Originally this weekend I was going to participate in the 12-Hour Comic Book Marathon at the Comics Lounge and Gallery. I didn’t end up writing anything or collaborating with any artists there. If my experience at the Global Game Jam taught me anything it was that most people there probably already knew each other and either way they would have come in some pre-made teams: those that needed them anyway.
As I’ve said before, I am not much of a graphic artist.
Really, I didn’t want to potentially take up someone’s space on the possibility that I couldn’t find a partner and–to be perfectly honest–I didn’t want to be the odd one out: feeling painfully self-conscious.
Later on, I found out that there were still a few writers and artists who cancelled or were actually still looking for a partner, but by then it was too late. However, it was just as well that I decided not to do it because my brain is full with all the work I’ve been doing and I had never actually been to the Lounge before. I would most likely have gotten lost trying to find it.
Essentially: I wanted to get there, get a feel for the space, meet some of the people there, talk a bit with them, maybe make some connections so that I could participate in a later event, or–really–just get to know people who have similar interests to my own.
I still felt bad, though, that I hadn’t participated as I intended and looked forward to doing. Keiran Templeton–who I saw in her tiara as she held court over an assortment of writers and artists–not only organized the entire event, she also had time to go face book and ask if there were any people that wanted to work with others, and she even told me by email that she would keep my name on a list to let me know about next time.
As it was, I made it up to myself by punching some of my procrastination out and starting to really script out my own collaboration with Angela O’Hara: you know, the comic I keep saying that I am working on. In my defence, I have been working on it on and off with little tidbits of notes here and there: much like every other long-standing story I’ve been dealing with. In fact, for The Project I actually made a rough outline of everything that I want to happen in our first issue.
The key of course was actually beginning to flesh it out. I’m beginning to realize that in industry terms, I work entirely too slow on comics scripts. Even from my limited understanding I can see that they take time and a lot of concentration. But the day before the Marathon, I decided to get into the spirit of it and expand on the very first part: to actually take one segment and go wild with some descriptions and leave room to artistic interpretation in others.
And that Friday before the Marathon, I sent something to Angela via inline text and–if it’s not perfect–it is at least something to start from and a good subject for us to discuss. I look forward to talking with her about it when we find the time and see what she will make of it.
So I had this little bit of positive energy to tide me over as I finally did leave to find the Comics Gallery and Lounge I’d been hearing about for so long. The journey was ironic for me. It seems like so long ago that I used to live on the Bloor-Danforth line: specifically close to Woodbine Station. Even before that, when I was at York, I always found that energy to take various transit to get to find my away to College and Clinton: where the Lounge actually is. It’s only now that I’m in Thornhill–in York Region–again that I decided to go somewhere cool that I’d been putting off for so long.
When I found myself outside the shop, I paced around a bit: suddenly really feeling the nervousness. It was strange: being back downtown on the streets again after basically huddling away in Thornhill. And here I was outside a place with people who obviously loved comics and other Geekery and I was hesitating. It would be helpful to mention that I’ve developed some very crippling social anxiety over the years. It probably has roots to older sources, but after so long dealing with Grad School and being by myself a lot I kind of really retreated into myself. It also doesn’t help that I was shy to begin with and … it’s hard for me to put myself out there.
I also was thinking to myself: what if I go in there and no one likes me? I know: it’s a pretty irrational series of thoughts and I have gotten better at dealing with them. I knew that if I needed to, I could leave at any time I wanted and–it being a Lounge–I brought some work to do as well. My plan was to stay there for the party that was going to happen after 11 pm–when the Marathon was officially over–talk with some people and then leave.
So I walked up the stairs and everyone was friendly. I had to get used to, well, being in a new place and around people I didn’t know but I browsed around the shop and entertained myself looking at comics. There was a very comfortable black couch–most of the inner room was set up with benches so people could work–and I sat down to write. I actually started to feel a lot more comfortable writing and having something to do.
It was strange at first. I’d seen a lot of the people around me on Facebook or the Internet when I was finding out more about the Lounge, but actually being around them in person was just different and cool. It turns out some people were late for the Marathon anyway and, really, they just seemed to have a whole lot of fun doing what they did, browsing comics, and just socializing. I didn’t talk with as many people as I wanted to, but my cousin Shane Kirshenblatt–who made such awesome comics as Dorothy Gale: Journey to Oz–and his wife Sari came in and we talked for a while about comfortable things like comics and writing and creation and all that fun stuff.
Coincidentally, I wrote my first Conference paper partially on Shane’s Oz comic and he inspired me through a conversation to write my first ever science-fiction story in ages: one that didn’t win the Friends of the Merrill Short Story Contest granted, but I am still proud of it to this day. He actually talked with me about looking at a script of his to see what I could do with it: something that really intrigues me.
I even briefly talked with Keiran as she was managing her Empire of comics creators and there was a dog or two, and some cheering, and various geeky discussions. I ended up having a really good conversation that night with Debra Jane Shelly. I had seen her before, like many of the other denizens of the Lounge, on their Blog and Facebook. She really stuck out at me the first I saw her and I knew before I ever talked with her that she was a hard-core comics geek. But it is one thing to know that intellectually, but experience it first-hand in a conversation was entirely different and enjoyable. I barely got a word in edge-wise, but I enjoyed listening to what she had to say and I learned a few things.
For instance: I never thought about the first-impression that people got of Watchmen when it came out in the 1980s. As Debra pondered this, I remember thinking that it was true: it was during this time period that meta-narrative and pastiching were being implemented into comics narrative along with a certain more blatant kind of adult irony.
When you think about the comics that came before, during the heyday of the Comics Code–of comics industry self-censorship–and then you look at something like Watchmen you can definitely imagine a kind of “culture shock” for some readers. But, as Debra put it, we will never really know that feeling ourselves: you know, aside from reading about it through secondary sources. It’s like those accounts you hear about from famous writers and comics creators about growing up with the old Pre-Code Horror Comics: with EC Comics’ Tales from the Crypt, Creepshow, and all of that really fun and twisted stuff. But even though we can read a lot of those twistedly ironic and morbid goodies now, the spirit of Zeitgeist of the times where they were written are not really as accessible to us or perceived the same as someone who was there.
I think it was good to talk with someone who knew as much–if not more–about comics: someone who had read some really good and memorable works. It was sort of humbling, to be honest: to know that wasn’t the only one as insane about this stuff as I sometimes delude myself into thinking. There was a whole room of them. :). I did talk with some more people and then I took my leave as it was about that time. Debra actually made me pose for a picture where I am holding Alan Moore’s Nemo: Heart of Ice: a book I actually got there. As for the reason that she took it, if one is needed, she told me that she likes to take pictures of people having found their favourite books: or something to that effect.
It occurred to me–or I remembered–as I smiled at the camera that I rarely ever smile when I’m in public: especially in Toronto. Sometimes the exhaustion, and anger, and sadness ingrains itself in you so bone-deep that it’s difficult to even smile for real. I thought about just how sad that fact really was.
In any case, I said some goodbyes and then I left to find the streetcar back to Bathurst Station. I missed the car, so I decided: “Screw it! I’m going to walk the fucker!” So I walked by myself all the way from Clinton and College to Bathurst Station. I hadn’t walked that long or been in this area in ages. And as I did so, with my travel bag on my shoulder and my black winter coat covering me I felt more alive than I have in a really long time.
Coincidentally, it took me 16 minutes and there was no other streetcar during that entire time.
I know when I wake up tomorrow, or later, I’m going to be very embarrassed by some of the sentimentality and haphazard writing I’ve left here. It’s no new thing, to be fair. Actually, I’m surprised I wrote so much about–well–doing so little: by my standards anyway. However, I really felt the need to write this out while it is still fresh.
I am definitely going to check out the Lounge again. Here is the Toronto Comics Lounge and Gallery Blog in case you are interested and you didn’t see it on my Blogroll section. Thank you for reading this and, next time, I do plan to make something.
Excelsior, ladies and gentlemen.
3 thoughts on “Participant in One Marathon, A Spectator at Another”
What a great post, Matthew! I felt as if I was walking in your shoes. Really great behind the scenes piece written with engaging honesty.
Thank you, Hill Billy Zen. I really tried to articulate all of this and, at the very least, I got some of it right. 🙂