I have been publishing Arsenic Lullaby independently for almost 13 years, I’ve done work for DC, Image, Mad Magazine and a bunch of other publishers as well along the way. I have been going to 8-10 comic book conventions a year the whole time. Needless to say I have met damn near everyone in this industry at one point or another….and I’ll be honest, I can do without 95% of them.
Mostly because 95% of them will be gone in 6 months to a year and replaced by a different 95%…who will last 6 months to a year and so on. Surviving in a creative industry takes more than talent and dreams. It takes hard work, genuine vision, commitment and most of all it take SACRIFICE. You sacrifice time, you sacrifice security, you often sacrifice relationships because a lot of people won’t put up with sometimes coming in second place to an idea that is floating around in your head. Sometimes though, if you are to succeed, EVERYTHING has to come in second place to an idea that’s floating around in your head.
When you are say…a plumber, you are competing with all the other plumbers in driving distance, a tall order don’t get me wrong, but when you are in the creative industry you are competing with every form of entertainment on earth…AND you are competing with every form of entertainment ever devised in 6000 years of human civilization. If someone has free time and wants some entertainment, they can go to a movie, buy your book, or read the Odyssey by Homer. THAT is a problem. Your job is to come up with a story that has never been thought up before since the first caveman drew a wolf on a cave wall, AND if you want to keep your job it had better be good enough for whoever you get to read it to want more. This means long hours. When I say “long hours” I mean you never get a day off, never get an hour off, because your job is in your head. Even on a day you have set aside to not work…if an idea pops into your head, you damn well better stop what you are doing and flesh it out. There is no rhyme or reason for when a stroke of inspiration hits or when the perfect line finally forms in your thoughts. When these things happen however, you can go to work …or you can fail.
It is nerve-wracking, stressful and short on reward. You are broke until you are swimming in cash, it is feast or famine. It is short on respect for all the years you struggle to make a name for yourself. Frankly the only perk I really see is that if you are a writer or an artist it is perfectly acceptable to sleep with college age girls no matter how old you get. A 50-year-old plumber walks into a party with a 20-year-old girl people think “gross”. If a 50-year-old artist walks into a party with a 20-year-old girl people think “I wish I had kept drawing after college”. Some people say that the thrill of seeing your work inspire, entertain and affect others is the big reward…whatever… the point is the risk verses reward of being in the creative industry is not for the faint of heart.
I have seen countless talented, well-meaning people enter this industry and give up, get chewed up, get lazy and fail… really mattering to whatever segment of the creative industry you are part of is only for a select group of individuals. Genuine creative souls who do what they do because they are compelled to by every fiber of their being are few and far between. They are individuals who don’t even view things as “risk” and”sacrifice” because they are so driven to tell that story that is in their head and so sure that it is supposed to be told that all the misery and risk you can throw at them is just a necessary evil, a bargain even. They do it all because something tells them to, just as sure as something tells a compass to point north. You can’t really teach it…it’s more of an instinct. It is knowing that the world is a drab place and YOUR job is to make it less drab.
Which brings us to Raven Gregory writer/editor for Xenoscope. About 8 years ago at Comic-con international a young fella named Raven Gregory came up to my booth and introduced himself and praised my book (as many people do) and mentioned he was also working on a book (as many people do). We had a brief conversation, I wished him good luck and he walked away. I get about a dozen books handed to me a day at a show like that and let me tell you as one who needed more competition like he needed a hole in the head…none of them ever worried me. Well, sometimes they worried me in the sense that all of our votes count equally in this country. As he walked away I sized up his gumption, flipped through his book and thought to myself…”THAT guy’s gonna be a problem.”
It took me one issue to respect Raven as a writer, and after a few shows I respected him as a publisher. He has as much energy, charisma, and good old fashioned P.T. Barnum- bring in fans by any means necessary- as anyone. He has something else too. He has a good heart. Where I would just as soon push a newcomer into oncoming traffic, Raven encourages people. He genuinely cares about his work, his fans, his company, the industry as a whole, even his competition. He’s never failed to give me a hand and I am a hard person to deal with. I won’t go into specific stories or things I’ve seen, because frankly…saying too many nice things about someone puts me off my feed. Just take my word for it that Raven is one of a handful of people I have met in this industry who is worth a damn.
He’s had some tragedy recently…I won’t go into the specifics on that, they have already been mentioned.
Raven has sacrificed much to get where he is…and sacrifice is all part of the deal us creative types sign up for, but sacrificing something and having something taken away from you are two different things…
We accept the sacrifice, we deserve it even for being so pompous as to think our work is worth seeing despite 6000 years or other works being available. As creative types we have it coming. THIS however was not part of the deal. This is not “paying your dues”. This is fate taking one too many liberties with my friend, and it pisses me off. There is nothing that can be done about what happened but I for one am not going to sit here and let all the peripheral crap and stress and problems that come with things like this pile on him.
This Saturday there is a benefit for his children and for the funeral expenses.
I urge you to go there and spend some money. If you can’t make it there, I am sure the store will accept donations via mail or internet. If you are a fellow comic book professional it’s not to late to send some items for the auction. This is not just about the money though, this is about a guy who put blood sweat and tears into helping the rest of us forget our problems at least for as long as it took to read his books. Us creative types have to stick together.
Jesse James Comics
10620 n 43rd ave suite 8
Glendale, Az 85304
#attention Jesse James