Some days I hate my life. Don’t get me wrong, I know people all over the world have less and are happy. It’s not about having for me. It’s about doing. It’s about feeling like I’m not doing enough, like what I am doing isn’t what I am meant to and it’s certainly not what I want to.
Again, this is nothing new or unique.
I never claimed it to be.
Overall I have a fairly good life- love, family, a job that pays (some) of my bills. Things that some people would kill for; things some may never have. Does that make me ungrateful? Maybe. Do I care? Not especially.
I know I’m grateful for the things I have and the people that are in my life- if anything the awesomeness of those things is what makes it that much more frustrating.
Before I started making comic books I worked a shitty job, much like the (less) shitty job I work now. Working as an auto parts person in a dealership means you’re never right, it’s always your fault and doing two or three things at once is never enough. I know you’re thinking “yeah, right”. Tell you what, you go do my job for a week and tell me it isn’t like that. For the most part that doesn’t bother me; I’ve got a solid enough ego and the pay is decent for a fairly reasonable amount of work- there’s some heavy lifting but far from what one would call back-breaking. Stress, sure, but lots of jobs have that.
No, what gets to me is that I started making comic books and discovered a whole new world a world that I want to live in, not the drudgery of the one I do now.
It’s a world where people, at least the ones I have worked with, are extremely talented and even more humble than that about their gifts. A world where working together as a team is a must but more than that, it is a pleasure. One where everyone works towards the same goals and gives it their best effort and always wants the next job to be even better. It’s a world where, although the pay is low or even non-existent, the rewards are immeasurable.
You can’t put a price on what it means for a group of people to bring to life a story that didn’t exist before- to birth new ideas and new characters and situations. Pulling that off is amazing. And, much like the birth of a “real” person, it is not without its perils and pains. But it is ALWAYS worth it. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expected or wanted to, it is worth it.
Until you’ve worked the hundreds of hours that it takes to put together a comic book it’s really hard to appreciate fully- I was a fan for almost 30 years and still never really understood how harrowing and elating it is to create a story in this medium.
As a writer, you live with these characters in your head for days, weeks, years; they become as real as to you as the people you walk past on the street. You can hear their voices as you type; you understand the things that motivate them, the things they fear. Despite this knowledge, they still surprise you. They make decisions or take actions that seem so against what you had planned for them- not unlike a child might do to a parent.
As an artist- whether it be pencils, inks, colors or letters, you create the world that these characters inhabit as much, if not more, than the writer who wrote the story. You fill in all those little details that make it come alive. The way a character holds themselves as they deal with a stressful situation, their body language, their expressions, the way the lighting strikes their face. Artists do all this as they toil away for hours and hours. They get to know every facet of each page, building and erasing, adding and taking away until the art of the page, of the book is done; so much of it subtle enough that only THEY know everything that went into it.
There lay the problem- these are the things that I love and the people that I love doing them with- artists and storytellers, creators of worlds that are fictional only in the sense that they do not exist unless we create them, and once we do, they become real- to both ourselves and our readers. We cheer them, we boo them, we witness the rise and fall of both heroes and villains. With every page we experience we invest some of ourselves into it- both creator and reader.
So how can one NOT want to live in that world? A world where people care, where they want nothing but the best of results and support each other in doing so?
Clearly there are many reasons one cannot do so- chief among them is the financial costs- putting these sorts of stories together are not cheap and we all have bills to pay. Comic books, even at their height, are unfortunately not a large money medium. One cannot hope to invest a few months of work and see the sort of returns that you would from a feature film- and even though some charge such, good luck getting ten bucks per head for a comic.
Like the majority of independent comic book creators I know, that means I have to have a day job- some are lucky and have ones that they love doing, others… Well we do what we need to get by just like anyone else. We use the time we steal from friends and family to pursue what we are passionate about- telling stories and sharing them with others. We stay up and pull all-nighters to finish inking a page, we write dialogue in the shower, we letter on our lunch breaks and color the moment our kids go to bed. We work on birthdays and anniversaries, on days off and after long shifts.
We do it not only because we love to but because we are driven to.
Something compels us to keep chipping away at the ideas that call to us while we wake and even while we sleep. Characters whose stories need to be told; stories that resonant with us and perhaps with some of you; stories that can have great depth and meaning and some that are just meant to be fun and taken at face value.
If you are one of those brave souls who have embarked on this path with us, as a reader or fellow creator, I must thank you. Your words of encouragement and excitement are the shoulders that we lean on when the story just isn’t working out right, when it seems like the page will never finish being drawn, that the colors seem off or the words just won’t fit. It propels us to greater heights as we strive to one-up the story we did before to excite you as much as scare ourselves that perhaps we might have over-reached or pushed so far that our reach exceeds our grasp. Just because we are driven to do something doesn’t mean it’s easy, but you all make it that much easier.
Even on the days where we hate everything for being so damn hard.
The days where it seems nothing will ever work out, that we’ll never get ahead or get that break that allows us to do what we love as our sole occupation. It’s a double edge sword, once you fall down that rabbit hole of creating comics- it can cut you with a harsh reality of mounting bills and low sales, but it can cut away all the troubles in the world with a simple, “that was a really great read, dude.”
That’s my rant, thanks for being there- I’ll keep plugging away at these books if you’re willing to stick it through with me- it’s no fun when you go at things alone. I don’t want fans, just friends along for the ride.