(Almost) What I Always Wanted To Be
I was 10 years old when I got my first comic, The Punisher Vol. 2 #2, from a spinner rack at a Kroger grocery store. It was the summer my father adopted me. There was a badass dude with a big ass gun shooting shit.
From that moment forward, all I wanted to do was make comic books.
I drew all the time. I made my own comics from age 10 - 15, then I tagged up with a much better artist than myself and wrote them from age 15-18. Then we had a falling out, and I went back to drawing. Then, I made a tragic mistake and listened to the wrong people in my life and quit drawing altogether. Not that it's entirely their fault. It was around the time of the first dot com bubble, and I started working in that industry and got really busy. But the raw amounts of passion it took to maintain the hobby of drawing all night after working all day... Yeah, that went away.
The desire, though, always lingered. And every time I got the opportunity to pitch or conceptualize or coordinate with an artist, dreams of working on a comic would dance through my head. Conversations would take place. If they were interested, some preliminary work would start. Then life would catch up and I would get busy and the routine would start again.
Add to this the fact that I used the salaries and paychecks and reputations and client roster to bolster my ego in lieu of actually doing what made me happy, and you've got a pretty vicious cycle.
I moved from software development into design, then concept and pitching, then production, then marketing and promotion. Every gig I worked on, there'd be this moment where I'd work with an artist or a writer and think "Man... We should do a comic together." I joined Studio Revolver in 2011 with the hopes that I would trade teaching digital marketing and strategy for art lessons.
It's 2013. I'm 36 years old. I've been a member of an actual comic book studio for over two years and ran a studio full of artists for almost a year before the company folded. I've written two books (well, three, but I haven't announced the third just yet). I've written literally thousands of articles on my blog, CNN, Huffington Post, magazines and newspapers over the years.
Do you know how many comics I've created to date? Zero. None. Not a one.
I always had a passion for writing and storytelling. But in my brain there was always this little buzzing of a dream of making comics. My favorite medium from my most impressionable years was comics. So there's perpetually this 10 year old inside me that gets very wide eyes and drops his jaw every time he meets an artist or writer or editor he's a fan of.
So the running joke is that I'm not in the comics industry, I just live next door and visit a lot. I hang around artists. I teach them what I can when I can. I've done websites for them. Eventually I co-owned a studio full of them. I can't draw, so the next best thing was to be relied upon by artists and make their dreams come true.
I've been almost doing what I've always dreamed of doing for two thirds of my life. And that's the problem with being next door to the thing you love. You get to stare in the windows of the next door house all day long and see all the things you can't ever have.
Making the realization that I never actually wanted to make comics, I just used comics as my metric for success was life-changing. I realized that my dreams were not ill-founded, I just called them by the wrong name. And that's why they always eluded me. I couldn't get their attention, because they had no idea I had been calling to them in this crowded world. They didn't know to turn around and look for me.
Now, I've finally realized, I want to be a writer for the rest of my life. I want to make words for a living. I want to teach. I want to entertain. I want to educate. I want to question. I want to interrogate. I want to explore. And I want to do it with words. I've always wanted to do this, and I've been doing it for 12 years. But there was always this whisper in my mind that said "Well, if you can't do comics, at least you can do this..."
I've moved from the neighborhood where I lived right next door to comics all day every day. I'm now in my own place, living the life I know I am meant to live, and I'm happy. That's not to say that I won't someday write comics. I still love them and the industry and the people I've gotten to know. But it's not the end-all be-all monolithic dream it once was for me.
I don't want to be any of the surrogates I chose to be in lieu of being a comics artist and writer. I don't want to be a web developer anymore. I don't want to be a producer. I don't want to be a designer. I don't want to be a marketer. I want to tell stories and have them matter. I want to write, all day, every day, for the rest of my life.
It feels good to look in the mirror and actually see myself for once, instead of the image of who I think I'm supposed to be.