From the mind of Tom Beland

Creator of True Story Swear to God

Monday, August 11, 2008

I really need a hug.

Well, the back is still killing me and that jitter in my drawing hand is still there. It's been two weeks since I've been off caffeine and I still shake as much as I have before. Simply put... I cannot draw.

For anyone who knows me in any way whatsoever, you know how I feel about it.

I've done all I can do and I've done all the swearing, brush and paper throwing and crying I can do. I'm pretty much empty inside. I've been drawing since I was a kid and now it's just not there anymore. Not the way I'm happy with at least.

I've had support from my wife and friends, but I don't think they understand truly what I'm going through. This is such a loss to me on an emotional and spiritual level. I just don't see it improving. Every time I pick up a pencil or brush, that shake is right there. Lily will tell me it looks fine, but it doesn't help.

I called my sister to tell her what was going on and she doesn't get it either. She's going through a divorce and every time I tried to talk to her about it, the conversation went to what an asshole her husband is. Yeah, I get it. I hung up and wished I could've had some support there. But my own family doesn't look for my book. That has always hurt, but I really feel like I'm going through this alone. I don't want to hear it's going to get better, I want to SEE it getting better.

The fact is, I see that shaky line everywhere on the page. I feel it as I make the line itself and it kills me when I look at my page.

And then I got the numbers on my TSSTG ARCHIVE COLLECTION:

Image has lost two grand on it. I guess the public has officially spoken.

This was the book I was hoping Image would make money on. Every issue they've published has lost money for them. Add this to my health issues and I'm ready to tie myself to a boulder and push it off a bridge.


Tegan said...

One of my favorite comics, from a favorite creator. You gotta hang in there, Tom. You have fans, and we love you. You put out a unique book at a time when the market is glutted with same old same old. I would hate to see it go away for any reason.

I would offer advice, but really I'm just a know-nothing fangirl. The only thing I'm certain about is that to lose your contribution to the world of comic books would be a horrible thing. We need more Tom Belands out there, and I hate to see you suffer when your book is so wonderful.

Oh yeah, one more thing:


giddygirlie said...


You may have mentioned this before, but have you tried chiropractic? I'm not one of those crunchy granola people who believes that a chiropractor saved my life, BUT I have had some improvement in my own back and my husband (also in comics) gets treatments for his shoulder/arm because he gets numbness in his fingers that stops him from working. And actually a lot of what we do at the chiropractor's office is massage and physical therapy (because they can bill it to insurance, we go every week and don't pay a dime). You might want to look into that. Your shaky hand could be something tied to the nerves and maybe some therapeutic massage and gentle adjustment would help? You don't have to go for the full back-crack. There's a lot of people who don't do that at all, but even just a sort of stretching in the right way might help. And it can't hurt the problem either...

And I'm sorry that your support system isn't as supportive as you need them to be. I know that game, and man it's a toughie! But know the whole Internet is still out here and people are rooting for you! :)

Tom Beland said...

Thanks gals. It does help, trust me.

I've been seeing a chiropractor now for about two weeks and my back is a bit better, but the jitters are still there in my hand.

Thanks for the support. You have no idea how good it was to read it.

James Figueiredo said...

Hi, Mr. Beland.

Long time lurker, first time commenter.

First of all, cliche as it sounds, hang in there. It WILL get better. Years ago, as the result of a stupid car accident, I was left in a hospital bed in traction for a month, as the result of a severe leg injury that required a couple of surgeries and seemingly endless months on a wheelchair. There was a lot of frustration, anger at becoming dependent on others for the simplest tasks, and fear that the situation wouldn't improve. But it did. Slowly, at first, and then more steadily and quickly. And today it's like nothing happened at all most of the time.

Your work is terrific, and it is not merely a result of your hand's movements, but of your particular and unique vision and the feelings attached to it. So hang in there, and keep on fighting. ;)

Also, the first time I bought your work was when the "True Story Swear To God - 100 Stories" book was published, and I identified so much with your story - See, my boyfriend and I live in different cities, over 1000 km apart, and sometimes it's very hard for us to see each other (of course, it's not as extreme a situation as the one you had with your wife, you being in different countries, but still sometimes we have to wait over four months for reasonably priced plane tickets). It was so good to see someone that knew what that was, and was making such wonderful comics inspired by that situation!

So please don't lose your faith in yourself. I'm sure there's many, MANY years of wonderful comics from you down the line!


P.S.:This may be out of line, coming from a total stranger, and I apologize profusely in advance if it is, but have you considered, along with the therapy for your hands and back, seek psychological counseling as well? Maybe it could make up for some of the support you are not having from your family.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if it helps, but your book is one thing that my wife and I both look forward too every month. There are so few books like this on the marketplace (actually I can't think of any other than TSSTG)
I really hope your back starts to feel better.
Jim Yeske

Adam said...

Tom, I doubt anything I could say would make you feel better, but there's always a chance the jitter will subside--and I absolutely love the copies of the Image TSSTG series that I have, and I can't wait for my copy of the archive.

Best of luck, and a non-threatening, totally hetero *hug*

Heath Holland said...

Tom, I'm a huge fan of yours, but yet I've never contacted you. I read the True Story Swear to God Archive from Image in two sittings. I think you are an amazing creator, and I want you to hang in there. You have people that support you and people that appreciate what you are doing. I don't know what else to say. This post makes me really sad, but all I can tell you is to keep on keeping on. Yuu have folks who really dig what you are doing, and I'm one of them. Sometimes it feels like we're fighting an uphill battle, but you gotta believe it's going to get better.

Barb said...

Hi Tom,
I am sending you a big hug right now. Did you get it? I hope so. Please do not underestimate yourself and the impact you have on people. When Mike and I met you in San Diego last year we saw the line of people waiting to talk to you. We waited behind one guy who talked to you for about 15 minutes and then we took just as much time and would've taken more if there hadn't been so many others waiting behind us. Anyone who knows us has heard us say several times that meeting you in person and receiving the original page from your comic was the highlight of our entire con. The honesty that you show through your comic is so incredibly refreshing. I hope you begin to feel better soon, but I'm willing to wait if I have to. If I can suggest something else to try, I'd like to be an advocate for accupuncture. I have a severely herniated disc in my back that I've treated with accupuncture for about a year and it almost never bothers me. I play softball, bowl, and ride rollercoasters which I should not be able to do. Just an idea. I send my best wishes to you and Lily and I hope all is well soon. Just remember that there are many of us out here that so appreciate you and what you do. Don't give up!

Barb Myers

Shawn Levasseur said...

Hang in there.

Got directed to this post from a friend's link, that just said "someone needs a hug".

Didn't know it was going to lead me to your site. I'm a fan of TSSTG, and was surprised to hear of these setbacks.

Going through a divorce myself (no I'm not going to make this all about me), I've been enjoying your book as it does remind me that happiness is out there and achievable.

So please keep your spirits up. You've kept mine up.

Steven Rowe said...

sorry to hear all this...
- if image gets 1/4 of the cover price (and no idea if they do or not)
they'd need to sell 400 more copies to break even? so how many copies do each of us here need to send as Christmas presents? or to give away to the local library?
the same thing for the floppies - if we picked up another 2 copies to give away to friends, would that make it profitable for image?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,
I wrote you a letter at the beginning of the summer on my last day at DCD. I hope that you got it. If you didn't, that's okay. I think that you are an amazing storyteller. While I love your artwork, it is the story element of TSSTG that first drew me to the comics. When your archive came out I was incredibly excited because I could finally read the beginning of your story. Please don't give up. It would be an incredible loss to all of your fans and to comics in general. Know that all your fans are pulling for you.

Ana said...

Hey Tom:

Another big hug (abrazo bien grande) for you. I can't imagine how scary it has to be to facing the twitchy hand every day. I will be praying and hoping for you that the shake will diminish or go away all together. I hope you know that despite the numbers there are a lot of us out here who love and enjoy your book. And please let us know what is the best way to support you.

I found out about the book from a friend back before you went to Image. When he mentioned that it was set in Puerto Rico, I had to snap it up (I am Puerto Rican, although it has been nearly 14 years since I left the island to go off to school and then get married, it is still home). The book always feels authentic and it is a joy to read.


Emilio Torres Garcia said...

Hi Tom:

Just a few lines to tell you to keep your cheen up and hang in there. Things are tough now but it will get better.

Tom Beland said...

Thanks everyone, for the very warm thoughts. And thanks, Emiio, for the phone call.

I'm an emotional guy. In the early days, it got me into a lot of internet fights because I was also dealing with the stress of a new environment.

Then one day I just felt embarrassed about how I acted and sent emails to everyone I ever had a battle with and apologized. I swore I'd never get in a pissy match ever again and would accept what life had thrown at me.

But this is a very tough thing to accept. It's more frustrating at this point, because I have the image in my head and it's a very clear image as usual. I always see everything on the paper, like I'm using an overhead projector from my mind.

But where there used to be a clear communication between the brain with the image and the hand to draw it, there's this segmented interference is the only way I can describe it.

And it's tough because I have a LOT of my art hanging in our house. I keep looking at those lines the form the three-quarter faces I draw and they're so fucking clean and smooth. The boneless arms and stick-fingers at the end. It kills me to not be able to do the lines you see in that Nightcrawler/Wolverine sketch you see in my post.

I think it's a pinched nerve. The jitters began just after I took that fall. I've held everything in because it was Lily's shoe I tripped over that sent me down the stairs and she's horribly guilty over it.

I've told her several times that you can't predict what will happen and I know that every time I get upset or emotional, it also impacts her. I don't want her to feel responsible for this. I love her too much.

The messages of support from you guys, as well as a lot of professionals I love have sent me great amounts of hugs and support. They don't go unnoticed, trust me.

Bless all of you and thank you for all your thoughts. They've often calmed me down.

The Doc said...

Hey Tom, I wanted to let you know that I told a couple of friends about how down you were, and we each ordered a copy of the Archive Collection; it's not much but hopefully it perks you up a little. Consider it a virtual hug from three Canadian fans.

Take care and hang in there.

George Tramountanas said...

*Manly Hug*

Tom, I love your stuff! Don't stop writing. Even if you need someone to help you finish your pencils, keep telling your story.

Your story is the story of so many people. It's a story of love, heartache, and hope. There are struggles, but there are so many victories.

Never give up, never surrender (okay, it's a Galaxy Quest quote, but it still applies).

I'll say a prayer for ya!


Randy said...

Hey Tom,

I don't have a lot to say that others haven't, but you know at this point how much TSSTG means to me. I'll be honest, selling the singles has been tough at my shop, but we've been selling a lot better on the archives, so I'd say that while it may not have broken even yet, it's a trade... I have faith that it will, and will go profitable as well.

As for the physical stuff, all I can offer is that I know how frustrating it is to deal with life-important things that you have so little control over. I wish I had advice to counter it, because then maybe I could take it and solve some of my own daily anger issues. :)

But I'll say this... you're one of my absolute favorite guys in comics, and it makes me sad that you're having trouble, and you have all the best wishes and positive thoughts I can manage.

Gary Dunaier said...

I don't know what to say in a situation like this, so I'll just add my voice in agreement to those who've already posted here with their words of love and support.

Please don't give up, Tom.

We need you.


Andy Ihnatko said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Ihnatko said...

It's not the hand that controls the pen that people respond to. What makes your work special is the head that controls the hand and the heart that controls the head.

It's way too soon to plan for a future without drawing. Plan for the explosion of output that will happen as your hand gets better.

Until then, keep your head on straight and don't lose heart.

Tony Collett said...

I dunno about hugs, how'z'about some best wishes? And before this I wrote about you and your comic on my blog, and ordered the archives and 1st Image trade paperback from Barnes and Noble. Finding issues of your comic to re-read when I'm sorting through my comics is a nice surprise, but having these books on a helf is better.

Tom Beland said...

Thanks again everyone.

And Randy, I would never have made nearly thirty issues if not for yours and Don's continued support. Those reviews mean the world to me. It's so terrifying making your own comic, knowing everyone is looking at it that week. Those reviews were a huge relief.

And I'm seeing an acupuncturist tomorrow!! Between the ADD pills and the pills I got today and whatever sized blunt I smoke before we go, I shouldn't feel a thing.

Anonymous said...

I suffered from a ulnar nerve tether and tendonitis in my wrist. And could not draw the way I wanted to for months. So I understand what your going through. I benefited greatly from occupational therapy. And my art is still not the same as it was (I had to change pen knibs for my wrists sake) The frustrating thing is that it takes a lot of time. Stay strong. As for the sucess of your book with Image. It's saddening that it Hasn't came out the way that you've wanted. But you have fans out there. I hope this was helpful.

Hug given

David Arroyo.

Don MacPherson said...

Tom, the biggest compliment I think I can pay you is that when I just read that you can't draw and you fear about future prospects, I was deeply saddened. I love your work; I relate to your autobio storytelling so much, you have no idea.

I'm bummed for you that the books aren't selling as well as you'd hoped. It actually annoys me that the marketplace has failed to support such high-quality work.

I hope you're feeling better soon, both physically and emotionally.

Robert Chambers said...

I hope things are going better for you, but just in case you're still feeling down, go to this link on my blog:

I got your back.


Carmi said...

This is my first message Tom.
I just wanted you to know that I only read one comic....and it is your's. I came across it buying a gift for my hubby and got hooked. I love the story and the art.
I'd buy it with a crisp or shakey line.

Tom Beland said...

lol... thanks Carmi.

And Don, you know how grateful I am for all the support you've given my book. It really has meant the world to me. I remember being SO terrified opening the Fourth Rail site when I was starting out.

the4thpip said...

Hey Tom!
Don't get too hung up about the numbers Image made on your collections SO FAR - I'd guess this is the direct market mostly?
Your trades are going to be available through book stores for years to come, and that is where they will find an audience. And make Image lots of money.

Anonymous said...

interesting read. I would love to follow you on twitter.