Collaborations are hard, man.
I used to be friends with this guy…and not just friends, but, like, I-would-take-a-bullet-directly-in-the-heart-for-you best friends. We did everything together: loaned each other our rarest trading cards, cried on one another’s shoulders about girls, helped each other move, all that jazz. We even made our very first comics together (I wrote and he illustrated).
We haven’t spoken in years.
I don’t know why. The whole thing was 100% one-sided…but here’s what I do know:
1.) The whole thing started going south the second I started getting attention from the industry for my efforts.
2.) In an attempt to emulate my “sudden” success, he put down his microns and started trying to write (presumably because I made it look easy. If I could do it, then surely anybody could, right?).
3.) He hasn’t put out A SINGLE BOOK since we stopped working together. Not a single panel. Not even a crummy, freebie, online thing, just for fun.
The hard lesson I’ve learned since parting ways with said dude is this: Just like “groupies” who only want to have anything to do with you when you’re a success, there are people in comics who only want to be in your life when you’re struggling. There are people who exist on the same planet as you and I who have no interest in actually succeeding at the thing they talk about wanting to succeed at all of the time.
These energy-vampires don’t want to see their friends accomplish their life-long goals. They don’t even want to do well for themselves. Their sole purpose in life is to attach themselves to people who are floundering, and the minute the label of “starving artist” doesn’t apply to them anymore, then they’re no longer interested.
These people fall into two camps:
“Tourists” – Rich kids who grew up in awesome, stable households but were sold on an overly romanticized idea of poverty and struggle by the media.
“Self-Saboteurs” – troubled individuals who only knew strife growing up, and as such are made uncomfortable when things are goin’ okay.
This guy is one of the former.
This old buddy of mine moved to Los Angeles a few years before I did, in pursuit of the kind of work I do now. Surprise, surprise: In the four years or so he has been out here, he has yet to land any.
Since moving to L.A I’ve been terrified of running into this old pal again…and not because I’m afraid that he could say anything that would damage me in the eyes of my new friends and colleagues…but because I’m weirded out by the idea that I’m a character in someone else’s personal mythology–and not just a character, but a villain!
Not being the protagonist of the story…it’s every writer’s nightmare.
Plus, I’m a terrible villain. I’m vegan, for Thunder Christ’s sake! If you’re gonna have a villain then at least get some dude with a metal mask and a double-sided lightsaber, or something. Get someone who drinks cow’s milk and doesn’t even give a shoot–THAT is evil.
But what do I know? Maybe I’m the self-saboteur and we’re going to run into another soon, it’ll be great, and then he’ll do a cursory internet search of my name, find this post, and our rivalry will begin anew.
Who am I to argue?
Maybe I am evil.
Maybe we deserve each other.
We are all evil, some just more than others, and in itself, there are different types of evil. Our lives are sometimes just us struggling through to prove to ourselves that we’re the good guys… that we’re the heroes in the end, and that in itself, is a type of evil.
I’m sorry to hear that you have that worry, I have a similar fear in running into someone from my past, my used-to-be best friend who would plant doubts into my mind because she just couldn’t see me happier than her. I remember I couldn’t show her my drawings as she would get upset and call it bragging. Yet to her I was the bad guy, I was the evil one who made her feel inadequate and left her. It’s all a matter of perspective. And those struggles between who is the bad guy and who is the good one makes for a good story for someone.