“Throwback Thursday” is always a fun exercise for me. Looking back at my old work is a chance to boost my confidence in my now work, while also reminding me of why I make art in the first place. In general, my current work is technically strong, confident, and effective. But my older work always has a more organic, natural kind of honesty, something that I gradually lost in my pursuit of “perfect.” As part of losing my honesty, I also lost something I didn’t know I needed: a sense of humor.
In particular this week, I’ve been looking at an old 12-page comic I drew with Sharpie pens/markers. I don’t even have the originals, but I found scanned copies on my computer. This comic was titled after the main character, Dirk Gable, and is still probably the weirdest fluke of my entire artistic career. It stemmed from the idea of making the Bourne series into a rom-com…that was it. The guy is a highly-skilled assassin who accidentally breaks into the wrong apartment and starts a friendship with the single mom and her son who live there. It’s the classic “Oh excuse me” moment, with just a touch of Mr. Bourne.
I had the idea, and I literally went straight to drawing with pens (no sketching/studies), which made for some pretty painful illustrations. But I posted it on deviantART anyway, and was stunned by the positive response. Dirk had an immediate fan club unlike anything I’d ever posted. At a time when I’d barely been commissioned for anything, I even sold a print of a Dirk sketch. For a newbie just developing the courage to post work, this was HUGE. I was thrilled!
Fast-forward several years…
I never really pursued Dirk beyond the 12 page short story. It was “just to be funny”, and I wanted to do serious comics. Not funny ones. SERIOUS. I began writing comics that dealt with the suffering of humanity, greater morality, and a general commentary on… existence… You know, deep things. SERIOUZ COMIC STUFF. I wanted people to read my comics and say, “Such wise! Much smart!” I pretty much smothered my sense of humor in an ocean of ethics, rhetoric, and visions of intellectual grandeur. But re-reading my 12-page Bourne/rom-com this morning reminded me of just how much I love comedy and humor. Instead of reaching my audience with laughs and smiles, I’ve been trying to reach them with grim “essays.”
Interestingly, I never had immediate success like that again either. I’ve gradually built up a larger following than I’ve ever had, but nothing I’ve written or drawn has had the same spontaneous burst of love that Dirk had. Did I just post at the right time of day? Used the right tags? Maybe. Or maybe laughs draw a bigger audience than the laboriously deep musings of a 20-Something.
I miss humor, to be honest. It comes more easily to me, and it’s less stressful to plan and write. Finding Dirk late last night was a great reminder that you don’t have to be serious to write or draw something great. Sometimes a giggle is the best way to win a reader (or author) over.