My first year as a PhD student I was reading and writing so much I felt like an empty roll of toilet paper. Who was I? What was I doing? How should I kill myself? I spent more and more time drawing pages for a comic that I couldn’t show anybody. It was the mental puke bag I used to avoid getting my sick all over the place.
I piled up thousands of very bad drawings over two years. I was inspired by the awe and terror of youth as well as the four years I grew into a man living in Mexico, Taiwan, the Middle East, India, and Southeast Asia. In my travels I discovered many kinds of awkward. Much of what happens in Gentle Carmel is based on actual experiences, as humiliating as that might seem. I slept and drew under a train in Mexico and did indeed feel like a superhuman hobo once in a while. The auditory hallucinations of animals screaming and dying at night happened while I was alone in the desert for a few weeks in northern Mexico. At first I would ball up on the ground and shut down. But I eventually worked up the courage to seek out and explore the source of those sounds.
In the Seinfeld episode, “The Opposite,” Jerry tells George, “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” The more I felt that drawing this comic was a complete waste of time, the more I was drawn to it. And the wilder I could be with it. I would leave home without supplies to force myself to scrounge up paper, markers and pens from wherever I went. I could only draw if I was uncomfortable. What frustrates me about most comics is that they don’t play hard with their structure and technique in single works. They don’t seem to fully trust the reader’s intelligence or celebrate the plasticity of the medium. I didn’t want to be guilty of that so I tried to really play with story and style in Gentle Carmel.
As I finished my PhD, I also finished the comic. All the anxious imagery had been caught, cataloged, and paginated. I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think: