You know, I’ve shared a lot about my writing career (such as it is) in the Confessional over the past few months. I’ve talked about my attempts at writing for TV, movies, and the stage. I’ve shared my awful Star Trek/Star Wars crossover fanfiction. But it occurs to me, I don’t think I’ve ever really talked about how I really got started as a writer. What got me started down this road?
The answer? Very poorly drawn comic books.
Back when I was a fifth grader in Mr. Pierce’s class at Valley View Elementary School, I got it in my head that I should start drawing comic books. I don’t know where that idea came from, exactly. I think it was partially because my parents had given a homemade pad of lined paper and, rather than use it to actually do schoolwork, I thought it was a better canvas to express my budding creativity. So, during a free period, I started drawing. And with that first book, I launched a series that I would work on for several years.
I called them my “OKAL books.”
They all starred the same stick-figure alien:
This was OKAL Man (eventually just “Okal Man”) from the planet of OKAL (which, for some inexplicable reason, looked like an O and P jammed together). And boy, was this a crazy place! They ate paper money and used hamburgers as currency! Seriously!
This is as good as it gets for a fifth grader in the mid ’80s, apparently.
And Okal Man went on a number of wacky adventures. At first, he was some sort of cop, and he and his buddies (who were all indistinguishable from one another) would chase down a bad guy named One-Oh-Eyes (how I wish I were making this up) and his henchman:
One-Oh-Eyes was always the frowning one.
Anyway, for the first series (because of course there would be more than one book!) was nothing but One-Oh-Eyes and his henchman breaking out of elaborate jail cells, robbing a bank, and then fleeing to OKAL’s sole moon, where Okal Man and his cohorts would chase him, only to fall into elaborate booby traps. Eventually, Okal Man convinced the henchman (who never got a name, I don’t think) to betray One-Oh-Eyes and become a good guy.
Riveting stuff, I know.
After that initial run, I decided to branch out. I introduced a new group of characters, namely myself and my cousins from my mom’s side of the family. Okal Man was my best friend. We eventually all became superheroes who also had giant robots at their disposal for their battles.
Basically, this book series was an exercise in creative plagiarism. For example, Okal Man once found an ancient castle and magical sword, which he could use to transform himself into a robotic superhero named “R-Man.” This was all very reminiscent of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which was one of my favorite shows at the time. Those giant robots I mentioned earlier? Yeah, they were a direct rip-off of Voltron (as a matter of fact, at one point, my fictional doppelganger says to Okal Man, “We should make giant robots like Voltron.”)
So for several years, I would produce more of these books. I would show them only to my cousin David, and then place them in a boot box that I stored under my bed. I had every intention of publishing these things someday.
Well, years went on. I moved on to college, then the Seminary, and I had thought that the OKAL books disappeared. At least, I couldn’t remember ever seeing them during the different moves. But then, earlier this year, my family moved to the Kansas City area and, while we were unpacking, I came across an all-too-familiar boot box:
I could hardly believe it. I seriously thought that these had disappeared off the face of the earth. But no, there they were. Every one of them:
Now normally, when I spend some time in the Confessional, I’ll share the stories or whatever with you. Well, you can forget it. These are staying in the box. The only people who have seen them are my family (and my older son thought that they were hilarious because of how bad the art is). But never fear, I did take a few choice photos. I’m willing to share those:
So there we have it. These were my first baby steps in telling stories. Thankfully, I eventually realized that I had no artistic ability (still don’t, as a matter of fact) and that maybe, if I really wanted to be an author, I should try my hand at writing a novel.
Turns out, I wasn’t much better at writing prose than I was at drawing comics. But I’ll have to save that for the next time I’m in the Confessional.Author @JohnWOtte opens up his old boot box to show off his horrible homemade comic books. Click To Tweet