So there was college. That didn't work out. So I tried it again and it worked out a little better, but ultimately it wasn't for me. I would, eventually, try it one more time. It lasted less than a month that third time, so maybe what they say about third times and charms isn't always true.
Or maybe it is. If I'd stayed in school that third time I might never have devoted myself to comics the way I have now. I probably would have devoted myself to being a librarian or a high school teacher. Admirable, but not comics.
I moved to Chattanooga, TN after high school. I moved there to go to college but as I mentioned above, college didn't take. Chattanooga didn't take either, even though I stayed well into my twenties. Chattanooga is a strange place. Everyone who has never lived there thinks its beautiful and everyone who ever lived there thinks its a giant waste of space in the otherwise lush and gorgeous wilderness that is East Tennessee. That's hyperbolic. I'm sure there are people who live in Chattanooga who love it, but I wasn't one of them.
My time in Chattanooga was strange. I dropped out of college my first semester and moved in with my girlfriend of two years. I had a live-in girlfriend and a full time job by the time I was 19, which was fine with me. School had always bored me, had never really challenged me, and having money in my pocket and a girl at home at the end of every day was just fine with me. That job was in a major chain entertainment store, the kind that sold books, movies, software, music, video games, etc. I worked in the book department, which afforded me a ludicrous discount off cover prices and access to the entire Baker & Taylor ordering system. I bought a LOT of graphic novels.
During that time I really discovered Alan Moore, Frank Miller and Mark Waid. It was Kingdom Come that eventually got me back into comic books, followed shortly after by Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One. The dystopian view of the superhero comic presented by Moore in Watchmen and Miller in DKR had a profound effect on my rebellious young mind. I was discovering punk rock at the same time I discovered those titles and I longed for more "adult" comics, more "adult" themes. So I rebelled long and hard against superheroes, choosing instead to turn my eye toward Vertigo. That's when I really got into the comics that would shape my tastes as a young adult. Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Preacher, Sandman, these were the books I clamored for, the stories I devoured.
It was at this time in my life that I really got back into comic books and for the first time realized that this wasn't just a medium for children and that comics could be a genuine career. I wish I could say that I diligently began pursuing that career but I can't lay claim to that until much later. Like many people in their early twenties, I spent a lot of time, well...wasting time. I drank, chased girls, got caught up in a bad relationship, got the shit kicked out of me mentally and took more than a little time to recover. I suppose that happens to the best of us, but there are moments, in the shadow of younger creators who have accomplished so much more than me, where I want to flog myself for my misspent youth.
I know that hard work gets rewarded and that ultimately it's nobody's fault but my own that it took me this long to make even the tiniest of ripples in this industry, but it doesn't make reminiscing about days that could have been better spent any easier.
What was it that sapped such a will as mine and made me lose sight of my dream for a time? Well, that would be telling. I know I promised to be candid but there are some things that not even you, fearless reader, get to know. Needless to say things got dark for a while and then, as they tend to do, things got a hell of a lot better.
How did they get better? Well, I met a girl. Not just a girl, but the girl. And not long after that I made a friend. The collective fire they lit under my ass led to the man you (figuratively) see before you today.
More on that next time.