To say I like to go against the grain is quite an understatement. I actively look for ways to be different from everyone else. Mostly to my detriment. I have sabotaged myself so many times, it’s embarrassing to think about. Yet looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. The mistakes I’ve made have helped forge the man I’ve become. There’s no growth without some pain and sacrifice. This includes the path I choose to express my creativity. While not strange, it is quite different from the normal way it’s looked at. Let me explain.
I’ve been a fan of comic books and superheroes for as long as I can remember. I was five when I talked my parents into getting me a subscription to a Spider-Man comic. I even thought that being a superhero was a viable occupation. Sadly, I learned otherwise and resigned myself to reading and collecting comics. That was my life for the majority of my early to teen years.
In my twenties, I had a job and some disposable income, so I leaned into comic collecting hard. But I wasn’t satisfied with just reading comics, I wanted to write them. I imagined myself working at Marvel Comics alongside the rest of the other Marvel writers helping to create the stories I loved to read. Spider-Man was always the comic I dreamed of writing. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. It was a dream, and I was alright with that. Then one day I had an idea. It wasn’t one of those ideas that just creep up on you, this thing hit me like a bolt of lightning.
Out of what seemed like nowhere, I had a complete story downloaded into my brain. A cast of characters, the plot, the resolution, and the seeds for more stories after that. I could barely contain myself. I raced home and wrote down a simple one-page outline for the story. I envisioned it to be a six-part comic book series that would introduce two superpowered humans into a world that had never had anything like them before, and they wouldn’t be the last. I knew it would take a lot to get this project off the ground and I wasn’t in any position to make it a reality at that time. So I filed the idea away and went on with my life.
Some things in life that we think of stay with us for a little while then blow away like a leaf in the breeze, but not this. My story was firmly rooted in my brain, and it not only stayed, it grew. As the years went by, the story got stronger and stronger. The characters became fully fleshed out people, the plot became more focused, but I still couldn’t make it a reality. So it continued to live on locked inside my head.
Life wasn’t easy for me. I made a lot of sacrifices in my twenties and thirties to help my family with their lives. I gave up a lot of my life to help them and put my needs and wants on the back burner. I’m not sorry I did this. This part of my life taught me patience and how to deal with a world that wasn’t nearly as ideal as I thought it was in my younger days. The little boy who wanted to be a superhero was long gone and, in his place, stood a man who knew his responsibilities and accepted them gracefully. Yet the story, while buried in a dark corner of my mind, remained.
Not only do I like to go against the grain, but I also seem to be the last guy to ever do things. When a new video game system came out, I’d wait several years before buying one. I waited to buy a smartphone long after all my friends had gone through several. And I didn’t start a family until I was 40 years old. Some of that was me not thinking I was ready, and some of that was the girl of my dreams was somewhere else. In what I can only call a miracle, my future wife called me out of the blue and we’ve been together ever since.
A few years after we were married, we went to a small comic book convention held in a fire station. A local comic book writer and artist had a table there and I struck up a conversation with him. I told him that I was envious of him because he was living the life I wanted to live. I told him I had a story that I wanted to tell, but I can’t draw, and I didn’t have the money to hire an artist. He suggested I write it like a pulp book. Put out a chapter or two with some simple black and white artwork that I could get done on the cheap. I told my wife about what he said, and she suggested that if I was going to write my story like that, why not go all the way and just write a book. It seemed like the most logical thing to do. But I never wrote anything longer than a one page note in years.
I turned the idea of writing a book around in my head for another few years. All the while, the story must have known I was considering finally releasing it from its dark prison. It made so much noise in my head that one day, without any preparation, I grabbed my laptop and sat at my kitchen table and started to write. I wrote the first three chapters that night without even thinking about it. It flowed out of me like water. That’s my book’s origin story, but this isn’t about that, it’s about me going against the grain. About being the odd man out.
So I wrote a superhero fiction novel. The six-issue comic book story I envisioned had been reworked into a 31-chapter book and I couldn’t have been prouder. Now I had to convince people to read it. Trying to get people to read a comic book without pictures, an un-graphic novel as I call it, isn’t easy. I started a YouTube channel to promote myself and my books. A lot of the people I follow on YouTube are also comic book fans and they have put out their own comics. They have done very well for themselves, and I wish them continued success. Their comics have earned them a lot of money and recognition. Yet I sit here looking at them thinking the same thing I thought almost 10 years ago in the fire station. I’m envious of where they are because that’s where I want to be.
Please don’t take this as me being petty. I do wish them continued success. The mainstream comic book industry has fallen, and we need the men and women making the indie comics to keep going. They need to have their voices heard. However, I think superhero prose books can sit side by side with their comic book cousins and entertain the public just as well. Just because my books don’t have pictures doesn’t mean they are any less valuable. I am creating a new mythology that people can read and enjoy as much as the new myths being created by indie comics.
Like I said at the beginning, I go against the grain, sometimes to my own detriment. I seem to take joy in putting myself through as much pain as possible. I have written two books now and I’m working on the third. As of this writing, the only victories I’ve had in my writing career have been personal. I’m a long way from having any kind of real success. But I’m not giving up. I’ll finish my next book and I have ideas for three more that I want to write. And I will write them. I’ll keep writing until I’m out of ideas and that doesn’t seem possible now. Hopefully, I’m not going to be that writer that gets famous after they die. I’d like to experience the victory while I’m around to enjoy it with my family.
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