Page 12 by Matt Fitzwater
We’re getting very near the end, and not to be outdone, this week we see the brilliant and masterful work of Matt FItzwater, the co-creator and artist of Made In USA. I’ve mentioned his work before, and let me tell you that not a single one of the intervening weeks has diminished my enthusiasm for his work in the slightest. Made In USA presents a story that readers of 6-Commando might find familiar, but in a time and place radically different: in the trenches with the American doughboys of the First World War. I really don’t want to say anything else about it for fear I’ll wreck it for you, so I’ll just say that I give it the most enthusiastic endorsement possible and leave you to click over and read it through – you will not regret it!
For my part, I kind of had a freak-out session this week, brought on by a very busy few days in the studio (the professional architectural studio where I work, not, alas, the comic studio where I live). I was going to reserve this for next week when the whole guest comic wrapped up, but t’s been driving me just positively crazy and so I figured why wait, and so I’m just going to lay it out for you right now. I hope you’ll excuse me for this, but I want you to know that this has really been distracting me and that the questions I’m discussing here have really mounted in my mind over the past few weeks, and that this comes from the heart.
Basically, I’ve gotten a very long way this summer with the revisions to 6-Commando, but not nearly as far as I wanted to, or thought I would. In essence, I’ve ended up re-drawing practically every line of the first chapter, which is not really an effective or efficient use of time, however satisfying the whole thing has been for me as an artistic exercise. So I came to the crisis this week, and began to seriously consider rebooting the whole comic and starting from Chapter 1 all over again.
I’ve been feeling a bit down about my prospects in comic bookery lately. None of you are responsible for this, mind you – everyone who has been posting here and following this comic over the past three years has been seriously and consistently supportive as I’ve been going through the throes of taking this from what was, in the beginning, kind of an experiment about whether I could even get far enough into a project like this to commit to doing it every week. Then, before I knew it, I had readers, and then I passed the 100-page mark, and then people began emailing me about “how to get started in comics,” which really, I have to tell you, still confuses me because the Almighty alone knows how I got started in this in the first place.
But on the other hand, I’m not really any closer to my secondary goal of printing a book that’s actually worth printing, and I have been feeling, recently, whether this is justified or not, that my work is just not going to be taken seriously unless I put it in print, in a form that in some way measures up to the “going rate” of comic art. I’ve had some rather sharp critics refer to my work as “weird-looking” and “not worth bothering with,” and I have also had a string of consecutive disappointments geting into conventions and other public shows, which have really gotten me down. I admit that, it got me down. I’m generally a really optimistic and upbeat person, and it takes an awful lot to get me down, but this time it just did, and it made me have some very serious doubts about the whole thing. I know I’m not supposed to seek approval, and that “we artists” should do this just for ourselves, but anyone who’s honest with themselves will tell you that that’s bollocks, and that it does matter. A lot. Writing a book is a huge undertaking, and you don’t do it to put it under the proverbial bushel basket, you do it to have your work seen and appreciated, and when it seems like people who “matter” don’t think you’re worth the time, well, it gets you down, simple as that.
To some extent I know this is the trap of self-criticism and comparison to others; but in my heart of hearts I don’t feel like the first chapter and a half really measure up to what I want them to be in terms of the artwork, and that I can make them much better. To do that would require me to really seriously get into the excruciating minutiae of every singe artistic decision I’ve made so far with this story, and as I work about 12 hours a day on my best days, there’s really only time in the week for me to do one, maybe one and a half pages each week. I’ve tried it every way I can, and that’s really just my limit. So it’s essentially a choice between going for the “real thing” and starting the whole story over, or banking what I’ve got and forging ahead for the sake of the story, and the readers I already have.
I’ve been vacillating wildly on this over the past few weeks. One minute I lean towards wiping the slate clean and starting over, the next I feel like that’s just foolish and wasteful. On the one hand I feel like I’ve come so far I shouldn’t turn back, the next I think my only chance of ever really being taken seriously (whatever that means) is to go back to square one and do it “right.” This may seem like a really silly thing to obsess over, but I’ve committed an awful lot of time and effort to drawing this comic, and every time I sit down to it I really make my best effort to make that page, that I’m working on at the moment, the best page I possibly know how to draw. And if I take this to print, I want, also, to know that what I’m sending to the press is absolutely the best that I know how to make.
In the end, though, I have had to admit to myself and to everyone else here that my first duty has to be to the story and to the readers. You have all been very patient and very supportive, and you are what has made it possible for me to sit in my studio for hours on end every week, to say “no” to so many opportunities in order to have the time and space to work on this project instead. And to go back to page one, however much it might satisfy my urge for perfection, would mean a negation of all that effort so far, and would in a sense also mean throwing out all that effort you’ve made so far to support and comment and help shape my view of my own work. I’m not, at this point, willing to delay the whole story for another year (my current estimate of what a full revision would require), just to stroke my own conscience about how good I think I’ve gotten at drawing since 2009, or to impress people who “matter.” The only people who really matter are the people who WANT to read this story every week, and me.
So with that in mind, I am, with vast reluctance, bringing my experiment in revising this story to an end, and postponing the printing of 6-Commando indefinitely. Instead, I’m spending the remainder of my hiatus working on preparation for the launch of Chapter 4, which will begin on Monday, October 1, 2012.
I don’t think the past few weeks have been wasted at all. It has been excellent practice, and has really gotten all my work sharp and on mark, and I feel ready to tackle Chapter 4. I think that you’re going to like Season II of this story, as well – in fact, I think that if you liked Season I at all, then Season II will knock your socks off. So that’s my decision.
I really appreciate everyone sticking with this comic through my little crisis here, and I thank you all for your comments and words of encouragement. A good audience is of the first importance to a writer, especially in this relatively new medium of webcomics that I’m experimenting with here. You are all really the ones who make it possible for me to do this, and I think it would be very hard for me to overestimate your importance to my work.
So with that I say thank you, see you next week for the conclusion of “No Good Deed,” and then, I’ll see you in October for the start of Season II!