Third Eye Comics, or The Nerd Who Came In From The Cold

NOW I can say it’s real.

I’ve been writing comic scripts for several years. A few of them have become comics; a few of these are finished and out there. But in my mind, the title of ‘writer’ is a lofty one, one that carries respect. I never felt like I had done anything to put myself on the same plane with the writers I know and admire. I haven’t written enough, I haven’t read enough, I don’t know enough.

All those things are still true. I will probably always feel like a First Year lost in Harry Potter’s Room of Requirement, gaping up at the looming mountains of books I need to read, movies I need to watch, music I need to listen to, things I need to know.

But as far as I still have to go, some cool things have happened this year. It starts and ends with a store called Third Eye Comics.

IMG_3502I got pulled away from comics in the ‘90s, when I was about seventeen. Back then I was mostly reading X-Men, Wolverine, Batman, some Green Lantern and Superman. I lost the time for it when I started college, and was starting to lose interest anyway when the art in some of my regular titles started going in directions not to my taste. I went to school to study music, sold my soul to the practice room, and for a while that was pretty much it for TV, reading-for-fun, and comics.

Fast-forward twelve years to 2008: my younger brother was becoming a hell of an artist, and wanted to draw comics. Now a musician, I set out to write some stories for him to illustrate, with no idea where to begin. I didn’t know what a script looked like, I hadn’t read comics regularly in twelve years, I hardly knew one artist from another. I needed to educate myself in a big way. I saw a little yard sign advertising a store called Third Eye Comics in Annapolis, Maryland.

steve-and-trish-from-third-eye-comicsIt was a small store (they’ve had two since that one), but it was well-lit and well-stocked, and run by an amazing couple named Steve and Trish. Steve was the one I spoke to that first day. When I told him I’d been out of the scene for a long time and was looking to get back in, he couldn’t wait to show me around. This was not a typical store manager; Steve was obviously in it for the love of the game.

When Steve showed me what 2008 comics looked like, I was blown away: books like The Boys, Locke & Key, Preacher, American Vampire, Ex Machina, The Walking Dead, Civil War. It was a completely different scene than the one I had left, with richer stories, more diverse and distinct art styles, fascinating and complex characters. Curious to see what an X-Men book looked like now, I picked up Joss Whedon and John Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men. The first hardcover volume was shrinkwrapped, and Steve excitedly ripped the plastic off so he could geek out over it, unconcerned with whether or not I would buy it… or maybe confident that I would, after seeing the interiors.

51EpckClUbL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Third Eye is on their third building now, with a legion of employees, a second store in Southern Maryland, and a new game store. Watching them grow and knowing how much they deserve it has been the best. Meanwhile, as my writing credits started to grow and a comics career started looking more plausible, doing a book signing at Third Eye was a bucket list goal for me. When I do a signing at Third Eye, it’ll be real.

IMG_3503That goal got checked off in December 2015, when artist Matthew Dow Smith and I signed copies of our new BOOM! Studios miniseries, Last Sons of America. The term “dream come true” is one that gets thrown around too much, but in this case I’ll use it proudly.

There are exciting things coming in 2016, things I CANNOT WAIT to talk about. But first, on the New Year, I wanted to take a moment to thank all the readers and fans for an amazing 2015, all the comics pros for still trying to teach me how the hell to do this, and Steve and Trish and the rest of the crew at Third Eye Comics for putting together such a kick-ass place for people to celebrate and discover the art form.

baltimore-comic-con-2013-steve-from-third-eyeSteve: thanks for ripping open that X-Men book. This gig started in your store.

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