February 8th, 2021
August 3rd, 2018, RiverCentre, Downtown St. Paul.
I was there at Fan Fusion, which wasn’t my first comic convention ever, but my first comic convention as a real comic book creator.
I had written, drawn, and produced my debut issue, The Flying Squirrel #1, with a plan for a 5-issue series I would one day collect in a full-color graphic novel.
I just had to make it through this weekend first.
I did okay, but I didn’t expect the moment that would change the way I talked about myself forever.
Some of you are very familiar with tabling at conventions. Even more of you are familiar with sales in general; the difference being as a writer or artist you are also your product.
Ashley Maypole, the Flying Squirrel, is an alcoholic comic book writer who starts dressing up like his own character in order to get his real life spark back. The concept wasn’t a stretch, but also not strictly autobiographical. At the time of Fan Fusion, I was almost eight months sober.
I was repeating Ashley’s story to anyone who would stop by my table and listen. I got a lot of great feedback, made a few fans and even sold a handful of books (which gave me hope as a first-timer). But one guy threw me for a loop.
I explained the concept and without missing a beat he said, “Thank God that’s just a character you’re writing and not your real life. That would be a pretty shitty way to live.”
I absolutely froze. I don’t know what my face did but it was definitely paralyzed. I said no actual words and fake-laughed until he just walked away.
I didn’t get it. I wrote this story BECAUSE I wanted to normalize it, to be able to talk about it. That’s why I wrote all of The Weirdos. And when the time came — I choked.
And I’m glad I did.
It made me do some more soul-searching. I kept digging until I found that level of comfort with myself that I thought I had, but still had some work to do.
And hopefully if you’re finding some things still hard to talk about, you’ll find comfort in the idea that you can get there.
One awkward, honest conversation at a time.