Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Walk Your Path

Panel from Graffiti graphic novel
A few weeks ago I found myself in what I think was kindof a midlife crisis  ... disguised as a terrible gut feeling that somehow I wasn't quite doing what was making me happy ...

I found myself vividly remembering being happier, but feeling not so much "happy" right now.

Life was generally okay, and I had many happy moments -- but what I was feeling was a sense of loss of a general happiness I had gotten used to being in, especially once having moved to Tennessee.

So I had to reconstruct just when I had felt that super-happyness I was remembering, and when possibly it was I managed to get off track ...

It took talking with my very patient husband, a good observation from my Mom, a few patient friends who listened and encouraged, and reading/listening to what several other friends were saying about their own paths. Then I went through a bunch of old notebooks of mine to rediscover what I had neglected to do ...

I had forgotten to fully be myself.

Yeah, but that's a silly thing to say, right? What does that even mean? How can a person forget how to do be themselves? You are always yourself, after all. You live in your skin! And I was already super doing things I just love! I teach during the school year, and love that -- and the kids! They're so great and so much fun! I also volunteer a lot and read at church, for example, and I love that, too! I had even joined the church choir which I had been longing to do (if I had a whole other lifetime to live I would totally be a musician.)

But I had forgotten what it was like to prioritize and put my comics work first. It's easy to fall into a pattern of doing what is more easily fulfilled and seems very, very, very important to do, over something that is a key to joy and yet seems so very solitary, takes a whole lot more work and focus and well, is maybe just a wee little selfish because of the sheer fun it is to do.

But yeah. I'd forgotten to fully be myself, because I'd misplaced my center of making comics.

I didn't LOSE it. Just misplaced it. De-prioritized it.

After all, it seems so self-centered, so internal to feel "out of sorts" when I'm not drawing comics.
But I do! And it's not the first time I've found myself feeling lost, off center and not myself. Each and every time I've felt that it's been because I haven't prioritized doing the one other simple thing -- other than prayer -- that brings me great peace. And that's putting focus on making art. On drawing my comics.

As I've grown older the lost feelings have become more blatant, more nagging, more overwhelming when I get off track. It's not good. And you'd think I'd have figured that out by now, right? I'd have paid attention to the other half dozen off-kilter experiences I've gone through and maybe finally written myself a huge post-it note:

"Shut up and draw!"

Well, I finally did today. It's on the edge of my drafting table. And I'm posting it here to help me remind myself.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mike Madrid's "Divas, Dames & Daredevils"

Chris was catching up on podcasts a few weeks ago and I was working nearby as he listened to Felicia Day's Vlog entry "Some Comics I Bought", where (along with a bunch of other graphic novels) Felicia mentions buying Mike Madrid's "Divas, Dames and Daredevils". He immediately thought it would be something I would love (it is!) so he bought a copy for me.

I enjoy old-timey comics (those that are pre- 1954's SOTI comics industry clamp down.) I don't love the creepy "let's see what we can get away with" grotesqueness of pre-code comics -- rather I really enjoy the whole "just go with it" attitude in the storytelling that so many of the tales have.

And you really have to go with it cause there's not much time/space. The stories tend to be super short -- usually 6 or 7 pages -- and tend to be done in one. We can be dropped into the middle of a situation in progress. There's oftentimes no long, drawn-out set up, no origin story -- okay, maybe sometimes there will be the briefest of intros -- but usually there's just fly by the seat of your pants craziness.

Sure, the drawing of 40s and 50s comics can be somewhat staid when we compare them to the flashy, computer-colored panel-breaking layouts we've become used to in modern comics, but on the other hand, there's also something very visually "meaty" about their presentation, probably because the artist is not trying to impress the eye, but rather, more simply trying to serve the story.

What I absolutely enjoy is author Mike Madrid's flat out sheer L-O-V-E for old comics, comics history and especially female characters in these old comic books ('cause they were some gutsy dames) and he really is wonderfully up front about it. Reading this book is a hoot.

I also love how he closes the book -- and his whole final paragraph is just terrific -- where he says "The stories collected in this book represent a moment in time when women could be as heroic as men."

This is a book that I will treasure.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Plunging into Diversity in Comics and the Joy of Hope

Writer Joe Illidge has a terrific series running on Comic Book Resources titled The Color Barrier. The full title of the very first post is "THE COLOR BARRIER: A Message of Comics, Diversity & Hope".

Joe's interviews with African American and Latino writers and illustrators discussing their work and diversity in comics (and entertainment fields) and his greater message reinforcing the need to go forward and do, was the absolutely best thing I could have read this morning. (Yes, I read all -- as of this writing -- 10 articles.)

My favorite articles are his most recent two: "The Direct Impact of Dwayne McDuffie and What Comes Next" and "Does Fair Play Really Matter?" more than anything because they point to how some things in the comics industry are changing for the better.

It's been 17-18(?) years since I worked with Joe Illidge at Milestone Media. Joining him on The Nerds of Color video podcast Hard NOC Life to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Milestone was sobering -- in the best possible way.

Seeing the guys after all these years made me realize how although I've been working on a graphic novel on the side, I'd pretty much otherwise put my comics passion and love on the back burner. (This blog pretty much attests to that with the spotty posts I've made these past few years.)

The reunion made me realize much hurt, anger and disgust about mainstream comics (read Marvel and DC) I had been pressing down. And how very different my experience at Milestone had been in comparison to my experiences at Defiant, Broadway and DC Comics.

But this was a healing reunion and realization for me. There we all reinforced the need to get past the disappointment and do something, and that something is to make comics that we'd want to read.

Truly the only way for people to find what they think is lacking is to then supply it. This is how new creator voices get heard. And how new comics get read. Let's encourage one another to do so.

Thank you, Joe, so much for the Hope and the encouragement to go forward and make comics.