You never forget your first time

I created my first comic book when I was 10 years old. The main character was named “Zamit.” His costume was essentially a cross between Boba Fett and Cobra Commander: he wore a featureless metal mask that covered his head, and he had a jetpack for flying away from trouble. I sold the original for ten cents to Kelly, one of my classmates. When other people asked to buy a copy, I asked Kelly if I could have the original back. It was returned with food stains. That was the first and only issue of Zamit.

 

Years later, I returned to making comics with my friends Chris and Tim. This 2nd foray was just as short-lived, however, as we each had our own characters and our own stories we wanted to tell, and we let our egos get in the way of collaboration. In high school, I returned to creating comic books with a series of stories featuring “The Urban Law,” a masked vigilante who was heavily influenced by Dirty Harry, Mack Bolan, and the Punisher. I also lent my talents to comic books of other friends. Here is the cover of “Takuban” #2, which I penciled. As you can see, our prices had slightly increased.

 

I kept evolving the character over the next few years, with my experiences in the Army fleshing out his backstory. The most dramatic change was that the character was no longer an anonymous, self-appointed sentinel of justice but a publicly-known adventurer named “Chance Fortune.” His bio now was that he was an Army veteran who had retired from the service and was now traveling the globe in search of new challenges.After the service, I enrolled at the University of South Florida. This is where my “Chance Fortune” became “Dash Cunning.” By this time, the character had further evolved to be a mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones, but at an advanced age. I was taken with the idea of an aging super-spy, one who had to rely more upon his mind than his physic prowess, and what his life might be like as he came to grips with his decline. 

 

I happened upon “dash cunning” and discovered it to be an English phrase that meant “clever.” When I realized that the name could be a pseudonym for mine (i.e. Dash and Mark both have 4 letters, Cunning and Freeman both have 7 letters), I immediately registered the domain name. That was 2004. I’ve been working towards this moment ever since.I plan to publish my first Dash Cunning comic by the end of the year. I will use this space to document the journey. I hope you stay with me on this adventure!

 

More of the story behind the story 

I love reading How-to books for artists, especially those books specifically written for comic book creation and movie making. One of the best books I’ve read recently is “Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers,” by Marcos Mateu-Mestre. The author has extensive experience in feature animation, and he shows how to maximize your use of each frame or each panel to keep your audience engaged in the story.I really appreciate his idea of squinting at an object to read the light. The idea is we often strive to copy the image when we should aspire to capture the essence. He uses this same approach for understanding the flow of a panel, to see where the light and the lines take our eyes. I found this to be an immense help to my own drawing, as I have struggled to draw a self-portrait that I liked. I realize now that one of the reasons I haven't liked any of these drawings is because I’ve been so focused on the “facts” of my face. From now on, I’ll draw more from the heart. The book is filled with beautiful renderings of scenes to allow us to see what he tells us about sequential art. The book is well-worth purchasing for the art alone, but the fact that it features such well-presented lessons in storytelling makes it a must-have for any aspiring artist. I highly recommend it!

 

Your action is your character

One of the ideas that resonated with me from the film “An Education” was the line that “Action is character, our English teacher says. I think it means that if we never did anything, we wouldn't be anybody.” We are what we do. Not what we want to do, or what we plan to do or what we say we will do, but what we actually do.For most of my life, I’ve planned for action rather than taking real action. This website is a case in point: I’ve been developing this character and this artist’s life for as long as I’ve been alive, but rather than taking real action to move forward, I read more books, and I talk to more people, and I conduct more research about How to take action. It is good to plan ahead, but not if the planning phase never ends. At some point, you have to implement the plans, see if they work. If they work, great, keep going. If they don’t work, pivot or regroup, but don’t stop. You have to keep working, keep taking action.Sometimes, a catalyst will come along, a spark that ignites a fire that forces you to take action. You might not feel ready, but you have to act anyway. For me, a confluence of events have led me to this point, where I’m taking action without knowing exactly what I’m doing. The key for me is I know why I’m doing it. I have to live as the most authentic version of me: I can’t be anything else or anyone else any more. I HAVE to draw, I HAVE to write, I HAVE to create.Speaking of Action, my friend Roger told me about a drawing contest that Coliseum of Comics is holding: for $8, you can buy a copy of Action Comics #1000 with a sketch cover. The people who draw the best cover by May 12 deadline can win some sweet prizes. Here is a link for more information:One of the ideas that resonated with me from the film “An Education” was the line that “Action is character, our English teacher says. I think it means that if we never did anything, we wouldn't be anybody.” We are what we do. Not what we want to do, or what we plan to do or what we say we will do, but what we actually do.For most of my life, I’ve planned for action rather than taking real action. This website is a case in point: I’ve been developing this character and this artist’s life for as long as I’ve been alive, but rather than taking real action to move forward, I read more books, and I talk to more people, and I conduct more research about How to take action. It is good to plan ahead, but not if the planning phase never ends. At some point, you have to implement the plans, see if they work. If they work, great, keep going. If they don’t work, pivot or regroup, but don’t stop. You have to keep working, keep taking action.Sometimes, a catalyst will come along, a spark that ignites a fire that forces you to take action. You might not feel ready, but you have to act anyway. For me, a confluence of events have led me to this point, where I’m taking action without knowing exactly what I’m doing. The key for me is I know why I’m doing it. I have to live as the most authentic version of me: I can’t be anything else or anyone else any more. I HAVE to draw, I HAVE to write, I HAVE to create.


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