VENICE: ONE YEAR LATER
July 1, 2004
I hope by now you've gone or are planning to go and see Michael Moore's movie. It was the number 1 film in the United States in its premiere week, though certainly it will be eclipsed this week by the release of Spider-Man 2 in more than 4000 theaters in the US and Canada. Though I've no doubt Moore's movie is going to succeed in its wake-up call and in November we'll see a much-needed regime change. I guess time will tell.
Meanwhile, the good folks (namely, Matt Brady) at Newsarama recently published the extended version of my essay Why Don't Heroes Age? This is an opinion/editorial piece that appears in the back of Top Shelf's LESS THAN HEROES collection, and Matt thought it would be a nice way of introducing readers to my writing and philosophy regarding comics and iconic heroes. Interestingly (though not altogether surprising), the Newsarama fans had plenty of comments regarding my little diatribe. Some readers were ready to crucify, others were in agreement, and some couldn't care one way or the other. It was strange to see such strong reactions from what was, after all, just an OP/ED column. Some fans seemed to think I was Jim Shooter circa 1980s, ready to kill off the entire Marvel Universe. I don't usually post on message boards; this experience reminded me why.
Venice: One Year Later...
It was 1 year ago today that Di and I moved into Venice. It's been a fast and turbulent year. It's been a year in which I've lost some friends and made a few new ones. It's been a year filled with change and adjustment, of fear and sorrow, of happiness and joy.
Psychiatrists will tell you that a person's stress level is largely dependent upon what is going on in the person's life. The more stressful events occurring in a given period, the more likely one will be stressed. Major life stressors include relocating, starting a new job, change in marital status, and death of a family member; in the last year, Di and I have undergone all of these and a few more. So yeah, it's been a bit stressful to say the least. But it's also been good. I got to marry Di, my best friend, on the beach in Malibu in front of family and friends; dolphins swam past us, which is supposed to be lucky. Venice, despite its flaws, is a decent place filled with a community of eclectic and diverse individuals. And while we're soon to be relocating, we'll still be in Venice--in fact, we'll still be on the same street, same block--just a bit north of the current address.
I'm writing these words now at 3:05 a.m. Sleep does not come easy these days, due to many factors. Mainly, I can't switch off my brain. As the on-sale date of LESS THAN HEROES looms ever closer (Top Shelf tells me it'll be in stores on or around July 7), I am overwhelmed by a mix of feelings ranging from those of success to those of hopelessness. I'm pleased that LTH is soon to be in stores, but frustrated at my own inability to thus far complete ALTERCATIONS 2, a project that should have been done months ago. There are many reasons why A2 is not done. The main reason, I suppose, is that I feel no pressure to complete it. Why do I feel no pressure to complete it? Because at this point in time I do not have the resources to publish it. And let's face facts, it would be impossible to find another publisher to front the bill for the second issue of a 2-issue series. That's just not going to happen. And even though ALTERCATIONS 1 did not lose money, it still took money up front to finance. So it appears A2 is becoming more and more my own Cancelled Comics Cavalcade. I'm not throwing in the towel on it entirely. Perhaps the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con will provide the needed boost, but I sorta-kinda doubt it. With each day that passes, the project seems more and more distant--less a reality and more a fantasy. Though the financial side of it is but one aspect of this dilemma (if it can be called that).
Other projects that I have planned will likely share a similar fate. I have written and laid out a graphic novel that in my heart I know is both decent and compelling, a story that I think would push the boundaries of the "super-hero" concept. But, as with ALTERCATIONS, I fear that this project will ultimately reside only within the sketchbook pages on which it was drafted, to be shared with a few friends from time to time during visits.
One could argue, "But isn't it all about just doing it? Isn't the actual publishing aspect secondary to doing the work?" and I think the answer is "yes." At the same time I am dealing with a reality in which most of my time is involved in day-to-day work projects and responsibilities that leave precious few hours for writing and drawing. I have more freedom here in Venice, but it comes at a price. I can make my own schedule, but still need to put in the many hours. It's quite a different world from the one I inhabited a few years ago. However, I am still determined to at least work on sharpening my prose fiction-writing skills, as well as complete my first three novels (each of which is in various stages of development). Additionally, Di and I are near completion of our first children's book, after which we'll begin the second, and will begin the arduous task of finding a publisher. So it's not all bad.
July will be a fast month. It will be a month largely spent in preparing to move and in preparing for the San Diego Comic-Con. There will be no time to create in July.
August, likewise, will largely be spent adjusting to the new dwelling, unpacking and arranging furniture, painting and decorating, and meeting work deadlines.
Which will bring us to September and my 40th birthday. It is, perhaps this realization that has brought about the insomnia and the lamentations that I've just poured out like so many grains of salt through a cracked shaker. I believe that September will be a pivotal month for me, one in which I'll decide to keep at this sequential art thing or simply close it down and write it off as a chapter in my life. Without getting too deep into the prose purple, I think it's likely I'll be deciding the verdict based on a jury that resides somewhere deep within my subconscious. Until then, it's anyone's guess.
There are certainly plenty of bright sides to where we are now. Venice is a nice city, and we are enjoying discovering Los Angeles. I'm taking a writing course--not a course on how to write, but one that is more focused on finding and nurturing your artist's voice. I'm also looking forward to the move, despite the frustrations that often accompany moving. In many ways, I feel there is more kinetic energy in the new place, something that was totally lacking at 506 Indiana. I believe there is good cosmic energy at the new location, and if there's any truth to it, I'm certainly going to harness it to my creative advantage.
Another positive aside: After 2 years of living a near-vegetarian lifestyle (we occasionally ate fish), Di and I have gone vegan. We've eliminated all animal products from out diets as well as oils. Our current diet consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, and grains. We've substituted cow's milk with soy and rice milk. This is a very recent change for us, but so far, it's proving to be one of the best voluntary changes we've undertaken. There is plenty of protein to be found outside the world of meat and cheese, and we're feeling better than ever. As animal lovers, we feel really pleased that our lifestyle does not involve the consumption of other species. I'm not advocating a vegan lifestyle for others. It's working for us but it's daunting work. It involves being creative when planning meals and learning to do without certain things, but as previously stated, we are certainly enjoying it (and it does sorta fit into the whole wacky California lifestyle in which we've immersed ourselves...)
Overall, I guess we are still adjusting, and will probably be in an adjustment period for another few months, maybe longer. But it's a great city, LA is. Not a bad place to have to adjust to...not bad at all.
Finally, on a completely unrelated topic...
This week the 6-DVD set of the original 1960s Spider-Man animated series went on sale nationally. I preordered a copy from Amazon and it arrived on Monday (and included free shipping, no less). Since then I've been thrilling to the adventures of everyone's favorite web head in what, to me at least, is the only animated version of Spidey's adventures needed. I've been waiting for years for this series to be released on DVD and it's finally happened. Over 1100 minutes (the entire 52-episode series) of classic Spidey, in stunning DVD. The series never looked or sounded so good, and at around $49 bucks, it's a steal. Now if only the 1960s Fantastic Four and other Marvel cartoons would become available in this format...