Most people remember that great scene in Office Space when Peter, Micheal, and Samir take their malfunctioning fax machine out to a deserted field and absolutely destroy it. With bats in hand and a gangster rap song playing in the background, they acted out our modern frustration with technology and we loved every second.
I am a high school English teacher, but that was not my first career choice. First I was a Computer Science major, but after two terrible years of killing myself over endless HTML and CSS classes and soul crushing Photoshop electives I broke down and switched to education. In light of that, I am unsure why I picked to use the computer as the main means of creation for my gift to a community of comic book and convention lovers.
Maybe I hate myself or maybe I like a challenge, but my initial goal was to use a combination of photography, tracing paper, and Photoshop to bring my hashtag study to life. During my study, most of the fans I talked to said that the community would be improved if people from more diverse background started writing comics, so it seemed like a perfect gift.
Attempt 1: First, I laid out the whole comic on paper- it took me about an hour and it seemed awesome. I started the process of taking photos and tracing them and then scanning them to edit in Photoshop. So far so good. However,it soon became evident after doing the cover that if I was to do a whole comic in this fashion, it would take me forever.I had not used Photoshop to any great extent in over two years and anything over four layers would make my head explode. I reached out to one of my graphic designer friends and over the course of three hours and two Skype calls, I got the page looking somewhat presentable. But this was just one page and still not a realistic means of completing a whole comic. I contemplated throwing my computer out the window and giving up completely.
Attempt 2: From there I thought I could edit the photos with a series of Photoshop techniques in order to cut out the whole tracing paper step. I used a tutorial like this one to edit the photos to look like a comic book. I asked one of my ex-students who is a design major and avid comic book fan for some feedback on the styling. He was not impressed. This 2nd attempt had a somewhat better result, but still I had to use over 10 layers to complete this effect and it was not practical. I might have punched a hole or two in my walls during this process.
Attempt 3: Giving it one last try, I took the same initial picture and traced it on a separate layer in Photoshop adding in some details to dress me up like the Huntress– one of my favorite characters.
I added in the comic book fonts and ended up with a great picture, but I was not sure how I could turn this into a “gift”. To the comic book store I went. I asked around about what comic fans could use. Almost everyone, arms stuffed with slippery covered comics responded by saying all they needed was a bag. There we go ! From there I just had to send my image to another friend who screen prints. He printed out 50 bags which I gave away to shoppers at today’s Punk Rock Flea Market.
I guess the interesting lesson to be learned here is that I might have misjudged the product in execution, but I had friends I could reach out to for help. Even though I focused on researching fan and community culture and writing within virtual spaces, I still have a real life, flesh a blood network of people I could go to, to support and guide me. Ultimately I did produce a gift for my community, but maybe the point here was the gift I received in return: the knowledge that we reach out, either in real or digital spaces to know we are not alone.