I remember being in the 7th grade. The assignment was to write about where we saw ourselves in the near future, at the ripe age of 25. I saw myself in a house, with a dog, and making comic books. I was a kid who was always drawing, at home, at school, wherever. If an assignment didn’t require visual aids, I’d provide them. Even if the teacher was talking and I was supposed to be listening, I’d be drawing.
Now, I’m not saying I was an awesome artist, I just drew all the time. And wrote, too. I thought that was just what you did. To me, that’s what school was; you’d write about something, and you’d draw a picture to go with it. I’d been doing that since at least the 2nd grade. We’d get an old file folder to use as the cover, some blank paper for pages, write some stuff that the teacher or aide would type out, then we’d cut out what they typed and glue it on a page, follow that with a drawing, and boom, we had a book.
Looking back though, those were just arts and crafts assignments for kids. I wasn’t learning how to become a creator of content, I was playing with crayons and glue. At the time though, I enjoyed the shit out of that kind of shit. There would be at least one event a year around projects like that, Young Author’s Day I think it was. And you could win a Caldecott or Newbery Award during it, and get a fancy embossed official seal on you handmade book! Thinking about it now, those seals were just heavy stickers, what people refer to today as “participation medals”. But back then I was winning some mother-fucking medals! The only part I didn’t like about that was having to get my picture taken and the attention/recognition that came with it. I just wanted to make my book, and, receive the medal, without the pomp and circumstance. This went on long enough that in one of the pictures I’m wearing a Pearl Jam t-shirt.
So my path was pretty much set. So long as expectations of the end result were low, and I maintained the fish to pond size ratio, and stayed in school forever, I’d make at least one book a year. Look out Marvel, here comes Andrew.
That’s what I wanted to do, make mine Marvel. I was reading Marvel comics, even had the Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades of the World’s Greatest Comics book close at hand to refer to. If my school assignment was to create a holiday? I made Marvel Comics Day. If the class got a chance to use the school video camera for a project? I made a commercial for adamantium laced skeletons.
I’d primarily read Wolverine, followed by Spider-man, with some degree of assorted mutant books thrown in (oh, and that brief run of Darkhawk). Prior to those being my books of choice I remember having issue #1 of Silverhawks (which I still have) #1 of the short lived Who Framed Roger Rabbit series, and a few random copies of The A-Team. But it was Wolverine that I really focused on, especially when Silvestri and Texeira where the artists, and Spider-man when McFarlane or Larsen drew them. For some reason some of those guys stopped drawing the titles I liked, and so I stopped buying them. Well, I mean I cut way back on Spider-man, and slowed down my Wolverine consumption.
Needless to say I don’t work for Marvel. Or DC, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, Aftershock, Black Mask, and so on. I still drew through school, wrote here and there and made little projects, but the craft assignments didn’t come as often as before. Talk of real jobs was spoken more and more often. I’d still read comics though. Less Wolverine, more Preacher, and SCUD. I did eventually end up getting a job as an artist, though. Didn’t work out, and I accepted that. It was what it was, we are who we are, we do what we do and it’s best to keep moving.
I stopped drawing. I didn’t really want to be reminded of those pursuits.
Later, I had a day off from work and my brother wanted to hang out. I drove the fifty miles up to his place and he wasn’t home. I got back in my car and texted him, he replied that he was up the street at the Fred Meyer and asked if I’d swing by and pick him up. Sure, no problem. I start the car again and head over there, feeling a buzz from my phone on the way there. I park at the store and check my phone. “You have room in your car for two more people, right?” was what he had texted, after I said I was on my way to get him. I remember being sour about that. I mean, yeah, I had room in my car, but like, I had some crap in it, and I always drove with the back seat folded down, so I had to shove some boxes aside and set the seat back up. I find him over by a cold case in the store. “Two extra people?” I ask, somewhat sternly. “Aw, yeah, got some guys crashing on the sofa for a bit. They’re cool, they’re comic book dudes.” I think I even rolled my eyes when he said that. “Here’s one” he says as a human hop pole comes around the corner of the cold case. “Brandon, this is my brother Andrew”. We exchange hey-nods with each other. “Have you seen Corey? Andrew’s gonna give us a ride back to the apartment.” That was 2007 when I first met Brandon Graham. Shortly after that we’d start a habit of attending the same thing at the same time, usually with him on the one side of a table and me on the other. Then, we’d be at less comic-centric things at the same time. Then we’d just be hanging out.
I was at one of those more comic-centric events, looking through Brandon’s stack of penciled pages for sale and saw one I really liked. I wasn’t ready to buy it at the moment though, and figured when I saw him in a few weeks at EmCit I would be. Emerald City happens and I’m looking at the pages again, the one I wanted isn’t in there.
“You sell the Conan pinup?”
“Nah, I just didn’t bring it this time.”
“Ah, I was thinking I would buy it if you still had it.”
“I’ll bring it with me next time.” And in a jokingly serious manner says “Next time I see you, I will have that Conan page.”
I end up bumping into him at a bar that night.
“Ah crap, sorry, I don’t have the page with me.” he says.
“Well yeah, I mean, it’s only been a few hours.”
Again he promises “Next time I see you I will have your page.”
I end up making a random trip to Cosmic Monkey, moreso for someone to use the bathroom than for shopping. As I walk in, Brandon is sitting on the sofa by the window. Again, he apologizes for not having the page with him. Neither one of us had any way of knowing that we’d run into each other in a city that neither of us lived in, but he had promised twice already. This time though, we knew, in a few weeks it would be Stumptown Comics Fest, and so again, he strongly states “Next time I see you, I will have your page”.
I couldn’t just buy the page from him now. The last 2 times we bumped into eachother the first thing he did was apologize for not having the page. I had to show some other thanks for remembering it. I guess I could just give him a few extra bucks for it? But how much? Is that tacky? It’s like a tip, tipping is appreciated, right? Shit.
I guess… I could draw him a picture? That’s a nice way to say thanks for remembering, and to show appreciation. I could make one of those pieces of “fan-art” that I hear so much about!
Good thing I had a few weeks, because I hadn’t drawn anything in years. That didn’t matter though, right? It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be good, it’s the thought that counts! Right on! Okay, now, how do people draw again?
I dug around and found some paper and pencils and started sketching. Sketching and brainstorming is always a good place to start. Warm up, stretch for a bit, draw things just to draw them so that you can get some of the dumb ideas out of your system, and then go back to whatever the first thing you sketched was, and draw that again, only better. Okay, what do the pros do? They draw it with a blue pencil first. Why? I have no idea, but I bet I have a blue pencil somewhere…
Artists pencil in blue, so that when they scan or copy it after inking the page it’s easier to remove or can be filtered out in photographic processes, so it makes for a cleaner page. With my not being a professional artist, I really had no need for that technique, but I did it anyway. There was a lot of, sketching, penciling, scanning, cleaning, tracing with a light box, inking, more scanning, and then finally coloring it in a hand-me-down copy of Photoshop. I took it to two different printers with disappointing results and learned about RGB screen settings vs CMYK print settings and was eventually left with a final printed piece of fan-art, two days before Stumptown.
This Stumptown Comics fest was a little different since it was now at the convention center instead of the large room next to the garage of the Double Tree Hotel. This time when he saw me he reached into his portfolio and brought out the Conan page. I gave him the money, and then said “Hey, since you kept remembering about the page all those other times I saw you before today, I made this Multiple Warheads drawing for you to say thanks.” He took the drawing from me and thanked me, and then looked it over again, focusing along the bottom of the paper.
“You didn’t sign it.” he said, and put the print on the table and then handed me his pen. I signed along the bottom and he took it back and thanked me again.
He had me sign it. A comic creator, on the inside of the table, who people line up to get things signed and drawn on, asked me to sign something I drew. That gave me a feeling like I had fully completed something. I did something. I had seen something all the way through. I hadn’t done something like that in a long time.
I guess that brings us to now. There’s a project that I have that’s a little bit bigger than a single piece of “thank you” fan-art. I launched a Kickstarter campaign with some of the comics creators that I’ve met over the years. It ends the morning of September 15th, 2017. So, if you have a moment to give it a look, I’d greatly appreciate it. It’s called Hot Commode-ity. Here’s a little URL for it kck.st/2w1RQiS . Not your cup? No prob, maybe you know someone else who might like it? Send them on over.
This is a project that’s been rolling around in my head for a few years. It isn’t me trying to break into comics, or a rebellious attempt to break comics. I’m not here to be the next comics destroyer, or its savior employer, either. No, I see myself more as a dude that still happens to like comics after all these years, and sometimes you get a chance to sit at table that you aren’t familiar with, and when you do, you should pull up that chair.