[The following is a document from my old laptop dated ten years ago today. It seems to be a reflection on how I started writing but I don’t remember what exactly it was for and couldn’t find it anywhere else. I thought it would be interesting to see what I wrote. There is some language and brief mentions of darker subject matter that I wrote about early on.]

The Beginning

As a kid, I remember wanting to be a comic book artist. I was one of the kids who would sit and doodle on my papers and try to trace pictures out of my Spider-Man comics, trying (and failing) to make original art. For all of my practicing, I never seemed to improve but it didn’t stop me from happily drawing disproportionate characters on the manila paper. I’m actually certain that I went through several stacks of the classes manila paper on my own.

In middle school, I was not as excited about drawing and I began to focus more on writing. I still doodled in my notebooks, but I found writing stories to be more satisfying. I remember creating this character called Agent Parrish (I was so original). It was essentially a rip-off of what I believed the X-Files was, but I was basically learning the art of world building. Over time I gave Agent Parrish friends, enemies and brought him to life through several tales of mystery solving. I just couldn’t get bored with it.

Of course, my 7th English grade teacher did not feel the same way. I remember her sitting me down and telling me something that would stay with me long after I left middle school.

Jon, you need to do something different. You wrote one story and a bunch of crappy sequels. This isn’t good writing.

I was maybe twelve years old and I’d never had someone tell me that my stories sucked. True, every story I’d written up to that point had been a sequel to my first story for the class, but they meant something to me. Furthermore it was the way she’d said it that really bothered me. She singled me out and bluntly told me I wasn’t good enough. No kid wants to be told that their work sucks. But it pushed me to want to write more, if only to spite her.

Lance and The Scythe

After that, I found myself writing more and more ambitious stories. The biggest of which was a space epic that I ended up writing between middle school and high school, Lance and the Scythe. It was a three book novel about a young man named Lance who ends up traveling through space with the current incarnation of the Grim Reaper. I promise that makes it sound way cooler than it was. In reality it was riddled with cliches and was heavily influenced by Dragonball Z. The characters flew for no reason, shot beams out of their hands, and would basically go super saiyan. Of course, it was awesome at the time, but looking back is almost cringeworthy.

But then I saw Cowboy Bebop and it changed everything. It was the first time I’d seen a mature anime and everything about it was so cool, so subdued. It made me look at the story and completely rework it. I made it darker, made the characters use guns (and katanas, duh), and tackled heavier themes like drug abuse and rape. I mean, I tackled them as well as a sheltered preteen could tackle them but when I look back I find my ideas more cliche than offensive.

I would run home after school, sit down at the family computer (I didn’t have my own computer until my senior year of high school), and write. I felt like I was writing the next great American novel. I saw it becoming a cartoon and an animated movie. I believed it was my greatest work.

And then I lost it all.

I still don’t know how it happened, but around the time I stumbled upon Digital (a message board for comic fans and aspiring professionals) something happened to my original files for the story. I remember practicing writing comic scripts and going to check my LatS files, only to find they were all unusable. I couldn’t access them with any program and when I tried, the pages would show up filled with unintelligible symbols. It was soul-crushing. I remember sitting in front of the computer, crying for a good half hour because three years of writing was gone. It was traumatizing. I ended up finding older files of the story, but I’d already given up at that point. To this day, I still don’t know what happened.

It was shortly after this that I began focusing more on writing comic book scripts. They were shorter and it felt easier to remember than paragraphs upon paragraphs. And I was burned out on writing prose. For the next few years, I would write nothing but comic book scripts (with one exception). I wrote three comic book different stories: The Black Assassin, The Misfits, and In Satan’s Shadow. The first story was a revenge story, second was a superhero comedy (that I would be revist nearly ten years later to make Secrets & Shadows), and final story was a western that would have fit comfortably with Django Unchained. I would work on all three series simultaneously, but I had no idea of what I was supposed to do with them. I didn’t know how to approach artists and I soon learned that I couldn’t afford most of them anyway. A couple of instances where artists tried to get me to paying for their projects (with me simply writing what they told me) put me off. However, I kept writing and posting my scripts.

The Table (The Proto Clusterf@#k)

During high school, I began writing The Table. It began as a way to let of steam about things that happened in classes, the cafeteria, etc. It slowly became something I would share with two of my friends (whom the characters were based off of). Looking back, it was a bit extreme and had a lot of dark humor (joking about teen pregnancy and school shootings). I won’t deny that I had a few issues, but my friends laughed so I didn’t think anyone would take it seriously.

That is until a girl in our class picked it up and read it. This was a girl who used to reach into my wallet, take out the contents, and stuff them in her bra so I’d get them. You can see that she didn’t have a problem with invading personal space or taking things that weren’t hers. She reached over me and snatched it. I watched her eyes get wide and a look of disgust form across her face.

What the fuck?! This nigga is writing about shooting up the schools!

I remember being terrified that they would take it seriously and I’d get in trouble. Columbine had only been a couple of years prior. I wasn’t serious about it and if anything it was more satirical, but they didn’t know that. All I needed was the principal calling the police. Luckily, the teacher was young and knew I had a weird sense of humor. I ended up not getting in trouble and, as an added bonus, the girl stopped talking to me. She never once touched my things again. To be safe, I stopped bringing the stories to class and took them to the cafeteria instead. The funny thing is that the characters would eventually become the protagonists of Clusterf**k, a story I’m currently working on that isn’t as offensive as it sounds.

A Summer Art Program

Despite the fact I was working on scripts, I still liked to draw. I took a couple of art classes and even joined art club. My art was horrible but the teacher must have respected my passion because she gave me a pamphlet for a summer class at the American Academy of Art. She saw that Alex Ross had studied there, which peaked my interest. I immediately got the money and prepared to learn the craft.

It ended up being both incredibly fun and the reason I decided to stick to writing.

While I was able to meet a lot of talented kids and make friends, it became very apparent that the kids in the class were on a completely different level than I was. They were kids who studied art and went to high school academies. I just happened to do it because I enjoyed it. The students in my classes were just so intense about it that it made me miss writing. I wasn’t having fun and I wasn’t enjoying what I was doing. I was also tired of people staring over my shoulder. For me, writing felt more free and a lot less expensive. I didn’t need easels, brushes, or fancy pens. All I needed was a Bic, a composition notebook, and some free time.

Before my high school graduation, I remember wanting to become an English major. Of course, my guidance counselor basically told me that I was better of being a Journalism Major.

My only experience with Journalism was that I’d worked on the school paper and I’d hated it. Not only had I hated it, I really fucking hated it. But, I assumed that things would be better in college and I trusted my counselor’s judgement.

I was wrong on both counts


Franklin College’s School of Journalism was kind of a big deal (at least to the people there). Like the summer art course in Chicago, it was meant for kids who were serious about working in the field. Not some kid who picked the major because people told him to. I remember the professor giving a speech on the first day basically saying his job was to weed out the weak links and slackers. He promised that half the kids in the class would probably change majors by the time the year was up. It was brutal and I was a bit scared, but I decided to give it a shot. I ended up failing almost every Journalism course I took.

It was obvious that it wasn’t for me, but my mother told me to stick with it. She seemed to be so against me being an English major. I promised I’d stick it out even though I hated every second of it. My biggest problem was that it was so intrusive and they wanted me to insert myself into places I didn’t feel comfortable going to. For the other kids, it was a piece of cake and they loved it. I had already been called a nigger twice and was not to keen on sitting in town hall meetings. It just wasn’t working for me.

Eventually, I ended up taking the semester off because not only was I failing the classes for my major, I wasn’t even getting to write the stories I wanted to write. It just felt like a major waste of time.

Luckily, I was taking the required classes for an English major as well. When I finally decided to come back, I immediately went and changed my major to English. It was the best decision I’d made and everything seemed to turn around. I understood the classes and I found myself actually enjoying them. In one class I made it a point to bring three pages of notes to prove I’d read the chapter when only one was required (I was later asked by the other students to tone it down because it made them look bad). Even in the classes I wasn’t doing amazingly at, I wasn’t in danger of failing. It was a great feeling.

During this time, I remember sitting in class towards the end of the semester. We’d been reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce when an idea hit me. It took the characters from my superhero comedy Misfits of Justice and reworked them into a more serious story called Further from the Sun. I was so excited about the idea that I set everything aside and began writing the story out. Now, I’d written scripts before but I felt very serious about getting this one made. So much so that I reached out to Steven Forbes to see if he would edit it. This might have been sometime around graduation, but I was that serious about it.

Roughly four years, three deaths, two jobs, and one tsunami later, I finally have the entire series finished and printed.

Writing hasn’t been easy and making a comic book is even less so. However, I find myself with a compulsion to write even when I don’t want to. I might not necessarily write comic scripts, but I write because it’s something I’m decent at and something I like. In 1999, I wrote the first story that made me think “Huh, this could be something big”.

And I haven’t looked back since.

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