If a week is a long time in politics, a year in social media must be close to eternity. During this time the world of social media has changed considerably. Questions about whether it can really generate ROI have been replaced by brands scrambling to be part of the Facebook gold rush.
Personally, I’ve gone from being something of a social media outsider to an inside man by joining Jam earlier this year. In some ways this has been a natural progression, but it’s not one I saw coming.
I was reminded of the strange career path I’ve taken when I read this blog post by Dave Coplin. Dave is now my client at Bing, but it turns out that he’s a fellow comic geek. When I saw the Forbidden Planet image by Brian Bolland, memories came flooding back of weekend trips up to that store and many of the surrounding ones such as Comic Showcase, Gosh, and LTS – the tiny upstairs shop tucked away around the corner of Denmark Street that broke almost every rule of retail by being nearly impossible to find and cramped inside.
Since I read my first Spider Man book the age of 10, comics had dominated my life. They inspired my passion for illustration, graphic design and reading. Authors such as Alan Moore, Chris Claremont, and Frank Miller informed and challenged me, while artists such as Simon Bisley, Jamie Hewlitt and Frank Miller (again) were my heroes.
The only other cultural force that occupied such as central role in my life was Hip-Hop. But if you’d have asked me what I wanted to be during this period, the answer was simple – a comic artist.
Through my Secondary School years, I spent every spare moment I had drawing, and after Art college I enrolled at the London Cartoon Centre where my tutors included ‘V for Vendetta’ artist David Lloyd and colourist Steve Whitaker among others.
Up until this point my career path into that of a comic artist was on track. Hanging out at ACME Comics in Brixton I met Alan Mitchell, a comic writer who worked on Third World War with Pat Mills, published in Crisis.
This led to our collaborating on a comic called the “Scrolls of Imhotep” that was published in an Africentric magazine called The Alarm. Eventually, I got to meet the editor of 2000AD, who – when he saw my work – promised me a try out in the magazine. I was at the cusp of fulfilling my schoolboy dream, so what happened?
Two things changed my plans: technology and the need to be ‘social’.
Technology began to play an increasing role when I was introduced to Apple Macs and Desk Top Publishing at Art College. This spurred a growing interest in design and communications more generally, influenced in part by the work of Neville Brody and the design aesthetic of groups like Public Enemy.
It wasn’t long after this that I was encouraged to start my own design agency and my career began to head in a different path.
The other more fundamental reason was social – or rather the lack of it. One of the notable features of my life as a comic geek is that it was often an isolated one. Although comics provided stories that fuelled my imagination, in the real world, comic collecting was often an individual and competitive pursuit.
Being a comic artist in many ways was worse. I would sit by my drawing easel into the early hours of the morning, not interacting with anyone outside of my pen and paper. After a while I started to go stir crazy, and it began to dawn on me that the life I had dreamed of may not be the one I wanted to live.
Looking back then, it’s no surprise to find myself immersed in the world of social technology as it connects to my passions and reflects my personality in a way that comics in isolation couldn’t.
Is there still a part of me that wonders what would have happened if I’d stuck to my original vocation? Of course there is. But I believe that The Creator has a Master Plan, and so far it seems to be working out.