I Think About Endings

Sometimes, late at night, I let my mind wander to places I avoid during the day. To different lifetimes, full of different ways of thinking and mistakes not yet to be made. Lessons not yet to be learned. I think about beginnings…and I think about endings.

It’s easy to spot where things begin, but I’ve found it’s often difficult to recognize when they’ve ended. To pinpoint that exact moment in time when realization sets in and the colors, textures and sounds of your life come crashing down on you, leaving you with unseen bruises that keep you up at night. The mind combs its memories, looking for the conversation, the action, the lack of response that marks the end of what came before, but it blurs like paint on canvas. There were too many actions, too many conversations, too many words offered up in preparation. You can’t settle on just one.

Does that mean it isn’t over? Does that mean that the door remains cracked and unlocked, beckoning you open and reenter? Does that previous life, even now, invite you to once again step within its comfortable embrace, reminding you of how much you have put into it and promising that it’s not too late to bring what you couldn’t bring to the party before?


Because then you remember. Then you grasp on to the moment. It wasn’t a conversation. It wasn’t an unreturned kiss or smile. It wasn’t a moment of infidelity or announcement of someone new. None of those were the end. The end was when you came to her house afterwards and realized your toothbrush, the one that she had gotten for you to use when you came over, was gone.

The door is shut, so we look wistfully at its frame and the warm light that seeps through the windows around it, and we turn and move on into the night.

An Unexpected Look at 9/11

I sometimes wonder if 9/11 was indirectly responsible for my comic book career. It sounds strange and I absolutely mean no disrespect to any of the people who lost loved ones in the tragedy. But it’s hard not to acknowledge the fact that my life may have been completely different if not for 9/11.

At the time of the attack, I was working for a company called JPI Design, which was an entertainment design and architecture firm in Ontario, California. I was their staff writer, responsible for drafting up everything from press releases to trade articles to scripts for the various theme park rides and attractions they developed. It was a very different job to what I’m doing now, but I enjoyed it and found it very creatively fulfilling. Plus, I enjoyed the industry. There was a lot of passion in it, similar to what I’ve found in comics.

JPI Design was a very small company, but their star seemed to be on the rise. They were in the early design stages for several large, international resorts and theme parks, and I was busy in the days leading up to 9/11 working on proposals and written narratives to help sell the projects to investors.

And then the attack happened and everything changed.

It felt like the whole nation spent about a week in shock. No work was done because all of it suddenly seemed insignificant and unimportant. People were grieving and asking questions, and I was no different. When people began picking themselves up and going back to work, everything had changed. Nothing felt the same, but the impact of 9/11 on the industry I was working in was extreme. No one was traveling after the attacks. Security at the airports was intense, but also, the simple fact was that no one was in the mood for riding roller coasters and getting splashed on log rides after we’d just unexpectedly and violently been robbed of thousands of American lives. Theme parks and resorts seemed so frivolous and at odds with the mood of our nation and much of the world. Leisure and entertainment projects were shelved. All of those large developments JPI was working on disappeared and the company was left without a source of income. They managed to hold on for a little while, but they were soon unable to make payroll and went under. In the end, they were yet another victim of 9/11.

Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to freelance edit manga titles at Tokyopop before that happened, and while I loved what I was doing at JPI and hated to leave the company, it was clear where things were headed. Accepting the Tokyopop offer was an easy decision to make.

If you know anything about me, you know what happened next. I really took to editing manga and eventually wound up with a full-time position at Tokyopop, which opened the door to the career I have now. But occasionally, I have to wonder about what would have happened had 9/11 not occurred and those big projects JPI had in the pipeline had all moved forward. I would have had no reason to leave them and may have built up a career scripting shows and attractions instead.

Yes, it’s true that 9/11 changed everything. Our country isn’t the same place it was before 2001. But not every change was far-reaching. Many, if not most, of the changes were on the individual level for millions of Americans. The most direct—the loss of loved ones—were tragic and painful, but strangely enough, some of the less direct changes may have been positive. Certainly, I’m not defending the terrorist act or suggesting that we’re better off as a result. Don’t misunderstand me. It was a tragedy and I think if any of us had the power to undo it, we would. But in an unexpected way, the tragedy eventually brought me to something good. Like everyone else, I picked myself up, rebuilt and I’m better and happier as a result. And if that’s not a sign of resilience, I’m not sure what is.

Things aren’t good out there right now. We’re on the brink of a second recession and the job market is terrible. Millions of people are out of work and wondering how much longer they can stay afloat…if they haven’t already sunk beneath the weight of debt. People have been affected by storms, earthquakes, drought and there are millions of people out there in the world who still hate us and mean us harm… It’s been a tough year. But we’ve survived tougher, and often in the end, we emerge better than we were before. Stronger.

It’s a message from 9/11 that I think is well worth heeding right now.

2011 West Hollywood Book Fair

The 2011 West Hollywood Book Fair is less than a month away, and once again I’ve been helping the fair with its comics and graphic novel programming. I certainly hope you can make it this year because we’re putting together some great panel discussions and signings to mark the fair’s 10th Anniversary.

If you’re not familiar with the West Hollywood Book Fair, it’s one of the largest literary events in California, drawing over 25,000 people to the city of West Hollywood over the course of one day. All genres and types of books are represented: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, children’s, YA, experimental and, of course, comics. If you enjoy reading at all, there’s something for you.

This year’s fair is on Sunday, October 2nd. I’ve put together two panels for the Comics and Graphic Novels stage, one of which I’ll be moderating and both of which I’ll be attending. I hope you can make it out for at least one of them…

Creators Assemble!: The Rise of the Graphic Novel Anthology

12:15-1:15 p.m.

Moderator: Asterios Kokkinos (Devastator)

Kazu Kibuishi (Flight, Explorer)
D.J. Kirkbride (Popgun)
Michael Woods (Outlaw Territory, Low Orbit)
Nicole Sixx (Womanthology)

As the graphic novel has grown in popularity, so too has the graphic novel anthology. Are these story collections an attempt to keep short fiction relevant in long-form comics? Are they born from a desire to explore a theme from many points of view? Or are anthologies simply a way of compiling some of the best work in comics into one diverse book? Join some of the writers, artists and editors responsible for five of the most highly acclaimed graphic novel anthologies as we discuss how bigger can be better, what makes a great collection and how the anthology format benefits creators.

Jim Henson and Comic Books: Putting Puppets to Paper

2:45-3:45 p.m.

Moderator: Tim Beedle (Muppet Robin Hood, Fraggle Rock)

Brian Holguin (The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths)
Heather Nuhfer (Fraggle Rock)
Joe LeFavi (Fraggle Rock, Return to Labyrinth)
Jim Formanek (Director of Product Development, The Jim Henson Company)

For over 75 years, the work of Jim Henson has entertained and inspired viewers of all ages and won him millions of fans worldwide. Today, the legacy of this creative genius has expanded into a new medium—comic books! Learn how classic fantasy movies like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth along with beloved TV shows like Fraggle Rock are being brought back to life by the writers and editors who are doing it. Plus, discover how this new medium is allowing The Jim Henson Company to bring life to some of Jim Henson’s unrealized projects, such as the upcoming A Tale of Sand.

The West Hollywood Book Fair is a great way to meet and interact with local authors, and to pick up some new books while you’re doing it. It’s free, runs all day and this year coincides with the opening of the new West Hollywood Library. I hope to see you all there.

For a full listing of this year’s programming, check out the fair’s website: www.westhollywoodbookfair.org

And take a look at this year’s PSA while you’re at it: