Thursday, January 27, 2011

At Last



Nonplayer, brought to you by Image Comics! Coming to a comic shop near you on April 6.

More details at the official Nonplayer website.

Sorry, it's hard to reach the keyboard from the ceiling. I'll post more when I deflate a bit.

Very happy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On Waiting

This posting hiatus started pretty innocently. Having mentioned in several previous posts that I had a major publishing announcement to make, and certain as I was of that announcement's imminence, I decided to refrain from posting until I could drop the Big One. After all, it was getting kind of embarrassing, saying over and over again that there would be big news and then coming up empty every time. Maybe the internet didn't really care one way or the other whether I'd landed a publishing deal, but in the echo chamber of my head it felt like a big deal.

So, is this the post? Nope! But since there isn't anything more for me to do, and since I feel an overriding need to do something, I'll write about it.

I got into comics for the autonomy. A comic is just about the most elaborate thing a person can create without assistance, which sounds like heaven to somebody who's spent fourteen years in video game development. But what I hadn't taken into account was that "a comic" was more than just 24 pages of sequential art. Without a publishing infrastructure, a distribution network, advertising, and other promotional support, a comic is just a tree falling in a forest. Initially, I had anticipated handling the publishing logistics on my own, through print-on-demand publishers like Ka-Blam and distributors like ComicsMonkey. That probably would have worked out fine, but I was unsure of my ability to reach much of an audience on my own.

Soon enough, more established publishers came sniffing around. It was intoxicating. Sometimes it was humbling, too: many were quite up-front about what they perceived to be my comic's shortcomings (after I'd drawn only five pages, one executive told me that my color was going in the wrong direction, an assessment that was eagerly affirmed by several others on the same conference call). Ego-bruising aside, there was now the prospect of seeing my comic at a real comic shop. I might finally get to meet my comics heroes -- and as a peer, not just as a fan!

Late last summer, I finally came to an agreement with a publisher. I finished the first issue, went to work on the second, and waited. A publisher is a big, slow thing -- those who run it have to support hundreds of other creators while overseeing a large, complex business. Naively, I thought that once we came to an agreement, we would immediately step out the front door and shake hands for the cameras. Well, of course it doesn't work that way, least of all for a first-time creator. You may be in a hurry, but nobody else is. And why the hurry, anyway? Should the publisher give my comic some sort of priority because I erroneously mentioned in my blog that it would be coming out soon?

My hurry is the problem. It's also ironic, given how slowly the comic was created. I still have trouble achieving enough distance to realize how little it matters whether my comic comes out in March or April, and that impatience has had all sorts of bad side-effects: it has distracted me from my work, it has been an annoyance to my friends and family, and it has turned me into an email-crazy serial irritant to my publisher.

So why am I in this insane hurry? I guess I'm hungry for validation. Especially when you quit what to all observers looks like a perfectly good job to go do something that sounds silly, there's a gradually but inexorably increasing burden on your shoulders. Double that burden if your wife is paying the rent in the meantime. You wake up every morning just a little more desperate to prove yourself, and you go to sleep feeling like more of a failure every night. Eventually, this struggle becomes the only thing you think about. By the time you finish that first issue, you already feel a little bit hollowed-out. But it's okay, because that void is about to be filled with gallons of warm, nourishing validation.

And then nothing happens. For months.

One day, I'm going to look back at this post and laugh at myself for having thought of the release of the first issue as some sort of finish line. It's really the starting line, and things are only going to get harder. How easy will it be to focus on the comic when I'm one click away from a forum where somebody's ragging on me for working so slowly?

Christmas never comes. There will always be some ever-receding prize on which to fixate at the expense of the real blessings that surround me now. How much sense does it make to obsess over fulfilling my role as a good provider if that obsession turns living with me into a miserable experience? 

I have not been a particularly spiritual or even philosophical person, but I'm starting to recognize the usefulness of a philosophical framework in these situations. In that spirit, the following quote from the Bhagavad Gita seems wise, if not easily emulated:
You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction. Perform work in this world, Arjuna, as a man established within himself -- without selfish attachments, and alike in success and defeat. For yoga is perfect evenness of mind... Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness is unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.
So next week, I'll announce both my publisher and the successful renouncement of all my desires. Ha!

Note: I posted this text yesterday, then took it down after ten minutes. It felt like this was one of those self-indulgent mope-posts that can't really help anything and can hurt quite a few things. Of course, I have since received several emails pointing out that anybody with an RSS feed can still read the whole thing, anyway. So the cat's out of the bag. And I suppose if the real point of this blog is to chronicle the entire experience of learning comics, then it has to show the dark moments as well as the happy ones. So here you go.