Dramacon 4: Meeting Your Heroes

I’ll admit it: reading this makes me miss anime conventions. I loved the energy, the camaradiere, the panels, and meeting people as dorky as I was. I stopped going in part because they’re so expensive, but mainly because I lost interest in anime over time. But I have plenty of good memories at Anime Boston and Anime North when I was still in college.

During my second year at Anime North, I met Dramacon‘s creator, Svetlana Chmakova. It was my second year at Anime North, and she’d just put out a new series, Night School. I bought a print for her to sign, entitled, “The Writing Process (as Explained by a Kitten in a Box)”. It was as cute as it sounds. I still have it hanging above my desk.

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When I met her, I wanted to say how much I enjoyed her work. I also wanted to tell her that when she referred to herself as a writer in the bonus pages, she made me feel like one day I could create comics too.

I was so nervous waiting in that line, and when it was finally my turn to meet her, I was too starstruck to say anything. I smiled and she greeted me and signed my print. I thanked her and walked away, feeling shaky, but elated.

Since then, I’ve had opportunities to meet one of my favorite actors and a personal hero. I learned from my inability to say anything meaningful to Ms. Chmakova. I decided on what I wanted to tell those people that I admired days in advance, and practiced it. When I finally met them, even if I was shaking or so overwhelmed I cried, my God, I said it.

I mention this now because in this chapter, Christie has the chance to meet Lida Zeff, her favorite manga creator. Unlike me, though, she didn’t totally blow it. I know firsthand how scary and exciting it is to meet someone you look up to. For most of the book, Christie is pretty meek and let Derek walk all over her. I would have thought she’d be like me, too nervous to say anything to her hero.

Instead, she embraces the chance to meet Lida Zeff. Who, as luck would have it, read Christie’s comic and wants to talk with the author about it. Christie’s pretty surprised by this. The day before, Derek had shown Lida the comic at a panel for a critique. According to him, Lida had said the comic was trash and that they needed to go back to school.

When Christie meets Lida, the manga artist clarifies the situation. She gave him an honest critique of his work, saying that he has promise, but would need art school to work at a professional level. Derek doesn’t know how to take a critique, and focused on the most negative aspects of it. But to be honest, I understand his perspective. I think it takes time to learn how to take a critique and not be totally wounded from it. Derek’s probably eighteen, and this con is his comic’s big debut. Until the con, the only feedback he may have gotten on it was from his friends, who are pretty biased.  It’s one of the few times in the manga where I have some understanding of why he’s being such a jerkass.

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Christie takes her chance to ask Lida for an honest critique of her writing. It’s a brave thing to do, and it shows a level of maturity that her boyfriend doesn’t have. Come to think of it, there’s plenty of creators – from amateurs to seasoned professionals – who don’t want to be critiqued at all. That willingness to learn, even if it hurts, puts her a head above other young writers. If you don’t take any critiques, if you don’t learn anything new, you’re going to be stuck in the same place as an artist. Or, as sci-fi and fantasy author Holly Lisle put it:

“If you assume that the words that flow from your fingertips were dictated to you by God and are thus sacred and immune from revision, only you and God are ever going to read them.”

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