Transitional, but in a good way.

I’ve got a good feeling about this.

All of this.

Maybe it’s the high of being at different but equally exciting stages of four comics projects or the thrill of attending a couple cool shows for the first time, but I’m feeling really good about my place in comics.

I’m starting to receive this sense of validation in my interactions with people in different areas of this comics industry. To have someone say “c’mon and show me what you got” when you talk about the book you’ve been working on is a real thrill. To have editors treat you like that after weathering the extreme doubt of self-publishing feels good. And it’s also really cool to know that I’ll be a guest in some professional capacity on a comics podcast I’ve been a fan of for years.

Things are happening. There’s no promise that they’re going to lead to anything, but they don’t have to. The fact that the opportunities are being presented really feels like enough. It signals a shift from “trying to do this” to “doing this.”

I’m gonna do my best to be present and enjoy this sensation.

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The Year in Review

To say that this year was neither what I hoped for nor what I expected would be underselling it. I think a lot of us have felt like that this year. Maybe more people feel like this every year, and I just didn’t notice until I felt it myself.

I started this year with one goal: to put out one comic every three months. I didn’t reach that goal. My releases were Sail in January (with the print edition landing in March) and A Prayer to God in November. Sail doesn’t really count as a victory for me in 2017 seeing as how I spent so much of 2016 working on it with Jean Pe. I got to acknowledge the victory in January when we received a positive write-up on Comics Alliance (RIP), but that doesn’t really come from any actions that I undertook this year. It was a great experience getting that book out there, though, and getting to see reactions to it has been a highlight of this year for me as a creator.

A Prayer to God was supposed to have come out differently. Marta Selusi and I did that for this one anthology, and it was almost immediately accepted into it. That felt pretty good. Then the organizer asked us to increase the size of our lettering by a certain degree multiple times, and, after we went back multiple times to change it for him, our short was unceremoniously dropped from the book without any notification. That kind of… sucked. It would’ve been my first time taking part in a comics anthology. There’s a lot of importance placed on anthologies as a place to get your work out there for people to see, and I was just hoping to have more people read my work.

That’s the story about what I’ve put out this year that you can read, but it’s not the grand sum of my work.

A lot of this year has been spent on pitches. I put one together with Joe Hunter that we both liked working on, and we were working kind of quickly to get it together for presentation to a publisher I had been alerted to. There was this Chicago-based traditional book publisher looking to maybe get into comics, and a friend put me in contact with the editor who was taking lead on that. Based on the strength of Sail (thanks, Jean), he agreed to take a look at a pitch for an original graphic novel. So Joe and I spent a couple months working on Scoundrels, a middle-grade, medieval fantasy comic about a heist. It ultimately didn’t go anywhere at that publisher with the cited reason being that I simply didn’t have much of a portfolio for them to appraise. That stung a bit, but it was a fair and honest answer. Pitching that book was a great experience.

I learned more from that pitch, too, when I had it appraised by a pretty rad comics editor. She was kind, but more or less tore the pitch to shreds. And when I looked at the shreds? Yeah, I saw exactly what she was saying about it lacking a hook, ignoring interesting plot threads, etc. Some of it was stuff I had answers for, but it wasn’t in the pitch so my answers were worthless. I’m absolutely going to be referring to her notes the next time I assemble a pitch.

That next pitch should be coming soon. Ten Van Winkle and I are working on something that feels really special these past few months. I’ll be sure to get plenty of other eyes on our pitch material before we officially send it off to anyone because I want to be sure that I do right by this great thing that we have together. If it doesn’t come to life then it’ll be because I didn’t know how to put our best foot forward. That should be ready around mid-February with an eye towards getting eyes on it in March.

There’s also something near and dear to me that I can’t really talk about yet, but I can say that the plan is to serialize it online. We’ll see if that one develops, though. It’s been a bumpy road.

Sometime next year (I don’t know when), I’ll have another mini comic coming out that’s kind of a thematic sequel to what I was doing with Sail. That one is going to be with Emmett Helen, someone I am super glad to have met earlier this year. I’m tentatively planning on tabling the Denver Independent Comics & Art Expo in April, so I hope it’ll be done by then so that I can have three books available the first time I’m behind the table at a show. I’m excited about it. Emmett’s thumbnails were really strong, so I know the storytelling is going to sing.

The plan for next year is to worry a little less about plans. Ten and I are gonna have a book to pitch(!), and Emmett and I are gonna have a real cool mini. That’s all that’s set in stone on the creative side of things while I look for some people to collaborate with on some new book ideas I’ve been batting around. Pie in the sky, I’m hoping to maybe work with Sally Cantirino again on something that we’ve talked about previously at length. As for shows, I’m planning to attend Emerald City Comic Con in March with an eye towards talking to editors about the book with Ten, I’ll be tabling at DiNK, and I’ll be attending San Diego Comic Con. There might be other shows later in the year, but those are the only ones I’ve planned on.

I look forward to having more work to show y’all next year.

On Getting Collaborators Paid and Promoting My Work

This is all a bit raw and rambling so bear with it if you would.

 

I wrote a comic in 2014 and someone drew it for me in 2015. That someone was Conan Sinclair, an Australian artist and just a generally cool dude, and I paid him for his work. But I didn’t pay him as much as I feel he deserves. He took the work because he read what I sent him and responded to it. I didn’t know until this year that he got something more out of it than I expected (and that made me quite happy). Turning 21 this year made me freak out the way I freaked out when I turned 20 last year, so I resolved to start putting more effort into my comics career that I had been sheepishly keeping up. I looked at what I had completed: a short comic completed with a great artist that I had complicated feelings towards. Part of those complicated feelings was that I had paid Conan the only page rate I could afford but not the one he deserved. I wanted to get that comic published so I could put “Comics Writer” in my Twitter bio without feeling like a liar and I wanted to get Conan paid.

I found a place online that could publish it, an outlet that wasn’t aimed at the comics internet and stood to grant more exposure to myself and Conan, and I sent them a pitch. I sent them a PDF with the comic and a short paragraph describing a prospective personal essay in which I described the process of creating the comic from my perspective while exploring my complicated relationship with the material. They said they wanted to publish it. I spent a few days working on the essay to accompany the comic. I knew they were buying the essay more than the comic so I knew I had to make that purchase worth it for them and I felt I owed it to myself to express some things I hadn’t really been open to discussing. Shea Hennum, a writer I greatly look up to and someone who I think of as a friend, really helped me in editing that essay from something raw and ineffectual in its communication into something much better. I was proud of how it turned out.

The publication of the comic and my essay was a bit of a nightmare, though. Continue reading