I Waited for Permission All My Life
My first comic was a violent, over the top, derivative piece starring a super jacked anthropomorphic rabbit. The design itself was a bad copy of a “super badass” cartoon rabbit I had stamped on a T-shirt. I inflated the muscles, not really caring much about proper anatomy, and wrote stories in which he would bust open the skulls of ninjas everywhere. I must have been around 12 at the time.
I must confess the idea was not an original thought of mine. My best friend at the time did it first, and I jumped on his bandwagon.
I did it for a full year during 7th grade. My grades tanked, but my understanding of comics and human anatomy grew exponentially. I knew this is what I wanted to do.
Eventually, I discovered Calvin and Hobbes and my world galaxy-brain’d all over the place.
I did what I always do: I studied Bill Watterson’s technique. Read interviews. Pored over his explanations printed in the compilation books.
I bought the india ink. I taught myself how to use a quill. I even inked my earlier comics with a brush at one point.
But I didn’t understand I needed to write too. I knew something was missing. I knew the whole process wasn’t just quill-to-paper and hope for the best. I just didn’t think I was good enough.
In the early 00s, I started a comic strip I was going to send to syndicates for publishing: Otto and Mootie. A sort of “battle of the sexes” comic that has not aged well. See, some fruit bats mate for life, and I thought it’d be hilarious to…
…anyway, it was very Honeymooners, if the Honeymooners was written by a 20-year-old kid with no previous experience in love or marriage.
There was a bigger problem there though. Otto and Mootie was never meant to be THE comic I wanted to publish. It was intended as a test run. Something to teach me the actual skill of comic book making without actually having to sacrifice the story I really wanted to tell.
Eventually, Otto and Mootie was replaced by the next shiny thing I could sink myself into, without actually having to commit to making it decent.
It’s only a test run. It doesn’t matter if you mess up.
I wrote a few strips for Jay and Bea, a comic about a boy and the ghost that lives in his house. Then on a spiteful bet, I started The Fermento Show, a comic about two nerds living with a goth girl (even writing this is painful but this was during the heyday of the MySpace era). I drew one page of a pirate adventure called Sea Legs, starring a girl no different than what I imagine Anne Bonny was like way back when. None of these were scratching the itch of saying what I came here to say. So I kept looking.
The Drisdane Chronicles came right after, a comic about elves being hunted down by a xenophobic human society (make it funny it, though). Then I rebooted The Fermento Show into a more episodic adventure with some magical realism elements.
And through this whole process, I was still keeping The One Project inside my head. I prevented myself from starting it until I had permission from the skill gods, and the adoring mobs, that I was an Official Cartoonist of the Arts and I could, with all these blessings, commence work on my opus magnum.
As is usual, once I figured some shit out, irony dropped the ax on me.
I never should’ve asked, to be honest. I should’ve just taken my ideas and ran with them. I can always rewrite them later when I get better.
There have been some changes in my life recently. I’m a big fan of those. Those moments teach me things. One of the things that I recently learned, and finally understood in full, is that the world will not step aside and make room for you. You have to take up space on your own.
Nobody’s going to hand you anything. There is no seat at the table reserved for you. You just have to walk in and sit yourself down.
And similarly, if the world won’t make space for you, you owe nothing to its gatekeepers.
You should, as is your right as a human being with a soul and opposable thumbs, take the space yourself. Stop asking for permission.
And draw that comic.
It’s great when things finally click in my head. It feels like clouds clearing an area of my head I didn’t know existed. And this specific thing clicked super recently.
Don’t wait for permission. Go out there and take what you want, and make it rightfully yours.
But that’s when I ran into another problem.
See, I kept The One Project under wraps for so long…that I can no longer find it.
I stared at a blank page today, asking myself “What was it that you wanted to say?”
And I couldn’t remember.
It’s true that I’ve changed since 20 years ago. I’m older, wider, and my back hurts a lot more. But is it possible I’ve changed so much that I can no longer remember what it was that I wanted to write about?
Maybe the story I wanted to tell was my story when I was 20 years old. Maybe it was the tale of my worries and anxieties from back in 1999 when all I had to worry about was finding a girlfriend and keeping my car with a full tank. Maybe the reason I can’t remember anymore is that I am literally not the same person anymore. The hard drive is different. The way I process things is different. Hell, the hair is different.
And that’s been a weird, hard place to be in. I always had The Past to fall back on. Containing all the things I wanted to do but never did because I thought I needed permission.
Yet when I looked at The Past today, all I saw was Avenger-grade dust.
The last two years I’ve contended with the question of “What do you want to do?” And that was great, cause I realized I do — I really do — want to be a writer. A comics writer perhaps even.
I think the question for the next two years has just been delivered to me.
“What do you want to say?”
I Waited for Permission All My Life
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