Caleb Orecchio here with the Monday edition of the Comics Workbook Daily News!
When I was a kid, my family was part of home-church group they called Soma. All the families – around five or six of them – would host Soma at their houses alternately. When my family hosted I would hang a new installment of a one-page comic (a Sunday page if you will) called, “Be-Bo and Alex” on the fridge. They were circle-shaped characters with faces; the former the grandson and the latter the grandfather. I swear my parents have them, and they swear I have them. I’m sure they will show up one day.
As a senior in high school, I had a weekly untitled comic in The Big Red Review, the hideously bad school newspaper. I would make comics about my experiences – good and bad – with girls. Mostly. They were gilded autobiographic stories. Once, an ex came up to me at lunch and said, “Nice comic asshole.” I was overjoyed, not because she called me an asshole, but because it was real reaction. The first sparks.
Once the principal took me out of class and told me I had to replace that week’s comic because it was inappropriate. “You see that little “x” there?” – (he was referring to a dog’s anus I had drawn) – “You can’t do that. Either change that [panel] or make a new comic for the next issue—or no comic this week.” I confidently and defiantly retorted, “I guess there won’t be a comic this week.” I chuckle at my teenage angst now, but I thought I was on top of the world at the time. Nobody ever bought that stupid newspaper, but once they started including my comic, six whole copies were sold weekly. Everyone else read the copies lying around the lunchroom. Often people would say, “Nice comic, Caleb!” in the hallway.
I made almost no comics in college. I was studying to be a graphic designer and my “cartoony” style was not going over well. I was, and still am as a professional, a hack designer. I had to “mature.” I obviously can’t keep doing comics was my thinking at the time. I can still be a fan of comics right? I can start a publishing company or write for TCJ. It wasn’t until the fall after graduation when I started making comics again.
Like an idiot, I got my heart broken. Oh woe is me! I shall pour my heart into a comic! I did, and I felt better. It helped me to triangulate my situation and see it from several points of view. It exposed my idiocy and naïveté which was a thrill in some strange way. I kept making more. The cosmic feelers must have been at work because I found like-minded people (or rather they found me), half of them designers like myself here in town. These are the days when my flame was fanned. Soon I sought out others who I could talk to and learn from that were out in the far reaches of the land. They now help keep the fire burning, and I hope I am reciprocating in some way.
A lot has happened between then and now though it’s still too close and abstract in my mind to write about here. I’ve gone to places and cities I’d never gone before and pushed myself to the very brink of sanity. I’ve moved around and made deals to make comics my priority. People in New York would cry if they knew how much rent I pay.
It comes with a price though. Loneliness, hard labor, no sleep; it’s hard to tell which are self-imposed and which are obligations, but I would not trade my weariness for disposable income or a big comfortable home. I am a cartoonist. Money is only a means to make more comics. Like a prophet in the desert I live on honey and locusts. I am the old wizard living in a village long-abandoned by its inhabitants 4,000 years ago, soaking in the energy they left behind. There are many others like me—maybe you, dear reader, are one of them. We make comics because that is what we were put on Earth to do whether we succeed or fail—for better or for worse.
Trails of trouble, roads of battles
Paths of Victory, we shall walk
if you don’t know now you know
- The boys over at Comic Books Are Burning in Hell talk about the great Kevin Huizenga’s Ganges.
- At the New York Review of Book, Dan Nadel writes about Ellen Berkenblit’s new paintings at the Anton Kern Gallery.
- Michael Dooley writes about the legendary Steve Ditko at Print Magazine.
- You thought Pepe was dead? Oh ye of little faith—Matt Furie’s battle over his ill-fated character is not over.
- Graham Chaffee is the latest guest on Gil Roth’s Virtual Memories podcast. And stay tuned because he’ll be talking to Howard Chaykin on the 4th!
Suzy and Cecil – 7-3-2017 – by Gabriella Tito
Joanie and Jordie – 7-3-2017 – by Caleb Orecchio