Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to...THE DESK

Hello dere, True Believas!

When last we met we just dove right in, ignored the niceties of such things like introductions, and got right to it. The nittiest of gritties were sown and I laid my soul bare.

Let’s backtrack a little, shall we?

First things first: I’d like to direct you to the top panel to the right of this entry. There you shall find my basics, my vitals if you will. Let me know when you’re done.

Good? Okay.

Writing comics has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve had an opportunity to see the industry from a different angle and, for once, understand a lot of the frustrations I had as a fan. Now, by understand I don’t mean to imply complacency. Quite the opposite, really. Sometimes those annoyances that just seemed obnoxious as a fan are downright unbearable as a creator. The number one needle-under-the-nail? Shipping delays.

Awakening has seen its share of delays, with issues 1 – 3 (of 10) shipping bi-monthly, as planned, from August – December of 2007. Suddenly, due to restructuring, Archaia halted their operations. For all of 2008, Awakening sat in purgatory alongside a ton of other great books, all ready and waiting to go. The plan, originally, had been to print issues 4 and 5 in February and April respectively, and follow up with our first hardcover volume in June. Slowly that schedule slipped. And slid. And tumbled. As the company sorted itself out (something I’m very happy to report it’s managed to do quite handsomely) Alex, one of my best pals and illustrator on our labor of love, and I watched as 2008 passed us by, all of our hard work languishing in the pits of publishing hell while all the buzz we’d built for ourselves slowly dissipated. We hadn’t planned for this shift in momentum, this excitement emergency break, and as a result we were left with nothing to do but wait.

Wait… And plan.

You see, I learned a very valuable lesson last year as the months passed and I realized I would have nothing published in my name in all of 2008 (this, after being nominated for an Eagle Award for Favourite New Writer! The indignity!), and that lesson is one which is tried and true and certainly nothing you’ll be shocked by: never stop moving. What I mean by that, in this context, is that when you’ve got reams and folders worth of concepts, scripts, and ideas, WHY THE HELL WOULDN’T YOU WORK ON THEM?! My excuse is one you probably won’t be surprised to hear. Awakening is my first full project, first one I’d pitched and first one accepted for publication. The shear joy at that success didn’t quite pass until reality set in as the book hit a wall waiting for publication. That’s when I realized, if this is going to be a career than I need to do more than just be satisfied with one book in development at a time.

We’re full circle now, back to the title of this post: THE DESK. Sure, Awakening is in a great place now, the extra year affording us time to make some good edits and updates to create an even better zombie noir, our hype machine is slowly lurching back to life, and volume 1 is all set for a late Spring release. Even so, as a result of 2008 and the lessons therein, I’ve resolved to plan my writing career better for 2009 and beyond.

At this point, I’ve got six projects of varying size in motion – some are set for publication (Awakening Volumes 1 & 2,

a 2-part Perhapanauts back-up story over at Image for my good pal Todd Dezago,

and a Corpus Christie back-up for another buddy, Travis Legge - artwork coming soon).

Others, including a manga (SIGHTx9),

a paranormal humor book (Jackson Ashley),

and a short story which looks like it may lead to something larger (Secret City – “The Seductress”),

are being developed with various amazing artists as pitch material for publishers. My mission? To have all three of these in-progress works placed in the coming months and set for publication beginning in late ’09 and throughout 2010 and beyond. Is it lofty? Sure. But I think it’s possible and, if any don’t find a home right now I know they will in short order.

Oooo, confidence. I’m so tough.

So, in order to make this fun for everybody (not to mention shamelessly promote every bizarre idea in my brain) I’ve created a deviantArt account on which I’ll upload all sorts of previews and updated bits about all these projects and more. You don’t need a dA account to look so take a slide over that way and have a look at what the what is over yonder:

THE DESK a.k.a. The Humungus Studio on deviantART

Let the games begin…

Happy looking, sports fans.

- Nick

In the coming weeks: Line vs. Company-wide Crossovers! THE DESK updates! A book review?!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I Hate Comics: A Love Story - Article The First

First post - time to make it shine...

Now, I don't think every post is going to be as streamlined as what follows - I daresay I can guarantee it. We're going to be having all sorts of discussions here, formal and informal, but what comes next happens to be more on the formal side. It's an article I was asked to write for yet-to-begin blogzine and it just so happens that said article inspired me to get up off of my ass and start singing for all you loverly folks.

The article focuses on a hot-button topic today in comics: Floppy vs. Trade.

Happy reading.




As the first in what will hopefully be a semi-regular (if not, dare I say it, REGULAR) series of articles, I feel it’s probably prudent to lay out a mission statement - a code of conduct, if not a code of ethics, which will likely dominate the series, columns, or whatever this eventually mutates into, for the foreseeable future. That statement is a simple one:

I hate comics.

Admitting you have a problem is the first step towards recovery and it’s also the hardest. It’s like a band-aid though – you just have to rip it off and deal with the searing pain of leg hair that may never grow back being evacuated from its decades-long home. You’ve just shared in my hair-yanking agonizing admittance to something which has plagued my subconscious mind for years. We’re in this together now so I expect you to stick it out. You’re my support group for overcoming this detriment, this shortfall in my life, and maybe together we can rehabilitate my mind and release me into the wild. Through these columns and musings we’re going to explore what it is that brought me to comics in the first place, and maybe you too, as well as what’s almost got that fire lit in me again and what’s happening to the industry as it evolves, shifts, and becomes something ALL NEW AND ALL DIFFERENT yet again in the wake of slowing floppy sales and the advent of the digital era.

With any mission statement there must always be a disclaimer and this one is no different. I don’t HATE comics in the traditional sense, not truly anyway. It’s just that of late there hasn’t been much that’s gotten me excited about them. Not in the way excitement used to brew, every Tuesday night being longer than the rest (even longer than the Sunday night with the inevitability of school the next day), frothing and shaking with avid anticipation of New Book Wednesday. I want that back as much as I want to spend my life making comics. The medium offered me so much growing up that I feel indebted to it, and it’s a debt I intend to repay with interest.

I’m now a published comic writer, continuing to make my way into the industry with my chisel and spoon, sneaking dirt out into the courtyard during free time so the warden doesn’t see me escaping my retail cell. It’s a slow process, as anybody on the ground floor will tell you. It also gives you an entirely different view of how things work and today, I want to talk about part of that: floppy comics vs. collected editions.

We began AWAKENING with Archaia Studios Press (MOUSE GUARD, et al) in August of '07 as a bi-monthly release and experienced the slow decline in sales across the three issues which came out, a common and unavoidable phenomenon that all books must endure. That, plus our now year-long delay between issues due to the restructuring of the company, just recently completed, has resulted in us deciding to release the series as two hardcover volumes rather than 10-issues.

For indie books, unless you've already established a pedigree of some kind for yourself, it's just impossible to compete with the big guns in this day and age. Retailers have to play a safe bet, and with banners across a combined total of more than 40 or 50 issues (plus 10 based on a particularly popular space opera, a couple of movie tie-ins...) per month from the big two proclaiming them to be part of either a line or company-wide crossover, shelf space just can't be wasted on a new guy or a book that doesn't have a tried and true sales history. While some larger comic stores (Midtown Comics and so on) have the space and the opportunity to showcase all sorts of books, the average shop wouldn't be making a sound economic decision, especially in these financially unsure times, supporting a book with a guaranteed smaller audience over that of the definite 50 - 100 copy seller. And hey, I'm guilty of contributing to those sales too. I grew up a Marvel guy and even dabbled in DC for a time and I'll always love picking up those books, even when I’m not crazy about everything in them. Going to the shop these days may not have me shivering with glee but there’s a certain sense of warm nostalgia in seeing those old reliable standards waiting for me in their four-color glory. I do this fully aware of the fact that I'm contributing to a machine which kept my book out of others hands. Why? Because I love the medium and most of those stories, those line and company-wide behemoths, are fun and enjoyable and worthy of the space they're given.

MOST of those stories.

On the other hand, asking a retailer to order one or two copies of a hardcover or trade isn't taking away from those monthly sales. A spined book takes up less space than a faced-out floppy on the rack, and very likely a retailer worth his salt will know at least one customer who he can promote the book to and get a $15 - $20 sale out of the deal. Hell, maybe they even know TWO customers who prefer collected editions and like to read, say, Eagle Award nominated existential horror with critically acclaimed mixed media art.

What?! The first volume is coming out soon - I've gotta make a living here!

Then they just nabbed $40 gross in one swoop and they didn't sacrifice anything of their guaranteed sales off the floppy rack. If nothing else, if a retailer doesn't actively try to sell the trade but orders it in the hopes somebody will stumble across it on the trade shelves, it will offer an alternative to the average shopper if they've been Secretly Finally Invaded out. Or, better for the retailer, it represents an add-on sale to a customers purchase. It also opens up the lucrative avenues of book trade sales (Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon, etc.) where indie books have a better shot of finding a niche for themselves.

Digital, on the other hand, is just not for me. Maybe my generation will be the last great hold out (what’s a kid of the early 80’s now? Generation Y?) but I need to hold a book, get that freshly printed smell, or in the case of an older book, that musty-I’ve-Got-History waft from the pages, and have a tactile interaction with something. I support the movement, anything that promotes the comic medium to a larger audience, but I don’t think it’ll ever replace printed comics entirely, anymore than I think Kindle or any other e-book phenomenon will replace the heft of a book in your hands. Web and digital comics offer a great marketing opportunity and low cost for creators/publishers and can even be a great proving ground for creators who, for one reason or another, just don’t get picked up right away by a publisher. Hell, I’ve got friends who practically make their living off of web comics and more power to them for it. For me though, I’ve just got to have it on a shelf, or in a long box, or on the nightstand, or where all great reading gets done, the bathroom, to truly immerse myself in the work and get the most out of it.

Personally, I loved writing a floppy book - and I plan to try more in the future once it's more fiscally viable for me, either through success with the trade/hardcover releases of my other books or some other means. For now though, I say let Marvel and DC have that ground and continue to draw people into comics as they have for generations.

Then let retailers show them to the REALLY cool stuff on the trade shelves.