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Nut In The Shell:
Get Real!
By Keith Giles

09.25.02


NUT IN THE SHELL is a column about the unique experience, perception and opinion of Keith Allen Giles, comic book writer, journalist, and fan.

Many moons ago Keith launched the first NITS here at SLUSH FACTORY back when nobody really knew who he was. Then the site died and Keith moved NITS over to another fan site where no one knew who he was either, but a few people read it every week and a few of them liked it.

Then Keith went on to write Earth-shattering interviews with many of your favorite creators over at CBR and NITS faded softly away.

Now, SLUSH FACTORY has given new life to NUT IN THE SHELL. Today, people still don’t know who Keith Allen Giles is. This column probably won’t change that very much, but at least you’ll know what is on Keith’s mind at any given moment and who can put a price on that? I know SLUSH FACTORY hasn’t tried to, or I’d be getting paid for this.

Anyway, here’s the resurrected NUT IN THE SHELL. Hope you like it.



WHY ASK WHY?
“But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.” – Lord Byron.


Here are a few things about comics that annoy me.

Why is it everyone who discovers Batman's identity becomes either a sidekick or a girlfriend? The man is filthy rich. Has anyone considered blackmail?

Why do genetic mutations typically result in energy projection, or physics-defying, combat-related abilities? Why not an overactive salivary gland, or never having to crap or pee again for the rest of your life?

Why is it that the only guy with the healing factor will always be the one who gets his skin burned off?

Why is it that the two characters involved in a forbidden attraction will always be the only two stranded together so they can get their groove on?

Why is it that the only guy in NYC to get bitten by a radioactive insect just happens to be the one guy who also just invented a revolutionary liquid rope that hardens to the strength of a steel cable AND the mechanism to store and implement the stuff?

Why must our hero always choose between being cured; finding a way home; saving himself; and rescuing small children from certain death? What kind of 'choice' is that anyway?

Why is it that average men and women are never endowed with super-human powers? Only people that train at the gymn three times a day and look like they belong in "Muscle Magazine" ever get abducted by aliens, bombarded with cosmic radiation or discover ancient talismans of ridiculous power?

Why are so many billionaire playboys concerned about crime in the inner
city to the point that they get involved personally, give up their personal lives, develop fantastic technological crime-fighting devices and adopt anamorphic alter-egos and dress up in spandex to beat the crap out of street thugs? Does that sound like the sort of thing that Billionaire Playboys do in their spare time? Gates? Trump? Michael Jackson? Nah…

Why is it that Earth’s defenders of truth and justice are always American? Or, worse yet, English? Why is it that aliens seeking a champion for this planet go straight to New York looking for a worthy specimen? Is it something about the geography of the continent from space that drives them there? Why not India? Why not Australia? Why?

It’s only when you’ve been reading comics for years and years that you become jaded by the experience like this and begin to ask these sorts of questions.

Let’s do an experiment.

Try going back to your most treasured comic and re-reading the story. You’ll find yourself shaking your head in disbelief at how amazingly trite, corny and goofball the whole thing really is.

Now that we’ve all grown up, the things that used to astound us only make us turn our faces and shake our heads in disbelief.

How could you have loved this comic so much as an adolescent?

Because you were an adolescent.

However, sometimes asking questions can bring new life to those tired old concepts.

This is the very reason that a comic like The Authority rocked the comic world. It dared to ask questions like this. It gripped the throat of mediocrity, ripped out its jugular and dropped the warm carcass on the sidewalk for the garbage collector to find in the morning.

Questions are good.

I've got a poster on my wall at work that I took off a bulletin board from my old college art department. It says, "SOMETIMES WELL-FORMED QUESTIONS ARE MORE USEFUL THAN WELL-FORMED ANSWERS".

This statement has always intrigued me. In fact, I think it drives much of my writing, even though I've only just now come to understand this.

I really do believe that asking the right question is more useful than just throwing out the answers. A question makes you think. It challenges you to really look at what is going on around you and it forces you to re-evaluate what you thought was true.

Think about it. Almost all your favorite films can be summed up in the form of a question:

THE MATRIX: "WHAT IS THE MATRIX?"

BLADE RUNNER: "WHAT IS HUMAN?"

MINORITY REPORT: "WHY AM I WATCHING THIS PILE OF CRAP?"

See what I mean?

It’s only when we know the right questions to ask that we discover the potential idea beneath the surface.

Let’s face it, modern comics are not geared towards kids anymore. The average comic fan is one who started reading in Elementary School, but inexplicably continues to shell out money to buy those funny books even though he’s “grown up”.

For those of you still reading this, I’m currently writing about six little comics projects at the moment. Those who are interested can go take a peek at www.plasticanimal.com.

Along these same lines, I discovered recently that nearly every story I'm working on can be summed up in a single question.

DIGERATI- "WHO DO YOU BECOME WHEN YOU LOSE YOUR SOUL?"

HARD VIDEO- "WHY SHOULD REALITY BE A PLACE YOU NEED TO ESCAPE FROM?"

UV:TARGET- "WHAT IS THE NATURE OF REALITY AND INSANITY?"

DURANGO SILVER: "IS MERCY MORE POWERFUL THAN JUDGEMENT?"

Each of my stories all attempt to answer specific questions. Even if they don't implicitly ask the question within the context of the dialog, the end result of the story is to address at least one possible answer to the question that drives the narrative.

Those who are looking to create the next big thing in comics must start by asking the right questions.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about comics, or religion, or politics. A good question is better than a mouthful of answers.

We've just got to be sure we're asking the right questions.

Until next time, I’m the NUT IN THE SHELL.


Keith Giles is one of the world's greatest enigmas. Ruggedly handsome, and yet surprisingly gentle and compassionate with small animals, Keith actually has a very weak grasp of reality and often talks to himself in the bathroom mirror. Creator, writer, thinker, sleeper, eater and friend, Keith has published articles, interviews, columns, poems, songs, reviews and fiction for over 12 years.


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