It's long been my contention that the skills required to be a cartoonist overlap with those sought in a romantic partner: Empathy, commitment, the ability to communicate clearly, passion. Other things like not having money, maybe not so much…. But for the most part, cartoonists make great friends and greater partners. Just ask my wife.
What happens when two cartoonists become romantically involved? Wouldn't that be twice as awesome? It was Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who said, "Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." I actually know a fair number of cartoonist couples, such as Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, Kazu Kibuishi and Amy Kim Ganter, and Trevor Alixopulos and Vanessa Davis. When I think of those relationships, my faith in humanity and true love swells. I often picture them drawing on a double-sided desk like in "Chasing Amy." And, of course, there's the whole eugenics angle. Much like how Destro created Serpentor, I am working behind the scenes to encourage them to have children, so their children can become involved romantically with each others', thus creating a genetic super-cartoonist in fifty years or so.
Yet, I also know this rosy picture could differ drastically from the day-to-day reality of the situation. Cartoonists are notoriously stubborn, especially those from the alt-comics world. Speaking personally, after decades of doing whatever the heck I wanted with my comics, adjusting to the publishing world was a really rough transition for me. When my publisher suggested I put the title on my spine vertically, I just about lost it, refusing to budge an inch and eventually delaying the publication of my book. I can only imagine what happens when cartoonists have a disagreement about whose turn it is to wash the dishes.
And, of course, there is the issue of one partner being wildly more successful than the other. I am secure in my manhood, but I still feel I should bring something unique to the table besides my rockin' bod.
In the end, I can't really speak for Robert Crumb or Art Spiegelman. I only know my own experiences and I have to say, being married to a non-cartoonist has its perks. Coming home after a day of drawing, all I have to say is, "Rough day at work! All those panels. Whew!" in a somewhat convincing manner and my wife's heart will flood with sympathy, even though she's the one covered in baby vomit. I can head off to the Chicago Alternative Komics Expo for a week and return from my "business trip" (which actually entailed me singing karaoke and eating deep-dish pizza), the conquering hero. When I hold a book signing or reading I might as well be a rock star in my wife's eyes.
In all seriousness, I feel divergent or common interests are mostly orthogonal to a great relationship. Ultimately, it's about sharing some sort of world view and caring enough about each other to bridge what you don't share. I never expected to find love outside the comics or arts community. But I thank my lucky stars every night that I did.
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