My Mother’s Love is My Comics Origin Story

I get asked a lot, especially as a guest on podcasts or in interviews, about how my interest in comics started. And I tell the truth: My father collected comics, and when he heard about a new show called Sailor Moon, he thought I’d like it and he helped me tape it off of TV, later giving me the first volume of the manga and thus starting my own collection. That is, however, a hugely simplified version of the story, and it causes people to heap praise on my father that he maybe doesn’t completely deserve. My father is not a bad man, but he did leave when my sister and I were both still very young. So while he sparked the interest in anime and manga that would follow me into adulthood and into my professional life, he was one cog in a very large animanga machine that was making its way to North America regardless of his efforts.

The person I don’t get a chance to talk about much is my mother, because she doesn’t personally have an interest in comics. But if anyone has encouraged my interests and bolstered my abilities, it is her. My mother was happy to buy me whatever books I wanted growing up, never demanding to know why or what for. When I began to experiment with drawing, she was the first person to give me sketchbooks and markers, gladly and graciously. She never involved herself in my hobbies, but she always knew what I was into and who my favorite characters were. She was always ready to help me put together an amateur cosplay, always ready to add her sewing and crafting advice to the pages of online tutorials I had printed out to aid in my endeavors.

And perhaps most importantly, my mother never tried to pull me away from a hobby that her ex-husband had partaken in, sometimes to the detriment of our household. She didn’t see my interest as an extension of him — or if she did, she never mentioned it at all. She saw me as myself, a creative person with hobbies that helped feed that creativity. And that is the greatest gift anyone has ever given me, just the chance to pursue the things that make me happy for the sake of it.

So yeah, when I talk to my dad now, we can chat about how great The Sandman is, or I can tell him that no, really, he should check out Junji Ito. But the fact remains that he wasn’t there when I was frantically putting another coat of paint on my cardboard cosplay bass guitar; he doesn’t know the names of all the friends I’ve made through comics. He did something great in helping me find a series that has remained important to me throughout my whole life, and I have always been very appreciative of that.When I worked at Comicopia, I used to see dads trying to get their daughters into their hobby to varying degrees of success, and it made me smile to know that they want to share that aspect of themselves with their children.

But even more than that, I would always love to see the moms who would sheepishly admit that they don’t know anything about comics, but they’re still out there helping their kid figure out which volume of Fairy Tail they left off at. They’re asking their kid if their friend borrowed that one book, or if they returned that other one to the library yet. They’re doing the oft-unthanked work of motherhood: keeping track of responsibilities and friends, helping their child grow in their interests, and caring enough to provide advice and feedback.

It’s not glamorous, really, being a mother. It’s a lot of toil, a lot of worrying, a lot of second-guessing your choices — especially if you’re a single mother, like mine was for a long time. But even with the anime zeitgeist and the manga boom of my adolescence, I’m not sure I’d be doing what I’m doing today without the constant support of my mother. To this day, she remains always ready to support me without trying to control my choices, offering what advice she can and helping me through my uncertainty.

And maybe that’s part of the reason that now I crave comics about women like my mother. I crave comics where women are working through all the typically-unseen work of partnership, or motherhood, or even just the pressure of society to excel at their jobs when the odds are stacked against them. Because there were so many odds stacked against my mother, trying to find her way, single with two little girls and no college degree. And despite that, she raised my sister and me into two very different women on our own paths who will always know that no matter what, we have our mother’s care to lift us when we need it.

So let the record show that at the core of my interest in comics — and my interest in history, and my love of tea, my desire to write, and just about everything else in my life — is my mother frantically working to make sure I can pursue whatever weirdness tickles my fancy. I am so incredibly grateful for her constant, steady, powerful love.

mommyandme

Some Brief Thoughts On Writing

Hello, everyone! SO sorry that I haven’t written for a while. I was away visiting family last weekend, and then I became very busy with both my day job and the review work that I do on the side. As such, I haven’t had much time to read any manga! My husband and I have made our way through most of the Wotakoi anime, though, and it’s so good…definitely going to be disappointed when we finish.

I had a great time on the Manga Machinations podcast a couple weeks back. If you haven’t had a chance to check that out, I’d urge you again to find the episode at mangamachinations.tumblr.com. I’ve been on panels at conventions several times in the past, so doing a podcast was a bit similar…but it was definitely novel to be the center of attention!

Despite not updating here, I have been doing a great deal of writing, both personal and professional, and thinking a lot about how much I enjoy it. I’ve always liked writing, and my parents and teachers and peers always made a point of telling me I was good at it. But for a long time, I fretted over whether or not I was good enough. These days, I worry less about that and more about getting thoughts down onto paper (or computer screen), and I do feel that I’m able to convey what I mean to say more often than not.

I mentioned that I do paid review work; it’s uncredited, so I don’t have the ability to claim it as my own. But this kind of very structured writing, while I initially thought of it as a chore, has actually been very good for me. It allows me to separate out writing as a tool and writing as an art. I like being creative and writing creative reviews here, but it’s also important to be able to practice brevity and clarity that my personal writing might eschew for more whimsy or flair.

Basically, I love writing and I’d like to do more of it. My life being what it is right now, I don’t know how likely that is; but if I could find more paid writing work (which also gives me a byline…), I would find a way to make it work.

I’m happier when I’m writing. It took me a long time to remember that fact — that I used to write not to be good at it, but because I enjoyed it. In any practice, it’s hard to remember that we often start with joy, and then get bogged down by the need to excel. (I draw, as well, and this is a major problem for me in that arena.) There is no one person who is the best at anything. It’s hard to not compare yourself to others, but its important to only mark your progress against yourself. Doing otherwise will only result in angst…and it prevented me from writing for many years.

Anyway, soon my schedule should go more or less back to normal and I’ll be able to talk about manga again, instead of waxing poetic about my feelings. 😛

Happy Monday, and I hope you all have a great week ahead of you!