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For 2020, I’m hoping to finish “Lounger.” I have a lot of other stories in the planning stages, but the one I have most fleshed out is going to be called Callisto 7 and is an existentialist sci-fi fiasco. I feel like This Wasn’t the Plan went as far with personal, realistic fiction as I want to go for the time being. I really want to move in new directions and break my own restrictions about the kinds of stories I “should” and “shouldn’t” do.
Looking back on the past decade, the biggest thing was finishing Carnivale. The first printing came out in March of 2014. I started it in late 2005. I worked on it while being a new parent and a new college teacher. It was an act of faith. I serialized it on the old version of the nijomu website and got some feedback and some mentions on different sites. Yet when the book was done and printed there was almost no reaction. It was a blow. Getting rid of the old website was part of that reaction. I know that there all kinds of lessons about expectations and marketing that can be made, but from my initial perspective it was the biggest book I had ever made and it had taken years of my life. And I was excited about it. And that was met with silence. It took me some time to recover.
I decided that I should try to put my energies elsewhere. I have often mentioned that in high school and college I wrote poetry, only submitted work twice, and was published on the second try. So I thought to go back to that and try to get published in literary anthologies. That proved to be challenging. Most literary anthologies don’t accept comics and the ones that do often have strict requirements about format. And kind of like putting books on consignment, submitting to various anthologies required a lot of logistical work that took time away from actually creating comics. Still, I like some of the things that I created in that time. Those works can be found in The Lost Cause of Poetry.
Of course, there are also the three works that comprise This Wasn’t the Plan. I think that I’m still too close to them to have insight about what they mean yet. But I used the book to try a different publishing angle. I even got a nice review through Foreword Reviews and a blurb in The New York Review of Books. But none of that translated into sales.
Of course, all of this begs the question: maybe my work just sucks. Maybe my work’s lack of attention is just what my work deserves. I even considered sending my books out to successful comics artists and asking them: “does this suck?” Then I realized that it wouldn’t matter what they told me; at the end of the day I’d create comics anyway. On the one hand, the only way not to suck is to keep going and create something that is worthwhile. On the other hand, it is the act of creating and the satisfaction of completing comics that drive me.
So at the end of the decade I don’t feel that I know anything more than I did at the beginning. Though in some ways I feel better about the idea that what I care about is creating comics. Yes, I’d like those creations to communicate to more people, but it’s the act of creation that is most important to me. Comics is a practice. And I want to focus on the practice. The effects of that practice are a side benefit and my trying to force those effects seems to lead me only to frustration. So I guess I’ve just spent the last decade confirming my original stance. It’s only the work that matters.
After I sounded so confident, I ended up quitting my Inktober participation. Basically, I realized I was spending what time I had on drawings for Inktober instead of working on my comics. I decided I wanted to put my spare time to the most important task. So here’s the last three Inktober drawings that I did:
But that means I got more of “Lounger” done.
It’s also on Webtoon:
At this point, I think you can get a pretty good idea for the feel of the story. Since I am so bad at labeling things (stemming, most probably, from the fact that I hate labels): what would you call it? Apocalyptic? Dark comedy? Drama? Sci-fi?
Also, I’m thinking of playing with a color version and making it available on ComiXology. I know people have all sorts of opinions about ComiXology, but it’s the most consistent form of comics income for me. Though, I’m using the term “income” loosely.
A plague is wiping out the human race and Kate leads a group of survivors to an isolated house in order to escape the contagion. But is there an escape? Jack doesn’t think so. His plan is to find a nice place to sit, grab a few bottles of wine, and wait to die. Yet is this acceptance or avoidance?
The story will update every Friday, about four pages at a time. There is a permanent link on the “comics” page.
After saying that I was not going to go through with this story, I’ve been working on it. I thumbnailed the thing and started pages to see how it looked. I’m still kind of discovering the story and trying to find the right mood in it, a contrast between the dialogue and the environment. I also am playing with color, but this is the gray version. You can contrast it with the older version below.
And here’s the older version:
Over the years, I have abandoned many different stories (“How to Draw Comics the Right Way” is one example). Sometimes plots get away from me, sometimes character motivation becomes unintelligible, and sometimes I just lose interest.
“Ajax” was a story idea that I had for a long time and that kept coming back and bugging me. The basic idea was that it was loosely based on the Sophocles play but set in a Masters of the Universe kind of world. It’s not the kind of story I usually do, but that attracted me as a challenge and I had a very clear concept of how the story was going to end. I’ve actually tried starting it a few times over the years. The two pages below are the most recent attempt. This time I stopped because I realized that I didn’t want to add to the fetid pile of stories about tough über-masculine warriors who are idolized by nature of their being the main characters. The ending was going to undermine that narrative somewhat, but I was going to have to tell the story straight first to get to that ending. And I just didn’t want to commit the time to that enterprise.
“Lounger” was going to be a post-apocalyptic story about a group of people surviving a mass plague. They were holing up together in a house, but the focus was going to be on a drunk who spent all his time on a lawn chair outside. The character was based a bit on Bernard from the show Black Books. While the story was pretty worked out, the limited setting was a bit boring to draw over and over. And the character conflicts that developed seemed pretty petty and superficial. On top of that, I didn’t feel that the story was going to cover any new ground that hadn’t been already better covered by the scads of post-apocalyptic stories out there. I have a special love for tales set after an apocalypse, so expect at least one from me some day. But it won’t be “Lounger.”