Mindy Newell: Karen
Thirty years ago.
Thirty years is a long time. A lot can happen. And a funny thing happens as the years pass. You look back and you can see how you ended up where you are today. How the chalk drawings of your life have made a graphic novel starring you. It’s a story made up of page-turners and cliffhangers, of happy endings and endings that leave you nauseous with Vertigo.
Like so many others, I was, frankly, shocked when the news broke that Karen is leaving DC this March. (I believe my words were “Holy shit!”) Is this her decision? Is she being pushed out? I’ll leave that issue to others.
This column is, simply put, a love letter to Karen Berger.
Last week Mike Gold wrote, im-not-so-ho, a brilliant column about Karen and her lasting imprint on the comics field, in which he stated – I’m paraphrasing – that “Karen fostered and molded and taught her staff.” I can attest to that. Though I was never part of her staff per se, if it was not for Karen Berger and her nurturing of whatever talent I may possess as a writer…well, my life would have been very, very different, and I’m sure I would not be here at ComicMix now.
If you want to know the “ins-and-outs” of how Karen taught me the craft of writing comics and nurtured me and helped me expand my professional credits, look up my column dated August 8, 2011, How I Became A Comics Professional, Or, How The Fuck Did That Happen, Part Two. This is about how she helped me find myself.
In 1983 I was a single mom, and apart from the joy Alix gave me, I was a very, very unhappy and lost woman. I was lonely. I was, if not in darkness, in a fog as thick as pea soup. I could not put a finger on what was wrong, I only knew that something was lacking. There was an emptiness in my life. It was as if I was standing in the center of a compass, and I didn’t know in what direction I should walk.
Whatever possessed me to sit down that day and write a brief synopsis of what would become Jenesis, the story that got me into DC’s New Talent Showcase? Was it hope? Was it, as my therapist likes to say, a core of steel somewhere buried deep within me that enables me to always pick myself up no matter what, and to and continue to put one foot in front of the other? Was it the hand of God, or the Goddess, or Fate, or Karma, or whatever higher power is out there? Or was it pure chutzpah, born out of a need to do something to change my life? For me, and for Alix? (I tend to think that it was God giving me that hope and core of steel and the chutzpah, but that’s just me. You can decide for yourselves.)
But nobody, despite what they may boast, does it all alone.
The day I came home from my first meeting with Karen was the beginning of the end for me: the end of feeling chained down, the end of feeling mislaid and misplaced, the end of feeling alone. I had met a woman who saw something in me that I had lost the ability to see – my ability to dream. My ability to accomplish.
Karen was not only my editor. She became my friend. I was there as she and Richard fell in love, broke up, got back together, and got married in an absolutely beautiful wedding in brick townhouse in Greenwich Village. She was the first person that I ever told about my agoraphobia – we were sitting in a restaurant on Columbus Avenue.
“I’m having a panic attack,” I said.
“Yeah, I know it’s stupid, but I’m freaking out.”
“That something is going to happen to me and I’ll end up lying on the floor,” I answered.
“And what, do you think I would ignore you, that people would just walk over you getting to their tables?” she asked?
And we laughed.
And though the anxiety attacks continued – I still get them sometimes – I’ve never again let them hold me back.
Comics…and an editor and friend named Karen Berger helped me to learn to believe in myself again.
May the road always rise up to meet you, Karen.
And thank you.
From the bottom of my heart.
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis