Back in Episode 11, “Still Forest Pool,” I promised the following episode would give a glimpse in into Eyecue’s Simulated Ivory Tower, continuing our feature comic, “The Awakening of Edzl, Or Yes, We Have Some Nibbanas.” Eyecue and Iris, the SIT‘s managing artificial intelligence and Eyecue’s invaluable assistant, would be preparing for the arrival of Edzl and Pretzl, Nebboids from the distant Vague Nebula.
It didn’t happen. I was dissatisfied with the segment for reasons I couldn’t pin down. I finally realized they centered on my depiction of Iris. She was telling me, so it seemed, that I hadn’t got her form and character quite right. (Yes, my characters talk to me in a fashion and I’ve found over the years that it’s always best to listen.)
So I substituted “Bozobot Hindrances” for Episode 12. For a host of reasons, I was exhausted last Thursday night when I finished no. 12. I had a difficult night, slept poorly, and became convinced somewhere in the wee hours that I just wasn’t up to doing this webcomic and that I would have to abandon the whole project.
The next morning, my own “mind-storm” had quieted, but I was not ready to tackle Eyecue and Iris. Instead, I dug deep into the “archive” and unearthed the following from four decades ago. It’s never been published or even submitted for publication. It was created by a different person than I am now. I’ve formatted it into a slide-show, but have otherwise (mostly) resisted the urge to revise it. See what you think:
The inspiration for “Iggy” came from one summer where I worked on an assembly line which put together television sets. I hated the job, but it somehow felt like a deserved punishment. This utterly boring and repetitive job came at a low point in my life. The woman I thought I wanted to marry had married someone else. My grades at the university had started to slip and my once-high GPA had begun to decay. I had majored in biological sciences, but a grad-level course had made it clear to me that this was not the field for me. I felt lost, confused, depressed, and thoroughly worthless.
I got laid off at the factory, so I wasn’t even getting a paycheck. I ended up withdrawing from my courses and leaving town, moving to an unfamiliar place where I knew only two people. I took a series of unskilled, poor-paying jobs, and lived in a series of cheap, tiny apartments.
Out of sheer boredom, I began to doodle and attempt some comics, influenced by the “underground comix” movement, which was actually starting to fade as a viable enterprise. Eventually, I moved back in with my parents and worked as a hospital orderly. My downward spiral continued to sink into darkness.
My fortunes and attitude began to change when I took some night classes at a local art school. I had never taken any college level art courses before, thinking that they would never lead to a decent career.
The real turnaround was when I met Cameron, who was also taking night classes at the art school while working at a publishing firm. Meeting Cameron was, and still is, the best event that ever happened to me! She opened my heart again and lit up my entire existence. I began to extract Iggy’s story which had been on a mental back-burner for years.
“Iggy’s Inferno” is the darkest comic I’ve ever done. Most of my work is silly, nonsensical, and without much basis in what most of us would consider reality. Until I started digging into the art and craft of comics, I was pretty contemptuous of all the many dark and grim comic stories out there, even those that garnered considerable critical acclaim.
As the world has, in some ways, darkened around me, I’ve tried to keep my heart open. That’s really the main lesson I’ve learned from Buddhist practice. Here too, Cameron has been a light. She’s the one who dived into Buddhist study and practice and I’ve been so fortunate to see how it has opened her already-generous and loving heart. I’ve also learned to see the value in darker works created by sincere and honest artists.
Dept. of Encouragement
This is a good point to mentioned some people who, besides Cameron, have encouraged me and inspired me in the creation of comics:
- Matt Madden and Jessica Able, authors of Drawing Words and Writing Pictures and Mastering Comics. I got to meet them in person at one of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s “Comics Con” and their textbooks and their own comics have been a source of continual discovery and delight.
- John Porcellino. I first saw his work in “King-Kat Comics & Stories” mini-comic supplement to McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, no. 13. This tiny black and white comic with it’s deceptively simple lines points to the mystery and wonder of life. His persistence and growth as an artist, overcoming grave personal issues is a beacon in demonstrating the expressive power of comics. Without knowing anything about me, he responded to a message with encouragement to keep drawing.
- Matteo Farinella, neuroscientist and comics professional, has inspired and encouraged me as well, through his work and some suggestions.
- Scott McCloud, has not only helped with his many penetrative comics on comics, such as Understand Comics, but despite being deluged with emails by wannabees like me, he complimented me on the “Pause & Reflect” cover and wrote, “Keep drawing!”
- Line Høj Høstrup is a young Danish comics creator and illustrator who knows nothing about my work, but for me represents the future of the art form. Cameron and I have just ordered her “50 Days of Storytelling” comic and we look forward to seeing and enjoying it.
I’ve mentioned all of these people before in Chimera Spoor and I’ll likely mention them again! Many thanks to all of you!
I intend to post the segment with Eyecue, Iris, and their discussion centering on what information they’ve managed to gather about their approaching guests, Edzl and Pretzl, and some intriguing gaps in their knowledge of Nebboids. It may take several weeks or longer to do it, but that’s the plan. Stay tuned to further announcements as events warrant!
P.S. Today is the birthday of Sir John Tenniel, the master illustrator best known for his wonderful illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London: Macmillan, 1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (London: Macmillan, 1871).
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