If you’re a fan, a friend, a family member, or a crazed lunatic who hangs on my every internet word…well, you’ve probably noticed that I can be a bit neurotic about pretty much anything that’s important to me.
If you don’t know me from Adam, let me just start by saying that I can be a bit neurotic about pretty much anything that’s important to me.
Shooters is important to me.
For many years, I lived my life ruled by the unique strain of uncontrollable paranoia that is the natural predator of a mammal that navigates the dark, crooked current between the oceans of Art and Commerce. I used to feel The Fear so deep within myself, I would forget to concentrate on swimming and breathing; inevitably, I’d struggle so spectacularly that others would be forced to intervene in the hopes of merely rescuing me from myself.
Eric Trautmann has probably thrown me more life preservers than anyone else, save my constantly-forgiving wife and blessedly supportive mother, father, and mother-in-law. Truth be told, I could probably name an even dozen of my fellow Swimming Creatives who have helped me fight off The Fear more than once…
…but Eric’s been there every time, without question and without judgment. It is by Eric’s good grace, generosity, and belief in me as a writer, that I am the co-writer of SHOOTERS. Regardless of the sales figures, critical reception, or anything else that might determine whether or not this book is a ‘success’, working on SHOOTERS has been the single most valuable, and rewarding, experience of my near-decade in comics.
Six months ago, I was sitting in Algiers, Algeria with Steve Lieber. We were there to represent American comics, and the circumstances under which we were expected to discharge our duties could best be described as "sub-optimal." Let’s just say that I’ll never complain about poor organization at an American comics convention ever again.
(Yes, I will. Let’s just pretend I won’t for now, okay?)
Faced with a lack of access to the normal channels of delivering the message, Steve staked out a seat in the open-tent dining area with his sketchbook and artistic toolkit. He didn’t have to seek out the curious enthusiasts within the vastly-diverse international crowd; they came to him, drawn to this unassuming giant of a man as he simply did what he loved best.
Over the next few days, Steve must have drawn a hundred sketches, looked at a pile of portfolios, and offered honest, constructive feedback to those who asked for it. He demonstrated techniques that may be commonplace to his peers, but were received as sorcery by aspiring artists who watched him wield his toothbrush and eraser like a magic wand. He was patient, he was kind, and he accomplished so much by simply communicating a love and respect of the medium that was the true bottom line of commonality for every attendee at that festival.
I suppose Eric taught me the benefit of not caring about The Fear when it comes to working in the comic industry. It’s nothing but your own twisted reflection in a pane of poison glass, masked by the handsome, exciting window dressing of an art form. The people passing by only see you peering out from behind the glass; if you can look past the fearsome image that you’re projecting to yourself, you might catch a glimpse of the very thing those people are admiring.
Meanwhile, the prevailing lesson from Steve was the importance of caring very deeply about the only thing that matters in this job. Love comics, and love people who love comics, simply because they do. The rest is external, and should be regarded as such. You will be called upon to be a businessman - often in unpleasant, precarious circumstances - but if you keep that love of what you do within your reach, you will survive.
I have survived, thankfully. Believe me when I tell you that I couldn’t have done so without the good people in my life, both professionally and personally. Eric and Steve have permanent spots at the top of the list, whether they like it or not.
Shooters is intensely personal, painfully honest, and for my money, the best work that Steve, Eric and I have ever put down on a printed page. I want it to sell millions of copies, be a critical darling, and prove its place as The Greatest Comic Book of All Damn Time. That’s not The Fear talking, though. I’m pretty sure that’s The Hope, and that’s good enough for me.
March 19th, 2012