A strange thing happened today.
The agency I work at recently won a huge new account (If you know me, the agency or are at all familiar with the goings-on in the ad biz, you'll know what I'm talking about.) and we've been hiring people like they're going to stop making them. In fact, desk space is getting pretty scarce. I was working at my own desk when one of the new copywriters came walking by, saw my nameplate and did a double-take.
"Hey! Are you Mike's brother?"
At first, I was confused. I'd never seen this fella before, for one thing. And, for another, this sort of thing almost NEVER happens to me.
I'm embarassed to admit it but, when Mike first broke into comics, I made a bit of a hobby out of watching people's reactions when I wrote a check for some comics or handed over my bank card with my name on it. I was sure the clerk would see the name, smile and say..."Hey! Are you Mike's brother?" I'm not sure what I was hoping to gain from it (certainly not free comics) but it was fun in a stupid sort of way. That lasted about six months. Because nobody ever said shit. The only reaction I ever got was when one teenaged girl running the register at Atlantic Comics in North Carolina frowned at my bank card and asked me how I pronounced my name. "Ware-ING-go," I replied. She shrugged and said, "What's that, Mexican?." and went about ringing me up.
Conversely, when I was still showing my portfolio at conventions, I went out of my way to keep my name to myself. I wanted my work to be judged on it's own merits. I have to laugh at that now because, on one occasion, an editor looking at my work noticed my name on my convention badge, didn't recognize it, and then offered me the helpful advice of not quitting my day job. "I don't have one,' I said. "Then get one. Just not in comics. 'Cause you stink," he offered.
So, when this new guy asked me if I was Mike's brother, I made the natural assumption:
"Do you know Mike from college?"
"Me? Heck no. I'm a big fan of his. I read all his comics. Met him at a couple of conventions."
I could see eyes widen all around me. My coworkers know what Mike does for a living and even think it's neat. But they realize, as I have come to realize, that having a brother that draws comics for a living is like having a brother who's a lawyer or a doctor or teacher. It's not like he's George Clooney. It's a job. A friggin' cool job. But just a job. So, you can understand my reaction when the new guy sprung this on me.
We chatted about Mike's work for a while and I was surprised how uncomfortable it made me feel. The new guy was very nice and friendly, but he was also very excited to be meeting "Mike's brother." That seemed very strange to me. I'm not used to it. I got what might be the slightest inkling of what it's like to be Ashley Simpson or Haylie Duff. It was very similar to my experiences in high school when teachers would brighten when they got to my name on the class roll call. "Hey! Are you Mike's brother? Do you draw, too?" In an environment where you absolutely do NOT, under any circumstances, want to be singled out in public, this was torture.
The discomfort soon went away when the conversation turned to his own comic that he's writing and having published. He sent me a PDF of the first issue and it was very good. He's had it drawn by a professional-level artist and it should be out late this fall, if all goes well. I, of course, can't give details but, once it's published, I'll be able to tell you all about it. As the day went on, we traded emails about what I thought of the book. He mentioned having me do a pinup for it. (I told him I wouldn't hold him to it as he has yet to see my work. That should change his mind pretty quick.) Turns out we're working on the same account. (The big one I mentioned.) So, what started out as an awkward moment may have turned out to be me making another friend. We'll see.
Still. A very strange and unexpected way to start the day.