January 9, 2012

So, long term readers of this blog may recall this post on June 7th, 2010. What you might recall about it is that I didn't post a damned thing again until this post on December 12th, 2010. Then I posted some stuff for a bit and disappeared until this post, following which I've been posting regularly, if less energetically than in what might be referred to as the blog's "heyday."

Well, as you might suspect, it all ties into a time line of events you weren't privy to. To put it succinctly, I lost, in part through my own fault and in part through circumstance, three of the most important things to me in the world, in the space of a year. Failed at them and lost them, to be exact. And in each case I caused harm not only to myself but to the other parties involved. Financial, as well as emotional, in two cases. That first post came right after the first, and the second most painful. I needed a jolt of money to have time to do finish the next step in my work on Acorn, the book I was working on, and had been working on for four and a half years. And right then came a project from Patton Oswalt, who, as you've seen, I'd done some posters for. He wanted me to do a comic for his first book, Werewolves and Lollipops. I saw my chance, asked for as much money for it as I could, and being the always good patron of illustrators that he is, he paid me well for it, in advance. About a week and a half later I started suffering from what would become dual illnesses that had me literally bleeding out of my head and my ass at the same time, and that's not even slightly getting into the gross parts. I drew a fevered, unpublishable version of the comic, then drew another, spending so much energy on it I wrecked my recovery and went into remission, and had to finish it sick. It's in his book now. It was a month late, it's the worst thing I have ever drawn, and a man who is a hero to me, who was always nice to me, who gave me a chance, paid dearly out of his own pocket for that piece of shit.

And the worst part is it wasn't enough. I was so late with the project I had to get a job, and I couldn't continue on the book. I was demoralized, more ashamed than I have ever been, and still pretty physically crappy. That was when I made the first post.

The second post came awhile after I'd been kicked off a project I started off on as an ass kicking deadline hero, having not turned in any work to speak of for...many months. And there was certainly no sign I'd be able to for...years. It didn't hurt as much as the Patton thing, because at least I owed the publisher a shitload of money, and I never turned in bad work to them ever. That's how bad it was, that owing them $17,500 made me feel BETTER. But at least I still had my girlfriend, right? Well, you'll notice the posts stopped again.

And let me tell you, those are only the top three things out of a year that would have sucked without them. Psychopath boss at a job that made me miserable, landlord who didn't heat our apartment for the better part of 2 months, to the extent that it went repeatedly got down to the high thirties in our apartment, room mate drama, friends moving away... And this was all after the bitter failure and financial ruin of my move to Portland, which I still haven't gotten over, emotionally or financially.

It wasn't even just that I had nothing in the tank. Writing something, anything, involves settling down into your own head for a bit, and I absolutely could not be alone with my thoughts and emotions. The breakup was the last straw. I marvel at it- it wasn't even a bad breakup. It was about as good as could be hoped for. And I've been through a lot of tragedies and rough spots in my life. I've lost friends and family to untimely deaths, been attacked by gangs and hired thugs in school, helped drag my father's body off a couch so my mom could do CPR while I flagged down the ambulance and then had kids say to me "Ha ha, your dad died!"...All pretty bad stuff. And like I said, fairly good breakup. But I have never, ever been in that kind of pain, ever. It was, and continues to be, much worse than I anticipated. I still haven't cried about it. The rest of my life collapsed around me before the breakup, and until I set it back to at least stable, I'm like a paramedic, staying frosty and trying to contain myself until it's safe for me to react to how I feel about what's happened.

The inside of my head was a no fly zone for months, not even for a second, and that definitely meant no writing, no drawing. Hardly any thinking, really.

It's been almost a year now and you were the first to know when the logjam cleared enough for me to write. For several months now I've been able to feel joy, and I spend less and less time each day feeling terrible. I don't feel as good as I used to- the untouchable ball of sadness is still there, waiting for me to make things safe enough to come out, and it's presence dulls all my feelings. But things are better. And I am, at last, starting to work on comics again.

It's that process I'd like to talk about.

Before I could be in my head enough to post here again, I still wanted to make marks. I'm an artist before I'm anything else. Even rendered incapable of doing art, I have to make something with my hands. So the first thing I did was lettering. I knew my lettering hand would be rusty from disuse, so while I was working in the Shaker store this summer I wrote down all the lyrics from the Shaker songs, words from packages on the desk, whatever sentences came to mind. I filled pages with just solid text, trying to make it as even and perfect as I could. It wasn't art, but at least I could feel competence and confidence come back into my disused hands.

This post is getting pretty long, so I'm gonna continue it in another installment. Before I go, though, here's a video of Fabio Moon inking. Christ I love videos of cartoonists inking.


Roca said...

So sorry you've had a rough go of it. I hope 2012 is much better for you!

rbrady said...

Glad to see you back!

Unknown said...

A number of years ago I did corporate training all over the US. For whatever reason I decided I'd be that teacher who always made a point of saying 'bless you' when someone sneezed. Then one week I had a group of students who coughed a lot. As far as I knew, 'bless you' didn't technically apply for coughs and there isn't a suitable equivalent, but I wanted to add coughs to the list of things I acknowledged. Fortunately that group of people was of good humour and we all started telling coughers, "Stop coughing."

Before the end of the second day of that, people were afraid to cough for the barrage of 'stop coughings' which would ensue followed by racous laughter. I hope you'll accept this comment in that same spirit: we enjoy what you do here and thoroughly appreciate you sharing your expertise and person, please stop bleeding out your ass.

Kat said...

Life is a hard, long, confusing journey. It's full of heartache and disappointment and pain and loss and terrible, terrible tragedies that no one should ever suffer... but it's also full of wonder and love and happiness and many many moments of joy that don't necessarily make the bad parts go away, but make them more worth suffering through. You are just living, and learning, and with every single day that you move forward... you live and learn just a little bit more. Maybe some day it'll turn out that everything really is some set path where all the things that we experience NEEDED to be experienced in order to make us the best versions of ourselves we can be. Maybe some day it won't be just fleeting moments of happiness but whole hours or weeks or stretches of time into infinity that lift you into complete bliss and nirvana. You are brave for carrying on, doing everything to survive in every single sense of the word. No matter how hard it gets, always powering on through it to get to wherever that other side might be... I hope that some day, it all makes sense for you. I hope that some day, the ground beneath your feet is finally stable enough to not only stand on, but to stand on with confidence. No matter what, though, remember that you are loved. You have friends, family, and complete internet strangers that look to you. Whose lives you have touched more than I think you realize... And I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are glad for having met you, in whatever capacity we have. I hope your life turns out to be amazing.

West said...

I can certainly relate, man. I'm sorry you all this went down. I'm glad you're back.

Jordan Ansell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jordan Ansell said...

You're human, you're alive, and you're working to pick up the pieces and starting fresh. That's what we want to hear ;)

I appreciate what you do here, the time and effort you put in, and enjoy reading your posts. Look forward to seeing some more of your work too.

Wish you you the best :)

Comic Tools said...

Thanks all! Part 2's a tad more optimistic, so go read that. I just didn't want a post longer than the damned page. I have to chuckle a bit at the comments trying to comfort me by pointing out I'm alive. I'm not so bad off that that not being dead is my comfort and refuge, believe me. I have plenty of blessings, I just happen to have had 3 of my best ones immolated in front of me. I mean, yeah, I'm still smarting pretty good, but you have to admit it's worth a chuckle when someone trying to give you condolences reaches for "Er...your heart hasn't stopped!" I DO very much appreciate the thought though, all of you.

Comic Tools said...

I'd say your caring enough to write is one of those blessings I mentioned, for sure.

Rob Cottingham said...

I just want you to know how tremendously valuable the expertise and advice you've shared here have been to me - I've learned a ton from you, and I'm grateful. Thank you.

Geli Girl said...


I've only been reading your blog for a few months now. Wishing you perseverance and strength. Not that I have to wish it upon you, you already have it.

I just wanted to comment here because of the feelings I have that are reciprocal to your post. I graduated from art school in 2004. It took me six years to graduate. I'm 32 years old now and since 21 have been dealing what I CAN'T control because of lupus and being an artist on top of that.

Right now, I'm trying to apply for the last xeric grant. I've been working on this comic forever. But because of my current living in the midwest--which right now the weather is affecting my body--and my life/financial situation because of my health.. who knows if I will get my comic done. Anyway... been dealing with much frustration because of the "setbacks" and reflecting a lot on the word SHALOM.

So... just commenting to wish you Shalom. Myself too.

Cheesy. I know. Especially from a stranger. But I had to put it out there.


Miguel Garza said...

This is like a song or a book or a comic about hard times that makes you go, "Damn, they know how I feel [and I know how they feel]!" and make you feel better about yourself and life, feel less alone.

Keep rockin'.

Comic Tools said...

Thanks, all. Good luck on the Xeric, Angel!