I was once a classic comics nerd. That is, I had no contact with women (outside of my kin) other than through the media, especially images. The images I liked of course, catered to the male gaze: young, busty, bootylicious, long-legged, scantily clad when not naked and all that (i.e. like most female superheroes). I bought girlie mags to interact with women because I could not in real life. I always felt guilty about it, knowing that it was sexist, disrespectful, promulgating the culture of women being valued for their looks and not their minds (or age). But I could barely speak to them; I was so shy that I literally froze and became a stuttering, flustered idiot in the presence of a woman who was attractive to me. Yes, that meant I could talk to women who I did not find sexually attractive, but even that happened rarely.
So to Brian, the protagonist of this book, who was more or less me with regards to his social skill set, but that was as far as the autobiographical element goes. Brian works in an adult bookshop (this was the late eighties and early nineties, prior to the internet and it's porn rendering print unviable), and is in lust with a diner waitress, Nancy, who is classically sexy in say, the Jayne Mansfield way. She flaunts her sexual attractiveness, and the male customers come back for more. One day, her boyfriend comes in, accosts her in public, causing her to lose her job, so Brian follows her home (sort of innocent stalking), hoping to protect her from further trouble. What follows is a series of missteps that see him finally talk to her, but it all ends very badly and he descends into a pit of self-recrimination about how he wound up being such a loser. He blames his addiction to porn and mediated views of women. I reiterate that this did not happen to me. But the feelings expressed in the third chapter were definitely mine, kvetched through my proxy, Brian.
The first three chapters of this novel were originally published in my self-published series, Street Smell, of which four issues were put out between 1994 and 1998. I added two smaller chapters to the work afterwards, being Chapter 4, originally a stand alone story called Book Worm, borrowing from my time at a Borders Bookstore in the early noughties, and Chapter 5, which cobbled some pages from an unfinished story with some new ones, created around 2009-10. I also went back and polished the early chapters, considering the art too primitive for my taste, especially the inexplicably sharp shoulders I gave to female characters. I also removed a fair bit of the narrative thought boxes, which was symptomatic of early comics writing when you're not yet confident to let the images do most of the storytelling, as it should be in comics. Thus, collected here is the definitive version of my first graphic novel.
So, this work is a survey of my changing art style over the years 1994 to 2010, hence the massive difference. I was always one to keep improving my drawing, wanting to get to a position where I could draw people of any sort, in any position from any angle without recourse to reference. This I have largely achieved. So this work stands testament to my development as an artist and myself as a writer, being my first long form work. I cringe at it a bit, but it was the best I could do at the time, and so long as you're always doing your best, it has merit and worth keeping in print.