This is something I’ve been thinking about doing for a while now. I wanted to explain my love of comics, and how I went from dedicated reader to dedicated creator.
Hope this is of some interest!
Comics have always been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I was little, there were random comic books around the house – not sure where they might have come from, but I do remember reading comics at a young age.
Around age 5-6, I fell in love with GI Joe. I was obsessed. I religiously watched the TV show, and between the ages of 5 and 10 I amassed a massive amount of GI Joe toys. I was a huge fan. But one day, something changed, and ultimately changed my life: I found a GI Joe comic book on a spinner rack at my local grocery store, and begged my mom to buy it for me. I wasn’t even sure what it was, but it was GI Joe, and I felt like I needed to own anything that was Joe-related.
This was the original Marvel GI Joe series, written by Larry Hama…and I fell in love. This kind of storytelling was right up my alley, the combination of story and visual art just spoke to me in a way that nothing else had. Even the other comics I’d read prior to that didn’t speak to me like this. I was still a fan of the cartoon, but the comics were telling different stories, stories that seemed more mature and smarter to me. I got to know these characters and my love of GI Joe deepened.
It was during this period, around the age of 10 or so, maybe a little younger, that I realized there was a comic book store within walking distance from my house. That was another major impact on my life, as I started spending a lot of time, as well as all my allowance, on comics. Having the comic book store so close opened up a huge world to me – I suddenly could look at all these other books that I didn’t see on the spinner racks. Spider-Man, the X-Men, Batman, all these books were available to me and my allowance disappeared quickly each week. I learned that new comics came out on Wednesday, and I spent every Wednesday after school at the comic store, seeing what was new.
It was around age 13 or so that this new comic book company called Image came to be, and with it, another life-changing event – here were all these brand new comics, brand new characters, brand new stories, and I was IN. I was in DEEP. I bought everything that came out of Image in those early days. Youngblood. WildCATS. Brigade. Shadowhawk. Cyberforce. Spawn. My favorite was Savage Dragon, by Erik Larsen, a guy whose Spider-Man run had been a favorite of mine. It really didn’t matter how good the work was. If it had the Image “I” on the cover, I bought it. I say that the Image explosion of the early 90s was a life-changing event, and it was, because here were new stories and new characters, and it made me understand that if these guys could create their own characters…maybe so could I.
I was always artistic when I was young, always drawing, and I started to adapt my artistic side into creating my own comic book characters. I created characters by the dozens, drawing them on computer paper and filing them away. They were all variations on the same theme at that time, big muscular guys with masks and ponytails and big guns (I was a big fan of Rob Liefeld at the time).
My first attempt at drawing an actual comic was around age 14. It was a single page, and had no story to it, it was simply a group of heroes I had created attacking a nondescript base and fighting nameless soldiers. Or something, it’s a slightly hazy recollection. But there was very little story in those early comics I made. I drew it on more computer paper, and used magic markers to “ink” it. It was a mess, but it really made me want to continue on.
Fast forward to high school and art class. I lucked out that I had the same art teacher throughout my high school career, and he really encouraged me to work on my comic book art. I created a lot of comic book work during my high school years, writing more and more sophisticated stories (well, as sophisticated as they could be in high school) to illustrate. I created a comic as a year-end project one year.
As my high school career came to a close, I slowly started to drift away from comics. I still enjoyed writing stories, and wrote several full-length novels during that time, stories heavily influenced by the crime writer Andrew Vachss, who I greatly admired (novels that will never, ever see the light of day). I ended up going to University for Creative Writing. While my time away at University was less than spectacular (first time away from home, I spent more time drinking beer and partying than studying and working), my time away at school did re-ignite my passion for comics. I had a “credit card” that carried a balance that I could use on-campus to buy food, books, etc., and it worked at the on-campus convenience store. While I was there one day, I spotted a recent copy of Wizard magazine. I had read Wizard from issue 5 on, but also lost touch with the magazine as I lost touch with comics. On a whim, I bought the magazine, and was blown away at how far comics had come, how mature they had become.
Wizard hyped up comics like Preacher, and the Authority (I may be merging my timelines here), and they sounded spectacular. After leaving school and coming home and going to work full-time, I started frequenting the comic store again, and the first new book I bought was Preacher #7. I’d read so much about this book, how outlandish and extreme it was, that I needed to see what it was all about.
Queue another life-changing event. Preacher changed everything for me.
Tune in later this week for part 2!