#19: Wisdom from comics

This week I ponder the wisdom we receive from the stories we love.


You can run all your life and not go anywhere.


For years, Social Distortion’s Ball & Chain has been a favorite song of mine.

I was home from college in the summer of ‘92. And one night a friend wanted me to join him to see some bands I’d never heard of, in a venue that I’d never been to: the venerable Toad’s Place in New Haven. He was always into new music and new bands, but I was suspicious of his taste in music.

Two years before, he’d seen an alternative band there called fIREHOSE.

1991 was the year Nirvana kicked hair metal to the curb; theoretically my friend’s street cred was great for catching a lesser known alternative act before it was cool. The hipsters of 1991 would have toasted him with their then beardless faces and any beer that wasn’t Budweiser.

The problem is that he didn’t intend on see fIREHOSE.

He was trying to see a band called Firehouse (emphasis mine).

If you didn’t watch a lot of MTV circa 1990, you may not have heard of Firehouse. They were a minor hair metal band known for two songs, neither of which should ever be associated with the word metal: a jaunty little tune called Don’t Treat Me Bad and the desperate ballad Love of a Lifetime.

Firehouse. UGH.

They were the poppiest of pop songs sung by guys dressed like a Motley Crue rip-offs. And I loathed them.

(However I was a hypocrite since I was really into the Nelson album for a few months in 1990. The music isn’t that different but the Nelson twins didn’t bother trying to dress like Motley Crue, going with a more piratey theme.)

Suffice to say I didn’t trust his taste in music. But I had nothing better to do so the prospect of beer and possibly finding the love of my lifetime (or at least the love of 1992) got me out of the house and into a life-changing experience: my first mosh pit.

The show was openers Paw, followed by psychobilly band The Reverend Horton Heat (who also became a favorite), and Social Distortion.

Mike Ness Social Distortion
This being Mike.

I had beer.

I didn’t talk to any girls (the norm).

I moshed and crowd surfed.

I got kicked out of the venue during the last song when security grabbed me while I was crowd surfing, hung me upside down next to Mike Ness, and shoved me outside – totally hyped and reeking of the collective sweat of the pit.

I bought a couple of their CDs within the week and listened to them a LOT. I know my friend liked them but he didn’t love them like I did (I caught them live again the next year, opening for The Ramones on Halloween)(and yes, I mentioned that as a total flex).

I was also depressed during this time – unmotivated, doing badly at school, and getting intoxicated every weekend (and some week nights) to distract myself.

Ball & Chain became my favorite song because I identified with one line: I’m born to lose and destined to fail. That felt right, as I couldn’t motivate myself to study and the straight-A student was long gone – but I still hadn’t removed grades as an arbiter of self-worth.

But 30 years later, that’s not the line that sticks with me.

Instead, I always noticed the line You can run all your life, but not go anywhere.

I look back at how much I ‘partied’ to avoid thinking and feeling. And realized that I was running and not going anywhere.


This has been on my mind since something caught my ear on Brian McDonald’s podcast: that our favorite movies are favorites because they have a lesson that we need to keep reminding ourselves.

I know this to be true because a dozen years ago, I realized that what hit me hardest about LOTR is the deep friendships that I didn’t have in my own life. Sam and Merry and Pippin being heartbroken that Frodo was leaving was not something that would happen to me. It’s a depressing, empty feeling.

I have to go through my list of favorite movies and see what is the lesson in each that I need to keep reminding myself (I’m unclear on what makes Raiders my all-time favorite movie).

I’ve extrapolated this idea to music and comics. And – as fate would have it – I had to save panels from each comic I’ve read in the past week – like from Black Metal:

Black Metal not if you still need to ask

This made me think of needing external validation, like the rote How do I become a ‘professional’ questions.

Are you a writer?

An artist?

Are you still using aspiring to describe yourself?

Stop asking and just be.

Be it.

Believe it.

As the old adage goes, if you have to ask – you’ll never know.

So know it – and then put in the work every single day so you stop doubting yourself.


What I’m Reading

Dragon Hoops

Dragon Hoops your kind of people


Odessa. Things never end. They just change.


What I’m doing

The graphic memoir

I’ve been working hard on organizing this in the past 10 days – and making a lot of progress thanks to Milanote. That’s been the bulk of my comic work, with some daily drawing of hands to improve my skills.

The Matrix. Guns - lots of guns.
I’ll throw in a Matrix reference anytime I can.

A big part of this work, though, is going through baggage – lots of baggage.

I’m trying to make sense of the past while organizing life events and memories into an outline. This is probably why this notion of gleaning wisdom from our favorite stories is at the forefront for me.

I keep seeing inflection points that make me go Well that really fucked me up or That’s probably why I’m like [this].

Like Mike said, you can run all your life and not go anywhere.

ArpFont 3.8

I had to remake my custom handwriting font. It bugged the crap out of me that it didn’t match the inking brush that I’m using now – and it really bothers me when the font used in a comic doesn’t suit the art. So no being a hypocrite for me.

I used Calligraphr.com, just like last time. But now it’s possible to resize and adjust the baseline and kerning for individual characters in their web app. The previous time I had to redraw the letters and then reimport them for every single adjustment, so this was a very pleasant improvement.

If you’re interested in the process, let me know. I might be up for writing about it.

Also – I turned my new font into a web font at transfonter.org. All of the headings on my site are now in my handwriting, which is kinda cool. Fixing up and focusing my website is on my agenda, and I thought I’d get a little head start by personalizing it with some analog style.


That’s all folks!

I hope this wasn’t too boring as I spent a lot of time talking about things unrelated to comics. But we have to put ourselves into comics (ie be specific, as Neil says). And our inspiration and ideas can come from anywhere – from all the things that make us who we are.

More than anything, I hope it made sense.


Question: anyone interested in learning more about WordPress and a good theme to use for an artist/creator site?

Photo of author


Arp Laszlo

Hi, I’m Arp! I make comics and write about life as an Indian-American with late-diagnosis ADHD. I’m a self-taught and self-employed creator so I write a lot about art, learning, and entrepreneurial stuff that I’ve picked up along the way.

My stories are kinda weird, because that’s just how I am. My formative influences are Indian mythology, Batman, Tintin, 70s Bollywood, Ray Harryhausen, and Monty Python. There’s no way anything normal could come out of that, right?

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