So it's a week before San Diego Comic Con, the holy mecca for comic fans, gamers, and all around sci-fi genre-freaks in general. It will be Afro Stache Studio's first time exhibiting in the Small Press section, and we're all damn excited. As I sit and wait with anticipation, I can't help but think about what a giant Toho-style monster this industry has become thanks to SDCC and, of course, Hollywood.
As long as I have been breathing outside the womb, comics have been around me. I grew up with them in my home, thanks to my 2 older siblings. I received my first comics from my grandparents, uncles, friends...you name it. Hell, I've told the story time and again on how I mimicked my brother's comic sessions, folding the 8.5" x 11" paper like so many industry professionals did in their youth, and filled those pages with their own characters, adventures and violence.
I recall watching comic book themed live action shows like "The Incredible Hulk" and "Spider Man" and wondered why they never had any super villains aside from the typical "cloned" adversary. I watched re-runs of the Adam West Batman, totally unaware that the show was being played for camp. I loved Spider Man and his Amazing Friends, and tolerated Super Friends. When the first Superman movie came out it was a blockbuster event, as was its sequel. Great memories.
As I got older I continued to draw my own comics as my brothers slowly let it go and mature into other hobbies. The medium was still considered by the general public to be on the level of Saturday morning cartoons; something to pass the time, but nothing to take seriously.
I started collecting my first comic book series with both Iron Man and West Coast Avengers in the mid 80's. When the 90's hit, my oldest brother went to Paier Art School in Hamden, CT. When my Mother and I used to visit him in his place in New Haven on the weekends he'd show me crazy new comics like the "Dark Knight Returns", "Batman: Year One" and "Watchmen" along with a bunch of Bernie Wrightsen Swamp Thing issues. Comics were now considered a respected art form thanks to these and other mature volumes. My brother loved that comics were growing up with him. He was inspired, and in turn that got me super-inspired. His roommate would draw comics too as he was attending the same college. At that time, I started discovering comic book stores. No longer items you buy at the local drug stores, these places were filled with something I had never seen before: the indie comic. I hadn't realized that other people were doing comics, besides Marvel and DC. I was still a mainstream guy, into the new Danny Ketch Ghost Rider, Moon Knight and X-Factor. My classmates in High School brought to my attention of 3 artists that were hot at that point: Todd McFarlane, Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee. All 3 eventually defected from the mainstream and formed Image Comics.
Image blew the roof off of comics, propelling it from a "respectable art form" to a "profitable investment craze". While this was all happening, cinema was churning out comic-themed properties slowly (and painfully). Along with the Batman movies, we got the respectable "Rocketeer", a terrible Swamp thing sequel and a few lousy Marvel movies (hard to believe!) with Captain America and the Punisher.
Fast-forward to today. I'm 41 years old, and I'm drawing comics like I always have, but now it's a dream fulfillment. Not many people can say they got to do what they said they wanted to be as a kid. When everyone around me would say the generic "fire man" or "police man", I said that I wanted to draw comics. It's crazy to have seen the medium grow into what it is today from how I was introduced to it. I always tell Ted that a small part of me resents the mainstream saturation of comics. I see the crowds at Comic Con these days and they are NOT the same people that were going 15-20 years ago. To quote fellow collaborator Brian Coles: "It's like all of the cool kids crashed the party". Ted doesn’t see this as a bad thing, and it's not, It's garnered allot of interest and it's opened opportunties for us. Hell, we wouldn’t be able to publish these books if it was still the way it was back in the mid-90's!
But perhaps its because he got into comics later in life, that he didn’t truly see the way these things would be crammed into a turnstile rack with no care at he local five and dime. Or how it was toe curling to admit to a girl that you liked reading comics in school. Or even when you did visit a comic store in the mid eighties it felt more like a hive of scum and villainy instead of the Day-Glo commercialism you see today.
Anyways, just a reflection. I am grateful to be a part of this incredible pop-culture movement. I hope I will see you all there in San Diego next week!