December 30 - I'm still here. I can't even blame the lack of Internet connection for my most recent week-long lapse. Basically, I've just been busy. Busy, and tired. Busy, tired, and overwhelmed by a predictably annual case of The Year-End Mopes. I get them every year during the last week of December. Essentially, I am suddenly hit in the face with my shortcomings as I realize how little, if anything, I've accomplished in the course of yet another trip around the sun. This year, more so than most, I've been particularly hard-hit by the added element of Obvious Mortality. During 2008, I've lost my last grandparent, a best friend, a very unique neighbor, several comics heroes, and my cat. On top of that, I nearly lost my favorite aunt...and I had what was essentially a near-stroke myself! If the artery that burst in my head had been larger, or further back, I'd probably be gone right now. Very sobering indeed. I make fun of my age all the time, but, frankly, I have only two weeks ago turned forty-three, and I consider that WAY too young to die. Curiously, the last thing I drew before the incident was a scribbly sketch of my skeletal character, The Phantom.
Would it be ironic, or just unfortunate, that this visage of death may have been my last drawing ever? It's a morbid thought, but one which has nonetheless preoccupied my year-end thoughts for decades anyway. In fact, for years I've been ghoulishly collecting stories of what other cartoonists were drawing when they passed away. Due to the nature of their work, many artists have actually died mid-project, some right at the drawing board. Fate afforded very few artists the dignity of completing a last, great work before death. Most were caught unaware as they were scratching-out a little advertising illustration, or page six of another soon-to-be-canceled-and-forgotten comic book, or, more often, just a dumb doodle. Joe Kubert himself once told me that every comic book is somebody's first comic book (a bit of a logistic stretch, but I understand the sentiment), and any could be an artist's last. "You're only as good as the last thing you've done," he used to add. That's what has driven him to still try to artistically top himself even today, well past his eightieth birthday. But, of course, in his case, it's not really true. I suppose that when he was an active participant in the day-to-day, cut-throat world of mainstream comics, he had to think that way to keep work on his desk, but now that he's an established, tenured legend? He could draw nothing but smiley faces for the next twenty years and he'd still be remembered for his classic work of previous decades. Me, though? If I went, I'd be remembered (if I was remembered at all) for very little. Maybe The Adventures of Monkey, or the Oz stuff I've done would come up. Locals might recall the thousands of caricatures I've drawn over the years. Friends might have more specific artwork in mind, peculiar to their memories of some stupid or funny thing I once did. For the most part, though, I have done nothing. Nothing. And at no time does that "nothing" hit me as hard as it does at the end of another year. In the past, I've scrambled on December 31st to complete some project or another before the clock struck midnight. Other times, I drew a special "goodbye" piece dedicated to the previous twelve months. This time, in light of Obvious Mortality, I'm more concerned with celebrating the fact that I just lived through another year. Yes, this year, I think that's enough. Besides, when I look back on 2008, I'm pleasantly surprised by what I was able to accomplish. Keeping with yet another year-end tradition, I'll assemble a list of those things in the next post. Until then, here is some housekeeping, just to wrap up at least one loose-end before 2009. It's the remaining, unposted Comic Book Politician Characters of The Day - Mayor Adam West, Prime Minister Cerebus, Senator Pete Ross, Mayor Bradford Sackett, Congresswoman Barbara Gordon, Senator Jar Jar Binks, Police Commissioner James Gordon, Senator Neptune Perkins, Mayor Mitchell Hundred, President Richard Nixon's Head, Congressman Herschel Krustofski, Senator Padme Amidalla, Senator John McCain, Senator (now President-Elect) Barack Obama, and President Manchester Monkey (I had to promote my own character at least once in these "Of The Day" lists)!