“You start by imitating others, there is lack of clarity, there are many reasons to fail. But there is a seed that slowly grows.” - Octavio Paz
When I was thirteen years old I went from drawing one page comics to making my own comic book. My stories were about the adventures of a martian named Green Cheese. I titled my comic Green Cheese Magazine. I drew a couple of one page stories and one longer story. One of the one pagers was a continuing story. I also wrote a fact page about space exploration. Finally, I added a contents page and a cover. The covers were simple affairs. I spent the least amount of time on those. I drew a rocket ship logo in the corner with the name of my imaginary comic book company, Galaxy Comics. I wrote the title and drew in a headshot and some spaceships. I did this all in pencil on notebook paper. Once I had enough for one issue, I put the pages in order and stapled them down the side. When I was done I got started on the next issue. I did this for one year and two months. I made fourteen issues.
In hindsight I realize that I based the design of my comic book on the Scholastic magazines I was reading at the time. I have really fond memories of the Scholastic Book Club at school. I bought my first paperbacks through that book club. I also bought the Scholastic magazine, Dynamite, regularly. Each issue had a combination of articles, jokes, games, and comic strips. My favorite section was titled Superheroes Confidential which presented the origins of Marvel and DC superheroes in two pages of comics and a fact page. The covers featured characters from popular television shows.
I still have every issue of Green Cheese Magazine. I went through them all recently and it brought back a lot of memories. The first thing I noticed was the huge influence television had on my storytelling. In the fifth issue I have a story titled “The Six Million Dollar Martian.” The sixth issue has a page of Martian ship designs all with Enterprise like nacelles from Star Trek. In the eighth issue I have a story titled “The Planet Eater” based on the Star Trek episode “The Doomsday Machine.” In another issue I have a story titled “The Space Station Z-1 Catastrophe” based on the first episode of Space: 1999.
My magazine went through some changes. My space exploration fact page became a joke page. That's right, from serious to silly. To me they were both important. I didn’t come up with my own jokes. I copied them from joke books and comic strips. I always added a credit though! When I tired of that I switched to a comic strip page. I cut out my favorite strips from the newspaper and taped or glued them on a page. I was looking for ways to keep the page count up and to make sure I got an issue completed every month.
I’ve often looked back at this time in my life fondly. But in flipping through all fourteen issues recently something struck me, something that I hadn’t remembered before. Progression. As I put out out more and more issues I tried new things. I included a fold out poster in one issue. Another issue was a special all-color issue written in drawn in colored pencils. The biggest progression was in my art. I tried drawing new angles. I started added more details to panels. In one of the last stories I tried to put in as much detail in every single panel, including a full page battle scene. Nobody was pushing me to do this. I did it on my own.
I have yet to match this kind of creative output. Obviously I had a lot more free time as a kid but I had also had a stronger desire to create regularly. The closest I’ve come is this blog. I’ve been posting now for nine months. As I write this I realize that having some kind of schedule, some kind of deadline, even if it’s self-imposed, really goes a long way in getting creative things done. Next: The Tiger Notebook