Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Comics: an extensive history

Here is the story of my life relative to comics. My first comic was drawn in Kindergarden. It was called Justin Man.

I believe there were several issues of Justin Man, drawn in pencil and crayon and though I do not recall if they were saved they are vivid in my memory. A single issue was composed of maybe two or three pages of literary wonder. A single script was mainly composed

Justin Man fought a number of enemies but my personal favorite was always the Robot. I wouldn't draw multi-page comics again until the fourth grade. Until then I emulated my favorite cartoonists (Bill Waterson, Gary Larson, B Kliban), producing my own silly gags and one-liners.

It was in Freshwater Florida where I saw my very first episode of Ed, Edd and Eddy on the Cartoon Network. I was completely inspired, lord forgive me. I took an existing character of mine and then basically copied the world and characters of the cartoon show in my own vein. Though I am embarrassed by this period it served as a playground where I did everything you're not supposed to do. A panel was an entire page. Speech bubbles were out of proper sequence. The human hand was nothing but a ball attached at the wrist. Nearly every character looked exactly the same, no matter the gender. But as I said, I learned from all these faux pas. In the meantime the comics were actually quite popular in the classroom. At one point I learned that selling out can back you into a corner. Crazy, right? I have at least 30 issues of these comics. At best they are vaguely amusing, in my opinion. My dad still loves them though.

I was over "Meister Man" by the 7th grade, and quite embarrassed. I departed from comics almost entirely save for the occasional phase when I would return to the one-liners and odd illustrations. During this time people would look at my art (and always have) and would ask "Do you do comics?" I would always retort with an irritated "No." because I didn't like the idea of being type-cast, artistically.

Finally in the 10th grade I resurrected Justin Man. With a new slew of amusing enemies (Lobe Duck, Bubba the Pidgeon Man) and a considerable leap in vocabulary, Justin Man was in every sense a new phenomenon. This time the stalwart hero was transformed into a goofy, somewhat dim underdog in the scheme of things. Generally the villains were defeated in some freak accident.

In senior year I undertook what I consider now to be my first attempt at a graphic novel. The project consumed my life for a good three months in which I drew nothing outside the confines of the work.

In the future the UED (unite earth directorate) sends astronauts into space to seek out worlds that can be colonized. Those worlds are marked and then groups of people and families are paid to live there for four years. If these groups can survive for the alloted times then the planet will be colonized.

The novel was about one such group. The whole endeavor proved quite destructive for me mentally, and in the end I realized to my horror that it was essentially Steven King's "The Shining" set in the future. Balls. I decided from that point never to touch a graphic novel ever again.

Six months later I was at it again. This time making an epic fantasy based story. Nothing special, but damned fun to draw. I realized later that not every character should look like me, that's a bit of a stretch. There was another departure after that one, as some things require a touch more planning.

I suppose at this point I should explain that I almost never have a plan. While most people who draw comics make thumbnails, pencil everything in, and then ink it up. I just ink it up. When I discovered pen and ink I never went back. So generally I plow through comics one page at a time. People think I'm crazy but it's worked out okay so far.

Last summer marked my first job, working as a dishwasher in a pub. I would argue that it was a good experience but only in an argument. Otherwise I will start whining and wishing that I had my summer back. I learned there that I truly needed to do art as a career. I was eventually fired for tearing down fliers and drawing comics on them. Whoops.

Working in that sweaty, greasy dive inspired The Great War, which I worked on over the summer and into the next semester of my junior year in college. This semester, actually. It was in Cape Cod on our annual family vacation that my best friend Alexander the Great and I spoke on the future. I was frustrated and worried, not knowing what to do with my life. My mother still believes I should have a go at Hollywood. Suddenly Alex turned to me and said "...Why don't you just do comics?"

I stared blankly.

"Christ. Why don't I just do comics?" I had no answer.

I don't want to ever limit myself to one thing. But I know that my passion for comic making is very real. This realization has changed me in ways I never thought possible. It's funny, a year ago I would have slapped myself for saying so.

Funny how life works out, aye?

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