Sometimes my comics imitate life on purpose, but I don’t think I’ve ever done a comic that predicted the future.
When ‘Uptown Girl’ was a comic book, I did a new story every month. I did funny stories, I did action stuff, I did whatever I wanted. It was fun. I felt that I could do any type of story I wanted. I felt, and still feel the characters and the world I created could accommodate (almost) anything I wanted to write about.
When I was single and falling in love with the girl I’d eventually marry, I wrote a comic about Ruby falling in love with someone. After being single for so long, I felt a little nervous about getting back into a relationship so I sorted out my feelings by having Ruby go through the same things. Spoiler alert, I stay married, Ruby’s relationship lasted about a year. On the same note, having a baby also creates a billion different types of emotions…excitement, nervousness and many, many others. I felt very compelled to write about all this right before Sophie (who just turned 8) was born. I expressed a lot of what I was thinking and feeling through a story where Jack and Diane, two supporting cast members had a baby named Rose.
I’ve mentioned that one reason for wrapping up Uptown Girl’s adventures is that I feel my life is too different than it was when I started their stories and having a hard relating to these characters that I love. My life and theirs are very different. I worry about paying the mortgage and Rocketman worries about finding the entrance to the Wizard’s Tower in the video game he is playing. My life is in a good place. When what you write is rooted in your own life, a lack of conflict makes for a pretty boring story.
A slight spoiler ahead…
At any rate, in the next/last Uptown Girl book, a character loses their job. In writing these scenes, I reached back to when I was laid off back in 2006. I remembered how we were told, what I thought at the time and what the whole experience was like. I used these experiences to write this part of the book. I do remember when I was writing these parts that part of me wondered if I was courting fate. It’s been feared for years that where I work would someday be closing.
On December 16th these fears were realized. I learned that day I’d soon be out of a job.
Which…sucks. It sucks on so many levels. My job provides many things. Paying my bills, keeping the house and being able to print new books. Most importantly, it allows Amy to be a stay at home mom for our kids. I was always proud that I had the kind of income that allowed this. I don’t earn a huge salary, but with a few sacrifices and strict budgeting, we were able to have a life where she’s home to see the kids on to school. It’s a good life.
When I turned 40, I had a revelation. It was an important one. I realized that I needed to stop beating myself up mentally. I had been doing it for 15 years. When I first started doing comics, the only goal I ad in life was to be a full time cartoonist. To be able to earn enough to support myself by doing comics and art. I hated having a job. As the years went by, my resolve to make this happen grew stronger and soon took over my life. I was so focused on this that I became very frustrated as time passed and I still wasn’t there (“yet”, I would tell myself). I wasn’t enjoying my life. At times this would create negative thoughts towards myself. I wasn’t a good enough artist, I wasted too much time, I should’ve gone to art school…that kind of stuff. I didn’t consider this unhealthy, if you can believe it. I thought it was motivating me. Because, you know, getting beat up is motivating.
As my family grew I felt that my time was passing, if it didn’t pass already.
But then I turned 40 and everything seem to come together. I realized I was successful. I had a life where I not only had a family, I was able to support all four of us by doing a job that is/was(?) very difficult and challenging. I felt (and still do) very excited about The Retros. I felt that it was a new beginning and there was a lot of opportunities…I realized I had a lot of life left. I felt lucky. How many times did I avoid a layoff a workforce reduction because I was really good at what I do? When I turned 40 I felt at peace with everything in my life. I was at peace with having a job. The truth is, I like my job, despite the challenges. Losing my job will make my future very uncertain on a lot of levels but it’s also losing something that I feel I was successful at.
I am not sure when my last day will be, which makes my planning my next steps a little challenging. It could be next month, it could be this summer, it could be next year. I don’t know when I will know either. I do know there are going to be some changes this year. Will Amy go back to work? Should I go and finish my degree to become more marketable? Will I find a job in a different field altogether? Should I agree to go on that quest with that wizard to the town of Dale and fight that dragon? I don’t know.
In the past three weeks, I’ve gone through a huge range of emotions. Right now I am a little excited about the year, two hours ago I was a nervous wreck.
What does all this have to do with comics?
Well, when you’re nervous about something, it helps to look for a bright side. I’m nervous about the future, but I am also a little excited for it. No, I’m not excited to update my resume or worry about how I’ll pay for Sophie’s dance class, I’m excited for what’s ahead with my comics. I like the work I’ve done so far on the Uptown Girl book. I’m 76 pages in and on track to finish by the end of the year. I’m also excited for The Retros. Over the past year or so, I’ve done a lot of character designs, written a lot of story ideas, jotted down a lot of new character names. I started to get a little nervous that I’d lose that scrap of paper I wrote down a new character name or lose an email that I wrote to myself that outlined a story idea. I decided it was time to gather every tiny idea I’ve had about The Retros and put them all in one place. It was arts and crafts time as I taped sketches and story ideas into a journal.
Some of these character designs have popped up on my Twitter account but it’s nice to have them and the future story ideas all in one place. Now I don’t have to worry about losing a lot of emails and sketches, I just have to worry about losing one book. I have enough in this book to keep this comic going for ten years, maybe longer. I’m pretty excited.
At any rate, I am not sure what will happen. I’m nervous and scared and excited. Sometimes all at once, sometimes not. I am okay for now, but it sure would be nice if the Cartoon Network would offer me an cartoon deal.