Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Fund

I forgot to mention in my Baltimore recap that I had the pleasure of meeting a very nice lady named Emily who is a friend of inker extraordinaire, Nathan Massengill. Nathan introduced us in the lobby of the hotel and she asked if she could stop by the booth the next day and have me do a sketch card for her.

I’m usually uncomfortable doing that sort of thing because I feel like it’s a bit of a bait and switch. As I mentioned, I was at least twice mistaken for Mike this time around and I don’t want people thinking they’re ordering Classic Coke and getting Big K Cola instead. I’m not yet over feeling like an imposter sitting in Mike’s spot. It still feels like I’m keeping his seat warm for him until he gets back. It’s not a pleasant feeling and I’d give anything for him to be sitting there.

Still, I’m pretty sure Emily knew what she was getting and it was free so I agreed. This morning, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’d sent me a scan of the card through my Facebook account. I think she wanted a Deadpool (She’s apparently as enamoured with Deadpool as I am of Nova or Rom.) but I didn’t have any reference and the Choopie I started wasn’t working out. I realized I felt like drawing the Hulk and just did that. She seemed happy with it so there you are.

Not to be a big downer today but there was one more thing that happened in Baltimore that’s been gnawing at me for a few days. A lady was walking by with her fella and he’d noticed our scholarship banner. As he made to move over, she put out a hand and stopped him. She said something and all I caught was “...and it’s not even the school he went to.” He said, “Oh!” and they walked off.

That really took the wind out of my sails.

I’ve covered this before but it bears repeating. A lot of people have asked me why we chose to start the scholarship fund at S.C.A.D and not have it at VCU or at the Kubert school. Or even a free-floating award. Those are valid questions and Suzanne and I discussed them at length and sought advice from many of Mike’s best friends before we settled on S.C.A.D. Here’s why.

S.C.A.D. has a sequential art curriculum with actual comics pros teaching and speaking there. Mike had connections with the school in that the chairman of the Sequential Art Department was a member of Artamus Studios for a while and they’d discussed Mike becoming an instructor. And they had the machinery in place to handle the legal and financial gobbledigook Suzanne and I didn’t want to have to deal with. By making S.C.A.D the fund’s “home”, we avoided having to hire lawyers and accountants that would leave the fund completely broke and, thus, pointless.

Why not VCU or Kubert? VCU is a great school and a huge presence in Richmond where I live. It’s growing by leaps and bounds and is a much different place than when Mike and I attended. But it still doesn’t have a sequential art curriculum and, in fact, Mike was actively discouraged from working in comics when he was there. I’m not holding a grudge. It’s just a fact. They have a great art program (which I attended) and I highly recommend them. Just not for comics. As for the Kubert School, I guess I thought they had enough going for them having a living legend at the top. I wish them nothing but good things and wish I could afford to attend classes there. (Well, maybe fifteen years ago.) I just felt S.C.A.D. was a better “fit.”

I also get the sense that some people think Suze and I are in this for the money. Yikes. I can’t stress enough that every single penny that we bring in through donations and the sale of Mike’s original artwork goes directly to S.C.A.D. Suzanne and I spend quite a bit of our own money in travel expenses to go to these shows. Marc and Shelton have been incredibly generous to us but we do incur costs that come out of our pockets. Sometimes it costs us almost as much to go to a convention as we take in. Then, why do it?

Because it gets the word out about the fund, it gives us a conduit through which to distribute Mike’s artwork (which, as much as I’d like to keep it all, I cannot) and it keeps us connected to Mike’s world a little. I miss my brother very much and getting to see his/our friends and talk to Mike’s fans makes him seem a little less...gone. If that makes sense.

But, most importantly, we do it to honor Mike. This fund was born during a tear-filled conversation between Suzanne and me in Mike’s driveway back in August of 2007. We wanted to do something to express how much we love him and miss him. Mike often expressed a desire to teach, to share what he’d learned with others. Unfortunately, he can’t do that now. So, hopefully, in some small way, we’re helping him achieve that goal. If there are folks out there that disagree with that but still would like to do something to express their appreciation of Mike and his work, then I wholeheartedly suggest giving to the ASPCA or the HERO Initiative.

Okay, next time, not so glum.


Warren said...

Don't get discouraged! Some people are just... Well, I don't want to say here.

I'm 50 years old and when I was 18, all I dreamed about was becoming a comic book artist. But at the time, the way to do that was to go to NYC. I can't imagine what it would have been like to have a school down here that I could have gone to -- let alone one that offered a scholarship!

You, Suzanne, S.C.A.D., and Mike are helping kids' dreams come true. Screw anyone who doesn't believe in helping people achieve their dreams!

May the stars shine on you and yours, my friend.

Oh, and love that Hulk!

Tim Perkins said...

Hi Matt,

I would like to second those sentiments. What you are doing I am sure Mike would be approving of anyhow.

The fact you are enabling folks to get a scholarship and a chance at becoming a comic creator is something, which should be commended and not condemned.

Some folks never see past their own failings, or misgivings and so you will always see folks react in this way.

The folks that count know you guys are doing something special and anyone thinking you would do this for any other reason are just plain wrong.

Using Mike's name linked with the scholarship, to my mind, just proves how much you love your brother and my hats off to you guys again for this.

Choosing the venue was always going to get some folks saying why not there, or there, but you know what?

At least you guys are doing something, not just criticising someone that is.

Keep up the fantastic work and I also agree that's one great Hulk!!!

Best Wishes, as always,

DonsSword said...

The fact is, if you went to VCU, like Matt, Mike, myself, and many others who were into comics, you knew that comics were viewed upon as trash, crap, poop, whatever you want to call it, by the art schools. Sure, there were a few professors who "got it," but, by and large, if u spoke about it, you had to be prepared to be ostracized. This is all the more funny when u consider that VCU has a world renowned comic book collection in their library, only 1 block away from the very art classrooms that still snub the medium.

If you knew Mike, and you were there to see, and be a part of, his struggle to fulfill his dream of working in comics, you knew that VCU as a school was not much support when it came to helping Mike pursue his dream and shape his career (no offense meant to the fabulous Donald Early, who was one of Mike's most influential instructor and a big fan). In later years, some professors tossed around the idea of working with Mike to develop a program that actually taught a couple of classes in "sequential art," but this never came to fruition--Matt would know the details better though.

I wish VCU would get on the bandwagon. Their art schools are as great as they appear to be, but they are not progressive--introduction to business classes are still missing from the CA&D dept.; Advanced Typography is still not a requirement of whatever they call "interactive" design these days; and, real classes in IA, HCI, and actual production processes are missing from the curriculum for whatever passes for Web Design. As a hiring manager in Web Creative, its make finding qualified candidates from VCU a challenge.

Mike's journey into comics started long before he set foot into Richmond. And, in the overall picture of who Mike was, VCU and Richmond lasted for only 4-5 years of a very rich and influential career. Anyone who snubs the scholarship obviously didn't know Mike, and his struggle to be the professional we all knew him to be. But then, its always been the case, that in life, some people just don't "get it."

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt,
Glad to here you guys had a great time in Baltimore. I miss not having been able to get out to any shows this year.
That's a cool Hulk sketch. It's awesome that Emily sent you a scan that you can post.
Sorry to hear about that couple being so confused about the scholarship fund. I think it's great that you've been able to put this together. To those folks that don't know any better, well, too bad for them. I guess they have no clue about paying forward.
You guys keep up the awesome work for the cause.

Brian said...

Like the song says, " . . . I'm alright now, I learned my lesson well, you see you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself."

Thanks to you and Suzanne for all the hard work you do on the scholarship, it is a wonderful and generous thing you two have done.

Brian said...

Oh, almost forgot, great Hulk!