“Bob, you’re a numbers guy, can you step into my office and run through some stats with me?”
My boss said these words to me last week and I hope he didn’t see me involuntary flinch because…well, he’s my boss and I kind of have to do what he asks. But I did indeed flinch, as if I was stung or insulted.
“But I’m NOT a numbers guy,” I said to myself. “I just have worked here for a long time and know how to run the reports and crunch some…well, numbers, I guess.”
Years ago the desire to tell my boss or anyone that I’m not a numbers guy, I’m a cartoonist, was really strong. However, you don’t tell your boss that.
I’ve been working a lot lately at my job so not seeing the walls of a cubicle is a little strange. I’ve been putting in about 50 hours a week for about 6 weeks now. I suppose it’s not that many hours compared to some and I am thankful every single day for the job and overtime but it is getting a little draining. My whole world is my job, my desk and paperwork and the phone. Anything else is a little odd. I went to Target yesterday and it was so strange to walk around this huge building with these bright lights and seeing people who weren’t my family or co-workers. Even being home is weird to me.
I stopped for a haircut last week and the hair stylist jumped into the normal chit-chat about..everything. Lately I can’t seem to have a normal conversation about anything that doesn’t have to do with work. Did I have kids? I do have kids. How was my day? It was good and I didn’t tell her this but I hate talking about my day lately. Where do I work? I told her. And then we talked about my job until my haircut was finished. I left Great Clips or Cost Cutters or wherever I was and thought about that conversation.
I’ve been a cartoonist for a long time. I’ve been making comics for a long time. I used to tell people I was a cartoonist when I was asked what I did for a living. I did this even when I worked at a call center or was a temp or doing one of the other jobs I’ve held over the years. When I told people this, we’d have a conversation about comics and what I was working on and it was really fun and in a way, empowering telling people that I was doing what I wanted to do, even if it didn’t pay the bills. After a while I stopped telling people this and I wonder when I stopped and why. I think when I was younger I told people that because I honestly believed that it would become true someday. I was optimistic and excited. I was going to fake till I made it.
But when did I stop? When did I let…everything else take over? I suppose I felt like a fraud after a while. Telling people I was a cartoonist when I really have had no real success at it. Telling people I made comics when most of my week was running reports and going to meeting after meeting. I’m wasn’t a cartoonist, I was a guy who drew pictures when I wasn’t at work and after the kids when to bed. People would ask where they could see my comics and since few stores carry Uptown Girl books and they’re not on Amazon or online, it was kind of hard to point people towards my work. It’s kind of like telling people that you have a girlfriend who lives in Canada and they’ll probably never meet her.
I think a lot about identity and about what defines someone and what makes someone who they are. For some people, it’s what they do that defines them. Some people dress in a certain way or express themselves with a ringtone or hundreds of other ways. I think we all have a desire to be understood. I wanted my boss and the hairstylist to know I was a cartoonist.
So I got to thinking why don’t I start doing that again? Why don’t I tell people I’m a cartoonist? It’s a lot more fun than telling people about my cubicle and my endless schedule of meetings.
I think when The Retros launches in November it’ll be so much easier to tell people that I do a comic strip and you can read it online. It doesn’t get more accessible than that. I am really looking forward to launching The Retros. Creatively I feel I am hitting the ground running with the benefit and experience of spending over ten years working on Uptown Girl. I am also hoping to use everything I’ve learned about promotion and the business side of comics to my advantage with this. I am also hoping to feel more confident about identifying as a cartoonist because I can say things like “I’m a cartoonist! See? Here’s my website! Here’s my comic!”
Anyway, too much soul searching for a Sunday morning, so here’s some of what I’ve been working on lately. What you won’t see is any progress on Uptown Girl as I am still in the writing/layout stage. Rest assured I am making great progress in terms of page count and story. When I do sit down to work on it, the story is moving quickly and naturally. I think I am about halfway done and hopefully start the inking in the fall.
Here’s some of the recent Retros work and a picture I drew for my daughter that may or may not turn into a bigger project. This was kind of like a trial to give the materials and format a try.