click on the image to listen to the interview.
In most places on the internet, I describe myself as "a simultaneous comicker and English teacher (doing his best to not screw up)," which is a frighteningly terse, but accurate, summary. Though that's how I internalize my divided interests, when interacting with the world at large, I tend to be either one or the other. Generally, this makes sense; there isn't much overlap between the two profiles aside from the fact that I do both. When at school, I think "drawing comics" is the fun fact people have memorized about me, so I can be distinguishable from others. When at cons or shows for Long John, "teaching English" is something that comes into conversation only when a potential patron asks if I make comics for a living. So, even I haven't sewn a tight stitch between them. Even searching through this site, I'm sure you would only be able to find a few references to my day job.
To be honest, it's a matter of persona or even cultural code-switching (as my academic profession calls it). While what I write at my podcast's website, For All Intents and Purposes, exemplifies this attempt to smooth the seam between these two worlds pretty well, overall it is a difficult task to manage in a one-on-one conversation. I'm normally pretty shy and have learned that if I, for lack of a better word, take a moment to convince myself that––depending on the situation––I am a teacher or an independent comic creator, then that puts me in the right headspace to actually be conversational, engaging and, in extreme cases, charming.
I have to translate the quiet Dan Bethel into the "D. Bethel comicker" persona or, when at school, the "Professor Bethel" persona, when all I'm really doing is giving myself permission to be confident. From this description, it can seem that I'm just pretending to be someone else, which is not the case at all. It's taking the time to recognize that I'm actually good at what I do and, in order to be functional, it is important for me to remember that. There are times at shows or in the classroom where I forget that and I get flustered, I stutter, I withdraw which, yes, may be the baseline Dan Bethel, but it's not the "real" me. It is "a" me. A version of me. The one I'm always fighting against. The one that always holds me back.
However, tying the worlds of being a teacher and a comicker together is a goal I actively want to pursue even if it is a daunting task. I would say that the chances to try and do so––aside from producing written works for my own websites––are few. When being interviewed about my comic, it tends to just be about that world and the fact that I teach is something that comes up at the end to remind everybody that, yes, I am an amateur. But mostly the conversation is about comics and cartoons and movies and I do like that conversation a lot. But as is evident from this post so far, I relish at the chance to go deeper, to analyze, to make connections.
At the beginning of June, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Nathan Miller for his podcast, Finding Sacramento. His show attracted my attention because it's different than a lot of other shows that interview creative types in that it doesn't focus on nerdy, geeky stuff––which I love, don't get me wrong, but I am also an academic and my interests within creativity extend beyond discussions of favorite X-Men stories or how DC movies are doing in comparison to Marvel's.
Nathan's usual guests are local business owners, entrepreneurs, and creatives outside of the nerdy-geeky realm; the linchpin that secures all these disparate guests is the city of Sacramento and how these people interact within it. It was through that lens that I really found my footing and I argue that as much time is spent talking about teaching in this interview as there is talk about the comic. This is an interview for people that don't classify as "nerds" or "geeks" or fans of comics, though nerds and geeks can appreciate this interview, too.
I encourage everybody to click on the link above to listen to the interview through the Finding Sacramento website or download it through whatever podcasting service you use. Furthermore, I encourage everyone to listen through the archives of the show. Nathan is a sharp interviewer who does surprisingly thorough research which allows for substantive conversation instead of just superficial banter.
I'm glad that I get to add this interview to my archives because it's a talk that I don't think would otherwise have happened had I stuck to more traditional promotional avenues. Though I expected a thoughtful conversation, Nathan's questions and his comfortable demeanor drove me to open up about things I haven't really discussed before, but they go a long way to describe...well, everything. Listening to the result showed me that these different worlds don't need stitching. It is not a quilt comprised of foreign fabrics. It is the depth of self-awareness and accepting (and exploiting) faults that makes many into one.
What holds everything together is something called "me."
originally published on LongJohnComic.com