Before Cult Comics, before gatherings of art students and otherwise to form cult meetings, before a bachelors degree at Shawnee State in visual arts and graphic design, before high school, I wanted to make cartoons. From ages 9-13 I totted around a black, 5 subject notebook. It’s contents held years worth of comic strips. Few were permitted to view them, many inquired about them. This was my journal as a kid if I ever had one. The longer I scribbled in this black book labeled, “Toon World,” the more convinced I became of my role in life as a cartoonist. I‘ll have my work in the paper one day, I’d think.
This brief history is crucial to my understanding of the rekindled desire in me to make comics as an adult. Furthermore, there are two premier characters that reoccur in my childhood cartoons I’d like to introduce. There names came easily as the comic title; Ness & Einstein. These two adolescent characters were never systematically developed. I had no elaborate back story. They grew as I grew. They like what I liked. They faulted where I did. This is partially what made the exercise of making comics so therapeutic for me. Comics became a simple and enjoyable mechanism for coping and understanding.
I am Ness.
Kids imitate. Before I knew any better than to blatantly rip things off, I did it with great enjoyment. “Why would I struggle in order to create something or someone entirely new when I can borrow heavily from things I already know make me happy?” That’s partially where my mind was at in creating ness. He was inspired from the Ness of Earthbound; A boy with strong psychic powers, who also became a selectable character in Super Smash Bros. 64. This is where I’d learned of him, and began incorporating him as a comic character. Ness is not psychic in my comic, nor is he a fighter. Looking back on the old comics, I can see he’s what I aspired to be.
Ness is a very likable protagonist. He wears a cool backwards hat. He annoys his older sister with elaborate tact. He isn’t the most popular kid at school, but he fits flawlessly into a comedic, middle-tier, backpacker type. It seems like he is cool with not being the coolest. Ness will often go off on inspired monologues about an insightful realization others around him chose to ignore. Sometimes that gets him in trouble with figures of authority, but only because he was too honest for his own good. Ness wasn’t the best at any particular thing, but he made his way through life adventurously, and open to the excitement of versatility. His charisma, and tendency to bite of more than he can chew resonates with me now even more than it did as a child.
Einstein is…open to interpretation.
I know much less about Einstein than I do the origins of Ness. It seems that his name is a humorous play on the sarcastic phrase, “Nice going, Einstein.” Though he also has some more literal qualities of his name as well. Out of the two, he is the more grounded. He is also a genius of sorts. The clothing makes him look like an escaped prisoner, and that’s because he is. He must of done something horrible, or know some world secret, because it’s highly unlikely a kid his age would escape from a prison…or be in prison at all.
Einstein raises question for me now as to what I was trying to convey as a kid. It may have just been the novelty that comes from two complete opposite people that befriend one another, or my desire to make complex characters with complicated histories. Einstein might be a manifestation of some limited or hopeful view of a “bad” person getting a second chance. Being relatively sheltered as a child, criminals where sort of taboo in my world. It’s most likely then that Einstein is an attempt to understand people who’d made regretful decisions. It humanized such people for me.
Cult Comics allows me to channel parts of TOON WORLD again. These sorts of connects are important for your understanding your own creative process. Often times the tendencies you preformed as a child came intuitively, and may prove to bare fruitful now as a mature creative. If you enjoyed it then, there’s probably something there. My suggestion is, don’t ignore it. Find a way to incorporate your earliest energies into your daily process.