Jen Bateman and the Death of Jin Wicked

My name is Jen Bateman, and “Jin Wicked” is no more.

The process of liquidating inventory and paying off debt to terminate my company, Jin Wicked LLC, is almost complete. I am no longer using my “Jin Wicked” brand. I am no longer reprinting any intellectual property attributed to the name, except for the purpose of retrospective analysis and discussion.

The back-catalogue of “Jin Wicked” artwork, comics, and videos is permanently offline. Store inventory can be purchased until 14 May 2022. After that date, any unsold “Jin Wicked” items will be immediately donated or destroyed.

With this decision, I am living my life for myself.

"Flame" by Jin Wicked, 2016

Who was Jin Wicked?

“Jin Wicked” was created on a whim as a chat-room screen name, in the late 1990s era dot-com boom, after being told I had a wicked sense of humour. Over the years it became my identity — a DBA, a brand, and eventually, an LLC. Many people influenced the character and evolution of “Jin Wicked,” for good and for ill. Over time, my public persona became a stifling psychological burden. In 2017, I created a time-lapse music video comparing it to Frankenstein’s monster.

The first time I buckled under the weight of my own creation and my modest success, in the mid-2000s, I began a downward spiral of anxiety and depression that consumed a decade of my life. That spell finally broke with my “early mid-life crisis” in 2014. After working for five years to rebuild my independent career, and surpassing my previous high-water marks, I again found myself nearly suicidal by the end of 2020. But this time, instead of collapsing inward and disappearing, I confronted the traumas at my core. I figured out it was only “Jin Wicked” that needed to die. “Jin Wicked” is the cage I have been fighting to escape.

So, what happened? And why now, you are probably asking?

Financial Difficulties

At the beginning of 2019, due to external circumstances, I left the full-time, stable job I had been working at since I moved to Minnesota. Predictability and stability are extremely important, as an autistic person, to my ability to function and live independently. I worked as a home health aide for most of 2019, which left me in a state of debilitating burnout by 2020. I survived 2020 and 2021 by living off my dwindling emergency fund — and when that ran out, credit.

The recovery period before I could work full-time again, the struggle of finding another job compatible with my special needs, and other external circumstances, have left me on the verge of bankruptcy. I am doing everything I can think of to keep Dan and I fed and housed until we, hopefully, get his SSDI approved.

Liquidating the “Jin Wicked” inventory is reducing my business debt.

The Comic Book Community

Another problem for me has been the “comic book community.” While I have some dear friends within the industry, I was completely blindsided by the cliques, competitiveness, backstabbing, and out-of-control ego I have encountered. There is an undercurrent of bitterness, envy, and entitlement like nothing I have ever experienced. Comics! It’s just comic books! Some perspective is in order.

While things are changing, the comic book community and industry are still permeated by casual racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and hateful, exclusionary attitudes. I do not feel heard, seen, welcome, or safe.

I will continue to make comics — independently, on my terms.

Whatever it was that I needed to prove to myself by returning to comic conventions in 2015, I feel I accomplished it. While they can be fun, comic conventions are an incredible amount of preparation and work. They are often unprofitable. They involve travel, booth set-up and breakdown, hauling around boxes and totes, long days of over-stimulation, marathon sales pitches, poor food, and poorer sleep. I have been grabbed, groped, and propositioned.

All of this becomes harder to deal with and less appealing with age.

I have not missed tabling at shows since COVID-19 shut everything down.

I must credit the hostility and vindictiveness directed at me personally for draining the last bit of enthusiasm I had for “Jin Wicked.” If not for that, I might have remained fiscally solvent and stumbled along as “Jin Wicked” for a few more lacklustre years. Searching for new social circles led me to the love of my life.

Getting out of “comics” has been unequivocally good for me.

Too Much Baggage

The accumulation of unfinished past work, as well as people’s sentimental attachment to my past work, is undermining my ability to experiment and evolve as an artist. Knowing when to quit is an oft-overlooked, but essential element of success. Things end — that is life. Even good things. Even things you treasure and hold close to your heart. Entropy comes for us all. Best to embrace it.

My oldest work feels alien to me now. It is the product of a young adult with undiagnosed autism, arrested in childish behaviour and thought patterns. It is the product of a young adult desperate to feel heard, seen, loved, and understood. I cannot go back to that place. I do not ever want to go back to that place.

It is harmful for me to be trapped reliving my past and my traumas.

For my own mental health and well-being, I need to completely detach “Jin Wicked” from my creative work going forward. I want no remaining connection to anyone who may feel a claim, sense of entitlement, and/or ownership toward me, my work, and the progression of my career. My failures and successes are mine alone. Only I define who and what I am. Only I decide what is best for me.

I am not a proxy or a puppet for fulfilling others’ ambitions and desires.

I am not an artwork dispenser or a fix-it project — I am a person.

To the extent that it is possible, I want to enjoy the rest of my life as if the first forty years of it never happened. “Jin Wicked” is now synonymous with “pain” in my mind. It is a visceral association that I have no desire to rehabilitate.

“Jin Wicked” must die, so that I may live.

Autism and Disability Awareness

I am disabled. I am autistic. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder. Being autistic impacts every area of my life, but is most noticeable in communication and social skills. It makes me more vulnerable to abuse and trauma. Sensory issues require that I am particular about my living and work environment.

Now that I understand my disability, I am developing strategies to more easily navigate life without compromising my cohesion. But I cannot stop being autistic. Asking me to communicate and see the world like a neurotypical person is like asking a paraplegic to walk. It is not only impossible, it is horribly cruel.

Autistic people are traumatized once, and then re-traumatized again and again when neurotypical people refuse to accept the neurodivergent experience.

When an autistic person can handle no more abuse, frustration, stimulation, or trauma, they may act in ways that anger and confuse neurotypical people. This is wrongly blamed on autism — not the trauma. It is time to stop punishing autistic people for being autistic. Let us try not traumatizing autistic people, instead.

We all benefit from improved communication, empathy, and patience.

Going forward, I want to use my platform to help facilitate understanding for those living with autism and disability. Through my comics and blogging, I believe I have a unique opportunity to help improve the lives of people like me. Future projects will be created to serve this unified message and purpose.

I must be the person that I needed as a youth, but never had.

It Is Time to Move On

Readers of my previous blog might recall that a little over one year ago, I published a post about unpacking who and what “Jin Wicked” was in the wake of my autism diagnosis. As I learned more about autism, I came to understand that “Jin Wicked” was a complex form of camoflaging/masking that took on a life of its own. I would like to expound on this idea, after some time has passed.

Once I became aware of its function, I found myself with no desire to be “Jin Wicked” anymore. Those feelings quickly grew to revulsion. The problem, then, became deciding how I wanted to proceed with my creative work instead. I have never felt much connection to my birth name or my previous married name.

It was not until I met Dan, and changed my name — for the last time — after we married, that the circumstances felt right and the path appeared before me.

When I got divorced in 2015, I thoughtfully examined how, and why, I lost my inspiration and motivation. One of my hopes for a new partner was someone that I could have a business and creative relationship with, in addition to a romantic one. It is much more rewarding to share the toils and spoils of such work with another, and my passion to create is the most defining element of my life.

It is impossible, I think, for me to cultivate deep and enduring intimacy with someone unable to join me on that plane. Rather than be “Jin Wicked” …and Dan, I want to rebuild in a way that represents both of us as equal partners.

We are two halves of a team; greater than the sum of our parts.

The Eightfold Path

I have poured immense blood, sweat, and tears into finally achieving the acceptance, love, human connection, and understanding that I never felt while growing up. We are each given only so much time on this planet, and our world is burning. Now that I have my answers, and feel that I am where I belong, I intend to slow down and savour what time I have left. There is much beauty to be found in the mundane stillness and minute blessings of the day-to-day. All I require is authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability to be satisfied. It is that simple.

Over the last few years, I seem to have serendipitously learned the tenets of Buddhism on my own — forging an unconventional path of the Bodhisattva, and undergoing my own bizarrely-unique and somewhat literal ego death.

Having destroyed all that I once believed I was, the concepts of emptiness, śūnyatā, and non-self, anattā, feel quite comfortable and welcome to me. The practice of non-attachment releases us from the past and the future, and allows us to be fully actualized in the present. Non-attachment is the stepping stone to radical acceptance. In this way, we are released from the cyclic torment caused by unfulfilled expectations, unhealthy patterns, and other self-inflicted pain.

If nirvana is the state of freedom from desire and suffering, then I have achieved something like it for myself. Existence is infinitely absurd and permanence is an illusion; everything dies. Entropy comes for us all. Best to embrace it.

To wholly embrace emptiness is to become fearless.

"Veritas" by Jin Wicked, 2020

Who is Jen Bateman?

“All women appear in the form of women in just the same way as the elder (Shariputra) appears in the form of a woman. While they are not women in reality, they appear in the form of women. With this in mind, the Buddha said, ‘In all things, there is neither male nor female.'”

Then, the goddess released her magical power and each returned to his ordinary form. She then said to him,

“Reverend Shariputra, what have you done with your female form?”

Shariputra: I neither made it nor did I change it.

Goddess: Just so, all things are neither made nor changed, and that they are not made and not changed, that is the teaching of the Buddha.

– Except from the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra

My name is Jen Bateman. I am a sentient being; 42 years-old, genderless, an autobiographer. After a lifelong journey and thousands of hard-won lessons, my body, heart, goals, mind, and spirit are at last in alignment with one another. I am in touch with my tathāgata-garbha — or Buddha nature. My nirvana.

I am poor in money, but rich in love and mindfulness. As I shift into this next phase of my life, I hope that you will remain with me, and continue to find value in my work. I hope that by sharing my trials and triumphs with you, you may be moved to engage in your own self-exploration. There is nothing to lose.

Life is art, my friends. Live it creatively.