A little essay for my love of comics
I don’t know if this happens to you sometimes,… but there’s some days that I feel like absorbed on the daily duties of making things to get paid, the anguish of getting new jobs and getting my artwork in a better stage that it’s easy to forget the fact that I love comics. It’s easy to think that I ink stuff and not seeing the whole picture that is telling a story and make the process a great experience for me.
This next essay (edited and fix’d somewhere) I wrote on a stressed day, when I felt ripped off by my usual motorcycle repair store for the third time and that mood made me wonder things:
Santiago is like New York City back in the 70 and early 80’s. Take, of course most of the cultural awareness off, all the monumental sightseeing and the bon apetit that makes that city worldly known and you have that mixture of a place who struggles to become something catchy and the rudeness and pollution on the downtown of a city that only breaths smoke. People here does not give a damn what you do, your own accomplishments and your dreams. Actually, If there’s any chance to spit on them, they will do without hesitation by using Santiago trademark characteristic: indifference.
It’s Friday 3 PM…I am walking from my studio to my usual bike repair shop, after calling them all afternoon to make sure they would fix my bike on schedule. After 3 unluckily hours calling them, I decided to make the one hour bus trip to see that, once again they are far behind schedule but also they are having a party with a huge brested model dressed as a Harley badgirl rider. I lost part of my afternoon while I am on a deadline hurry because they didn’t delivered what was promised. Some people in this city are so self absorbed on their own bullshit that they have lost the value of the promised word.
That didn’t upset me. I am used to this kind of polluted system. Hell… I am even a part of it. I am also an stressed asshole. Since I became an Inker I am lacking of social skills because of my self imposed seclusion and on the same time, I created the ability to see Santiagueans just the way they are.
But I digress… on this small trip I am carrying this book. And I haven’t realized up until now that what the thing that made me happy it’s something I take for granted now… It’s a book about how to color and how to letter comics. The DC book of coloring and lettering comics by Mark Chiarello and Todd Klein. But on my ride to the moto repair store and back I can’t read a word. I am thinking. Wondering some feelings. Struggling to find out something…
I lived for comics. I grew up for the thrill of the next issue waiting and the excitement of the quest for them.
That thrill moves me away from the Santiago city transportation system to a travel in time. To my childhood.
Why can’t I read comics now?
I have always been that shy (not shy… antisocial and introspective most likely) kid who lived on his daydreaming of become an artist. When I discovered comics not only found lots of characters and stories… I found a safe place in comics. I swear… I felt safe on comics. I developed a way to read comics while walking without hitting a traffic ligh or a bump not even once. I devoured comics but I also gained all knowledge that provided to my mind thirsty of wonders.
My best evening plan after school was to walk through out my city looking for those hidden newspaper stands that had some lost and fogotten comics. When I saw one, the excitement was better than a drug. Sometimes even than the comic itself. But I used to do that by myself. I didn’t have comic book friends up until my late 20’s. I even knew some school classmates that read comics, but for me, comics were only a satisfaction and a quest for one. For me.
I have recently read a book about some other people’s experiences with comics. My friend Julian Clemente (Now the Marvel Panini publisher in Spain) wrote Los Chicos Que Coleccionaban Tebeos (Panini 2013) and that book inspired me to write this on my cellphone while I am on a bus.
Comics defines ourselves. The experience of that magic moment that you experience twice or three times in your life helps to set the kind of person you are. If I have to name some special moments of my life were those involved with comics here they are…
My first Marvel comicbook was one my brother found on a dirty street on our summer holiday back in 1986, probably, on a small place named Altafulla, Tarragona, like 110 kms south of our birthplace, Barcelona, Spain. He found Uncanny X-men #147, spanish edition (La Patrulla- X #8, Forum) when the Claremont/ Cockrum/Rubinstein/Oliver team takes us into the battle between X-men and Arcade. Smashed and dirty. It was the opening of a new world to me.
However I wasn’t into mutants or superheroes back then. My main love were The Transformers and the Marvel edition, also Spanish, Forum. were my official comics entrance to this world. I started reading Transformers #11 Forum (Transformers #15 USA). That comic created the collection freak in me. And analyzing that is quite obvious. It featured my favorite toy robots on a comic about a freak who claims is the lord of robots on a Marvel Comics comic. Good for you, Shooter. You basically nailed me with that.
Years came by. I was introduced on Spiderman (Sal Buscema/ Todd Mcfarlane / Alex Saviuk) and La Patrulla-X (Uncanny X-men Marc Silvestri run) and 5 years later, now then in Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands, where I moved with my family, I was a monthly buyer of those comics and The Transformers I mentioned earlier. Some other comics came to me, like Los Vengadores (The Avengers) and Los Nuevos Vengadores (West Coast Avengers). Forum published a monthly comic book named Marvel Heroes that featured the greatest miniseries (Avengers vs- X-men; Mephisto, Wolverine and Kitty Pride and Kraven Last Hunt), But it wasn’t after I decided to collect Marvel’s 1989 CrossOver Atlantis Attacks that I wasn’t fully aware of the Marvel Olympus.
1991. (One year later than you, my american friends…)
I think I was at the right place and the right time. After Claremont/Lee/Williams/Rosas X-men #1 was published, comics went crazy hot for me. I have always been a Jim Lee fan since day one. Spain was publishing at the same time his Punisher run and even his Alpha Flight run. I realized that X-men was a perfect fit for me by the day Forum annouced it. Packed with bombastic panels that you knew that they were even better than the previous monthly comic you bought it left you asking for more. Issues #2 and #3 and even #4 were at the same level…
When Image comics was being funded and created… news came to my country in a slow pace, the feeling of that it would be better invaded me. I remember seeing small bits of it and when I traveled to Italy and found the early Image main comics collected on one monthly issue named only “Image”. On the same comic, you had issues from WildC.A.T.s, Youngblood and Spawn. Then, Two months after Italy a friend of mine appeared at my place with Youngblood#0, the first spanish Image Comics published, and oficially launched my comic rampage period.
Walking all the city of Palma de Mallorca looking for newstands and bookshops (there were no comic book shops yet) was my favorite passtime. I carefully selected the bests for me: a supermarket newsstand we use to visit frequently that was always supplied and I could ask my parents for some issue of the re edition of Marvel Secret Wars once in a while; near where we lived there were four newsstands:2 supplied with old stuff I used to visit and buried comics beneath their stocks of unwatched material for better times; and one, 24 hour opened where I could get the Bravura and Legend stuff (I remember getting the first Hellboy like at 3 AM)… But if I have to pick only ultimate rush moment for me, was the time I saw WildC.A.T.s #1 (#5 usa), spanish edition. The first issue after the four issued miniseries. It was early December 1994. I knew it would be expensive and I saved money for weeks. And when I saw on the newstand it was a mix of fear, thrill and happiness. I got it and read it twice walking back home. It was pitch black so I stopped under street lights to have a look and devour all the details on each complicated panel. If I sleep that night with that comic on my hand I wouldn’t probably be exaggerating. It was the overcoming of an expected excellence. It was the ultimate happiness. Because reading comics was also attached to a quest for them. In an era of no globalization, no Internet, no Amazon… you grew with your collection and every comics you read was the prize of the previous quest finding it. A prize for me alone. That’s why my childhood comics are so precious to me, because they are attached with the feelings and emotions that went close with me.
Today, on my way back home, after the bike fuck-up… I look at my DC Comics Guide and I feel that I am carrying a book just like having a carrot on my hands. I am using them as a art reference for my inking. And I felt that the sensation of that lost trill kills me.
I hardly read comics now. I work in comics full time since 2013 and each one I grab is for artistic references or the inking techniques to learn from. Even once in a while on weekends I grab a graphic novel and read it. I read of some artists who felt it happened the same to them.
Love for comics is there, as always. It has turned into a grown up kind of love. The love you feel is urging to re-live as a camp fire. The love resides on the back of your mind and when you have a free moment like the one I am having now, while I am on a bus back home, you feel yourself driven into those warm and beautiful and beloved moments of your chilhood that I wish they never will go away from me.