Poplife: Issue #41

Thu, November 21st, 2002 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Matt Fraction, Columnist

LUCKY 87

POPLIFE is a collection of excerpts from my work journal. There is no specific form or function the column serves other than to allow the reader to see what my experience in my first year as a comics-writer is like. Some weeks I get work done, so I talk about work. Some weeks I don't get any work done, so I ramble incoherently. POPLIFE's purpose is to provide a glimpse behind the curtain of my specific process.

There's a gaggle of fresh-eyed, fresh-souled art kids about to descend on our office. They're sophomores at MK12's collective alma mater and are doing some sort of field trip day around town to various art spots-- galleries, studios, shit like that.

Somehow, our office is on that list of places.

Being responsible, self-employed adults, we did what we had to do, of course: dropped everything and cleaned up. Timmy, who's been struggling with a wet, hacking cough for a few weeks now was out this morning at the doctors. So we kept piling more and more crap at his station, hoping he wouldn't show up in time and there would be six immaculately organized stations and then, you know, Pig Pen's house. Alas he showed up. We'd have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that damned Timmy.

The best moment of cleaning the office came when Timmy pulled a t-shirt out from under his desk-- wrinkled up in a ball, living down there amongst the dust bunnies for who knows how long-- and holds it up, saying "Oh, hey, I have a whole new…" sort of trailing off at the end while admiring his whole new shirt.

Shaun and I caught it, looked at each other, and lost it.

So there are kids that will be here. Nine years ago, I was where they are-- hell, aside from Shaun who's not been in college since before the Civil War, we all were. And while it occurs to me that I would've been the type of student to skip field trips entirely (especially like this one), the attendant irony of being a part of a dog and pony show like this today doesn't escape me. I never actually graduated. They never teach you the most vital bits anyway-contracts to protect your work and your right to payment, invoicing, making spreadsheets, designing and maintaining a production pipeline, whatever. I noticed one day in film school that we'd read all the chapters on how to produce a film except for the two that dealt with raising money, securing funds, renting equipment, and getting insurance. You know. Only the how to actually MAKE-make a movie stuff.

We've been written up in the local paper a few times, which while kind and flattering and all that goes with seeing your face in the Sunday paper, is nevertheless surreal and overwhelming. Peter "Artbomb" Rose and his lovely wife Grace came out here visiting the last time the paper covered us. My point: the paper never fails to label us all as graduates. I always write to the paper's ombudsman or corrections dude or whoever it is and address this accidental embellishing of my personal career. As far as I can tell ours is an industry where people really do check your resumes, and regardless of how happy it makes my mom to read, I don't want a bogus degree to bite us later.

And also, truth be told, I'm sorta proud that I walked. Fuck school.

Anyway. Kids file in and wait for us to bore them to sleep like every other boring-ass adult bores them to sleep. Little Punk Rock Fraction grows up to become a substitute teacher: another strange moment of actually seeing your demographic shift a little further on down the line. Something subtle moves around the edges and as you look away to see what it was, you've grown a cable-knit turtleneck and a mortgage by the time you look back. Doesn't matter. Try telling a room full of snotty eighteen year olds about your cred after you've just shown them the work you did for TOTAL REQUEST LIVE. One day paying rent means you've compromised. Had a teacher that once told me that everything was a compromise and I laughed at him. That was before I had to pay rent.

And yet, it was also before I had met or married my hot wife, so, you know-- what's worth more?

I noticed something the other day. I don't seem to break and enter stuff nearly as much as I used to. Hell, I hardly ever sneak in to anywhere anymore. It wasn't a conscious thing that happened, it wasn't a proactive decision to change my life for any particular reason; it simply became something that didn't happen anymore. There was a time when creeping was just sorta what we did, what we always would end up doing somehow. It was inevitable and assured: we could always rely on the fact that at some point during any given time spent together, we would go somewhere we weren't supposed to go, we would open a door that was supposed to be kept closed, and we'd generally be loitering with grins that dads don't want to see and all of

the wrong intentions. Just, you know, being kids. We just happened to be kids who always ended up trespassing places. And knowing that it was coming-- that there would be a definite moment where things went illegal and dumb and dangerous and maybe even risky-- was a bigger charge than when it actually came, if that makes sense. I used to have a raccoon's jawbone I found somewhere once. Kept it like a lucky charm.

There's a car buried inside our building somewhere. We're housed in what used to be a hotel, brothel, and ultimately a flophouse right by old Union Station. Union Station, where five died and two were wounded (maybe three, depending

on your Pretty Boy Floyd school of thinking) in a botched prison transfer

that later became dubbed The Kansas City Massacre; Union Station that was

Hemmingway¹s beat as a young reporter, and where nearly all American GI¹s in the second world war were shipped through to or from the war. There's a catacomb of cheap mattresses above us through doors poorly hammered shut and locks easily dissuaded from doing their jobs. Strange magazines and the occasional article of clothing, old gin ghosts crawling up the walls. It's like David Fincher designed Barbie's dream house. Down and around and through the still-shut down parts of our building is the car. There's a bullet hole in the upholstery of the back seat. I've never opened the trunk, but I think I will tomorrow.

Darin's going to Taiwan tomorrow. He's going to be teaching the children of Taiwan to speak English. Darin knows very little about Taiwan other than the idea of him being there teaching Taiwanese children to speak English appealed to him very much and so, you know, that's his thing now. Darin has had, to date, somewhere in the neighborhood of 86 jobs in his 27 years-- some held for only a matter of hours. And now, after mentoring kids with problems for a few years and scratching at the door of what comes next, he's become an International Adult and has gone head-on into the big blank pages of what comes next. He's kind of my hero.

He'll be gone for a year. Darin has joked about naming the kids in his class after the various different states of the union. Whenever I think of a tiny little armada of Taiwanese children parroting bits of Pidgin English double-dipped in Darin's strange, singsong Southern lilt, I smile. I like that one of us is out there remaking the world in at least one of our images. It feels like victory enough, for International Adults everywhere.

And speaking of bits of Pidgin English, THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH! was solicited in last month's PREVIEWS. It's 96 pages of Rex Mantooth Awesomenicity, available for advanced reorder now with the following magic number: OCT022287. It's $12.95, and whoops the shit out of other annotated monkey comic collections, by god.

SPECIAL WARNING FOR THOSE THAT HEEDED LAST WEEK'S SPECIAL BONUS FOR ANTI-GLOBALIZATIONERISTAS LOOKING TO STICK IT TO BIG BUSINESS: Somehow, big chain book store ordering is even more fucked up than the Direct Market -- so if you did as implored and ordered fifty copies from Borders under the auspices of conducting either a class or a book club only to later shaft Borders for the books thinking that the books were paid for already anyway and we'd all get rich, CANCEL THE ORDER. It won't work, no sir, not at all.

BRAND NEW SPECIAL BONUS FOR ANTIGLOBALIZATIONERISTAS LOOKING TO STICK IT TO BIG BUSINESS: hell, I dunno, bust up a Starbucks or something.

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