FROM JUNE 8, 2017
Looking through my files today, noticed something I hadn't thought about. It was a year ago that I finished my long in planning, long in production graphic novel. Finishing the book was an accomplishment I really thought I'd never do.
I'm a longtime comics fan. I don't really remember a time they weren't in my life. And I'm in my 40s, so that's a long time. In my teens I started drawing my own. I would staple sheets of paper together and make my own. Of course, I wanted to draw or write for the big guys. But an interesting thing happened as I got into my 20s, I wanted to create my own characters. Fueled by all the great indy characters I had been exposed to (Nexus, Mage, Grendel, Grimjack, Madman), I wanted to come up with something near my heart and sensibilities. That's when I came up with the idea of making my grandfather, my Pop, into a masked hero. He had long been my real life one and it just seemed natural to make him one. I'd introduce a legacy aspect to it to include myself to a small degree and that was my story. This was 1995.
Life kept passing. Family ordeals, job stress and unhappiness, as well as, a massive self depreciating/ inferiority complex kept me from creating my book. I really thought it would never be a reality on many levels, especially after my Pop passed away.
But life can be funny. My friends who had been creating comics on the side started to become more and more of an influence instead of me being jealous of them. The hunger for producing my book returned out of necessity, maybe because I was finally ready for it. That was 2014.
I was coming off the longest period I had ever gone through without holding a pencil. To say I was rusty was being kind. But as I started it, I found myself not downing myself for what I was drawing. I was focusing on actually working on the book instead of whether I was ready or not. For the next two years, I would continue this journey through changing formats how I was going to present it, to the final graphic novel it became.
It's rough in places. A lot of it was created from years of plot points and thoughts never scribbled down and played in my head a million times. But I'm proud of it. I think when people see it sitting on my table I'm sure they have their own conclusions about it. That's fine. That's their right. I may not always explain it the best I can or be the salesman it deserves. How do you describe a life's dream? It's the story of a coal miner who moonlights as a masked hero, who does so until age makes him think towards the future and his grandson taking it over. From there it turns into a story about the pressure of growing up with a big responsibility over your head. A family drama much more than a masked one. See I can explain it.
By the way, those that have bought it, while a small group, have honored me by saying how much they like it. That is a feeling I will never be able to explain.
Just released a Prelude story that kind of bridges the graphic novel to the new series I'm working on. That last sentence still baffles me that I'm speaking in future tense for the book.
I know that was long and drawn out. It was just a spur of the moment musing of where I've been and how I got there. Thanks for reading.
A lifelong comics fan, Mike W. Belcher is the writer/artist of MAN IN THE MASK. A story he's had with him for over 20 years.