What Goes Around

Okay, listen: I’ve been pretty consumed lately with barking up my own mental redwood tree about patronage and interdependent communities and what it means to try and support artists during late-stage capitalism, but this morning I got an email from my friend Luke Kruger-Howard that felt like turning around and realizing that this isn’t just one goddamn redwood. There’s a whole forest out there.

Luke’s email (and it was an email, addressed tenderly to many friends, which is the kind of thing I love getting) announced a new physical publication (Goes #1), released under the aegis of a new publisher (Goes Books), but it stopped me in my tracks because there was something different going on.

He wasn’t running a crowdfunding campaign. He wasn’t encouraging people to preorder. He wasn’t even asking for money.

Instead, I got to read this sentence:

This comic will be free for all readers, gifted by other anonymous readers along the way.

Hear that? It’s the sound of my heart exploding.

The only encouragement in the email, beyond asking people to talk about it which, like, DUH OF COURSE HOW COULD I NOT TALK ABOUT THIS I WILL NEVER SHUT UP ABOUT THIS, is to sign up to receive a free copy of the comic in the mail. That’s it. 2,000 copies of this new beauty are headed into the world and they will all be gifts. I already have so many questions! Is there a Mysterious Benefactor who financed the initial print run so that, potentially, every copy could simply be given away even if nobody chose to pay it forward? Or is there no initial capital beyond Luke’s own savings and this is just a massive trust fall? Is it more or less of a trust fall than running a Kickstarter?

Whatever the answer, I’ve never rushed to give somebody $20 faster in my life.

In the delightfully-illustrated financial transparency page, Luke writes:

This is an investment in the relationship between artist and reader—between stranger and stranger. Financial profit is not possible here.

The comic will always be free.

The comic will always be free.

A screenshot of the Goes Books website with the title Pay It Forward. 
The body text reads: would you like to gift a copy of goes to another stranger or strangers?  simply use the button below to pay with paypal or credit card. no financial profit is had in the making or distribution of 
these books. money received by goes books will be put toward gifting copies of these books to other readers. any money earned beyond that will be donated to charity. it takes about $4 to make and send a copy of goes to a stranger - more or less than that is perfectly wonderful, friend. <3

Oh yeah also P.S. any money raised beyond what’s needed to pay forward all copies of the comic will be donated to RAICES. HELL YES TO THIS.

I’m going to save all the other yelling I want to do about this for Friday because you can bet your ass I texted Luke the moment I finished reading the email and begged him to sit down for an interview. If there are things you’re interested in hearing us talk about, let me know.

Lighting the Fire

In the little town of White River Junction, Vermont, far away from the bustle of the big city, there’s this school. It’s not your usual school. It’s pretty small. Pretty new. But it’s a marvel — a straight up phenomenon among graduate programs, among schools, among communities of any kind, so maybe you’ve heard of…

CCS was founded in 2005 with a commitment to delivering excellent education in the field of comics, cartooning, and graphic novels. They offer certificate and MFA programs as well as summer workshops for youth and adults alike, one of which I attended during the first week of this month. The 5-day course is designed for students who have personal projects they’d like to workshop and push to completion with the support and guidance of professionals.

The experience, alas, doesn’t really fit well into words, but the basic breakdown went like this:

I arrived is a messy haze of uncertainty, unsure of what my project was going to be, worried that my choice to major in studio art was going to turn out to be just one more failure-bound attempt to find my tribe of like-minded people. That my dedication to my own creativity was waning. That I wasn’t any good, or worse, that I was a poser. That I’d be “found out.”

In short, I was a mess. Somewhere, vaguely in the back of my mind, I had thoughts about doing some sort of mythological adaptation series, or a one-off about traveling alone in Europe, but nothing had even been doodled about, let alone planned to the point of being serviceable. But on day one, confronted with the stirring words of our first lecturer, the frighteningly prolific Jason Lutes, in a room full of 36 other aspiring cartoonists of all ages and backgrounds, I found myself thinking about sailing as a potential topic. It’s something I’m passionate about, it would be a blast to draw (if I didn’t go mad from all the rigging), and I doubt there’s very much else on the market at the moment that deals with it from a 21st century sailor’s perspective. Suddenly, my brain seemed to open up to the possibilities of creation again, and thus Baggywrinkles was born.

Of course, I didn’t know it was going to be called Baggywrinkles right then. There’s a whole messy cloud of potential nautical titles on my first page of sketchbook notes, all crawling over one another like ants, the occasional hopeful circled in darker lines. But as soon as I jotted it down, I realized it was perfect. It’s one of those profoundly bizarre sailing terms that makes no sense at all while managing to be vaguely charming and curiosity-piquing. “What’re those fuzzy things?” is also the most frequently-asked question any sailor will come into contact with when people visit the boat — understandably. I mean, look at this thing:

If that’s hanging five feet above my head, I damn well want to know what the blazes it’s doing up there and whether it’s hungry for lunch. (It’s also interesting and vaguely alarming to note that when I Google image searched “baggywrinkle,” the only listed related search was for “weiner mobile.” At least we know I’ll be attracting a classy audience.)

So, with this dubious and titillating title in hand, I dove in. And I mean really dove in. There was nothing in my life aside from comics for every one of those 5 days. No updates for friends and family, no journal writing to take the edge off, no supplemental reading, no sightseeing in the Northeast, nothing. Just me, the drawing table, a mugful of pens, and a superstar lineup of comics professionals telling me to keep pushing pen to paper. There were rabble-rousing pep talks from Alec Longstreth, inking demos with kick-ass comics veteran Steve Bissette, whirlwind screenprinting technique seminars with the effervescent Jon Chad, and kaleidoscopic spreads of minicomics from Robyn Chapman. And what’s more, their enthusiasm was contagious. I caught the bug, or it caught me. However that works.

The upshot was utter, electric dedication. I came out the other end brandishing a fully-inked, 8-page comic — with plans for a second issue already boiling over in the back of my mind. Of course, there were a couple days there where I didn’t really sleep, and definitely a couple meals that I sort of forgot to eat, but it was more than worth it. The satisfaction and astonishment of seeing what I’d managed to create in such a short period of time were enough to have me dancing with glee all the way back to California.

Because really, if you can create something like that in 5 days, there are no more excuses. All the daunting specters of creative work vanish when you’ve pushed yourself to just charge through them at full speed without stopping because you can’t get an angle or a pose or a word balloon right. It’s like the sensation runners call “hitting the wall.” The ones who know what they’re about generally reach that point and just punch their way through it. When I used to hit that spot, I’d back down and find something else to do, but now? I go at is with my fists. Because I know that whatever’s on the other side is worth fighting for.

Why else would they have stuck it back there in first place?