Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Storyville Graphic Novel

Well, I decided to take the Kickstarter plunge and have my first project up and running. Before I forget to put it in, here's the link to the Kickstarter project.
Storyville: The Prostitute Murders is an original graphic novel about a serial killer murdering prostitutes in Storyville. Storyville was the legalized red light district in New Orleans for about 25 years and this takes place at the heyday of Storyville, 1910. The Detective in charge of the investigation has been stymied so his bosses force him to start working with the new director of the local asylum, Saint James' Infirmary, to solve the crime. Dr. Eric Trevor has studied murder, including the infamous Jack the Ripper case, to obtain clues on how to figure out how the criminal mind works. Together, the two, along with some of Detective Donahue's assistants, start to piece together the brutal murders and find a connection. It is a police procedural mystery that also delves into the world of the insane as the story shifts from the brothels to the asylum. I, along with Wayne, really tried to keep the historical aspects accurate and also tell a good story that moves along centralized on the investigation.
The art on the book is by Wayne Reid who was my collaborator on graphic novels such as Zulunation (named as 1 of the 7 Best War Graphic Novels), El Cid, A Murder of Scarecrows, and a single issue story length tale of Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes tale, entitled "The Retired Detective" will be offered as a comic for the first time and available only as a kickstarter incentive. it previously appeared in a graphic novel collection from IDW, "Curious Cases of Sherlock Holmes". Another incentive will be the "Girls of Storyville" which is a print set of 8 girls all drawn by different artists. This set commemorates the "Blue Books" of Storyville, a guide book to the prostitutes and brothels. There are other incentives and mostly books that I wrote with Wayne as artist but there are others as well. Plus, there's the rare opportunity to get original art from Wayne and even have yourself put into the book. Hope you find it interesting and maybe enticing! Here's the link to Storyville: The Prostitution Murders and if you watch the video, please excuse my rough attempt. First time at things can be rough.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Work Break to Blog

Yes, it may be hard to believe but another blog in less than two weeks.

Odd timing as I’m so busy right now but doing a blog post doesn’t feel like work…I mean, it’s just rambling.  I don’t worry about doing any edits but do run a spell check---when I remember---just to avoid embarrassment.

I say how busy I am and I’m sure most creators spout the same.  But I’ve been putting in 18 hour days for the last month with my only breaks being dinner with my wife and my weekly TV watching which is one hour of Game of Thrones.  I did sneak in the last two episodes of Homeland somewhere along the line.  Of course, I did take a vacation which helped but that was 4 days of driving and spent quite a bit of the time just making sure I didn’t fall behind the 100’s of emails I get just about daily.

Three things claimed my time.  One is the kickstarter project I’m about to launch on a graphic novel called Storyville: The Prostitute Murders.  Besides the writing and production of the pages, I also put together a video which is sort of new to me.  That was a lot of work, mainly because of the learning curve, but I think it will serve its purpose although certainly won’t win any awards.  I always try to keep up with how things are done, whether it’s art production, videos, etc. because even though I don’t plan to continue doing that in the long run, I think it’s important to understand what those areas are all about.

I’ve supported a few kickstarter projects but am often surprised on how many I would like to support but don’t.  To me, the goal of support is to get the product and usually it is a graphic novel.  Now, I know all the costs that accumulate but still, I think I should be able to get the book for around $25-$30 max.  Any more than that, I hesitate. I don’t care about prints, cards, t-shirts, posters, keychains, stickers, etc.  I want the book.  I am amazed how many projects don’t seem to address that.

Of course, moving Caliber along is a lot of work.  The reaction to Caliber returning was overall good but I didn’t get or expect mass coverage in the comic “news”.  For one, we’re not doing a superhero universe which is still key in this industry and two, we didn’t roll out with a lot of hype and promises.  I’m not criticizing anyone because I truly feel that Caliber has to prove itself, so it’s not sour grapes but rather the fact that a lot of work is going on that really doesn’t seem evident yet.  A key factor is getting the library into digital format.  We’re putting books up on Comixology, itunes, Play Google, Kindle, Nook, iVerse, Drive Thru Comics, and others and that’s quite a bit of formatting, information, and assorted details. I do have to give the credit to my partner in Caliber, Eric, for doing the bulk of the digital work.

We’ll be setting up some online comics soon and these include a Deadworld serial and The Ballad of Rory Hawkins which is about a B Western movie star hooking up with Charles Manson.  Of course, we have the books coming in print including a new printing of Rocky Horror and the release of the action environmental thriller, Carbon.  More titles to be announced but we’ll do that at time of solicitation.

One of the areas that’s been keeping me busy with Caliber is talking to various “Hollywood” folks and that involves generating property bibles and/or presentations.  We hope to be able to announce soon something in that direction shortly.

But the biggest consumption of my time involves a Deadworld project which is actually a licensed deal but I’m heavily involved with on all aspects.  I can’t say too much about it yet, but it will be a surprise direction (it’s not books or comics).  I’ve been working with over 50 artists, colorists, graphic designers, etc. and that’s a lot of paperwork with all the agreements, vouchers, payments, proofing, editing, and writing.  Plus I’m involved with the production, distribution, and promotional aspects.  It reminds me of the early days at McFarlane Toys when there were four of us, plus Todd and the designers, putting together a company from scratch.  Of course, I’m not suggesting that this will have the same impact McFarlane Toys did, just that it involves taking a concept from nothing to launching within a few short months.

So, hope to start having some announcements soon, not only for the special projects but for our book releases as well.  And no, I’m not saying we’re going to have any earth shattering announcements but I think they will be interesting.  I’m looking forward to them and hope you will appreciate them when announced.

So, a quick ramble…now I have to get back to work. Oh, don't forget that Deadworld: Restoration TPB comes out on June 18 at your favorite comic shops.  It's from me, Sami Makkonen, and IDW.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Thank you, Max Brooks.

Damn, every time I look at this blog, I remember how long it has been since I posted.

It doesn’t seem that long ago but the date doesn’t lie.  I keep meaning to update sooner and its gotten to the point if I don’t, just might as well end the pretense of doing a blog at all.  Half of the time, I figure who cares anyways but I get so many emails with questions, I should utilize the blog for getting out more information.  However, there is only so much time and like 90% of the other creators out there, (judging by the frequency of their updates), time is just so limited.  I will try to be more frequent, maybe it will carry on for a few weeks, but I will try.

One of the earliest books I ever wrote was Zulunation (actually a comic series) about the Zulu Wars in the late 1800’s.  It was between the Zulu army created by Shaka-Zulu and the mighty British Empire.  It covered the two major battles, one that rocked the world as the Zulus massacred the British and the other, a testimony to the British troops as they held against overwhelming odds.

I bring this up because I noticed that there were a rash of orders on Zulunation on Amazon.  So, checking into it, I found out that it was mainly due to an article in The Week.  Max Brooks, of World War Z fame, gave a listing of his 7 favorite graphic novels dealing with war.  There, as the first one listed, was Zulunation.  Brooks also listed Vietnam Journal which is a book series published by me.  So, that was the reason apparently.  Here’s the link. Max Brooks 7 Favorite War Graphic Novels.    I wanted to thank Max, not just for his good taste but for venturing out in finding these books.

I don’t know Max at all.  I have been to a convention or two where he was at but we did not interact.  I saw the movie, World War Z, and thought it was pretty good.  I know a lot of zombie purists weren’t happy with it but that’s precisely why I did see it.  And any time someone has a plague that hits worldwide, well, that is like an automatic trigger to my interest.  I generally avoid reading any  zombie literature or watching any zombies or playing games because when I work on Deadworld, I don’t want any ideas to surface in my head even if subconscious.  However, I was in a waiting room one time and I was talking to this guy who was reading the book.   He gave me the book while he went into the office and so I skimmed through it.  I thought it was a very clever idea and being a pretty quick reader, I got a really good handle on what he did with the narration.

One of the reasons I bring this up, outside of the nice ego stroke and how someone can influence sales such as that, is that Max represents a segment of the comics market that seems to be missing in many stores.  His choices likely were not purchased at a comic shop (two of the titles were out of print).  For shops that carry Fantagraphics and Drawn & Quarterly, they could’ve picked up two.  Virtually no stores carry Transfuzion.

So, for the most part, these books are not available at comic shops.  If that’s the case, what is at the local comic store?  Obviously, just about every Marvel and DC title.  Lots of licensed titles as that is pretty much how the major independents survive.  Image, of course, is an exception as they are one of the few companies that can survive with creator owned, non-licensed titles.  I’ll take a moment to applaud Image for that as they are the dominant force for independent creators.  Yes, IDW, Dark Horse, and a few others also have the independent creators, but no one at the level of Image.  Of course, you have the truly alternative (for lack of a better term) publishers such as Fantagraphics.    But it’s a tough nut to crack for publishers who do more genre specific titles such as mystery, pulp, fantasy, etc.   That’s nothing new as even in Caliber’s heyday, there was a lot of reluctance from many stores to carry the line because we were in the “middle”…not truly alternative and not superhero.

I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here (well, maybe) as you can’t just throw the blame at the comic shops.  Having owned stores before, I know how it is.  You have to stock what moves--- not what you hope moves or what you think should sell.  For many publishers, their offerings just aren’t something to pull people in on a regular basis, much less weekly.  That’s why I am not doing periodicals for Caliber…I’d have to rely on those weekly customers and that’s not who the Caliber titles will appeal to.

I do wonder about some stores though.  I had a retailer friend who went to a trade show of retailers and he offered a flyer that I put together to let comic shops know that they could always order Caliber titles direct and at a hefty discount.  I explained in the flyer that this was in addition to what we had going through Diamond, not replacing it.  Any title that did go through Diamond could not be ordered until it went through Diamond’s initial shipping cycle as I didn’t want to impact them on any orders.  On the flyer, it was letting retailers know that if a customer came requesting a  book, here was an opportunity to buy it from us (since you couldn’t get it from Diamond). The purpose was to have stores sign up so we could tell fans who wanted to support stores and which ones would order it for them.  The stores had no obligation other than to commit to ordering titles that their customers requested.

When a prominent retailer (one that most people in the biz would be familiar with) was handed the flyer, he basically said he would never order anything. So, the 70 existing titles and 7-8 new titles were immediately dismissed.  The titles included two of the ones Max Brooks listed, titles that have been nominated for Harvey Awards as well as other awards such as Ghastlies, Shel Dorf, Comic Monsters, etc.  Titles like Rocky Horror Picture Show…titles written and drawn by the likes of Mike Carey, Mike Perkins, Guy Davis, Vince Locke, Laurence Campbell, Dalibor Talajic, Wayne Vansant, etc.

As I said, it doesn’t surprise me on the short sightedness of some (key word, some) stores.  I heard from someone at the retailer’s conference that The Walking Dead is not ordered AT ALL by nearly 25% of the comic shops in the country.  That seems unbelievable.  Maybe some stores can just survive on the superheroes but they had better being doing well on them now.  At no time in the history of comics have the superheroes even been such a high profile.  But if the current craze on the movies is not propelling sales at a comic shop, it’s not going to get better down the road.

I know when I announced that Caliber was returning, it was met by some as “why?”.  I certainly didn’t have a lineup that would appeal to most of the fans coming into shops every week, especially since we weren’t doing comics, just graphic novels.  But we do have markets.  For example, all those people who ordered Zulunation (sales increased dramatically on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, digital, and direct orders from us), maybe they’ll check out our other war titles.  We have over a dozen war books.  Same when someone buys a Lovecraft themed book, we have six of those.  Or Sherlock Holmes…or OZ.

I’ve dealt directly with many book stores and even had a couple of my books used in college classes.  Caliber has produced books in the past for the likes of Wal-Mart and as premiums.  The comic shops are not the only market.  But it is a community, the shops along with the blog sites and the “news” sites, and I think sometimes the perception of this community is locked in only on what’s listed on the Diamond 300.

I’m glad to be part of that community, even if it is a small part, but that doesn’t mean I’m restricted by it.  There’s a lot of publishers that are totally ignored by the comics community but when they manage to stay around for years, that should tell you that there’s other markets out there.

Next time I’ll discuss the first kickstarter book that I’m part of.  Talk about other markets….

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