My first comic book was four decades in the making.

Why the hell did it take me so long to create (or more accurately FINISH) a comic book? This is a goal that I’ve had since before I even knew what the word goal meant. The moment my parents gave me my first comics — a random assortment of Action Comics, Detective Comics, and Superboy snagged off a spinner rack at Kroger — I wanted to tell stories in comic book form.

My grade school years were spent folding and stapling sheets of 8 1/2 x 11″ typing paper together and creating my own comics. My home brewed superheroes Elek-Tron and Lazer Light would wage galactic battles against the evil Doctor Tribulation, which looking back, were basically plug and play plot plagiarisms of Transformers The Movie. Hell, I’m sure I made them while rockin’ out to the soundtrack in my underoos. What can I say? I had the touch.

I loved my shitty plagiarized comics. I’d bag and board them, and slip them into my longbox right between my well-traced copies of X-Men Classic, the Longshot and Wolverine mini-series and Fantastic Four. If you asked me at ten-years-old WHY I made comics, the answer was obvious. Cause it was FUN and I was good at it. Success for ten-year-old Sean was being able to hold something I created and was proud of in my hands, and to be able to read a story that I made. Well copied. Liberally. But it was MY liberally copied copy damn it.

But I grew up.

And with growing up, all of the voices of every aunt and uncle, every neighbor, every dentist, every freaking adult I had the audacity to tell that I wanted making comics to be what I did when I grew up, that cacophony of voices saying “That’s not a real job. How are you going to support yourself doing that?” Added to that choir all of the art professors in college that sneered at comics as being not real art, every creative writing and english professor that chortled and ridiculed the comics art form with disdain, well that chorus of voices finally got to me and I changed my college major from Drawing to Graphic Design. The only way to make money being an artist I reasoned, was to sell out and become a commercial artist.

What I didn’t realize was that had I allowed the implicit message they were saying to poison my passion. I couldn’t just make comics for FUN. For my own enjoyment and satisfaction. I had to make them for PROFIT. Success in making comics could only be measured by getting someone else to validate me with little green papers. Success is measured by what I could buy, not what I could create, but by what I could consume.

I still wanted to make comics. But I could only do so if I could justify it to myself by getting a publisher, selling lots of books, and making lots of the moneys. And then buying a bunch of shit I don’t need. Automobiles that drop in value the first time I drive them and are worthless hunks of metal by the time I pay it off. IPhones that are planned to be obsolete in two years of purchasing them. Houses that are empty for most of the day, except for when I come home to sleep, and mow the grass, and replace the roof in 15 years. That’s what matters. Stuff. Comics are a means to an end. And that end is acquiring and consuming stuff.

With that in mind, I couldn’t waste time making books that wouldn’t sell. In the graphic design world, creating stuff without a promise for payment is called working on spec, and I wasn’t going to invest a lot of time on a pitch that the customer isn’t buying. So I would write a first issue, draft up a pitch, reduce it to a log line, draw up 21 pages, letter it, color it and send it out. If someone was interested in it, if some publisher or editor validated me, well then I would finish the other four or five issues I had envisioned.

So after a decade of making stuff anticipating what the market wanted, I realized I was turning 40 and after nearly two decades of working as a professional designer, I had nothing in my portfolio that was uniquely me. Nothing that I was particularly proud of. Not a single catalog, website, poster or brochure. As for my spec comics, I had about a half-dozen issue ones, but nothing that I would bag, board and slip in the longbox between my coveted John Byrne, Arthur Adams, Chris Claremont and Frank Millers.

So I decided to make and finish a comic for me. I didn’t care if it ever was published, or read by anyone other than me. If I had to pay for a print run of one, for an audience of one, so be it. My Elek-Tron and Lazer Lights were all editions of one, for a Mighty McArdle Believer of One. And making those set me on this path. I decided to go back to the beginning.

My personal “WHY do I want to make comics,” timeshifted back to ten-year-old Sean’s pure unadulterated reason for making comics. “Because it is FUN and I’m good at it.” There was one big difference between ten-year-old Sean and thirty-nine year old Sean. Ten-year-old Sean was easy to impress and very self-satisfied. Thirty-nine-year old Sean? Different cat all together. So I set out to make a comic to impress the meanest, snarkiest, most pretentious and condescending critic of my work that I’d ever known, the Anton Ego in my own brain. It had to be good. I had to prove to myself that I could make something I thought was good.

Once I figured out the WHY, the HOW was easy. I spent twenty years getting paid to make stuff for other people. They saw tangible value in what I did, that is to say, they paid me, so it must have achieved a certain level of “good”. I decided to employ me to make something good for me. Also, success for me was recalibrated to being able to hold something I created and am proud of in my hands, and to be able to read a story that is uniquely me.

It took three years. I was 42 when I finished, which coincidentally, Douglas Adams was right, 42 was the ultimate question of my life, my universe and everything. Holding those 172 pages in my hands and reading it for the first time, AND actually realizing “oh, this is good. I MADE SOMETHING GOOD!” was one of the greatest single moments of my life, this side of snipping two umbilical cords.

And that book that I made for myself went on to be nominated for an Eisner (yeah I’m not ashamed to admit. I hyperventilated when I got that email from Jackie Estrada) and is being published next year by Comics Experience and Source Point. All because I figured out my WHY.

So, TLDR,

WHY do you make comics?