2016 in Preview: Symptoms

Last month I talked a bit about a new series I have in the pipeline, detailing the process which will soon lead to me unleashing the wacky science action/comedy Edison #1 (with Giovanni Capurro and Andrew Pate) on the public. (Read that here.) And while new miniseries are fun and whatnot, I wanted to spotlight a short story which will see release later this year.

I try to be selective with my anthology submissions. There are a ton out there, but you don’t want to over-saturate the market or take up real estate where other creators may be able to shine. I like to pitch or submit to collections that have a cool idea/theme, talented creators involved or are backed by a good publisher. All three? Even better.

2015 saw my work published in two anthologies — the Li’l Kaiju antho from GrayHaven Comics, where my short Monster Day (with Randy Z. Ochoa and Jeremy Treece) was the lead story, and the Lost In Space antho from Titan Comics, where my short Adrift (with artist Alex Diotto) also served as lead.

While both collections were very cool, I wanted to seek out an opportunity to do something that was a little more… how do you say… ballsy.

Enter Symptoms.

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Though I’ve sort of pigeon-holed myself over the past few years as the “funny guy” (which I’m proud of… and is infinitely better than being called the “funny-looking guy”) I like to step outside the box when Mercury is in retrograde and the mood strikes.

Running across a superhero-themed anthology online, I was immediately struck with a vivid idea. Normally I steer as far away from superheroics as possible, as those types of stories seem futile when going up against the established heavyweights that Marvel and DC have to offer. But to build a world, a hero and a different perspective across just a few pages? Irresistible.

It’s like jumping into an icy cold lake, then climbing back out and running inside where it’s warm and there’s hot chocolate waiting. With mini marshmallows. You did it once and survived… so maybe don’t tempt fate.

I had my idea… my take… my view…

I didn’t want to be saving damsels in distress with my story. I didn’t want to pull cats out of trees. I didn’t want a nerdy kid to be emotionally scarred with a distorted definition of responsibility when his uncle dies.

Symptoms is about a hero who finds himself losing his powers.

I wanted to explore what thoughts that might trigger inside the brain of someone who goes from powerful to powerless. From top banana to bottom water chestnut. From extraordinary to ordinary.

I went on an artist hunt, talking with several talented people hungry to collaborate, but the search was over as soon as I met Kansas-dwelling Graeham Jarvis, the artist and author of the popular InstaGram webcomic Wasteland Tales, based on the lore of the Fallout video game series (which I regretfully know nothing about, but I know talent when I see it).

With more than 4,000 readers visiting his feed daily I felt bad asking him to focus his energies elsewhere for a hot minute, but his art was too good and too perfect for what I had in mind. Plus, he was looking for a chance to stretch his wings a bit. How could I say no when he offered to draw the story?

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After jamming out some sketches of giant robots and superhero costumes (necessities), Graeham dove in and delivered a short that punched me in the gut and didn’t apologize afterwards. Since the proposed anthology is black and white, a wash of gray set the tone and we were off to the races. Graeham’s work conveyed the exact vibe I was hoping to present and stuck what I thought could be a tricky ending, leaving the reader to consider the story long after the pages were turned.

We submitted to the anthology several weeks ago and got a rather quick letter of acceptance. I’m pretty sure this is going to be Graeham’s first officially published work. Needless to say, I’m stoked for him. Hopefully we’ll get to high five one day at a comic convention.

I’m jazzed for people to read Symptoms, see Graeham’s art, and I look forward to reading the other shorts chosen for the book. It’s gonna be super.

Stay tuned. This one drops in November.

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.

YIP_Mons

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.

Monster Day now in print!

Last year I contributed to another anthology from the fine folks over at GrayHaven Comics, and today the book has finally hit the shelves.

LilKaijuCover2Consider picking up the new Li’l Kaiju anthology, an all ages comic, which features the work of some awesome and talented folks. My story is a 4-page short called Monster Day, which features art by Randy Z. Ochoa and colors by Jeremy Treece. The book was edited by James O’Callaghan and the steadfast Erica Heflin, one of the nicest people in indie comics.

Monster Day tells the story of what happens when instead of a snow day, students at an elementary school experience their first monster day. Much hilarity ensues.

Forget for one moment that I have a story in this collection… you’ll also get tales by my pals Chip Reece and Marc Lombardi and a cover by Donal Delay (who contributed a great Unit 44 pinup that appeared in the back of issue #3).

How could you pass this up?

I’ve read a few of the stories and I think this volume will really shine. I’m looking forward to grabbing the finished product.

Get your hands on a print copy of this 33-page collection for just $3.99 over at the GrayHaven Comics webstore.

Grab some other books while you’re there. You can’t go wrong. (If it helps, I also contributed shorts to their Public Domain, Spies, Survival, Crime and Sci-Fi 2 anthologies.)

Comics!!