The Business of Art

I think it should be apparent to even a cursory glance from a complete stranger that I am no businessman.  I have great respect for people who have a head for business as I am a firm believer in the purity of free market interaction.  Alas, despite my greedy love of money and material possessions, I have an even greater love for the purity of a good story.

Despite my previously professed passion for plentiful profit and prosperity, selling a comic is the last thing on my mind when putting it together.  It's easy to look back, with the aid of hindsight, and analyze how a book could have, or even should have been sold.

I recently ran a Kickstarter to fund a new book that I wanted to do with my good friend, Chris McJunkin.  Our new comic, Urban Archer & Abracadiva, would be a spin off of our Zero's Heroes comic.  Needless to say, the Kickstarter was unsuccessful, mostly because I don't have the ability to market and sell a comic.  I understand the things that need to be done on an intellectual level, sure, but there is a difference between knowing and doing.  Still, I am incredibly grateful to the regular readers and friends who do enjoy my comics and support me any way they can.  

We decided to crowdfund Urban Archer & Abracadiva because I think it's a great concept and one that's easier to sell than anything I've done up to this point.  Much as I want to do Urban Archer & Abracadiva, I think Chris and I are going to put it on the back burner until we can finish up some of the projects we have already started.

At present, I am in a comics making limbo, of sorts.  I have lots of Zero's Heroes comics and four issues of Science Hero already produced.  Within Science Hero, I have started 4 different comics series.  Without intending to, I have spread myself quite thin, with lots of projects started and nothing finished.  I find myself in my current situation not because of a single decision, but rather a series of decisions and reactions that, over time, have lead me to this point.  

Science Hero was started because I wanted to make Time Agent Z.  Joie wasn't able to maintain a weekly schedule, so Josh (the co-creator) and I decided not to run it as a webcomic.  I had previously completed Muscles & Mullets with Grant Perkins for a different anthology, but it looked like that was never going to happen.  Since I was going to start tabling at comic conventions I wanted to have something to show other than the first Zero's Heroes book.  So, rather than keep Time Agent Z and Muscles & Mullets in limbo, I pulled out an old script and had Chris McJunkin illustrate it.  This would become Dogtown.  With three short stories, I now had a 32 page comic that I could print and show off at conventions.

I am happy with the way the comics turned out and over the next three years, we made three more issues of Science Hero.  Of course, over three years, things can change.  People's schedules change.  Attitudes and goals change, as well.  I enjoy making Science Hero because I love working so many great and different artists, but my goals now are less focused on having new issues finished and instead focused on having full graphic novels with complete stories.  They will take longer to produce, but I think they will be a more fulfilling product.

Earlier in the year, I placed Zero's Heroes on a hiatus so I could focus instead on completing full comic issues and attending conventions.  I think that now I will be putting Science Hero down as well, so that I can focus on finishing the individual comics within, starting with Dogtown.

I haven't yet decided if we are going to update the new chapters of Dogtown as a webcomic on newhavencomics.com or just offer them as digital downloads as they are completed, but we'll figure something out.

I have a few other projects in various stages of development, but I am hesitant to say too much about them, because I don't want to make promises that may not be kept due to changing or conflicting schedules. 

Rest assured, I am working on new comics, and they are going to be amazing.  Stay tuned.

Unfinished Business

Like many writers, I have a handful of projects that never really took off for various reasons.  Truthfully,  I am the type of writer who usually has at least a dozen projects going in some various stage of production at any given time (I currently have 3 unfinished novels started).  In the last eight or so years since I took my first tentative steps into the comic creating world I've had three projects that actually got to an art production stage but then stalled or were abandoned.  Interestingly enough, these three projects run the gamut from being "Completely abandoned" to "Would like to finish someday" to "Definitely happening as soon as possible".  This is the story of those projects. 

COMPLETELY ABANDONED 
Many years ago, when I first got the notion in my head that I could write comics, I teamed up with my good buddy, Alex, on a webcomic called ROCK N' ROLL CAN RESCUE THE WORLD.  The title was taken from an Electric Eel Shock song, which was completely Alex's idea (I've never been good at coming up with catchy titles, so I decided to follow Alex's example and steal from songs that I like for future projects).  Alex and I brainstormed ideas for an action comedy comic staring Elvis Presley.  In the comic, Elvis faked his death in 1977 and started working undercover (with his body guard, Lee Majors) to solve a series of historical riddles detailing the origin of the cosmic Rock Gods who one day intend to return to Earth and destroy it.  The comic featured lots of pop music history and would have tied various rock n' roll events together similar to Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (but with rock n' roll, get it?)  Elvis would have been decoding the secret meanings to lyrics of popular songs and albums.  For example, David Bowie's "Five Years, released in 1972, would have predicted Elvis' death in 1977.  Oh, and Jerry Lewis, The Killer, was the main antagonist.  I know, it's incredibly kitschy and not very original.  This was some of the earliest script work I'd ever done, predating even Zero's Heroes, and in retrospect, it is embarrassingly awful.  Alex was in school at the time and produced a few character designs and exactly two pages of sequential art.  As time marched on, Alex got distracted with his schooling and eventual career and I completely lost interest in the project.  I've always liked Elvis as a pop culture icon (I honestly do love his fashion sense), so I think people will always want to use Elvis as a character in some fashion or the other, but at this time, I have no interest in returning to this project.  Alex went on to do the very first character designs for Zero's Heroes and he and I even started another slow going project called Knockout, which you can see on my "Work" page.

Follow this link to look at the ROCK N' ROLL CAN RESCUE THE WORLD pages.

WOULD LIKE TO FINISH SOMEDAY 
Last year, I put together a side project with Chris McJunkin.  Chris and I were working on Zero's Heroes and Science Hero, and while I completely believe in those books, I wanted to do something that was more of a contained project that we could use as a pitch for other publishers.  That led us to GO WEST, which could simply be described as a "steampunk western".  GO WEST was an interesting project for me because it started out as one thing during the initial pitch, but changed into something else as I began scripting the first issue.  The initial idea, simply put, was to take the story of Miyamoto Musashi (the famous historical samurai), and transcribe it to a western setting.  Like the Elvis comic, this is hardly an original idea.  As I began scripting the comic, I was forced to rethink how the story and characters would play out.  I ran through about a dozen drafts of the first issue, and by the the final draft the comic barely resembled the "Musashi as a western" idea.  I did settle on a Samurai/Cowboy mashup of sorts.  The main character, Micah Carolina, exhibited a lot of classic Ronin qualities and even studied Musashi's book, The Five Rings.  In the comic, Micah Carolina is a famous gunman who rode a mechanical horse and was a popular subject of Dime Novels.  The new main character of the series, Breakneck Becky, runs away from her controlling family and seeks a new life of freedom out West, where she meets the real life Micah Carolina.  Together, the two of them get caught up in stopping an epic caper by legendary bandit, Bobcat Claiborne and his gang, the Claiborne Killers.  The book would have been about the morality of violence, and the juxtaposition of fantasy expectations and real world experiences.  I'm a huge fan of westerns and the way we mythologize the culture of the Old West.  We finished the pitch and sent it off to a few places, but I was never really that happy with it.  Chris' art is great, of course, but I had been shifting the story around so much that I never got comfortable with the final idea.  I'd like to return to this comic some day, but I've put it on the back burner for now.  The overarching story needs to be reworked a bit, and we need to do some more design work (we never did design Micah's clockwork horse).  Fun fact, one of Claiborne's Killers, Jean-Felix Davinroy, The Frenchman, shares the same name and likeness as an old work friend of mine who used to always talk with me about Spaghetti Westerns. 

Follow this link to see the GO WEST pages.

DEFINITELY HAPPENING AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
Also last year, I began working on a spin off of Zero's Heroes with Joie Simmons.  Joie is an awesome artist who did a chapter of Zero's Heroes and regularly draws Time Agent Z for Science Hero.  Joie and I were talking about doing another comic and I brought him SLEDGE RIPROCK: CLAIMS ADJUSTER.  Simply put, this would have been a mash up of film noir detectives and superhero comics.  Without boasting too much, this is one of my favorite ideas.  Sledge is an insurance claims adjuster.  He works for Excelsior Insurance, a company that sells superhero insurance to the citizens of New Haven(Somebody's got to pay for all the collateral damage as the result of superheroes, supervillains, and various giant monsters).  Sledge's job is to investigate insurance claims and determine if they are truthful or fraudulent.  Sledge Riprock does have the power to turn into a giant rock monster, but he hates doing it because he prefers that people follow the laws and regulations rather than take vigilante justice into their own hands (and his monster form always ruins his suits).  This was also an interesting project for me because Joie and I were doing it in the "Marvel Style".  Most modern comics these days are written in a full script style, where the writer details everything that will appear on the comic page in the script beforehand.  This means breaking down the panels, background details, dialog, etc.  Then the artist draws the page according to the script.  The Marvel Style was used by Stan Lee in the 60's when he was writing a dozen books for a dozen artists and didn't have time to write out full scripts for everybody.  (this also led to the general under appreciation of how much of the comics were actually created by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko).  Basically, I gave Joie a couple of pages of synopsis for the story, then Joie did all the page by page plotting and layouts.  After Joie drew the page, I wrote the dialog for the characters and the caption box narration.  I like using this style, not because it's easier and faster (though it is), but because it's a true collaboration with another artist who can put a spin on the story that I never envisioned.  It's difficult to describe, but writing comics in this style, it's like I get to read the comic while I'm writing it (I also write Relative Space this way with Kevin Bandt).  This comic is definitely going to happen.  It got sidelined last year because Joie and I's schedule both got overcrowded with other things, and we were forced to put it on the back burner.  But as soon as we get some time, we are going to crank this out and everybody is going to love it. 

Greetings Friends

I'm often accused of being too sardonic when speaking to people, or at least I would be if those people knew what sardonic meant.  Apparently, people also don't pick up on my dry sarcasm, or so I've been told.  I mention this only to highlight the fact that I'm not unfamiliar with people misinterpreting my true feelings on a subject, nor have I ever really cared because I'm just punk rock like that.  (not really, perhaps I am just a big jerk in denial)  

Discerning ones intent or emotional state can be difficult enough when having a face to face conversation with a person, much less reading a completely detached collection of writings published on the internet.

I don't do a lot of writing on the internet, but it's something I'm working to improve.  I find most social media to be a bore and a waste of my time, which is not to say that I don't understand or appreciate the improvements in communication that new technology brings.  I just don't have a lot of communicating to do, and whatever I have to say I prefer to say it in my comics.

I know some people are disappointed that my comics production has slowed, but that is not strictly true.  Although, I have stopped doing Zero's Heroes as a weekly comic, I've been keeping myself busy with multiple projects (including more Zero's Heroes and two Zero's Heroes spin offs, not to mention the stuff unrelated to Zero's Heroes).

The fact of the matter is, I'm actually not that big of a fan of webcomics.  That's not a quality judgement, there are many great webcomics out there.  I really just don't like reading comics on a webpage.  I also think that the comics I make read better in one sitting, as opposed to stretched out over 3 or 4 months.  I find it difficult to maintain a certain level of enthusiasm for a story that takes so long to distribute after I've finished it and moved on to next story.

I'm really impressed with what Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin have done over at panelsyndicate.com, and I will probably be moving my comics distribution to a model similar to theirs.

I am also planning on doing more traveling for conventions this year, though it's not really cost effective for me, yet.  I do not sell enough comics to cover the convention and travelling costs, but I enjoy getting out there and meeting new people and (hopefully) making new fans.  This means I have less time and (more importantly) less money to spend on comics production.   This is why I'm transitioning into a crowd funding production cycle.

I had previously used Kickstarter to fund the printing of the first two Zero's Heroes trade paperbacks that collected the pages we ran as a webcomic.  While ultimately successful in covering the costs of the printing of the book, the books themselves cost quite a bit.  I don't like to make a big deal out of this, but every artist that I've worked with has been paid a page rate for their work, and that is a cost that I am happy to front in order to get my books made.  I like working the artists that I work with and I want them to keep working with me, it's simple economics, really.  However, my meager day job income forces us to work on a pretty slow schedule.

It is my hope that by taking better advantage of crowd funding to cover more of the production costs, I can actually get more comics made than if I just funded them myself.  So, this year, I will be running some new Kickstarters and am also looking into setting up a Patreon (perhaps).  

In the meantime, Chris McJunkin, Sara Rude, Joie Simmons, and I have all been working hard to get new issues of Science Hero and Zero's Heroes Annual ready for Planet Comicon this March. 

So, I hope you enjoy my new website.  I will be making more announcements about new projects as they develop.