Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How Jen Got Her Nerdy Back!

In order for me to tell you how I got my geek back, I have to briefly touch on how I lost it in the first place, though I won’t go into a lot of the gory details.  I married, and later had a child with, someone I thought I would be with forever.  His fondness for my girly, geeky personality soon faded to contempt.  My comic books and action figure collection went from being an asset to an embarrassment.  My quirky, creative, artistic side went from awesome to awful.  I was told that I must sell my beloved collections and focus on other hobbies that were more mainstream and adult – so I did.  I sold almost everything in a one-day sale at a flea market.  Everything that was left was packed into cardboard boxes and went into a shed. 

As fate would have it, the shed was made by a well-meaning family member of his out of reclaimed wood, reclaimed wood that was later found to be rotten and full of termites.  As hard as it had been to sell my beloved treasures, it was much harder to throw away my half-eaten comic books and desecrated collectibles.  At least the items I sold went to a good home.  My poor comics in the shed had provided sustenance for the little beasts that destroyed them and left me heartbroken with a mess to clean up.  I swear I saw one leaning back in a corner with a swollen belly finishing up with a toothpick for dessert.

After what I like to call “the incident,” I picked out what was left from the rubble, put it in plastic boxes on high shelves and helped rebuild the rotten spots with new wood.  Between the boards, yearbooks, family papers, heirlooms and my pitiful books, I spent an entire day sifting through debris and ended up having to take an entire truckload to the dump.  My parents were the only ones willing to help me with the task and I spent a lot of that day alone with my thoughts.  The experience did help me to learn that stuff is just stuff and that I am lucky it was simply a shed and not my home.

I took away what I could from the incident philosophically and physically, but it felt as if a little spark inside me died that day.  I tried to maintain my art and writing, but that seemed to be a source of contention as well.  As our daughter grew it became more and more apparent that creativity had been passed down and was a part of her DNA.  It was as much a part of her as it was me, maybe more.  With the exception of a few projects here and there, I was content to put my energies into fostering her talent and doing my best to make sure she was in an environment in which she could thrive.

Despite my efforts, the marriage crumbled and I had to once again pick through my belongings and give some of my things over to another.  While I regret the ending of such an important chapter in a book that I thought would end with a happily ever after, my daughter and I learned that we could start over with a new story.

The universe does have a sense of humor though.  My ex-husband e-mailed me a little over a year ago, to tell me about an event at a comic book store called 99 Issues.  The e-mail indicated that there would be several comic book artists in attendance to meet fans and sign comics.  He said he wanted to take our daughter.  I was all for it as my newly-six-year-old, budding artist had been working on her own comic and art for some time. She could sit for hours drawing with a focus I had never seen in a small child.  In another twist of the tale, it happened that he had something come up and we had to swap weekends, so I would be the one to take her to the signing.  Neither of us had ever been to anything like this before, in fact we had never even been to 99 Issues.  The night before we decided to scope things out and visit the store to get the lay of the land.  That’s when we met Chris Barnett and Nolen Overton.  Chris immediately came over and introduced himself.  He walked us around the store, showing us comics by the artists who would be at the event, and answering our questions.  From that day on whenever we go into the shop, someone always greets us, they recognize us and they make us feel welcome.

The next afternoon we arrived at the shop.  Of all the artists there, my daughter was immediately drawn to the only female artist at the tables, Amanda Rachels co-founder of a local, independent publisher, Inverse Press.  Looking like a comic book beauty herself, Amanda was kind and gracious.  She and my little one became instant friends.  From Inverse Press we also met writer/co-founder Kevin LaPorte and artist Rando Dixon.

Every single person in that shop showed an interest in my daughter.  They all stopped what they were doing and took time to talk with her, answer her questions and look over her drawings.  I was so moved that these talented people would be so down-to-earth, so kind and so willing to share their knowledge with a little girl.  Steven Butler and Steve Scott were phenomenal.  And it wasn’t just my child; it was like that with everyone who came through the door, young and old alike.  The artists and writers spent personal time with each and every person.   We bought comics and art prints.  We got autographs and advice.  We laughed, talked and made new friends.

We rounded that shop a thousand times it seems and we kept going back to the Inverse Press crew.  For signing up for Amanda’s e-mail list, we were gifted with an autographed copy of an anthology with a short story from Inverse Press’s Clown Town universe.  While not suitable for my little one, it was just what I’d been looking for in a comic.  Clown Town will always be special to me as it was the story that brought me back to comics, back to writing and back to art.  Its tale of clowns who avenge abused children touched my heart and haunted me in a way I cannot express.  I will be forever grateful to Kevin and Amanda for that gift.  Soon after, I went in search of the rest of the Clown Town series and then on to devour every title Inverse Press has in their library.  I eagerly await their next release.

As strange as it may sound, it was truly a wonderful day in our lives that made a difference.  It gave my daughter new determination, confidence and a lovely memorable time that we recall often.  As for me, that little spark inside reignited that day and turned into a flame that burns hot and strong.  I got to share an old passion with my daughter and meet some of my idols.  I realized that I was free to pursue my hobbies and that it was something that my daughter and I could enjoy together.  I no longer had to set that part of myself aside.  I was even able to rebuy one of my Wonder Woman issues that was chewed up by the termites and get it autographed by none other than Dan Mishkin!

Since that day, we have met other authors and artists such as Erica J. Heflin, Kate Frizzell and Nathan Smith.  We see Chris and Nolen and the rest of the 99 Issues gang at the shop and they know us.  We feel a sense of belonging and kinship.  We count ourselves lucky to have met so many talented and warm people.

Now in the evenings my girl and I both draw.  We turn off the television and make up our own stories and plan out our own comics.  We embrace our inner geek.  We create and we are happy.

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