Childhood’s End (or The Road Not Taken…)

After all of my hand wringing about Hurricane Charley (why did they decide to spell it that way instead of “Charlie”? Maybe they’d already used that name once…) possibly coming through this area, I’m happy to report that all we got here was….. nothing. The storm had moved enough to the east that I didn’t even notice ONE LEAF on any of the trees around here even moving. No rain– no wind. So, big relief there– but my heart really goes out to the people in Florida. Charley really pounded them– and the scenes of devastation I’ve been seeing on the news are heartbreaking. I’m just happy that the next two storm systems are moving in directions that won’t take them anywhere near Florida.

Often, as I watch some of the wonderful comic book projects that get published– often by single creators who write and draw their own material– I can’t help but think about how unfulfilling working in comics has seemed to become for me. I often let my mind wander back to when I was a child, laying on the living room floor of my parent’s house, with nothing more than a piece of paper, a pencil (and of course, an eraser– which I still rely on more than I’d like to this day…) and my imagination to keep me occupied and happy. As far as getting satisfaction from drawing goes– those days are still the brightest and happiest of my life. The world seemed to my young mind an place of vast, almost endless possibilities– and the realm of imagination even moreso. The comic books I read were filled with a sense of wonder and adventure, and I tried to recapture that feeling every time I would put pencil to paper to draw. I travel back in my mind to those days of childhood and still marvel at how completely I could get lost in my imagination– swallowed whole by the desire to create characters and stories that seemed to erupt in my mind so quickly and vividly that they would vie for attention; jostling to be the next one out from my mind’s eye through my hand and pencil and on to the page. Don’t get me wrong, it would often be a frustrating endeavor, as the aforementioned eraser would have to be employed to an almost maddening degree at times…. but still– I was creating my own little adventures from whole cloth just for me. I still have the reams and reams of paper full of those youthful drawings to prove it.

And that made me very happy.

I find myself questioning my choices more and more recently in regards to my career path in the comics industry. After more than 12 years working as a freelance penciler– drawing other people’s stories and characters owned by other companies… I feel utterly creatively unfulfilled. That sense of wonder, joy and excitement is all but gone anymore. These days, it only occurs when I’m drawing something for myself, like the sketches I post here or character designs I do on the side for stories I’d like to one day tell. It seems more difficult each passing day to get myself motivated to work on yet another page of art for a story of which I had absolutely no say in the writing/creation. I feel like nothing more than a “hired hand”– a pencil without a soul. An extension of the writer’s imagination with no voice in the matter. Believe me– I could never have imagined the success that I would have in my chosen field when I was a kid dreaming of working in “the big leagues”. I had no notion that I would ever get the chance to draw some of the most famous, iconic characters ever published– characters like the FANTASTIC FOUR, SPIDER-MAN, X-MEN, FLASH, ROBIN, BATMAN, SUPERMAN… hell, the list goes on and on. I’ve been very fortunate in that regard– and in the longevity that I’ve had in the business DESPITE the fact that I’ve never been very good at keeping a monthly deadline (OK… I’m LOUSY at it). I know that. But after all that– I still can’t help but feel somewhat hollow for not having a more active role in the creation of the stories themselves rather than just the artwork that brings them to life. There are some folks who draw comics– and all they want to do is draw. They don’t care about the writing… they just want to draw cool characters. I always saw myself as doing more than that. I think that the biggest irony for me at this point is that now that I have the experience and (well, hopefully…) the ABILITY to draw almost anything that I can imagine– I feel trapped in a life I’ve built for myself– the house payments, the bills, the responsibilties. All seemingly impossible to walk away from to become the “independent cartoonist” telling his own stories. In talking to some of my pals who have carved their own path doing the kinds of comics they WANT to do and making a living at it– I often express my envy at their situation (ask Scott Kurtz– I think he’s getting sick of hearing me talk about it…). I’d love nothing more than to do that for myself.

And at 41, I’ve got to do something about that sometime soon–before it becomes the lament of an old man about the road not taken.

OK– if you’re not sick of hearing my whining by now… I’ll see you tomorrow.


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