Hi everybody.

It’s been a long time since I did a big blog update. A while back a friend said I should do a new one and I said, “It’s been a tough year, I’ll write one when things are more stable.” It has become obvious that things will never be more stable, but that’s the life you choose when you decide to be a professional artist raising foster children I think.

Since that conversation with my friend a lot has happened. But the big one is I’m getting divorced. That’s a big sentence that gets thrown around often. But it still carries a lot of weight and a lot of meaning. For those of you who know me you might have met my wife at some point. She probably left a good impression; she was always good at that. Don’t worry this post won’t be about bashing her. That’s not really something I’m into or need to do. But just for context I do need to tell you a couple things. The first is probably the reason I’m telling you this.

I’m an independent artist. That means most people that buy my work, buy it directly from me. It took me a long time to accept that creating art was my purpose and I’ve worked hard to figure out a way to pay some bills while doing it. None of this would exist without the fans and I know that. At conventions I shake their hands and every time I am humbled that a new person thinks I am worth supporting. Some fans I get to know well, they’ve been to my house or I’ve been to theirs. We’ve taken trips to airplane graveyards together to find cool parts; they’ve had dinner with my family. That’s what happens when you are out there selling your own stuff and trying to make a real connection with people. And so hopefully this will explain to some of you why you won’t see my wife at conventions anymore.

As you’ve probably noticed, I can’t bring myself to use the term ex-wife. I just can’t get used to it. And something else you might gather is that my wife left us. It was her choice to leave after a series of terrible decisions on her part. We waited, hoping that when she finished law school she would come back to us. But she didn’t. And I say us because now I am a single dad. I have two foster kids right now. One of them was hoping and still is hoping to be adopted. The other hopes to reunify with her parents eventually but until then it is my job to provide her with a stable home and give her the kind of oversight only a caring parent can provide. I was never a perfect husband or a perfect father, but I am the kind of person who is always willing to work on a problem and I’m always trying to find a way to be better.

Of course, like everything, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Some of it I can’t say for privacy concerns and other things you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you. It’s too perfectly tragic. Like a movie that you watch and think, “that couldn’t all have happened, they must have really added some things for drama.” Like the sister of my 14 year old, she is 11 and has pretty severe cerebral palsy. I visit her every week. I read to her, do puzzles, play other games. I can’t take her into my home; I’m just not equipped. And the fact is that if I do, her older sister will work too hard to help take care of her. And she needs some time to just be a kid herself. Out of everything I’m doing, my books, my art, teaching, it breaks my heart that I can’t take care of that kid. But I can’t. You have to know your limits.

These kids need a lot. But they are also capable of a lot. Sometimes I let them be sad and sometimes I say, “hey, you have to keep moving.” When it gets really rough like it has been lately I tell my kids a story about a girl I met once. I was working at a school for troubled youth and this 11 year old was giving me a lot of attitude. She was being defiant, throwing things, yelling at other students. I let all the other students go inside and I stopped her and said, “Hey, what is wrong?” I didn’t yell at her, I didn’t punish her yet, I first just wanted to know what was going on! Of course, she folded her arms and said, “Nuthin.” But I persisted until she finally got so annoyed she started yelling at me. Then she started hitting me and I started wondering how angry she was going to get. Then this tough kid who was ready to beat up anyone who crossed her path, broke down and started crying. She stopped hitting me and just let it all go. Thankfully she was only 11 and I was a six feet tall chubby guy so I could tolerate a few hits from her. So I asked her what the heck was wrong and she then told me how her single mom just got locked up. And this girl did not know when she was going to see her again. We talked and of course I couldn’t solve her problem but we did have a better understanding after that and at least she knew there was one person out there that cared enough to stand there and take a few hits. So I tell my kids I get it, sometimes you feel like you need to throw a few punches to be heard. Not literally of course, my kids are 13 and 14. If they hit me, that would hurt! And every kid needs to learn to use their words not their fists. But I tell them, look, I can take some of that pain sometimes when you feel like you need to get it out, but I’m only human. When you’re done, you have to get up, brush yourself off, and be a part of this family again. And I expect everyone here to treat each other with the same love and respect I give to them. And I give them a lot.

 

A while back when my life was crumbling around me I wanted to give up. I wished there was someone I could hit, someone I could be angry at. But it couldn’t be my wife; I still loved her too much. It hurt. I couldn’t keep going. I was down, knocked out, and I wanted to stay down. But slowly I started to look for reasons to keep moving. I just took it one step at a time, one day at a time. I had to keep moving. First it was for my kids. This all happened while they were both starting new schools for the first time. I had to wake up every morning and take them to school. I was barely there mentally. But I had to do it. No one else was going to! Then it was my graphic novel series. I had to finish the fourth book. I needed to finish it before convention season or I was going to put it off another 8 months! I forced myself every day to draw something, even if it was one sleeve on one character in one panel. I just had to keep moving.

After a few weeks of paying bills on my own, making all their meals on my own, and actually getting pages done in my book I looked around and realized I was doing this. Yes it sucks that my best friend left me, that she left us. Yes, there is a huge hole in my heart I probably will never fill. But I was surviving. And in some cases actually thriving. I finally finished drawing my fourth book. I just need to raise funding and color it. I’ve created so much, but this one, this one was really hard. It was harder than my first book. I just kept remembering an interview with artist, Adrian Tomine, I read once. They asked him about drawing and having kids, how could he get any work done. He said something like, he just had to do it, he had to find time. Sometimes it was before the kids got up, after they went to bed, whenever he could find time he just did it. Those words play over and over again in my head. And so here I am counting the hours until the kids come home. Trying to squeeze in a few more pages, a few more lines of text. I just have to do it. I have to do it because if I don’t keep moving, I die, and I can’t die yet, my kids still need me. These kids who have no one else. These kids who were already left behind by others, I’m going to keep moving for them. I will not leave them behind. I can’t die yet; I have two more books to finish in this series. That is why I’m here, to take care of these kids and make art.

As for losing my wife and my best friend, I am reminded of another interview I read once. It was a long time ago so I’m going to butcher the details but it was the widow of a famous comic collector. The entire bottom floor of their home was a climate controlled comic vault and they had a collection that the archivist at DC would drool over. This meant Action Comics #1, the first appearance of Batman, and all that other good stuff. She was selling off the books and in the article they asked her how she could sell such an amazing collection. As someone who has dealt with more than their fair share of loss in this world her answer always stuck with me. She said that no one owns anything in this world. We are all just caretakers. It is our job with everything that passes through our hands to cherish and nurture it for as long as we have it. So I try to see everything that way when I can. Nothing is permanent, everything changes, work your butt off while you can, and enjoy what you have while you have it.

So I’m going to get up every day and draw. I’m going to be a single father to these awesome kids. And I’m going to keep doing it until I can’t do it anymore. That’s why I’m here. Hopefully I die with a pen in my hand, a smile on my face and some kids who can say I made their lives a little better.