I’ve been so busy that I didn’t take a minute to hit the pause button and reflect, but yes, on May 27th, it’s been 2 years since I moved from Paris to New York. What does it mean? Did I achieved everything I wanted to? Let’s take a closer look into that…
By the way, that fortune cookie up there? I really got this quote inside at a chinese restaurant in Long Island where my cousin took me right after I crashed at his place. Now, two years after, I can definitely say that, regarding my life, I didn’t accept anything definition but my own. Now, let’s take a trip back to memory lane.
Adieu Paris, Hello Brooklyn!
I’ll never say this enough, but I owe my family big time. Both sides. My French family for supporting my choice of relocating, my American family for welcoming me so warmly. I want to give an extra shoutout to my cousins Ronnie and Alicia. Both of them live in Long Island, a few miles from each other, and they’ve helped me a great deal. Thanks to them, I was able to dodge a lot of bullets and problems foreigners who decide to come to the US usually face. I’m sure they would’ve loved me to stick with them in LI, but I had no intention of buying a car, so I decided that Brooklyn would be my home.
I was very lucky finding my apartment. It only took me 4 days and a killer Real Estate Agent (Yaacov Jacob Feldman you were damn good!). It’s tiny. It’s expensive. But it’s a great place. Awesome Feng Chui over here. And it’d better have that because I’m working from home. That means that this has become my Creator Cave (even though I’m on the third floor– whatever).
Why did I move, again?
I often say this but growing up in Europe and living now in the USA feels like living on Earth 2 (of course, Europe is Earth 1, hey, we were there before). My last months in Paris were bittersweet. I had to leave family, love, friends behind. And it was a space jump like no other. When you’re a twenty-something, you don’t mind eating pasta for 3 months until you settle. But I was 44 and I needed to feel comfy and safe. I knew my Visa would allow me a 2 year window until it expired so time was running out. I needed results and I needed it quickly. A lot of people, both in my home country and in my new country didn’t get clearly why I decided to move. But France’s failing economy didn’t have much to offer. And the state of the comic book community there was/is clearly alarming.
As a creator, when you don’t fit the boxes the publishers would like to put you into, your chances are slim. And when you have the audacity to imagine that making comics is more than a mere hobby, you’re simply laughed at. Since 2010, I saw the comic book food chain derail in France, one of the biggest markets for comics. My personal love for American comics didn’t help. The American comics niche, as big as it is, is just that: a niche. It moves a few thousand copies a month. Sure, there are a lot of books, 99.9% translated from english. Translating, or adapting American books is a great job, I did that before, I’ll do it again. But you have to be backed by a publisher with deep pockets as the competition for the rights has gone completely berserk. Five publishers throwing a lot of money at US studios to get rights to the best selling books. And those publishers rarely produce original content.:”Too expensive”, “hard to export”. I was never into French Bandes Dessinées. So I guess, I was only left with one option: come to America.
Affirmation #1: No time for anyone!
The New Yorkers are busy people. Like very busy. Getting to meet somebody you know and who says he’d be happy to see you some time for coffee or lunch is almost impossible. I learned that on my first month. Two weeks after I landed, I had a comic book convention. There, I saw a lot of pros that I knew, sometimes for a long time. They seemed to feel happy that I came to live in Brooklyn. “Shoot me an email, we’ll have a coffee or something”. Translation: something=nothing. So instead of seeing old friends, I made new ones! I’ll give credit to David Gallagher for organizing the Bar Con, a meetup in Brooklyn for those who couldn’t go to the San Diego Comic Con, on July 2015. There, I met very interesting people for the first time. Besides David and his wife, I met with Mags Visaggio, Pat Reilly and Fabian Lelay, three amigos who are also great people in real life. Then, I joined the New York Drink&Draw sessions. Around Khary Randolph and Ed Watson, I discover great great artists like Sara Woolley or Javier Winnick Cruz and I love being with this gang. It’s more a family than anything else now. I really felt welcomed. I’m very lucky all these comic book people eased the transition from a country to another. Last but not least, in November 2015, I met Will Torres. A true mensch. This “happy camper” as he describes himself, is a great talent and has become my sparring partner. If you follow my adventures, you know we tour together all the time. We have BIG projects together. Stay tuned… #lovethemall.
Affirmation #2: With great work comes great reward!
A person very close to me pushed me to start drawing, back in 2014. Then my good friend Moritat seconded that and I started to believe I could actually go somewhere with my art. They were right. And it became very clear that if I wanted to break even or even make money at shows, I needed to start drawing. Three years later, I can say that the goal is achieved. And these past two years in the US have played a HUGE role in my shift from a writer to a writer-artist. Now, with Will Torres, I’m at most of the conventions in the area (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,…). And it feels good. I started rather slow. Then, when Will and I started touring together, it became something bigger. He encouraged me to ditch my old banners and capitalize on Spider-Man Noir to attract people. He was SO right. Spider-Man Noir maybe underrated at Marvel right now, but he’s hugely popular everywhere I go. And, let’s face it, out of the original creative team, I’m the only one living in the US, so I’m legit drawing and promoting Spidey Noir, even though the comics aren’t available anymore. In fact, it’s a double threat as Spider-Man Noir makes a great bait to promote my creator-owned work. 90% of the people who show up at my table thanks to Spidey Noir leave with an issue of One-Hit Wonder or Intertwined in hand, if not ALL the issues. I’m working hard, seven days a week, but I’m not complaining. The comic book adventure is tough, competitive and you play with the cards you have. Well, until you expand your game. And that’s exactly what I’m doing.
In short, after two years in New York, I feel I barely scratched the surface of what I can accomplish here. Possibilities are endless. This town is an insanely creative hub. Paris is one also. But New York adds actual business to creativity. Oh, you can starve, that’s for sure, the Big Apple isn’t cheap by any means. But if you have the will, the drive, the motivation to raise the bar (and your finances), you definitely can. As a foreigner, I sometime feel a glass ceiling over me, but it’s cracking a bit more everyday. As I’m a few weeks away (hopefully) to getting my precious Green Card, I feel the winds of change…
To be continued