belated birthday ruminations

At the risk of dating myself and looking like a fool in front of everybody, I want to share my thoughts on turning 29 a few days ago.

Waking up 29 felt pretty good. I don’t have the feeling that I wasted my twenties. Heck, I’m still in them. I could do some good yet. I’ve also laid the groundwork for my thirties, which I feel is important. The challenge will be to keep up the momentum.
When I woke up 29, I was keenly aware of the deadline I had set for myself years ago. In college, I decided I’d be a syndicated cartoonist in five years’ time. The logic behind this, as is the case with so many of my artistic choices, was Bill Watterson. Calvin and Hobbes was syndicated when Watterson was 28. It sounds presumptuous that I would think I’d be as good as him, but that wasn’t what I meant. Five years, I thought, was a long time. In five years I’d improve my cartooning skills, I’d have many chances to choose some characters and a setting, I’d have many shots at sending in packets to the syndicates. And it’s true, I have improved since college.
The problem with setting a deadline like that was it relied on too many factors outside my control. I’m at the mercy of syndicate editors’ tastes and the newspaper market for new comic strips. When Bill Watterson started out, it was 1985. The internet was nothing more than a glimmer in Al Gore’s eye. Newspapers and network TV were the most popular ways to get the news. Many more comic strips were introduced and allowed time to gain an audience. The 80’s saw the rise not only of Calvin and Hobbes, but also Bloom County and The Far Side. It is perhaps not a coincidence that all three of these strips no longer run. Times have changed.
Today, as all of you reading this blog and all the other blogs know, we get news in disparate ways. There is no single source: everybody has a say. What this means for newspapers is cutbacks. Apparently newspaper editors treat the comics section like some kind of bastard child. They keep it at a distance, never cutting it off completely but not allowing it to grow and mature the way the Region section does. (Oh Region section, how envious we are of you!)
For me to say, “I’m going to be syndicated” is like me saying “I want it to be sunny tomorrow.” The best I can do is prepare myself. So I do.
I’m not unhappy with my life; to the contrary. I’ve drawn literally thousands of comics. Right now Falling Rock runs in newspapers who subscribe to the MCT Campus wire service. (For those of you reading college newspapers, write your newspaper editor and ask to give Falling Rock a shot!) I’ve got an audience who takes the time to read my comics and even send me nice email about it. I feel that I’m making progress, that I’m improving. I’ve self-published three books (four, if you count the one I did in college). I have a lot to be proud of even if my ultimate goal has not been achieved.
Birthday and New Year’s Day are the two days a year when I allow myself this kind of self-reflection, so don’t worry. I won’t be making this kind of a post for a while. I just thought – why not have a little State of the Blog post, just to check in. I’m getting along just fine.
As long as I can think of funny jokes and set aside the time to draw funny pictures, I’ll be happy. I’m looking forward to my 29th year of life.
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Discussion (6)¬

  1. Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains says:

    As your good friend with artistic aspirations of his own, and one who is well entrenched in his 30s, I can tell you without hesitation that the next decade is even better. Happy birthday buddy. We’ll get there.

    nwb

  2. Desert Mom says:

    Well said…and nice to hear your thoughts.
    From the mother! Happy BIrth Day.

  3. Kid Shay says:

    Thank you both! I’m looking forward to the year ahead.

  4. Alec Longstreth says:

    Happy belated birthday Josh! I DO count your 4th minicomic from college 🙂 You’ve accomplished a lot, and there is still plenty of time to accomplish MORE! Just think, Jim Henson didn’t start doing his best work until he was 35! Bill Peet didn’t illustrate his first kids book until he was in his 40s. Keep at it, and good things will happen. I’m sure of it!

  5. Kid Shay says:

    Thanks Alec! You’ve been no slouch yourself. You have a whole library of comics under your belt already, and I get the feeling you’re just getting started.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Hey!
    week 1 of being 29 is almost over. i hope it was really, really great.

    please forgive the tardiness of this message. something pretty cool will be coming your way hopefully during week 2 of year 29.

    -amie

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