Are you Lonely Tonight?
In Jerry Lewis's book about his lifelong and often faltering relationship with partner Dean Martin, Lewis remarked how people only seemed to wait for funerals to express their feelings about the dearly departed.
Recently on 60 Minutes Australia, they mentioned how loneliness in today's society's ranks as an actual "disease". The broadcast cites how people in various countries now have to pay others to pal around with them, since real friends are seldom to be found. In addition to that segment, the person I've always modeled Nexus himself after, William "James T. Kirk" Shatner, weighed in at the end on this very subject. A celebrity that served as a heroic role model for millions during the past 6 decades, appears to be as lonely as anyone.
I can relate. I have lots of great fans and great family, two blowhards, a couple of caterwauling diks, and a few fish. But I have very few friends, and often feel just as lonely as the commander of a Starship.
Fans write me to express their very heartfelt sentiments about the work I do, but I rarely receive any personal phone calls. If I do, 98% of the time it's either my wife Jaynelle, or some robot trying to sell me something.
From the very active social life I enjoyed during my 20's, 30's, and much of my 40's--my 50's and now early 60's have been a wasteland of social contact. Everyone I used to know is still out there, but I never hear from them. Any old friends who may be reading this might try and appease their conscious by feeling prompted to reach out for a call or two, but it won't last. Guaranteed. For me, real friends have become all but extinct.
So what's happened? Has an over 60 viewpoint soured me in some way?
One answer is that when things like t-e-x-t-i-n-g came along, people began to find a convincing rationale to stay home and live their lives pushing buttons from a couch. Since texting is something I don't do and hope never to resort to, I'm stuck with the "old-fashioned" sentiment that all of us once had up until the 1980's--and going back to the dawn of time--that we never missed what we never had.
The other thing about aging is that you get to see every trend the decades throw at you, and all the changes that go with it. Personally, seeing some of the social trends today make me wonder what planet I'm on, but that often goes with over 40 territory. With an entire world now being forced into isolation, interesting things emerge. Some of us stay home trying to make the best of it. Others decide to loot and burn their own cities.
Even before the "epidemic", we conveniently sheltered ourselves from others, compelled to check our iPod lifelines virtually every minute. The hearkening beeps from these little devices has given us great advantages, but try and remember how double-edged most "advantages" cut.
Everyone still has the option to change these trends, but once indoctrinated to taking the easy way out, things like this seldom change.
Yours for a questioning future,
Steve Rude the Dude
I think we as artists are particularly susceptible to this, with our work naturally leading toward isolation, and . However, I can personally vouch for Steve that he reaches out and keeps in touch, AND that he wants so much to create a community for artists, and help other artists to become the best artists they can, by working together, having dialogues, and helping each other. Steve has repeatedly been so kind to me with his time, most recently by sharing the struggles he faces for my Youtube.com/DiaryOfAStrugglingComicsArtist (His clip is posted at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXnbMshfeTw). A week afterward, I got a surprise call! “Chris, this is the Dude.” He just called because I was on his mind after our talk, and he had more to share about some of the topics we’d discussed. He goes out of his way to instruct, spark thought, and keep in touch.
Man, it’s rough. Four years ago, I went from a house constantly a’bustle with family and friends to a back room in my mom’s cabin out in the country where visitors are rare. I have ALS so a phone isn’t feasible with my speech loss. Without Facebook and Messenger, I’d feel pretty much forgotten!
You were an inspiration in my own art career, even drawing comics for a few years and want to thank you for that. I was with Nexus from that first b&w issue and every page was a lesson in art, design, and storytelling. One of my proudest moments—up there with getting hired by Marvel and DC—was your looking through samples of mine at an Atlanta con, being courteous but uninspired, till you perked up, pointed at a panel and said, “Hey…THAT’S a good face!” Lol…well, it made MY day!
I hope the loneliness situation gets better for you. I hope it becomes a more thought-about subject and that people in corona solitude become more aware of mankind’s social requirements. Best to you, sir~
It seems that loneliness deepens as we get older, possibly exacerbated by the brain’s ability to “streamline” time, causing the days to pass more quickly. Even if you want to make new friends, it get tougher to “find” the time.
I’ve recently come to similar conclusions about social media and the devices most used to access them. It contributes to people’s self-isolation; even in a crowded room, many stay glued to their iphones, rather than engage and converse with the people that physically surround them.
Maybe the second problem contributes to the first?
I find myself in a similar situation.
I work as a craftsmen in a more-or-less one-man operation. The average workday is 7-8 hours at the workbench carving wood—drafting, carving, refining, and lots of problem solving. I love the work, but it is very solitary. In the afternoon I close up the workshop and head to the tram stop to go and pick up the kids from school, and the strangest feeling comes over me: I am craving conversation and camaraderie—I want to hear someone else’s thoughts other than my own, hear a joke, or get some input on what I’ve been mulling over—but instead am confronted with a crowd of strangers at the crosswalk and on the tram (most of them looking at their smartphones). I feel this gaping hole of loneliness and repulsion at the same moment. I want people in my life but I don’t, too. I’d say that we do work that doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for letting people into our headspace, and we crave that togetherness with others because we exist outside it most of the day.
Something that has helped me some is going out with some guy neighbors from my block for a beer or two at local pub, where we can sit outside and “air out our brains” a bit—socially distanced, of course :) They’re not my best buds, perhaps, but any chance to hang out with some friendly, sympathetic people is probably time well-spent. And I find those relationships are developing, which is a very good feeling. Instead of watching old friendships wither untended (from one or both sides), I’m getting to enjoy some good conversations and some chances to be useful to neighbors. There’s a lot of good feeling to be found in that—I get out of my head and into someone else’s life a bit.
Wishing you the best,
I became an avid fan of your work way back in 1983 when I saw a Nexus comic in a comic shop in the Middlesex Shopping Mall in New Jersey. I thought, wow, someone as gifted in fine line as Russ Manning! I made it a mission to get all the Nexus comics & any book you drew. I still remember writing to Mike Baron a couple years later and he answered with a question, “what is a beakle?” It’s a creature I created in 7th grade (1970). Finally, thanks to you and Mike’s inspiration, I’m writing a children’s book based on that character. My only other artistic claim to fame, such as it is, is associate producer on The Invaders DVD release. Roy Thinnes, the star of that old series, is my mentor. My son Karl Roy Gabriel is named after him.
Your art is sublime, your talent amazing. One of my most cherished books is the two-parter featuring Magnus and Nexus as I grew up a huge fan of Manning’s work (my first bought comic was Magnus Robot Fighter #7 1964). It was so good seeing you combine your character with Manning’s. I had hoped for further explorations of that team-up. It was kind of cool to hear the words North Am in the Robin Williams movie Bicentennial Man. Maybe that book inspired both the writer and Williams, a hero of mine whose passing still affects me to this day.
I am saddened to learn how difficult it is for you to get through the isolation many of us are immersed in. I myself have 5 co-morbidities & can never leave my apartment unless it’s for a doctor’s appointment. Been sheltering in place after escaping a nursing home (it took a year to heal up from cancer surgery) since Thanksgiving 2019. I rarely see anyone for more than a few minutes, so I know how it feels to be totally isolated. I never get any phone calls despite that I have a son in SC and while his mom and I are still good friends, she is too busy holding together a restaurant to talk. I mitigate this situation with movies, music, comics (it took me years to get all the Nexus books, BTW). While I have Stage 4 cance, I am too stubborn to just call it a day, as it were. I am hopeful of a greater future even if it’s a brief one.
I look forward to the new Nexus project and everything you are doing. I wish you and your family all the best. Peace and happiness always. Forever a fan, forever encouraging you in your endeavors.
James E. Finch, age 63 (mentally, still 10 LOL)