguing - that I still find intriguing - is that uncountable writers have helped imagine into being. They're contemporary mythologies. The ancient Greeks told stories about Athena and Aphrodite and Zeus and Dionysus; we tell stories about Iron Man and Jean Gray. These characters are so well known, that we can all tell stories about them. They belong to everyone.
Working on this project was unlike anything else I've ever written, because Jessica is such a well-established character. She's got a history; she's got well-established quirks and beliefs. I was working with the other writers who were involved in this project, but also, in a way, with every other writer who's ever written a story in this shared fictional universe. It reminded me of playing make-believe games with my friends when I was a kid: you're bouncing off each other, asking, "but what would Jessica do in this situation?".
Guys, it was so fun. Making things with other people is so much better than making things alone. And getting to write a story for a character I've loved for so long... that was pretty damn magical.
It reminded me that this is why I spend so much time thinking about how to save money, because the dirty secret no-one talks about is that you can only be an artist if you can afford it. Whatever your big dream is, save for it. Make time for it. Life's too damn short not to.
You can pre-order the whole season of Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire right now. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had working on it.
Wishing you games of make-believe with your friends (over Zoom),