In 2001 I would receive one of my first reviews on a comic book I had put together in roughly the span of two weeks. I had exhibited at the San Diego Comic Con with nine hundred and ninety-eight copies of a comic noone had ever heard of, several hundred stickers bearing a likeness of a character in a comic noone would care to know plus the shreds of hope one could muster after hand binding and hand trimming nine hundred and ninety-eight copies of a unmarketed release by an unknown cartoonist. (Minus the shame of encouraging an ex to drink coffee she despised to help in a binding and cutting all-nighter.) The ex and I had recruited two friends to accompany us in the little room in my truck that did not occupy nine hundred and nintey-eight copies of an ill-fated comic book (cardboard backed and poly-bagged!) several hundred CD's (the olden days) and us.
In our short stay in San Diego we had managed to have our truck broken into and had all of our CD's stolen save the Weezer Blue album that was in the player, ( I like to think the thieves also took a few copies of my book from the many boxes in the truck at their disposal). Also, one of my friends appeared to have been bitten by what we could only surmise as the world's largest arachnid and felt quite ill. Driving home through an unrelentingly hot desert trek with only the wind from the broken window and our one CD on repeat to cool and calm ourselves from the past three days of aching dullness punctuated by genuine excitement and the harsh reality of independent comics in the media blitz of mainstream comics and television that is the SDCC I had some time to think on What I Had Done.
I had spent days leading up to the convention researching printers. I had pored over paper stocks in many varieties of matte and glossy finishes determining which would best represent the digital printing. I had spent more than adequate time on fonts that would be best for my copyright information. I had an unloadable Flash site ready to unleash. I had found, by God,the best deal on gang-run stickers. What I Hadn't Done was write a second draft of my comic before inking it. I had not developed nor designed my characters, the book's tone or title and yet still managed to produce a somewhat coherent silly narrative, brush it out in broad strokes and get it printed.
So should I have been surprised when finally my first bona fide review praised the production quality of my book yet said the story was, "Like being beaten over the head with a dead fish?" Should I have been surprised that I had brought back home pretty close to nine hundred and ninety-six copies to drag between apartments for the rest of my life? Should I also have been surprised when I would not put out anything for many years after that? The answer of course is no but to a young cartoonist the dream of being a cartoonist for a living blinds enough to think one can promote something (or someone) into relevance. You cannot market your audience into caring.
Instead of trying to perfect my own media blitzes, I spent that hard lesson on a decade of Practice. I have an archive now of thousands of drawings that are, really, terrible. But there is a progression. Slowly I learned to care about what I was creating and less on how it would be received or what my style was. At times it seemed like I was trudging up many, many stairs to nowhere. But the view is getting better.
I look now at that kid, stuck on the side of the road with his friends after his broken-into truck had broken down one point five miles from home, singing Weezer songs at the top of his lungs in a heat stroke delirium while his other friend's hand swells to cartoon proportions. I think about stories worth telling.