So..I've been a part of Sweatdrop for eleven years.
No, scratch that, Sweatdrop has been a part of me for eleven years. A massive part. Without Sweatdrop and its many members past and present, I wouldn't have started making comics, I might not have even carried on drawing; I certainly wouldn't be working in comics as I am today.
Back when I first met the original, brave few, there were two conventions a year for our fandom. There was no Tokyopop UK, no Neo, no Markosia, no MCM Expo, no Manga Jimann, no SelfMadeHero, no manga studio. Even Letraset were yet to really leap into the scene back then.
Perhaps more scarily and importantly at the time, there was no facebook, no twitter, no instagram, no tumblr, and no myspace (so it wasnt all bad XD).
Minami and Aya were the two chances in the whole year that we had to talk to other manga and anime fans unless we were willing to brave scary chat sites like ICQ or join up to the fairly new and shiny Livejournal, so the Sweatdrop site became a hub of sorts once we graduated from yahoo groups and onto our own forum. And what a hub!
Of course, because of the lack of wider communication, we couldnt have known that at the same time there were equally small and contained gatherings of other non-manga inspired comic fans and creators happening. All that wonderful cross pollination would come years later ^_~
Sweatdrops goals, and my goals with them, were fairly simple and back then felt as much like pipe dreams as anything. Imagine a convention in the UK where you could walk through an entire marketplace of small and independent press like at comiket. Imagine having a full graphic novel on the shelf and not just a single issue zine. Imagine how cool it would be to see the elements that inspire us acknowledged as not just something made in Japan, but as an important addition to the worlds comic industry; as able to morph and blend and sit alongside other mediums and stories as any other.
Well, at Mays MCM Expo I stood at the Sweatdrop stand, behind an array of shiny graphic novels, and I looked out over the ComicVillage that I had built, but that we had all made real, filled with amazing and talented comickers, and I realised wow. Were actually doing it. I got all teary eyed and a little pathetic, but the reality and scope of the last decade just hit me in that moment.
I also realised that Id gone about as far as I could personally go as a Sweatdrop member.
I cant even begin to tell you how immensely proud and happy I am with what my time with the group has seen. Not just how much Ive learned as an individual creator (and so many of those lessons have put me in good stead for whatever I continue to learn as an independent), but how many amazing creators and comics Ive seen the group produce, how many competitions and events and organisations Ive worked with and helped establish alongside my fellow SDers, and how many friends Ive made. From the first conversation I had with Stu Taylor about this cool new magazine called Neo that he was starting up, through meetings with the Japanese embassy to discuss a possible new competition called Jimann, right up to building and organising the comicvillage at the MCM and taking it from five tables to over a hundred; in eleven years weve seen independent press in the UK explode into something vibrant and exciting and of massively high quality and I am just stupidly happy to have been a small part of its growth.
And of course, I have every intention of remaining a part of it. Its hardly going to stop growing now and Im not about to disappear (I hope!). Well all keep learning and growing and improving and I cant wait to see what happens next. But, its time for me to be part of it all as myself. Sweatdrop and its community gave me the confidence to build myself a career, and I hope that my part in the group has managed to inspire and encourage other creators too. I have nothing but love and respect and warm fuzzies for Sweatdrop, its community, and every creator whos ever been a member. Eleven years? Thats a third of my lifetime! I never dreamed that we could achieve so much.