2017: A New Kind of Review

One of the little, goofy, things I used to do over the course of every year since about 1997 is scour the papers for the ridiculous or weird, and take notes.  I would then write a fairly long, sarcastic look back at the absurdity of the previous year’s events.  Until last November 8, that is.

Suddenly, writing about people making fools of themselves, ultimately for my twisted amusement, lost appeal.

Fools were no longer the anomaly in the news, they were making the news.

They were electing “leaders” to spread a visceral and ugly bigotry and elitism, to their own ironic detriment.

When the face of our country speaks, and it’s less Toby Ziegler than Toby Kieth (on a good day, that is), it’s difficult to find humor in small moments of absurdity.

The days are just one long trip through a Dante construct.

Perhaps I will return to those ICRVN Year In Review posts some day.  Perhaps not.  Sometimes when writing the reviews, I wondered if they were too nasty.  After all, I was using the actions of people for the purposes of comedy.  I’m no Dave Barry, and my contempt for some people (especially the tiki-torch-and-khaki set) cannot be hidden.

Instead of the once-usual sarcasm, here are some general comments about this past year, a wrap up of things that I want to point out…in no particular order.

It goes without saying that my wife and Kidlet are always there, through thick or thin, times both good or bad.  It’s not always the easiest, but there is a reason our little corner of insanity is referred to as a family production.

Every year…hell, every day…I go through a period of self-doubt that makes me wonder if I did the right thing, writing that first Shakes book.  The first book was a whim of an idea.  Following it through to the end meant choosing writing and drawing, which I had never really done before, instead of finding a job after my layoff.

Two Kickstarter campaigns, three years, and seven books later, I still worry I’ve made life for my family hell for choosing to chase a dream instead of chasing a stable job.  Unfortunately, I have to do both because while we need money to survive…I cannot imagine doing anything other than creating books.

It’s a delicate, life-affecting tightrope act.

And I’m not alone.

Fellow creators like Tom King, John Gallagher, Eryk Donovan, Erica Schultz, and Amy Chu.  Like Drew Moss, Kevin Cuffe, Bob Frantz, Tara O’Connor, and Shing Yin Khor.  Like Corinna Bechko, Jamar Nicholas, Mark Mariano, Dawn Griffin, and Christy Blanch: folks who write or draw to create books and art that delight people of all ages, less concerned with obtaining fame than telling stories.

Friends, all of them.  And dozens more.  A community of creators who work as everything from teachers to zoologists, but for whom putting pen to paper and letting ink flow to create worlds to delight and enthrall us.  A community that we consider family, and are very lucky to have us as a part of their ranks.

Every time things seem dark, there’s always a fellow creator ready to listen, ready to talk, ready to help.  And, as a testament to the breadth of the community, it’s almost never the same person twice.

It’s an amazing community, and we are thankful for it every day.  They are part of the fuel that helps me going.

That community is also made stronger by the fans who support us with even the smallest purchase, or shared post, and even former customers who look for me, even though it’s been years since I sold them their comics.

A specific subset of folks, my Patrons, need a special acknowledgement.  They very generously give a few dollars every month to help me work closer to achieving the ultimate goal of being a full-time writer and artist.

There is also a young girl out there to thank.  This year at Baltimore, Alice came to our table, and her mother bought her a copy of TEMPLE OF MOO’D.  While they were looking at everything on our table, Alice’s mother explained that Alice had insisted that I was to be their first stop…the first table they came to after entering the convention.  Combine them with the handful of repeat customers this year from last, and I have a very small, but apparently loyal fan base, of whom I am grateful.

There are other things that helped make this weird dumpster-fire of a year bearable, things that were little moments for me but major events for the people involved:

Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ MISTER MIRACLE comic book, which brilliantly merged Jack Kirby’s crazy Fourth World with very real issues of marriage and depression.

Young Ivey, a Wonder-Pig-loving girl, and Mary-Beth, a cow-and-pun obsessed cosplayer, both of whom gave us some great pictures and memories from an otherwise difficult showing at Heroes.

The TELLOS two-part anthology, written by Todd Dezago with dozens of amazing artists, including my friend Matt Wieringo, all to honor Matt’s late brother Mike.

The entertaining genre films WONDER WOMAN and STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI, which cemented the place of women and people of color to the forefront of modern adventure films, and giving little girls an invitation to be their own rescuers.

The Scottish band Dead Man Fall, whom I stumbled upon by accident, ending up with an anthem that suits myself and all of the writers and artists out there struggling with building their audience, BANG YOUR DRUM.

The teachers and staff at Kidlet’s new school, for making the transition to a new environment smooth enough to not only help her adapt, but make honor roll in the first quarter!

Watching the general comic-reading public discover folks like Tom King and Tara O’Connor, turning amazingly talented creators and friends into stars.  It’s both gratifying and encouraging to see good folks’ years of hard work pay off – they definitely deserve their success.

Lego’s WOMEN OF NASA set, which was both fun to build, and important to have, and just as important to give to the Kidlet for Christmas.

Baltimore Comic Con, not just for letting me be a guest (and constantly convinced they’d realize their error at some point), but for creating the RINGO awards, honoring the aforementioned Mike Wieringo.

Hoyt Silva, Francesco Francavilla, Laura Martin, and Janet Lee, who created some amazing art for my wife and Kidlet to give me for Father’s Day.

Oh…and one more thing I am happy about this year:  my apparent ability to not pee myself when talking with people I have admired and idolized for much of my life.  (Going along with that is a thank you to Jerry Ordway, Walter Simonson, and especially Louise Simonson, for being such lovely people and hopefully not thinking me a complete goober.)

And, of course…thank you.  For checking in occasionally, or following along throughout, no matter if 2017 was an amazing year for you, or if it was a struggle, I genuinely hope 2018 is better for us all.

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

~ R

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