Did I draw that?

Monday, April 7th we launch our new comic, THE GOD CHILD over at Keenspot.com. Head over there if you’d like to know a little more about it. Behind the scenes I’ve been creating this series with writer Ally Monroe since January under our newly formed banner, FLAMMABLE SOLID STUDIO. There’s also a site for that endeavor, but pretty much all roads lead to God Child.

We had shown the pitch packet around to a few publishers and all showed interest. But in the end, after weeks of deliberation, we decided to go it alone for now. We may seek an interested publisher to print the bigger tradepaperback collections. Really a lot of the sticking points for us were the “small print” in many contracts that could get us stuck somewhere or have a creation locked up. Even a “creator owned” one could be technically locked in with many pubishers “in perpetuity”. I’ll never sign another contract with that in it. Been there. Got the t-shirt. (No, seriously, we all did get t-shirts)

So how will we raise money if we’re giving away the comics for free??? Well this time around we are going to use a great service called PATREON, which is crowdfunding site for artists and creators. Sort of like an ongoing Kickstarter. It allows fans of our work to become “patrons” where you can give $1 a month, or more. In return we offer some cool rewards and bring you behind the scenes at Flammable Solid. We even came up with a fun “Mystery merch club” where you get  a new piece of Flammable Solid merch every month, t-shirts etc. We really want to get as transparent as we can in showing the fans how we make comics and the fun we have behind the scenes. The more fans who get behind us, the more things we can do like going to conventions, printing books and possibly even launch more titles with new creative teams where they would be paid for their work and retain ownership or a nice royalty on things they work on that they didn’t create. (yeah that’s far off but the big picture in my mind) It’s possible though if readers get behind us and like what we are putting out. We even got in so early I was able secure the personal user name “comics” so our link is http://patreon.com/comics – Go check out the rewards and intro video

Speaking of which…. I can’t say enough how proud I am of what we’ve done so far. Not that it’s the best story or art ever created (far from it) but I’m just having so much fun fleshing out this new world of characters AND being able to do it with somebody I love makes it even more special to me. I can’t wait for the world to see it. That said…. it’s a big departure from my previous works. It’s not all-ages. It’s dark. It has some humor thrown in, but deals with touchy subjects. We didn’t hold back. I’m proud of some moments where the art and expressions really tell the story so well. While I’m not the best artist out there, and I’m shaking off some rust, it just feels really good to NAIL a page or two and think…. did I draw that?

Mark your calendars, The God Child starts on Monday, April 7th 2014 at http://godchild.keenspot.com

 

Hold Fast

Pardon my dust while I mess around with a new website design. I plan on blogging a lot more again and showing off some of what we’ve been up to behind the scenes.

I’ve been working non-stop on not only our new comic project, but also building out multiple websites and social media setups for our big push. My day job over the past 1+ year has really allowed me to exercise my graphic design and marketing muscles, and it’s exciting to throw all I know and some new things I have learned while working with major brands into something that belongs to me.

My current schedule is kinda crazy. I work the 8 hour work day kicking butt for our partners and then I come home, make food, maybe catch an episode of House of Cards as my little escape,  and then I go to work in the studio until 2am sometimes 3am.

We’ve signed our first contract with a company I trust (announce soon) which will allow us to control our IP and not have it locked up in perpetual limbo. Been there, done that. Without going too much into detail yet, basically you will be able to read the comic online for free but we have some really interesting ways to help support the creative team and effort. We’ll be spilling some beans very soon.

In the meantime, hold fast while the website dust settles. And thanks to all of my friends for the well wishes and encouragement. It’s good to be back doing what I was supposed to do and I can’t wait to share what we’ve been up to.

“test everything; hold fast what is good.”

“We can rebuild him.”

One of my greatest weaknesses is probably seeing the best in people, when when they’ve let me down. It’s probably the main reason I had made poor choices in the past with business deals I made, or failures in friendships or my marriage. Surely this nice man who tells me how great I am and how much he loves my work and how he’s glad to find a friend like me wouldn’t stab me in the back or send me down the river? Surely when someone says they are sorry and won’t do that thing they did to you again, you should trust them right? But then they do it again. Sometimes like clockwork.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.10.24 PM And even when colleagues warn you not to trust so-n-so, don’t sign a bad deals, you end up doing it because you trusted someone. These are probably lessons you have to learn through experience and not word or mouth. It’ll either break you, or make you stronger.

“Insanity; Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

That doesn’t mean we should give up. On your dreams or your family or friends. It means if you want a different result you need to change your actions first. I’m doing that now in my career and my personal life, and I’m already yielding great results. Thanks to the mistakes and stumbles I have made, I won’t make those bad choices again.

“Don’t do comics. Comics will break your heart.” – Jack Kirby

But when you are heartbroken, if you love comics, comics won’t let you down. Looking way back I think I turned to comics and cartoons as a form of escapism from a dysfunctional family and not the greatest childhood.

When I didn’t have comics and sequential art in my life, I self medicated with alcohol when things were bad. It seemed a drink or two were enough to calm me down and “take the edge off” There was also something sickly romantic about the idea that, hey! I can become a hard drinking comic book artist like some of my heroes from the old days on comics. I could never smoke cigars or cigarettes though, so I was only half way there. What I know now is that the act of creation is them best self medication ever.Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.11.14 PM

I think if you’re an artist/writer and you’re not actively creating your own ideas, you’re slowly killing yourself. You will end up seeking some sort of escape from the madness in your mind. They ideas that won’t stop. The characters and dialogue that has nowhere to go.

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better…stronger…faster.” – Oscar Goldman

And here I am again. With a head full of big ideas. Plans. Hope. I am not the same man I was a year ago, two years ago, six years ago. I let go of ego and the “angry young man” syndrome. I have been humbled by all the old friends and colleagues, some I had even fought with before, who have reached out with encouraging messages or who are interested in what I have cooking and can’t wait to see it. It feels so relieving to know that old hatchets are buried along with the bad feelings. And it’s wonderful to discover that… Not only will comics not let you down, but neither will this community. It’s a small world, and we take care of our own.

As far as what I’m working on, Wish I could spill all the beans right now…. But very soon. Have to wait until some ducks are in a row. I can say that we have decided to launch the comic online first (webcomic) and there will be cool ways to support us and be a part of what we are doing.

These are the days of high adventure.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 2.11.23 PM

Building Something SOLID

1743610_10152298623208273_2131974561_nMy hiatus is over.

I just completed pencils & inks on my first 22 page issue in a very long time. Six years? I know this might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it was a big milestone and hurdle for me to break through and out of some sort of creative depression I was in. And returning to the craft of comics has helped me get through a very tough time in my life.

While I’ve drawn other things the past few years and some comic work here and there, for the most part I’ve tried to avoid standard comic series and getting too attached to a project. Old friend and former publisher  of Arrow Comics once told me when I was pretty young and naive, “Comics is a harsh mistress.” I didn’t really understand him then, but I sure do now.

2013 was my year of pain. I struggled all year against the currents to keep my personal life together. While my work life was great with a full time job, benefits and working for a really awesome company, my marriage was collapsing.  I won’t get too far into that mess, only to say that the year ended with my wife of 16 years confessing to a year long affair with a sociopath that I loathed and feel is a completely disgusting buffoon. There’s a lot more to that story, but it’s only worth mentioning because  that affair and the weight of the truth crushed me emotionally and sent into some really dark places.

One of the dark places I went to was the Knights Inn, (room 314), after I made the firm decision to leave that situation. I had a bag packed with some clothes. A ukulele and notebook for songwriting. A copy of The Alchemist (which changed my life) and Fight Club. Oh, and a giant bottle of honey whiskey. I had been isolated from all of my friends. People I trusted had been pushed out of my life (because that’s how sociopaths play their game). And I was scared. How would I start again on my own? And how was it that I’m the guy who wrote the book on being positive was now drowning in a pool of negativity? I realize now that there is a dark side to the law of attraction that they warn you about. The “be careful what you wish for” type of scenario. And that I had to go through all of these dark things in order to get to what I had internally been wishing for. To find some peace of mind and be loved and respected.

I ended up reaching out to a few friends who had been pushed away over the year. And one friend came to my rescue and pulled me up and out of the hole I was in. I dusted myself off and figured out a new life plan. It was scary to embark on this journey, but I couldn’t go back to the lies and betrayal over and over again like a scratched, skipping record.

At some point my friend told me I needed to draw again. For me. “Why aren’t you drawing?” she’d say. I would reply with some excuse about not feeling it, or being creatively blocked. She wasn’t buying it. Almost every time we spoke, she would ask “Did you draw this week?” I’d say, oh yes, I drew at work…… “no, comics. Why aren’t you drawing comics? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to be doing?” So finally after some coaxing I told her the idea I had had for a graphic novel or series that I felt was one of the greatest ideas I had ever come up with. And she was floored. “Why aren’t you doing this, that sounds awesome!”

The reason I couldn’t commit to doing a big comics project is…. well, COMICS IS A HARSH MISTRESS. I had a lot of good years drawing comics and making good money. But when my full time series was cancelled midstream in 2008, we had to scramble to save our finances. My wife had gone back to work and I was back to freelancing which was pretty stressful. I felt a deep creative depression with what I perceived as a giant failure of the biggest project I had ever done to that date. And I dodged big mainstream comics type work. My wife was also afraid the rug would be pulled out from under us again. While I kept doing some smaller strips and odd jobs in comics, I put the big series and graphic novel creation down for her. I helped her build her dreams (a local roller derby league) and I got a full time job for security and benefits, but none of that stopped the bad stuff from creeping in.

So now that I was on my own again…. “Why aren’t you drawing comics?” I didn’t have a good answer except for… I was afraid to be hurt again by the harsh mistress. Comics, THE CRAFT of comics and sequential  storytelling has been my first love since I was in high school. My heroes are guys like Jack Kirby, Joe Simon and Wally Wood. Hell, I even have a whole arm tattooed. And here I was…. afraid to continue again. Afraid of being hurt. And then, one morning I said…. fuck it. I’m drawing comics again.

I doubted my abilities for the first few weeks, doing character sketches, fumbling around with layouts. But the craft kept my mind off some really hard feelings and rough nights. My friend had reminded me who I was, and what I was capable of doing. That I had taken these skills for granted. I told her that anyone could draw if they practiced. She disagreed and we debated. “How many people do you think would give their left hand to be able to march in your office and draw anything and tell their stories like you do?” I didn’t have answer. She was right. While my work might not be perfect in my critical eye, it was plenty good enough to be published and have companies asking me to do work for them. It was all in my head. I forced myself out of the creative depression.

And tonight, I finished page 22 of our first issue. Not only are we in full on production mode, we also have the entire first story arc breakdowns ready to rock. We are in talks with a couple publishers who are interested, AND we’ve devised a pretty cool plan that sort of helps everyone and drives book sales as well as reading online for free. It’s genius, but I can’t take credit for it.

I am really proud of this project (the name will be forthcoming soon) and I can’t wait to share it with my friends and fans.

I’m happy to say that I’m doing well now. I’m dating someone (something I never thought I’d ever say again in my life), and she’s a writer and pushes me to create more. We get along so well, and it feels good to have someone encouraging me and building me up instead of tearing me down.  I still have bad days where things hurt or I’m afraid, but that’s just life. “Things gotta get rough before they get real.” I’m taking life day to day as I rebuild my house on SOLID ground.

This is my new beginning….  “There is no need to sharpen my pencils anymore. My pencils are sharp enough.”

Aloha! From Webcomics Island

I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this hopeful and excited for the future of comics. For quite a while doom and gloom has been written on many walls, from the syndicated comic industry, the comic book industry, as sales and distribution of print has greatly diminished in our digital age. Over where I play and have played in Webcomics land, we’ve just been going about our own business and watching the big old ships sink while we sit on the shore with mai-tais in hand. Sure, there have been several times we tried to take a life boat out with preservers or show people how to get off those sinking ships, but were often surprised to find the passengers would rather drown than give up the comfort of their cabins.

Way back in the year 2000, on my old old blog I remember talking at length about my excitement for the way we could read comics online and couldn’t understand why Marvel or DC weren’t putting up Spider-Man or Batman serials online. I actually took part in a couple pitches to editors back then and they didn’t really GET the web. The consensus all those years ago was that “webcomics” were just for people who couldn’t afford to print their own work or weren’t good enough to get jobs at a publisher. All that time ago, I said all it would take is to have some better technology and computers and some big names coming from the comics world. (I remember I said Brian Bendis and Frank Miller at the time) If those guys would come online with FREE serialized comics…if Batman by Frank Miller was a weekly serial??? Anyways, I put forth a fair warning that someday the GIANTS would come…. and now they’re here.

Here we are 15 years later. The ships HAVE sunk long ago and people who have been living on the decks that are still peeking out over the waters, are scrambling to find alternatives. And YES, they are swimming for the beaches of webcomics island. I have a few huts and rental properties out here on the clean beaches, with very few tourists, while heavyweights like Penny Arcade and PvP and Keenspot have built full on mega million dollar resorts up the beach. Thing about “webcomics” island is the inhabitants have always just considered what we do COMICS. And another thing is, webcomics island welcomes ALL creators from any industry that is sunk. Newspapers, direct comic book industry, noobs… it’ ALL COMICS here. It wasn’t always like this on webcomics island. In the early days tribes and warlords battled over who was planting their flags in whatever beaches, and the drama and fighting got kinda ugly and stupid… but the “scene” kind of died down and everyone sort of moved to their places and did their own things. Every now and then there’s a flare up over past hurt feelings or something, but for the most part the past couple years, Webcomics Island has been at peace. The survivors from their sinking ships are coming in and learning how we’ve all built lives for ourselves on the little island, and there’s PLENTY of room for everyone.

HERE COME THE GIANTS…

Marvel, DC, etc are NOT survivors from any ship. They’re ships have been safely at port. And while their hauls are a bit old and weary and some of their deckhands are a bit out of the times, they all have new Captains who are sailing for our shores in their giant vessels. They’ve heard the tales of our successes on Webcomics Island. Some are worried that they are coming to conquer us and take over. Take all the flags we planted long ago as pioneers and re-write the history books to say they discovered these waters and lands. Me? I’m not worried about it in the least. If anything, I’m more of the mind now that I’d love to TRADE with these giants. We have a lot of talent over here on Webcomics Island who could use the money offered by Giants to fund their own little villages and huts. And maybe Webcomics Island can use these giants to spread the word that Webcomics Island exists, it’s not a fictional place like Atlantis. We’re here! Come visit! Most everything is FREE and entertaining.

Except the rum.

Ahhhhh… this post took a weird turn. I guess I was in a MIND DUMP sort of mood. I was originally going to write about my sheer excitement that Mark Waid is launching Thrillbent.com on May 1st. Mark has seemed to have taken a lot of heat from retailers and old guard comics people when he says digital is the future. And I’m stoked that he’s going to experiment with new ways and well, he’s open to failing in public! (which I doubt they will) If you’re a creator, there are a lot of good conversations going on over in his forum. We’re sharing information on what’s working for us and others. Experimenting with new ways of enhancing sequential art without the bells and whistles of motion comics or animatics. It’s an exciting time. It feels like the sky is the limit again for serialized comic stories in this digital future. No, Mark isn’t the Silver Surfer of the GIANT Galactus searching out worlds to destroy. Complete opposite. He’s giving Webcomics Island a ton of props and I think he feels like the more people succeed at this, the better for everyone. A rising tide and all that.

Jason and I have been thinking about putting out Hero By Night a bit different since I got my rights back. And this really kicked us into gear. Our new “Issue 4″ is in a new format we experimented with (it’s PDF) but the layout is a bit different. You can download a preview scene at: http://herobynight.keenspot.com/HBN4PREVIEW.pdf – And the full 98 screen update is available for only 99cents which you can purchase with one click right here. – We tried to lay it all out so it should work well on all of your digital devices that can read PDF, or on your computer screens. Check it out!

We really think all of this is the future of comics in your hands today.