Marc Alan Fishman: I Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore
The actor/writer/comedian/rapper/not-Spider-Man Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, recently released his new album ‘Because the Internet.” On said album, Glover, amongst other tirades about money and how he has it, exclaims in a solemn tone… “I don’t know who I am anymore”. This is precluded by lyrics revolving around what one might assume his life is like these days – facing criticism from random strangers, texts from other strangers, and general haters being hateful– and as such, the line hits home pretty harshly. We’ve all been there, right?
Shortly after hearing that line though, adjoined to others like “No one’s ever been this lost”, “Funny the day you born that’s really your death sentence”, and the gem “Eventually all my followers realize they don’t need a leader” I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth. Glover’s alter ego is a pessimistic child with too much money, who has the gall to bitch about it. As a person only two years older then he, with a wife and a kid, a day job and a night job, I not only can’t relate to him… I can’t even accept the notion of where he’s coming from. More to the point? I wrote angsty lyrics like this too– in high school, when I couldn’t get laid.
With that being said? I give Glover all the credit in the world. He’s branching out, and attempting to explore the arts as a whole, rather than celebrate singular successes. As an award winning writer on 30 Rock turned lovable ensemble cast-member in Community, Donald could ostensibly ride out the well-wishes of white America for a good long time. Instead, he’s toured the country doing comedy, making movies, and of course rapping. And rather than rap as a happy-go-lucky kid who is just gosh-darned pleased-as-punch to be a success… he instead turned inward (and in an odd turn perhaps as an alter-ego if you will) to produce something new and unexpected. Granted, I don’t know Donald beyond the NBC stuff, so as it were… I was caught off guard. While I may not like the fruits of his labor, I can indeed respect the hustle. But I digress.
Those of us who proclaim the title of artist should all adopt a simple philosophy: never stop learning. An artist in my humble opinion, is someone who not only creates but challenges him or herself to continue to learn, adapt, and reinterpret ourselves and our creations. While I could easily spend paragraphs waxing on about musicians exploring other genres (Billy Joe of Green Day doing an Everly Brothers cover album, anyone?), or writers creating a new nom-de-plum so they could try their hand at something unexpected … I’d prefer to focus solely on those within our coveted realm of comic bookery.
With the continual allure of crowd-funding readily available for those with semi-famous names, great artists like Gene Ha are taking time off (in his case to do some much-needed house work) and considering going creator-owned. Even if it’s for a single project, seeing things like that are very exciting to a guy like me. Creator-owned means creator-controlled. It’s an exploration less of what will immediately be made for a specific market (that is to say… sell well) and perhaps more a leap of faith by an artist seeking to expand beyond what has merely drawn a paycheck. Look perhaps at our patron saint of crankiness, Alan Moore, who high above in his castle, now works when (or if) he chooses, and only when it strikes him to. As an artist, I can’t help but respect the moxie. Of course, if I’d written Watchmen… I might have the means with which to be choosier. Then again, my comic books are made on my own dime, and as such, I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing anyways– just not as lucratively.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a step back to commend my arch nemesis, Dan Dougherty, and my friend by-way-of-the-con-circuit Jon Michael Lennon. Both gentlemen as of late have shown considerable leaps of inspiration and as such have been producing some of the best art I’ve seen from either of them. This is devoid of editorial mandate, mind-you. Dougherty’s Touching Evil is a self-published masterpiece in the same vein as Revival. Here the normally jovial Dougherty (a.k.a. Beardo) http://www.gocomics.com/beardo opts to write and draw a serious story with mature themes and an amazing blend of noir-twinged scripting married to a more serious style in his visuals. The result is one of the best comics I’ve read all year. Lennon, normally producer of amazingly-dark anthologies has had an artistic second-coming as of late. With an upcoming gallery show, Lennon’s Crumb-esque work has grown into singular pieces of art. Devoid of context, with a more potent eye for graphic design… the works are a step forward for him such that I can’t help but feel his next foray into “Product of Society” will be leaps and bounds above the previous installments.
Just as Glover drops what could be just a friendly facade to become Childish Gambino, so too, must we within the realm of comic books free ourselves from our self-imposed hells. Just because it sells doesn’t mean it needs to be made. If we are to call ourselves artists then we must act as such. The greats never stop learning, exploring, and challenging themselves. Here at the precipice of a new year, perhaps we creative-types ought to consider losing more that just a bad habit or two as a resolution. Instead, we should take a page from Gambino, and take the opportunity to get lost, and then find ourselves again. Cheers.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
MONDAY: Mindy Newell