"This is the hardest part...It'll get easier after this."
I finished with my appearance at C2E2 the Chicago Comic con. I've got a few things to say...if you don't much care about what I'll be going on about, I'm also putting up a shotgun blast of progress pics of upcoming work. So, you can, at any point, just stop reading the text and check out the previews and this will still have been worth opening.
Concerning C2E2, I'll start with something positive, artist alley and the new batch of talent. Like every artist alley of the last...oh..ten years, there was a glut of people pissing away their talent selling prints of their illustrations of people's intellectual property. A giant display of 11x17 inch prints of thier rendition of She Hulk, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, ect,. You were given talent, you developed skill, you can draw whatever you want...and you are drawing someone else's idea. They always have a host of excuses- that's all people buy, that's all people notice...it's curious, isn't it, that those things didn't seem to apply to those of us who made our own way. BUT...THIS TIME...there where a hell of a lot of creatives showing off their own works, their own ideas. This was the first time in a long time that I had ambitious young creatives come right up to my booth and show me their work. There is hope for the future.
Listen to me as hard as you f*cking can, if you are 16-30...you have a short window of time to find your voice. A sweet spot of your talent and your perspective on the world coming to maturity to develop a voice...you get that ONE sweet spot in your life and if you miss it...you can't get it back. Do not waste one minute of that time. I'll be philosophical for a moment, that window is where you have creative prowess that is still pliable/elastic and the world in front of you is still being seen with new eyes. THAT is when you find your unique voice. Once you have it, it's yours, go ahead and take a side project or two. But developing that voice must take priority, it must come first. Please, PLEASE, listen to me, I saw so many creatives who could have been more , settle for being no.512 of 978 people who drew Spider-Man. They will live and then die and leave behind a body of work that no one remembers or cares about. These guys doing pin ups of Wonder Woman bending over...their patrons grandkids will find the crusted together pages of their work and throw it out.
What you are working on...does it seem like a variation of something else...then throw it the f*ck away and start over. In 20 years will anyone remember who drew Spider-Man no.1113? NO. But they'll remember Sandman, and Hellboy, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and Lenore and...they'll remember seeing a Zombie Fetus. And some kid in 2042 will run across any of these things and go "wow...what?! cool!". THAT is the goal, that is your target.
From what I saw at C2E2...I don't even need to tell Gen Y this, and that warms my heart.
The closer it got to C2E2, the less I wanted to go to it, for reasons which have nothing to do with the quality of show Reepop puts on. I think they do a good job, or this would be a different rant. I've been doing this for a while now...I know this isn't a wise thing to say, self promotion-ally speaking, but I'm being honest here, I didn't want to do this. AT ALL. One reason I did go is...as a comedy writer you gotta see how the public reacts to your work, what's working, what ain't. You can write in a vacuum but you can't write from a vacuum. And given the specific past two years...I defiantly needed to make sure my comedic compass is still pointing true north. It is, but a little re-calibration didn't hurt.
Also as I suspected, and professed, the boogy man of some mythological easily offended masses is all bullshit. It exists as text on the internet by someone who, at that moment, was bored. Even that person who on the internet is non stop trying to cancel stuff, ain't that person in real life. It's the climate/culture of social media...you're on there and everyone is arguing and pissed off so you argue and get pissed off. But in real actual life people know what a joke is. That perpetually offended personas is not who people are in real life. They're on the internet killing time and blowing off steam, by the time you've typed up an apology they already forgot about it and moved on. If you're a creative pro, just do your thing.
The only notion more ridiculous, is the people who try to claim clout because a bunch of annons were bitching about them for the amount of time it took to drink their coffee. "oh, you cant say this anymore you cant say that. you can't be edgy" ...oh shut up. If you tried to do a monologue that Bob Hope did in 1958, no one would laugh, therefor you "couldn't do it". Does that have anything to do with "woke"? no. Try this for a possibility...maybe...just MAYBE...the sh*t ain't funny. I hate to break it to all you 40yr old plus comedians out there, but old guy observational humor just ain't doing it anymore. It's f*cking tiresome, in fact. It's the same lame set up, "what's up with 7-11's?" "what's the deal with this gender swapping"...it's old guy gives his perspective and it's NOT FUNNY ANYMORE. If you can hear Jerry Seinfeld's voice doing your routine, you need to reboot.
If you put out good work you'll be around in a year and if you don't you won't. That's how it's always been, what's changed is that you've forgotten that, or never learned it. It's part of the job. There always was and will be some cries from the back of the room from people who are bored and want to matter.
Do you have any idea how much money has been made by creative enterprises despite some bored a-holes crying about it? For f*cks sake, South Park got b*tched about three times a season for 25 years.
It'll give you a story. The distributor is wondering where the next issue of Arsenic Lullaby is and I call the printer to find out why it hasn't shipped. They tell me they have decided not to print it because it has a cartoon fetus on the cover. Now I could have wasted time butting heads and crying about people being too sensitive or I could have hauled ass and found another printer. I found another printer, and the book sold out three print runs, the end. At that time the religious right was the issue, next time I'm sure it will be the political left assuming I have some agenda other than "funny". People were always faking outrage, promoters were always turning heel and running at the first sign of trouble. That's all part of the business. George Carlin got fucking thrown in jail for cursing. Did you get thrown in jail? No? Then stfu and tell another joke...if it's funny.
This is where self awareness comes in, was the intent to make good work or do harm. If it was to make good work, then continue to do so.
Speaking of doing the job, using the C2E2 crowd as a litmus test, If anything I'm concerned that the stuff I'm working on now ain't edgy enough. My audience is people who understand how fucked up life and the world is, and after the past two years, that now seems to be just about everyone. Which means the "edge" is even farther out there now for people who started off cynical and dark.
After a while just for the hell of it I started calling people over who I thought for sure would not be ready for Arsenic Lullaby, not only were they not startled, they laughed and bought copies....that's a little alarming to be honest. I sold more copies than I did last time, and I wasn't really trying because I wanted an excuse to leave. If Arsenic Lullaby hits the mark with mainstream now, we are in rough shape.
So, that aspect, at least for me was positive.
But that show...was not fun. I already said I didn't really want to go. I had been trying to talk myself out of it all the way til the night before. I know that my attitude was garbage. But I've done shows with a garbage attitude before, that wasn't what was the issue here. It was a garbage attitude though, I will say that.
This was to be my first comicon since...you know. At FIRST when I signed up for it, I thought it would be fitting to bookend...you know...with going to this show. Last show before it, first show after...poetic, right? After thinking it over, that didn't seem like a great idea. 2020/21 f*cked my entire life in the ear. Right in the ear. Every deal I had going on, every plan, every project, everything going on in my life got f*cked...every aspect of it, slowly and excruciatingly got pulled away by the tide. (I understand this is not a rare story) and it was a non stop fist fight with the universe to try to protect and salvage what I could and replace what I couldn't. My life looks almost nothing at all like it was in 2019. in some ways that's good, in some ways that sucks. But after all that clusterf*cking around and heartbreak and trials and tribulations, and efforts that bore fruit and efforts that ending in failure...after all that I'm going to go and stand in the same building in the same spot, in front of the same banner, behind the same table? Like none of that happened? Like nothing is different? That'd some twilight zone feeling bullsh*t.
And WHY? And to do what exactly? I have no small amount of fans and I like talking to them (which is one of the two reasons I went) but I don't have 10 hours a day for three days worth of fans. So the rest of the time, I do what again? Talk to hundreds of total strangers and see if they like my book? Just fly fishing for new fans one at a time...LOL...what?! What in the blue hell...that sounds inefficient to say the least. And it sure doesn't sound like something I'm suited for (though I recall being good at it) and I can't think of anything I need give a sh*t about less than if some complete stranger in a convention hall likes Arsenic Lullaby. Though, I seem to recall always having that attitude. But at this point in the timeline, If they are in Chicago and haven't seen Arsenic Lullaby before...maybe it's because the universe is trying to protect them. But. that's why I didn't want to go, not why it wasn't fun
This show was not fun, because it wasn't fun. The noise was off, the mood was off, the energy was off.. I've been to hundreds of these things and I know the difference in the building when a crowd is having fun and when it ain't.
The first thing I noticed about the comic con was the noise. It was just noise, not fun noise, not excited noise…just…noise. I remember what the noise used to sound like. A loud white noise, with occasional bursts of excited shouting, loud laughing, there was an eb and flow of emotion in the noise. This crowd noise was just a flat line of noise. It'd be the noise of the worlds largest DMV.
I'll tell you right now what it was, and I am not casting blame or looking down on a single soul... it was a creepy ass, post pandemic-first time back around a crowd-ain't sure how to act-aint sure how anyone else is supposed to act-mental health was curb stomped for a year and a half-suddenly coming to the conclusion that they might not have been prepared for this-just want to be invisible and get through it.
Like what the bloody hell, this is a comic book convention, you're supposed to be having fun, laughing loudly, letting out excited screams about dumb crap, and walking to the things you like so fast that you are a nuisance...not walking around with a look on your face like a baby deer that's going bolt at the first snap of a twig, and shuffling around like...you are walking through the ashes of your burned down house. For F8cks sake, I pretty much had the last two years and behind me until I felt the vibe offa you a-holes."
I asked a few people there while it was going on, fellow exhibitors…and yeah, I wasn't the only one picking up on it. I'll quote my friend Michael Kingstone, who's been doing a bunch of shows since things started moving again " they're broken…we're all broken, it was all too much. It's like that scene in the waiting room for the dead in Beetlejuice - coach…I don't think we survived that bus crash. I don't think we survived that pandemic".
I'd say he is mostly correct..but, I've been to a lot of baseball games, live music, some bars, and those crowds more or less had their sh*t together or were there to get back in gear. A crowd at a comic con is for the most part a different breed of cat than say, a baseball fan. I'd call both of these groups outliers to some extent…sports and live music patrons being more outgoing than most, and comicon goers being more introverted than most, but the fact is that there are a hell of a lot of people who still don't have their bearings.
If that's you, that is okay. That is understandable. It is understandable but make no mistake, you are on the back end of things.
The past two years were a fucking nightmare. and while it all started at the same time and definitively for everyone...there was no line in the sand of when it ended/ends, no "national -get back to it- day". Just a population of people each trying to put it in their rear view mirror at different speeds, with no clear idea of what is in anyone elses's rear view mirror. I have no doubt, part of the issue is that people who are still dragging some of 20/21 around with them are looking around and feel like everyone else has moved right on.
If that's you...you are incorrect. That shit happened and many people, to one degree or another are still dragging it around. It'd be nice if I knew what to say to help...but I don't. Other than vent to someone. You think it's too late? That whatever you went through is old news? That whatever you went through isn't worth bringing up compared to what someone else went through? Nope, wrong, Fuck that, talk to someone.
Are you okay? are your sure you're okay? Because I just spent three days watching a crowd of people who were at a comic book convention but looked like they were at a wake. Could be you spent so much time being okay for everyone else, you never stopped to deal with if you were actually okay. We all went through a decade's worth of stressors in a year and a half, it is okay to not be okay yet. Have you stopped and taken a breath and just said to someone or yourself "wow....that was awful"?
I remember a woman, this was about halfway through this nightmare, I was in my car in a parking lot and I watched her take surgical gloves out of a box, put them on, and then rub hand sanitizer on them...a human being did that. I watched. And she is out there somewhere right now trying to go on with life and behave like she wasn't terrified beyond reason for lord know how many months of her life. Just...out and about with no end date that was on the calendar or line in the sand between her doing that and her now at a store like none of that sh*t we went through ever happened.
That's not healthy is it?\
I have no advice, other than to talk it out. Vent or talk to someone about where you are at with getting back to it. Keep it to your personal experience/feelings don't swerve into your opinion on how things were handled ( because you talking about what you think should or shouldn't have happened is called...avoidance, get me?) then say what you feel about it. And it need not be anything more than that the year and a half of constant catastrophic uncertainty has you off your pins...that fucking counts. You need to address that shit, it's unhealthy not to.
Have you stopped and taken a breath and said to yourself or someone else "wow...that was awful"? Because it was. A full year and a half of hyper vigilance is f*cking traumatic. It is...it is 100% legitimately traumatic. It has been a million years since I took Psychology, and I never did get my degree, but there is a pyramid/graph of stressors that can cause mental trauma, and depending on your situation, you may have hit all of them in one fucking year. Address that sh*t, so you can move forward.
If you need a line in the sand, time wise…here it is, mark down the day you are reading this and write onto the calendar "national, get back to it and move forward, day". You have two less years in your short ass life...get back to having some fun. Look up, look people in the eyes, laugh, talk loud, interact, have some meaningless conversation and don't worry if it's awkward. This is ME talking. I've never been accused of being a people person...but at a certain point things become unhealthy, yeah?
You need an example to follow? here...this is a major league baseball stadium, holds 40-50,000 people. Baseball has been going on in 32 major cities, six days a week since April. I've been to many and people are cheering, happy, excited to be around other fans. If they can do it, you can do it.
See that, grown men all trying to catch a foul ball like they are 10 year olds? That used to be you with pokemon go or funko pops or whatever the hell you nerds like (frivolous as I might think it is...still better than being a cubs fan. See her in the upper left? Blue jersey with a C on it, sunglass. Wtf is she doing?! It's a FOUL BALL...it will be coming from UP and coming DOWN. Why tf is she looking straight ahead? I hope it hit her right on the head ). You were excited, it was the thrill of the hunt, remember how much fun you had when all you were thinking about for one day was "fun"? Get back there.
Because my only other comicon of the year is at the end of Sept. in Cincinnati and I want some loud emotional noise, laughing, and uber nerds getting in my way as they run to something that they like that I think is stupid. I want to see people out having fun, excited, on the search for plastic crap in the form of whatever Disney bukaki'ed onto the pop culture, not looking over their shoulder like Freddy Krueger is following them and walking like they have a potato chip in their pants and they don't want to break it.
As always, homebase is here
NFT work here-
Here are the other places to find me...my use of them is fluid, inconstant, susceptible to the whims and shifts of the paradigm