Looking Back: A Strange, Wonderful 2014
[Above: Ivy and a Shanghai skyline from last month’s two-week trip to China]
2014 was the year that I finally finished my giant graphic novel The Sculptor after five years in hibernation, but even though the book was completely out of my hands by June, the rest of the year has been a weird limbo-like waiting game, since the thing doesn’t actually hit the shelves until February 3.
Still, my idea of “limbo” (like my idea of “hibernation”) isn’t entirely normal. To outward appearances, I’ve actually been quite active. Here’s a quick rundown of some of our 2014 adventures, in roughly chronological order…
• January: Flying to Tennessee to meet the 36 students I’d be teaching at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville from late February through the beginning of May. I’m joined by fellow teacher Kell Black, set to teach the first half of the class while I head back to California to frantically work on both The Sculptor and my edition of Best American Comics (with series editor Bill Kartalopoulos). Meanwhile, we frantically start putting all our worldly possessions in boxes in preparation for a move. Sky and Winter head back north to UC Santa Cruz and San Francisco State respectively.
• February: “The busiest month of our lives” held that title for only two months since May was probably busier, but it was an impressive month just the same. First, we continued packing like crazy. Next, I flew to Amsterdam for an IxDA conference in a giant converted gas factory. Then back to Southern California, arriving at the apartment at 2:30 am to get ready for the movers who would be arriving at 8:00 am (Surprise—they were early, haha). 90% of our stuff goes into storage, and we drop a bed at Ivy’s parents’ house. Then, we drive up the coast to Marin Academy for two lectures and about ten class visits, then back “home” to pack the little stuff that we can move ourselves, then fly to Orlando for the InControl conference and a side trip to Disney World. Ivy flies home to finish getting the apartment cleaned despite feeling sick as a dog, and I fly to Tennessee to teach my first classes, plus a public lecture, while taking up residence at a local La Quinta.
• March: I teach my class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A massive snowstorm and spring break gives me space to really concentrate on the book and I finally finish principal art on The Sculptor. At this point, all that’s left is corrections—oh, and completely restructuring and rewriting the first 50 pages or so, because I didn’t think they were good enough anymore. Ivy and our neurotic rescue dog Bucky join me and we have lots of magnificent, fattening local food. We’re also joined by Pendleton Ward, who I’ve invited to give a guest lecture during my residency. Bucky growls at Pen every time he gets in the car, but Pen vows to pet the dog before he leaves, and this he does without incident on the last day. Bucky is all growl no bite as Pen suspected.
• April: My students continue to be delightful, curious, funny, and attentive. We do a ton of lectures, exercises, and critiques, and they brilliantly dissect City of Glass during a book club segment, teaching me things even I didn’t know about the book. We have two more guest speakers: Ryan Germick, head of the Google Doodle team (and a former one-time student of mine at a one-week workshop at MCAD 12 years prior—as was Pen Ward), and all-ages comics superstar and friend Raina Telgemeier. We also take a side trip to Philadelphia to teach a weekend workshop and lecture at University of the Arts.
• May: Ivy and I bid a fond farewell to Kell and my students in Clarksville and begin our drive home to Southern California (starting with a three-hour drive in the wrong direction to visit an awesome family in Knoxville, but that’s another story). On the way home, I’m still unpacking my massive desktop computer and Cintiq at every hotel as I put the finishing touches on the corrected final art for The Sculptor. Or maybe it was the cover? There were a lot of different finish lines to cross. Anyway, we get home, drop off Bucky, then drive north to San Francisco where I’m keynoting a Google conference in a San Francisco Marriott (with no url apparently, ’cause it was internal), then we park the car in San Jose, fly to Manhattan, I deliver a lecture at Bloomberg, then another lecture the very next day for New York-based IxDA members. Then we fly back to San Jose, hop in the car, drive to Houston for a lecture at the Contemporary Art Museum, as well as a panel at a local convention featuring artist Trenton Doyle Hancock and me in conversation, then a drive to Atlanta where I deliver yet another lecture, this time for the good folks at MailChimp. We’re joined by Winter, who’s out of school now, get some awesome MailChimp swag, then borrow their Pantone swatch book (a favor for which I will be eternally grateful), select the all-important second color for the book, and drive home by way of the Grand Canyon, which I get to experience for the first time (it was big and impressive and I want to go back).
• June: Back home and in the studio. Send out the final final final final final final files for The Sculptor and go over proofreading, pagination stuff, etc. Otherwise, enjoy some much needed rest.
• July: Comic-Con! Great panel with Gene Luen Yang, and a last-minute panel about my graphic novel that won’t be out for a million years at that point.
• August: I teach my annual two-day workshop in Los Angeles. Most of the rest of the month is spent sitting around feeling frustrated that my book won’t be out for a million years.
• September: Ivy, Winter and I attend Seeing Knowing, a conference at Berkeley, as research for my next book on the subject of visual communication. Winter heads back to school, I fly cross-country for a lecture at Georgia Southern University, then back home, then Ivy and I drive to San Diego again, this time for an event at their gorgeous new library, co-sponsored by Comic-Con, where Larry Marder, Charles Brownstein and I discuss the history of “dangerous” comics in commemoration of Banned Books Week.
• October: Off to the NAM Festival in Palencia, Spain for a lecture, a three-day workshop, and lots of great food and adventures with new and old friends. Then, only a few days later, Best American Comics 2014 hits the shelves, and we fly (inappropriately enough) to the Lakes Festival in England, where we have even more wonderful adventures, and meet even more new and old friends. Flying back to LAX, we check into a hotel in Los Angeles, and meet professor Henry Jenkins for an onstage conversation for USC/Annenberg.
• November: Home for a week, then it’s back on the road. Ivy and I drive to Kansas State University for a lecture, then Kansas City Missouri for lectures at Universal UClick and Hallmark headquarters respectively. Then we park the car at Kansas City airport, fly to Los Angeles for just one day (gotta do laundry sometime!) and off to Shanghai. Our trip to China lasts for two weeks, and includes four different international schools with lectures and class visits for over a thousand kids. After that, we fly back to LA and return to Kansas City to fetch the car, driving west once again.
• December: Ivy and I swing by Comic Arts Los Angeles, a brand-new show that everybody enjoyed tremendously. Then, a few days later, it’s off to Santiago, Chile for a literature festival and more great food (most of it Peruvian, admittedly) and new friends, then back home for the last time this year. Then Hanukkah, Christmas, Ivy’s birthday, and here we are.
Happy New Year!