Thursday, May 29

What I Can Do

The May 24 murders at the University of California-Santa Barbara amplified a online conversation about jerks, specifically misogynistic jerks. Months before the YesAllWomen tag erupted on Twitter, NotAllMen was a common refrain on Tumblr. This dialogue predates Tumblr, Twitter, the internet, and everyone who reads this.

As part of that now much larger conversation, I read two articles in particular this week, both from men who spoke on their notions about the killer's mindset.

First was this commentary from Luke O'Neil, an online Esquire contributor:
The problem is, the idea of unrequited love isn't just a recurring motif for Gibbard and company, one of the more popular, supposedly introspective and thoughtful indie rock bands of the era. It's practically the entire basis of popular music as we know it. This song in particular is extreme in its description of a spurned lover standing outside the window of the object of his affection, but it's a piece of a vast spectrum of the glorification of obsessive heartbreak that informs the way we think about love, and is certainly a part of the world in which Rodger's twisted outlook was formed. ...
No one is to blame for these killings but Rodger. But when the entire basis of our collective cultural entertainment industry reinforces the idea that love is worth dying for, or committing desperate acts over, and the absence of love is akin to living in hell, it's hard not to understand why young people might feel unmoored and disconnected from the rest of us who all seem to be in on a secret world that has yet to reveal itself to them.

Two things:

1) That bold is original to the article, and it serves a sneaky purpose. It underscores what the author/editor wants you to bear in mind as you read what follows. It's the floating green wizard head. What does follow, however, is the guy behind the curtain: But. That but is where a writer needs to step away from the keyboard and take a long walk. Consideration must be paid before you continue that thought. Because what is about to happen is something from which no good can come. It seeks to distribute accountability, and it yoinks the rug out from under the bold sentence. It's an on-ramp to a bad idea.

2) That bad idea is that sad songs killed people. Sad songs. I was old enough to see the growth of the Parents Music Resource Center and Congressional testimony from musicians called to defend their lyrics following teen suicides. Parental advisory labels followed, a ratings system for consumers which lead directly, for instance, to the "clean" and "explicit" versions of songs on iTunes. I'm also old enough to remember when Dungeons & Dragons threatened kids, as dramatized by a very early Tom Hanks movie. 

And before that, rock and roll. And before that, comic books. And so on. We must suss out the cause. We must save ourselves. When the killer has died before we can punish him (and it's usually a him), we must instead look elsewhere to vent our disdain.

The second commentary that caught the eye of many was by recent Jeopardy! champion Arthur Chu. His angle hinges on common ideas with the killer and nerd culture. It's not much different than the above Esquire column, but Chu cites a secondary tier of pervasive love stories: the victorious beta male. Whereas the sad songs and fairy tales regale us with knights and heroes earning the love of the fair maiden via derring-do, nerd love stories see the protagonist get the girl by being a better person. It's the guy version of "One Day My Prince Will Come." Chu says that when a nerd is denied by the object of his delights -- or worse he's exiled to the friend zone -- he can turn. Nerd jerks are nerds who blame women for not playing into the formula of the nerd ballad.

Chu, speaking from a nerd angle, implies that nerds have a monopoly on jerk behavior. I disagree.

In my first column for the Asheville Grit, I wrote up a list for newbie con attendees. This was number five:
Speaking of saying no, jerk behavior is not allowed. You may see skimpy costumes. Mind your manners. Some conventions have clear rules about what they’ll allow for costumes, so you’re not likely to see something truly scandalous. If others can’t mind their manners about your costume, inform the convention staff immediately.
Because the column was meant for people who had never attended a convention before, it wasn't aimed at just at my people. It was for everyone who might attend, people largely outside the sphere of geek culture.

As a teenager who played D&D and hid labeled albums and mooned over girls while listening to sad songs and is/was/forever shall be a nerd, and as a man who is twice married and now a father, I can tell you that I've moved through enough subcultures, and some supercultures, to observe that jerk behavior has no default demographic. Jerks is jerks.

Chu and O'Neil are admirably looking at their tribesman to see how their avocations can turn ugly. Introspection is healthy. We seek order from chaos and sense from senseless acts. Perhaps, by addressing the damaged tiles in separate segments, we can change the entire mosaic.

But talking within our cliques --  As Chu writes: So, a question, to my fellow male nerds: What the fuck is wrong with us? -- works only if every demographic participates in such a discussion. Postulating that the root of such evil is specific to a certain demographic absolves others from self-assessment. If it's a sad-song problem, we don't have to worry about other genres. If it's a nerd problem, the other subgroups can let those nerds handle it internally.

But jerkdom is pandemic. The urges are universal, the external reactions to them is not. I've certainly felt the anger and frustration of being denied what I objectified. Sometimes it was people, sometimes it was actual objects. I remember a fraction of the total jerk behavior I'm sure I exhibited. I'm still tempted to apologize to people online for what I did and said years ago. It's not to appear noble; it's to shut up the dusty shame in my head.

This killer --  and all those who came before -- surpassed the median jerk behavior. He wrecked the curve. But we cannot perceive his actions as so far beyond ours in focus and energy that our own jerk behavior seems almost acceptable by comparison. He clearly committed smaller but no less hateful actions before Saturday. What he did, whatever the motivation, began with steps along a progression of bad logic and expectations. It's the gravity well of those expectations that can easily suck us in. It's the hard foundation of such logic that can grant the illusion of sure footing.

I have a son. He's very young yet. Just this Monday, we were at dinner when he announced that woman can't be police officers. Wait, I said, you know that's not true. One of his favorite cartoons sees a virus strike men worldwide, and a city in flames is salvaged by female cops and EMTs and firefighters. I brought up the cartoon on Netflix and showed him the scenes. I pointed to a picture on the wall of his mother and I saying our vows before a female judge. I asked him if he understood. The next time he watched that cartoon, he announced "women can be police officers." Yep.

I don't know where he got that idea. Daycare maybe. Probably a classmate. Doesn't matter. It's my job to set him straight when I hear him assert something wrong. It's gonna be him and me against a world of wrong ideas and people who refuse to admit they're wrong when confronted on their bad assertions, logic, and expectations.

That's what I can do as a dad and a fellow nerd and a fellow man. Thin the jerk herd. Because we've once again seen what can happen from jerks who aren't set straight.

Monday, May 19

SC Comicon: The Recap

That was a show.

From what I heard, the lines for tickets stretched out the door all day Saturday, and Sunday's attendance was comparable. I am exhausted, and part of that is on me.

I live about an hour and 20 minutes way from the convention, and I decided I could drive there and back each day to save on hotel rooms. I knew the route well; it's the same drive I made while wooing my missus. Granted, that was ten years ago, and I didn't make that drive four times in two days. In addition to the normal crash after a show, my body was shot from sitting and drawing for six to eight hours and sitting and driving for another six.

But the show itself was a joy. The folks were happy to have a local convention after years of waiting, and people who had never been to a convention seemed delighted with what they found. I did big business, to be frank, and people appeared happy with the commissions. As usual I offered wallet-size art cards and some larger size options. But this time I also had prints and trade, and they did pretty well. I certainly can't complain about the business. People came to shop.

You can see my Flickr pics of the show here.

I also used phone chargers for the first time, and they saved my bacon. I bought Duracell Instant USB Chargers, and they gave me at least half a charge on my phone, more than enough to get through the end of the convention day. I could connect to Square and Google reference pics for commissions the whole day.

Amazon offers two for $19. Warning; The wire that charges the battery may not fit your phone so use the phone's USB wire to connect to the charger. Check the compatibility list. They work with my Motorola.

I also suggest you take your own snacks and water instead of relying on the convention concessions. And keep a small bag for trash behind your table. You never know.

I'm already planning to go back next year. It went that well.

Tuesday, May 13

SC Comicon is This Weekend

I will be at the inaugural SC Comicon this weekend at Greenville's TD Convention Center. It's Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 a day or $15 for both days. Kids under 12 get in free with a paying adult.

I will have a selection of prints (Walking Dead, Captain Marvel, horror, and Doctor Who) and will be doing commissions on site for these prices

11 x 17 - $30 (Color $35)
8.5 X 11 - $20 (Color $25)
8.5 X 5.5- $10 (Color $15)
wallet size - $3 ($5 color)

I will also be selling my trade collection of HEROES OF SINCLAIR comics.

Find me at table 435 near the center intersection.

Monday, May 5

Free Comic Book Day 2014

I hoped to post a collection of photos from throughout the day, but the demand for free comics and free sketches prevented that. Tangled Web of Spartanburg was slammed from 11-7, and I managed but a few photos between art requests. I got to the store at 10:30 to set up and met the other three artists sitting in for the day, including my buddy Chuck Hart. We were told the store was about to open, open it did, and the rst of the day was a blur. I stood up maybe three times before 6:45.

I am not complaining. What else would I rather be doing. Sketching characters for kids and eager adults? This is best in life, Conan. How many did I do? Here's the list, in order of request:

Red Hood
Harley Quinn
Kaylee from Firefly
Adam Warlock
Harley Quinn
Harley Quinn
Captain America
Kitty Pryde
V for Vendetta
Sora from Kingdom Hearts (had to Google that one)
Barbara Gordon in the wheelchair
Scarlet Witch
Ms. Marvel (the new one)
Mandalorian Batman (I think this was a dare)
Harley Quinn
Silk Spectre
Mega Man
Black panther
Captain America
Kitty Pryde
My Little Pony Pinky Pie
Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy
Finn from Adventure Time
Captain America
Harley Quinn
Dr. Who 10
Shang Chi
Dr. Doom
Iron Man
Martin Freeman
Wonder Woman
DragonBall Z guy

I count 74 names. And I really enjoyed my time.

I did manage a few pictures.

 This was my first sketch of the day, done for a store employee before the store opened.

 This was drawn from an image on a customer's phone.

These were done at home. I asked folks if they had a pull list at the store. if so, I could move their requests to the end of the day and put the sketches with next week's comics. It reduced their wait and those of people walking into a comic store for the first time. But the drawing went right up to the time the store closed, and I finished these at home on Sunday. I really like the Kitty Pryde drawing. I did all of the sketches in Sharpie, and I may never go back to Micron pens. I was definitely a better artist after seven hours of drawing.

The store was cleaned out of the free comics and some back stock from previous years and events. It was a massive success.

Friday, May 2

My First Trade

It's here.

HEROES OF SINCLAIR is the collection of the hero comics I started in 2010.

When I made the first isssue, I didn't expect it would extend much further than the back cover, but I had some ideas, and I enjoyed making the comic, and I pursued it. Now it's four years later, and it's six issues later, and it's got a forward by Pat Loika and everything. The trade features updated art and behind-the-scenes material (For instance, that's The Countess as the lead heroine on the cover.).

You can get a copy at my store site, Robot Wonderboy in print or PDF form.

I'll be over here shaking my head in amazement.