May You Live In Interesting Times

By | Friday, July 26, 2013 Leave a Comment
I remember the time around when I graduated college as one of great upheaval. Obviously for me personally, stepping out into the "real world" for the first time, but the same held true for many of the people I knew and interacted with. Many of us were graduating, of course, but there were a pretty good number of weddings and births and all the other things that tend to happen right around that time. Much of that has to do with societal expectations, but it also had to do with the circle of friends and acquaintances people keep, which is to say that throughout our teens and early twenties, we tend to associate most with others pretty close to us in age. So that all of us go through the same types of life changes at about the same time makes sense.

What I've noticed, though, is that I've been seeing a lot of that going on again now. The last 8-10 months, say. Again, my own life changes have been pretty dramatic -- picking up and moving from suburban Ohio to Chicago to buy a house with the S.O. -- but I'm seeing big shifts in others' lives as well. My brother is hunting for a new job. One of my editors recently left for another gig. A cousin diagnosed with and dealt with breast cancer. Another cousin gave birth a few months ago. Another pair of cousins have started intensive fitness regimens and look like they walked out of a comic book. An acquaintance just underwent kidney surgery. A co-worker just found his wife is pregnant. Another co-worker just told me today he's trying to move South Carolina. A friend just had her place robbed. Not to mention all the comics people I know who've gotten (mostly good but a few bad) breaks.
One question at the moment is how much of that is simply my attention and focus. Because MY life is topsy-turvey, am I simply more keenly aware when I see the same in others' lives? The same thinking as when you can hear easily hear your name in a crowded room, even if you're not particularly paying attention.

The other idea is that much of this could well be legitimate changes that have in part built up because of shifts in the economy. Where people held off going to the doctor or hospital until they felt more financially secure. Where people didn't invest in possible opportunities because they didn't feel there would be enough money to pay for them.

Either way, I'm seeing lots of change going on these days.

The link to comics here is indirect. I'm looking at a broad swath of life events, of which comics only encompass a portion. But the relevance here, I think, is that the life events I'm seeing are coloring my perception of comics as a whole. I'm more acutely aware of a creator friend's condition when he suffered a decidedly unexpected seizure recently. It's certainly not related to my moving to Chicago in any way, but the human mind is conditioned to make associations, even if their connection is tenuous at best. So I see it as part of a pattern, regardless of how casual the actual relation.

What's particularly interesting (to me, at any rate) is that I'm also finding this useful for my new webcomics column at MTV Geek. I'm creating an ongoing "Top 5 Webcomics You Missed This Week" focusing on webcomics in which something significant happens. Since my brain is somewhat attuned to radical shifts right now, it's comparatively easy for me to pick out significant story events.

Apply that general idea to comics in general, and you can't help but wonder what events are going on in individual creators' lives while they're working on whatever stories they happen to be working on. Autobiographic comics aside, what really prompted Len Wein and Marv Wolfman to come up with Swamp Thing and Man-Thing independently of one another, but pretty much at the same time. It's easy to show how Victor Fox's Wonderman was trying to play off the popularity of Superman, but how many other instances of similar or related ideas came from "something in the air." No, it wasn't some indefinable gas that people happened to be breathing; it was a series of life-events that affected people at the same time in similar ways. Events like 9/11 are easy to track to, but there's a lot going on at a smaller, but no less significant to the individual, scale.
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