My Long and Twisted Journey, Part One

(Jason Sacks of Comics Bulletin recently offered to document how his fandom experiences helped him grow for his fellow fans in a series of blog posts.  Thanks for guest posting Jason!)

It's weird, sometimes, how you don't notice how much you miss something till you have it back. And how once you have something back, how that items becomes a huge part of your life.

Let me explain what I mean, but first let me give you a bit of digression to give you some context on what I mean.

When I was in high school, in the early 1980s, I was lucky enough to get involved in the comics fanzine movement. I had been a comics fan for most of my life – literally, I remember reading comics when I was in Kindergarten, and my encounters with some very strange comics in 1976 and '77 when I was 10 years old (mainly comics by comics' greatest existentialist writer, Steve Gerber – but his career merits a separate essay) completely shaped how I viewed my life and that art form.

Living in Reno, "the biggest little city in the world" during high school, brought me precious little chance to hang out with comic fans my age. Oh, there was a cult of us comic readers, and even some female comic fans (imagine that! I could actually discuss <em>X-Men</em> with a chick!), but nobody really loved comics with the passion that I did. I lived and breathed comics, reading magazines like <em>The Comics Journal</em> with an evangelical level of intensity.

So finding fanzines from all around the country and the world was incredibly exciting to me. There was a whole cult of fans who were united in little more than their enthusiasm for panelology. Some fans wrote articles for the 'zines, others drew illustrations, others drew their own comic stories. What united the whole group of folks was their passion for everything that they created, a kind of passion that comes from being a high school kid with nothing but time on his hands.

Like most comic fans, my passion receded a lot when I went off to college. I still loved comics, but they were a lot like that high school girlfriend who you just don't talk to as often once you don't see her. I still loved comics, but my difficult studies and intense social life during those years kept me from enjoying comics with the passion that I had once lavished on them.

I do have some incredibly pleasant memories of enjoying comics during those years. I still remember the intense feeling of physical relaxation I felt when I wandered off the campus of St. John's College in Santa Fe and into the small comics shop in that town. I picked up the first issue of <em>Crisis on Infinite Earths</em> while there, and remember the actual sense of stress lifting away from me as I inhaled that breathtaking George Perez/Dick Giordano art. I don’t know that I'll ever feel a more complete sense of relaxation ever again in my life. I think that was the moment when I realized just how much joy comics brought to my life.

The same joy that my college girlfriend, and later (and still) wife brought to my life.

Flash ahead again a few years. I'm in my mid 20s, just married to my college sweetheart, and we're just about to have our first kids. We had our kids young, when we were poor and stupid, and much of my 20s and 30s were consumed with making money from working my ass off, helping my wife to pay for her nursing degree, and raising the kids. I still read the occasional comic, but my life was so busy, and money was so tight, that it was never anything but an avocation.

I did have a short, and ultimately unfulfilling moment of working in the comics industry. I managed to talk myself into a job as Assistant Editor on the late, lamented Amazing Heroes prozine, which at that time was being published by Fantagraphics out of a converted house in north Seattle. I was essentially a glorified typesetter and biller on the magazine. I enjoyed the small paychecks that the zine paid for my articles (you can read my feature interview with the great Dave Sim in AH< #201), but the whole experience burned me out on comics. I ended up leaving the job over a disagreement about pay for overtime work, and really never looked back. I had bills to pay, and if Fantagraphics couldn't pay them, I had to go elsewhere to make a buck.

Finally, in 1999, I found a job that I really loved and that really used the degree that I earned. It also paid well and therefore offered me the respite I needed from my financial and time stresses. My wife's work as a nurse was also paying off for her, so things were starting to look up for us. I started getting back into comics a bit, slowly more and more.

I even joined what then was a OneList for people involved in vintage fanzines and reconnected to some old buddies from two decades previously. We became a great and happy club, a group of folks with a lot to unite us. Some of us still wrote or drew, whole others, like me, had moved away from creative pursuits. But one guy on the site, a man named Cliff Meth, was looking for someone to help him out and create some publicity for a project he was working on. And that would change everything…

And that's where this first chapter will end. Yeah, I'm wrapping up  this article with a little bit of a cliffhanger (so to speak). Always give readers reason to come back, right?

– Jason Sacks