I started 2013 on a train barreling through unknown parts of Nebraska still buried in snow. On the way to the Amtrak station, in the dying moments of 2012, I had my mom stop at a minimart where I bought two tall alcoholic beverages in cans and wedged them into one of my two already overpacked bags. After dumping my stuff in my sleeper car (courtesy of my forever savior Rich Stevens), I went to the observation car, found a table, opened a beer and a notebook and started working on the outline to HIGH CRIMES #2. The New Year occurred halfway through my tallboy with a rousing shrug by whoever was still awake and desperate enough for company to be hanging out in an observation car in the middle of a pitch-black night.
I’d spent Christmas at my mom’s house lettering the first issue of HIGH CRIMES, a book I’d been thinking about for years and that Ibrahim and I had been talking about and working on for the last 5 months. I now had 30 days until it came out and I was fucking terrified. This on top of being trapped on a 3-day train trip where I would be given ‘ganja oil’ by a strange woman I met outside Colorado Springs, have my bags searched and my notebooks pored over by drug cops in Reno who thought I was a smuggler due to a one-way ticket and giving in to that specialized insanity that comes from living inside a moving metal tube for 3 days.
But HIGH CRIMES was, for all intents and purposes, my hail mary. I had two books that were going to come out some day, but that day seemed further and further away. I couldn’t get any traction off of SCREAMLAND, I was lucky beyond belief to get a co-writing gig on CAPTAIN MARVEL a couple months previous, but no one really knew what I could do on my own, or if I could actually do anything.
Without going into the tumultuous specifics of the last 3 years, it has been one of the strangest periods of my life, marked with homelessness, joblessness, extensive, crippling amounts of self-loathing, self-doubt and future visions of me working the counter of a Plaid Pantry, drawing pentagrams on my smock and saving up enough money to fake my death in 20 years.
After the economy ate its own asshole in 2008/2009, writing was all I had left, the only real skill I could think of, one I had been largely neglecting while trying to keep my freelance graphic designer head afloat. There was a moment in 2009, when all my jobs were drying up and my money was drifting away that I had a choice. I could stay where I was, hold onto my savings and hope against hell that things turned around, or I could take that money, move to Portland, achieve that mythological fresh start and put my goddamn shoulder into this writing shit with all I had. I knew it meant I could wind up living along the Burnside Bridge or dying inside as I typed rows of numbers into medical charts in a fluorescent hell. But I’ve never been especially good at making the wise decision. I moved, on New Year’s Day. (Hey, a pattern!)
Now it’s four years later from me in a car full of my most valuable possessions, driving through a blizzard in Wyoming, no idea what I was driving towards. One year away from me inside that train, writing into that composition notebook as midnight approached, plowing through a blizzard in Nebraska.
A friend once told me as a kid, “whatever you’re doing when the new year strikes, that’s what you’ll do that year.” Which doesn’t bode well if you’re vomiting in a urinal or asleep in front of the tv with a bowl of dip resting on your junk. It’s not a perfect adage. But I always took it to heart, and for the last 3 years, I rang in the new year writing. Because it took me forever to realize that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do and all I’ve ever been really capable of doing well. I wrote in the new year and, call it coincidence, but this is the year it finally came true.
This is the year people I’ve read and liked read what we made in HIGH CRIMES and liked it, and inexplicably asked me to write more stuff.
This is the year I got to see a Mike Mignola cover for my ALIEN VS. PREDATOR comic. That is not a sentence I ever thought I would type without the help of mescaline.
This is the year I got to co-write even more CAPTAIN MARVEL with Kelly Sue DeConnick, to help introduce Kit, to have Carol use a jet motorcycle as blunt weapon, to put words in CAPTAIN FREAKING AMERICA’S MOUTH, to watch Felipe Andrade and Jordie Bellaire turn all those words into something amazing.
This is the year I got to co-write 2 issues of FANTASTIC FOUR and pit them against the Kinks, to write Ben Grimm dialogue, which is the most fun people will pay you to have, to work with Mark Bagley, who I’ve been reading since I was a kid, to work with Matt Fraction, whose brain I would eat and talents absorb if he wasn’t a bro.
This is the year I got to write a SHADOWMAN story where SHADOWMAN barely appears in it, something I got a perverse joy out of. To work with Matthew Southworth and Alejandro Arbona and Warren Simons, the first comics editor to ever give me the time of day.
This is the year I pitched a story blindly to a publisher and got it accepted, which is a thing I heard people did, but what? This is the year I lined up books for next year with people who I never thought would want to talk to me. This is the year that people sort of knew who I was. (Even if it was occasionally as some asshole on twitter).
This is the year I made a shitload more friends inside and outside comics (okay, mostly inside). This is the year I learned to love cons, the year I walked the floor of Emerald City for 3 days straight and talked so much I couldn’t turn it off for another 24 hours after it was over. This is the year I drank Old Fashioneds with my editors until I was wobbly at the Bayfront Hilton.
This is the year I finally quit flatting, a joy I am incapable of properly describing.
This is the first year in forever I’m actually excited for what next year is gonna bring, the first year that I have a plan, a vision that is actually uplifting, that doesn’t involve a Road Warrior battle for fuel and feral children, an idea of what the fuck I’m here for.
It’s all very weird, and it’s hard to be here at the end of 2013 and remember where I was at the beginning of it and not wonder if I’m still on that train, my mind splintering around me into some ganja oil fueled purgatory of wish-fulfillment. But if I am, I’m going to ride this psychotic break as far and as long as I can.