“Whatever it takes to finish things, finish. You will learn more from a glorious failure than you ever will from something you never finished.” – Neil Gaiman
In the summer of 2010, a conversation between my friend Reed and I quickly turned to our shared desire to make a comic book. Within a month I was sending him story ideas and characters, and he was sending me some early sketches. Before long there was a script and paneling had begun.
By the following spring, the first chapter was drawn and painted and the second chapter had been started. We still hadn’t thought about lettering, logos, or print budgets – but we had momentum. For me, the stars were lining up. I had found my voice again in writing this story, I had found a brilliant creative partner in Reed, and we were actually making it happen.
Running parallel to what Reed and I were doing, I was also very much in love for the first time in my life. Blair changed my jaded views on that four letter word. He inspired and encouraged me on this project when it was still in its earliest stages. To say everything was perfect would be a lie, but I was the happiest I had been in quite some time.
When Blair died in the summer of 2011, my whole world fell to pieces. The unexpected trauma, the weight of the grief, and the subsequent depression and healing all took their toll in various ways. I have already written about this experience extensively on this blog (here and here), so I won’t go into the thick of the months that followed. I am bringing it up here mainly for context. This tragedy permeated every aspect of my life, and the still-unnamed Dream Crasher was no exception.
Comics were put on hold for awhile. I scribbled ideas in notebooks and thought about the project from time to time, but in the end it took more than six months before I sat down and began working again. Even then the work was slow. It took another year after that before I finished the script for the third chapter. It felt like starting from scratch and learning how to write again. In hindsight, the pause was in no small part due to a fresh perspective I had on my main character, Amalie.
I was (and still am) following Kurt Vonnegut’s sixth rule to a T. I was being a sadist and making awful things happen to my main character, but I hadn’t given a second thought to how it was affecting her. I hadn’t thought about how she processed the world around her, or who she was because of it. Through my own grief, I suddenly understood her on a whole new level. In many ways, Amalie is a representation of how strong I wish I could be. She’s a survivor. She can tame a beast but she’s still human. She’s still vulnerable.
I began to think of this bleak new world less like a graveyard and more like fertile soil. I realized that it’s not a story about the world that’s been destroyed. It’s about the new world taking it’s place. It’s about the children who have an opportunity to shape it. Beyond the horror of the present, there is hope. There is a future worth fighting for.
Ultimately Reed and I made the decision to completely redo the artwork for Chapter 1. It set us even further back, but I can confidently say that we have a better comic because of it. Reed’s patience, understanding, and empathy throughout this project has been instrumental in my sticking with it. There were plenty of opportunities to give up quietly and walk away, and yet we stuck with it. I can’t thank him enough for that. We’re still pushing on, and I believe now more than ever we will see it through to the end.
In his writing, Blair had a knack for extracting beauty from the darkest places. His example inspired me to do the same with this nightmare world Reed and I had created. As devastating as his death was, it hasn’t stopped me. If anything, it has made this a better story and strengthened my resolve to see it through. Life is too short to not pursue my passions. I am less afraid of failure than I am of who I would become if I never tried.