Some of my fondest memories of my father were of seeing him working in his art studio in our home. My father was an architect by trade but his passion laid in comic book art and cartooning. I remember seeing him come home from work and creating his own comic books based on Asian mythology. I remember how masterfully he told the story of the dragon that married an angel and had fifty boys and fifty girls that would eventually become mankind. The seamlessness of the storytelling was only matched by my father’s vibrant ink and water colored art on the 11x17 Bristol board.
Those sessions watching my father create entire worlds gave me many gifts. They gave me lifelong memories of my father that I hold onto dearly to this day even though I have lived more years with him gone than with him alive since he passed away when I was only six-years-old. It was through my father’s love of sequential art and graphic storytelling that I would fall in love with Marvel Comics in the 1980s. Most importantly, these sessions watching my father work also showed me that I too had the ability to create entire worlds with my own hands.
After my father passed away, I began writing and drawing my own comic books too. I became obsessive, as though creating sequential art pages somehow acted as a time machine that brought me back to his studio with him. I would draw a 9-panel comic book story on any piece of paper I could get my hands onto, and it was more than once that I got into trouble at school for a having a fully colored 9-panel comic story on the back of my homework assignments with ink bleeding through the other side of the sheet. Even now when I run into people who knew me as a child, the first thing they bring up is remembering how I would draw all of the time.
Back then, I had a very lucid goal of what I wanted to be when I grew up – a comic book artist. Following the heroes in Marvel Comics is what brought me the most joy because the heroes were so sympathetic: Peter Parker’s parents were dead and he became the man of the house much too early to financially support his aunt, Bruce Banner was brilliant and could do anything he set his mind to but had to control the rage growing inside of him in order to not lash out at the people he loved, and Steve Rogers was a man out of time in a world that was so foreign to the one he once knew. These stories deeply moved me but when I would try to discuss them with my friends at school, no one knew what the heck I was talking about. It seemed like the only art form that moved everyone else the same way comics moved me was cinema. So from that moment forward, I rededicated my life and decided to become a filmmaker. I dedicated myself to telling stories through moving pictures instead of still panels.
I then spent fifteen years going through the ups and downs of being a professional filmmaker. There were so many close moments to getting huge projects realized, but like so many other filmmakers, I kept running head first into the colossal barrier of entry – financing. Filmmaking is a lot different than graphic art in that it requires a ton of money just to get going since even low budget films costs a small fortune. Another major issue that abruptly halts getting projects made is dealing with the extremely difficult personalities. Any professional filmmaker will tell you that there are guardians who don’t want your material and don’t want you to succeed either. Even if you’re a one-man production company like Robert Rodriguez, there are only so many jobs you can do on a production. You will ultimately have to rely on other people who may be there for the wrong reasons. On more than one occasion, I found myself retreating back to the world of illustrating sequential art on commission just to make ends meet.
Things changed dramatically after I bowed out from the industry. Besides having a steady paycheck, lifestyle and insurance, I was able to really get back to the things that made me -- ME! I already had such a huge backlog of fully written feature length screenplays that I could use to rekindle my love with sequential art and storytelling. Writing and drawing my own comic books again has given me a sense of joy that I haven’t felt since being in my father’s studio all of those years ago.
Another thing that has changed dramatically over the years is self publishing comic books is easier than ever now. I remember back in college when I tried to do a small publishing of an original comic book, I would have to pay Ka-blam for printing the copies of the comic book then distribute through Diamond. After all was said and done, I would’ve spent as much as I would’ve to produce an art house film and my reach would’ve been much smaller. Things are a lot less expensive now. I’m not a purely digital artist, so I still have to buy the Bristol board to draw and ink on and the alcohol markers to color with. I don’t have to deal with any difficult personalities since I can literally write, draw, ink, color and letter all by myself. And thanks to Google Play, I can digitally distribute my comic books simultaneously all over the world. I have picked up right where I left off before I caught the film bug and can create worlds with my hands for very little money at all, but now I actually get to share that world with others.
The most magical aspect of life is how it comes full circle. I’m a father myself and my daughter has seen me draw throughout her entire life. Recently, my daughter has downloaded my own self-created digital comics from Google Play and it has sparked her interest in creating her own comics. I hope that one day she will be passing the same love for creating worlds to her children like her grandfather did for me decades ago.