Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Moment in the Life of a Comic Book Artist's Wife

Walking the Plank and Other Falsehoods: The Anatomy of the Comic Book Studio

I've been through two studio upheavals now and countless partings of studio partners.  It's always the same array of feelings... Sadness, anger, betrayal, sometimes regret.  Most of the time you just close your eyes and wait for it all to move on, so to speak, because it always does.  Move on, that is.  I used to blame us,Tony and me, for the issues that came up in the studio.  It's always someone else leaving the Jolly Roger for calmer seas.  But that's the way it has to be since my husband was the one who created Jolly Roger Studio.  He's always left at the helm.

But the truth is, the creation and dissolution of the comic book studio, the constant changing of partners and properties, that is the true nature of the beast.  The comic book studio, with very few exceptions, does not remain solid.  It's not that there was anything wrong with the members that have come and gone or with Tony.  It's just how it is.  It's the nature of the creative. Don't believe me?  Look back at some of the greats. You'll see.

I can't think of one person in the industry who can't say about another creator," I don't work with him/her anymore."  It's all over the industry and it will remain all over the industry.

The one thing I can say for the Jolly Roger is that she tends to go the extra league for her mates. Tony will go any to length to get his shipmate work.  He will share the the wealth that his years of "paying the piper" have afforded just as others have shared with him. 

I use the term "wealth" VERY loosely here, it's more like rations...Yeah, that's better.

If he loves you, he loves you and that's that. There was a time not too long ago when he went to editors he knew to get a mate work, to put in a good word for him.  He's actually done this numerous times, but what strikes me about Tony is that he always tells the editors if they can to not tell the guy he did it. Egos run high in this business and it's important to maintain a certain level of egocentricity (I think this is true in any job actually.  It propels us to do better.).  As an artist, Tony knows this better than anyone and admits it openly.

So to fix the problem?  Most would say, people who work together shouldn't be close friends... Yeah...I guess that works some of the time!  But not in the creative world where the limits of your job are equal to your imagination. There has to be a certain level of commradery, intimacy.  There has to be trust. When it requires two highly creative people to come together on one idea, there will be fireworks and sometimes it's not the good kind. What is most interesting to me is the fact that most of the arguments aren't even over the property they are working on together.  Most of the time it's over stupid stuff but if you look further, there is something deeper going on. Lack of trust?  Lack of intimacy?  Lack of friendship in general? Whatever it is, it will surface sooner or later. It's not that either party is wrong, it just is.  We all have our reasons.

So, to all of those who have been shipmates, I wish you the best. I hope you find the calmer seas you are looking for.  As for the Jolly Roger, well, she'll stay her course, come what may.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Moment in the Life of a Comic Book Artist's Wife

Part 12,879: "And This is My Wife..."

There is a part of being a comic book artist's wife that no one tells you about until you get to the very moment where you say to yourself, " Oh Hell! This is NOT happening!!" If you are a good wife, you do it with a smile... I am ashamed to admit I have not always done it with a smile.

As you have read in earlier posts, comic book conventions ("cons" for short) are not necessarily my favorite weekend getaway, but with three kids, and three dogs, and two cats, I am not picky when the opportunity to high-tail it alone with the artist comes along. For the first few conventions, we were young and not many of our comic book friends (mostly male) were married. I just tagged along and taught Tony manners along the way (as in, "I'm standing right here, could you introduce me?" Who knew I had the invisibility superpower?).

As the years went by I spent most of the time during conventions not at the convention at all. I would do a little research and filter about the town going to museums, going to yarn shops, or just walking if I was in a place like New York... did I mention going to yarn shops?

Then one day it happened! Just as I was grabbing my purse off of one of those horribly uncomfortable convention folding chairs, Tony says, "Stace! This is Joe Shmoe and his wife Jane. I was telling them how you hate being in the convention hall during the day and since Jane doesn't know anyone, I was thinking you could take her along with you today..."

THIS is the part where you find out what kind of wife you are.

You have a couple of choices:

1) Lie and say you were just heading to the ladies room but if you go anywhere you'll be sure to let them know (fat chance).

2) Smile graciously and go on and on how you've got 12 yarn stores you've planned to visit. If the wife perks up, there's a good shot that the two of you will get along.

3) Bring her along and hope for the best that one of the two days you have to spend alone will be filled with making a new friend.

Now, don't for a second think that I don't know how horribly insensitive and just plain mean this all sounds, but I was once burned very badly after inviting another wife along for a day of shopping. She insisted on driving (although she didn't know the city) and picking the places we were going to go visit (although she didn't know the city or ME for that matter). She decided where we would eat lunch (and turned her nose up at what I ordered). On the way back to the hotel, we ended up in a traffic jam for an hour because she insisted on taking the highway. During this time, she had undoubtedly decided that she didn't like me and very much wanted me to know that she didn't like me. I couldn't leave because she was driving and, God help me, there were moments where I thought she was actually going to start blessing me out. It was a complete nightmare, one that I have never been able to shake. I later found out from a mutual friend that that was "how she is." I don't know, maybe I said something... Or maybe she was just CRAZY!!! She actually sought me out at a future convention to see if I wanted to go shopping? Wha..????

So now you might see my trepidation in inviting a complete stranger along on one of my excursions away from Comic Book Land. I tell ya, one bad apple...

Okay so back to our three options. More often than not I would choose #3. More often than not, it was a very good day.

I have a sentimental reason for choosing Option #3 or "the high road" when presented with this uncomfortable situation. I was once the rookie wife, the Jane Shmoe if you will, at this three-ring comic book circus also known as a convention; and if you don't read comics, haven't a clue how to pronounce Superman's real name, and (never actually having smelled one) think Klingons smell, then the convention experience is generally a torturous 8-9 hours.

One of my first conventions was San Diego Comic Con (not a good choice for first-timers) and Tony had just begun Starman. Archie Goodwin was Tony's editor then. Archie was an editor, nay, a man like no other. He spoke so quietly yet commanded incredible respect. I was only fortunate enough to meet him once, but we talked many times on the phone. Tony could be hopping mad about his job...or the position of the sun... but the moment he got on the phone with Archie it was like someone had shot him with a tranquilizer gun. God! I wish I could have bottled that voice!

Archie was married to an equally wonderful woman named Anne who, for at least one day, was my guardian angel.

There I was, lost in a sea of capes and tights, superbly pissed over the loss of my way too expensive cappuccinos, preparing to have a ritual beheading of the Klingon kind, and regretting terribly my decision to come along to San Diego Comic Con (You can read about my cappuccinos and stupid Klingons here.). I was not happy, so much so, that at least two complete strangers said, "Cheer up!" as they passed our table.

Enter stage right: My wonderful guardian angel!

Sweet Anne, probably choosing option #3, asked me to go with her on a harbor tour, ya know, to get out of the chaos of the convention. Happily, I grabbed my bag and escaped with this nice woman whom I had never met before in my life. It was a fabulous afternoon. Anne taught me so much in that short time. She taught me how to handle conventions "in doses," and that she herself didn't spend a lot of time at the hall. She loved to travel with Archie but spent her days out in the cities she visited sightseeing and whatnot. As a stupid newbie, it never occurred to me that I could LEAVE the convention and come back when the chaos was over (this from a girl who at 19 sold her car and hopped a flight to France). I wasn't bound to that table covered in white plastic and clad with a blue satin skirt. There were no shackles jailing me to endless hours of comic book chatter. Even though I was going to a convention, I didn't have to stay at the convention.

Funny, now that I have made so many friends in the comic book world, I actually like being at the con. I sit and knit and blab with whomever has made the poor choice of sitting next to me at the booth (So I can talk! Sue me!). I still do like to escape the chaos and savor some time to myself, but now I leave to buy yarn, not to preserve my sanity.

And although I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that there is a 99% chance that everything will be fine, I invite that poor wife with the "I'd rather be in hell than here" look on her face along for a day of shopping. I even limit my yarn shopping to one store (No, really!). I do this as a sort of pay-it-forward for Anne, for teaching me to help myself, for showing me one more way to survive in this kooky comic book world.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Moment in the Life of a Comic Book Artist's Wife

* I do not pretend to have excellent grammer or superb spelling. If errors in these areas upset you then you will most assuredly despise my writing and I suggest that you stop now unless you couldn't read this to begin with because it is far too small and I am too proud to make it any larger. I do love a good run on sentence!

Part 198,321: The ALMIGHTY DOLLAR!

God, it makes paying your mortgage so much easier, doesn't it? Or should I say that it's so much harder to pay your mortgage WITHOUT it? Well, welcome to the feast or famine life of a comic book artist (or at least of one comic book artist). First, let me say that I am so grateful for the life that comics provides for my family. The industry has been very good to us and when I say industry, 90% of what I am talking about is the fan base (if it appears that I am kissing the proverbial "ass" well, call it like you see it, 'cause I AM!). Seriously, if you all don't read what my husband draws and/or writes, we starve... until I convince some engineering company that I can do more than fix those little tabs on disposable diapers and go back to work myself. I suppose I did get those degrees for something....

Like any freelance job out there, if you don't work, you don't get paid. No vacation time, no "personal time," no sick time. There are no bonuses, health or dental benefits, or 401(k)'s. There's not even a big fat holiday office party! If you're down for the count, you'd better make sure you've got financial backup or great relationships with your creditors. It's all a great big juggling mess until you sell a movie, or at least get an option on one, and then you can breathe... for awhile.

So you'd better make sure you like drawing and you can do it to support a family, or an addiction, (or your wife's addiction because she needs "a little something" to cut the edge of being married to a comic book artist), depending on your situation. You'd better love it in your bones, in your soul, in the corneas of your eyes, in the mitochondria of your cells; because it's so easy to look at that drawing table and tell yourself, "I make my own hours. I'll work tonight." And then "tonight" comes and that blank paper is still staring you in the face menacingly, but your family or friends are going out to a movie and you really want to go. How overwhelming it must be to create when you haven't the inclination to do so. How scary that seems to me, really.

On the other side of that coin, when Tony's "got his game on," it's very difficult to pull him away from the drawing table. Thank God that's more often than not, bless 'em! (Yes, another southern colloquialism.) He's recently gotten back into painting after years and years of my pleading with him to do so. When Tony finally picked up that paintbrush, it was like a child opening a box of Crayons for the first time. And when I say Crayons, I mean the box of 96 colors with the built-in sharpener! I wish I could have bottled that excitement... You know, for a rainy day... to put a few drops in his coffee in a Catherine de Medici sort of way when those dark, down times come around. Oh no... that's right.. The "Catherine de Medici" bottle is for when he doesn't take the trash out.

Look at her! I knew nuns that had that same composure while inflicting punishment.

But most of the time, really, if we're not getting a paycheck, it's a publisher red tape mix up. It's been more than a month since we've received a paycheck that was actually right as in, not missing half of what was owed to us. Paying bills on "half" doesn't quite cut it but what are you gonna do? Bite the hand that feeds you? Not if you have "a lick a' sense," as they say here in the south. You live off of savings, you know, your "back up plan." "Back up plan" meaning that huge change jar in the corner of your closet. Don't laugh! That change jar saved our butts the first years of our marriage while I was just finding my sea legs on this ship-of-fools.

I just love Hieronymus Bosch! I can so relate to his art...sigh!

Then, at some point the rocking of the boat became second nature, the sea swells less daunting, but it doesn't make the comic book artist's (or artist's wife's) life less difficult, or less worrisome. It just means you bear the financial storms with a little less wear and tear on your marriage, on your psyche, and on the wrinkles on your face.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Yeah, I'm Here...

I haven't been here in a while but I think that I still know my way around. I've missed blogging but the internet has had to take a back seat for many moons now. You know... life and whatnot.

I haven't been able to follow my favorite blogs (which I miss terribly) and I haven't been able to write, not even for my fiction blog, Streak O Lean. I haven't written anything, not even a thank you note. Why do I go through these times? Why is it that sometimes it's so hard to get words down on paper? Now my mind hasn't been a great big blank all of these months, but having the words in my head and stopping to write them can be such an ordeal. The truth of the matter is that my life moves far too fast. I just can't seem to catch up.

What I wonder, however, is what would happen if I did "catch up"? What does "caught up" look like? Has anyone ever actually done it (Martha Stewart, you can lower your hand... sigh!)? I really tend to beat myself up for not having reached the "caught up" status, but paradoxically, I know that it doesn't exist really. So why do I insist on keeping it on the horizon? I think it's because it's a convenient excuse. It's the reason I give to others, and most importantly, to myself for not being the best that I can be. It's an excuse with which just about any wife, mother, sister, friend can identify. "I am just too busy!" "I'll do that when I have time." "I wish there were more hours in the day." "Not now! Mommy's really busy."

Just reading those phrases makes me feel tired and worn out.

So "catching up" must be a state of mind. I suppose if I just let go of the notion that there is no end to the things that need to be done in life, I might relax. If I would just accept that life is one cycle after another, maybe those phantom finish lines in my head would vanish. Perhaps I wouldn't go straight from mundane task to mundane task trying to keep everyone happy. Maybe.. just maybe.. in the mayhem, I could carve out time to write, read, quilt, and play with my kids; to be at the helm of my own ship instead of playing first mate.

Well there you have it, my blogging friends, another destination! Another course on which to set sail. I just hope that I remember that the world is round.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Post Over at Streak-O-Lean!

Come read it...please...Do it for the children!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Streak-O-Lean has Moved

Hi All!

Just a note to let you know that I moved my short story, Streak O Lean, to its own blog. So if you are reading it (...both of you) you can find it here. All of the posts are there from the beginning, and I posted a new one yesterday that will not be posted here. You can always access it through this site. The link is in the upper right-hand corner. Thanks to all who read it! I just wanna hug yo' neck!


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Moment in the Life of a Comic Book Artist's Wife

Play Nice!

Quite often my mothering skills have to bleed over into the comic book world. Perhaps some would call this micro managing. I call it necessary. My husband is one-of-a-kind and you know that these posts are usually written to poke fun at him and comic books in general. But know, if you are a fan reading this post, that I appreciate you. You make my family's life possible. You pay the bills, you take us to the movies on family day, you make our world go 'round so to speak. So, thank you.

***Warning: This post will have some foul language so please be warned and if this offends you, then please don't read this. ***

Here is a list of some of the things that Mama Bird has had to say to both my husband and the comic book world this week:

1. Tony, you are funny, big-mouthed, a great artist, and generally an all around good guy. HOWEVER, words like (deep breath) "fucker", "cocksucker", "shithook", and the like are probably to be used minimally on twitter, Sweetie. Those that know you or follow your twitter know that you have your rants will probably not be offended. More than likely, they will think you are hilarious. But there's always that one reader who will be offended. Yes, I know they can stop reading, but play nice, okay?

2. You're giving your editor anxiety attacks, ulcers, and other stress-related illnesses. Finish the book or you'll go to bed without supper!

3. (This to all those who are on Twitter, Facebook, Message Boards, etc.) Teenagers have commited suicide over internet bullying. Adults should know better.

4. Just because it's a pee diaper doesn't make it less toxic than a poo diaper, and putting it on a comic book you don't like does not equal putting it in the trash. Yes, I do agree that comic book is trash, but still!

5. Perhaps it's the Italian-American in me or just plain being a mom, but if you eff with my family, you eff with me. Those who know me know that is a bad thing.

6. Klingons suck!

7. Tony, calm down! If I told you that I like long hair on men, would that make you feel better?

8. Tony? Where are you? I can't see you... Maybe it's time to shave, Blackbeard, or I'm gonna tie some canon fuses to that tangled mess myself!

9. Did I mention Klingons suck?

10. Egos run high with celebrity. Is Tony Harris a celebrity? Not in my house! But he is very popular.