Changing Aspirations

By | Wednesday, January 11, 2023 Leave a Comment
When I was in my early teens, I wanted to be a comic book artist. Sometime around 15 or 16, though, I realized that I didn't have the aptitude and/or drive for it. Not only was I not of professional caliber, I wasn't even up to par with the art I saw current professionals had done when they were my age. I just didn't enjoy drawing that much. My dad also pointed out at one point, too, that drawing a Spider-Man comic monthly meant drawing Spider-Man six times a day every day. (I knew he was exaggerating a bit, but I did take his point.)

So I let myself be content as a comic reader, and I went off to college to study graphic design. I could still do "art" but there was enough of a call for it that I stood a reasonably good chance of getting a regular job. (Also, I had run through all of the other "design" type majors -- industrial design, fashion design, architecture, etc. -- and essentially eliminated them as potential options for one reason or another.)

My college program was set up in a way that your first years were almost exclusively focused on design classes, and you didn't have room for any electives that you needed just to round out your schedule until your last year or two. So I didn't take and writing or literature classes until I was 21 or 22, I think. I had a variety of people tell me that I was a pretty decent writer, but I enjoyed graphic design and was near enough to my degree that I didn't think much of writing until after I graduated and got a full-time job. I toyed with the idea of being a comic book writer for several years, including sending several unsolicited stories to various Marvel editors; but I dropped that idea after calling editor Bobbie Chase to see if she had received and was able to critique them, and she politely informed me that she hadn't read any of them because she simply didn't have time to deal with unsolicited work.

What I did learn, though, was that after sending a dozen or two stories, I realized that was all I had. I didn't really have this well-spring of ideas for comic book scripts; I had a handful of ideas that I had sort of noodled out over the previous decade or two. I could turn them into scripts easily enough, but I didn't have anything else to say in the context of a comic book. If I wanted to say something, I could simply write it like this rather than try to force a metaphor around the issue.

I then played with the notion of writing comic book news. But I honestly didn't want to write news so much as the type of thing that shows up on this blog -- some combination of research and opinion. And, as the past ten years writing this blog, plus everything else I've ever written, have shown -- there's really not a market for my writing. I could make a few bucks but nothing remotely close to enough to earn a living.

All this time, I'd been working at various full-time jobs that had nothing to do with comics. I'd gotten raises and promotions, and I find myself earning a decent living outside of comics. I'd heard of people wanting to "give back" to the comics community, but I'd never really felt I had enough to do that. I wasn't exactly living paycheck-to-paycheck, but there wasn't a whole lot left over at the end of the month. So when any opportunity came up to get comics for free, I jumped on it.

The past couple of years, my situation has improved in a variety of ways, and I'm sitting a little more comfortably now. Further, by being in Chicago, I have access to see a lot more independent creators than I could find in Southwest Ohio. Combined, that means I can actually change my approach to buying comics somewhat. While my budget is hardly unlimited, I can make a more deliberate effort towards getting money to creators who (in my opinion) could better use it. I've found myself buying more comics that were purchased more because I respected the creator's hustle than the comic itself. Not that the comics look bad -- I won't knowingly buy crap -- but they might be in a genre I'm not especially fond of, or maybe the end product isn't quite as polished as I'd like to see it, or something.

But I'm trying to think like Frank Zappa's proverbial cigar-chomping music executive. "I don't know! Who knows what it is... stick it out! If it sells, alright!" Just because something's not my cup of tea doesn't mean it's not worthy of an audience. So if it looks like it might be something, I'll try to throw some of my money at it. Whether it's in person or through crowd-funding or whatever. I might only be able throw a few bucks at it, but maybe the sale of that single book means the creator has one less meal to worry about, and they can work on creating another comic.

I like the idea of being in a position to contribute to the comics community, even if I'm not making comics myself. I can't give help EVERY comic that looks interesting, of course, and my situation may change in the future where I'll have to radically cut back on that whole approach. But for now, I like to think I'm doing a bit of good and helping folks out in doing some things that I never had the courage or chutzpah or whatever to do myself.
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