Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Historical Document #1

A tale I created for Mark Innes's
graphic story collection

For me, words and pictures have always been a team.

            The first thing I did the moment after I learned my letters was read a story, the second thing I did was write a story of my own, and the third thing I did was add pictures to my prose. I created spot illustrations for my stories at first, but after I discovered the wonders of the comic book, I immediately began telling my tales in sequential arts form. 

            My addiction to film and television was forming at the same time. There was a TV show about a boy and his horse called Fury, to which I took an immediate shine. I loved the show, but it was never enough for me, and I created pages upon pages of my own comic book stories featuring Joey Newton and his noble steed. Each page lovingly crafted on multi-coloured sheets of newsprint from a big pad with cartoon faces on the front.

In the beginning, I was certain I would grow up to be a writer. This was primarily due to an enterprising mother who had me reading from grade school primers long before my entry into the hallowed halls of education. It was secondarily due to a very encouraging fourth grade teacher in Port Rowan Ontario, one Mrs. Knowles, who once made a big fuss over a story I wrote. In keeping with the western theme of my Fury stories, I fulfilled a short story writing assignment with a little yarn called Jomia the Indian Boy. (Yes, yes, I know, but political correctness had not yet seeped into the culture in 1968.) In the story Jomia is separated from his family on a hunting trip and ends up trekking across the plains to find a whole new tribe to take him in as their own. I’m not certain if I was having issues with my own family on the day I wrote this, but let’s ignore the sub textual probabilities for now.

My teacher was very enthusiastic about the story. She typed it up, along with a few others, and bound them in construction paper covers and neatly printed the titles on the front. (I still have the darn thing and its one of my most coveted treasures.) The stories, and other work by students, were displayed for a parent’s open house at the school. When my Mom and Dad arrived my teacher positively gushed about how much she liked the story.

I really took the affirmation to heart.

I decided right there, at age eight, that I would be a writer. 

However, I rarely wrote a story that didn’t include a drawing, which was my other great passion. Goaded on by a “Draw This Pirate” art school ad in a magazine, I started drawing and never stopped. However, while in senior public school in Tillsonburg Ontario, another teacher made an indelible impression on my life. He passed by my desk one fateful day while I was scribbling out a picture of The Incredible Hulk, and blithely commented; “Hey, that’s not bad, have you ever thought of doing that for a living?” Heck no, I’d never thought of doing that for a living! In that very moment, with the capricious daring of youth, I shifted lanes from writing to drawing as a career path, and continued merrily on my way.

Many encouraging art teachers followed and I never once hesitated in my new direction.

Still, my passions remained the same, and even though I went to College Avenue Secondary School in Woodstock to take their exceptional art classes, and later studied classical animation at Sheridan College in Oakville, I never stopped writing. Short stories, ideas for comics, and later a lot of sketch comedy and short plays. I even made a few bucks with it from time to time.

It’s only recently that I’m trying to get back to my prose roots and see if I can really be a writer. If it’s not too late, of course. There are several reasons why I’m doing this now, but I’ll enumerate them at another time. Right now I’m just trying to get back in the groove with some short stories, a few TV and film scripts, and a novel that I’m pounding away on.

In the meantime, enjoy the remaining pages of my story for The Comic Eye.

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