When you first meet Nathan Sage, you’re likely to forget which decade you live in. Wearing a crisp suit, perfectly enunciating his words, and expressing thoughts that are so well formed you’d swear he was scripted, his personality is more like that of a character in a Hemingway novel set in 1920’s Paris, than a 20-something living in 2013 Los Angeles.
Mr. Sage leaves you wondering: Is this guy for real?¹
He absolutely is.
And the only reason you’re uncomfortable with it is because, well, you’ve likely never met somebody who seems so comfortable in their own skin. Nathan has a charm and confidence about his personality that seems effortless. His ability to capture a story, whether through word, photo, film or—now—comic book, is uncanny. Whether you’re reading a Facebook post about his very eclectic beagle, Doolittle, watching one of his films, or anticipating the release of his first comic book, The Shepherd, his method of communication always seems to cut through the noise with a truth about life that hits you right in the gut.
I met Nathan Sage at Creative Mornings in, I believe, 2011. Since then, Mr. Sage has become not only a person I respect for his talents and his heart, but a close friend as well—not to mention one of my favorite drunk people (which is saying a lot).
To kick off 2014, I decided that, instead of writing about people on the Internet you’ve already heard of, I’d like to highlight the people that mean the most to me, and ask them questions about what they do, why they do it, and, most importantly, who they are.
So. Nathan Sage, everybody.
What makes a story effective? (Not “good”—effective.)
I’ve considered this question endlessly since you asked it, holding it up to this story and that, because frankly it’s something I’ve never quite put into words myself. When I tell a story, I’m often looking to emphasize the conflict, so that the resolution really feels like a resolution; but there’s conflict in every story–I mean, it’s right there in the Hollywood formula. I think my answer would be something like “shoe-fit-ability.” You know, like how a song you can hum sticks in your heart like a foxtail. Perhaps if the audience can reach out and feel the story, fit their foot in it, that ought to do it.
Who are some of your favorite storytellers, and what makes you appreciate them so much?
Victor Hugo had this ability to tell stories that showed you the grime in people–he wanted you to see their cruelty, their rabid fear, their impossibility for redemption, and then he wanted you to love them. He painted a picture of the world that included the reality of all of its hate and greed, and yet he could poke a little hole in the darkness to let in just enough light.
What makes a fictional character believable? How much did you have to dig into yourself to make Astrid believable in The Shepherd?
You know, my artist Ron pointed out one day that the letters of “Thanacht,” the name of the mythical monster in the story, could easily be rearranged into something very close to “Nathan.” He asked me if there was something about the Thanacht that I related to myself. And I thought “maybe.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I associated with the villain of the story, Rul–a man whose singular obsession is his hunt for the Thanacht–who seems to believe that capturing the beast will somehow give his life meaning, or at least confirm what he believes about the world. I think I can understand that delirium. Continue reading “Conversations: Nathan Sage”