2015 in Review

Hello?

Is this thing on?

Things got a bit quiet around these parts following October. It’s interesting how the busier I get, the less time is available to post about the things that are going on. It’s a vicious circle as my time constantly eats its own tail like some sort of insatiable beast.

As end of the year lists start appearing on news sites and fellow creatives look back at what they’ve accomplished over the past 365, I allow myself to join in not only share what I’ve accomplished this year with readers, but also to remind myself to celebrate those accomplishments, no matter how large or small.

Each year, my goals for writing are simple: Produce more and better content than the previous year.

I’m happy to report that I continued doing just that for a third year running.

A huge thank you to YOU if you purchased/read (hopefully both) any of the stories I discuss below. If you haven’t, perhaps you’ll see something that piques your interest. Fear not, I’ve conveniently added links to where you can purchase all comics mentioned in the format (print/digital) of your choosing.

So what did I release this year? Let’s dive back into the year that was 2015.

Unit 44

Published digitally in issues March-June, and as a collected edition in September.

Having successfully released a miniseries or graphic over 2013 (Chambers) and 2014 (The Undoubtables), it was a personal goal to have another series hit shelves in 2015. After a wonderful showing on Kickstarter, co-creator/artist Ed Jimenez and I were able to bring our sci-fi/comedy Unit 44 to completion and we launched the 4-issue series digitally in March backed by indie publisher Alterna Comics.

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Our silly tale about inept Area 51 employees who forget to pay the rent of the facility’s off-site storage unit leaving the secret contents to be sold at public auction brought a ton of laughs to readers and the reviews were both plentiful and generous.

Through this comic I explored one of my favorite topics (Area 51) got to employ a ton of deadpan humor, sarcasm and got to write rednecks, which is always a blast. Ensuring the comic was funny while still telling a gripping narrative was a challenge, but one I feel we handled gracefully.

Unit 44 was a joy on so many levels to work on. It connected me with Ed, who has since become a good friend and constant collaborator, had great marketing support from Alterna Comics publisher Peter Simeti and has sold like gangbusters at conventions because, let’s be honest, even the logline for this book makes people chuckle.

I’ve always enjoyed comics infused with comedy and to be able to leave a mark on that genre alone was worth all the hard work that went into creating the series. It was also the first project where two creators handled everything. Ed handled the art and colors while I took charge on the writing and lettering. We made the exact book we wanted to, never compromising. And to top it all off, Unit 44 is actually making money. Ed and I won’t be retiring anytime soon, but it’s nice to get a little kickback here and there and see the fruits of your labor, y’know?

While the current project I’m working on is always my favorite, Unit 44 just might be the first comic I can still read now and not see everything wrong with it. That’s gotta mean something, right?

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We’re still hoping to get this book into print at some point, going through the Diamond Previews catalog and into shops, but the more we sell, the sooner that dream can become a reality. If you read the series and liked it, tell a friend!

Sound like fun? Purchase Unit 44: ComiXology

Monster Day

Published in print and digital formats in June.

A lesson I learned this year is that all ages comics can be fun. Despite Unit 44’s cartoony art style, the humor was more geared toward adults,

but when I found out my pitch had been accepted to GrayHaven ComicsLi’l Kaiju anthology, I was excited to write something for a younger crowd.

Now, I don’t have kids nor do I have any desire to do so, but I was in the third grade when I discovered comic books, so when writing something that would be accessible, fun and cool to kids, one can’t help but think about a story that could be someone’s first.

The 4-page story I concocted for the collection explored what would happen when school was canceled due to a monster day, rather than a snow day (for my friends up north) or a hurricane day (for my readers in the south). What artist Randy Z. Ochoa and colorist Jeremy Treece and I ended up with is a charming little tale about one boy’s unlikely relationship with that monster.

The story looked great both in print and digitally and I was further humbled that the tale was used as the lead story in the anthology. If you have a younger sibling who likes monsters and that you’d like to introduce to comics, this could be the entryway you’re looking for. This volume is packed with cute little stories about some big bad creatures. Big thanks to editor Erica J. Heflin and the art team for bringing this one to life.

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Do the Monster Mash by purchasing the Li’l Kaiju anthology: Print | ComiXology

Adrift

Published as a free digital download through ComiXology in June.

In 2014 I went out on a limb and entered the Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition. The publisher was seeking short comics, 4-6 pages in length with a science fiction setting. The official prompt was “Lost in Space.” The contest was run by both the UK publisher and the organizers of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival.

LostInSpaceTitan2015Not really expecting anything I wrote my script and put a shout out into the internet void looking for an artist to collaborate with as the competition started gaining some buzz. I found interest from Italian artist Alex Diotto, whose previous works include Southern Dog at Action Lab and Mayday at Black Mask Studios, and over the course of a month we nailed down a 4-page story about astronauts who were…you guessed it…lost in space.

Instead of doing something dramatic we put a humorous spin on the whole thing crafting a comic that not only met the guidelines of the contest, but was appropriate for all ages. Then we forgot about it.

In September of 2014 we were notified that our story was one of the winning entries and that we’d be included in the anthology. I gotta say, that was pretty cool. I’m one of the people who never wins anything, so I guess my universal karma has been settled with this publication (goodbye Publishers Clearing House).

The comic was unleashed for free via ComiXology in 2015, coinciding with the next edition of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. It features six fun space-themed shorts and a wonderful cover by UK art superstar Sean Phillips!

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If you haven’t checked this out, go enjoy it (for free). You may notice that Alex and I even have the lead story! How about that?

Get lost in your space: FREE on ComiXology

Hipsters Vs. Rednecks

HvR_Cover_web_thumbPublished digitally in print/digital in September and via ComiXology in December.

During the beginning part of 2015, artist Tyler Kelting and I were knee-deep in creating the most ridiculous thing either of us had every done. I mean, it seemed like a good idea at the time, and truth be told… we had a lot of fun.

And to me, that’s what my year in 2015 was all about — having fun with comics.

It bears noting that addition to Unit 44 and HvR I actually penned three other comedy-focused miniseries that are either at various stages of production or awaiting the right artist to bring them to life.

I’m not sure if you noticed, but there was a lot of bad stuff happening in the world this year and my comics writing definitely took a turn to the light side. I had enough “gritty,” enough “street level” and enough realism. I wanted to escape through my work. More importantly, I wanted to laugh.

And laugh I did.

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Hipsters Vs. Rednecks is the story of an outsider, Sloane, who, following the apocalypse, finds herself caught in the middle of an ongoing war between the remaining two factions… the hipsters and the rednecks. Taken in by the hipster clan just as they suffer their biggest attack to date, Sloane must take a stand if she hopes to make it out of New Brooklyn alive.

How could you not want to read something so silly and irreverent?

Purchase to see who wins the apocalypse: Print | Digital

The Temporal

tempcovertest - thumbPublished digitally via ComiXology in September.

I went pretty in-depth on this title with a post back in September when the one-shot hit ComiXology. If you’re super curious about it, check that out by clicking here.

This fun 32-page, black and white sci-fi/time travel one-shot (yes, that’s a mouthful) was the first project that brought me together with artist Kristian Rossi, who also provided art for the short Hoodwinked (GrayHaven Comics, 2014) and my crime-fiction miniseries Chambers (Arcana Studios, 2013).

Though we had completed the book and I’d lettered it (several times, in fact, as I learned the craft) I’d always hoped to get the book colored prior to release. I ended up printing a few black and white copies for a convention and they sold really well. Not only did they sell, I got great feedback from readers and people really seemed to be digging the black and white approach to the story.

When you get feedback like that, how can you not want to distribute something to a wider audience? I made the book available on ComiXology for just $0.99 in order to make it super accessible and based on the few royalty payments I’ve seen, people are actually checking it out.

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Plus… who doesn’t love time travel??

Unlike some, this tale of unstable time won’t leave you with a headache. Well, at least I don’t think it will. I could be wrong.

Turn back time by purchasing: Print | ComiXology

Obligatory wrap-up paragraphs

See? It was one heck of a year.

I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

Now, if I were neurotic or some kind of super-dork (or a neurotic super-dork), I might show you how I tracked not only the number of pages I wrote this year, but also how many were published. Heck, if I were super geeky I might even show you how those numbers stacked up against past years.

Thankfully, I’m not like that.

Hah! Fooled ya!

By the Numbers

Pages written in 2011: 223
Pages written in 2012: 473
Pages written in 2013: 267
Pages written in 2014: 352
Pages written in 2015: 318

And how about pages published?

Pages published in 2011: 0
Pages published in 2012: 3
Pages published in 2013: 119
Pages published in 2014: 147
Pages published in 2015: 157

If I were a numbers person, which I am not, these numbers might indicate a modicum of success over the past year. While the number of pages written is slightly down (I’m stressing quality over quantity) I was able to publish 10 more pages of work in 2015 than I did the previous year. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

If you picked up any of the comics listed above (or any from 2012-2014) please know that I appreciate your support!

For my next post:

2016 in Preview

Stay tuned for what’s on the horizon in the new year.

Free Comic Book Day – Saturday, May 2

Each year since 2002, the first Saturday in May is also known as FREE COMIC BOOK DAY!

In an effort to thank current readers and draw in new ones, publishers big and small give out thousands of comics at shops across the world to show what this amazing medium is capable of. Whether readers are into superheroes, cartoons or fun indie books, there’s always something for everyone.

To further support the comic industry, many shops welcome creators, both big and small, to their shops for signings, commissions and meet and greets. Once again I’ve been invited to spend Free Comic Book Day with the fine folks at Arena Comics and Gaming in Panama City, FL.

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I’ll be joining my pal, writer/artist Jayson Kretzer to celebrate the event. He’s celebrating the release of issue #2 of his (hilarious) series Wannabe Heroes and sketching up all kinds of fun stuff. I’ll have all of my leftovers from MegaCon 2015, which will include physical copies of Unit 44 #1 & #2, The Undoubtables graphic novel, the Chambers trade paperback, and my black and white one-shots, The Temporal and R.D.S.L. Chronicles #1. While our comics won’t be free, Jayson and I will engage you in polite conversation and those always-entertaining “who would win in a fight” arguments.

If you’re in the area, come say hello this Saturday between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Central Time. Grab some free comics, take advantage of the store specials, and meet some folks who work hard to create the funny books.

You can RSVP for the event on Facebook if you’re into that by clicking here!

2015 in preview

We took a look at my 2014 in review, but now it’s time to look into the future (The future, Conan?) at the various projects I hope to bring to light in the New Year (did you get that reference?) along with a couple of sneak peeks at what’s to come (it was stupid).

Unit 44
My 2015 will lead off with the release of Unit 44, my silly and irreverent comic created with Eduardo Jimenez about inept Area 51 employees who forget to pay the rent on the facility’s off-site storage unit, leaving the secret contents to be sold to a couple of rednecks at public auction. Ed and I Kickstarted the first issue of this back in 2013 and after a really, really positive response, ran another crowdfunding campaign this year that let us produce the remaining three issues of the series.

YIP_Unit44

The four issue miniseries is now complete and will be released digitally in Q1 of 2015 through publisher Alterna Comics. This sci-fi/comedy epic is meant only to make you laugh and I’m absolutely in love with that Ed and I created. Every comic writer has a title that they could write forever, if given the opportunity, and this is mine. You can read five pages of issue #1 for free by clicking here. Get excited.

Monster Day
In mid-2014 I was selected to participate in another GrayHaven Comics anthology called Li’l Kaiju. This round, the focus was on all ages stories that somehow featured Japanese Kaiju monsters. I was thrilled with the tale I came up with and the 4-pager was drawn by Randy Z. Ochoa. Editorial decided that this collection would be printed in color and my story, Monster Day, was colored by the very talented Jeremy Treece (artist of Dynamite Entertainment’s Mandrake the Magician series).

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The collection was edited by the very talented Erica Heflin, writer of Zenescope’s Wonderland and Dark Shaman series and creator of such fine books as Flesh of White, The Black Hand, Mother and Son and the upcoming Antithesis (an absolutely gorgeous book). I haven’t seen any of the other contributed stories for this anthology, but knowing some of the the talent that Erica picked up for the volume, I am super excited to get my hands on a copy of it. I don’t know an exact release date, but will share news when there’s news to be shared.

Adrift
This 4-page all ages short about lost astronauts was submitted as part of the Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition, a contest run by the staff of the Lakes International Comics Art Festival held in October 2014 in the UK. For this piece I teamed up with artist Alex Diotto and we contributed the silly humor-filled short comic for consideration for the competition. All entries had to fit the theme “Lost in Space” and just a few short weeks after sending in the finished pages we found out we were one of six winning teams and would be included in an anthology to be published by Titan. Organizers of the Comics Art Festival narrowed the entries down to several semi-finalists and allowed the Titan Comics editorial staff to pick the final winners. Needless to say, Alex and I have been pretty pumped about this.

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The book was supposed to come out this year, but delays happen and they’re currently shooting for an early 2015 release through Titan Comics. The anthology will be released exclusively on the ComiXology platform. Not only am I excited for folks to be able to read this, I’m anxious to see what the other winners brought to the table.

Innovation
For the first few months of the Innovation web comic, which debuted in November of 2013, we kept a steady flow, releasing new short comics every other week, but as the project has progressed we switched over to a monthly schedule that would allow plenty of time for each contributing artist to develop their tale that fits in with a mysterious overarching story. I’m thrilled with the level of artistic talent I’ve been able to work with on this project and I look forward to wrapping up volume 1 this year and closing out the story we started. I’ve recently welcomed several other writers into the fold to pen short one-shots that take place within the world, but outside of the main narrative, and I couldn’t be happier with the work they’ve produced. There are a lot of big plans for this project, so I’m hoping to see it continue to grow and welcome more talent to participate.

YIP_Inn

We currently sit at chapter 14, roughly halfway through what I have planned for the first installment, so for those readers who have been following along, there are more answers and more mysteries coming your way soon! I just need more artists to help tell the story. If you draw, or you know anyone who does, send them my way. There’s so much fun to be had.

While the projects above are guaranteed to see the light of day in 2015, below are some other completed or in-process comics that may or may not come out this year, depending on how schedules line up with artists and such.

Say hello to the big “Maybes”…

The Temporal
I actually had this on my list last year as well. The Temporal was the first project that brought me together with artist Kristian Rossi (artist of my crime-fiction series Chambers and my short comic Hoodwinked), and hilariously enough, the last of our collaborations to be released. This 32-page one-shot, completed in 2012, is a story of young scientist Justin Sharp who is contracted by the military to crack the secrets of time travel but before he hands the project over to the military, he decides to make one small adjustment to his past. This story stands alone as a self-contained adventure but sets the stage for what happens in the narrative of Innovation.

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This comic has been complete for some time, but I’m still waiting on the right time to release it. In the world of comics, you have to keep your name out there to stay relevant, and luckily, I haven’t had any slumps yet that needed filling. If and when I do, this will be the comic that fills the void. I recently re-lettered the book and it’s looking absolutely gorgeous! Who doesn’t love time travel and the paradox-associated headaches they bring?

New Life
This four issue sci-fi miniseries has been in the pipeline for a while, but with each passing month we get a little bit closer to completion. Artist and co-creator Logan Miller and I now sit on the precipice of completing the third issue of the series. The story is about a loner in an overpopulated city that wins a lottery drawing allowing him to bring a loved one back from the grave. Before he can have his recently deceased wife reinstated, he’ll have 48 hours to kill someone else to take her place.

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While it’s definitely been a long time coming, I’m keeping the fingers crossed we’ll be able to complete the book this year. If we do, it’s possible the release date might creep into 2016. While I’ve had the pleasure of looking at these pages as they come together, as soon as you see the finished series you’ll understand why it took a while for the project to be developed. Logan is producing some amazing, gorgeous art, and this is one of the most visually-striking projects I’ve ever been part of. Logan is penciling, inking and coloring this beast. What can I say? He’s a talented fellow.

Hipsters Versus Rednecks
A fairly new project that has only gone into production within the last month, artist Tyler Kelting and I have hit the ground running with plans of bringing you one of the silliest one-shots of 2015. What can I really say about this comic that isn’t in the title? We’ll be releasing a 24-page comic full of jokes, action and cracks on both groups mentioned in that title spot. Will some people find it funny? I hope. Will others misinterpret it and subsequently try to beat me up? Assuredly. That’s how people are.

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The game plan is to self-publish this comic right to ComiXology and buy mansions with the millions of dollars Tyler and I are sure to make from such a groundbreaking book. (That’s a joke, ICYMI.) I’m a full believer that you should make your art for myself. I would definitely want to read this comic.

While those are the main projects on the plate in the coming year, I have several other finished scripts with artists attached and as soon as something starts to happen with them, they’ll be announced on the blog. It’s going to be a good year, and who knows what else may pop up over the next 365 days.

Other stuff!

In 2014 I wrote a couple of video games as well! Who would have thought, right? You know that one guy who made a million dollars from writing comics? Me either. Probably because it hasn’t happened since the 90s. Because the funny-books aren’t exactly a lucrative business, occasionally I write other things that help keep me afloat. Two of my extracurriculars will also (likely) be released this year.

Video game writing is something I’ve enjoyed trying my hand at and it flexes some different muscles than the old comic books do. These projects allowed me to tell fun stories in a new medium and I’m hoping that the finished products are enjoyable enough that I can gain additional opportunities to write more in the future.

Future: Uncertain
You know what the gaming industry likes? Nondisclosure agreements. Because of that, I’m going to be choosy with my words here, but in short, I’ve written a fun and silly interactive narrative for a San Francisco-based game company. Think of it as a visual Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type story that you’ll be able to play on your smartphone or tablet. Future: Uncertain is (loosely) about what happens when inhabitants of a city receive messages from their future selves and how it affects the core characters. That’s right…you give me an opportunity and I’ll bring in time travel. That’s how I roll. The first three installments of the serial series are complete (I’ve played them!) and if they do well on the app, it will lead to more opportunities to expand on the story.

The image below isn’t from the actual game, but since I can’t show off anything, I feel it sets an appropriate tone.

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Resequenced
I’ve also been neck-deep in writing Resequenced, which is a full-featured action RPG experience to be released on Mac, PC, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 (geez, no pressure, right?). I was hired by the developer in mid-2014 to not only write the story based on the locations they had picked out, but also help design quests and items for the game. Let me tell you…that is no small feat! It’s been interesting to be able to play various builds of the game, which combines action, weapons and a whole lot of snark. The developer wanted a funny game and by God, I’m giving them some hilarious stuff to work with. I’m only midway through my writing duties but am looking forward to finishing everything up in the new year. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s also been a lot of fun. Hearing voice actors read the dialogue I’ve written? Priceless.

YIP_Resequenced

Players will take control of Lux Hart, a college student who finds herself in over her head when she learns that her parents were agents of a super secret government organization known as The Redaction Commission. Now Lux’s parents have gone missing and only she can help track them down. To help her do so, the organization harnesses the power of DNA resequencing giving Lux some wild abilities. Much hilarity and action ensues. If you enjoyed games like Tomb Raider or Borderlands, you’re going to want to check this one out when it’s released.

I don’t know for sure when the game will be released (it turns out that these things take a while to code) but I’m being optimistic that it will come together cleanly. If not, you’ll see this again on next year’s list!

Whew…I think that’s everything.

For those who supported me in any way in 2014, whether it was by backing the Unit 44 Kickstarter or purchasing my books online or at shows, I owe you a deep and sincere thank you. You helped me pay my rent and gave me lots of encouragement to keep doing what I’m doing.

See you on the other side!

 

Monster Day update #3

That’s a wrap on my short, MONSTER DAY, with art by Randy Z. Ochoa and some slick new colors from Jeremy Treece!

The all ages short, which will appear in early 2015 in GrayHaven Comics’ LIL KAIJU anthology, has been approved and begins its process from our screens to print.

Based on the preview art that I’ve seen for this edition, it’s shaping up to be an amazingly awesome volume, spearheaded by Editor-in-Chief Erica J. Heflin. She’s brought on some amazing talent and I hope that any of you comic book readers with kids will consider picking it up for them. I’m proud of the short we contributing and I’m impressed with the creative team for both their timeliness and professionalism. It was my first time working with Randy and Jeremy, and I can’t wait to do so again.

For those writers or artists looking to get some work published, I can’t say enough good things about working with GrayHaven. Artists — send them your portfolios and consider doing a few free shorts for one of their anthologies. Writers — send their pitches their open submission periods (coming again in September). If you truly want to make comics, then even tackling a 3-5 page short will help you understand and respect what goes into the craft. You’ll work with supportive and amazing people and you’ll treasure the print versions you ultimately get to hold in your hands.

Until the LIL KAIJU volume debuts, here’s a final sneak peek at the panel I teased last update…but in color!

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Monster Day update #2

Previously, I teased some of artwork from Randy Z. Ochoa on our 4-page short, MONSTER DAY, for release next year in GrayHaven Comics’ LIL KAIJU anthology.

Though Randy has completed his art for the short and I was able to letter them up, we recently received some great news from the publisher. Due to recent success on a GrayHaven Kickstarter campaign, word came down from on high that this particular issue will be printed in color, so we’re super excited to bring our all-ages adventure to life with a new dimension of flair.

Color wunderkind Jeremy Treece will be lending his talents to the art and we look to have everything submitted by the end of September. Based on some other preview art I’ve seen from this anthology, it’s going to be a ton of fun, and something I would buy even if I wasn’t directly involved. Keep an eye out for it!

Take a sneak peek at a panel from the (currently) black and white short below, and know that next time you see it, it’ll be presented in technicolor!

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We’ve also gotten a sneak peek at the work in progress cover for the anthology with art by Donal DeLay.