LIKE MAKING COMICS ABOUT ARCHITECTURE
I came across this entry on Paul Pope's blog about the plight of the modern cartoonist in need of a photocopier, and it made me laugh. I think anyone working as a freelancer in comics will relate to this tale. It's so frighteningly universal, there is even a Kinko's encounter in The Everlasting, when Lance has a run-in with a shoe-obsessed nutjob.
That little scene in the book is actually based on real life. It was an encounter I had, written as best as I could remember it. For years, Oni Press didn't have its own photocopier, and James Lucas Jones and I would make daily trips to the Kinko's on 2nd Avenue in Downtown Portland. I was there so much, I could operate the machines better than most of the people who worked there. At one point I was so frustrated with a copier I couldn't get to work right, an employee was sent over to timidly ask me if I needed to take a break and step outside. I had been doing air punches and mock kicks in the machine's direction, and they were afraid I would end up following through and breaking it.
The worst guys in a photocopy place are always the construction dudes using the blueprint machine. For one, it takes a long time to run the prints through, and so they have a lot of time to look around. For two, they are fascinated by how things are put together, and to them, comic book pages are a bizarre combination of construction and the ephemeral elements of art that often elude people who work with their hands. (I say this as the respectful son of a carpenter, and I spent many a summer out on job sites, complaining that the specific elements of workign with one's hands eluded my ephemeral brain.) Imagine not being Paul Pope, imagine being Jamie Rich and you're not the guy who drew what you were photocopying. I then had to explain what being an editor meant. It's a job that baffles comic book fans, so it really perplexes the layman.
There were times when I just lied and said I did draw the pages, but that was a tactic fraught with danger. Blueprint guys invariably needed something drawn for themselves or they had a friend who had some kind of illustration job that needed to be filled. I think once we almost got Steve Lieber a gig drawing someone's company newsletter, until Steve informed them that illustrators actually get paid for commercial work. A freelance artist can get out of any awkward professional negotiation with amateurs by bringing money into the picture.
I know there are other places that creative people go to for either practical means or looking for some kind of work space that are also dangerous. I often get bothered in bars if I try to write in my notebook, and while it's pretty commonplace to be seen in a coffee shop with a laptop, I know plenty of cartoonists who get people peering over their shoulders or get chatted up by creepy boy baristas who read comics. If I'm proofreading a large manuscript, like the aforementioned The Everlasting, that tends to invite inquiries, as well.
Parents can be troublesome people to meet for the artistic professional. Mothers have no problem telling you how good their children are, even though there is actually something insulting about comparing the efforts of a ten-year-old to that of a seasoned pro. I wonder if they ever tell a blueprint guy that their offspring is particularly adept with Lincoln Logs and expect him to nod along as if impressed? In the old days, Dark Horse used to make us put stickers in the back of our cars to show that we could park in their tiny parking lot. This was way back in 1994, because I only had a car for about the first six months I worked there. In Oregon, it's against the law for drivers to pump their own gas. If you've ever wondered how politicians create jobs, this is one of the ways. Being fresh from California, it made me uncomfortable to sit in my car while someone else filled it up, so I'd get out and stand around and hope that the guy wouldn't chat with me, because then we'd have a clash of things that make me uncomfortable. Well, I don't think I'd had that sticker for more than a week before the dude pumping my gas was telling me how his kid loved to draw and maybe I could get him in at Dark Horse. I suddenly got real comfortable with staying in my vehicle.
Current Soundtrack: Paul Weller, Catch-Flame!
Current Mood: amused
All text (c) 2006 Jamie S. Rich