This is something that has been weighing heavily on my mind for a while and I think i need to talk about it.
I’ve fallen out of love with comic books. but lemme explain.
Like most of us, I started reading comics in the early 1990s. I was lucky enough to be exactly the right age during Claremont/Lee X-Men, Death of Superman, Knightfall, etc. It was a super exciting time for a lot of reasons. Batman ‘89, Adam West and the old Super Powers cartoons combined with Batman TAS and the shiny new X-Men show on Fox, superheroes were such a tremendous part of my life its hard to even really talk about it. whatever i say will never convey the profound impact that time had on the tastes and interests I’d have as an adult. The first comic book i actually read instead of just looked at was Robin: Hero Reborn, and that one single reading experience gave me a friend for life in Tim Drake, but also a burning passion for guys (and sometimes ladies) that kick ass but also do the right thing.
then around 10 i discovered Nintendo and girls, and then me and comics parted ways for about 10 years. I read Wizard Magazine from time to time to keep up with what was happening, but I no longer had regular reader status. I’d be smoking pot on a friend’s roof at 16 and one of them would be like “yo, did you hear that a giant earthquake hit Gotham City? its fucking nuts, dude.” i’d say “yeah? that sounds cool” and then not think about it again. i had other things to pay attention to like shows, partying and yes, girls.
when i was about 20 i was living in Purchase, NY going to school. White Plains was right down the street and had a mall, one of my favorite places to go (i dunno, i just love ‘em). Across the street was a comic book store. Where I grew up, there weren’t many comic stores. There was one in Hamden that eventually turned into a Warhammer-only hobby shop and there was one down by Yale in New Haven that my mother would never, ever take me to. So a real live comic book store was still something that was unique and awesome to me. I started going in there pretty regularly and made friends with the owner, Bishop, who was the spitting image of Bishop the X-Man from the future, which was totally fucking strange. Anyway, since now I had money and a car to go along with my interest, I became a regular reader again. This led to me getting involved with Wizard and becoming a pretty regular writer for ToyFare. Which eventually led to me copywriting for DC and Marvel. had i not started hanging out at that shop in White Plains, i probably wouldnt know half the friends i have and would not have done as many of the cool things ive done in my life. so im pretty glad i did that.
The few years after that my comics life had some soaring heights and pretty bad lows. I eventually got fired from freelancing (if thats even possible) at Marvel due to a personality clash/me being too lazy to proofread my work carefully/Wizard mafia thing. Full disclosure - that was in 2007 so ive had plenty of time to get over it, so nothing but love for the Marvel.com crew. A year or two later editors changed hands at DC so my really steady (and extremely well paying) work there dried up overnight. I eventually went back to Marvel writing trade dress copy, but i think there was a budget thing and they stopped giving out work (i apparently was not the only freelancer whose work disappeared one day suddenly). I was still reading about $200 worth of comics a month, though. They guys at Midtown Comics knew me by name.
It was around this time that I got involved with Comics Experience. Aside learning a shitload about how to write comics, I made a ton of good friends that despite backing away from this monster I still intend to stay good bros with. Long story short, this is when i started writing and putting out my own comics. Before CEX, the only comics i had written was 5 pages of shitty Batman Elseworlds tale and a pitch for a Moon Knight/Thing/Kitty Pryde team up book that Danny Fingeroth literally laughed at NYCC in 2006. In three years I put out 5 books. Some i was more psyched about than others, but nonetheless it was super exciting to be self publishing. It should be noted that I also wrote two crime minis during this time that are literally collecting dust in my hard drive, where they will most likely stay until I’m long dead. But the fact that in really not that long of a time a publisher picked one of them up, fulling my dream of being a real live published writer. I wouldn’t trade that for anything, and its something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my days. Was it a run on Batman? Not even close. But its still special to me and very, very cool.
Now thats its been a couple more years, I’m backing away. And its for a few reasons.
I’ll start with the simplest one. I lack the discipline. To make it in comics you need to have one of two things going for you. You need to know someone and have them like you enough to fast track you to an editor, or have that friend be an editor. Or you need to spend every waking minute of your spare time trying to be a comic book writer. That means going to every convention, talking to every editor, writing pitches until dawn and generally investing all your time and money into something that may never come true. Sure, I can only imagine the feeling of that paying off one day, but unfortunately I think I’m going to forego that for the moment. I have way too many interests in my life to devote that much time to comics. Between motorcycles, girlfriend, hanging out, working and just living life I very rarely have time to work on creative projects. That bums me out sometimes, but right now where I am in my life, the time I do have I’d like to devote to other priorities. And anyone who says that hanging out and having fun isn’t a priority doesn’t know how to have any. But I see guys like my friends Paul Allor or Joe Sergi hustle their asses off on their comics, and I know that don’t have room in my life to make that kind of commitment, and sadly, I don’t want it bad enough to move things around to make time. It’s sad, but I gotta be honest with myself.
The next reason is the comics industry as a whole. Jack Kirby once said that "comics will break your heart." And he was right. Like I was saying before, “knowing someone who is already there” is the only answer you should give when someone asks you how to break into comics. It’s a good ‘ol boy network of non-inclusive nerds, creating a circle of favors that I just can’t compete with. It really does make it a rat race, and I just don’t have the energy for it. I hate to see my really talented friends write their asses off and never get anywhere because they didnt have the right beer with CB Cebulski at the right con at the right time. its bullshit, and I don’t wanna play anymore. I’m not saying that to be like “im so talented, its bullshit that i can’t get work.” It goes back to not wanting it bad enough. I don’t have the energy to play the game anymore. i know tons of people in the industry, but I’m not willing to tip toe the egos and rules of when the right time to pitch is. I’d rather just be friends with people and not have an ulterior motive. Because everyone has an ulterior motive in this business.
Also, I think i hate superheroes. Clearly my history doesn’t reflect that, but I’ve grown to hate them. Will i see the new Avengers movie? You bet your fuckin’ ass I will. But I’m done reading the books. I love comics because its a medium where you can do literally anything, and there is no limit to what you can do with it to tell a moving story. But looking at modern superhero comics, I think the medium is being wasted on shitty characters with tired stories. If I have to hear “this changes everything!” one more time I’m gonna puke. Superhero comics exist primarily to sell toys and movie tickets at this point, which i guess is evolution, but I dont give a shit anymore. I’m just burning out on it. I’ve been reading comic books for 25 years, so trying to sell me on earth-shattering, line-wide changing stories is futile. What it comes down to is, I’m bored. I’m bored with superhero comics. Thats why I like the crime/horror/sci-fi stuff way better. It doesnt have this wink and smirk of trying to sell me something. Maybe its just the Big Two and sometimes Image im talking about it here, but I think you know what I mean. And I’m just tired.
Another big reason I want out is comics culture. I’ve talked a lot lately about how sick I am with nerd culture, and I think I’ve reached a breaking point. I’m really tired of being painted with the same brush as these fat, socially inept sweaty virgin nerds. Year after year I go to NYCC and I’m surrounded by these unbelievable corny grown-ups that make awful comments about everything and generally make asses out of themselves. I know that makes me sound like an elitist asshole, but it goes both ways. Despite having the same interests, I think they’re lame fuck nerds and they think I’m a hipster that doesnt belong there. So its a stalemate. For a community of people who bitch and moan about never fitting in and people bullying them, they sure do keep to themselves and basically hate anyone who isn’t a sweaty nerd like them. Which is unbelievably stupid. And this extends to even my peers in the creator community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to withstand wisecracks about my appearance or lifestyle or gotten a funny look from industry people just because im not in cargo shorts and a Green Lantern shirt. Judging me because I’m different from you is exactly what you claim society does to you. Look bro, we were both reading X-Force in 1991 and we’re reading the same books now, so keep your fuckin’ jokes to yourself. Basically, I’ve realized that the shittier aspects of this culture has made me embarrassed to be part of it, despite all the wonderful things about it. Like when people at work ask me if I’m going to Comic Con and what costume I’m going to wear. And then I have to be like “but im a writer! I’m going there to network and be professional.” And they roll their eyes at me. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and I’m sick of being lumped into the ones about nerds. Because I’m not a nerd, I’m awesome. And i’ll never self identify as one because why the fuck would I do that?
So between the culture and just losing passion to publish, I’ve decided that I’m going to focus my time and money on something else that makes me happy. I know some of you will say "but there are so many good books out there!" or like my good friend Caleb Goellner would remind me, I can also cheaply self publish, or god help me, learn to draw. You’re both right. There are a lot of good books out there, and theres nothing stopping me from self publishing online. Fuck a publisher. But right now, my focus is on making moves at work, leaving NYC and with some luck, putting down some roots and starting a family (I mean, I’m 30 years old for Christ sake.) That doesnt mean that I won’t come back some day. Or maybe one Sunday morning I’ll wake up and be inspired to finish LONG LIVE THE KING. And I’m sure I’ll read books on occasion (like I’m gonna miss out on a new Brubaker/Phillips jam). And I’ll still see everyone at the bar after NYCC and shoot the shit on social networks. But I’m seriously downgrading my active participation in the comics world. For now, at least. And being honest, its been that way for a while.
That also doesnt mean that my quitting writing. My good friend Jonathan Zajdman (who ironically I met through a comics project) and I are talking about starting a fashion/art/cool things magazine, Thats right, im getting into zines. How punk rock is that? But this will allow me to not only be an editor but also get back to my one true love - short fiction. I haven’t seriously written a short story in almost 10 years. And short fiction has always truly made me happy, and I think at least showcased my talent in the best way possible. So we’ll see where that goes.
Please don’t take this as a “screw you guys, I’m going home” moment. I felt like I needed to share my feelings on it. It’s like getting out of a relationship you know has lost its spark or gone bad in some way. You love this person (comics), but for your own happiness you need to let them go. So maybe I’m not quitting comics, but letting it go. I’m sure we’ll be back together again one day. I’ll still continue to make misinformed snarky jokes on Twitter and have a beer with you and talk about old Batman runs. And i’ll still clap the loudest when you guys “make it.” But in the meantime, I’m gonna go play a different game for a while.
this is really making me wish i still had to drive to work.
I can almost smell high school - Camel Lights and the leather from my car.