Friday, December 07, 2007

Fan Mail From Some Flounders
(Note: That's a reference to Bullwinkle, not a put-down)

I'll keep this anonymous in terms of names, to protect the privacy of those concerned, but here's a peek at some of the past few weeks of emails from folks I don't know, but who know my work. I post this with some trepidation, and hope you'll read this with the spirit intended, and know that I'm extremely grateful for the interest in me and my work; it's a blessing, and I don't mean to imply otherwise.

A seasonal cycle has turned, and like clockwork, there's the usual eager submissions of stories (this time from six different folks over the past two months) hoping I'll draw their scripts/stories or provide industry contacts (see below). There's others simply seeking information: a handful asking about Tyrant and two asking when I'll be drawing Swamp Thing again; two Tundra-related email inquiries ("what happened?"); and four emails from four different readers who've just stumbled upon my Swamp Thing work for the first time have written after online exploration, asking about (sigh) Alan Moore and me and the rumors and bits and pieces they've found implying (as one puts it) "a feud." Per usual, I politely reply and thank them and then steer them to my essay in the book Alan Moore: Portrait of an Extraordinary Gentleman; two replied with kind followups, thanking me for my courtesy and sharing their feelings after reading the piece.

Two kind fans have sent gifts recently; much appreciated, but as I wrote to one, "please, don't spend $$ on me!" I've responded to both, and done my best to reply and reciprocate in some manner, but it's an unusual situation. Sometimes, these exchanges evolve into long-distance friendships, but I'm a terrible penpal, especially with email. That said, heck, it's nice to be remembered at all. I've been out of comics for eight years now, but the work is still out there, and some of it will be in circulation long after I'm gone.

One of the aspiring writers hoping I'll embrace collaborating with them followed up with a troubling email, evoking rough treatment from other professionals. This aspiring writer wrote, "...throw everything at me but the kitchen sink, if your annoyed, I can take it, I have got hundreds of e-mails from comics pros, and have been chewed out, and dragged threw the mud. What's worse is being ignored, and indifference, I had someone call me "junk" the other day. I'm junk to them!, another lady was cursing with the F' word as she rejected me, it wasn't at me, but I had already sent her other e-mails after her quick response, then she got nasty." Ah, too bad -- I mean, the fellow is arguably a tad over-enthusiastic, but he's done nothing to deserve such rudeness in my book -- but then, I've rarely been confronted with fan behavior deserving anything but gratitude.

My reply:

Hello and good morning, -----,

Whoa! I hope this finds you well -- and yes, I've received your emails. No need to send multiple copies, though, which may be why you're getting such strong reactions from others.

That said, it's good to hear from you, and thanks for writing, -----. PLEASE don't take any of the following as a rejection or anything negative:

Please understand I'm not ignoring you; you're writing me during a heavy work & personal period (end of semester at the Center of Cartoon Studies, where I teach; end of deadline on a book project about Neil Gaiman; holiday season, and heavy family time), and I've little time each day to deal with emails. The work and family emails take precedent, and that's just how it is. I'm behind responding to many emails this month, and will remain behind until the CCS semester ends next week.

That said, thanks for your interest and for writing, ----. Yes, we share interests, some of which are manifest in your proposal -- but also please understand that (a) I retired from the comics industry in 1999, eight years ago; (b) I'm not seeking outside projects of any kind, and barely have time to see to my own; (c) IF and when I am able to arrange to publish future work from my drawing board, it will be to return to Tyrant or work on my own stories.

The ONLY exceptions I make these days are those involving either my family, my closest friends or my students -- and even then, my goal is to get back to my own projects ASAP.

Again, ----, this is not a rejection of YOU or your enthusiastic project.

I encourage creative paths in all who write/draw/make music/etc., and hope you'll continue to write and work on your ideas reaching fruition. But I can't be a cartoonist for everyone with ideas they think "fit" my interests, however appealing they may seem -- nor do I have any contacts to share in the industry, having been out of the comics industry network for almost a decade now. I'm sorry I can't fulfill your ambitions concerning a possible collaboration -- but DON'T let this discourage YOU!

Keep writing. If you draw, keep drawing. Work is the only way to see through your own path as a creator; good luck in all you do, and I hope to see your stories in print sometime in the future!

All the best, always,

Steve Bissette

Have a great Friday, folks, and be kind to one another...