Miles Curtiss looks on the bright side

Following a recent robbery, the musician and comics writer has chosen to seek out silver linings

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Miles Curtiss

On a recent Saturday, Miles Curtiss returned home from his morning shift at the doughnut shop to find that he’d been robbed, the thieves making off with five guitars and a pair of laptops. The computers, older models with updated components, likely have limited street value but were priceless to Curtiss, containing months of work he had completed for a new comic book series, The Editors, which has now been delayed at least three or four months as a result of the theft.

At first, Curtiss said he wanted vengeance. But after taking a couple of days to cool down — a process greatly aided by a GoFundMe launched by a friend to cover the losses, raising more than $7,000 — the musician and comics writer entered a more forgiving headspace that has allowed him to glean positives from what could have been a creatively devastating situation. “Initially when I got robbed, I had red eyes and I was thinking some crazy shit about how I can get back at this person,” said Curtiss, who now plans to let the police investigation run its course. “But, no, my friends restored me more than I lost. And even just the outpouring of love was amazing. A lot of people were like, ‘I don’t have any money, but I feel bad for you.’ 

“I haven’t seen anyone in more than a year between the plague, and having started work on the comic right before that hit … so it’s been really wildly needed just to see and hear from everybody again. It felt like it had been 100 years since I talked to anyone."

Curtiss said while having his guitars stolen still feels like losing a limb, in some sense, at least these are limbs that can be replaced. And rather than dwelling on the lost work on The Editors, a sci-fi revenge fantasy set to unfold over multiple books, he’s taken comfort in the fact that the text could be markedly improved during this forced rewrite.

“It’s one of those things where having to go back and do something a second or third time isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” said Curtiss, who still had backups of all the drawings submitted by artists saved in his email, which has allowed him to begin the reconstruction process. “It’s never not been an improvement to do that, so while it’s wildly infuriating, in a regard, with three or four months of my life going up in flames, I think the final result will be better.”

The guitar rack that used to house Miles Curtiss' stolen guitars

Curtiss, who records and performs as Marvin the Robot (a new record is complete and awaiting a post-COVID release), in addition to playing in the Fall cover band the Bed Wet Pills, has adopted a similarly glass-half-full mindset to losing his guitars, several of which had sentimental attachments, including one gifted by a former lover and another by an ex-bandmate. Curtiss recalled buying a third stolen guitar years ago after getting into an argument with friend and then-roommate Zachary Allan Starkey. “This was right before rent was due one month, and I went to the string shop after the fight and there was this beautiful hollow body Samick that was the exact same price as rent, so I got the guitar,” Curtiss said, and laughed. “And then obviously I moved out of the house.”

“But these are just memories,” the musician continued. “I’ll get more guitars and make more memories. I mean, I’m always buying guitars, so I remember saying at one point, like, ‘Oh, you’re going to threaten me with having to buy more guitars and computers? What do you think I already spend my money on?’”

Curtiss is no stranger to transforming negative energy into a net positive, tracing the conception of The Editors to a “boiling rage” that started to build in the aftermath of the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, continued to grow through the 2016 election of Donald Trump and crested with a personal experience when Curtiss, his arms full of gear, passed a white woman on the streets of Downtown Columbus and she instinctively clutched her purse. “And I just had that little Black aneurysm thing,” Curtiss said. “‘How do you think I could even rob you? I couldn’t carry another thing right now.’ … I literally walked around for months after that and anytime I passed a white woman on the street I would clutch my bag at her.”

A panel from The Editors

Gradually, though, Curtiss released this anger into The Editors, which centers on a pair of time travelers who correct past racial injustices, often violently (the pair torches a plantation in the opening scene), allowing the writer to let go of these feelings rather than moving through life “just ambiently mad all of the time.”

“It was like I finally had a place outside of my body where that anger could go and be productive and have a life and be justified,” said Curtis, who has teamed with freelance artists for the project and hopes to issue the first Editors book by June or July, with each subsequent edition releasing 30 days later. “Getting the first issue done was such a relief. I can’t even explain how much calmer and more forgiving I got after putting it all onto the page and making it something people can hopefully enjoy. I mean, I also hope it kind of scares the shit out of people, because I put a lot of things in there that terrify me. But I want them to laugh, too.”