Monday, March 19, 2012

Bringing Up The Past

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When I was about 20 years old, I was a student at El Paso Community College. I belonged to a creative writing and poetry club, and while I was there, I first met Ray Ramos. Ray, as some of you may know, is the founder and editor-in-chief of Adversary Comix, one of El Paso’s many local independent comic entities. At the time I met Ray, Adversary was still in its infancy, and it had a small stable of artists and writers making preliminary plans to turn their imaginative ideas into original comics.

Hopeless opportunist that I am, I expressed an interest in joining up with Adversary Comix. I showed him some samples of my artwork: spindly little drawings of cartoons with bug-eyes, Simpsons-esque overbites and bodies the width of twigs. Despite the fact I’ve been drawing since I was a child, I’ve never quite broken out of an art style any more stunning than your average episode of “Home Movies,” which just happened to be what my art-style was frequently compared to. What caught Ray’s attention more was my writing which, despite still being less developed than it is as I write this article, still contained a good amount of silliness combined with insight and a little satire.

So Ray brought me to meet the rest of his crew at the time, one or two of them being members of Adversary to this day, the rest of them temporarily supporting the group before they later moved on to other things. One of the latter category was a guy I’m gonna call Trevor. Trevor was looked up to by the rest of the group. He had a style of art that evoked many comics of the early 90s, and had two concepts planned for Adversary.

Eager to set myself up as a representative of a local comic book company, I drew up a three-page preview of a story for a preview book that Adversary was assembling. My story was basically a comedic series involving a team of paranormal investigators. I stretched myself creatively in directions I never had before. Looking back I never realized it took me until that age to begin inking my drawings. Most of my artwork consisted of character designs without backgrounds. For this preview I had drawn some crude borders around my art that resembled a computer grid, and lined out neat lines to hand letter. (My handwriting has always been terrible.) Work completed, I showed it all to Ray, who was impressed by my initiative, and I had my three pages published in an early print of their preview book. Working off my momentum I was also uploading images to the company’s official Yahoo! Group.

However, I was unaware of something boiling slowly in the background. In the time it took me to complete my work, roughly a 5 week period, I attended regular meetings with the group at a Village Inn. We drank coffee, ate pie, and discussed future plans. Trevor’s involved elevating comic books as an art from. Younger, na├»ve and impetuous me didn’t understand that. I simply assumed comic books were supposed to be objects of fun and interesting writing in and of themselves. So we’d constantly debate about this during our meetings. One time, at the end of a meeting, I was on a miniature egotistical rampage. I had said the standing slogan for Adversary Comix, “your Imagination is not the Enemy” didn’t make sense, along with several meandering self-back-pats which I can’t even remember. As I left the meeting on that night, Trevor turned to me and said “See you in the funny papers.” I turned back for a moment, thinking what he said was odd, but I didn’t think anything of it.

You could probably guess what happened next, but I’ll tell you anyway. I went back on the Yahoo! Group to find all of my uploads had been deleted. I tried to upload them again. I deleted them again. I got ahold of Trevor and he told me he didn’t want me on the team anymore because I was being obnoxious. It didn’t matter how well I had held up my end as far as comic book writing, the fact that I was being a pain in the ass to another artist was enough for me to be given the brush-off. Ray did nothing, and to top it all off, my three pages were removed from the preview book. I know now it was because I was being immature, but I didn’t then, so I plotted all sorts of stories to write and publish so I could ‘get back’ at those skunks at Adversary Comix and retain some sense of integrity as far as being a comic writer.

Lots of people say revenge is a good motivator…It’s not really. Years went by. Ray and Trevor had a falling out over some issue I know nothing about and Ray started contacting me again. He wanted me to give him constructive criticisms of new comic preview books and side-projects he was working on. I gave him a few, but then I brought up the issue again by asking him “Why do you want the opinion of someone you kicked out a couple years ago?” He stopped asking. More years went by. Last year, as a side-effect of my combing the city in search of stories for my YouTube channel, I finally patched things up with Ray, and with the assistance of local artist Elijah Lawson I actually released a comic through Adversary Comix: a one-shot story featuring their character “El Nino Heroe” for Free Comic Book Day.

I’m glad that I could be accepted back into the comic-writing community in the city, but that’s not really the point I finally decided to share this. I decided to share this story because I wanted to let you know about the hideous mistake I made. It took me 8 YEARS to get over that incident, get over my own selfish pride and bring myself to a point where I could create again. That’s 8 whole years I lost ALL resolve to do something creatively, and to this day I’m still not so sure I can ever be fully successful as a comic book writer.

Every time I hear about a club quitting a club to form another club, or even a con quitting a con to become another con, and every time I hear that the motivation behind these actions is an attempt to ‘get revenge’ by ‘living well,’ I get upset because I remember everything that happened to me when I endeavored to do the exact same thing. I still keep the copy of the Adversary preview book that contained my three page preview as a reminder, and I constantly wonder what could have been if I had only done things differently.

Every writer looks to send a message to their readers. Everyone who practices written words hope that people see the messages underneath them. I, on the other hand, have always prided myself on my honesty and my integrity, even though my ego and my temper have always gotten me into trouble. If I could give one lesson to the world, though, it would be taken from this story.

And if that guy I called Trevor is reading this, I just want him to know that I’m sorry. You’ve taught me a very valuable lesson about life.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article, Mike. I have to agree, revenge is retarded, especially when it involves things like organizing a convention, blog or comic-writing group.

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