I have the best job in the world. A lot of people that are happy in their jobs say that. But I'm saying it for real. I write and draw comics all day every day. I'm usually in pajamas or shorts and t-shirt and flip flops. I usually take a shower and get dressed around 3pm when it's time to pick up my daughter from school. Until then, I drink coffee, sit in my studio and stare out the window into the backyard and daydream about stories and art. Honestly. There isn't a better job if you love writing and drawing.
Here's the thing though. I've heard the quote about finding the thing you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life. And all of that is true. But here's what they don't tell you. If you live and breath and think about comic books, graphic novels, and storytelling all day long, something changes. I can't watch movies without analyzing the structure of the story and questioning every character choice. I can't read a novel without daydreaming about how the author put the story together. Did they start with an outline and go from there? Or have an ending and then write to it? Why are the chapters so long? Or short? Why did it take half the book for it to finally get interesting? Was that a conscious choice? How many readers gave up before they got to the awesome payoff?
And reading comics goes like this...why is it so short? Why are the gutters between panels so wide? Did they use a brush for that? I wonder what kind of paper? How long did it take them to finish this book? Why did it take so long? It only took me 20 minutes to read something that took them a year to complete. There should have been an extra panel in there to draw out the scene. Why so many splash pages? Don't they know that it doesn't slow down the story - it speeds it up? Maybe they wanted to speed it up?
I'm not sure when it happened. But at some point in the last 10 years I stopped being able to be entertained by the mediums that I grew up loving. My brother got me into comics initially. He was the older brother coming home from the grocery store with X-Men and Teen Titans and I was curious. What's he reading? So I started getting comics. One time I cried until our mom made him cut a subscription coupon out of the back of one of his comics so I could subscribe to Daredevil and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man. My brother was a neat freak and he never forgot this. I made him cut one of his comics up...for me. My brother would meticulously stack his comics on a shelf in his closet. Everything organized and in numerical order. I would spread them out on my bed and read them and then be too tired to clear the bed before I feel asleep. Asleep in the middle of a pile of comics. I'd wake up in the morning with one of them inevitably stuck to my clammy skin. It drove my brother crazy.
I remember waking up super early on Saturday mornings for cartoons before everything you'd ever want was available any time you want on demand. I remember praying that I wouldn't die before Return of the Jedi came out so I would know what happened to Han Solo. I just wanted to see the next part of the story. I cared about the characters. What was going to happen?!
And then I remember in the early 90s, reading Dan Clowes' Eightball on a road trip with my brother and having my mind blown. I wasn't just entertained by it. I was inspired. This...this is what I wanted to do for a living. This is what comics can do! They can do anything. And that's when it all changed. I stopped reading for fun. I stopped being able to fall into fictional worlds and escape into a different reality. I stopped getting swept up into the emotions of movies. I stopped being entertained.
Which all sounds like complaining. But it's not. More of an observation. I do have the best job on earth. I get to create worlds and people and make books that, if I wasn't sick of them when I was done, would be my favorite books of all time. But what's happened now is interesting. I can't enjoy my own books any more than I can someone else's. But I do hear from readers. I get fan mail. Letters. Emails. But I don't read it as some kind of ego boost. What I love about hearing from readers is hearing how they enjoy comics in general. They remind me of why I got into comics. You like spies? Me too! Conspiracies? Yeah! Weird crimes and unexplained phenomenon? Yes! So do I! I love all of that.
So as much as becoming a creator has killed by ability to enjoy the medium I love...I realize that the kid that fell asleep on top his comics? Somebody had to make those comics. Writers and artist labored in their studios...staring out the window and daydreaming so I could desperately try to stay up and finish reading the latest issue. Their labors of love turned into mine. I don't read comics for fun anymore. But I drive my wife and daughter crazy...talking excitedly about stories and ideas and characters like I'm still ten-years-old. And for that I'll always be grateful.
Matt Kind't new book, Red Handed, came out this week.