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Invisible – Autobiographical Comic Short

Invisible – Autobiographical Comic Short published on 25 Comments on Invisible – Autobiographical Comic Short

We interrupt your regularly scheduled comic with a change of pace:  An autobiographical comic, presented in 1 part for the archive divers.  Originally posted for 10 consecutive weeks in 10 parts as an extra on Fridays.

Some of you long-time readers of my work may remember Hans from the comic I started at age 15, Shades of Grey.  SoG was with me for eight years of my life, and Hans for even longer.  As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to wonder more and more what that story represented.  I was not in a good place or environment at 15.  So much of my coping happened via storytelling, completely unbeknownst to me.  So what piece of myself did Hans unconsciously represent, and why did he get written that way?

CJ Joughin creates the comic City of Cards which is about a failed former professional wrestler and his amnesiac ghost hunting partner living in a dystopic, corporate-run, future Reno Nevada.  The quote in the comic above was something CJ said to me on a particularly difficult day, when I was feeling especially dominated by fear.  I printed that comment out and put it on my wall above my desk.  Not long after, I started work on this short.  Thank you CJ.  Your comment meant a lot to me.

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I hope that the next panel is Hans giving you a hug. Except that that’s totally OOC for Hans, but we can pretend. Oh, I miss him! I miss all the SOG characters.

AHEM

I go off on a tangent because this is honestly like you’re writing a comic about my life. (Although nobody ever accused me of being bi, but I’m pretty sure all my super-straight high school friends knew I had crushes on them at one point or another.) And my writing has always been a reflection of what I’m struggling with at the time, though it never comes clear to me until much later.

Also, I know that your teen self is supposed to be schlumpy, but honestly she’s just adorable and if Hans won’t hug her, I will.

I loved Hans. He always felt to me like he was in neither camp; one angel wing & one demon wing, so he didn’t fit into either space, and as a result he was in danger and ripped apart. Which I’m pretty sure was just me seeing my own story on him. But, I was also hungry for queer characters.

I hadn’t even thought about what those two wings really meant. It just felt right at the time, but now that you point it out, he really was out of place everywhere. And I know that’s something that I not only struggled with then, but still do now. No wonder Hans has stuck around in my head all these years.

First off I admire your bravery and honesty in posting these and hosting the conversations that follow. I think these are very valuable and That maybe more creators should do something like this.

I just also want to mention my personal reaction to reading these has been a mixture of intense sympathy for you and others experienced stuff like this growing up and guilt for how much easier things seem to have been for me and for apparently having had the luck or a gift to be able to find books which had at least some mention of various kinds of ideas about sexualities, genders and even forms of marriage and relationships. and for having so easily found supportive friends and even a moderately supportive localish community. (Localish because lots of those people in said community were participating via the internet) i’m sure that I’d be a different person today if I hadn’t had access to any of that. and especially if the internet hadn’t been available to me at certain key points. And Roleplaying games.

I’m pretty sure that If it wasn’t for RPGs and the various groups of mostly friends that I played with I’d never have had so many ways to safely explore various ideas and potential aspects of myself. or been inspired to try creative things like writing and art.

Damn that got longer and more rambly than I expected. Um.. bottom line is that I think that you, Robin, are doing a good thing here and that if there are any other people out there secretly feeling guilty for not having a horrible enough time growing up and figuring ourselves out, that maybe we shouldn’t feel too guilty for accidentally winning a lottery for some good luck. After all there’s obviously more than enough bad stuff out there that we shouldn’t forget that good stuff can and has happened.

If I could, I would absolve you of guilt. There’s no need for it. Gratitude for one’s own fortune, awareness of how others experience things differently, and compassion for those in need, those are useful. Those can be used to create safer spaces for others. Guilt, on the other hand, isolates. It keeps us focused on ourselves. Like you said, there’s more than enough bad stuff out there that we shouldn’t forget that good stuff can and has happened. For myself, I don’t begrudge someone a happy home or a loving family. Someone suffering the same way I did doesn’t make me feel better, it just makes me sad. The world needs happy, healthy, hopeful people. They are key to creating better, safer, kinder spaces in the world.

Thank you for your kind reply to this. While your words may not be enough to grant absolution, they do go a long way towards helping me to feel less guilty and thus be potentially more useful. Also nice is having this exchange be somewhere semi physical so that I can look back at it in the future and have something a little more solid than memory to tell me that yes this was what was said.

Normally I delete these autobio pages from the archive so they don’t interrupt the LL reading experience, but if it is helpful for you to have this here, than I will make an exception and keep this page in. I know how important words can be.

Just read shades of grey. It was a trippy read.

It was sometimes difficult to read it. Because it felt nasty and raw. Particulary the emotional transformation and downfall of (Grace? Grey? Not sure how I should call her now). But there were also such beautiful, heartwarming moments. Particulary in the chapter Phoenix. I loved it when David realised his judgement and view was harming himself and others, when Brand rediscovered his joy and confronted the amalgam of his fears, feelings and obsession. These pages will stick with me.

And Hans… Manipulative, obsessive and ultimately brave Hans. No wonder he is still with you. Page 221 of Ashes was gutwrenching.

While there were parts I am not sure I fully understand, I think it teached me about feelings and which belongs to me, and which belongs to others.

Thank you for such a emotional story, that sometimes resonated with me.

With kind regards,

Pieter

Trippy, nasty, and raw are all really good ways to describe SoG. I’m glad it was also beautiful and heartwarming. SoG was how I processed the environment I grew up with, and eventually grew out of. Even if I didn’t know it at the time. And while there are a lot of things I would change (so many things) I’m still proud of what I was able to do and pleased with how much I improved my craft. Hearing that it was helpful to others is very gratifying.

I just went through and re-read the whole series… In a way, I remember Shades of Grey in High School and College helping me go through a challenging time, and eventually finding balance (I think I relate a bit more with Brand). It is interesting re-reading because I remember how I felt then reading this the first time, and how so much has changed since then. Robin, thank-you so much for doing this.

I only just discovered this comic tonight, and reading about your character, Hans, reminds me so very, very much of my personal fictional alternate, who happens to die and get tortured a lot and also shares the mis-matched wings, though hers are on opposite shoulders.

Good on you for taking the chance on telling the world (and yourself) that you were going to be yourself and you weren’t going to hide who you were any longer. That can be a really scary step to take, and it takes a lot of inner strength to take it. 😀

I once asked my therapist, “Why do we do this, as writers? Why do we torture characters that we feel so close to?” And she responded, “We torture them so we don’t have to do the same to ourselves.” I’ve always found it an interesting reflection of inner struggle. It definitely makes me look differently at characters and writing. How much of narrative is just a story, and how much of it is a writer working through their problems via someone else’s shoes?

One of my best friends is pansexual, I was the second person he told (his wife was the first) he was afraid I’d reject him but said “since you don’t have a problem with *our mutual gay male friend* I hope you don’t have a problem with me.” I don’t of course but he told be almost the same story about his school days and how he struggled with his feelings.

One of the most interesting things for me to have learned by sharing this is how common this school days experience is. That makes me sad, but is also comforting to know I wasn’t alone, no matter how I felt at the time. I hope our culture changes so that less kids have to struggle with these kinds of feelings.

I’m…. crying a lot. Just reread this and ithit me… really hard. The internal narrative of not counting can be so toxic sometimes. It’s hard. So very hard.

Yeah. I’m still running into this every day. Making this autobio comic helped some. I started volunteering with an LGBTQ advocacy group, which I never would have done before due to that “don’t out yourself, you don’t count” instinct. But I still feel it when it’s anything that might involve me benefiting directly. I don’t feel like I can join lists of LGBTQ creators even now, because now my COMIC isn’t LGBTQ enough. Like the only way I count fully is if I’m very vocal about my sexuality in every aspect of my life and work? UGH. It makes no sense, but I can’t shake it.

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