A Heart Made of Glass Side Story: My Love Letter To You (1999)

I did this in 1999 just before leaving for Japan for a doujinshi that our group was going to sell at Anime North that year. The book the girl is holding on Page 4 is that doujinshi.

Basically I wanted to open up but I was too scared. I had been in a four year deep depression but I was seeing a way out, and I wanted to reach out but the previous four years had conditioned me to withdraw instead. Looking back, I still wasn’t ready yet, and I wish I hadn’t of tried, I made the same mistakes as before. But this comic wasn’t directed to any one person specifically.

Reading this again I can see the “Nice Guy Syndrome” in it. The protagonist likes the woman in the comic and doesn’t say anything about it, while he is quite aware that his attraction to her is a big part of his side of the friendship. I think if I were to do this again I would highlight the dishonesty more, and I did a bit of this in the first version of Little White Lie (a comic I started and got about a dozen strips into before quitting; redoing for Slipshine then a horrible depression spell killed that), but I don’t know if the dozen strips I did on Keenspace will ever see the light of day again. But anyways, a love letter is nice, but this passive-aggressive approach isn’t cool at all. It made a couple of the women in our club uncomfortable because the open-ended approach made them think it was about them, and that was kind of tactless of me, especially when all our work was appearing in it.

I was talking to Robert DeJesus around this time, and I asked him if he ever read my work, and he said he didn’t, “It’s like looking into your soul”. 

You can read the four page comic here.

A Heart Made of Glass Chapter 2: Walking Wounded (1998)

This chapter has a very different feel than the last one. Wheras for the first chapter I had the story arc, this one is a bunch of episodes. It doesn’t tell a story, it just tries to depict the struggle of getting back on one’s feet after a breakup. Second, it has more of a sense of humor to balance out the sadness, which is more than welcome. The main character has a genuine smile on the fifth page, as he talks to a friend who tries to make him feel better just by being themselves.

Third, this chapter is more of a collaborative effort. The first chapter was put on the net in 1998, and because of that I met so many new people who were doing amateur comics like myself. I was making friends again and the characters you see talking to Jon on pages 4 and 5 are characters they let me use. Furthermore, all those cliches on those pages were sent in by readers as I asked them to send in their best. I was being influenced by the new people I was meeting and the tone became lighter as a result. The Monica scene that follows has a humorous tone in it even though I had initially intended it to be more self-depreciating than that. As I said in the commentary you can read before the comic, the Monica happened just as it was depicted, and we never got together after that .. except, we’ve friended each other on Facebook without even a personalized greeting, which is how people in the 21st Century get reacquainted with each other.

I never finished it. It just got too sad for me, and I knew that sooner or later I would have to revisit some painful things. Especially the one relationship that nearly destroyed me which was what really inspired me to do this work. The relationship destroyed my academic career, ruined many friendships and sent me packing to Japan because every day was just too painful. But I was already broken and damaged so much that that didn’t help either, I just isolated myself even more and waited to vanish into obscurity.

Whew. That was a long time ago, but things are better now.

There are some echoes from this comic that landed in depression comix, especially on pages 2 and 3. The third panel of depcom 151 is a rephrase of the top of page 3, for example. The comics are linked in ways that I had to go back and read to understand, but they are linked.

Here’s the link to Chapter 2.

A Heart Made of Glass Chapter 1: Your Own Company (1997-1998)

I recently participated in an interview about depression comix. One of the things I mentioned offhand was about my first comic, “A Heart Made of Glass” which was my first attempt at trying to express depression in comic form.

She asked for the link. Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I had big plans to rescan the whole thing and give it a permanent home here on claycomix.com, but procrastination kicked in and well, you know the rest.

So here I am scrambling to put this online, using the scans that are about 18 years old. Well, pressure does wonders, so I’ll be putting chapters one and two up this week before the interview goes online.

As I said, this was my first comic that I put on the web. It was also my first comic endeavor in a while. Looking at it now, it’s so obvious where my influences came from, the primary one being Neon Genesis Evangelion where I was trying to cop Yoshiyuki Sadamoto’s style as much as I could. Another one was Clerks. Looking at a lot of the art is a bit painful … I really overused crosshatching and weird anatomy is very present. My handwriting on the other hand, is exactly the same.

However, there is some depression comix-like stuff happening, especially in the two pages after he gets broken up. The page where he is in bed thinking circular thoughts is probably the best page in the book, and is the best example of how A Heart Made of Glass is a precursor of depression comix.

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Even looking at it now it brings me back to a place. I recognize the pillow, the clock, the photographs on the floor. I even remember my peculiar habit of sleeping backwards on the bed when I was particularly depressed, which I haven’t done in a very long time. The book is filled with little details that make me remember where I was when all this happened.

I don’t think I would do anything like this now. I wanted to describe depression but things like breaking up with someone are so commonplace that no one would understand it. I think that’s one of the big pitfalls with doing a comic on depression about yourself, it’s really impossible to describe why it happens. One of the things I did with depression comix is skip the why and focus on the depression itself with no reason or justification.

The character of this comic eventually landed up in Sexy Losers but never made the transition to depression comix. I just didn’t want it to be so obviously about me.

You can read Chapter One here. Some commentary I wrote in 1999 and 2003 is also included. I hope you find something worthwhile in it.