The world is full of assholes!
OK , maybe that is a little too harsh. Maybe it's better to say that everybody has their own stuff that they are dealing with and occasionally a hand stretched out to help someone will get slapped. But you have to rise above it.
And believe me, this is especially hard for me. I'm a fighter. I come from a long line of yellers, screamers and arguers, and when attacked, my first response is to put up my dukes and come out swinging, verbally or physically. But I've had to come to grips a while ago that I am not just "ME" anymore. I'm a professional, part of several companies and my conduct, good and bad reflects back on to those people. So I can't act the way I want, I have to act in a way that is best for the companies and individuals I represent.
Now I know that there are people who will immediately jump to the conclusion that I am saying that you have to be weak and let people run over you, but this is quite the contrary. Being the bigger person in these situations means that you have the position of power. People want to engage you, they want to make you as angry, frustrated or scared as they are because misery loves company but once you do that, you give up the power. You sink to their level rather than they rising to yours.
So try this...when met with anger, try cool detachment and logic. When met with rudeness or insensitivity, try politeness. When met with arrogance, try compassion. Don't let someone else in their moment of stupidity cause you to burn an eventual bridge to where you want to be.
And best of all for your ego, you get the satisfaction of having them apologize to you for their jackass behavior. And that, friends is a feeling you can't put a price on.
To paraphrase the Doctor...it's a funny old world, innit?
Although it is still a few days to the new year, I've been feeling introspective lately and I've been thinking of what I have, where I came from and where I am.
*Between myself and my wife and counting work devices, phones and game systems, I have 12 devices in my home right now that can access the Internet...and I am old enough to remember a world without an Internet.
*I have five TVs in my house and they get somewhere around 500 channels. And can't find anything I want to watch most days...and I can remember a time of having one TV with no remote and, on a clear day, five channels and that includes Educational Television. Couldn't find anything then either.
*I was a drug addict and alcoholic for five years...and I take more drugs now just to function and get through my day then I took recreationally in a day.
*There was a time in my life I was pretty sure I would not live past my 30s and I would die alone...and I am now 42 and have been married for 20 years now thank you very much.
*I've aspired to be in comics for most of my life...and now I am, but not in the way that I expected...and I'm much happier that it is playing out this way. I'm forging my own path. I'm working with some really good people but no one is handing me anything...and I like it better this way.
So what is the moral of this story? Probably isn't one. And I am definitely no comics mentor but I figure the best way to look at it is to believe in yourself, trust in yourself and don't let the adversities of life rule your days. It may seem dark right now, hell, it may seem completely black, but things turn out, the road changes and it all works out eventually.
It has to...or what are all the struggles for?
I know it's been a while since I've blogged but it all goes back to the interesting times I talked about so long ago, and in all honesty, I'm really bored with my own life.
This blog was almost called "Get Angry". I had this whole treatise about how anger denotes passion and you need passion to achieve the work you want to achieve and to get anywhere in your career. But that's Bullshit.
The truth you need to get zen about everything. You are going to get screwed over by people. You cannot control the commitment, enthusiasm or output of your collaborators. You can't make an editor like your stuff, you can't make the printer run faster and you can't make the customers buy yor stuff.
People sense desperation and most people don't respond well to the hard sell. But if you express a feeling of calm confidence, if you present yourself in a way that shows pride in your work but not desperation...if you get zen about it all, then everything will just fall into place.
Or at least that's what I keep telling myself.
Yeah I know its been a while since I blogged anything, but in full Chinese curse tradition...I've been living in interesting times.
My Health: There is no way to sugarcoat it. I'm a mess. Everyday is spent in various levels of pain. In addition to badly arthritic legs, I have what is called degenerative disc disease which means that those cushy things that keep the bones of your spine apart are disappearing in mine and the spine bones are just rubbing against each other. I'm also pretty severely overweight (check the pictures from C2E2 or Heroes from behind the CR table...I'm the fat one) which only adds to the situation. I take a ton of pain pills a day, which tears up my stomach, which I also take a pill for. Being to fat means high cholesterol...which I take a pill for and all the pain has made me extremely depressed...which I take a pill for. So now, I am up to about 7 pills a morning with more pain pills sprinkled throughout the day. All before I've had my first cup of morning coffee. Fun, huh?
The Day Job: It was a particularly disastrous year for me teaching wise. In part, because of my ongoing health problems, I spent most of the year teaching from my desk, which you can imagine is only slightly effective in an art class full of volatile high schoolers. The other part was i just didn't give a damn anymore. This school was not where I wanted to be. The administration was doing nothing to fix the problems and in fact was making them worse. This was definitely not the place I cam into 8 years ago and i wanted out. I wanted out so bad that I seriously thought about quitting teaching all together. Ditching my contract, my health insurance and my livelihood and getting the hell out of Dodge rather than to have to return to that situation. And you have to understand that I have not been without some sort of job since I was 14. I'm 42 now. I can't NOT work. I don't know how. Thankfully, the transfer process worked in my favor and I will now be teaching in a middle school 5 minutes from my house (versus the 20 minute drive to the old place). Will it be better? Well just by virtue of not being the other place it is already racking up serious brownie points. Will it be ideal? Probably not. It's still work, it's still dealing with children everyday but I might actually retain my sanity.
CR: If you like what you see on Comic Related, you really only have two people to thank: Chuck Moore and Brant Fowler. They take articles from contributors, press releases from publishers and stories in the news and build what you read everyday. 365 days a year. I'm trying to do more. I really am. I want to make myself as indispensable a part of this website as I can. However, my life has a bad habit of intruding. The back makes sitting (or standing, walking, laying down)for a long time uncomfortable, so that cuts in. Because of the health, I missed SPACE this year, which I feel really bad about. During the school year, the day job really cuts in. I may miss Baltimore because of the day job and I was really looking forward to that. . I missed most of Friday at Heroes because I was either worrying about the day job or in the middle of a lengthy phone interview in the middle of the convention center trying to get the job. Wasn't exactly the most helpful boy to the rest of the crew that day. It's always a juggling match about what gets put aside
My Own Art and Comics Work: This is the thing that gets abandoned most often. I haven't done art just for me or that wasn't connected to some class project in so long that it is almost laughable. I constantly buy supplies. I constantly have lofty ideas but the stuff just sits on my drawing table mocking me. As a far as my writing, I have three small projects in with Studio Akumakaze but they are out of my hands now and at the whim of the speed of the artists and editor. But like Inego Mantoya, I hate waiting. After too many mis-starts to count with other artists and companies, I want a finished book with my name on it in my hand. I'm trying to write as much as I can but without artists to do the work, it all seems futile sometimes. As far as my webcomic for CR, still planning it, but much like everything else artistic in my life...it's stalled at the starting gate.
So that's what's up with me and why I haven't blogged more...so...what's up with you?
Tis convention season. A few are behind us but most are still stretched out in front of us. Conventions are potentially a lot of fun. They are also potentially a major pain in the ass and a detriment to your health. It all depends on how you plan for it.
Here are a few things that will help you make it through the con.
*Plan ahead-You should wisely carry some sort of bag or backpack to carry everything you take and more importantly, everything you buy. Pack a few non-meltable snacks in there just in case you get that "two hours left" dip in energy. Also pack a few pens for signing, batteries for your camera and a refillable water bottle.
*Dress for success: You're going to be walking...a lot. Your authentic KISS demon boots may look cool but I'll bet those suckers hurt after a few hours. Comfortable shoes are a must. The same with comfortable, light breathable clothes. Dress in layers. If you get cold easily, bring a light jacket. And for the love of all that is right and proper, please bathe beforehand.
*Map the Con-As soon as you walk into the con, get the lay of the land. Know where the bathrooms are first thing. Scope out the food people and glance at the prices. Too much? Then consider the local options. Know where you can sit down when you get tired.
*Know your limits: Can't stand to wait in line? Skip the popular creator signings. Can't take a lot of people around you? Stay away from the back issues. Don't have tons of cash? Avoid the vendors all together. You know where your boiling point is. Respect it and do what you can to avoid a meltdown.
There is more that you will want to do if you are a creator , vendor or otherwise setting up at a show but if you are just your average Joe or Jane, these simple tips will make your con experience memorable for all the right reasons.
There is a song from the 80's by Naked Eyes called Promises, Promises. Here is the chorus:
You knew you'd never keep
Why do I believe?"
Of course this is a love song (or more appropriately a falling out of love song), but it works for comics too.
It's no different when you are starting out. Sure, you are working for friends or people that are just starting out. But if you become the guy that is know to be constantly late, or worse, the guy that says he will do the work and doesn't deliver...do you honestly think that your buddy is likely to bring you along when he hits it big? Really? Are you in the market for some lovely swampland?
I realize that life intrudes, stuff happens, etc. etc...believe me I get that more than you could know, but that doesn't matter. Part of being a professional in any industry is that you do not let your personal life intrude on your work if at all possible. When you are self-employed, which is essentially what you are unless you are under contract to a company, this is even more true. You can't let people down just because of your "stuff". Unless you are unconscious or dead, you need to make adjustments to get the job done.
I have been both the promiser who failed and the promisee. For those I let down, you have my apologizes (although there is no excuse); for those who let me down, heed my words:
Bottom line...YOU absolutely, positively, without fail, have to fulfill your commitments. If you promise to do the work, you have to do it. Period. Or you don't get more work. If you can't do it, if you think that there is the slightest chance that you won't be able to do it...THEN DON'T SAY THAT YOU WILL! DON'T MAKE THE PROMISE! IF YOU ALREADY HAVE, COME CLEAN AND ADMIT YOUR MISTAKE EARLY!
It's as simple as that.
A discussion with one of my Zone 4 collegues is the spark of this post. We got into a discussion of how you read a comic. Not the medium (floppies, trades, digital, etc.) but in what mind set do you approach the story. From the standpoint of the story and the characters or from the context of the time that the story was created...canon versus context. And do subsequent stories enrich or diminish the character or does it change the message?
Still confused? Then allow me to explain.
Take the example of Kingdom Come. The story about the future of the DC Heroes where the heroes we know have grown old and retired while the younger, and in many cases more violent, superpowered second generation have taken up the fight for good. However this generation has little regard for public safety or the people they defend. The old guard returns and after a violent struggle, reins in their "children" and begins the process of rebuilding their world. That is the stories canon. The context of the story is that the book is meant to illustrate the difference in the hero philosophy and the rise of the "big gun, big muscle, ultra violent heroes" that sprung from companies like Image at the time and how that philosophy goes againt the heroic ideal. That is the context.
So how do you read comics? I am very much a canon person. In the good stories, i get emotionally invested in the characters. It is a necessary process for me to "buy" the world that they have presented to me. If I don't care about the characters, why should I care about them? Case in point: Sue Dibny. Originally, she was very rarely used. You knew she was Ralph's wife, but you saw her in glimpses and story endings. The re-imerged Justice League (the bwa ha ha era) fleshed her out, making her and interesting if silly character. The JLI fleshed her out even more, showing her as a person whose intelligence was easily equal to that of her detective husband. Someone smart enough and in love enough to create mysteries for her husband to solve on his birthday. Subsequent miniseries and their stint in Starman showed us a woman who was compassionate, funny and made her real. Then came Identity Crisis. The shock of her murder in IC worked because we were invested in her. We knew Sue and carried about her. The knowledge that she was raped by Doctor Light and that she was pregnant at the time of the murder only intensified that. She was taking from the realm of comedy to tragedy. It was as shocking as if it had happened to a real person. It made reading the subsequent comedy JLA story uncomfortable. I doubt that it would have had the same impact if it had been Linda West or Kathy Sutton who had been murdered, because we have never been given that deep a look into their lives. We did not "know" them. We "knew" Sue. In the same vein, look at Ralph. A goofy, nose wiggling stretching character. Often used for comic relief and more often than not as a poor man's Plastic Man and a second best detctive to Batmnan. However we did see that his love for Sue was absolute and we felt his anguish at her murder and believed that he would go to those lengths to track down her killer. And Ralph was never more heroic than when he sacrified his own live to trap Faust and Neron in Fate's tower. He too found his life changed by tragedy and it allowed him to grow as a character in ways that he had not in decades. Another character is the Shade. Truly the most second rate of second rate villians, his time in Starman, Green Arrow and his own mini has made him a fully realized character that has resonance, that you can care about...even though he is far from the traditional hero.
To return to Kingdom Come, it in itself was a perfect standalone story. It needed no embellishment and we knew everything we needed to know about the characters within those pages. In my opinion, The Kingdom stories greatly diminished that message, taking it from the realm of allegory to just another comic story. The same can be said for The Dark Knight 2 and in my mind, the preposed Watchmen prequeals and sequeals. To me, each layer you add to the story can either enhance or dimish the character. If you have the character behave out of character, you can't just wish that away, you have to address and redeem that decision. Look at Hal Jordan as the best modern example of redemption of character. He grew greatly through those experiences emerging from the dullest of the Green Lanterns to the most complex.
I was also accused of not reading the books for their historical context. To counter that I must ask...how does continuing the story really inprove that context? I realize the context of every story I read but the outside world isn't what I want the comic for...it is the world inside. The Watchmen is an allegory of the Reagan Era and the end of the Cold War as well as what many saw as an end to certain freedoms. So many years later, how is revisiting that world going to improve it? How can you make the perfect message more perfect? Or are you just capitalizing on the success and searching for more money? Which is fine, comics are a business but let's be honest and not try to couch it in nobility. There are stories that need no seguals: Kingdom Come, Marvels, Watchmen, Sandman, Starman...anything else is just returning to the well and the second drink is never as sweet as the first.
Can you make a living doing what you love?
Conventional wisdom says "no". When you attach the need to make money to that which you are passionate about, it often taints it. The dream ultimately just becomes a job. But does it have to? Is there a way around that?
I think it is important to decide exactly where the passion lies. What is the thing that draws you to doing what you do? What is it that makes you revisit that blank page, or that computer screen or that instrument or what have you over and over again, despite the possibility of continued failure , for the slim glimmer of success? You have to be selective as to where that spark is. It is fine to say that you are passionate about art, but what aspect? Is it the process or the completion? Are you broad based in your approach and constantly learning or are you focused on refining that one style to its ultimate level? See...it's not that easy when you start to break it down.
And once you have that nugget of passion, can you protect it? Is there a way to isolate that thing and still make money at the other parts of it? To revisit the artist example, can you revel in the process but still be quick enough to meet your deadlines? If you are about the completion...can you let the piece go once it is finished? These are the things you will have to decide. Also, how much money do you need to live? What happens when times are lean? Are you prepared for the pitfalls?
I have never as yet known the joy of making money at that which I love. I have a job that provides me with enough money to support my family but I do not love it. There are things that I truly love that make me no money (and often, in fact, cost me money). I did not plan ahead and now I find myself somewhat trapped. If you have the option, plan ahead, find a way to make that which you love be the thing that supports you as well. There is a way, there is always a way. You just have to think about it. Plan for it.You just have to dream the dream and live it. Find a way.
Happy New Year everyone. And with the new year comes new possibilities. What will the year bring? 2009 was a pretty rough one for me personally, financially and professionally. I have no desire to rehash those failings with in any sort of detail. However,some changes are going to need to be made to right my various apple carts and to ensure that 2010 is a reboot rather than a sequel to 2009. And while I am not one to make resolutions (given that they are so easily broken) but I am making plans:
* I want to get back into doing my own art. I recently completed a couple of pieces that will soon be gifts for friends. This sparked those old creative juices again and that plus some cool art supplies that the beloved wife gave me for Christmas have given me the incentive to start proving the title of artist that I have been tossing around all these years.
* I want to get my webcomic going again. "Monkeys Make the Worst Friends" was a fun experiment but I ultimately wrote myself into a corner. I was writing a 4 panel gag strip like a comic page and ultimately that and allowing myself to get way too behind lead to the series becoming a chore and ultimate lead to its demise. However a new idea sprang up a while ago, a broader idea that allows me to play in different locales than the four walls of Chaching's house. Chaching and others will be back on Planet Mirth, coming soon to the digital pages of Comic Related.
*I want to do more for Comic Related. Despite the kind words of my colleagues, my own output is less than a third of that the other two main contributors on the site, Chuck and Brant. They and this site have provided me with many opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise had. I slowly increased what I do on CR in '09. In '10, I want to do more.
*I want to be healthier. Without going into a lot of boring detail, this has not been my year health-wise. I spent the last quarter of the year in pain and all the steps I had made to fight my battle with the bulge have pretty much been erased. Trapped in the inevitable catch 22 of needing to exercise to lose the weight that is at least a possible root cause of the pain and not being able to exercise because of the pain has sent me into a lovely little spiral of anger and depression. I am taking steps to deal with the pain but that is one long and bumpy road. And my shocks aren't what they used to be.
*Comics: Ah the 800 lb gorilla that hangs around my life mocking me. Hopefully in 2010, I will be holding at least one if not more comics that I had a hand in creating. My own title "Brushstrokes" and the short story "Where Credit is Due" are currently in the hands of the fine folks at Studio Akumakazee. I hope to see some as those as convention seasons starts up. As for "My Days as a Dead Man", "The Icarus Imperative", "Hunters' Arrow" and a potential Native American themed story, we'll just have to see.
*The Day Job and other things: Some changes will need to be made there. I can't go into them but something is going to have to give. It would be irresponsible of me to talk about stuff here before I talk to the people there. If you have been keeping up with the blog, you'll know that being professional is very important to me and telling tales out of school (figuratively and literally) is not professional.
So 2010...365 days of possibilities. Can I use them well? Can I achieve what I set out to do? We will see...and as always, you'll probably hear about it here.
An old friend of mine died this week. A sad and senseless death.
I'm very sad about losing him but I am gladdened thinking about all that he gave me without even realizing it. Since I had no father of my own, it is probably safe to say that i spent most of my youth looking for a surrogate father and a mentor. Bruce filled both those roles in my live. He had a style very much like that of Jack Knight in Starman. A 50's sensibility of dress with a modern approach to life. Always stylish, the coolest shock of gray through his black and perfectly placed hair (which had since gone fully grey), pants always pressed and I never saw him disheveled, even after a hard days work. His smile was always infectious and his wit was always razor sharp. He was one of the funniest most endearing people I ever meet. From working with him, i learned how to lead and manage people in a way that they took pride in their work and his praises. I learned how to work smarter rather than harder and I learned that anything worth doing, is worth doing well. As I friend, I can only hope that I could be half as caring and attentive to those around me. He always seemed genuinely interested in what people had to say and enthusiastic to hear it.
He was the perfect mentor. Do you have a mentor? Do you have someone you can count on? Someone who can help you out, steer you in the right direction, help you avoid the pitfalls? In the world of comics, if you need someone but have no help locally, my buddy Bill (another important mentor in my life) has started a website to pass along his years of knowledge: http://comicsmentor.com/ . Check it out...you'll be glad you did.
Or even better, can you be a mentor in someones life? Can you be the positive influence? Can you be the force for change that makes someones life even better?