I basically typed up a novel explaining the comic upchuck, and you'll have to read it to actually find the link to the comic ... but I think you should. Just 'cause I want you guys to understand, and I want you to know I'm being honest, possibly for the first time in my life. ;)
I think it's Stephen King's fault. I know, that seems odd, but there's a long string of reasoning behind it, so bear with me. To make a long story really short, Stephen King got hit by a van, but did not die, and thus finished the Dark Tower series. However, if you've read the Dark Tower series, you'll notice something odd about it: the books written after the accident are vastly different from the ones written before, and the accident itself (and Stephen King nearly dying) became a part of the Dark Tower series. So there's something I've wondered since reading the Dark Tower: if Stephen King hadn't had that accident, would the story have ended differently?
Anyway, I guess I can't really judge King, because I did the same thing, actually. I changed a D101 plotline because of something that happened to me. Yeah, I know, didn't guess, did you? Well, some of you did, you just didn't realize it. See, ages back in Episode 2, Mackenzie made a weird angry-sounding comment about wanting to grow up (ohgawdoldart! *convulses*), something that was never followed up on. But I did get a surprising number of emails about it (you guys are such adorable geeks), people wondering what she meant and such. I guess it was just weird for the normally bubbly Mac to sound so upset.
Originally there was supposed to be a plotline for that comment. Mal already had his own plotline, vying for Raven's attention and sparring with Eli, and I wanted Mac to have something too. So I devised a plotline for her involving family troubles, something that would bring her and Raven closer together throughout Episodes 3 and 4. Basically, her dad was going to leave.
And then my dad left.
And I couldn't handle it. And because I couldn't handle it, or think about it, or talk about it, or deal with it any sort of way, I cut the plotline. And poor Mac remains the only D101 main character without any sort of plotline to call her own. I've thought about that whole thing a lot these past years, as my life got very bad, and then eventually got okay again, but only after some really rough patches. Did I do the Stephen King thing? Rob a story of its proper ending because I couldn't separate myself from my art? Is art intrinsically personal, much as I'd rather it not be? Who the heck knows?
Last week, thinking about Stephen King and my own life, I started drawing a comic. It's Mac's missing story, but ... it's not. It's mine. Everything she talks about in the comic happened to/was done by me. The desire to forgive being defeated by anger, the screaming fit, the letter, hating kids who made jokes about their parents... all of it. Even her dad wearing reindeer antlers and her mom's obsession with It's a Wonderful Life.
So whose story is it ultimately, mine or hers? I think it's both of ours. It was her plotline, and it just happened to me. (Weird co-incidence, that, especially as I've always considered Mac to be the character closest to myself.)
I do not like drawing on current pain to make Good Art. I think not only do you leave yourself far too exposed as a person, but you also leave yourself open to being dishonest about your pain and especially about who/what is causing it. If I had written Mac's plotline while I was in the midst of my own pain, I would have done it in anger, and I would have probably portrayed the people other than her as cruel and her as the victim, when the reality was actually that I was the one that was cruel and judgmental and didn't want to forgive people who had made mistakes.
Jon Krakauer said in his wonderful book Into Thin Air: "... I agree that readers are often poorly served when an author writes as an act of catharsis ... But I hoped something would be gained by spilling my soul in the calamity's immediate aftermath ... I wanted my account to have a raw, ruthless sort of honesty that seemed in danger of leaching away with the passage of time and the dissipation of anguish."
I think the above is what most people long for when they do comics that illustrate their pain, but what makes me mistrust them is what I have experienced when I try to be honest about my pain while currently experiencing it. Which is, I want to stack the deck in my favour, and make myself look at least somewhat sinless. Maybe I'm just inherently dishonest about personal stuff when currently experiencing it, I don't know.
Anyway, the point is, Krakauer was a reporter, and seemed to strive mightily for The Truth in his tale about Mout Everest. And seemed to succeed too, reporting on a wealth of outside information. The problem with reporting on a messy personal conflict is that there is little outside of your own word to guarantee the truth. Y'all know the old saying: There are three sides to every story: Yours, Mine and The Truth.
So I don't look to my own life to make comics, usually, because I'm afraid it will make me dishonest. I think you, dear readers, deserve honesty.
This story happened to me on Christmas Eve 2003. Two years later I've written about it. I think I'm through all of what happened, and I feel honest about my role in the whole mess now. I think one of the worst things I did to myself through the whole thing was pretending I was okay. When you reach the other side of whatever black space you go through, be it personal, mental or physical, you can finally look back and see where you screwed up, but instead of hating yourself for screwing up, you can maybe try and learn what to do next time. Next time I'll find someone to talk to, and I won't jam it all inside, pretending I'm okay, because I wasn't.
I had a conversation with someone once, about what makes a person grow up and move into adulthood. I answered "tragedy" without even thinking. But I guess that's what did it for me. Having some part of your life spin out of control, and losing something good that you thought would always be there, then slowly regaining that thing, by pushing aside your own selfishness and anger. Maybe that's adulthood, I don't know.
Anyway, the story has a happy ending. I'm okay now. Really truly okay, and okay with my parents, who are really good people. I think Mac will be too.
Oh, and I kind of like the art. It came out all messy and raw, and suits, I think. It was banged out in about a week, so I think it looks nice, considering.
Click here to read the story.
(I re-posted that short Friends-esque New Years story I posted ... was it a year ago? Can't remember. Anyway, there's a mini-page for the two short comics now, and linked from the episode portal page.)
Merry Christmas everybody. I'm flying out tomorrow morning, and will be gone until the 4th. My internet access will be limited during that time, although I will check this LJ. If you need to get in touch with me, try it here. :)