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   Paul D. Storrie
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It's Not Just an Adventure

The obscure reference has returned.  This time around, it’s the title.  Anyone want to hazard a guess as to the origin?  I’m thinking of maybe doing a contest each month.  Winner would get a signed comic or an original script for one of my books or something like that.  I’ll see if I have any takers this time around and figure out the exact rules and regs accordingly.

Anyway, on to our regularly scheduled programming. 

I ran into one of my Friends Jeff (they are legion -- I’m not quite sure how I manage to collect so many of ‘em) at the comics shop the other day.  We both had a couple hours to kill, so we decided to kick back and catch up.  This particular FJ is a pretty talented artist.  At one time, he was toying with the idea of becoming a comic book illustrator.  Even helped out a professional friend or two with some art chores behind the scenes.  Nothing major but more than nothing, y’know?

We had a great time catching up and I showed him stuff from my recent and upcoming projects (Mutant X: Dangerous Decisions, Gotham Girls, Captain America: Red, White & Blue).  He told me about his current career as a restaurant manager (for a nice place, too -- I’ve been over there and liked it a lot).  He was grousing a bit about the day-to-day headaches and politics and frustrations of his job.  I started to grouse a bit about the day-to-day headaches and politics and frustrations of mine.

That’s when he said (and I’m paraphrasing, folks), “See, that’s part of why I didn’t stick with the comic book art thing.  Everyone thinks that doing comics is somehow better and different than a ‘normal’ job.  But all I hear from my friends who do comics is about problems with editors or with the other talent they’re working with or with fans or with other pros or with not getting work.  Why work that hard when you’re going to have all the same garbage to deal with that you would at any other job and having even less security?”

And you know what?  He’s absolutely right.  No, don’t take that as some kind of announcement that I’m retiring from comics.  What I mean is that people who dream of a job in comics, or even just everyday fans, seem to think that being a freelance comic book creator is some kind of Nirvana, free from the aforementioned headaches and politics and frustrations of the regular workplace.  Actually, when I stop and think about it, there seem to be a lot of creators these days who believe the very same thing. 

Thing is, making comics is a job.  A very cool job, to be sure.  One that lets you exercise your imagination and creativity.  One that allows you to communicate with thousands of readers (some of whom love what you do and some not so much), but still a job.  You still have to deal with other people and a host of factors beyond your control.  You still have to put in the hours and get the work done.  You still have to deal with a hundred and one little nagging details that have nothing to do with whether you’re a good writer, artist, whatever.  It’s still work.

Like any other work, though, if it is what you truly love to do, all the other stuff is worth it.  Same holds true for a mechanic or a doctor or a landscaper or anyone else. 

Last time around, I said that the secret of my success was being too stupid to quit.  I guess that’s not entirely true.  There is another factor that plays into it: This is what I want to do.

See, that’s another point that my FJ brought up.  He just wasn’t sure enough that sequential art was what he really wanted to do to make it worth putting in the time and effort it requires to be good enough to make a career of it.  Which is another really, really good point.  You have to know that truly you want to do this particular work.  Otherwise, as with any other job that you don’t especially want to do, you’re either going to be miserable or you’re going to bail. 

I wish more people were as honest with themselves as this particular FJ when it comes to doing comics.  It would save them a lot of time and energy and disillusionment.

Thing is, there’s no crime to dreaming of becoming a comics creator and not doing it.  If every kid who ever dreamed of growing up to become a cowboy actually did, there’d be a whole lot of unemployed cowboys out there, right?  Same holds true for astronauts. 

This job isn’t for everyone.  It isn’t even for everyone who has the talent to do it.  Talent, as with a lot of other work, isn’t the only requirement.  You have to be willing to accept the work, the job, for what it is and weigh the pluses and minuses and decide whether you come out ahead. 

In the dream, making comics seems like such a wonderful, amazing and totally rewarding job because there are no minuses.  After all, it’s a dream (a similar point was made about relationships in the John Cusack movie, High Fidelity).  In the dream, the potential headaches and heartaches are easily swept aside as you stride boldly through the industry, fighting the good fight and achieving artistic greatness no matter what obstacles you encounter. 

In real life, the minuses are there.  Sometimes, the obstacles overcome you.  There’s compromise and there’s flat out lost battles and there are things you can’t change no matter how much you want to or how hard you try. 

For me, though, no matter what comes my way, no matter how many times I get knocked down, knocked back or even knocked out, I’m going to keep coming back.  Why?  Because I really love what I do.  I get to create stories that make people laugh or stir them to ponder or just flat out entertain them.  Ultimately, I am more master of my own destiny than in any other job I can think of that I’d want to do.  (Sue me, I can’t stand the idea of being in sales.)  In a way, I get to pay back all the creators who gave me hours and years of great stories and art by sharing with a new batch of readers.  Maybe, just maybe, I’ll get to inspire some reader, whether to join the next generation of comics creators or to achieve something else I never even imagined.

When all is said and done, for me, the ups outweigh the downs and the joys beat out the frustrations.  That’s not true for everyone and that’s not a bad thing.  If you want to make comics for a living, you’ll have to take your own inventory and weigh things out on your own scales. 

If the creator side wins out, welcome to the club.  Aspirin and coffee and the list of therapists broken down by geographical region are on the left. 

If you decide that you don’t want to have the dream sullied by the reality, that’s cool too.  Just keep reading and enjoying and telling people what a great medium comics can be.  The roles are different, but the audience is every bit as important as the creators.


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