I Choose Comics

[Note: This blog was written on Monday morning and has only received minor edits since then. Friday will have a review of Crimson Peak.]

I promise this blog will resume its usual comics/tv/wrestling fuckery on Friday. There’s something else I want to write about right now.

You might have noticed I didn’t write a blog last week. That’s because I had New York Comic Con right on the heels of another local event that I didn’t have time to really plan and decompress. I’m writing this on the flight back right now. I really want to sleep like the couple next to me is doing, but I have the hardest time sleeping on flights since I’ve gotten older. I don’t know if it’s anxiety or noise, but it barely ever works.

I keep looking out over the window, watching the various grids of light go by. This weekend was so much, but not just for the con itself. No. It’s a whole culmination of things.

Back in 2012, I was introduced to the Georgia Burn scene by the then girlfriend of one of my best friends. She was… well, is… a Peter Pan type, not wanting to grow up and always chasing the next shiny thing. She had me pegged though. She knew that I’d fit in well at a Burn. With only three weeks to prepare, I went to my first Alchemy that September and had the most enriching, life changing experience. At the time, it’s what I needed. I was 22, fresh out of college, unemployed, and still parsing out what life was without college.

Life since then has been an adventure. I struggled for another year to find a job. I worked freelance for everyone at my mom’s spiritual center. I fell in love against my better judgement, as those things usually go. I started reading comics. My mom ran off to Canada. I got my heart shattered. I lived depressed on a couch for four months. I hung out with Burner hippies on weekends and learned how to spin staff again along with mini hoops. I played with fire. I went to a couple more burns, one of which I stayed up all night cuddling a bottle of Jack to keep warm. I started writing articles regularly. I got a job. I started reading comics regularly. I got my heart shattered AGAIN. I found the Carol Corps. I kept that job. I wrote a comic. I wrote that comic again and again. I survived WindBurn 2014. I went to all the cons as press. No really. ALL the cons. I went to HeroesCon for a day because I needed to meet Kelly Sue Deconnick, Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky. I survived Dashcon and no, I didn’t get an extra hour in the ballpit. I found new friends in the line for Kelly Sue at Dragon Con. I shaved off half of my hair. My mom got a sweet Canadian boyfriend and became friends with the best friend’s new girlfriend. I burned again, lamenting the frost on my boots, but loving everything and everyone else. My idols started to become friends. My mom duckfaced with Kelly Sue for me. I survived the worst Christmas season I’ve ever had. I kissed a boy filled with bad ideas at midnight on New Years this year.

It’s near the end of 2015 and I’m finding myself at that transitional state I was at when I started going to Burns, but with another set of circumstances.

My usual stomping grounds this year have been a mess. I loved all the comic things about Dragon Con, but nearly everything else stressed me out and made the con one of the worst Dragon Cons I’ve ever had in the decade I’ve attended. Euphoria this year was fun, but Alchemy was a literal mudpit that I was ill prepared for and spent most of it sleeping and hiding from the rain. And I literally wrote my way into that Burn too, so I feel like it was wasted.

However, there has been so much this year that’s pointed me in a direction I should have seen coming from miles away. I wrote another comic for Red Stylo, which is getting distributed through Action Lab and is in Previews right now. I flew out to San Francisco in an ill fated attempt to go to Image Expo, but I still managed to make it to signings with Brian K. Vaughn and Chip Zdarsky, who recognized me from my Suzie cosplay. I attended the Toronto Comics Art Festival and came home with so many new books that I needed a second suitcase. I went to HeroesCon for the full weekend and became closer with old friends and made new ones. I left one website and started working for another. I met Finn Bálor, who has populated my mind with so many new ideas for stories. And then there was this weekend with so many brands, friends, seeing my new story that’s going to be in comic shops for the first time, and all the art…

The sun is rising and my flight tracker says we’re less than 40 minutes out. It’s time to quit stalling.

Burns helped shaped who I am today. They helped me become fearless and to find a creative spark that was buried. Comics though… comics fanned that spark into a flame. Comics helped heal my heart, even when they break it.

There’s this whole thing about Burns being “Home.” Somewhere you feel safe and comforted to be the person you really are. In some ways this is true, but Burns don’t feel like Home to me. Well, maybe not anymore or right now. Burns are a retreat. My Home is artist alleys and comic book shops. Art is not a hobby or vacation for me. It’s my life and always will be. Me and David Tyberg talk about this kind of thing a lot, about how we feel separated from those who weren’t pulled in those directions for career choices.

I made this decision last weekend, but I think this weekend solidified it. If it comes to a point where a Burn and a comic convention I want to go to/exhibit at conflict, I’m picking the con. This isn’t to say I’ll never go to Burns again or that I’m quitting the Burn scene. Hell, I imagine it’ll be hard to get rid of me entirely. It’s just that I need to prioritize my future over them. I wish I could say it was a tough call, but it feels natural to go this way. I think maybe that’s what Alchemy was trying to tell me this year…

I love you all. I’ll see you soon.

-Ashley/Sparklefists

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