No matter how much an astronaut sacrifices, no matter how hard she's worked to get her shot, there has to be a moment -- probably right after a million and a half pounds' worth of propellant lights up under her -- when she wonders if she's made an error. Having put every last ounce of myself into the promotion of Nonplayer over the last few weeks, I suddenly have a similar feeling of unease going into the debut weekend.
Promoting something does some pretty strange things to your head. For one, there's the endless bragging. I've been looking at my comic for long enough that it's hard to see past my own mistakes, but that doesn't square very well with the job of being a salesman. Sadly, I don't think people will rush to pick up the book when I tell them to "check out Nonplayer -- on one panel, a character's eyes don't quite point in the same direction!" So I'm trying to be a good cheerleader for the book. I recognize the necessity of it, but it does go against a lifetime of programming that says "stop talking about yourself, douchebag."
The tone of my relationship with the public has also changed. When that relationship was conducted solely through this blog, I was able to interact with commenters as individuals -- to look at their work, to get a sense of who they were as people. There was a refreshing lack of anonymity. We were sharing and caring! And since very little was said about Nonplayer outside the walls of this comfy little garden, I was able to parse every comment and benefit from it, regardless of whether it was critical or supportive.
Well, now there are more people talking about the book outside these walls than there are here in the garden. It's tempting to wander the web to read what people are saying -- few things are more intoxicating than hearing a stranger say something nice about you. But it doesn't take long before the whole thing starts to make you a little queasy. When that anticipation gets whipped up past a certain point, you start to wonder if there's any way the work itself will live up to readers' expectations.
Regrettably, I've even bought into some of this hype -- when I finally opened the first shipment of books, my first thought was that they looked awful small. Apparently my sense of the book had become so inflated that some part of my brain had expected the book to be physically larger than a normal comic. Weird, right? I'll be selling copies of the first issue at WonderCon this weekend, so we'll see if others have this reaction.
Out there beyond the wall lurk negative comments too, about which the less said the better.
Of course, there's one very big elephant in the room: each issue of Nonplayer will take a few months -- maybe even many months -- to create. Nobody wishes more than I do that it would come out faster -- after all, I'm trying to make a living off of this thing, and more than one retailer has explained to me that every day that passes between issues is money lost. My stomach makes a foreboding gurgling noise just thinking about it.
I certainly get why both I and retailers have cause for concern -- in both our cases, it's a matter of making financial ends meet. It was that financial imperative that prevented me from doing all six issues before releasing. I'd never have gotten anywhere near the finish line on my own dime.
I also remember what it was like to be a kid waiting for a late comic. I had a vision of the artist spending his days jet-skiing and partying while I waited patiently for him to get back to work. Sometimes I still fall prey to that kind of thinking, which is why I get antsy when I spend even a couple of hours away from my desk.
But that's probably not very good for the quality of the book, in the long run. Nonplayer #1 was made in a commercial vacuum -- no deadlines, no editors, no readers to impress. And though the commercial context has changed, I'm doing my best to preserve that sense of calm while working on the second issue. I need to be able to take chances, to make mistakes, and to start some things over when they don't work. This started out as a learning process, and I want to keep on learning. I want the second issue to be better than the first.
I'm very sorry for making folks wait between issues. I really do hate to inconvenience anybody -- I'm pretty sure I hate it enough that it qualifies as a neurosis. And the thought that I'm grabbing the attention of so many readers, only to disappoint them en masse, is putting a bit of a damper on all the recent good news about the comic's reception. I feel like I'm jumping up onto a big stage, only to have my pants ripped away at the last moment. Ta-dah!
All that said, if you'd one day like to hold a nice fat Nonplayer trade paperback full of noodly, self-indulgent artwork, then you may want to say this when you meet me:
"I can wait. Pace yourself."
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