This week’s blog starts with a dream. I won’t bore you with some long and involved dream plot synopsis because I’ve always found those to be dull. While our own dreams may fascinate us other people’s dreams are usually less interesting. But indulge me for a moment as I set this up.

I had a dream the other night that I only remember a small piece of. I was working somewhere unknown to me and as I was leaving for the day I picked up the mail. In that mail was a bunch of marketing art that I made for a comic I did way back in the late 1980s right after I graduated from art school.

The part about that comic existing is real. I did attempt to self publish a comic book in 1989 or so. Unfortunately the black and white indie comic book boom was about over by then and I didn’t get enough orders to go to press. That and I didn’t really know what I was doing. It was before I started working in the Marvel Comics’ bullpen so my knowledge of publishing comics was limited. But I tried anyway. I didn’t have anything else to do at the time so why not try?

Most young artists have a hard time looking at and examining their own work. We have too much insecurity about our work, are still learning, and most young artists’ work really isn’t good enough. Some older artists still even have insecurity about their own work. It’s normal. This insecurity usually manifests itself in cringing as you look at your old work. All you can see are the flaws and not the strengths.

This inability to examine your own work is something an artist has to get over if they want to grow. You have to be able to see your own strengths as well as your own weaknesses. It’s best to lean into your strengths and work on getting better in your weak areas and this takes time, practice, and self examination.

It probably took me until my late 20s to be able to look back at my own work without cringing. When I finally could it helped me get better. I could examine the stuff my younger self made and appreciate what I did well without getting emotionally overwhelmed by the stuff I didn’t do well. It was a big step.

I once was talking to writer and editor Louise Simonson and she hit the nail on the head when she described that feeling as “You have to give that young person a break.” That’s exactly what you have to do. Give your younger self a break because he or she was doing their best. They weren’t perfect and they weren’t as skilled as you wanted them to be but there is no reason to only see the bad in their work.

That brings us back to the dream. It hit me pretty hard when I woke up. I didn’t understand why I dreamt it. In the dream as I was handed the package of old work I was hit with a wave of sadness and nostalgia. That wave carried over into my mood as I woke up. Why was I feeling sad because of a dream?

As I wrote before, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I learned to give my younger self a break but I don’t think learning that happened all at once. I think it was a continual process. It’s not like I look at all the work I did in my youth every day. I don’t think I look at it much at all. But when I do my brain has to process it and give that young guy a break.

When I look back at my days working at Marvel Comics I often look back with nostalgia and think about fond memories but I also have to deal with the fact that overall it was also a failure. At least it was in the context of having any kind of career making comic books. I worked for fifteen years at the biggest comic book company in the country and never got to make any of my own comics there. That’s pretty sucky but I’ve dealt with it. It’s not like my taste in making or reading comic books fit in with Marvel’s anyway. That’s just one of the rationalizations I’ve got.

What I think that dream brought up was that I never dealt with the failure of my first attempt at self publishing a comic book. That’s why seeing it in a dream made me emotional. As I write this I’m not even sure exactly when I made the comic. I think in early 1989. I graduated from art school in December of 1988 and first freelanced in the Marvel Bullpen in late November of 1989. I’m pretty sure the comic I tried to publish came between those dates.

Once I started working at Marvel I was busy not only with my days in the Bullpen but also with learning as much as I could about making comics. Also I was drawing as much as I could. I put the failure of that attempt at self publishing right out of my mind. I was in my early 20s and didn’t learn to give my younger self a break yet so I didn’t think about it. I buried it.

I think I drew two full issues of my almost self published comic before I abandoned it. I tucked it away in drawer and it has sat there unlooked at ever since. I know exactly where it is but I don’t think I’ve looked at it since 1989. I may have glanced at it quickly sometime in the early 1990s before quickly burying it again but I’m not even sure I did. I couldn’t give that young guy a break. After all I was still almost that same young guy.

I think I’m going to have to unbury those pages. That’s what the dream was motivating me to do. The pages are still haunting some far in the back part of my mind and they want out. I haven’t quite found the time to pull them out just yet but I think I will soon. I have very little memory of them so now I want to see them. I doubt they’ll hold any secret insight into myself but they still might be fun to look at. What’s another failure anyway?