The whole 'Nature vs Nurture' conflict...Which I'm not going into. Ever.
From the time I was a kid I knew two things: I wanted to become an artist (Not just any artist, mind you, but one who could make my drawings look like photographs) and, secondly, I never saw skin color. Thing is, and I didn't learn this until decades later, I could afford to not see skin color because I was white (Gasp!) I always went to the movies with my friends who were different races and never once thought twice about it. We were friends and that's what friends did.
I grew up in a small town (Well, lots of them but that's another story). Casa Grande was just a tiny speck of dust back in '61 when we arrived and I grew up on the south side of the tracks. The streets were dirt and within of throwing distance of 'Main Street' and it's many bars. Every week there seemed to be a story about a drunk person being ran over by the train (This was before the warning barriers were installed but that didn't stop the dying). I never called anyone of color a derogatory name but I did start noticing we watched movies differently. Take the movie 'The French Connection' which was filled with racial slurs and stereotypes of virtually every race in the world. I saw that with Tommy, one of my few really close friends, and as we left the theater he looked at me and said: 'That movie won an Academy Award?'
I think I was about sixteen when that happened and I began to see the world differently. Almost all the comic books put out by Marvel and DC were aimed at adolescent white teens and it wasn't until late high school that a comic came out that starred a black man...The Black Panther...And as ground breaking as it was it still leaned back on stereotypes.
It would be in the late '80s when DC put out a line of comics geared toward the black community with authors and artists of varied races doing the work. As a person who followed Dr. Martin Luther King and believed in his 'I have a dream' speech I thought the world was finally waking up to the racist attitudes they'd been living for so long...Yet we're still seeing 'Firsts' happening every day. First woman to be a lawmaker. First black man to be a leading man in movies (Though they were still massively underpaid). And so on.
Me, all I wanted was to draw comics. But I hated the whole 'Superhero' idea...My favorite characters were 'Dr. Strange, Daredevil and Batman', probably because they were simply human with flaws and faults like me. I had a few wrong turns in my journey to becoming a true artist and I'd set a deadline to do this or I would just walk away from that goal. I honestly don't know if I really would have done that but it was an incentive.
I also wanted to make a change in comics...I wanted to make them more adult and they were always filled with characters of different races. I was lucky and incredibly naive. I just had this burning quest and continued submitting my art work after every rejection (Of which there were many) until I was finally given a chance to work at DC and, later, Marvel.
Sometimes actually fulfilling your dreams means discovering they are almost never what you thought they'd be.
I quit comics after the death of my friend Don Newton. We met when were both at a comic convention (This was way before events like 'Comic Con') and we stayed friends until he died way too early. I had to call the editor and tell him about his death and he was quiet for about a millisecond and asked me if Don had finished his story and my reply would have made a hardened sailor blush.
I didn't stop drawing, I just wanted to draw something that had meaning. I drew stories for several of the fan zines back in the day and even had a graphic novel I wrote picked up and distributed to magazines all around America (It was a big hit with people in prison...Don't know why) called 'The Truth'...Now do find it because it wasn't a great book. The art is...Sloppy. I did re-inked the artwork and have the originals filed somewhere around here. I still had a lot to learn.
And I had to wait until I stopped the whole drink and drug part that was my life in the '80s.
A friend of mine (And the best inker I've ever known) once asked me what I was trying to do with my art and stories and I told him I wanted to win a Nobel Prize in arts...So not kidding.
And so I went until I was living on the streets of Phoenix and headed toward a major breakdown. (That's another story).
When I found the courage and asked my sister for help she and others picked me up, I broke into my previous apartment and we took as many of my things we could. I spent that summer in my dad's old home out of town (He spent his summers in Wyoming) and once again discovered that old 'Purpose' which had kept me sane for so many years. I also had to relearn how to draw...I quit drugs and drinking in 1989 and the art I did during that time in a purple haze wasn't bad but it could be a hell of a lot better.
And I did. I began and ended a lot of stories, all centered around the LGBTQ Community and I knew then I was going to run into a lot of roadblocks...This was before the SCOTUS made gay marriage legal and, sadly, we're right back to where we started last year with congress and bigots and racists everywhere attempting to erase equality once again and openly preach about being a white heterosexual country...Period.
Now, I've watched way too many of my friends die. All of them with more talent than I'd ever have. I continue to wonder why them and not me...Trust me, I really tried to kill myself over and over but just kept fucking it up...
...But I found myself driven by the hatred toward people like me and I have that one story left to tell, a story where minorities aren't killed off for the sake of plot. I can start it but I can't finish it because I cannot put words into the mouths of women and race because I did not live their lives.
I have a reason for still being here, for dealing with the pain by body is constantly under and my brain is filled with exhaustion.
I have purpose. A goal. An idea that someone else can take and run with. Whoever that is they have to be motivated and courageous enough to deal with the haters out there who want to return to a time when we lived separate lives.
They need to have purpose.
I will never give up trying to make a change, to create a world where we are judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our character.
Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King.
We all need to work at helping the world to become one people. Yeah, I know that will probably not happen in my lifetime.
But we gotta try.
I have to try. To do anything less would be an insult to those who have died in order to make this country, this world, better for all of us.
And for all the haters out there...Fuck you.
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