Stuttering

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My name is Brian Wood.  There’s a decent chance that if you asked me to say that sentence to you in person, I might not be able to.  I’m 42 years old and I’m a stutterer.   A couple weeks ago my 3-year-old son started stuttering too.

I’m what is known as a covert stutterer.  I’m sure that most of my close friends realize I stutter, but a lot of people don’t.  A covert stutterer is someone who represses their disfluency through an ongoing, in-real-time stream of substitutions and evasion.  Since I first became aware of my stuttering at age 5, I’m very nearly perfected the art of staying covert.  I have a database in my head of words I know I can’t say, and alternates to replace them with.  I can anticipate several words ahead of myself in conversation and select a substitute for something I sense I won’t be able to say.  I buy time with filler words, or I’ll pronounce a partial word, often not speaking the first sound (i.e. Pacific Ocean will be “acific Ocean” and most people don’t notice).  I’m successful in this most of the time, and the result most people get is a slightly halting experience speaking with me, with awkward word choices sometimes, or a phrase rearranged, maybe a pause in an unusual part of a sentence, and lots of ‘umms’ and ‘likes’.  I don’t get to say what I actually want to say.  This is the price I pay for speaking: eternal vigilance and compromised communication.

As a child, and a teenager, the stutter was profound, and despite my older brother and at least one cousin also stuttering, there was not a lot of support or understanding to be found in semi-rural Vermont in the 1970’s.  My tactic was to put my head down, only talk when necessary, and lamely grin along when jokes were made at my expense or people mocked me, just to make it through the day.  Other parents thought I was stupid, mentally delayed, and would keep their kids away from me.  Put bluntly, it was humiliating and sorrowful.  Add to that the fact I was painfully skinny, wore glasses, had pizza face, didn’t have a father, and my family was Jehovah’s Witnesses, I was a target in pretty much every way possible.  I looked inward for happiness: reading, running, making art, being alone.

But in the end it was fine, I exited my teenage years with some solid friends, and onto into college where I made a few more.  The stutter lessened a bit and I got better at staying covert and I began to learn that I could hide it from some people entirely, which changed the game.  But I never spoke about it.  Never, ever, ever spoke about it.  If someone brought it up to me, I could redirect that conversation in about two seconds flat.  I would cringe at the very thought of having to speak about it.  I still do.

So in that way my career as a comic book writer was great, because I could just sit alone in a room and have the written word be my voice and could take my time to properly construct my thoughts.   But when the social part of my budding career became a reality (signings, conventions, interviews, panels), it was a like middle school all over again.

I’ve mostly made my peace with it now.  I know that when I sit on a panel at a convention with a microphone in my face, with twenty people in the front row recording it on their phones, when it’s live-cast to the web, I’m going to stutter a few times.  Sometimes more than a few times, as has happened.  If you are a blogger who has asked me for one of those station identification soundbites (“This is Brian Wood, writer of X-Men, and you’re listening to the such-and-such podcast!”) you almost certainly have me on tape stuttering.  Somewhere StarWars.com has video footage of me attempting one of those station idents easily a dozen times (they eventually gave up).  But before I made my peace with it, I would straight up refuse video interviews; I would shirk from panels, and was generally pretty bad at this aspect of my job.  Publishers and editors were mostly supportive, with few glaring exceptions.

So, back to my 3-year-old son.  Having children was, for the longest time, a big fear of mine for this exact reason, that this kid would inherit some combination of my unfortunate traits, the stutter specifically.  My older daughter went through a couple weeks of it as a common language development phase, and honestly, it seems my son is growing out of it as well (but time will tell).  But the agony I felt of listening to him in his worst moments struggle to even say one single word, to take 20 or 30 attempts to get past the “d” in “daddy” sort of forced me to consider my own thoughts and emotions on this subject.  In other words, I had to get a grip.  So at age 42, I’m going to start owning this so that if and when I need to help my son with it, I’ll be emotionally ready.

I read these periodic articles that talk about all the famous people who were stutters.  Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, James Earl Jones, Joe Biden, Emily Blunt, Tim Gunn, Shaq, and so on, and while that’s really cool to hear, they are all people who, at least from what I can tell, have corrected their stutter.  I always wished for someone on that level who still openly stuttered and prevailed despite it.  Because, at this point in my life, my stutter isn’t going away.  I kind of don’t want it to.  It’s as much of who I am as anything else.  I’ve lived with it longer than anything else I have going on, so sometimes I think it’s the most defining thing about me.

I’ve only met one other person in the comics industry who stutters, that I know of – there may be others out there even more skilled at being covert than I am.  There HAVE to be more, so if there are - on the professional or the fan side - I’d love to hear from you.

(northernboy at gmail dot com, or twitter: brianwood )

This week, May 12-18, is the National Stuttering Awareness Week.  I’m taking this time right now to make a first step towards publicly accepting myself, and probably working on that for the next 30 years or so. 

b

(photo by www.lifelurking.com)

Wishful thinking

JOHN KERRY: The US Will Do ‘Everything Possible’ To Help Rescue Kidnapped Nigerian Girls
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/john-kerry-us-will-help-find-kidnapped-nigerian-girls-2014-5#ixzz30gPC6joc

I’m no hawk, but if (in the unlikely case of Kerry actually meaning what he says, and) troops were deployed for this, I’d support it 100%. Imagine the goodwill, imagine the appropriateness and the righteousness of American strength used to help correct such a horrible situation. Imagine the pride of the soldiers involved in a rescue. 

As opposed to, you know, droning a bunch of children somewhere.

brooklyncrossfitter:

A new t-shirt design of mine proposed to my box.  Last year’s shirt had the “Muscle Up, Brooklyn” slogan; this time I’m going old school with that Gang Starr lyric.

Hi there, Ming! I love your artwork! So, in my Business of Art class, we were discussing women in comics. Most of the guys in my class said that women only get jobs from editors because they're attractive or cute. I'm the only girl in my class, so I stayed out of it to avoid trouble. As a woman trying to break into comics myself, this worries me. I'm far from what most would consider attractive, but for all the other girls out there trying to get work, what would you say to that? Thank you!

mingdoyle:

The short, practical answer: Most business is conducted entirely over email. Your editors may hire you, work with you for years, and if you don’t post selfies or attend conventions, they may never know what you look like. Even if they do know what you look like, editors care more about your quality of work, your timeliness and your professionalism, than any selfie. Be fearless, do the work, make connections online, and of course you can flourish!

The long, twisted answer: Yes. We’re women, it’s inevitable that we’ll be judged, coveted, and derided purely on the basis of our looks, our age, our perceived sexual availability. These judgments crash against us at every turn in life. They’re inescapable, and yes, explicitly or implicitly, from men and from women, you will confront these judgments and many more during your professional career. 

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will be cruel to you. They’ll seem to single your art out more loudly and consistently than any equivalently accomplished male counterpart’s for pillorying. They’ll call your lines ugly, and in the comments section they will call you ugly. Or, they’ll be too kind to you. It won’t matter how unattractive you may think you are, they’ll speak to you too long at conventions, they’ll stare and say you’re even prettier than your art, and that will be worse, because if you can be the target of such bombastic, lecherous praise, then maybe your art is actually just as bad as you’ve been made to feel.

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will support you. They’ll support you unfailingly, they’ll class you as a “woman creator” and they’ll ask you to provide sound bites that speak for all women, though of course that’s impossible. They’ll put you on a “Women in Comics” panel at every show, and often that will be the only panel you’re ever on. They’ll buy your work because you’re a woman, just because you’re a woman.

Have I gotten more or less work because of the way I look? Like you, I bear all the lifelong mental wounds of growing up in this society and consider myself “far from what most would consider attractive.” I think a lot of women do. But when I was first breaking in, I encountered my fair share of sexually charged interest and dismissal, in equal turns. I’ve escaped from gross situations with professionals and never worked with them, but also never spoken publically about those intimidating experiences. I’ve been hired to be in multiple woman-themed anthologies exclusively because I was a woman. I’ve been in an Asian-themed anthology because I’m Asian. Almost any review of my work from the first five years of my career begins, “Drawn by the lovely/beautiful/hot/exotic and talented Ming Doyle…”

Whatever you are in this life, however you look or identify or are identified, it’s going to impact you professionally and personally. Attractive, unattractive, majority, minority, there’s no getting out untouched. And if that sounds grossly generalizing and invasive, that’s because that’s what a lot of these experiences are like.

But remember what I said way back up there in the short answer, about being fearless? Do that. Yes, there’s a host of adversities attached to embarking upon any endeavor as a woman, and comics come with their own unique and prickly set. But if you love what you do, if you’re good at it and you can persevere, if you can access the core of who you are as a person and align that with what you want to accomplish as an artist and hold that knowledge as a shield in front of everything you do, you can make it! And I hope you will, because I want to see you here. For all the awful people who may make the journey rough or unpleasant for you, there is a large number of people who want to employ you and want to stand with you professionally.

Thank you. And please, even after I’ve said all that, GO FOR IT! It’s not going to be easy, but it was never going to be. The secret is that it’s not easy for anyone, and in the end that’s what’s going to make you a goddamn warrior.

Comics needs more people like Ming.

Thanks Again…

…to everyone who helped in my breast cancer fundraiser last fall. Just got the news that a close relative was diagnosed, so in the middle of the fear and feelings of helplessness and sadness, I am grateful that you all helped me do a little bit towards making a difference.

The Massive #22

The start of a three-issue arc called SAHARA, with art by Danijel Zezelj (Garry will be back at #25 to take us to the conclusion). Anyway, #22, in which Mary rides shotgun, literally, for a four-mile water convoy across northern Africa.  Colors by Jordie, letters by Jared as usual.

(via CBR)

X-Men #13

In this upcoming issue, I have this scene with Monet, and I really wanted her to look strong… not comic book superhero-strong, but real life strong, and so I sent artist Clay Mann this shot of Camille LeBlanc-Bazinet:

and asked for a build like that on Monet.  Which I got:

Love it.