Monday, December 24, 2012

Taking (comic book) stock

After months of dealing with conventions, moving house, Christmas, publishing several books, writing, editing, holding down a full time job and keeping up with other bits and pieces, I’m finally getting chance to sit down and breathe.

Like any other year, 2012 came with ups and downs (given how awful it's been for some friends I really can't complain by comparison). And in my comic book work, which is going to be the focus of this particular entry, it’s been mostly positives outweighing the negatives. Yes, there were long, horrible moments of destructive self-doubt, people who broke their promises to me, industry in-fighting and other disappointing things, but through that I became involved in several books, started new, exciting projects, worked with incredibly talented people, garnered some critical acclaim, overcome a couple of specific fears and managed to set up a massive 2013.

There were many creative-related moments which stood out for me this year, but one in particular became important to highlight, for my own sake.  

Back in November 2012, at the Thought Bubble convention, I was going through something of an internal struggle. I’d spent the previous months toiling over Magic of Myths: 2013 preview, which had become a labour due to time constraints, rival work commitments and eventual fatigue. I was writing prose again for the first time in years, and after a good start, my confidence was ebbing away. Worse, trying to get people to take an interest in the project was a full time job in itself, and a thankless one at that. Feedback was non-existent and people, on a whole, didn’t really seem to care.

So, at Thought Bubble, this feeling was amplified. Tempered somewhat that Clockwork Watch was flying off the table at a ridiculous rate, but at the same time it polarized my thoughts. Magic of Myths - probably my most personal project to date - attracted minor attention but little commitment, selling substantially less than any other previous convention it attended. Even the card game Sergio and I created failed to draw the public-shy crowds to interact with the series. I felt pretty tired and downtrodden by it all. The convention had physically exhausted me and all I was getting from most people were inadvertent confirmation of fears which had been growing in my skull for a year.

Then something strange and amazing happened.

A young boy and his father ambled over to our table, noticing the Magic of Myths cards. A big smile erupted on the boy's face. He picked up the cards, grinning, before leafing through the books. I introduced the general concept of the series to him and asked him if he liked playing card games, to which he nodded eagerly. Then he turned, said something to his dad (who then replied “ask your mum”) and he gleefully bounced over to his mother, dragging her back to Magic of Myths. While he wanted to buy a copy of Season one, I discouraged this, thinking he may be a bit too young for it compared to the much friendlier 2013 preview book, so explained to his mother that he could win a copy of the preview just by playing and winning the card game. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to pay the ‘admission fee’ so we played for free and he won, earning himself a free copy of the 2013 preview book and one of the giveaway cards I had for such an occasion.  His face lit up.  He flicked through the book once more and was off again, beaming. 

Afterwards, I spoke to his dad as I was worried that his son was a bit too young (turns out he was nine-years-old) even for the 2013 preview book, but he reassured me that the word “bimbo” used in the comic wasn’t something any of them would be too bothered by, and his reading age was advanced. Relief.

Now, they may have gone home and hated the book. The boy may not have even got to read it all the way through.

But, regardless, the thought that someone could react like that to anything I’ve had a part in, is something I’ll always hold close.

Each creator undoubtedly knows the problem with creating: namely, it’s long, often draining and terribly lonely work. Regardless of how many people you know or are surrounded by, you are in a crowd all alone. By choice, naturally, but that doesn’t make it any less isolating at times. All the more so in the comic book industry, and doubly that for the relatively small (if growing) UK scene. Your voice can ring around an echo chamber, and through the long nights after hours at the day-job, lack of interest, crippling self-doubt and general complaints that no one gets to see you anymore or reply to their messages, it can all seem a bit much. Hell, I could be the only one actually reading this.

But then you see the smile on someone’s face when they pick up your book.

And if there’s any chance they went away entertained, happy, emotionally moved or even (whisper this one) inspired, then somehow, that possibility cuts through the blinkers of fog that any creator can, and often will be, blinded by.

A shining smile.

Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Thanks for all your support. Here's hoping 2013 is good to you, especially if 2012 wasn't. Stay safe everyone, and have a wonderful Christmas.

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