This month marks my 20th anniversary in comics.
In September of 1996, the first issue of a little comic book series called Cell from a little comic book publisher called Antarctic Press was released in comic book stores with little fanfare. It featured the above painting on its cover, produced with actual crow quill and watercolor instead of photoshop. I was just 22 years old, still a Junior in the Illustration program of the Academy of Art is San Francisco. I dropped out of school as soon as I got this publishing deal, ridiculously eager to start my career in comics. I had no idea what I was diving into. I produced 3 bi-monthly issues, doing everything -- writing, drawing, inking, painting the covers -- and completely burned myself out. During those six months, I rarely went out of the house. I had no free time. I was too young and inexperienced to gauge the workload. I was also too young and inexperienced to know not to start a comic before completing the story. The story was a mess and I had no solid ending in mind, so I discontinued the series after the third issue. My first good decision in my career really, since the comic was terrible. It was a pretty standard dystopian future sci-fi story. And as you can see from the image above, I was also still brainwashed into thinking the lead character of a story had to be white.
All that said, that first issue of Cell holds a very special place in my heart. Although it was a failure as a series, nothing will ever replace the thrill of seeing your first published work. It was a dream come true. There are innumerable other thrilling firsts which come along with your debut book as well. Seeing your comic for the first time solicited in Previews (a catalog for ordering comics), seeing advertisements for your comic inserted into other comics, receiving reader letters... (yes, back then feedback came via letter on actual paper through the mail) None of this stuff ever gets less exciting of course, but it's magnified a thousand fold when it's all happening for the first time.
It's hard to put into words how much the last twenty years in comics have meant to me. From the highest highs to the lowest lows, it's been a crazy 20 year roller coaster. Everything great that's ever happened to me stems from comics somehow. But the people I met along the way is the greatest gift comics has bequeathed me. From amazing fellow artists and writers, to the editors and staff of the various publishers who were kind enough to take a chance on my work, to the incredibly kind, supportive readers...