Comic book writer credits confidence to love, storytelling

By MADELINE McGEE

KENNESAW, Ga. — Paul Jenkins has a history of getting jobs in off-color ways.

His first job as a comic book writer was given to him by a publisher he approached at Comic Con, an annual popular arts convention hosted in San Diego. Jenkins said the publisher asked him what he had written, to which Jenkins responded, “I’ve never written anything.”

He was hired soon after.

In the same vein, the advisory committee he chairs educating the Georgia General Assembly about digital and interactive technologies was created after he shouted an expletive in the presence of Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal.

A film expert had declared it wasn’t possible for Georgia to become the third leg of the nation’s entertainment stool, a stool propped up by New York City and Los Angeles. Jenkins politely disagreed.

“If you want me to do something, tell me I can’t do it,” he said. “It’s actually an easy way to manipulate me.”

Love molds the creator

It’s love, Jenkins said, that has given him such confidence: love for the work he does and love for the joy of creative expression.

Over the course of a colorful career, Jenkins’s love has molded him into virtually every creative mind’s dream — a writer, composer, actor, voice director, editor and designer in virtually every corner of the media landscape: comics, video games, films, books, animation, music videos and more.

He is, in every sense of the word, a creator.

And the thread that runs through all of his creations is story.

Timeless key of storytelling

“Close your eyes and think about going back in time 10,000 years,” he said. “You walk into a cave and find a drawing of a buffalo on the wall. You go a little further and there’s a drawing of a man with a spear. A little further and there’s a buffalo with a spear in it.”

That, he said, is a sequential narrative — a comic, which is the kind humanity has been using for the entire duration of its history, and what makes it so timeless is story.

That timelessness is what allows him to remain calm in the face of the supposed identity crisis surrounding storytelling that has cropped up in the entertainment industry, especially with the advent of digital and interactive technologies. While studio executives worry about the future of storytelling in the face of new media like virtual and augmented reality, Jenkins suggests that perhaps our understanding of story is too narrow.

“The future of storytelling is the same as the history of storytelling,” he said. “Story is universal. Story is simply the engineering of someone’s emotion.”

Though he admits that in this regard, every life experience is a story. Jenkins maintains that the broad definition doesn’t water down the experience of storytelling. The ability to alter someone’s emotional landscape is his ultimate goal.

Loving the ability to create

However, the ability to create not just a story, but a good story, requires the writer to go a little further.

It all goes back to love.

Throughout his career, Jenkins said he has found three primary motivations for a creator to create: pay; attention or validation; and the love of creation.

“When you do things that work, it comes because of love,” he said. “If you find a way to love being creative, that’s when your stories will be better.”

Though he has at various points felt motivated by all three of these factors, he agrees with a sentiment expressed by perhaps a different kind of creator.

The greatest of these is love.

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