In case you’ve forgotten who James from down the hall is, you can go back to here: and have a look.
This thing is so much a part of me that I don’t always realize how long from one point to another things are. In my head they encountered James not that long ago, but in real time it’s been years. I’ve always just expected everyone to remember everything because it’s what I do fore the most part. The reality is that the average reader, even if they really like the comic, aren’t invested enough to remember every single encounter. I considered putting a note on the actual page, but I’ve never really felt like they fit with my style.
It’s kind of funny when you think about stuff like little note boxes that tell you when something happened in a past comic. When I read Marvel books they did it all the time, but I almost never had the issue they pointed to, so it was useless. Now you have access to the entire archive, so that system would actually work the way the old editors would have hoped. But then I don’t do it. XD Of course that’s part of the function of the blog. If someone came in right now they might just assume that this is a known thing and move on without thinking about it, but if they wanted backstory they probably have the wherewithal to scroll down to this text. If they don’t maybe they don’t deserve it. I always sort of expect everyone to be as good at things, or to understand the world, the way I do/am. That’s probably not the best way to live. On the other hand, pretty much every regular reader IS on par with my intelligence level. Since I actually talk to a ton of you I know it to be true. There’s even a percentage of people who exceed my powers that are very difficult to keep up with. That’s always been rare in my life.
Someone once said that your comic will attract people like you, so make it for yourself and you’ll get an audience that you’ll get along with. That’s true on some level, but at the same time if you court controversy you’ll get a second audience that reads out of hate. Of course the internet doesn’t care why someone reads. Eyes are eyes to advertisers, and even someone who hates gay people will pour a Pepsi down their neck from time to time. I’ve never felt capable of debating important issues in my work. I’m generally interested in the miniscule things people do to make life bearable.
When newspapers were still a thing my family sometimes got a sunday one, but rarely for several consecutive weeks, so I never could figure out what was going on in Mary Worth. Other cartoonists mock that strip for requiring a level of commitment that is practically impossible in our culture now. For me though, it was so frustrating never knowing why they needed a lawyer one week then months later that lawyer had had a car accident, or whatever was going on. I was fascinated by how it was just people standing around living their lives. I don’t think there was ever a punchline in any of them I managed to read. The idea that punchlines aren’t always the point is something we don’t always think about. Anyway, I think I’ve always felt out of place with other people, so I just like watching them, hoping that I’ll figure out what it is that makes it so you can be part of a group, or have a successful relationship, or whatever.
When was little I used to have conversation with how I imagined other people were in my head all the time. It started because I was so shy and scared that I had this constant need to be prepared for anything another person might say. Everyone was so mean that if you weren’t able to put up some sort of verbal defense life was miserable. I always felt inadequate. I was miserable in school almost all of the time, felt outcast and bullied. Over time the conversations went from just trying to talk to other people to figuring out how to hurt them. I would analyze how they spoke and acted until I knew what they were afraid of, what their weaknesses where, how to make them cry. Over and over, all day long, running scenario after scenario in my head. At the same time I would just listen to the teachers and memorize what they said so I didn’t need to study. As long as it wasn’t numbers all I had to do was listen with one ear and think about whatever else I wanted to in my head. I got more and more mean and arrogant over time. If anyone managed to land one on me I’d hold a grudge forever. I can still remember moments where someone managed to get one over on me and being so furious I wanted to find any way possible to hurt them back. It just got worse and worse and worse.
One day I was walking down the hall and some kid I’d never seen before stopped me. He was half as tall as me, but squared up and said “I see you walking every day. Why are you so mad all the time?” And I didn’t know. I just was. He said it in a way that sounded confrontational, but he was on his own and there was no sane reason he could possibly want to fight me. I didn’t have any idea how to react. Why did he care? What difference did it make to him? How was he trying to trick me? No one ever took any interest in me, so why would this random asshole? All of that went through my mind in seconds and what I finally landed on was “Get. Out. Of. My. Way.” And he did. Not in a scared way. He never said another word. Didn’t insult me under his breath. He just shook his head and sat back down.
I have no idea to this day who he was. I never saw him again. That might have been the first time I’d ever encountered genuine concern in a person outside my family, and I couldn’t recognize it. I’ve thought about that encounter many times over the course of my life. I wonder who he was, why he cared, and how he seemed to know that there was no point in trying to reach me after I answered. I don’t know what his goal was, but I did start thinking about why I was so angry. I didn’t stop because I found my reasons, but I thought about them in a way I hadn’t before. He nudged my trajectory that day. Like an asteroid on a collision course all you need to do sometimes is tweak the course it’s going to take and over time it misses the explosive conclusion you want to avoid.
I was still furiously angry most of the time for the better part of my schooling. No one had whatever it was going to take to make me not hate everything all the time. Not my family, not my friends, and certainly not random people I barely knew.
I went on a school trip once and I saw Adam Sandler perform his Halloween costume bit on SNL for the first time the day Curt Cobain died. I thought it was hilarious but after I was done laughing I realized everyone was looking at me. They had never seen me laugh. These are people I spent hours and hours with in the same classroom, and I’d never laughed in front of them. I’d known some of them for years.
Much later on I was leaving the school and a girl who was also an artist was standing in the hall randomly. I didn’t really know her, but I didn’t hate her at least. I just walked past without looking. Just as I reached the door she stopped me and said “You know, you’d be handsome if you’d just smile sometimes.” That was probably the only time a girl had shown any interest in how I looked in the entire time I had been in school. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t figure out how she was trying to trick me, or how this was going to turn into a joke to tell her friends later, so I just said “I don’t care.” and left.
Turns out she was gay, but I suspect she understood the rules of handsomeness at least. I’d just never been complimented before and couldn’t understand that another person might have just wanted to reach out to me.
It’s strange because usually telling someone they need to smile is something a man does to a girl, and apparently it’s insulting. Maybe it was an insult all along. I’ll never know. Although I actually remember her name, which is really weird considering I almost never learned people’s names in high school. I could potentially find out, although I doubt seriously she would remember that incident, or even who I am.
One of these days I should figure out how to make my sad stories into comics. It’s weird to think about that stuff though. I usually just repress it and it spills out unexpectedly.