In case you missed it;
THE UNIFYING THEME OF IDENTITY
Once I’d mentally decided to green light this project, I started conducting research and one of the many tasks (in addition to actually reading all of the books again, perusing interviews, and digging around various sites on the interwebs) was to look back at the recent reviews I’d done for single issues of DMZ, NORTHLANDERS, and DEMO: VOLUME TWO, and it was so obvious that I kept going back to that word – identity. I’d said it so many times that I’d convinced myself this was the great thematic link that ran through all of Brian Wood’s books. As I sat down to begin writing this series, I panicked for a second. What if I was wrong? I hadn’t read some of these books for more than a decade, and some I’d only read once. What if I’d been like Dubya and “misunderestimated” them? What if my theory didn’t hold water when I applied it critically and actually went back and investigated the work? What if framing this as a foregone conclusion was just a bit too self-assured and egocentric? What if this assumptive affront on logic wasn’t intellectually honest? What if I embarrassed myself? Worse yet, ugh, what if I embarrassed Brian?
Ultimately, I decided that the best way to attack this notion was not to make any assumptions; instead of simply stating my theory, I would test my theory. I flashed back to those grade school science projects and thought I would formulate my theory as a working hypothesis and then simply use that as a jumping off point. I’d re-read his entire body of work, test the hypothesis, go in with an objective mind, and simply see what else might emerge. As with the greatest experiments, perhaps something unexpected would occur and it would take me miles away from where I’d set out to go. As for process, I read every Brian Wood book in the chronological order that a typical reading audience would have gotten hold of a series based on initial publication date. For example, when I got to 2005 on my list and sat down to re-read my DMZ trades, I read all of them straight through and then all of the single issues that were currently available. When I got to 2007, I read all of NORTHLANDERS in the same fashion, even though there was some overlap when issues of each series were coming out simultaneously. I didn’t flip back and forth between the two. I doubt anyone cares that specifically about process, but I just wanted to make the methodology clear. It’s total series initial publication date, not monthly publishing date of single issues.
During these readings, I tried my best not to just look for evidence that would support my own theory, but to keep a more open mind and note any other themes or traits that appeared to recur through all of the disparate books and publishers. In short, I believe I did prove my hypothesis. However, something else also happened. In addition to the primary hypothesis surrounding the theme of identity running through every work, several other traits were noticeable, which need to be called something like “secondary characteristics,” because they’re not always outright themes per se. None of them were present in every single work like the concept of identity was. They may be sustained for two or more works, but generally don’t act as a through line connecting the entire body in the same ever-present manner as identity. As I began to catalogue these secondary traits, another phrase that kept coming up in a very broad sense was “generational conflict.” There was frequently a sense of cultural shift in the work, which could take the form of generational, technological, religious, or some other form of social tension that was typically generation-based. This word, “generation,” and its ramifications, will be extremely important toward the conclusion of this series. So, remember that one. Generation.
For now, I’ll tease the upcoming posts by saying that the next five of them will take you through repeat readings of the entire Brian Wood library and exhibit supporting evidence for the primary hypothesis, as well as noting any of those secondary characteristics for consideration. This is essentially where the introductory and explanatory phase ends and we dive into the books. I had so much fun with this project; it turned into one of my favorite pieces of writing, so I hope you enjoy it too.