That’s the typical response I get when I tell friends and family what I am up to these days. While they are a pretty open group, when I share that I am writing a comic script, well …
I don’t remember you being a big fan of Green Lantern or Robert Crumb.
People know me as a lot of things, I guess. But fanatic graphic novel connoisseur is probably not one of them. (Not that I’m secretive about it at all. I just think for too many readers, the graphic novel is not a standard medium.)
To the outside world, I am a social worker who drives a classic American muscle car and am more likely to be sporting wrestling shoes than Christian Louboutin pumps any day of the week.
I meditate and teach an occasional class or workshop on the subject. I’m that person people just open up to — Grocery store clerks, hair stylists, IRS auditors … I somehow tend to draw out all of their deepest thoughts and stories. And I’m happy for it.
I’m an avid hiker. I love the mountains and become unnaturally upset when trees are cut down.
I’m happily married to the love of my life. And I constantly marvel at what wonderful people my children are blossoming into.
I am a good cook, and am always looking for time to share a meal with family and friends. I adore revenge movies, have a twisted sense of humor and read avidly. Art moves me deeply and I seek it out whenever I can. I have a solid eye for design and can make just about anything look nice if I put my mind to it. I sew, I draw, and get some of my deepest satisfaction in finding just the right gift for someone.
But none of that or anything else in my life would have hinted that one day I would be doing anything with the word “comic” in it.
I fell into comics backwards and have been falling for them ever since.
I will never forget the weekday afternoon years ago when I was waiting outside of my daughter’s preschool with a group of other parents. Classes had just started for the fall, and none of us were used to our kids being in someone else’s care. So … we all came early and camped out in front of the school waiting for our kids like the nervous new parents we were.
I was sitting on a low brick wall outside the school and reading Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I was completely lost in the pages of my story, and was therefore especially shocked when the book was ripped from my hands.
“OH MY GOD THIS IS AMAZING,” the book ripper exclaimed. “Don’t you just love him? Have you read Stardust? The Graveyard book? American Gods? Anansi Boys? Is this your first? How did you find him? Oh my God, I wish I hadn’t already read this. I am so jealous!”
I couldn’t place the perpetrating woman as I was still digesting the fact that my book was no longer in my hands. I quickly learned everything there was to know about this woman and her history with Mr. Gaiman. It was odd to say the least. It wasn’t until we had children in hand and were headed home that she said casually, over her shoulder, “I almost forgot, be sure and check out The Sandman series.”
The exchange was so strange and jarring that I couldn’t ignore it. For all I know I had just met Mr. Gaiman’s wife (or maybe his Annie Wilkes). But she was so passionate that I felt I had to heed her advice. So I picked up Preludes & Nocturnes. It was the first comic book I had ever read. I was expecting Adam West and Burt Ward. What I got instead was an invitation into a whole new world. And I was hooked.
For longer than I can remember, I have had stories swirling around in the back of my mind. But words and I have never been very close friends. Grammar and I are hardly on speaking terms. Once I started envisioning these stories in comics, seeing what could be done in the medium … all these dispirited thoughts and ideas, snippets and wisps began to come together.
Comics were the world of telling stories in pictures. I had found my language! It was breathtaking. I dove head first down the rabbit hole. I was amazed at depth of the stories being told, the beauty of the art, the emotions that came through. I had no idea of the depth of stories in the genre. Something inside of me woke up, and cried out. I found my spirit’s voice.
Very quietly I began studying the art and craft of comic book creation.
I started with the basics, took classes and read anything I could get my hands on. I learned about writing, line art, inking, coloring, production, anything I could find on the subject. My first story was a tiny, five-page story about an elderly foster mother who dies, but stays on earth to hold and comfort recently-deceased babies and help their grieving parents. Since then I have written a twenty-four-page script, an eighty-eight-page, four-part mini-series and some stories in between. Those were all growing into and laying the groundwork for the graphic novel script I have now.
So here I am: Writing comic scripts and ready to venture into unknown territory again. Turning a script into book.
Conventional wisdom says not to start with something this size, but convention has never been my strong suit. Can’t wait to see what this leg of the journey looks like. I can at least continue to confuse my friends and family.