Tag Archives: memory

The Inventor, 1972

american salvage 4 inventor 1972_edited-1

I had the fog in panel 1 perfect, and then I accidentally deleted the layer, and just couldn’t make the fog look perfect again. But it’s supposed to be foggy in panel 1.

From the moment I took on this project, I wondered how I was going to draw the homemade scuba gear, which seemed like such a memorable symbol, but on rereading the story, I felt the homemade scuba gear was less important. The girl in the story believes Uncle Ricky was a real angel, but he was a kid who gave his friend a homemade tattoo and also made his own fireworks. He was no angel. Also, he tested his homemade scuba gear alone, at night. He wasn’t as smart as he thought.

There’s a lot going on in “The Inventor, 1972,” and I had to cut a lot out, particularly the man’s fraught relationship with his father, and the fact that he is referred to as “the hunter” despite the fact that his hand injury leaves him unable to shoot, and the scene that depicts him trying to hunt as a younger man shows him failing to take the shot. I thought there was some ambiguity about the car accident. The man keeps saying that he didn’t see the girl, but then he thinks about how happy he was when he hit her because he thought she was a deer, and then he recalls how she looked emerging from the fog. So, did he hit her on purpose, mistaking her grace for that of a deer? Or was it all too fast to be anything other than an accident? How culpable is he? He sort of hopes that he will go to jail—his situation is so bad that jail would be an improvement, to his mind—but his guilt is mixed up with so many events that it’s hard to say how guilty he is now.

In the story, the girl sees the man’s hunting license pinned to his jacked when he approaches, but when I Googled “Michigan hunting license 1972,” all the hunting licenses from that era clearly read “display in middle of back.” Having never hunted at all, let alone in Michigan 2 years before I was born, I didn’t know what to make of that, so I just left the license out, since the girl can’t read it anyway. Also, it’s supposed to be the back of his hand that’s burned, and I ended up drawing the front of his hand burned.

At its heart, I think this story is about 2 people who don’t know each other at all, even though both of their lives have been indelibly affected by the death of another character and they’re clearly connected and could help each other. I’d like to think that the girl’s parents find out that he was the person who hit her with his El Camino, but also the one who went running for help, and that they would, naturally, recognize him from their own childhood, and that somehow he gets reintegrated into the family’s life and becomes a subsequently less broken person as a result. I think it’s meant to be redemptive.

This comic took almost an entire week to write and draw, but in my defense, I was at Tucson Comicon for 3 of those days, 4 if you count picking up my media badge and skulking around the load-in on Thursday. Usually I write the script before I start drawing, but I knew that panel 1 should just be this moment of the girl lying on the ground with the man kneeling in front of her, so I just started drawing and figured out the text as I went along. Maybe it would have been more coherent if I had worked it all out first.

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Dragon Comics 64

Some people say that Hope was the cruelest of the demons that sprung from Pandora's box, but without her we would never know how awful everything else is.

Some people say that Hope was the cruelest of the demons that sprung from Pandora’s box, but without her we would never know how awful everything else is.

This situation really inspired a lot of introspection as well as a lot of retrospection on my part. The bullying I dealt with in middle school was fairly intense. There were kids whose taunting was basically nonstop in any situation where adults were unable to see–the bus, the locker room, the halls during passing periods–and subtler but still extant even in class. The kids who didn’t torment me still made their general dislike known. I mean, I was wildly unpopular. My nickname among all but the small handful of outcasts who would even talk to me like a human being was “Anti,” because they were all against me. The entire grade was anti-Monica.

Literally. Just swallow that for a moment.

People are awful.

But there’s usually hope.

We didn’t have #ItGetsBetter in the ’80s. For all we knew, it didn’t get better. But I had hope that it did. I centered that hope around the idea that one day the world would recognize how awesome I really was, and that hope developed around my writing. That was my escape, not only into the future as I imagined that destined recognition, but my escape from the present, as I plunged into these sublime other worlds I could create to avoid living in the ugly mundane world that hurt me.

The Fox and I sometimes talk about this the vast gulf between past and present. A talented kid enjoys the act of creation, takes pride in what she accomplishes, and sees perfection in everything she does. When you’re 12 years old and writing your way out of an almost intolerable life, you have great faith in the greatness of your work and its ability to float you over the rough times. When you’re 40 years old and have a master’s degree in your craft, you analyze everything. You critique your own work. You anticipate your critics. You take it apart and put it together backwards and agonize over single words and get your heart ripped out with every rejection. You recognize the potential to failure and the human frailty of art. But you never would have gotten there if you weren’t first a 12-year-old with an unquestioning belief in your own righteousness.

First you have a butterfly, but as soon as you start caring how others will respond, you get a snake. The more I ponder this, the more I seek out this childish and optimistic way of existing in the world.

Dragon Comics 62

Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

Are you a good Dragon or a chaotic neutral Dragon?

I’m not saying that every successful artist and writer I know suffers from Impostor Syndrome. Obviously, some creatives have massive egos. Then again, some of them evince massive egos to hide from the world the fact that they don’t think they deserve their success. However, I do know quite a few people who have received and continue to receive recognition (positive reviews, regular sales, prestigious awards) and also live in fear that someday the world will figure out that they’re not really that good, and they will lose it all.

One problem is that success can be so fickle. After Robin Williams’s death, most of us probably thought first, “But he was so great, so funny.” But some of us probably thought, a little bit later, and with a little bit of guilt, that The Crazy Ones wasn’t great or funny. I had to Google just to remember the name of his last sitcom, of which, like many people, I watched a single episode before making the choice not to follow. And Robin Williams was great. He was funny. But art doesn’t work like that. The emotions Williams made us feel in Dead Poets Society don’t keep The Crazy Ones from getting cancelled. So there is a sense that no success is real success in the arts. You’re only as good as your last performance, and if you’re hesitant to schedule the next one, you’re a has been resting on your laurels. You have to keep producing, and each production has to be better than the last.

Every little success is a boost to the creative mind, but the next day is a blank slate. If you don’t sell as many books, if your webpage doesn’t get as much traffic, if your critics are a little bit less congratulatory today than they were yesterday, you only feel the negative.

Most of us (the less insane ones, anyway) did not go into the arts for the accolades. Most of us went into the arts because our weird artistic brains literally did not give us any other choice, which makes success, or lack thereof, that much more difficult to process. Even if you’re great, even if you know you’re great, our society doesn’t look kindly on those who go around explaining how great they are. You might feel bad about your success because you want your art to transcend the need for positive feedback, or because there’s something illegitimate about becoming popular. You might feel bad about wanting or enjoying success.

Many of us simply believe we don’t deserve to succeed: because we don’t think we’re good enough, because we think others are better, because we feel that we haven’t suffered sufficiently, because we feel like there could be shame is being successful. And then there are those who are afraid to succeed, because to attempt success is to risk failure, and if we don’t believe we deserve to shine, we inevitably keep ourselves in the dark.