My first seven jobs

It’s a hashtag that’s trending on Twitter, but I find it hard to capture my own experiences in #140. I might be forgetting a couple here.

Hamburger cook. Worked the lunch shift at a local Arkansas fast food place which featured charcoal-grilled burgers. Unfortunately they were too cheap to have me come in early enough to get the grill up to an appropriate heat, so there were always more angry customers than cooked burgers. Lasted a few months at that one. Apologies to anyone who was served an undercooked burger, I did the best I could under the circumstances.

Dairy Queen server. As it turns out, it is definitely possible to get tired of free ice cream.

Busboy at Perkins Cake and Steak in Coralville, Iowa. By the end of a shift, I was literally covered in other people’s leftovers. Also, many amusing jokes were frequently made regarding my last name.

The late lamented Iowa Theatre. It was Iowa City’s art house, back in the days before VCR, let alone Netflix. Started there in the concession stand, worked my way up to doorman. I loved that job, in contrast to my previous three.

Paste up artist, writer, general gopher, The Comic Times. A short-lived startup magazine in New York City, launched by a comic shop owner hoping to compete with the Comics Journal. I was 19 and fresh off the Greyhound bus, had a friend who worked there. Worked out of an office down on lower Broadway, went to press conferences at Marvel and DC, met a lot of artists and writers and comics industry people (including Tom Orzechowski, who later later let me sleep on his couch when I moved to San Francisco, and Dean Mullaney, who recently connected me with my new publisher, IDW). It was a pretty great job, but unfortunately the magazine only lasted a handful of issues.

Picture framer, in the back of the old Sam Flax down on Park Row. I once framed a document that had been signed by Abraham Lincoln.

Diazo operator. This was a machine that developed architectural blueprints using some toxic brew of chemicals including ammonia. I literally sat there eight hours a day (or night–I often had to work the late, late shift) feeding large sheets of blueprint paper into this foul machine, then went home with paper cuts all over my hands and the stink of ammonia caught in the back of my throat.

After that: copy shop employee (where the earliest, collage-centric versions of This Modern World were created), art supply store clerk, word processor/temp, rock and roll t-shirt layout artist, magazine paste-up person, bookstore window display artist, and since about 1990, full time cartoonist.