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Friday, September 27, 2013

An Inspiring Non-Comics Story that Inspires Me to Make Comics

I’m completely addicted to podcasts during my day job.  It keeps me sane and really helps the day go by faster.  One of my favorite podcasts is Janet Varney’s The JV Club, which is part of the Nerdist Podcast Network.  Janet, perhaps best known as the voice of Korra on the voice of Nickelodeon’s The Legend of Korra, interviews various women in the entertainment industry about how their teenage years influence who they are today.  It’s a really interesting podcast that I can really relate to, even as a male listener, due to how insane my high school and college experiences were.

That being said, I heard a story on an old episode with Kerry Kenney today that really inspired me to the point that I wanted to share with my readers, especially those who want to break into comics.

In the early 1990s, comedienne Kerri Kenney had already established herself as one of the funniest people on Earth as part of the sketch comedy troupe The State and as co-host of the Comedy Central show Viva Variety.  At the time, she and two of her friends were all dating various rock-and-roll band members that were constantly on tour.  As a joke, these three ladies decided that they would start a “band” to learn a single song that they could play to impress their boyfriends who were gone on their various tours.  None of them  had ever played an instrument before or written a song, so the early results were a tad ridiculous.

“It started off really funny, but then it became really fun” Kenney said of the experience.  What was supposed to be a one-off joke became something more as the women played together more and more, eventually writing a handful of songs with no intention of doing anything beyond playing them for the sake of playing them.  When their jam session was overheard by another tenant in the building where they rehearsed, they were invited to play at a party.  They didn’t take themselves too seriously and just wanted to have fun, so they played the party. 

At that party was a record label executive that asked them to record an album, which was critically acclaimed in multiple news outlets, including Rolling Stone.  While playing in support of that album, they met Ric Ocasek (brilliant music producer and leader of The Cars) who introduced them to legendary rock musician Neil Young, who signed them to their label, where they recorded two albums and played in support of one of the most important musicians in rock history.  Before disbanding to pursue other things, the band, Like Cake, recorded three albums to critical acclaim and had a shit-ton of fun doing it.

So, what can aspiring comic book creators learn from this?  Quite a bit actually:

1. If you want to make comics, just do it. You don’t need formal training, you just need to find like-minded people who love to do what you do and are willing to have fun with it.  If you are having fun, good things will happen.

2. You never known who is watching, so stay positive.  Any moment can be an opportunity, whether its posting on Twitter, an encounter at a convention, or a post on a message board.  The comic book industry is even smaller than the music industry, so you never know when you are going to have your Ric Ocasek moment.

3. It’s not a bad idea to have other things going on that aren’t making comics.  Kenney was an established comedian and her bandmates worked in the New York theater and fashion scenes respectively.  Comics may be the only thing that you want to do, but you need something else to ground you (and probably ensure your financial stability).  It will keep making comics fun and will take the pressure off of your dreams. 

4. Kerri Kenney’s father was the voice of Lion-O.  That’s not really important to your burgeoning comic book career, but it is still an awesome factoid.

I’ll post more “inspiring moments” occasionally.  Hopefully  you will enjoy them and be just as inspired as I am.

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