The Kingdom 18: The Strips

Here we go again. Welcome to the blog blast of the section that I call The Kingdom from the book Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keep. The Kingdom is an explanation of the work itself. You can’t understand any writer unless you know their work. So Friday we began at 6 p.m. and I will release one blog every two hours and fifteen minutes. That means we’ll finish the story of my work and its future, my work and its past, at 7:30 on Sunday evening. There are some crazy things in here. Some setbacks we never could have made it past without the people who care about me. There are some crazy things in here. Plans that I have and things that I’m doing that, simply put, are impossible. But everything’s impossible until it’s finished, until it’s been done or accomplished. There are some crazy things in here. Dreams so wild and so immense that to think they’re within reach you have to be a little unhinged. And while reading this small collection of blog posts, you’ll hear the rantings of the Lunatic of Fantasy. You’ll find in these posts the past, present, and future of the writing of Jesse Teller.

What if he did comics?

How could he not? Sasquatch had been reading comic books all his life. He had hundreds at home. He bought more all the time. It was his passion and it took him a long time to decide this was where he wanted to go. I have my own theories why.

A comic is a lot of work for little reward. You have to draw maybe a hundred images, all slowly telling a story, all to make one 36-page “floppy,” I think is what they are called. Few full stories are captured in a floppy, so one opens itself to two, which calls for a third. Hundreds of images and a twenty-minute read. If your work doesn’t get picked up and you don’t have a team working with you, then that is one hard job. In my mind, he was not ready to commit to that enormous of a project, so he decided on strips.

He held tight to his topic of school and the flaws to education. He began doing comic strips that said things about his job as an art teacher and he could not sit on them. He could knock out one a day and he had plenty of ideas, but he needed to get someone’s opinion, and he knows professionals in the business of art. So he got in touch with a guy named Craig Yoe.

Craig runs a small press of comics that is very successful, and when Sasquatch showed him the strips, Craig did not like them. Said it was too surface. He told Sasquatch he had a topic here that could be something if he put himself into it, but he needed to dig deeper. Said that he would be interested in publishing a full graphic novel about the life of a Middle School art teacher.

Sasquatch gets ahold of Bekah. “Hey, I just got a book signing deal and I want to tell Jesse, but do you think it would hurt his feelings since traditional publishing doesn’t want his books?”

She told him of course not, and that I would be happy for him, and he got ahold of me. Told me he was all but a published writer, and I hit the roof. I was so happy for him, so proud he was making it happen. But this was not a book deal. He still had to write the story. Get it approved. Then do the work. A full graphic novel was a lot of work and there were many pitfalls between him and his pay day. But that is not for me to say. And it is not my place to break his dreams. So I praised him, told him no one deserved it more. I lied to him and told him he had paid his dues, and I said get to work.

But there was research to do. And he needed to talk to everyone about it. He needed to tell everyone he was working on a real piece that was sure to be published, and he needed to get everyone excited. He got into it and started telling a story.

This is not what Craig asked for. This was a science fiction about the impact of an art teacher. When Sasquatch had worked on it for about seven or eight months, Craig wanted to see it. He instantly told Sasquatch this was not what he wanted and told him the project was scraped.

It was my job to pick Sasquatch up. I told him that the last seven, eight months was not a waste because the piece was good, just not what Craig wanted. Work on it. Get a Kickstarter going to fund printing. Get it out, it is a good story. But he was broken, and nothing I did could bring him back.

Let’s back up a touch and land on the day we met. I was working on a book about Sob, was writing Mestlven at the time. So when I heard he was an artist, I got in touch with him. Told him I wanted him to do a commission piece, and did he do that.

He jumped at it and said he charged 200 dollars for a black and white ink piece about some odd dimensions. I paid him one hundred up front. He cashed that check immediately. I told him to work on it when he was ready, and I told him what I wanted. I wanted the scene where she has lost her mind and is in a tower drawing a bloody diamond on the wall in the moonlight.

No problem, he would get started on it soon, but first the Big Twenty. But then he pushed it back.

A few months later, I asked him if he had started it. He hadn’t, so I told him I would rather have another image. I described a scene in Chaste where a demonic undead child is sitting on a throne glaring at the fourth wall. I sent him the scene and I waited. We had our first Halloween. Me and Sasquatch used to get together every Halloween and hand out candy. He showed me some sketches he had done of the undead, demonic boy. They were not what I was looking for at all. He tried really hard to sell me on them, but they were not at all what I was looking for. These were a rip-off of a Pop doll, extremely cute, and I shut it down instantly. I was looking for a horror piece. The image I was telling him about was one of the most horrific I had ever written in my entire life, and I wanted it on my wall. A Pop doll imitation would not work.

Then his 365 monsters project, and mine gets pushed back again.

Now it has been about a year and I decide I want to change it again, because he has yet to even pull out the paper, and I doubt he’s read either of the scenes. I have a clear vision of The White Rhino, the great opponent of Peter Redfist, and I want to see him. I have chosen the spot on my wall where it will go and I want to be able to look at this beast while I am slowly working my way to that conflict.

Because while this has all been going on, I have been writing, developing my vision, and I can see the first act. I can tell where this is all going, and every book I will write ends with these two mighty forces colliding. I tell him to change the project to the White Rhino. Because as time goes by, I stop getting excited about the piece he is supposed to be doing. My mind keeps refocusing on the new projects I am working on, and since he has yet to give me any sketches, I can’t get excited about anything.

After I tell him about the White Rhino, he comes back with, “Why don’t I draw you something positive? Some hero. A good image for your wall instead of something to bring you down. I want to pump a little positivity into your life. Think about it.”

Bekah hits the fan. It has now been two years since we paid him the deposit. She wants a refund because this is not how business is done. The client tells the artist what they want drawn and the artist shuts up and draws it. They don’t fuck around for two years, and they don’t decide that the image they were paid to draw is not what they want to do. She wants her hundred dollars back and she wants to talk to him.

But I have vowed to make this guy a professional artist. Doing a commission piece will bring him one step closer to making a living doing his art. So I send him a chapter. Because I have chosen Gentry Mandrake.

He is a fairy with steel dragonfly wings, with prongs that slide from his wrists that are barbed. In the scene I want, he is on his knees getting his hair cut by the fairy he is in love with.

It will be a gorgeous image. A positive picture of one of the most breathtaking scenes I have ever written.

It is still three months before he starts it. When he finally gets it to me, it is a charging picture. Mandrake has his arms out, his prongs exposed. This highly attractive fairy I wrote is snarling and ugly on Sasquatch’s page, and the prongs are not as I described them. They are not smooth, as they are described in the book. See he wanted to put his own spin on this project.

He is an artist. He resents a client telling him what to draw. He is an artist, which means when he does commission work, the client should tell him nothing. Should ask for a piece and get his own creation. He does not want to draw a picture of a fairy on his knees getting his hair cut by the one he loves, because he does not want to celebrate my creation.

So he gives me a picture of my character made ugly, with prongs that are wrong, the wrong color hair, and a stance that we did not agree on. This was a black and white ink, but Mandrake has white hair and the dominant hair color on this piece was black.

Me and Bekah paid him his hundred dollars, though we were furious. We had just spent two hundred dollars on a piece we did not want, so we matted it ourselves.

That is when a colored piece of cardboard is cut the right size to frame it within a frame. We did it ourselves. Well, Sasquatch likes to have his images professionally framed, so he scowled when we told him that. We also framed it with a quote from the book. It was not the image I wanted, so I wanted to explain it as much as I could. I found a quote that told about the scene he had captured. I matted and framed it below the image. He scowled at this, too. He did not want my work framed with his work. And he stared at that piece for years with a bad attitude.

I was furious, but he had done a piece for money and gotten paid. My goal of him being a professional artist was inching forward. I assumed it would inspire him to move on, to get to work on his other pieces and to climb diligently toward a goal.

I had promised him results, and after two years and three months, we were no closer to getting him out of the sketchbook. We were no closer to getting him out of the classroom.

I was not losing hope. I told myself that he wanted this more than I wanted it for him. So I soaked it all, and every Friday I built him up. Told him he was a badass, with no proof, and waited for him to take charge.

I couldn’t do it for him. No matter how badly I wanted to.

This chapter is from Reality of the Unreal Mind, Vol. 3: The Keepavailable on Amazon.

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