My Cheesy High School Comic is the Reason I’m Making Comics Today.
I made two comic books in high school. The second, a kinda-sorta senior project that turned into an independent project, actually got printed and handed out/sold with the help of my photography teacher and some generous classmates. If anyone remembers anything I did in high school revolving around comics, it’s probably that… but that comic book wasn’t the reason I’m making comics today.
I made a comic book my freshman year of high school… and by “comic book” I mean “panels I drew on printer paper in pencil and kept those single copies for myself.” It was cheesy. Classically cheesy. It was about a modern-day sorcerer and his mystical familiar chasing down demons in New York. It was a gory splatterfest, a corny romance, and a rip-off of everything else I’d absorbed as an early teenager. It was a messy first attempt at comics, but in the grand scheme of things it was necessary in my journey to where I am today.
But the real reason that corny, cheesy comic put me on this path? It was because my ex-girlfriend LOVED it.
I use the term “ex-girlfriend” generously. It was a very brief affair, because I was a high school freshman who’d never dated anyone before, so I did everything wrong. Everything. She broke it off because I was young, lame, and cringe-worthy, but fortunately we remained friends throughout our high school years. But what I did wrong as a “boyfriend,” I did write as a comic creator, because she loved my stupid comic book.
She gave me all the reactions an early creative-type longs to hear about their work. She would jump at the chance to read my new issues. She gasped and laughed at all the right times. She had a love/hate relationship with my cliffhangers, because she just had to know what was going to happen next. All my first attempts at big reveals, dramatic tension, and stunning conclusions were met with genuine excitement. If I hadn’t gotten an early taste for what that feels like, I may have given up on comics altogether.
Those pages are long gone, but I still think about that cheesy old comic. I wonder if I could revisit it, polish it up, and do something with it all these years later. But the truth is that it’s better left in my past as an important milestone, untouched by aged hands and pristine in my memory.
Also, it was cheesy as hell and better left alone.