I just completed pencils & inks on my first 22 page issue in a very long time. Six years? I know this might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it was a big milestone and hurdle for me to break through and out of some sort of creative depression I was in. And returning to the craft of comics has helped me get through a very tough time in my life.
While I’ve drawn other things the past few years and some comic work here and there, for the most part I’ve tried to avoid standard comic series and getting too attached to a project. Old friend and former publisher of Arrow Comics once told me when I was pretty young and naive, “Comics is a harsh mistress.” I didn’t really understand him then, but I sure do now.
2013 was my year of pain. I struggled all year against the currents to keep my personal life together. While my work life was great with a full time job, benefits and working for a really awesome company, my marriage was collapsing. I won’t get too far into that mess, only to say that the year ended with my wife of 16 years confessing to a year long affair with a sociopath that I loathed and feel is a completely disgusting buffoon. There’s a lot more to that story, but it’s only worth mentioning because that affair and the weight of the truth crushed me emotionally and sent into some really dark places.
One of the dark places I went to was the Knights Inn, (room 314), after I made the firm decision to leave that situation. I had a bag packed with some clothes. A ukulele and notebook for songwriting. A copy of The Alchemist (which changed my life) and Fight Club. Oh, and a giant bottle of honey whiskey. I had been isolated from all of my friends. People I trusted had been pushed out of my life (because that’s how sociopaths play their game). And I was scared. How would I start again on my own? And how was it that I’m the guy who wrote the book on being positive was now drowning in a pool of negativity? I realize now that there is a dark side to the law of attraction that they warn you about. The “be careful what you wish for” type of scenario. And that I had to go through all of these dark things in order to get to what I had internally been wishing for. To find some peace of mind and be loved and respected.
I ended up reaching out to a few friends who had been pushed away over the year. And one friend came to my rescue and pulled me up and out of the hole I was in. I dusted myself off and figured out a new life plan. It was scary to embark on this journey, but I couldn’t go back to the lies and betrayal over and over again like a scratched, skipping record.
At some point my friend told me I needed to draw again. For me. “Why aren’t you drawing?” she’d say. I would reply with some excuse about not feeling it, or being creatively blocked. She wasn’t buying it. Almost every time we spoke, she would ask “Did you draw this week?” I’d say, oh yes, I drew at work…… “no, comics. Why aren’t you drawing comics? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing?” So finally after some coaxing I told her the idea I had had for a graphic novel or series that I felt was one of the greatest ideas I had ever come up with. And she was floored. “Why aren’t you doing this, that sounds awesome!”
The reason I couldn’t commit to doing a big comics project is…. well, COMICS IS A HARSH MISTRESS. I had a lot of good years drawing comics and making good money. But when my full time series was cancelled midstream in 2008, we had to scramble to save our finances. My wife had gone back to work and I was back to freelancing which was pretty stressful. I felt a deep creative depression with what I perceived as a giant failure of the biggest project I had ever done to that date. And I dodged big mainstream comics type work. My wife was also afraid the rug would be pulled out from under us again. While I kept doing some smaller strips and odd jobs in comics, I put the big series and graphic novel creation down for her. I helped her build her dreams (a local roller derby league) and I got a full time job for security and benefits, but none of that stopped the bad stuff from creeping in.
So now that I was on my own again…. “Why aren’t you drawing comics?” I didn’t have a good answer except for… I was afraid to be hurt again by the harsh mistress. Comics, THE CRAFT of comics and sequential storytelling has been my first love since I was in high school. My heroes are guys like Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Wally Wood. Hell, I even have a whole arm tattooed. And here I was…. afraid to continue again. Afraid of being hurt. And then, one morning I said…. fuck it. I’m drawing comics again.
I doubted my abilities for the first few weeks, doing character sketches, fumbling around with layouts. But the craft kept my mind off some really hard feelings and rough nights. My friend had reminded me who I was, and what I was capable of doing. That I had taken these skills for granted. I told her that anyone could draw if they practiced. She disagreed and we debated. “How many people do you think would give their left hand to be able to march in your office and draw anything and tell their stories like you do?” I didn’t have answer. She was right. While my work might not be perfect in my critical eye, it was plenty good enough to be published and have companies asking me to do work for them. It was all in my head. I forced myself out of the creative depression.
And tonight, I finished page 22 of our first issue. Not only are we in full on production mode, we also have the entire first story arc breakdowns ready to rock. We are in talks with a couple publishers who are interested, AND we’ve devised a pretty cool plan that sort of helps everyone and drives book sales as well as reading online for free. It’s genius, but I can’t take credit for it.
I am really proud of this project (the name will be forthcoming soon) and I can’t wait to share it with my friends and fans.
I’m happy to say that I’m doing well now. I’m dating someone (something I never thought I’d ever say again in my life), and she’s a writer and pushes me to create more. We get along so well, and it feels good to have someone encouraging me and building me up instead of tearing me down. I still have bad days where things hurt or I’m afraid, but that’s just life. “Things gotta get rough before they get real.” I’m taking life day to day as I rebuild my house on SOLID ground.
This is my new beginning…. “There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough.”