FIVE FOR CREATING WITH THE TEAM FROM ANGELA AND THE DARK
Welcome to Five for Creating! An interview series here at ComixCentral where we focus on getting to know Indie Creators and what they are working on through a series of five questions. This week we chat with Writer Umbrus Syn and Artist Russell Fox two members of the creative team behind the comic Angela and the Dark.
1. Tell us about Angela and the Dark.
UMBRUS: Angela and the Dark is an anime inspired all-ages action-adventure series set in the year 2137, which follows the exploits of our young heroine Angela, and our slightly older heroines The Dark in cyberpunk Metron City. My favorite pitch that I give for it is to imagine the dark and serious world of Blade Runner…then drop Pippi Longstocking right in the middle of it. Madness and shenanigans ensue.
RUSSELL: What he said!
2. What are some of the biggest influences to the story of Angela and the Dark?
UMBRUS: Angela and the Dark for me is a love letter and homage to some of my favorite things growing up, including especially anime. I was and still am a big fan of Akira, Cowboy BeBop, and Bubblegum Crisis which you can definitely see elements of. Angela herself has that trickster energy that Spider-man has when he’s in mask, and as the story progresses we’ll see how that shapes the course of events for everyone she encounters. The social and economic dynamics of Metron City were inspired by looking at history and how human beings tend to behave given a certain set of conditions, then positing a “what if” in the future. Elements of Ancient Rome, Hong Kong, New York City and the standard operating procedure of the worlds Super Powers since the end of World War 2 helps guide the backbone of it.
RUSSELL: I took onboard a lot of influences when creating the look of Metron City. Umbrus and I discussed it at length, but the general aim was a less oppressive Blade Runner aesthetic. The level of tech was kept “within reason” so it didn’t become too fantastical. For example, there are flying cars but they’re only used by law enforcement, it’s not the Jetsons.
Visually I drew from Blade Runner, Akira, Ghost In The Shell, Star Wars…
Everything had to be designed, and everything had to work. Footwear, buildings, armour, clothing, vehicles… I didn’t want to just throw in a bunch of crazy sci-fi designs; there had to be a thread running through fashions, architecture, etc. Background characters needed to be fully realised, the city itself needed to feel sprawling and lived in.
3. What is the dynamic like between the two of you creatively when you sit down to start working on a book?
RUSSELL: We’ve known each other a long time, worked together enough, that we have a good back & forth when working. Umbrus might have suggestions or concepts he wants to see in the art, I might have dialogue or ideas I want to read in the story.
Volume Zero is based on a one shot Umbrus wrote & illustrated several years back. I didn’t work off a script, I looked at the one shot and… expanded it. Just redrawing it panel-for-panel didn’t really interest me, but working like this gave me a chance to put my stamp on it. He then wrote the script to my art. I threw in some stuff that he built upon, and vice versa. There’s a lot of freedom, it’s a fun way to work.
UMBRUS: What Russell said! It’s one of the greatest honors of my life to work on projects with him as he’s insanely talented. We had a motto of sorts when we set out to do this and that was that it had to be fun. We have to be having fun at all times, and I hope that comes through in the pages. I love it because he brings things in that I either didn’t think of initially, sees them in a different way than I did, or just brings so many layers to it that it truly comes to life and gives things an “this could really happen” organic nature. It helps keep everything fresh and fun and feeling new.
4. What is the plan for the future of the series?
RUSSELL: The plan is to eschew the 25 page format in favour of a series of 100 page books. I think that’s right? Umbrus knows better than I do. And also a TV series, because it would be awesome.
UMBRUS: Volume Zero is our introductory issue into the world and dynamics of all our main players and we plant the seeds for all the twists, turns, surprises and adventures in store. We’re looking ahead to releasing a 100 page graphic novel, really diving in and putting the entire first story arc out. As indie creators we can try different formats and takes and aren’t locked into the traditional way of doing things, and we hope by doing it this way we can make a greater impact telling the story we want to with the ideals we want to put forward.
5. Here at ComixCentral we are about supporting all things Indie! With that being said , besides your own work, what is one Indie property or creator you think everyone needs to go check out right now?
UMBRUS:I have a couple of really good friends that are doing some amazing things. One is Jamie Gambell who has been putting out The Hero Code for quite a while, and another one is the amazing incredible Tim Fielder who is breaking the mold with Matty’s Rocket! Check these guys out!
RUSSELL:A guy I’m friends with on Instagram called Dave Law, I love his work. Crazily inventive. He works on a book called The Space Odditorium. You should definitely check it out.
A. Diallo Jackson aka Umbrus Syn, is the writer & co-creator of ANGELA AND THE DARK. In comics, he has also published THE PARANORMALS with Russell Fox, and is currently producing a new project called E.A.R.S and currently at work writing his first YA fantasy novel. Along with published novels THE CLAYMORE and the science fiction serialized novel MAYA, he has also written for a number of publications including Yahoo! Games, US Weekly, and Geek & Sundry, and is also the writer of 2017 Producer’s Guild winning Weekend Shorts short film, BEAUTIFUL STRANGERS. When he is not dreaming up ways for his characters to save the world, he daydreams of being the showrunner for a revival of Quantum Leap, writing the definitive Green Lantern movie, and being the best.Unicorn.ever.
Russell Fox is the artist & co-creator of ANGELA AND THE DARK. With delusions of grandeur from an early age, it was on his first day of school at age five that he told his teacher he intended to draw comic books for a living and twelve years later began his first commission as an illustrator for JUDGE DREDD MEGAZINE. After some years in advertising as a visualizer he moved back into comics as co-creator of two graphic novel series, one of which was adapted by the BBC into THE MYSTI SHOW. He has produced concept art for the films KILL ‘EM ALL and THE SHADOWED, and worked on several indie comics projects including BIO-MORPHS, HUMANS VS ZOMBIES, DIE CONFISERIE and THE PARANORMALS.
Julio was one of the first indy comic book creators I met face to face and he set a pretty high bar for all those I would meet after him. He was humble, energetic, and eager to share knowledge about the world of indy publishing. Deathbag was his tentpole character and had stretched through 2 issues at the time when I met him. Now he’s onto his 4th issue which will be collected in this TPB. I even had the privilege to guest write a story for this edition.
“Deathbag is a grim reaper who deals with everyday human life such as going the movies, going to see his favorite heavy metal band, going grocery shopping, and more.”
WHAT THEY NEED :
As of now, Julio is about 30% there from a goal of $3k. He needs a boost to help him reach his goal.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
I think what drew me to Deathbag first was his design and I liked how he shared a lot of the same frustrations I did. The books are some fun, quick flip through that will get you a few quality chuckles.
Hmmm… “The FIST, a comic series with 130+ pages of a guy punching people” Why not! Besides the straightforward pitch, I admired how The FIST nailed an indy feel for a synthwave comic. The comic is full of pastel neon colors with some great combinations that splash off the page. It’s a comic that I want to hold in my hands while I blast Perturbator or Carpenter Brut through my headphones.
A man (who punches) and his wife (who’s a spaceship)are on the run from the EVIL SPACE ARMY. Over-the-top ridiculous fights ensue.
WHAT THEY NEED :
$3,600 and they’re about a third there. This will all go to collecting previous issues of The FIST
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
Becauseit looks too much freakin’ fun! If you’re a fan of the art like I am, there are many rewards that feature prints and pin-ups from the comic.
I really had to dig for this one and I’m glad I did. Amara’s art style is going to be beautiful for this SciFi retelling of Alice In Wonderland. This is also her first graphic novel that she’s done entirely by herself — so all the more reason to back this project.
Alice is curious, and she has always been curious. An ambitious but inexperienced pilot, she signs up for a solo flight into unexplored space, stubbornly ignoring repeated warnings by her peers of the dangers of her expedition. She successfully arrives just beyond the furthest known boundaries of the galaxy, only to be snared by the gravity of a massive black abyss. Terrible wonders await Alice on her journey. Follow her through the rabbit hole and find out for yourself.
WHAT THEY NEED :
$2,000, which is quite a modest goal for a graphic novel that will be printed. “Electric Alice will be a fully illustrated, perfect bound softcover graphic novel. The interior artwork will be created using traditional media, such as watercolor and ink, and hand-lettered.”
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
If you weren’t sold by the art, Amara also teases that this isn’t the same Alice in Wonderland we’re used to, “You may meet some faces that seem familiar, but do not trust that you know their story, and be prepared for something completely alien.”
Thank you for checking out the Crowdfunding Roundup – May 2018 | by Anthony Cleveland
After decades of lurking the backroom of his beloved comic shop, Anthony Cleveland released his first comic Silver Skin issue #0 in 2017. He spends most of his time tweaking his upcoming projects, reading an unhealthy amount of horror shorts, and slaving away at his day jobs.
Sometimes you just don’t have time to read a bunch of reviews and choose which great Indie Comics you’ll get into next, and when that happens, Anthony Cleveland has got your back and some great picks! It’s Mini Review time!
I fucking love Eelman Chronicles.There it is; Out of the way.
There’s just so much heart and thought into this low-fi DIY comic. Eelman Chronicles is Chris Spalton’s (writer & illustrator) retellings of his father’s stories from being..well..an Eelman– someone who catches eels for a living. The stories are about his father’s bizarre run-ins on the job and about his town as a whole. Each story is fun and usually pretty absurd at times–and they stick with you!
Chris is in the process of putting together a collected volume now, so follow him on social and keep an eye out for updates!
What drives me crazy the most about the superhero genre in comics is its lack of originality. If I crack open a superhero book it’s usually because there’s some new ideas that were able to pull me in– for example: Gunpowder Witch’s original pitch.
Gunpowder Witch ( great title, by the way ) has a very simple question: “What if the accused in the witch trials in the early American colonial era were actually superhumans with powers?” It’s X-Men meets the Crucible in this alternate timeline and it’s a blast!
There’s a very simple art style here that matches well with the story and the characters are impossible not to connect with. At about 150 pages, it’s a great ride that is well worth your time. Pick this one up!
While perusing CXC’s horror comics I came across Tales From Dreamspace. The $0.00 price tag made it an easy pick up and I was in the mood for an anthology.
The horror anthologies I liked as a kid were the ones that were a bit more grudgier and left you feeling that icky horror feeling long after you set the book down
Several of the stories in Tales from Dreamspace this hit that mark. There’s also few that have classic horror reveals and reversals that feel familiar with the EC horror comics. I was impressed with some stories that committed to challenges like: “How to make a bathroom rug scary?”
Sprinkled throughout are mini-stories, quotes, and short narratives. It has a feel closer to a digital horror zine than to a classic horror comic you’d find in the backroom of a comic shop. –By no means am taking away points for it being a digital horror zine, but some of the stories didn’t hit the ball as hard as the others and the payoffs didn’t match the stronger narratives.
Regardless, the stronger stories make it well worth a full read, especially if you’re a horror fan looking for a free and fun fix.
Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe to “the Pulse” for indie Comics new, CXC Updates and more great articles and reviews from Anthony Cleveland.
After decades of lurking the backroom of his beloved comic shop, Anthony Cleveland released his first comic Silver Skin issue #0 in 2017. He spends most of his time tweaking his upcoming projects, reading an unhealthy amount of horror shorts, and slaving away at his day jobs.
This week our sophomoric spotlight falls on the fantastical anthology collection Tales of Charon Vol. 1 and the manga-style first chapter of the boxing saga ‘Her Impact’. Warning: there might be some godawful accents and cheap sound effects along the way. For maximum enjoyment grab a copy of the following comics and read along!
Casey is currently Kickstarting his Half Comic Book/Half Soundtrack/100% Adrenaline, Hollowed. We follow 2 detectives hunting down a brutal killer that hollows out its victims – A Sci-Fi Horror Comedy & Audio Experience.
I’ve outgrown most of the subgenres that I adored from my childhood. Superheroes bore me. Epic space fantasies just make me shrug and say “meh.” But for whatever reason, the ‘nostalgia tingles’ I get Kaiju genre haven’t faded for me. My nostalgia vibes were on overload with the teaser trailer for Colossal Chaos from Out of the Blue– a Kaiju anthology.
This is the fourth installment of the Out of the Blue anthology series. 57 comic creators from around the world helped put together this kaiju anthology. AmazingTales.net says, “Colossal Chaos is packed with twists on the theme, across a variety of genres. Oversized humans, gigantic space aliens, enormous city devouring monsters, behemoth insects, or just really big robots, every sci-fi trope of towering creatures is turned on its head.”
WHAT THEY NEED :
As I write this they have 20 days to go and a lot more to fund. They’re at $400 right now and have a goal set of $4,400. So there’s still a trek to go.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
It’s a thick anthology — at 130 pages! The $50 + art rewards are awesome too. The standard trade paperback features cover art by Diego Galindo (Dynamite, Zenescope). There’s also a Kickstarter exclusive hardcover with wrap-around cover at by Kelly Williams (IDW, Dark Horse).
True crime is one of the most interesting genres I’ve seen done in the graphic novel medium, There’s classics like From Hell, Torso, Green River Killer, and My Friend Dahmer. Chester & Grace: The Adirondack Murder looks like a great addition to any true crime library.
Chester & Grace” is a story of love gone wrong. In the summer of 1906, young Chester Gillette drowned his pregnant girlfriend, Grace Brown, at Big Moose Lake in upper New York State. This is the true case that inspired Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy and the later film “A Place in the Sun.
WHAT THEY NEED :
Their initial volume will be published in a small format (6″x9″), softcover, 92 pages, with one or two illustrations per page, and in full color. They’re really close to their goal and they only need a nudge to go over.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
Because there needs to be more true crime comics that are done tastefully and with respect. This one looks like it does all that and adds a touch of class that is rarely seen in the genre.
The Winter Year first caught my eye with their cover. I loved the minimalist white outline of an owl with the title overlayed. As I went a little deeper into the pitch, I was hooked by the description of the desperate tundra that the characters inhabit. This one looks bleak, bloody, and somehow hopeful in the midst of it all.
“Such things were once only whispers, though Garai, this family’s provider, has now proven them to be true – leaving him with little recourse in training with his son, Eshe.
As the arms of this vicious winter wrap around Garai, he must come face to face with those who wronged him, and seek for dark truths amidst the tundra that he once called home.”
WHAT THEY NEED :
They’re about a grand and 22 days away. The budget for the comic is divided between reward fulfillment, artwork for issue 2, and Kickstarter’s fees.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
The artwork sets the tone for the book. It’s fridged and bleak, but there’s hope. It’s great to see a series where the art perfectly matches the script. If you’re looking for a meditative, brooding winter story — back this book!
Thank you for checking out the Crowdfunding Roundup – April 12th 2018 | by Anthony Cleveland
After decades of lurking the backroom of his beloved comic shop, Anthony Cleveland released his first comic Silver Skin issue #0 in 2017. He spends most of his time tweaking his upcoming projects, reading an unhealthy amount of horror shorts, and slaving away at his day jobs.
Wanna learn how to climb the ladder using the power of art and relationships? Wanna know how to have a really cool job and maintain your indie core? Wanna learn how to use risk effectively? Wanna know how baby steps can take you from unknown artisan to VFX team member a’ la Marvel’s Black Panther film? We’ve got you covered on this week’s episode with the lighthearted honesty of special effects king Todd Sheridan Perry!
His passion for art and computers started early when his dad brought home the first mac back in 1984. This was the first time Todd realized he could mold his passion for art and technology into a remarkable yellow brick road of digital storytelling that would eventually lead him right to the wizards at Marvel Studios. His ability to reconcile a deep understanding of people with conscious risk may seem magical coincidence, but I get the feeling Todd and I share in a belief that dreams tend to find their way to people who leap off the edge of a professional cliff just above and beyond the winds of true purpose- especial if those cliffs overlook Hollywood, California. It’s easy to find common ground with someone whose original inspiration for the industry came from a mutual obsession with a certain 1977 space opera that needs no introduction.
While Star Wars may have been the beginning, Todd has seen the inner workings of this industry change and grow over the years. We talk about the value that comes from going with your gut and forming partnerships with people who think differently. We talk about the cost of going your own way, whether it’s writing comics or making a film. We talk about the challenges of working under the pressures of time and team management. Most importantly, we talk about how important it is to maintain true artistry in the face of an industry giant- The reason why keeping your hand in indie is not only valuable for the creative process/perspective but for the heart and soul of an artist. If you love indie and yet still find room in your heart for the big two then this interview is a can’t miss. Being dedicated and driven has its place. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is walk away from what you know and give a new hope to that mysterious horizon.
Don’t forget to check out the links below for information on Todd Sheridan Perry
To begin Ramblin wants to first discuss the elephant in the room when discussing myth and comics, which is Neil Gaiman, who work is so steeped and influenced by myth it is nearly a genre unto itself.
Dragon Ball is brought of as an example of a story that was inspired by the Chinese myth “Journey to the West.”
…it devolves for a bit there… in which they hit upon the comic Lucifer, Jumanji: Welcome to The Jungle, Wreck it Ralph, and the Netflix show Castlevania.
The discussion moves onto trickster figures in myth. Beginning with the Hawaiian demigod Maui. Loki is perhaps the most famous of the trickster figures. Ramblin goes on to explain how the Marvel Universe actually changed many of the aspects and connections found in Norse mythology. That leads to a discussion of some real Norse myths, followed by a comparison between Thor and Hercules.
This evolves into a discussion about the history of theater, and the conception of the idea of “The Age of Heros.”
Ramblin also wants to cut Hades some slack as he seems to be made out to be the Greek version of the devil when he actually did his job while Zeus could not keep it in his pants.
The group next brings up how comics often will take inspiration or use characters from different myths as part of their story arcs.
The group moves on from ancient myth to a more modern myth: Cthulhu. There is a fascination with playing the idea of ripping away the veil of reality.
Next, the topic of different versions of the same story is discussed. Ramblin feels that it is not helpful to try to find A “definitive” version but enjoy what different versions are trying to say with these same characters.
The Janitor being up the thought that that is something that indie comics do all the time which is taking these myths and retaining them in brand new ways to tell a new story.
In the end, myths make interesting stories and continue to inspire new stories in many different mediums but especially in comics.
Derek W. Lipscomb (writer/illustrator) approached ComixCentral to discuss his comic book series: The Maroon. We gave it a crack and discovered a fantastic series with genre combinations that have yet to be explored in other comics. The Maroon combines Leone’s Man with No Name trilogy with the fantastic mythology of American legends and history, all while never once pulling a single punch or tomahawk throw.
“The world I have The Maroon inhabit is a crazy mix of folklore fantasy with horror-inspired from Le Pacte de Loups (Brotherhood of the Wolf),” Derek began. “ I love how that film blends lore from history and fabricates it’s own clever take on the legend of The Beast of Gévaudan. I liked the idea that in the nooks and crannies of 1850 American history, there were mythical creatures and supernatural dealings that permeated the fringes of a growing civilization.”
Derek pitched his comic to me as a simmering campfire cauldron mixed with western films, anime features, & spiced generously with Native American mythology. If I could add to Derek’s pitch, I would say this is very much like a Conan the Barbarian story taking place in the 1800s south. Like many of the classic Conan stories, they begin grounded in a somewhat familiar and historical setting and later introduce the more fantastical elements. What remains constant throughout is how we are reminded that this is a savage world these characters inhabit.
The stand out issues were #1 and #3. In each of these issues, the strengths of the series are on full display. With issue #1, we are introduced to a father and son, who we are led to believe will be the main focus of the arc. A few pages later we meet The Maroon (real name unknown), who is on the run and is being pursued by a posse. As the issue comes to a close, the three are confronted by the posse and #1 concludes with a tragic climax that sets the tone for the rest of the series.
“ While The Maroon is a blending of history with the fantastic, what I really hope comes from this experience, is the further exposure of a pocket an American-created people often blindsided by ‘grander events that pushed American History forward,’ ” Derek added.
Derek’s research into his settings must be applauded as well. Throughout he uses specific historical events as backdrops to his character’s stories. He also goes on to describe specific Native American tribe culture and incorporates their mythology into his story arcs. This shows through best in Issue #3.
By this issue, Derek fully immerses the reader with the fantasy elements of his story. #3 also sheds more light on our main character’s backstory through a brutal hallucinatory dream sequence that bleeds into reality when he comes face to face with a half-owl, half-woman beast. The fight between the two is raw, bloody, and intense. These 10 pages were the highlight of the series for me. Another high point of the issue was when tidbits of The Maroon’s backstory is revealed and he’s forced to meet his past face to face. We learn that he was once in love with a woman above his social class and was tricked by a witch to drink a potion that was promised to make her fall in love with him. The potion instead curses him for life. This was the first time we are offered a look back at who The Maroon is.
My only real critique of the book would be to have more moments like this where we can explore that character’s history. Additional issues are on the rise and I’m sure Derek does have more in store for that.
Thank you for checking out this ComixCentral Review by Contributing Author Anthony Cleveland
Hey everyone! I’m Brian the writer and Co-Creator of RAGS. I have been asked to share my journey from drunken idea to self-publishing our first issue.
The back back way back story:
For those that didn’t know, RAGS has taken almost 3 years from drunken funny concept to release. And like most stories, this wasn’t easy.
A short history of me, I’ve been writing since I was in the fifth grade. Most of my influences were from Japanese animation very early on. Around 1989 my father took a trip to Japan and returned with some Super Nintendo games that perked my interest in everything ANIME. By the time I had reached middle school I had completely watched, on VHS, every episode of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z so when the series finally hit U.S shores, I was ahead of the curve. The importance of this is that I was very heavily inspired by the works of Akira Toriyama. More specifically, his puns. If you pay close attention to his work, you will see that nearly every character he’s created has had some sort of pun-based naming convention. As I inspired myself to write, I attempted to adopt these traits. Early on it did not work out so well, but when you’re a kid everything you do is great right?
Flash forward after graduating High School and 9/11 happens. Being the full bloodied patriot that I am, I rushed to raise my right hand to join up and participate in the war on terror. During my time in the Army, I would continue to write but nothing ever really stuck. I had fans of my writing in my unit, but I was neither fully impressed with my own finished work or I felt I had become too ambitious with the projects I wanted to complete. I attempted to self-publish a full-length novel in 2005, only to find I had been scammed by a Vanity Press and coupled with a few other incidents which we’ll skip, simply stopped writing for a number of years.
Beer, Zombies and a nude mod
On a night that was a-typical of any other night. Trent and I were having a nice fun drunken night of playing Left 4 Dead 2 and attempting to defeat a Map called Yama. This was a difficult map to beat, and on to this day, we have been very unsuccessful at completing it. Anyway, I was using a mod titled: Ravaged Zoey. This mod left one of the female characters in a certain state of undress and to his credit, Trent called me out for utilizing the mod in order to…um…enhance my gameplay. Notably, poor Zoey was left without pants. Trent demanded that I explain myself and, very drunkenly mind you, I came up with an elaborate story about how Zoey was only with the other group of survivors to find clothes and the entire campaign was her quest to locate a comfortable pair of pants. I laughed. Trent laughed. The toaster laughed. I shot the toaster. It was a good time.A few months later I had finally caught the writing bug again and yet, I could not figure out WHAT exactly it was that I should write. So as what most people do in the social media age because it’s the cool thing to do, I decided to let Facebook decide my path for me. I put out a list of old stories I could revisit and possibly give new life to some old characters. Just as the votes were coming in, Trent sent me a message:
Dude! Write a story about that chick looking for pants!
Could I? The concept was stupid, but it was funny. Well at least to us. But after a moment of contemplation, I decided: This is so stupid it just might work!!
Not long after Trent and I began brainstorming. Originally envisioned as an extremely short story the beta version of RAGS started out with an unnamed female protagonist arriving at a Wal-Mart style store, without pants and fully armed to the teeth, but of course minus the pants. She would lose them constantly as she met other survivors or zombies. Always coming out on top, but always bottomless… That had been mulled around a bit but eventually tossed on the floor due to being unable to flesh out the main character, or having a good reason why the loss of pants as a justifiable occurrence. Later, we came up with a working rough draft but decided that instead of novelizing our idea, it would be much more fun if we wrote it as a movie script.
I had never written movie scripts before, and so I went to see the one friend I knew that had. Balam, or Luis as he’s better known as has written many wonderful scripts for movies that will possibly never get made (quite unfortunate but that’s life eh?). I asked him to show how he went about putting his scripts together and after a couple hours of tutelage, I eventually got the hang of things.
Two six packs and three days later I had written the first draft of RAGS: A Zombie Shopping Spree. It was designed to be its own self-contained silly one-shot, however as we shared it around our small network of friends we kept noticing that while initially disgusted with our beginning, people generally enjoyed the story elements and humor overall. Though while the entire concept was outright dumb, they did thoroughly enjoy the journey from beginning to end. Embers underneath the fire if you will.
Next thing we did was shop the story around FB Author groups. This is where we hit out first major roadblock. Immediately the script we share was derided as sexist, misogynistic, and disgustingly vulgar. Just to name a few of the many praises lauded onto us. Our responses got us removed from group after group, until we settled into another group titled Fiction Writing. There we actually met a few authors who saw the gem hidden in the coals of our script and agreed to help us polish things. Eventually, we were kicked out of this group as well. Cie Le Vie.
Regina Ragowski: The mama Leopard
One of the main issues that plagued us, in the beginning, was that our protagonist initially didn’t have a name, personality and they lacked any real depth. We were at a loss as to what to do as we thought our current script was perfect. Nameless heroine on a quest for pants, small town mall, Jill’s Sandwiches, puns galore what was not to love? After some collaboration, we eventually decided to do what any other sane person would do, and dropped the entire thing the trash and start over again. To add depth to the character that we needed, we realized that we needed a character with a name. A name that would kinda stick. So Trent and I got drunk again and went back to L4D2 to brainstorm. Ya know. Science. It was there, as when we’re doing our best to sabotage each other’s efforts at survival that Trent had the epiphany: Dude, we should name her Regina Ragamuffin. To which I responded: Nah man, Ragowski! Like the Big Lebowski but Ragowski!
Needless to say, we think we nailed it there.
Secondly, we needed a personality type. A realistic one. Not a Mary-Sue or a typical tsundere anime girl. We needed legit real personalities to humanize and create a character that you could root for, despite their flaws. While pondering how I should go about this Liz Finnegan had tweeted out: “Get your heads out of your dickholes you WHORE REFS!”
Yeah. It was right then and there I was sold. SOOOO SOLD!
At the time too, I decided to reach out to some female battle buddies of mine from the ARMY to interview them about their input on their unique life experiences and things they had to deal with during their time in the Military. Combining all these things with our character, Regina, finally being given a name, a history and a personality that appropriately matched, all she needed was a face….
Making a Baby:
Movie treatment in hand, polished (4th or 9th time) and ready to rock we came to the conclusion that it was time to start pitching to Netflix and Amazon. Well long story short, we were rejected. Flat out. It seemed as the studio heads there didn’t believe in the subtle nuance a story about a naked woman and her quest for pants could tell and at the same time entertain an audience that wasn’t a bunch of pervs. In that moment of double rejection, we then decided: Fuck it, we’ll make it a comic!
Not knowing how to write comics scripts was another HUGE roadblock. But we took the time to read books on how to write the MARVEL way, studied how IMAGE and DC writers handled their scripts and said: Fuck that noise!
Eventually, we found a style that suited our needs and got right to work. We placed feelers out into the net and reached out to multiple artists before we got our first hit. Recommended to us by a mutual online friend who does short comic work, this artist we reached out to gave us the first real rendition of Regina.
This was great, however, the script and description we gave to them involved a tattoo to be placed on Regina’s left leg. The artist took it upon themselves to change the placement of the tattoos and at first, we were upset…
…however the look ended up growing on us so we just went with it. This same artist was also commissioned to complete 5 pages in a timely manner, however, they went radio silent for long periods of time. So, while they were silent we searched for a second artist that would be able to meet our needs and not just vanish. While we did enjoy their work, the inability to effectively collaborate and the long periods of silence eventually forced us to find another partner.
The second artist we reached out too, this time working with our third drafted script, promised to deliver pages and work on time. However, he quickly showed to us that he did not have the same passion as Trent and I had for our story and script. We fired this artist, and surprisingly they begged for a second chance. We gave it to them, however, they still failed to meet simple deadlines. 6 pages of inks took 6 months or more to receive. And knowing that we would be attempting more pages in a shorter period of time, we found this completely unacceptable and fired this person again. We never got our money or our time back.
All of this would lead us to Sasha. I had worked her before on some small things. And wanted to give her a shot at RAGS. We had the rapport. I knew her work ethic. I wanted to take a chance. So I commissioned a Regina concept from her and it turned out wonderful! Unfortunately, due to personal reasons Sasha had to focus on other things and wasn’t available to work with us. At this time, we honestly were deciding what we should do. We’d already poured in the money to artists. Set up the webpage, domain, set up the Facebook group, the Reddit page. I had just finished setting up our Patreon and T-shirt/ Merchandise store to hopefully help crowdfund our project, but I was curious as to what I could do to get this thing out of the water when there were already multiple gaping holes in our boat. We were lost and dejected and honestly felt as though we had given it a good attempt. To cut our losses and at least be proud that we tried to do something fun while most people would sit back and complain about things.
Hail Mary, or rather Hail Liz!
So as everyone knows by now, that we based Regina around Liz Finnegan’s football tweets and her face. This was initially supposed to be just another one of the many Easter eggs I had planned. As a nod to those that knew and an ‘oh that’s cool’ to those that didn’t. Well, I didn’t have official permission, so with the house around us seemingly burning down at a high rate, I decided to reach out to Liz and inform her of our intentions. The thought was if she said yes, then we’d continue. But a No would let us know that this project wasn’t meant to come to life and to move back to doing other things. I honestly did not believe I would get a response, or rather I didn’t expect to receive such a positive one from her. She enjoyed it. She was a fan. We had a reason to make this shit happen. I passed her blessing onto Trent and we felt renewed. And as if karma was rewarding us for our perseverance that’s also when we found Luigi.
Separately from this RAGS project, I had been working on something of a MARVEL Fan comic. Again, testing the waters and teaching myself the ins and outs and nuances of things of making comics just for knowledge’s sake. I had commissioned an artist, who I felt scammed me out of a potentially fun project and a beaucoup amount of money. As the animosity between us grew Luigi eventually stepped in and finished the work all the while remaining professional the entire time. Even with my demands for compensation being delivered in a cruel manner (I’m really an asshole in real life.), Luigi maintained complete utter professionalism and delivered to me this: Regina-Chan 2.0 as we called it. Everything about it was perfect. The onesie. The eyes. The freckles. The trigger discipline. It was at this time as we were completing my other side project, that I decided to throw another hail mary and put the offer out. If our previous interactions had been contentious I had doubts that he would accept anything additional that I would request.
Back on track and ready to rock, I felt the need to go back and hand Luigi a script that was worthy of his talents. This script was the first half of issue #1 that Trent and I agreed would be a good test to see how Luigi worked and see if he was a good fit for future works.
Well, needless to say, that what he sent in to us next made our jaws drop. It was at this point. This moment we knew. We immediately went all in and gave Luigi an open deadline to get things done. It was tough, there was a bunch of back and forth and loads of frustration. To this day I still think somewhere he rolls his eyes whenever he sees my email populate in his inbox. But good lord. Without Luigi, RAGS would probably still just be some pipe dream between two drunk guys and a nude mod.
The lesson here to take home is that if you believe in a project, no matter how silly or dumb it may seem. No matter what comments or putdowns that others who don’t know the intricacies of your work. You should just F.I.D.O:
Fuck It.Drive On.
Sure, we will probably never see a full return on the hours and money we’ve spent. But at the end of the day, Trent, Luigi and I will bring to the world our baby. A story about a something near and dear to me, PTSD and overcoming self-guilt. We’re bringing Trent’s great plots, outlines, and story concepts to life in a meaningful way. And hopefully, we’re bringing forward into the spotlight, the amazing talents of a man who deserves to be the lead of animation company. Even if this isn’t a success, it will be all be worth it, because, at the beginning of all this, I did get to meet the amazing person that inspired us and drove us to move onward despite the hurdles and setbacks. And with that, my bucket list is complete.
The Award Winning BOB: Non-Union Psychic continues with the upcoming release of BOB: Non-Union Psychic Issue #2.
First off, if you haven’t had a chance to dig into the world of BOB: Non-Union Psychic, do yourself an enjoyable and humorous favor by grabbing Issues #0 TRUE TALENT& #1“The Legend of Legros” whenever you get a minute.
BOB: Non-Union Psychic is the exciting tale of an unwilling but incredibly talented psychic, Bob Holbreck. All Bob wants is to be left alone to hone his one true love and passion for Hair Styling, but to his everlasting annoyance, his inherited psychic gifts continue to intrude themselves into his life with hilarious outcomes.
I won’t give away any spoilers for issue #2, but I can tell you that the renegade psychic known as Bob Holbreck is back and appears to be falling into all kinds of trouble with a little help from his not-so-alive friends and family.
This delightful cast of characters is brought to life by the expert storytelling of Lance Lucero, his partner in crime & Comics, Adam Volle and of course the illustration stylings of Francisco Resendiz and phenomenal lettering of Kurt Hathaway. This incredible Indie Series is brought to you by Warehouse 9 Productions, Ltd.
The zombie sub-genre is a blast, but it’s a bit saturated with the “same old, same old.” How many zombie outbreak stories do we need? How many wasteland wandering zombie stories are there? …Well, how about a zombie story that deals with the end of the plague. We don’t have very many of those, do we? And that’s just ONE reason to back Zombies’ End!
“A living head in a bucket and his zombie daughter, who are said to hold the key to mankind’s survival, are transported by three brave soldiers through the apocalypse. As the head struggles to maintain sanity and focus, he realizes his disjointed visions are not entirely unreal and must convince mankind that the solution to this zombie horror will be more extraordinary than anyone imagines.”
WHAT THEY NEED :
FUNDRAISING STATUS: URGENT!!! 14 days to go and $6,000 to needed! Funds will go to production, printing, and shipping.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
It sounds like a blast! A last stand / final mission type of story with a touch of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia or Sin City’s The Big Fat Kill thrown in there. Give this unique zombie story a few bucks and see how the plague finally comes to an end!
New Gore Shriek issues could be on the way if this Kickstarter is successful! For those that aren’t familiar with Gore Shriek — This was one of the best horror anthologies of the 80s and featured many creators that are now huge names in the industry. A staple of this series was its no-holds-barred horror with some darkly imaginative artists.
A horror anthology that will produce three 48 page issues in 2018.
WHAT THEY NEED :
Previous Kickstarter and a demand from Gore Shriek fans led to the idea to create subscription plans and new comics. There’s about a month to go and $19,000 to get there. A highlight of this Kickstarter is in the rewards. At just $10 you receive a digital subscription to the books for 2018. That’s a steal. And the rewards only get better and better.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
Old school horror anthologies are making a come back ( check out Creeps for example ). Gore Shriek needs to be back too! Who knows what other indie creators this book might launch or inspire!
I’m a sucker for historical stories in comics, especially when they’re stories that don’t get as much attention as they should. We Shall Fight Until We Win is a graphic novel anthology that takes a look at some historical women from the UK over that last 100 years and tells their stories “in colourful, illustrated snapshots – some stories are well known, some less so – all worthy of note. “
The anthology features stories from a few women from each decade: “From suffragettes like Emmeline Pankhurst and Sophia Duleep Singh, through the defining ‘firsts’ in politics like Nancy Astor, the first female member of Parliament, and Diane Abbott, the first black woman to hold a seat in the House of Commons, to many of the women campaigning and heading up politics today, this graphic novel brings together a mix of creators across the UK to illustrate the numerous stories from the last century.”
WHAT THEY NEED :
They’re about a month away from a goal of $11K. Funds will be going mainly to their contributors and to printing. “Both 404 Ink and BHP are publishers with numerous titles in their back catalogue and we’re comfortable with the process of creating publications and shipping worldwide between our two teams, and anticipate no problems.”
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT :
I’ll let them explain why-
“We wanted to create a reminder of how far women’s rights have come over a century and, conversely, where we have left to go. We’re looking back to the women who shaped our current climate or trailblazed.”
Wanna know what it takes to succeed in indie publishing? Wanna know how to really engage with a fan base, get their attention, and keep it? Wanna know how to come at this industry from a place of service and come out on top on the other side? This is the podcast for you.
It’s my distinct pleasure to interview the one and only Peter Simeti of Alterna Comics. Peter is also famous for his indie horror masterpiece The Chair, which was ultimately turned into a film not too long ago. Bottom line: this guy knows indie comics and we’ve got a front row seat to his mastery.
Peter and I talked about falling in and out of love with comics over the years. Getting into publishing was initially about giving his own stories a voice, but he kept coming across the tremendous talents of others and he just couldn’t keep the magic to himself. We talk about developing a genuine relationship with your followers and friends on social media. We talk about when and how to go for “the ask.” We also talk about what Peter looks for in a story so if you’re interested in pitching your work than this episode is definitely a can’t miss. Last but not least we talk about the cliches of the comic world and how to make your comic just a little different, even if you do insist on writing another superhero story.
Peter Simeti has already reset the chess board of publishing by bringing back newsprint.
As a marketer and creator, you can learn a lot from Peter in terms of what it means to really disrupt an industry. This is especially inspiring for someone who was on the verge of considering bankruptcy just before having a book get on the New York Times Bestseller List in 2012. It takes a long period of dedicated hard work to build a service that stands above the rest. There’s no question that Peter Simeti is breaking through the surface and I’ve got a feeling that this is still just the beginning for Alterna Comics. We’re proud to support what he’s doing for creators and fans alike and if you want to be a game changer this is the man to emulate for now and years to come.
This is the perfect episode for you. We’ve got the indie Hollywood man who does it all. Kyle Hester is an actor, producer, art director and more. He’s got plenty of credits to his name and all the humility and wisdom that comes with it. He’s a spitfire king of the road mix master who knows how to handle everything from emotional transformation to social media sorcery. He’s a tremendous storyteller with humor for days, and that’s just me getting started.
Kyle and I definitely get into the nature of Hollywood hustle but Kyle’s not your run-of-the-mill camera king. He could have gone full Hollywood like some of his counterparts but he chose to keep it indie and his advice reflects a passion for new projects that deserve to be seen. Of course, we get into his upcoming films like Preacher Six and Zombie with a Shotgun, but we also got to share in the hard times that come along with running on all four cylinders for the sake of success. We talk about everything from crowdfunding to set building. We talk mentorship and creative growth. We talk about Kyle working with his wife on Preacher Six and how it came about and of course we talk about similarities between indie film and indie comics. Hey, we even talk about Peter Simeti of Alterna Comics and Kyle’s work on the film adaptation of his horror graphic novel The Chair.
Other head nods include talk around Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America World and our mutual respect for Naomi Grossman of American Horror Story fame. She plays The Blue Nun in Preacher Six so you definitely don’t wanna miss this. He’s the most inspiring man you’ll find in indie this side of the Netherrealm.
This one has been a favorite of mine ever since Conner Bartel (writer and creator) put up a free preview on reddit.com/r/comicbookcollabs. It’s a fast-paced supernatural western that entices the reader with its outstanding cover art and keeps you hooked with a suspense-filled story and jaw-dropping old school horror art.
“Grimwood Crossing is the biggest town in the grim old west. Vampires, Werewolves, and Zombies are part of the everyday struggle for the townsfolk. That’s why Grimwood’s Sheriff also has the added job title of monster hunter. It’s a dangerous job so a replacement must always be arranged. With the help of his young, scat-talking apprentice, the Sheriff must fend off a vengeful outlaw with demonic powers.”
WHAT THEY NEED:
The goal they have set is $3,000. This will go to finishing up Vol. 2 of the series with the majority going to the creators and the rest to shipping or printing.
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT:
Conner notes that isn’t the team’s first Kickstarter for the project and assures potential backers that they are a trusted creative team that delivers: “After creating 3 issues, succeeding in a previous campaign, and self-publishing the comics afterward, we have proven we are capable, trustworthy creators… And, same as last campaign, the book is 95% done already.”
Synthetics caught my eye with its insane robot gladiator cover. A lone gladiator robot stands presenting the head of a slain robot enemy to a roaring coliseum. It’s a fantastic eye-catching cover that teases a world that doesn’t seem too far away.
“The Synthetics #1 is a 56-page comic featuring three bizarre stories of robot life, in which we see how different robots’ lives intersected with a robot revolt on Mars.”
WHAT THEY NEED:
The set goal is $1,200. “Most of the revenue will go to pay printing and shipping costs. Anything beyond that will go to help us pay our artists.”
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT:
It’s a 56-page anthology about a robot revolt on Mars! How freakin’ cool is that! Creator Julian Darius adds that he has also been involved in eight previous Kickstarters and knows how to see a project to completion.
Bullets. Rust. And blood. The art speaks for itself in this gritty noir – It’s dirty, its sun-scorched, and it looks like it was drawn with a prison rigged tattoo gun. We absolutely need to see this book completed.
Welcome to Eden City. A place where vices and virtue coexist in their maximum splendor and freedom. A veteran NYC Metropolitan Police Detective now employed by Eden City is tasked with solving its first series of killings that are shaking the foundations of a supposedly impeccable system. Every clue suggests a reason, every proof indicates a certainty, if the blood-letting isn’t stopped, it will surely continue its course.
WHAT THEY NEED:
$1,800, but this crew is pushing on to hit their stretch goals! “The funds necessary to complete “Hell cross” graphic novel and a good foundation for future projects.”
WHY YOU SHOULD BACK IT:
Its an old school film noir updated in a gritty fantasy utopia setting. The story plus this art makes it look like a solid book that we’d love to see bagged, boarded, and on shelves!
A couple of years ago someone posted the following image on social media:
As a half-Puerto Rican, I thought it was pretty funny. Captain America’s costume did actually evoke the Puerto Rican Flag more than it did the American Flag.
I find this meme gets shared every few months by Puerto Rican friends online, but it also made me think that there were no Puerto Rican superheroes. It seemed like an idle thought at the time and I left it there. For Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez there being no Puerto Rican superheroes was more than just an idle thought. He made it a reality and created “La Borinqueña”
La Borinqueña is a fitting name for a Puerto Rican superhero. It is the name of Puerto Rico’s national anthem and is a feminization of Puerto Rico’s original Taino Indian name: Borinquen. Miranda-Rodriguez envisioned this becoming the title of a superhero that gains her powers from the old spirits of Puerto Rico.
I found the comic quite serendipitously. After the events of Hurricane Maria, I was looking for a way to reconnect with my Puerto Rican heritage. I began cooking up Puerto Rican food (My wife gamely let me cook up dishes like Rice and Beans, Tostones, Amarillos, Picadillo, Empanada, Bistec Empanizado and Flan). I also began listening to traditional Puerto Rican music. There are three songs about Puerto Rico at the core of this tradition: “En Mi Viejo San Juan” (In my old San Juan), Preciosa (Precious) and La Borinqueña.
After getting a little emotional at finding a South Korean orchestra sing En Mi Viejo San Juan in Puerto Rico and listening to Marc Anthony’s incredible version of Preciosa, I googled La Borinqueña. I found the song, but then kept seeing images for a superhero. I was intrigued, so I did a little digging and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found.
La Borinqueña, published under the author’s own label, Somos Arte (We are art), is about the adventures of Marisol Rios De La Luz. Marisol grew up in Brooklyn and is Afro-Puerto Rican. She is a student of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and on a semester abroad in Puerto Rico, she explores a cave and discovers the goddess and spirits of the Taino. They give her superpowers turning her into La Borinqueña and she becomes the superhero of the Puerto Rican people.
The comic is often bilingual, as ‘Spanglish” is very common on the island. If you don’t know Spanish, you will still understand the story, but you will miss out on some of the, for lack of a better word, flavor. This comic lives in the same mental space as the Puerto Rican culture it celebrates, so its use of both Spanish and English is appropriate. It is perhaps a bit novel, but it was fun at how natural it felt given my own heritage.
La Borinqueña also makes an effort to be a positive portrayal of women and Latinos. Additionally, Miranda-Rodriguez very intentionally wanted to highlight that Marisol is Afro-Latina, as Latinos of African descent make up a sizable part of the Puerto Rican population, but are often underrepresented within that diverse population. Marisol herself is portrayed as strong, powerful and intelligent. She is beautiful and has the “latin curves” but is realistically proportioned and her costume, while emphasizing her femininity, does not sexualize her.
In a post-Hurricane Maria world, La Borinqueña is a wonderful symbol of hope for a still struggling Puerto Rico. (2 months after the Hurricane, more than 25% of the Island is still struggling to get power.) Miranda-Rodriguez knows this and is working to help the island through his work. First, he did the artwork for the Lin Manuel Miranda Puerto Rico aide single, Almost like Praying.
Currently, Miranda-Rodriguez is hosting an art show is being held in New York City showcasing this character and comic with proceeds being donated to hurricane relief. The show is being held at the Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education in the Bronx and runs through January 6th.
For me, La Borinqueña was an unexpected but welcome surprise. I was trying to reconnect with my own Puerto Rican heritage and stumbled on this comic which celebrates this heritage through one of my favorite mediums, the comic book. This comic, like all things Puerto Rican, be it food or music, is definitely worth checking out and while I am admittedly a bit biased, it does not make it any less true.
On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks interviews Anthony Cleveland. The incredibly fascinating Comic writer of the comic Chris calls, the #1 Horror Comic with Heart, Silver Skin.
We’re getting personal and awesome up in the Podcast this week with Comic creator Anthony Cleveland. We chat about Anthony’s creation process and you have to tune to hear how he funded his latest comic book project, Silver Skin. It’ll make you lol!
On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks interviews Thom Burgess. Writer of dark shadowy things, creator of Ghoster, The Eyrie, Malevolents and Hallows Fell.
Let’s get creepy with Thom, find out what makes a great horror story, how to build a ghost and learn more about this terrifying and darkly beautiful comic creator from another realm. Well, the UK. BOO!
On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks goes deep into the mind of a Comicbook superfan!
Get some insight and perspective into what makes a fan, how to find your audience and how to keep your readers happy. Chris and Rick discuss what makes a story addictive, what causes a reader to lose interest and how to capture a fan for life.
It’s market research 101. Get out your notepads comic creators!
Rick Osowksi is a self-described Computer Geek, Sports Nut, Magic: The Gathering Nerd, Solution Architect at IBM Cloud and Hobbyist-at-large. Connect with Rick and check out his Podcast using the links below:
Quick hit: Champions of Hara is a mix between Fate Stay Night Anime and Eternal Champions.
Champions of Hara is a tale of a world created from chaotic energies, that is also being destroyed by those same energies. In order to keep the lifeforms of Hara viable, the Kensei (guardians of Hara) reach out to other worlds, perhaps other dimensions, to find beings who may be able to control and harness the chaotic energies of Hara and stabilize the realm, only one can claim the right to these energies, thus from what I gather, an ‘unofficial’ competition begins to see who is worthy of possessing Hara’s energy, and as a side perk, the winner gets to have the greatest desire granted.
This reviewer quickly thought. if these guardians have that kind of power, why can’t they control Hara’s energy on their own? Perhaps as the tale is told, more of Hara’s secrets will be revealed. The ‘chapters’ of Champions of Hara are quick, with timely wording and elegance provided by writer Walter Barber. These first two novellas introduce readers to the first 2 participants in the competition. It must be pointed out, that so far there has not been an actual number of participants listed, so from here, no one can be certain if there are any more beings participating.
The expertise of artist Jason Piperberg is clearly shown throughout both books, from knowledge of time settings of Earth to fantasy flora and fauna.
Piperberg’s use of shades and colors deftly, and subtly set the emotion and pace of Barber’s writing. I give full marks to Jason for his use of digital coloring, as this reviewer is not a huge fan of the technique, Piperberg touch is not overblown, nor lacking to the lineart, instead, it’s a perfect harmonious balance.
The only flaws of these fine books are: a page wasted for indicia, perhaps the creative team was looking for ways to stretch out the stories (each book is just 12-14 pages) This reader would’ve preferred if the legalese was placed along with the credits, the give Piperberg a page to really show off his artistic skill (perhaps with character design sketches).
The other flaw is the second page is too dark, where, readers skip by the pencil art that is on the page, you don’t see it because of the darkness of the page, a lighter gradient will fix this oversight.
Champions of Hara is all too quick of a ride, however, the substance that Baber and Piperberg give readers, is a complete joy, that has this reader and many more, eagerly waiting to see what is upcoming.
Rating 4 out 5 eyes ( Worth the price of Admission)
Hello readers! Today we have 2 badasses for the price of 1 Creator Spotlight!
We are delighted to have the opportunity to pick the brains of the creative team behind the jaw-dropping, action-packed, delightfully comedic and beautifully illustrated, RAGS: Prologue. If you haven’t read the first issue of this comic, stop right now, (well read this spotlight first) then, go get a copy, immediately.
“RAGS is a comic involving two military veterans and their quest for a sense of normalcy during a zombie plague that has wrecked the liberal state of California. But this isn’t a tale about Zombies. This is a tale about pants. A tale about PTSD. A tale about finding a purpose. About setting aside your own prejudice. About overcoming guilt and insanity. Things that most other authors are too afraid to tackle. Hold onto to your poopers and get your tactical onesies ready.”
So without further ado, may we present A Fireside Chat with Brian Ball and Trent Luther. Let’s do this! Oohrah!
To start, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Brian: Well my is Brian Ball, I’m a 14year Active Duty Army Veteran, currently in the San Diego National Guard. I’m the writer of RAGS, and my partner in crime in this is Trent Luther. He and I came up with the basic premise. My friend Rudy help us polish it up with the Unicorn Onesie. I’m withholding the name of my artist for the time being as I’m unsure of how he wishes to be credited.
Trent: My names Trent, I’m from Fargo North Dakota. I work at an auto salvage yard. I don’t think I really known for much.
What kind of comics do you guys like to create?
Brian: I’m actually unsure of how to answer this one, as RAGS is the first Comic I’ve actually created, from concept to what it is now. I’m not quite sure what I’d call the genre. Maybe Black Humor is the most accurate as I subtly make take jabs at lots of things.
Trent: Zombie comics I guess. Though I used to draw some dope stick figure comics that had to do with the civil war and the supernatural (Ethan Allen was my main protagonist.).
What made you decide to start making comics and get into the business?
Brian: So what got me to create? I would have to say that I’ve always enjoyed writing. That’s been my passion since I was 8years old. The military came a very close second when I was 10. But what really pushed me is that Comics now, Marvel in particular, no longer speak to me as an Individual. I see a lot of push towards inclusivity and diversity but I’m not really seeing any characters with personality. I’m half-black, ¾’s Latino and there has yet to be a character that I could really get behind. So I figured, rather than complain about it, I’d just go out there and make my own.
Trent: Brian’s ambition. He’s been a rock that waves break themselves upon this whole time.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to your success?
Brian: Right now, the biggest obstacle to success is marketing. Marketing, marketing, marketing. Some early feedback I’ve seen is that ‘Oh, it seems like another by the numbers zombie story.’ It’s not. In many ways, the zombies are a bonus.
Trent: Marketing. Marketing has been rough. Mainly lack time and funds to do so. I try to make an enticing post on Imgur and Reddit. But getting them rolling can be tough
Coffee or Tea?
Brian: Coffee. Definitely Coffee. There’s this saying amongst me and my battle buddies; “If it wasn’t for caffeine and hate I would have no reason to wake up in the morning.”. But honestly, I need about three cups of coffee just to get the old brain synapsis plodding along.
Trent: If you ain’t down with Alwazah tea you can get outta my life.
Who are your biggest inspirations in the comic realm?
Brian: My biggest inspirations are Adam Warren, the old crew from Antartic Press. Eric Johnson, if you’ve ever seen his work, he’s drawing the book for Vikings. Masamune Shiro, Kentaro Muira, Hajime Kanzaki, I read a lot of manga. Akira Toriyama for his pun-based naming structure. John Kantz and Christopher Reid for their EXCELLENT book: Legends from DarkWood. I was really sad they didn’t continue this, it was great series!
Trent: For me Todd McFarlane, Frank Miller and R.A Salvatore (I know he doesn’t do comics, fight me.) But I grew up with Spawn comics and toys and everything Drizzt.
Where the inspiration for RAGS come from? Tactical onesies? WHERE?! We love!
Brian: So the inspiration from RAGS initially grew out of a drunken night of Left4Dead2 with Trent. The initial plot we came up with was just some chick running from store to store trying to find a pair of pants while fighting off a zombie horde. And each time she found pants, she’d lose them somehow or some way and have to go find some new ones. It was funny in our heads, but after initially writing the whole thing, I knew I could tell a better story if I just changed some things, so that story evolved into what RAGS is now. The idea for the tactical onesie though, that grew out of me, being absolutely sick and tired of seeing the skin-tight spandex suits that you saw in all these female superheroes run around in. I’m sorry, but Black Widow, in that lycra she runs around in, would constantly be splitting her the backside of her pants. Also, I dislike the idea of a woman in 5-16”inch heels being able to beat up 210lb guys with just her fists. So while trying to come up with a suit that would be practical, my buddy Rudy simply suggested ‘Why not a unicorn onesie…like they have at Wal-mart.’ Then it just grew from there.
Trent: The inspiration for RAGS. That’s tough. Brian came to me one day with a small idea of a story and it just kinda evolved. Tactical onesies…It seemed like a joke at the end of our story. However, it just worked so well. Then when we got a few illustrations and it was so damn amazing seeing it on paper.
You clearly love zombies. What made you decide to throw your talents into the zombie storytelling world?
Brian: I’m a HUGE Resident Evil Fan. I have the S.T.A.R.S logo and two of Rebecca Chambers tattooed on my arms. Since the inspiration for the story came from Left4Dead2 it was only practical that the zombies followed. But there’s a slight twist to mine, that make them much different….much more lethal than what we’re used to seeing. Creating a new plague was tough because I’m just a soldier and not much of a scientist. But I have figured out something that is very realistic and COULD come about if the right minds got together and were able to put two and two together.
Trent: To me… a Left for Dead 2. We talked a lot about it while playing an impossible to beat player made campaign. Also, Zombies fit perfectly for Regina’s main struggle in the story.
Your choice of coloring for RAGS is very unique. Could you tell us how you guys decided on this approach?
Brian: The coloring for RAGS is done that way, because I wanted people to focus on what the was important to the character, Regina. Her freckles are important, and obviously her tattoo’s, (which is a story arc I hope to explore much later.) I wanted to add to the tension by tricking the reader into focusing on things that I wanted them to focus on. I hope that makes sense. Color is going to come into play much later, I hope the audience appreciates what I have in store.
Trent: Brian’s call on that. I yes-manned cause it was a wonderful choice.
What would you say is your ultimate goal in comics? Where do you both hope to be in 5 years creatively?
Brian: My ULTIMATE GOAL is for everyone to be Cosplaying Tactical Onesies at all the cons. If that happens, I’ve met my goal. In five years I hope to have the entire story of RAGS completed and on the shelves of bookstores. Maybe a movie deal, or a t.v. series if it gets popular enough.
Trent: Super cheesy Syfy Movie with a dank cult following.
How far are you wanting to take RAGS? What do you guys see as the “Big Picture?”
Brian: I’d really like to get RAGS into the hands of a publisher. I have a story that’s actually inclusive, diverse (being set in California gives me a wide array of characters to choose from and topics to tackle) and I KNOW with the right backing would be a huge hit. Also, having someone else handle the marketing (you’ll see me spam twitter almost daily) would be nice.
Trent: All the way. I’d like to see our idea flower into a whole series of comics.
What do you find to be the most difficult part of creating a comic?
Brian: The most difficult part I would say is getting feedback. Especially when something is good and you personally know it. Sometimes I’ll hand over a copy for a friend to read and I won’t hear back from them for months….and when I see them again I ask about it and they’ll say “Oh, it was good.” Yeah, but how good? What did you like best? What worked? What didn’t? Finding the right people help steer you in the right direction. That’s pretty tough. Thankfully I had a few people give me honest reviews and critiques, so moving forward I know exactly what how to handle things.
Trent: Picking a genre. There is a lot of criticism jumping into any kind of genre when there is so much of it all readily available. Really have to make an impression right off the bat.
Are you for sale? I say that as a joke, but not really. Would you sell RAGS to a large publisher? And on that note, would either of you consider working for the Big guys?
Brian: I would SELL RAGS ONLY to the publisher that would handle it properly. I’m tackling lots of issues in ways that I have seen or experienced that are relevant to me and so I’d like to find a publisher that would appreciate the nuances that are baked into the story. I would LOVE to work for Marvel and write Spider-Man. I kinda feel old Peter could use some fresh blood. But IDW is actually my second pick if I had a choice.
Trent: Hmm. Definitely to Image comics. Spawn and RAGS mashups all day baby. Honestly tho though that’s a tough question. IDK?
How has the response to RAGS been? And what do you think you’ve learned for your next issues?
Brian: So far (for everyone that’s taken a chance on it.) the response has been positive. Usually, my pitch is what gets people raising eyebrows. “Naked chick running around town trying to find pants during a zombie plague!” I get it, it sounds perverted. I would be a skeptic too. But usually, after I show off the script and artwork…people get it. I’m getting a lot of requests for physical copies, which I’m only sending off to those who’ve supported me on Patreon as a reward, and it sucks to say ‘I can’t right now.’ But it’s also great to know that there are people out there that want to see this on shelves!
Trent: The response has been great but I feel pretty localized. Hard to get my old, gearhead co-workers into comics. I get called a nerd a lot. Marketing. Definitely, marketing is a must. It’s hard let me tell ya.
Trent: The Patreon and Facebook. I try to post teaser albums on Imgur and Reddit under the username Niehlis. I’m normally fairly busy with the daily grind so Brian tends to knock out this stuff.
It’s been awesome getting to know you guys and learn more about the stories behind RAGS. Is there anything else we can tell the reader about you?
Brian: Anything else I wish to add? Oh yes! I’m not sure if anyone noticed, but there are a TON of Easter eggs hidden within the prologue. One might be a little obscure and I have no problem giving this one away but Regina, the main character, her face is modeled after Liz Finnegan. If you do not follow her on twitter…you’re failing at life. There are some other things that are hidden too! Most of the other tidbits we probably won’t see until we’re further along. But this comic…it’s my magnum opus and I hope those that are tired of the big two right now, give this a chance. Trust me, if you think this is JUST another Zombie story you’ve barely scratched the surface. Even though I play up tropes, like say Regina quickly getting surrounded by zombies. Well, there’s a legitimate reason for that, but again, only someone with a very discerning eye will catch on.
The other thing I’d like to say, really quick, is that I really have to give a shout out to my friend: Balam, who taught me how to write scripts. And Jim, my old Army buddy from my first unit. Joshua Foster has been helping me maintain the website/blog. Rudy Vallejo and Heaven Perez have been my local support as has Deanne Vicedo. Everyone that supports me on Patreon. Morgan Marino, Candy Dax, Grace Harney (for the edits she did for my revision.) and Elizabeth Stryker. And my biggest cheerleader Samantha Johnson. All the boys in the Quality Control Discord. Captain Frugal the youtuber for his honest review. And Zetha202, one of my favorite Deviant Art Artists who let me borrow a character of his (check him out here: https://zetha202.deviantart.com/). There are so many people to shout out too, but I know that alone is going to be about 4 pages long.
Well, that’s it for this Creator Spotlight! Thanks so much for joining us. If you’d like to learn more about Brian and Trent, connect with them, buy their products or support RAGS directly, you can find the links to all that and more below!
If ever there was a field where independent creators have it rough, it’s the comic book industry.
Completing any project can be a feat in itself but with comics, you have to have it all (as in finished comic book product) and hope that you can recoup your expenses monetarily or at least in the capital of prestige/notoriety.
So, as a way to help guide indie creators to greater heights, I talked to several different comic book stores about their ordering processes, how indie books make it to their shelves, what books seem to sell and ideas on getting indie books in stores. If you don’t already, you should fully understand the juggernaut you’re up against coming out of the gates. Out of the stores contacted the majority reported their independent/non-DC/Marvel titles sales were only 5-20%. Since Image was included in these numbers (which is essentially just a smaller version of the Big Two) it’s safe to assume the percentage for non-Image independent books drops even further. Obviously, as in any competition against established products, the uphill battle is very steep indeed. But not impossible, and this is where the owners have keener sight and advice.
1. Any Insight into why certain titles seem to take off compared to other titles? What seems to misfire?
Dave Michaels of eXpertComics: “I find what works in the indies better than anything is word of mouth. If a book is not doing well, it is probably because the fans and retailers are not spreading the word in the shops and online.
Jim Drucker of NewKadia.com: “Marketers have been trying for about 150 years to figure out what products the public will grab onto. You never know.”
Benn Ray, co-owner of Atomicbooks.com: “I think some non-DC/Marvel titles fail because many are uninspired 3rd rate DC/Marvel/Image/Dark Horse wannabe books. The publishers are simply trying to create what other publishers are already doing better, maybe in the hopes of securing a job with those publishers. Some creators seem to think “indie” is simply a step up the rung. I also think many floundering indie titles could benefit from stronger editors. Overall, crappy art, lame writing, uninspired storytelling. In many cases, you can judge a bad book by its cover.”
John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics: “Indie titles are just like a mainstream book. It’s like Batman except his butler is a girl! Whoa. It’s like Superman only he’s kind of a jerk. It’s like Justice League only they hate each other.”
2. How does the person responsible for ordering make their specific choice of titles and the quantity they order?
Dave Michaels: We specifically have on online subscription service. I believe we order based on what is pre-ordered mostly, and secondly, we try to order based on mainstream exposure and/or ‘hype.’”
Jim Drucker: “Based on past sales of those titles.”
Ryan Liebowitz, owner of Golden Apple: “Diamond Previews is our main catalog but we also look at emails, mailings and get many calls and visits directly from creators and publishers alike. Generally, we will look at the creative team, publisher credibility, story concept and artwork to help determine ordering levels.”
Benn Ray: “I think my filter works something like this: if the book looks like a wannabe DC/Marvel superhero book, I’m not ordering it. If it’s a hokey-looking genre book, sci-fi/ fantasy, I’m not inclined to order it. If I’ve never heard of the publisher, the writer, or the artist, it’s unlikely I’m going to take a chance on that book. If the art looks poorly computer colored, computer-generated or the story concept seems hackneyed, I’m probably not going to order it. If the art looks “manga-inspired” I’m probably going to skip the book. My store focuses on alternative/underground books, so I’m more apt to carry those. If it’s a publisher I recognize as doing quality work, if the book has artists/writers I know I have an audience for, I’m more apt to carry their book. I’d rather miss an issue or two of a new comic and have customers ask me to order it than get stuck with a really crappy book that I”m embarrassed to have on my shelves that I can’t get rid of.”
John Robinson: “Managers base their ordering on their personal tastes, number of pre-orders from customers and the current amount of buzz surrounding the title.”
3. In terms of sales does anything stand out to you as remarkable from the past few years, as far as indie publishing?
Dave Michaels: “I don’t know if this counts but I would say the resurgence of Archie and the whole relaunch of the Archie line of comics shocks me. Whoever decided to reboot the line in that way is absolutely brilliant! I think the indie market should be thinking about tapping into that fan base.
Jim Drucker: “TV shows and movies and other mass media and massive social media all contribute to sales of various titles.”
Ryan Liebowitz: “Image Comics are starting to outsell Marvel and DC titles. We also have seen much success from publishers like Black Mask, Boom!, Valiant and others on select titles.”
Benn Ray: “We’ve seen a big resurgence in interest in self-published mini-comic.”
4. Any advice or suggestions as to how someone with a self-published book would best go about getting it on comic book store shelves?
Dave Michaels: “My best advice for indie creators would be to use the times and social media as much as possible. We live in a big “convention era.” Try to get booths at cons both big and small, do panels, interact with fans. Also, the internet and social media is our best tool today. Get online make Facebook pages, do the Twitter thing, get a Kickstarter going. These are the best avenues we have today. Also, go to local comic shops and ask them to put your stuff on the shelf. There are not many stores that won’t support local content. Make friends and fans and get out there!”
Jim Drucker: “ A, have a ground-breaking idea. There is no substitute for quality and originality. No amount of great marketing can sell AND maintain sales for a lousy product. B, have a strong social media presence. If young musicians can find a worldwide audience from YouTube, aspiring writers and artists and comic book creators can to with the right product. C, have the necessary capital. Starting any new business takes a great product but it is expensive. I have seen HUNDREDS of comic books that published only one issue. Many, deservedly so. But some, I thought had some potential, but for reasons unknown to me, there was never a second or third issue. My guess is that poor early sales sapped their budget. There are countless examples of products in other industries that took YEARS to catch on. If you’re on a shoestring budget, you may not stay in business long enough to catch on.”
Ryan Liebowitz: “Self-published works that are not solicited through Diamond are very difficult to get onto shelves. Their stronghold on the industry is criminal and another distributor needs to form to help all publishers get into the hands of comic book fans.”
Benn Ray: “There is no magic bullet or quick fix or trick to this.”
John Robinson: “The thing I tell anyone that is self-publishing is to take a hard look at their own buying habits. Ask yourself some questions. Do you buy Stray Bullets every month? Are you interested in Zombie Tramp? What indie titles have gotten you to buy them faithfully month after month and what was it that got you to try them? I constantly get people that buy only Marvel/DC type books doing their own self-published book and not understanding why no one buys it. Every item in the store is fighting for your attention–what’s unique about your property? Could be just great art. Could be it fills a niche that is currently not being filled in the marketplace.”
So there you have it, folks, straight from the mouths of those who know and want to see indie, self-publishers and creators succeed.
There are certainly a few key takeaways. Even if you can’t use a hot established property such as Archie, maybe try and tap into the essence of what is attracting so much attention today both in comics and Comic related TV programming. Support other indie/self-published books. Research and explore the market. Be original, don’t clone the big Marvel/DC titles. Or if you do, put a real spin on it that no one has read before. (It’s the Justice League but they’re vampire zombies!) Lastly, and most importantly, network the hell out of yourself and your book. Without that, even the greatest of indie comic books will stay undiscovered.
*A seriously big thanks to all the people and establishments that took the time to answer my questions and help propel, if even only a small amount, the world of indie and self-published comics.
Episode #13 – Interview with Comicbook Creator and Illustrator Nick Johnson
On this weeks episode of “Adventures in Interviewing” Chris Hendricks gets behind-the-curtain access to illustration wizard Nick Johnson, the artist and co-creator of the comedy-horror series “Wolf Hands.” In a world overrun with social media creators are reminded that success lies hidden within the weeds of personal conversation and the belief that art is much more than ink on a page.
Episode #13 – Adventures in Interviewing with Todd Matthy, creator of Robots v Princesses
On this episode, Chris Hendricks gets the lowdown on how indie comic creator Todd Matthy ran a wildly successful Kickstarter Campaign. They destroyed their goal and are now bringing Robots vs Princesses to the world!
They also have a delightful, impression filled conversation about Pro Wrestling and the lessons Todd gained from being a lifelong fan. Do not miss this fantastic and often nerd-nostalgic episode!
Episode #11 – Interview with Lance Lucero & Adam Volle
On this episode, Leigh chats with 2 parts of the creative super team creating the Indie Comic masterpiece, BOB: NON-UNION PSYCHIC
We find out how this team found each other, what BOB is about, how it was created and we also learn why you should mess with Lance and Adam! Join us for some laughs and great lessons in comicbook creation and we’re not kidding when we say these two should be teaching master classes. What a pleasure to have them on!
I know you do. Come on, all the cool kids are doing it! Come feast your eyes on our Crowdfunding roundup! We’ve got some of the best, un-cut and primo campaigns from Kickstarter. But you know, if you’re not into being awesome. We understand.
May we present the CXC Crowdfunding Bi-Monthly Roundup, September 1st, 2017 edition.
A funk-fantasy tabletop adventure with both cooperative and versus gameplay.
Champions of Hara is an adventure board game in which 2-4 players (+2 with expansion) race to protect a dying world. Players will contain destructive energy by defeating monsters, closing rifts, and exploring the six different zones within Hara. In order to rise to the challenge, players will need to unlock new abilities and collect powerful items. Each session takes approximately 30 minutes per player.
Breathtakingly beautiful! The art is what first caught our eye with this Kickstarter, but after reading more about the gameplay, characters and of course the Graphic Novel (2 issues are currently available on ComixCentral btw… cough…cough!) which runs parallel to the game, we were hooked! Get your hands on this exciting, self-described, funk fantasy! Your friends and family will thank you when you pull this beauty out on game night!
SPACE COPZ:CEREAL ZOMBIES is an all-ages comic book with cereal, brain bugs, evil spacelords and, of course, zombies!
SPACE COPZ is an all-age science fiction comic series following the journey of Sgt. Alpha Omega and his loyal sidekick Beta Boy, as they traverse outer space, saving it from great evil.
Available as a web-comic series before making it’s way into print copy. Each SPACE COPZstory will be illustrated by a different artist, making for a unique experience for all.
The issues will not be numbered but will instead be titled. This will allow more casual readers the opportunity to pick up the series wherever/whenever they wish.
FUN! That’s the word that kept popping up while we were looking into Space Copz Kickstarter. Seriously, the art looks fun, the storyline is fun, the creators look fun. I think we killed the word fun. Fuuuun. So, you want to have some fun with Zombies, puppies, cereal and spacelords? Of course you do! Come back these guys and get as much fun as humans can pack into a comic into your hands! Also, take a close look at some of the rewards this campaign is offering, some really unique options there. OK. Go have some fun!
A series of comics that will star African American men and women, along with other races considered “minorities” as lead characters.
This is the first book in a three comic series that will tell an amazing story that culminates in the joining of the characters of the 3 books in one grand quest against an invincible foe.
If you haven’t watched the trailer to this campaign, go back and watch it all the way through. Guys, great message, great idea, great comics! We love this project. Let’s help Eric bring these amazing characters to life so kids of every color can see themselves in their heroes! By the way, if you pledge fast enough, you can get your own character in the first issue! Yup, get out your wallets and pledge to a great project! Not to mention, the art looks badass, and you know you want to add it to your collection;)
On the verge of creating an awesome, 64 page comic book hardcover, featuring the Urizen universe.
Urizen is a mesmerizing, compelling, tragic, fun and epic adventure revolving around a medieval, sci-fi world with the same name. In it my good friend Derek Thomas and I tell the story of a great race living at the cold ends of Urizen known as the Ademinians, led by their strong and noble ruler, Draconan and his queen of beauty and magic Arguine. It has been told that a great light will fall from the sky and it is then that a great reign of nobility, and strength will come in the form of an egg, soon to give life to the one to be named Draconan King of Starlight and Might. Soon he would grow alongside the young Arguine, and together they would join to form the Kingdom of the Cold, Ademynia.
So we’re going to admit the art grabbed us by the collar and slapped us around a few times with this campaign. Pinto has found an amazing artist is Fachrul Reza, and it seems that this group of creators is destined to create some mind blowing comics and take the indie world by storm. Pledging support to this project is a no brainer! Show these guys some love and be part of bringing this jaw dropping universe to life. Not to mention with a $100 pledge.. they’ll put YOU on your own cover, how cool is that?!
Summary: Follow the exploits of a cocky young hoodlum, “Pinky” Horwitz, as he navigates race, nightlife and a shaky criminal career in 1928 New York City!
When ComiXCentral sent this my way and I saw the title, I legit thought this was a continuation of the ‘Pinky’s’ films. As we seriously need a comic of them movies! Naturally, I ended up being wrong on that count but I found myself not being too disappointed by that. And come on! Who doesn’t love a comic set in gangster eras like the 20’s and higher? Crazy people, that’s who!
Craig Johnson III certainly does a great job in capturing the era he’s writing in and I can only imagine how much time he spent to research in order to make it look like a genuine 20’s era story. Although, judging by a few unnecessary spaces in certain areas, it does seem like he could use an editor to prevent that kind of thing from happening in the future. Now, because of the setting here, you may not want to read this if you’re easily triggered by the social norms this comic clearly has. I like how Craig uses only a few colors for his art in this. Making it easy in its own way to tell who is who as otherwise it might be somewhat difficult to tell who anyone is if it was only done in black and white.
Pinky himself, while a gangster, is definitely the type who loves to party it up and doesn’t care who it is he’s partying with. And I can only imagine that doesn’t settle well with some considering the time period and all. Gotta wonder how much of his personality comes from his ma? As she seems quite the character herself and I kinda wouldn’t mind seeing more of her! And considering a few of Pinky’s actions, I can see why she’s worried about losing her boy.
I will say you’ll want to read and check out each face carefully as you might get confused at certain points. As Pinky and Sam kinda look alike at one point and when we get a scene shift from the past and back to the present, we get no warning and it’s a little jarring at first. Trouble is definitely a brewin’ in all corners as we get to the last page of this first issue and it seems like Pinky is definitely at the center of it all in one way or another.
How this will all play out is anyone’s guess aside from Craig’s and I can’t wait to see how it all goes down. Especially a certain view of Lump’s about Pinky that will probably come back to bite him in the butt!
So if Gangster era comics is your jam, don’t sleep on this one!
Editor’s Note: Both Print and Digital versions of ‘The Legend of Pinky’ can be found right here!
Many of us who read comics would love to write them.
We’ve studied the art of them for years, perhaps decades, and often assure ourselves, if, given the chance, we could create something kickass. Still, there are some things you need to know before embarking upon this path of comic greatness. Having a story is definitely part of it but there’s much more involved than that. In fact, having a manuscript of a finished comic, completed even, won’t be enough to even get your submission looked at by most publishers, if not all. So, to help navigate these troublesome waters I contacted David Pepose, writer, and creator of the new critically acclaimed Spencer & Locke series published by Action Lab comics. Pepose spent several years writing and immersed in the culture of comics, working both at DC Comics and Newsarama before landing his gig as an official, badge-toting member of the highly selective Comic Book Writers Club. (Which isn’t really a thing but sounds pretty cool so maybe it should be.) And while Pepose had plenty of sage tips and advice to offer, there’s one he proposes as the most important. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how well you write, although that’s important, it’s all about relationships. It’s about reaching out to people and making that human connection.” ‘Nuff said, right?
1. Study the structure.
Comic books are infamous for having insane plots but unlike other mediums they generally all have the same basic structure to them; 20-22 pages of words and pictures, text boxes, dialogue balloons, etc. Pepose spent a lot of time with the format writing reviews for comic sites like Newsarama, where he spent the better part of eight years before embarking on Spencer & Locke “writing reviews and breaking down the stories every single day.” Even a long-time comic fan can have trouble navigating the confinement of a comic book; having exactly the same amount of room to tell a particular slice of a larger story, being able to choose only the material that is relevant and moves the story. You don’t have to write reviews for eight years but you do need a solid grasp on the basic mechanics of comic book style story-telling. Publishers and the titles they publish follow, essentially, the same format. Of course, that shouldn’t discourage creativity within the form but this is one instance where you really do have to know the rules before you can break them.
2. Have your entire story completed before reaching out to artists.
At some point, you’re going to have to start lining up an art team. And when you do, you need to have your act together, Bub. Whether they’re working pro bono or you’re paying them a rate, illustrators (and inkers and colorists and letterers) probably have better things to do than waiting for the possibility of work from someone who hasn’t gotten past the initial concept of their comic book idea. With his own series, Pepose waited until he knew exactly where he was taking Spencer & Locke. “I didn’t approach an artist until I had a script and a treatment for all the issues already done,” Pepose recounts, then adds, “I can’t just expect somebody to take a leap of faith on my story.” As the writer and the creative force behind the comic, you’re the leader. And no one wants to follow the lead of someone who doesn’t know where they’re going.
3. Don’t worry about writing in order.
Pepose always keeps Joss Whedon’s sage advice in mind when writing: “Nobody said you can’t have dessert first.” In the course of plotting out your comic’s story, there will certainly be moments and scenes that stand out more than others, ones you’re dying to get out. So, if you’ve hit a wall in your writing, skip ahead to those scenes and write those. That’s exactly what Pepose did. He knew from the very beginning that he wanted a car chase in Spencer & Locke which was one the very first things he wrote. And while writing out of order isn’t for everyone it can definitely help to spur creative momentum if you feel yourself floundering.
4. Finding an artist/art team is the hardest and most crucial part.
Comic books without art would just be short plays so it should go without saying that you can’t get a comic book published without it. Unlike most other writing outlets publishers, from behemoths Marvel and DC to indies such as Spencer & Locke’s Action Labs will accept submissions only as a finished/semi-finished product. “All you need is six pages and a cover,” according to Pepose, but that finished six pages and a cover is harder work than you might imagine. You’re going to need someone for the pencils. An inker. (Pepose suggestion, as difficult as it may be: to find a penciller that can ink.) You’re going to need a colorist, unless you’re going for a black and white aesthetic, although there’s a reason the overwhelming majority of comic books are in color. Oh, yeah, you’re going to need someone to do the lettering. To cut some expenses and time looking for your perfect band of merry comic creators, Pepose advocates learning some things yourself. Online classes, YouTube videos, etc. If nothing else, Pepose says, it will help you better communicate with your art team if you understand some basics behind the elements of creating the finished comic.
5. Be prepared to spend some money.
It’s very possible to assemble an art team that will work for future fortune and glory, or at least a penciller, but it’s more common to pay upfront costs to illustrators, inkers and letterers. Which is fair. It’s work being done with no concrete promise of that future fortune and glory. But even if you do somehow manage to enlist a dedicated, completely pro bono art team, you’re still going to have to spring for submission copies. And while there are publishers who accept online submissions, we still live in a comic book world where paper is still king. It’s something very unique to comics; that relationship the reader has with the physical book, and prospective publishers are no different.
6. Comics are best when stories and characters are relatable.
Marvel comics took off in a big way when Stan “The Man” Lee and Jack “The King” Kirby began introducing characters much more akin to the true nature of our human psyche. The Fantastic Four was a family who bickered but still loved each other; Spider-Man was a shy, bullied high schooler who had failed to use his great powers responsibly and inadvertently got his uncle killed; the X-Men were mutant freaks shunned by the rest of the world. Take away the optic eye blasts, telekinesis, and web-shooters and you’ve got a mess of humanity that anyone can relate to at some point in their lives, and that holds as true today as ever.
7. Keep your stories small.
In a world of cosmic distances spanning unfathomable light-years and men and women who can fly around the world in minutes, this rule seems counterintuitive. Why not go all out? Pepose advises against this, at least for newcomers. “Don’t try and convince people you can run a marathon when no one’s even seen you walk,” warns Pepose. Spencer & Locke revolves around a detective and his partner, a stuffed, one eyed panther and is proof you don’t have to confine yourself to average every day subjects for a powerful, focused story. But he keeps the cast small, the story streamlined. That’s the walk before the run. A sprawling space opera featuring dozens of characters and locations are the bread and butter of many publishers, but when you’re trying to break in you should be able to elevator pitch the summation of your story, Pepose says. Publishers want to see how well you can handle something small before giving you a 24 issue deal.”
8. Finish It!
Repeat after Pepose: “Finish it!” No, really. Finish it. It’s the only way you’re going to see your name in the funny pages.
Connect with David and Buy Spencer & Locke at the links below:
It’s a veritable garden of Eden of Indie Comics Kickstarters right now! We are truly seeing something special happening in the indie world. As more and more incredible Comicbook creators find their voice and pencils, we the fans of indie Comics are enjoying a glut of fabulous, unique and stunningly beautiful Comics to choose from. I tried to be cute with my words this week, but the quality of the Comics I found simply took all the silly words out of my mouth. Enjoy.
With that, may we present the CXC Crowdfunding Bi-Monthly Roundup, August 15, 2017 edition.
First issue of a beautifully illustrated four issue comic book miniseries.
“Princess Zara wants a baby dragon. She finds a robot named Wheeler. Together, they must stop a robot army.”
A fun, action-packed, pop-culture mash up of fairy tale princesses and giant robot anime, ROBOTS VS PRINCESSES is a delightful, all-ages adventure sure to please anyone from age 6 to 76.
ROBOTS VS PRINCESSES is a story about courage, friendship, and accepting others that is appropriate for young readers without talking down to them.
Download a preview here and check out some art below.
Man I loved the trailer for this one. The epic battle between Princesses and Robots! Who will win? I guess you’ll have to support this Kickstarter to find out! (Our money is on Robots. They don’t have any of that pesky empathy to get in the way;) Let’s make it happen people!
Help fund indie sci-fi HORRORS,INC: SQUAD K, a dark yet humorous comic about a squad of mercs hunting monsters for a mega-corporation.
Imagine that every myth, ghost story, and monster were based on something that existed in the modern world. Magic was real. Strange artifacts that can perform miraculous events, including connecting our world to others and the gods that inhabit them, can be found. Or created.
This is the world of Horrors, Inc.
Some dark, creepy fun is waiting for those who pledge support to Horrors, Inc! Pretty sure this story would have Shaggy and Scooby running for cover, the trailer alone gave me the creepy-crawlies! Come back an amazing creative project, get the comic and some sweet add-ons are available too!
Corsair is an episodic Horror comic, part detective tale, part Ghost story, that focuses on the dark side of English Folk history.
Agent Corsair is part of The Order, an ancient fellowship that’s been maintaining the relationship between the two sides of England; The modern world, and the ancient things that live in the shadows.
Assigned by his superiors to a low level missing persons case, Corsair is set to track down a local business man who has been trying his hand at black magic. As he works the case more questions surface, and Corsair is forced to question his place in an increasingly modern world, because as well as having to live through ghosts and flesh eating horrors he has to survive the modernisation and monetisation of his ancient organisation. Expect noir styled mystery, hideous monsters, ancient evil, and a different twist on a haunted house.
Did it just get awesome in here? The answer is yes. This AMAZING creative team, headed up by writer Nick Gonzo, has brought the world an instant classic. With a dark and compelling storyline, rugged handsome detective, ghosts, evil and, oh dear god… modernisation! Corsair is sure to have you glued to the pages and begging for more. Come throw some money at Madius Comics, support indie creators and get your entertainment on!
Ninjas and Robots is a shonen styled Action/Adventure Indie Comic full of mystery, martial arts, and magic. And there’s a talking cat.
Ninjas and Robots tells the Story of Yuki, a Super Ninja, who has lost her memory and does not know the Power she already has within her. In order for her to regain her memory, unlock her potential, and escape ROBOT ISLAND she is going to need some help from her ninja friends. She is also going to have to fight a lot of Robots!!
This Graphic Novel is an introduction into the World Of Ninjas and Robots (WONAR). This is only the beginning.
Ninjas… Robots. There is nothing else to say is there? Come on guys, the art! Oh god.. the art! Support this great creator, Erik Klaus, get the comic, get some stickers, get a shirt! Also, there’s a talking cat.