Concentric Circles by Jonathan Hickman #6 – Baby Daddy Eisner


April 23, 2008

So, last week was somewhat eventful.

On Monday it was announced that I was nominated for an Eisner Award for The Nightly News (Best limited series along with Atomic Robo, Parade, Dark Tower and Umbrella Academy).

This is unassailably cool – so I’m pretty happy. It’s one more, way-over-the-top, candle on the cake that has been the reaction to my first published work.

Now, I most certainly don’t expect to win (And if I can diverge from my main topic here for a second, you’ve got to figure that the odds-on favorite is the Stephen King, Peter David, Jae Lee, Richard Isanov blockbuster Gunslinger Reborn with the darkhorse being the sick-art Gaby Ba Umbrella Academy which I feared had the makings of another celebrity suckfest flameout and instead was not only quite readable but damn fine writing by Gerard Way), but at this point, I’m beyond being surprised. So, to note: the Eisner’s are the highest industry accolade and every nomination should be cherished. It’s an honor to be considered…

…And right now I couldn’t care less.

Which feels weird, because in my family, awards are a big thing – winning is a big thing. Not the actual trophies or symbolic mementos, as those are actually just indicators of what really matters – excellence and achievement in the face of competition.

Most of that attitude comes from a pretty humble, but oh-so American, background. My mother’s family was, ahem (say it like it’s a disease), poor. Her mother worked two jobs to make ends meet because my grandfather drank all his money away. There was never extra cash outside of covering expenses, which meant that my mother and her sister worked to be able to buy material so they could make their own clothes. Sure, plenty of people move beyond similar situations to achieve more than their parents, but most don’t graduate at the top of their class and win homecoming queen along the way – Mom did. My father added to that a nature that could only be described as “there’s a difference between rules and laws: both can be broken but only one you go to jail for.” They got married at twenty and as this is America, free from aristocracy and home of the open market, this combination of character traits is downright scary. So, when my parents were twenty-two they brought their new baby boy home from the hospital to a trailer. Five years later they had bought their first house and ten years after that, they built their dream home. It’s one example of the kind of goal setting that existed in a family where people who grow up without measured success.

A child of such parents, someone who’s never been hungry or truly gone without his entire life (i.e. me), is pushed towards slightly different goals. Part of this is passed down by parents wanting more than just accumulated stuff as accolades for their children, they want exploits in higher arenas: athletic, cultural and peer achievement as well as other forms of societal respect. The other part is the constant motivation of fearing a return to the state of ‘not-having’ so they are constantly demanding excellence from their kids in all things. My parents expected a certain amount of success and I’ve delivered plenty. (Admittedly, these aren’t the life and death struggles of strength and survival that many on this planet experience – we’ve left behind the Darwinian struggle, which is fine; it’s a blessing of modernity).

So, knowing all that, what’s up? Aren’t the Eisner’s the perfect pavlovian bell for a dog such as I? If not, what’s changed?

Which brings me to Friday of last week when at 10:30am I packed up my wife and headed to the hospital so that she could deliver into this world, and into our care, our second son.

A short time after we got married, my wife and I had this meandering state of the union talk about ‘us’ and what were, and were not, going to be acceptable guidelines for our family going forward. We still live in the same town as our parents, as well as many old friends, and the biggest realization that we came to early on is that, regardless of old ties and loyalties, we have allegiance to only one tribe – the two of us.

I want to be very clear here because many people might misconstrue this as selfish behavior, but beyond the fact that we’re all a bit self-centered, it isn’t. It’s about taking the conditioned behavior you brought into the marriage and transforming it into something else. If you’re honest with yourself during a process like this it can cause you to have one of those life changing moments where you evolve or die – Where you become something greater or fade away into the background noise of ‘life.’ Around the time of my first son’s birth, I finally got my act together and decided to finally change my definition of ‘success’ from external to internal.

So I sit here writing this, looking at the newest member of my tribe realizing that one day he will start his own and I sincerely hope that the point of this article is worthy of being continued in his new family.

Okay, superdad lifecoach, could you perhaps bring this thing home so we can all get back to Thor?

Sure, no problem.

I’d be honored to win an Eisner, but it’s an outward manifestation of something I’ve already achieved. I got the ultimate win the day that I created a book I was proud of.

I’m gonna’ fucking cry, is there any practical advice or fortune cookie wisdom to go with this article?

Absolutely. Remain competitive, as I generally think competition is a good thing, but professionally don’t judge your work (which you can control) by comparing it against other people’s success (which you cannot control). Only compete against yourself. When you are free from that restriction, the benefits are pretty numerous – here are several things think about:

  • 1. Tell the story you want to tell in the format you want to tell it.
  • 2. Leave nothing out of a story so that you can revisit it later – if it’s worth being in there, put it in there.
  • 3. Don’t edit yourself or censor your stories because they might offend someone. If it makes the story better, you’re a schmuck if you take it out.
  • 4. Judge a story on if you like it, not if it’s better than (or as good as) most comics being published.
  • 5. If everyone is doing a certain genre book, don’t do the same thing hoping to cash in unless you know that you’re either going to make fun of them or kick their ass.
  • 6. Look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’d actually buy your book.


So, there you go. Sorry if that was overly sentimental/therapeutic – but I’m obviously in something of a mood.

I’ll be taking off a couple of weeks to hang out with my family and I’ll be back soon.

If you’ve got comments or questions, post ‘em here or send me an email at jonathan@pronea.com (but no attachments, people!)


Jonathan Hickman is the creator behind The Nightly News and Pax Romana as well as the forthcoming books Transhuman, A Red Mass for Mars and PLUS! You can find him online at either www.pronea.com or www.myspace.com/pronea.

Comments

  1. Congratulations on the nomination Jon. I’ve read most of those mini-series and i enjoyed yours the most. Good luck and i’m pulling for you to win.

  2. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    Congrats on both counts, Jon!  

    While in NY this past weekend for the con, I checked out Sunday in the Park with George, which offers the same message about handling creative progress.  Don’t dwell too much.  Don’t doubt.  Keep on moving and let the critics remark on the relevance of your innovation.  In the end, all that really matters is that you make something.  

  3. Nightly News is the best series of those nominated. Atomic Robo coming a close second. That Dark Tower series was utterly dire. Whoever decides these noms should be ashamed of themselves for including it.

    Salt-of-the-Earth types intimidate and scrare the shit out of me. I have no way to relate to people that make their own clothes out of necessity. Knowing full well my pampered, upper middle class butt would be dead and naked if in such a situation. 

    I don’t remember what life was like before 1995. I heart you, modernity.

  4. Congrats on the son!

     Our upbringings sound fairly similar. My mother grew up incredibly poor, but I’ve never known such a life. I’ve come out of it avoiding any involvement in competition. In the fourth grade I was awarded a citizenship award. It is my sole contribution to the family trophy shelf. I am content with that.

    Congrats on the nomination, as well. You definitely deserve it.

  5. very inspirational. it means a lot to see a guy you respect so much write about the same stuff i’ve been debating with myself for the past few years.

    ive played in a lot of bands, and this kind of thinking has always brought me into conflict with the other members. we would be working on a song and over the course of improvising and revising, we’d come up with something that was really fun but maybe a bit weird. i would argue that the fact that it’s fun to play and that WE like it demands it stay in the song. the other guys would argue something like "we can’t play that. people will think we’re not cool!" or something along those lines.

    so, with that in mind, do you think it’s easier for you to have that kind of philosophy considering the fact you create your comics alone?

  6. Congrats on all fronts. Say what you will about those other nominations, but for my money, Nightly News was the best of the lot and hopefully Eisner voters will see that.

    I’m also the product of salt-of-the-earth parents (well, parent) and couldn’t agree and relate to your story more. While I’m not rich or have a big house or fancy car, I do work my a$$ off to be the best I can be not only to myself but for my missus, and I owe that all to my mother’s work ethic and how hard she worked to improve her (and her family’s) lot in life.

    Enjoy your time with your new son (and the rest of the family of course). 

  7. "Don’t judge your work by comparing it against other people’s success."

    There is so much wisdom in that statement that it’s scary. 

  8. @nick – probably a bit, but I seem to be carrying the same attitude with me into stuff I write only as well. 

     And thanks guys! 

  9. A baby and an Eisner nomination in one foul swoop.  Oh lord!  Congrats on all fronts. 

    This right here points out why Jonathan Hickman should win the Eisner:  he’s a major badass.  Seriously, this rocked.  Despite not having read much of the other stuff that’s nominated (although I do agree with Labor’s assessment of Dark Tower; it had great art, but the story was very meh), Nightly News should win the prize.  It’s one of my favoritest works in recent times and I love drooling over the amazing design of the book.

    Ok, enough ass kissing, let’s talk ass kicking.  When I was going off to college, my mom looked at me and said, "If you become a slug at school, I’ll kick the crap out of you."  And she looked at me the way that only parents can look at you when they’re being dead serious.  Lucky for her that I find great enjoyment in challenging myself and bettering myself with each step of life.  And I’m sure I get that from both my folks, who work tirelessly to do good things.

  10. Great stuff truly nspirational! Congrats on the kid and Einer even if i have’t read NN yet which i should one of these days.