When you’re working on a particularly long project (like a 60+ page comic you’re writing, drawing and coloring), one thing that’s ALWAYS on your mind is the finish line. You can’t wait to get all the artwork finished. To tell the story you wanted to tell. Then to share that story with the world. You want to complete it so much, the finish line is all you can think about. And that’s not a bad thing in a way — it keeps you motivated and constantly propels you forward. The culmination of that entire journey is holding a copy of the finished comic in your hands. That physical object becomes an avatar for the entire experience of making the project. And you find yourself fantasizing how it feel to hold the finished product in your hands.
You can see every detail in your mind.
You’re strutting down the sidewalk to your local comic shop with “Stayin’ Alive” playing in the background. You bust open the front door with a devastating axe-kick. A heavenly beam of light slices through the dust and debris — bypassing the comics of Mignola, Kirkman, Risso, Moore, Millar, and Pope — and singularly illuminates YOUR comic. As you approach it, a chorus of angelic voices begin singing and Jimi Hendrix descends from Heaven playing “Axis: Bold as Love (part 2)” — a song he wrote specifically for the release of your comic. You grab your book off the stands and feel it crackling with energy, the sheer awesomeness coursing through your veins. Two scantily clad maidens emerge from somewhere (I’m guessing the back-issue bins) and fall to the ground, clinging at your feet. You raise the book to the heavens as a colossal lighting bolt strikes down on you and your comic. You feel like a god. You ARE a god. And the moment of you holding YOUR comic in your hands is so monumental, so EPIC, that the ghost of Frank Frazetta appears, riding on a crimson panther. He sets up his easels to immortalize the occasion in a painting, as he does whenever an event of this magnitude unfolds in the universe.
That’s EXACTLY what I always imagine holding one of MY comics in my hands will feel like. The reality is, I’ve never ran into a comic shop to grab my book. Hell, I don’t think MY comic has ever even been the first comic I grabbed in the store. I pick it up when I stumble across it in on the rack. I might flip through a few pages of it — usually saying something like, “ehhhhhhh”. But that’s about it. Sure, when I get home, I’ll go over it a little closer — check the color shift, look at how it printed, see how it reads, etc. It’s not that I don’t care or am uninterested in it. But you think it’s going to feel AMAZING when you buy it in the shop.
And it doesn’t.
It feels exactly like buying any other comic you’re ever bought in your life
I guess I always assumed there would be this moment of victory. A feeling of pure joy where I stood triumphant over the project. And that moment would be when I held the printed comic in my hand. But I was getting too caught up in the achievement of the finished product.
The printed comic.
Then a couple years ago, I was reading The Art of UP (art book for the Pixar film) when I stumbled across this line by production designer, Ricky Nierva: “… I learned to enjoy the process of making a film as it goes.”
And suddenly it all made sense.
You have to enjoy the everyday process of making your comic.
You can’t just live for the finish line.
You have to enjoy the day-to-day process of making your comic. The ups and downs. The days you’re having so much fun creating that you literally get up and dance around your studio with a big grin on your face. The days you’re drawing like a god (or John Buscema, take your pick). The days when you hide away in your studio for 17 hours, just creating and don’t have to deal with another living soul. The days when brilliant ideas cause you to leap right out of the chair at your drawing table with excitement. The days when you wouldn’t change places with anyone in the world.
And the days you can’t draw worth a fuck. The days you’re in agony over the best direction to take a page. The days where people won’t leave you along for five fucking minutes so you can get something done. The days you’re convinced you’re the worst artist in the history of mankind and wonder if it’s too late to just go become a short order cook.
You’ve got to enjoy the journey, not just the destination.
And who knows, maybe I WILL feel something special when I hold the final printed version of The Happy Samurais #1 in my hands. It will be the first comic I’ve ever made that’s really ME. But I’m not gonna count on that feeling. I’m gonna continue to enjoy the process of making the comic. Day in, day out. And at the end, when I hold the printed comic in my hand, if I DO feel electrified, well then, that’s just a bonus.
AND, if I do feel electrified, there’s a pretty good chance I’m about to become BFFs with Hendrix and the Ghost of Frazetta, so there’s that to look forward to.