Well, those of you who are long-time readers – yeah, like I have any of those! – or have known me for more that ten minutes, will know of my somewhat eccentric upbringing and untrusting relationship with my father.
Ah, my dad:
The man who taught me Mumbly Peg – a “game” where opponents throw a knife at each others feet – at the tender age of six.
The man who is solely and directly responsible for my crippling fear of heights.
The man whose idea of an April Fool’s joke was to tie me to my bed in the middle of the night and wake me up in the morning by dripping water on my head. In China, I believe that’s called torture.
I could go on for hours.
Anyway, over the past several years, my father and I have grown closer and have started having actual adult conversations. It may have something to do with the fact that I moved a hundred and fifty miles from home, close to ten years ago.
We’ve compared favorite movies and argued over who has better taste in cinema. (It’s me, by the way.) We’ve talked about my job working customer service in a small urban library that’s located next door to a home for the mentally ill. We’ve discussed my books and my attempts to get them published. I’ve explained to him how I write a script: act breaks, action beats, character arcs, plot points, realistic dialogue.
So I called my dad last night, as I usually do on my day off, to tell him that I just received a couple of new pages from Dave, my artist on Punch-Up. I described to him how amazing they looked and then relayed a conversation between Dave and I from the previous night, where I said that these new pages looked so good that I hated to cover them up with my ugly words and asked if it was too late to make Punch-Up a completely silent book. Dave and I had the same thought at the same time.
Why couldn’t we do a completely silent book together? It would challenge me, as a writer, to come up with a story that can keep the reader’s interest, without any dialogue, caption boxes or thought balloons. And it would strengthen Dave, as an artist, to have to carry the weight of the story through action, facial expressions and hand gestures.
“So what are you going to do?” my dad asked.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“If Dave’s going to draw the book – and there’s not going to be any words – there’s not going to be anything for you to do.”
“Well,” I said. “I still have to write the script, you know. Even if there’s no dialogue, I still have to write plot and panel descriptions and all.”
“Oh.” my dad said.
“What do you mean, ‘oh’?”
“Nothing,” he started. “I just thought you put the words in the little balloons.”
Ninety percent of the time, whenever I tell people who aren’t in the comic industry that I write comics and graphic novels, I get the same response: “So you’re the guy who puts words in those little balloons?”
As you can no doubt imagine, this pisses me off to no end; almost as much as it pisses me off when I tell people that I work in a library and they ask “So you just sit around and read books all day?”
For the first time in my life, I thought my dad got me. I thought he finally understood who I am and what I’m trying to do with my life.
But, just like every March 31st, when I thought that maybe this I wouldn’t wake up tied to my bed, maybe this year the outside handle of my bedroom door wouldn’t be tied to the outside handle of my sister’s bedroom door, so that neither of us would be able to open our doors when we pulled on the handles, I was wrong.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go put words in little balloons and cry myself to sleep.
Working for the weekend (and to pay off my massive therapy bills),