I didn’t just decide one day I would become a comic artist. There was a long time where I didn’t really know what comics and manga were, let alone that I would become so heavily influenced by them. I figured a nice way to start off this blog would be to start with the beginnings of my relationship with comics.
When I was young (elementary school aged), I had difficulty reading, which lead to a long career of failing school— but still being pushed onto the next grade. I couldn't understand the words on the pages, walls of text would stress me out as I was asked to read in front of people, and it felt like I couldn't participate in the wonderful world of books I had heard so many great things about. One day while looking through the library, I stumbled upon the young adult section where all the comics were kept. My eyes were instantly opened to the wonderful world of graphic novels, and despite my inability to fully understand large blocks of text, I could read comics. My theory behind this is because comics break up text into smaller, more manageable chunks, and with the assistance of pictures and panels to help guide me through the pages— I instantly fell in love.
My struggles with reading started to ease the more I read comics. I would take weekly trips to the library to stock up on new volumes of comics, and with my sketchbook and pencils I would make up my own stories and alternate endings to comics I felt needed a more happier ending (let Wolverine have a girlfriend that doesn't die or turn evil!!!) and soon enough I was drawing my friends and I as super hero's out having our own adventures.
I had heard about these magical places that you can go to that had nothing but comics to buy called Comic Shops, so with the help of the internet I found the nearest one to me and begged my parents to take me to it when I had money to spend. While dad waited in the car, I went into the shop. I couldn't believe the amount of comics there were! I wondered around the shop trying to think of where to start, when the shop owner greeted me and asked what he could do to help. Bashfully, I told him I had never been to a comic shop before, and that I wanted to start collecting comics of my own.
I was expecting judgment or laughter from the shop owner, instead he beamed with excitement and walked out from behind his counter to help me find some comics to start my collection. After a few minutes of questioning me about my favorite series and genres, he managed to pick out a ton of options for me— mostly TMNT comics because I was obsessed at the time— and he led me to the register so I could pay for my new comics. When he rang up my total, I mentioned that he forgot to add in a few of the issues I wanted. He smiled at me and said that he’s giving me these to help build my collection, and that hopefully he’ll see me in his shop again soon. To my memory— that was the first act of kindness towards me as a comic fan. A year or two later, the shop closed its doors for the last time. I still drive by where the shop use to be (now it’s a laminate floor store), and remember that first day I walked into a comic shop.
In 2007, a friend of mine invited me to go with her and her grandmother to WonderCon in San Francisco. Surprisingly, my parents said I could go— having never been to a convention before, I was excited. I couldn’t believe what I had walked into, it felt like I had been invited to this secret event only comic and cartoon fans knew bout. I saw people dressed as characters from the very books that helped me learn to read, merchandise and apparel galore with images and symbols from books and movies, and my favorite part of all— the artists alley and small press zone. An entire area of the convention dedicated to people who drew comics and characters, most of them with their heads buried in their sketchbooks, just like me! My friend’s grandmother encouraged me and my friend to go and talk to these people. I couldn’t believe that people actually made money off of their drawing’s, this idea had never been presented to me as a job opportunity. Not only could you get hired to work for companies, but you could just do everything yourself. We only went to that show for a day, but it was the greatest day for me at that age. Not only were there others like me, but they had their own place to hang out and be themselves.
A year later my parents wouldn’t let me go back with my friend and her grandmother— they wanted to take a very unorthodox method of getting to the show that my parent’s didn’t feel comfortable with letting me participate in (curse you parents being protective and stuff.) Needless to say I was more than heart broken, I had found a place that made me happy, and I was told I couldn’t go back. Not really proud of myself for this, but I did throw a bit of a fit. My mom decided to take me and my sisters to the show (probably if anything to get me to shut up about it). It would be another 9 years until I would return to WonderCon (thanks to them moving to Anaheim). In Spring of 2017 I exhibited for the first time at WonderCon in Anaheim, bringing my mom along with me. She’s now designated herself as my official road trip buddy for WonderCon. Next year she’s hoping to get a tail to match the ears she got at the last show.
I gained a new kind of confidence when I would talk with people, I would mention my hobbies and it would move the conversation on to fun topics. Once I got to high school and found others who had the same love for comics as me, I only grew more. It was around that time I officially decided that I wanted to be a comic artist. After a few years of working on my craft, I finally got the opportunity to be a part of a convention— In January 2011 I won 2nd place in SacAnime’s Manga Contest and got to do a book signing at the convention.
Not only did I complete a short comic, but it won a contest. I was floored! The signing was awesome, not only did I sell a bunch of copies of the contest book, but I even had people coming up to me and asking for advice and wanting me to look through their portfolio. Shortly after that, I was offered my first artist alley table, and have now been regularly exhibiting and attending shows. It’s safe to say that comics and conventions have shaped the very person I am to this day— from the references I make, to the clothes I wear— they’ve influenced me in more ways than I can count. I’ve met some of the greatest people from our shared interest in comics and cartoons that I’m happy to call my friends. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, shared our successes, and worked through our hard times. I have friends and acquaintances outside of comics and conventions; and we’ve worked through the same things, but there is some things they can’t fully understand the way my comic and convention friends can (like the need for a pre con prep day and a post con rest day, or why I can draw all day and then “take a break” that results in more drawing.)
I guess a good way to end this novel would be with some sage advice:
Stay true to yourself, because no one can be as awesome of a you as you can be. You’ll find your clique faster this way.
Don’t let anyone tell you comics and cartoons aren't cool, little do they know their favorite PG-13 movies started off as a much better comic.