When I was five years old and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered with the pat and expected response, "A lawyer or a doctor." Even at five I knew that these were professions that were valued by our society. Of course, this was also the mid-1970s so the idea that a girl would even dream of such things was worth a pat on the head of approval.
But, what I really wanted to be when I grew up was a comic book artist.
I loved superhero comic books as a kid. I still do. I stopped reading some time during college because I couldn't afford all the titles I wanted to read. My cousin Laun was the big collector. He had the classic basement full of titles and we used to pretend to be Superman (him) and Aquaman (yeah, whatever--in the 70s he had cool hair;) Cyclops (him) and Angel (me); Captain America (him) and Hawkeye (me); and Spider-Man (him) and Johnny Storm/Human Torch (me.) I kind of had the sassy side-kick/BFF thing down. I did ocassionally branch out and play more tough-guys like Mon-El and Lightning Lad (from the Legion of Superheroes) but I tended to fall for secondary characters with good hair and attitude.
Hmmmm, a trend?
At any rate, at age five... and frankly, at age forty-five, I had no idea how a person even went about BECOMING a professional comicbook artist (or, now that I've discovered a secondary talent for writing, which overtook my first,) a comicbook writer. Even at an early age, my cousin and I realized that PEOPLE did this work. We knew because there were always letters in the back of comicbooks that were answered by Stan Lee himself or whomever was writing or writing/drawing a particular arc/series. We even had some early favorites Jack Kirby (of course, though Laun was a far bigger fan of Kirby's blocky style), Mike Grell, John Byrne, etc.
But, like with writing, there's no clear career path for a comic book artist. Probably I could have found one. I did, eventually, figure out how to sell my writing. But, I was lucky in that, in the Twin Cities, there's this place called the Loft where a person can take classes on the how-tos of not only CRAFT, but also the business of writing. I entirely credit the Loft class in science fiction/fantasy for my first sale. John Hartnett, my instructor, was exceedingly useful in showing us how to find markets and how to submit to them. All that seemed hidden behind a cloak of invisiblity when I was first starting out. That's part of why, even now, I ALWAYS include a how-to sell-that-stuff-you-just-wrote section in my class.
So, you know how, for a lot of people, published authors are rockstars?
Well, for me, comic book artists/writers are the REAL rockstars!
Which brings us to the story I want to tell. Last year when I was a guest at CONvergence, there was a Marvel movie panel that rocked the house. One of the people on it was Christopher Jones
. I just remember walking off that panel feeling almost HIGH, because we were all just in-tune and the audience seemed likewise and it was just, just... AWESOME. Recently, I got a chance to reconnect with Chris at MarsCON when we were on the "Women in Comicbook Fandom" panel. To say we hit it off would be... one of those understatement things. We hung out in the downstairs bar/lounge with a few of my other friends and I think several times I looked around to see glazed over eyes when Chris and I would be still going on in loud, excited voices (he tells me we weren't "yelling,") about super-geeky comicbook moments and/or references.
At any rate, the con ended with the traditional exchange of business cards and a promise to try to connect outside of con. I thought, possibly, that that would be the end of it. I'd have a new Facebook/Twitter friend and lah-tee-dah. But, no! Chris actually got ahold of me and we MADE PLANS!
In fact, he offered to show me his studio and to share some ACTUAL SCRIPTS written by REAL comic book writers.
I pretty much thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Because do you even KNOW that Chris has DRAWN NOT ONLY FOR MARVEL BUT FOR THE AVENGERS????!!!!
He's probably better known for his work on DC's Young Justice and his four year long stint on the Batman title... and locally, you're likely know Chris as the designer and artist of Connie, the robotic interface of CONvergence. But STILL... How f*cking awesome is he??
Answer: SUPER-f*cking awesome.
Here he is, in situ, in the "Riker pose" (he will probably hate me for having chosen this one, claiming the pose is not flattering, but I think he looks cute.)
We talked for a couple of hours ostensibly about how a person becomes a comic book writer (because, hey, why not?) and how the process works from script to final product. He showed me the cool old way that people used to have to color individual panels and showed off some work of his. We looked through scripts and talked about what kinds of things a writer needs to think about when composing a panel in their head and other mechanics of his job. I'm pretty sure I sat there were stars in my eyes and only managed to make happy, babbly sounds, but did I meantion he DRAWS FOR MARVEL AND DC AND OMG, OMG!
Go check out his art here: http://gallery.christopherjonesart.com/
So, I don't know what I'm going to do with all this information. I'm not sure, at the moment, I have any ideas that would easily lend themselves to a comic book/graphic novel format, but, damn. I could hardly pass up an opportunity to hang out with a rockstar comic book artist and pick his brains.
I'm really hoping we'll have a chance to do it again, because, even without the rockstar cred, Chris is a nifty guy. In fact, we had a blast talking about the insider gossip on all the upcoming Marvel movies and fantasizing about various possible storylines.
This is all tempered by the fact that yesterday, as I was driving to pick up Mason at school, a really nice lady pulled up beside me and informed me I had a flat tire in the back. I thanked her profusely (and may have accidentally called her 'hon') and was able to pull into the gas station at the corner to see what was going on. I filled it up with air and listened for a massive blow-out, but, since it seemed to hold pressure, I drove both Mason and Shawn home on it (and took it to martial arts.) This morning, I went and checked. Sure enough, it was a slow leak and the sucker was flat again at 6:00 am this morning. I called AAA and they were out and filled it up for us by quarter to 7:00 am. I got everyone where they needed to go and had replaced the tire at Discount Tire by 9:00 am. Now, I'm taking a quick break before deciding if I need to deal with the clunking (which the AAA guy thought was probably struts) still TODAY or if I should just wait until tomorrow morning and take it to the shop first thing.
I was thinking of a compromise--that I'd go off to shop and see how busy they were today and ask them about how long they thought it would take, if it turns out to, indeed, be the struts. Probably that's what I'll do. Tonight is my writers' group and I'd like to go, and that'd be harder without a car. I'm sure one of the St. Paul Wyrdsmiths would offer a ride if I asked nicely, but I'd rather drive myself IF I CAN, you know?
Okay, that's all the news that's fit to print. Until next time, True Believers!