Last week I accidentally attended the meeting of a local writer's group and got a sneak peek at a new mini-comic. I say accidentally, because they met in a bar and I was invited for a pre-meeting cocktail by my friend Kirsten. As everyone else gradually arrived, they convivially greeted me and invited me to stay. There wasn't a point where it felt like the meeting officially began, so I just stayed. Before I knew it I was attending their meeting.
I've known of the existence of the Writers Old Fashioned group for years, but I was never sure what they actually did, or what a meeting consisted of. In this instance I got a sneak peek at an incredibly strange new mini-comic, as well as a peek into the benefits of belonging to an organized writer's group.
As a kid I was always in awe of the various schools of artists, somehow these creative movers and shakers bounced ideas off of each other to create better and better art, using their collective energies to produce more than they ever could as individuals. Helping each other to break rules and create new ones, these pioneers of art were my childhood heroes. It took me years to understand that there was nothing magic or mysterious about these groups, but a lot of them were simply friends who hung out together. Instead of meeting to drink and distract each other from work, they met to talk about their work, supporting and competing with each other to create their art. These were friendships that changed the face of modern art and as a result, the world.
The Writers Old Fashioned seems to be a similar sort of thing to those 19th century artists' groups. These are local friends who regularly come together over drinks to share work and support each other in their creative writing and art. Everyone can benefit from a little structured encouragement and collaboration in work (and maybe in life), so this idea makes a lot of sense. In writing, the closest that I come to this has been rare moments of solidarity, accidentally bumping into writers at comic book conventions. I keep up some vague social correspondence with friends, but there is something very special about meeting in real time as apposed to online. Writing is different from my other work as a graphic designer, where I'm either working with teams in large companies, or working in close collaboration with creative clients. Unlike design, writing can be a more solitary endeavor which makes discussion that much more essential as a tool for inspiration and creative flow.
Pooling energies and resources, the Writers Old Fashioned have been helping each other to create for years. At this point, they tell me that everyone has published something, from full blown award-winning graphic novels to self-published, hand-stapled mini-comicbooks. That is everyone except for Josh Richardson, until today.
Arriving late to the meeting, Josh Richardson casually dropped his finished mini-comic on the table. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to look, since I'm not part of the writer's group, and no one exclaimed or get excited, so I thought it best not to comment. I had nothing to contribute to their plans for WonderCon this coming weekend, my attention started to drift and after a while I quietly picked up Richardson's comic book to take a look - who could resist?
With the intriguing title "Intervention Entertainment System", the cover warned me that it contained "Mature Content", (which is always a good sign.) It was one of those strange experiences where a short comic book says a lot. It left me entirely speechless. I was laughing so hard that I was almost crying at the simultaneous horror and hilarity of it.
In a crazy genre mash up, Richardson has written and drawn this book using the highly recognizable format of the A&E show "Intervention". He tells the story of the once famous, and now washed-up Pac-Man's pill addiction, as well as the impact of his addiction on his friends, family and work. The concept is immediately ridiculous and I couldn't have imagined that it would be much beyond a one line joke. Instead the tiny details (both from gaming and life) elevate the story to a higher level. This is a deceptively simple book which uses a very small space to tell a complex story, there are moment of heart-break and moments of laugh-out-loud surrealism.
I don't play games, this is probably the least geeky thing about me, because I love pretty much every other dorky thing I can get my hands on, but I never got a taste for games. What this means is that I don't really speak the language of games, don't understand those little visual cues and jokes, so I thought that this might inhibit my enjoyment of a game-related book as I might not pick up on certain things. It's true, I missed the fact that the number on the credit card Pac-Man uses to chop his pills into powder is the highest score you can achieve in Pac-Man (as one example), but that didn't detract from my enjoyment of it in the least. I was too busy laughing in horror as Ms. Pac-Man begged her husband to stop doing drugs.
The level of intimacy and immediacy I experienced reading this weird little comic book really threw me, I'd never have thought that something so basic could elicit laughter and horror in equal measure, but it did and I loved it. If you're planning on coming to San Francisco for WonderCon this weekend, then this little mini-comic (with many other comics written and drawn by the good members of the group) will be for sale at the Writers Old Fashioned table in Artist's Alley, booth 088.