Dreams I'll Never See

By | Wednesday, March 04, 2020 Leave a Comment
Mirror Walker #1
I remember as a teen, having read through my own meager comics collection, checking out whatever my father had purchased for himself. This would have been in the mid-to-late 1980s, so there was a lot of things like Judge Dredd, Scout, and American Flagg. I didn't read everything Dad bought -- some of it just didn't look appealing at all -- but one I picked up was Mirror Walker where the main character (drawn in a very cartoony style) stepped through a mirror to wander around in the real world (depicted via photographs). The notion of a cartoon figure walking through the "real" world wasn't totally new, of course, with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? coming out the year before, and the concept of passing through a mirror to get to an alternate reality was lifted from Lewis Carroll. But there were two things that struck me about the book at the time. First, it was written by Marv Wolfman, who had a long history of writing mainstream superhero comics. That he was now doing an indie book that wasn't at all superhero related seemed very strange to me; it had an almost greater sense of walking through a mirror than what was depicted in the story itself.

Second, there was only the one issue before Now Comics folded, leaving the story decidedly incomplete. I recall asking my dad about the second issue -- I think I had noticed the publication date was from some substantially earlier time -- and he explained that the publisher closed and there wouldn't be a second issue. Despite being a teenager who should've been able to understand this, I recall being confused by the notion of the story remaining unfinished. "Why don't they just get someone else to publish it?" It took me a disappointingly long time to really process things. But I really started thinking about the economics of comic books as a driving factor in their production, frequently over-powering whatever creative energy might be behind the stories themselves.

(Side Note: I believe one of the artists -- either Barry Daniel Petersen or Erich Schrempp -- published the completed story on the web a few years back. However, I can't seem to find it now.)

I was reminded of this tonight as I was looking through some notes and realized there were several webcomics I haven't read for a couple years now. When I was in my accident in 2018, everything -- yes, even reading comics --went on hold while I was in the hospital and the subsequent rehab, and I just never got back to some of those comics. But now, going back to those website, I'm finding the comics are not only gone, but the domains have been snapped up by things like Japanese porn.

This is basically why I started trying to support as many independent creators as I could several years ago. I've seen far, far too many comic creators that did excellent work, only to have to put it aside in order to earn a living. Many of which left their stories unfinished. In an early draft of my upcoming Webcomics textbook, I had a blind review that suggested I focused too much on money and financing. While I did tone it back a bit, it still seems to me a very significant aspect to making webcomics. Not that a creator necessarily makes a living from the webcomic, but that they're only able to continue working on the webcomic so long as they can afford to. If they have to work two or three crap jobs just to make sure the rent is paid, they're not likely going to have any extra time to work on their webcomic. That would then take the lower priority, and eventually fade far into the background.

As much as I'd love for creators to have the freedom to pursue their comic to its natural conclusion (if there even is one!) the practical impact of the real world means that sometimes those stories have to be left unfinished in order to pay the bills. I don't know that I can solve that, even for a single creator, but I can hopefully at least make my small contribution to keeping their dream alive a little while longer.
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