When Gaiman came to town for his book tour not too long ago, it was relatively exciting. A writer that I was always fond of thanks to the Sandman series. Unforttunately, I jumped the gun on this job that I’ve been trying to get, going to it a day early, and missing the meet entirely. But the roommate went and got a signed copy of the book, so in a sense it’s just as awesome.
Hearing him on Q, and the story behind the book is pretty inspiring. I started writing The book I’ll never write because Bron is such a heavy inspiration behind it. She makes me feel great about my talents, and if I write for myself, and her then I’d be more than happy to know that’s all I need.
Even now she’ll always just be an inspiration. So I’m going to keep writing, even if the stuff that shouldn’t get to me does. This is a book I want her to read. I mean hell, I even wrote a chapter just for her.
But, as I get a lot of the big important chapters out of the way. I’ll soon gear up on the next draft of everything. elaborate on the things I know are missing.
It’s a fun process…
Fundamentally, everything has an origin story. There’s a rhyme and reason why we do all of the things we do. Wether it’s something that makes us great and powerful or timid and weak. That’s a strange sentence to start off with, when I’m essentially going to talk about comics.
From my youth, even to this day, People wonder why I haven’t gone into a career of comic books. Lack of support for that dream for one thing I guess. Spending a life time being told that my drawings are immature and I should do something with my life, kind of fucks you up a little when you’re in that impressionable stage in your childhood.
I suppose it hasn’t really stopped me. From a hobbyist perspective, I still occasionally grab the paper and pencil, or how I’m coming to know it in this digital age as a Wacom tablet. When the mood strikes I doodle, never anything too serious. I don’t have the capacity to spend hours on a piece, yet I’m constantly commended for my impeccable speed on pictures as they turn out more coherent and recognizable then most of my artist friends do.
There was a brief period in the early 00’s that comics were my cup of tea. 3 panel comic strips over the internet to be exact. I got into it when there was a boom. Webcomic communities as a whole were stepping out into the forefront as comickers everywhere, all these people wanted to show their stuff. For some it was a life option, for the love of doing it, but for a lot of people, it was just to get recognition and be popular.
That’s really a metaphor for the modern internet lifestyle.
For me it starts quite a long time ago, even before the internet was a thing. Drawing was an escape for me. I never had friends, and it was hard for me to make any. So I spent a lot of my school hours drawing on sheets of paper instead of doing homework. Drawing cartoon characters was essentially me, playing with my imaginary friends.
Being the avid game player that I was at the time, I loved the idea of drawing fan comics. Which for me for a lot of years, was Battletoads. It was a notoriously hard video game that in retrospect was pretty terrible. Living in North America you don’t really hear or see much of that franchise, (which I understand was big in the UK?)
Here we had Ninja Turtles on a day to day basis, which I was a huge fan of. My sisters would sometimes think they’re being funny in telling me that the Ninja Turtles aren’t real, which is terrible if they thought I never had the capacity to tell the difference between cartoons and reality. (Though the first Ninja Turtles movie could probably make a child’s imagination go haywire. As kids you would shout into manholes to get their attention out of jest.) The point is, as cool as the turtles were, I figure the Battletoads were just as awesome. So I drew comics about them to fill the gaps for a franchise that I never really seen.
I think by the time I hit grade 4, I tried having my own imagination when it came to drawing comics. You know, Original content. Characters that only I could think of. Bob & George two dudes on a mission to express political satire.
Which if your reaction to that last sentence is one of surprise, please don’t be. The content of the comics were about how Bob and George were aware of the news and politics going on, as much as a forth grader could comprehend. But the jokes would always fall flat and never go anywhere. If the punchline were that comic after comic was still setting it up. Then I guess I accomplished that. But it was a start of something that I would continue to do till about grade 8.
The instructions for a child to self publish one comic at a time were simple. Grab three plain white pieces of paper. Fold them in half, staple the spine together, and viola! Draw the pages to your hearts content.
Soon after even I realized that Bob and George was getting stale for me. I wanted to draw action comics. The clan, a group of rag tag mutant superheros that fought for justice and other typical things that a superhero would do. I can’t really remember most of them, even though I have a character bible still hanging around my room to pull out and gander in a moments notice.
One of the characters that I remember to a tee was a character named “Funky Dumpling” which was essentially me. A character created from a mock radio show that an ex-friend and I used to do. We would grab a stereo with a mic function and just sit there coming up with skits on the fly. The show was called “Funny and Funky” you could probably gather who he was.
To commend him, he actually was pretty funny. I honestly had no idea what was going on half the time, and my humour, even at that age, was too dry for anyone other than me to get.
But with the crux of the ‘radio show’ the comic happened purely out of the fantasy that I could be awesome. Remember, drawing back then was an escape for me. To be hero in a comic book was an amazing adventure in my mind to counter the reality of my introverted nature. Too afraid to play outside in a neighbourhood where I’d always get picked on and beat up. My play time was Funky and THE CLAN fighting badguys and making with the stupid jokes.
I don’t want to make it sound like, I didn’t have friends at all. I shouldn’t really be leaving out the part where the comics helped me make friends. Even the kids that disliked me the most, saw that I enjoyed myself when I made the comics and it was that tiny little thing about me that made me cool.
Apparently, I drew the best rocks in Grade 2.
When the comics evolved into something that I knew I was good at, it evolved into comic strips around high school. OMiTACO a derivative of CowVision. Was a three panel comic strip about three people that had zero rhyme or reason for being around each other. The comic itself was done to mock the community that piled around recognizable comic strips in an attempt to leach off of their notoriety.
So in a way, the comic was kind of ironic because it relied on the wants and needs of others, in an attempt to become just as recognizable itself. That was the plan, (and apparently I thought like a devious child.) I’ll have to refer you to the part of the book that shows the comics, but to explain why the comics were the way that they were, you’d had to have been there.
If I had the right encouragement at the time, then that would have been the career I’d pursue. I was deep enough into the comics that I was updating them three times a week for years. I’d attend various panels at Edmonton, Alberta’s yearly Animethon, where I would talk about the wonders and joys of making webcomics to future hopefuls of the webcomic world.
But I never seemed to want to pursue it financially. I couldn’t bring myself to compile them into a book and put a price on the stuff. I think it was just out of modesty that I liked it being free. The only time I ever made money off of the hobby was during the conventions. I would hijack the Dealer table of fellow Ecamu-ers (Edmonton Cartoon Artist Meetup), then with a stack of blank sheets and 10s of sharpies in hand I, along with Rudi Gunther (http://www.fuddafudda.com) would draw free comic strips and throw them into a pile on the table. And right beside that pile was a little box that asked for donations.
To my surprise it actually worked. We made enough to help pay off some of the table that they rented, and a lot of people kept coming back to the table just to see if We made any more. They’d ask for autographs, wondered why I didn’t have any business cards, and became fast fans of what we did.
When stuff like that happens it kind of makes you feel like a rockstar. It would also confuse the hell out of you and wonder why I never pursued it.
There were even times where I’d get jealous of others that were more recognized then I. Something as petty a top webcomic list that would shift your position on the list depending on the amount of traffic you would receive. But it was only from the clicks that you got from the list itself and not general traffic to the site.
There was a comic that was always ahead of me called “Bob the Husky” Some furry comic from the UK about an un-funny day-to-day dolt commenting on daily events with poorly thought out punchlines. I apparently still sound quite jealous as that comic was getting more clicks that me, and was even updating less.
I mulled over it for weeks, wondering why. What was so great about it? How was it funny? What was I not doing? Then it hit me. Instead of letting it bother me, I would draw my answer to it.
Billy Dingo: Ace Everyman, was a strip about a white collar idiot, surrounded by people better than him. And the joke was that he was kind of like John from the Garfield strips. He was the main character, but it’s the cast that surrounds him that fuels the content. The joke was, that there was no joke and the life that the man lead was subtly disturbing in nature. It gave it a short run of 7 or so comics, and it eventually ended with him eating a baby, because with him being a dingo ‘THAT WAS THE JOKE’.
Again, not supposed to be funny at all.
And I was proud of myself. Because in 7 short comics, I did something equally terrible that I thought was much higher quality. Then I put it on the internet, and I let it exist.
Eventually at some point, I made the move to Vancouver and for some reason it also meant that I would leave that part of my life behind me.
At some point the idea that doing a webcomic, was something that I felt I wasn’t cut out for. I know many other people that do it on the regular, and make it their living to do stuff like this. The ECAMU crew that I’ve come to know became Love Love Hill, and some are practically a comic alliance of sorts still living in Edmonton.
I came to Vancouver to get into film.
Knowing what I know now, I would have told my younger self that comics are great, and that I have an amazing talent that shouldn’t go to waste. That’s what I seem to tell myself on a tumblr blog, every once in a while, called “FunkChop”. Even my mother tells me 20 years too late that it’s something I could do with my life.
I’m not saying that I regret where I am now, because I’m here doing what I’m doing for a reason. Yet there’s a part of me that often wonders if the stuff that I started doing, just as a reason to escape the world, would have me sitting pretty and enjoying my life much faster than my current pace.
I guess that would be a story for life comics to tell.