August 5th, 2020


La Caridad

One of my very favorite restaurants in Manhattan recently became a victim of COVID-19. I used to live across the street from La Caridad and grew up on their food. Even though I moved to Brooklyn 23-years ago, I still biked to La Caridad for its amazing fried pork chops, yellow rice and black beans. Their Wonton soup could defeat the flu in one bowl. Alas, the upper west side can no longer support the likes of Chino Latino food. I fear Flor de Mayo is next. I've commiserated with friends and family that money needs to change. The price of things has become untenable. Society needs to alter what things cost so we can support our diverse culinary and creative cultures before places like NYC becomes one giant CVS book-ended by banks with no one around to graffiti.

Pave a new path.

A young artist whom I've never met is dealing with internet toxcity and he reached out to me saying, "The drama, unsolicited criticism and negativity is becoming too much and it's affecting me to a point where I'm now becoming physically sick and mentally ruined. I wanted advice on how you were able to navigate through the negative aspects of your career and what keeps you going not only in this industry, but with your craft?"

Here is how I responded:

Fuck toxic people. KICK THEM TO THE CURB. In reality, they're only a handful of assholes and hold NO SWAY on what you do and who you are. Who you are is an artist who creates, right? CREATE. No permissions. No apologies.

Draw because you have to. NOT because it's cool or will bring you fame and fortune. Because, most likely, it won't. And, besides, fame and fortune shouldn't be the engine that drives your art.

When I was young comix were NOT COOL. And, despite the often negative response towards the medium ("they're power fantasies for 12-year old boys" / "comic books are not literature, they're stupid" etc./etc.), I drew comix anyway. And, little by small comix proved themselves worthy because creators -- throughout the years -- DID THE WORK. We won. The hard part of being excepted globally as a serious medium has happened.

For me, comix is a calling. And that calling is how I discovered my personal pals and peers who stuck with it, too.

And as much as the internet can be a gross version of a popularity contest (and trust me -- I am NOT a popular cartoonist -- I do it because I have to -- I show up to my own party), it shouldn't dictate your creativity. There are long stretches of time where no one will respond to your work. Don't let that discourage you. Keep at it unless you decide it's not for you. And, that's okay, too. I know many people who pursued one career just to abandon it and go on to have three other fulfilling careers.

Making comix shouldn't be mentally draining to your soul. It should be something that revives you. If it doesn't, quit it. No harm. No foul.

Eventually, your work -- IF YOU WORK HARD EVERYDAY -- will find YOUR friends, YOUR allies, and YOUR fans.

Now go draw. Find your posse. Learn from each other. Pave a new path. Make something that means something. Have a blast.

PANDEMIX previews, reviews & podcasts

PANDEMIX: Quarantine Comics in the Age of 'Rona, the anthology I curated and co-edited to help benefit The Hero Initiative and cartoonists in need is doing well.

Click here to get your PANDEMIX download for $5 (or $20 if you're feeling generous).

Here are some cool reviews, previews and podcasts, thus far:

PANDEMIX reviewed by Adam McGovern at Hilobrow.

PANDEMIX reviewed by Bob Harrison at Pop Culture Squad.

Bleeding Cool preview of Jeffrey Bruandt & Christa Cassano's "Iterations of the Apocalypse."

The Comics Beat preview of Marguerite Dabaie's "It'll All Be Alright."

SmashPages preview of Morgan Pielli's "Protection."

Newsarama's preview of Mike Cavallaro's Star Wars themed PANDEMIX back cover.

Word Balloon podcast with John Siuntres, Dean Haspiel & Whitney Matheson.

Serch Says podcast with MC Serch, Chuck D, DMC, and Dean Haspiel.

Wits' End podcast with Shah Emami and Dean Haspiel.

Ellen Lindner talks PANDEMIX and other stuff on Gil Roth's Virtual Memories Show podcast.

Public Book: CAN COMICS SAVE YOUR LIFE? by Hillary Chute

Diamon Bookshelf: Katie's Korner: Graphic Novel Reviews for Schools and Libraries

Girth Radio: My Summer Lair featuring Whitney Matheson (Pandemix: Quarantine Comics)

Ruby 12

My biological daughter Ruby turned 12 last weekend. I have fond memories of being twelve years old. It's the age I met my best friend Mike Hueston and I decided to make comix a career. It was 7th grade at I.S. 44 in Manhattan. Mike was standing alone reading a copy of The Avengers #3. I was a Fantastic Four fan. Soon after becoming fast friends, we saw others like us -- throughout the years -- interested in comics. Eric Waldman, Sean Smith, Josh Neufeld, Delmo Walters Jr., Phil Dejean, Todd Dixon and more. There were a couple of girls who could draw circles around us, Gina Cole and Jennifer Lui, but they never stuck with the graphic narrative format.

Eventually, our posse formed a comic book club that would regularly visit West Side Comics and Funny Business in the upper west side. Downtown had Forbidden Planet (where I learned of Judge Dredd), Village Comics, and Soho Zat (where I discovered Chester Brown's Yummy Fur and Harvey Pekar's American Splendor). We'd gather at Mike's abode and read comics, play Atari video games, the occasional role-playing game (D&D), watch MTV and the 4:30 Movie; Hammer Horror or Kung Fu flicks.

Eventually, we started a self-publishing "company" called Paradox Productions (way before DC Comics' now-defunct imprint). Xeroxed and stapled affairs. Mike came up with Tempest and Micronaut's-inspired The Night Raiders. Sean designed and wrote underground inspired anthropomorphic comics, while Eric Waldman created sci-fi space fantasies Quasar and Vanguard. I was more of a writer-shy artist who wanted to draw other people's property; Shazam and almost any Marvel comic. But I managed to come up with a character of my own called Night Stalker. A tiny ninja with a stick who infiltrated and trashed nefarious domains and yelled "Ingy Wamba." Years later I would incorporate Night Stalker into a Billy Dogma story.

At Music & Art high school I would meet and befriend Larry O'Neil, whose brilliant writing, our collaborations in both comics, video and film (his father was the legendary comics writer/editor Denny O'Neil) would help change my life (leading me to assist Bill Sienkiewicz, Howard Chaykin, and Walter Simonson in 1985), and confirm my dedication to the mediums of storytelling.

Not much has changed since school. Except almost everything.