2014 in review

Over my last few years in comics, I’ve really come to understand the idea of working ahead. This may come as a shock, but comic books don’t come together overnight. It takes man hours of pecking away at a keyboard for writers, many hours at the drawing board for artists, and many hours in front of Photoshop and Illustrator for colorists and letterers for even 22 meager pages to come together into a complete narrative. Even though everyone is working toward a common goal, it often takes a year (or more) from the day a project begins to when it sees the light of day (sometimes even longer if the project goes to print). What I’ve learned is that each year, you’re essentially working on what you hope and plan to see the light of day the following calendar year.

Though this year was small for me on the release side, 2014 brought several projects to the shelves that I was very proud of. Though they were completed over the course of 2013 (and some even 2012) I couldn’t be happier to watch them come to life as I worked on the comics that will ideally be thrust upon the world in 2015. (More on that later.)

Hoodwinked
Shortly after my crime-fiction miniseries Chambers (released in 2013 by Arcana Studio) was complete, artist Kristian Rossi and I started looking for something else to work on together. Indie publisher GrayHaven Comics, who has made a personal mission to promote up-and-coming creators, accepted my pitch for its The Gathering: Public Domain anthology. While I originally had dreams of writing a Zorro short, I instead went with Robin Hood and put my own twist on the classic tale by bringing the rogue into the present day of New York City, rather than keeping him in Sherwood Forest.

Because the comic would be printed in black and white, I envisioned the finished product as having a dark, gritty overtone and I pitched it to Kristian for consideration since his work on Chambers proved through and through that he was the man for the job. Thankfully, he was on board to draw the comic and we were off to the races. The final 4-page short was published in May. The 32-page anthology is still available in print for just $1.99.

YIR_1_Hoodwinked

The anthology features the talents of many up-and-comers along with Ray Goldfield, Kelly Williams, Eric Grissom and Phil Sloan, all of whom I really admire. You should check this collection out. It’s probably the best anthology I read all year.

The Undoubtables
After an extended gestation period my action/heist series The Undoubtables finally hit physical and digital shelves. The series had been picked up by UK publisher Markosia Enterprises near the beginning of 2012, and co-creator/artist Emre Ozdamarlar and I worked on this book for roughly two years. Emre was in comic art school throughout the process so it was a fascinating process to watch him apply what he learned as he continued through the book and he was able to truly come into his own by the time we reached the end. The project was colored by Kefas Armando, who had colored Chambers the previous year, and Kell Smith provided us with some wonderful colors on the cover.

YIR_2_TU

Originally pitched and picked up as a miniseries, The Undoubtables read much better as a standalone piece and thus the decision was made to translate it directly to graphic novel format. It wasn’t my call, and I didn’t agree with it at first, but I actually believe it’s better for it. The 88-page adventure about career thief Spencer “Spade” Shelton and his crew robbing banks while dodging deadly mobsters and evading police was published in July and is available not only in a beautiful paperback, but also through just about every digital retailer you can name. It was my love letter to the heist genre with a crew of colorful characters overcoming impossible odds and outsmarting their enemies. The OGN can be picked up ComiXology for just $4. It’s a steal! Pun totally intended.

The series received several really great reviews across the internet and readers really seemed to enjoy how much fun this comic is. From the time the book starts it’s a wild goose chase between cops, robbers and some unpredictable mobsters who aren’t afraid to pull a trigger. I can’t thank Emre enough for the time he spent drawing and inking this book and it’s a project I’ll always look back on fondly.

In the Drink
My final physical publication of the year was a 3-page short in The Gathering: Survival anthology called In the Drink. Yet another project for indie publisher GrayHaven Comics, my pitch was accepted by the book’s editor and I turned this project around super quick with the help of the ever-talented artist Robyn Seale and it was published in September. I enjoy contributing to anthologies because it typically allows me to experiment with ideas and concepts that I may not want to dedicate an entire series to. With Hoodwinked I was able to work with a public domain character while dramatically changing the setting, and I decided that for this tale I would write a comic short that was completely silent.

YIR_3_Drink

When there aren’t any words on the comic page, the artist must shoulder the load of telling the story and I think Robyn did an amazing job with translating my outline to the page. Even though this is one of the shortest comics I’ve ever written we were able to establish a beginning, middle and end and still leave the reader with an emotional gut-punch. My idea for a Survival-themed anthology was simple…what happens when two people involved in a car accident come face to face. And more importantly, what happens if that interaction takes place underwater.

At the time of this writing, I haven’t seen the finished anthology with my own eyes, but it’s available in print from GrayHaven for just $3.50 and contains nearly 40-pages of comics from upcoming creators.

Innovation
After starting my sci-fi web comic in November of 2013, I tried to keep the train rolling and since the project debuted online, myself and a rotating stable of very talented artists have delivered a new short comic each month. Though each installment is drawn by someone different, the narrative keeps going, constantly building upon itself and hopefully setting up quite a mystery for those who are actively reading it.

YIR_4_Inn

This year we published 52 pages of the comic online (that’s a page a week!) with plenty more still to come. I’m thankful that the participating artists have donated their time and talents to keeping the story going and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can finish out the first volume in 2015. A big thanks goes out to contributors Stan ChouDamon Threet, Crisuadi Crasmaru, Jay Hernandez, Paul McCallan, Harpreet Brar and Fludi Stohr for lending their talents, along with my pals Brad Burdick and J. Jacob Barker who contributed one-shots set in the same world.

So how does 2014 stack up in my comics career since I started writing funnybooks in 2011? Let’s take a look at the numbers.

Pages written in 2011: 223 (They weren’t very good)
Pages written in 2012: 473 (These were better!)
Pages written in 2013: 267 (These were publishable!)
Pages written in 2014: 352

And how about pages published?

Pages published in 2011: Zero. Zip. Zilch. None.
Pages published in 2012: 3
Pages published in 2013: 119
Pages published in 2014: 147

What’s that? Who keeps track of stats like that? Not me…that would…uh…that would be uber dorky.

The Undoubtables Update #12

After more than two years of work, I’m so absolutely thrilled to make the announcement that my action/heist comic book, THE UNDOUTABLES, is complete!

For this project, I had the joy of co-creating a four-issue miniseries with the talented Emre Ozdamarlar, an artist hailing from Sweden. We originally linked up through a post I made on Digital Webbing where, at the time, I was seeking several artists for shorts I had written in the genres of crime, superhero, heist and sci-fi.

I was putting together a small anthology to promote my work and Emre, along with several other talented artists, came on board to toss some comics into the world. We completed a five-page pitch that featured a colorful cast of thieves robbing a bank and paired with a pitch/synopsis for a four-issue miniseries, it went off to various publishers.

Two days later, one of those publishers emailed me back expressing an interest in the property and we jumped on the phone to discuss what he liked about the comic, his plans for promoting it, and what we as creators could expect from him if we decided to sign on the dotted line. As someone who never expected anything to develop from the pitch, it was a pretty surreal moment for me, and I greatly appreciated that the head of a company would take 30 minutes out of his day to chat with me about my silly comic book.

After considering all of the opportunities, Emre and I decided to sign with that same publisher. It was a big moment for me personally, and The Undoubtables will always hold a special place in my heart for being the first comic to be welcomed on a bigger level.

Since we had basically gotten in an order for an 88-page miniseries and only five pages currently existed, I did what anyone would do… I put my butt in the chair and started writing. I had spent plenty of time day dreaming about the story and had written outlines, but to sit down and hammer out all of the scripts was its own rewarding experience. I can recall sitting at my kitchen table in the middle of the night clacking away at the keyboard. I do remember writing the first 22-page draft of our third issue in under 24 hours, an accomplishment I’m still proud of because it might be my favorite installment of the series.

As scripts were completed, Emre sat down at the drawing board, sending me storyboards, pencils and inks as he progressed. With every delivery of new pages the project became more and more real. Once all inks were complete, the pages went off to colorist Kefas Armando and I lettered furiously as they came back in, sending them off to publisher each time we had finished an issue.

As of this morning, the final pages have been turned in, and it feels pretty amazing. The individual issues will hit ComiXology monthly with a printed trade paperback to follow once the series has completed. Stay tuned on how you can get your copies and I look forward to being able to share an official announcement from the publisher soon.

A huge thanks goes out to Emre for all of the time, energy and hard work he put into creating the art for the book. He’s a very talented collaborator and I’m privileged to have gotten to work with him over the past two years. When you get to see the art that I’ve been looking at, you’re going to be thrilled.

We’re just getting started!

TULogo

The Undoubtables Update #11

I’m not gonna lie… these are my favorite type of announcements to make.

The third issue of my upcoming action/heist comic book THE UNDOUBTABLES, co-created with artist Emre Ozdamarlar, is complete and has been turned over to the publisher!

Kefas Armando is currently putting the finishing touches on the colors for the fourth and final issue of the series and after some lettering, the project, which began back in 2012 will be complete! It’s been a lot of work, but this has been one of the most satisfying projects that I’ve had the pleasure of working on to date.

With three issues now in the hopper, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a publisher announcement soon, along with info on how you can get the book digitally!

I sincerely hope that you’ll give The Undoubtables a chance, especially if you enjoy heist movies or comics with a large, colorful casts.

I always get bummed out that I can’t show any art from this book due to our NDA, but as soon as we get the go-ahead, rest assured you’ll be the first to see it.

What Ever Happened to: The Undoubtables

In this week’s edition of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO… I thought I’d spotlight my upcoming 4-issue heist miniseries THE UNDOUBTABLES that I co-created with artist Emre Ozdamarlar and with colors by Kefas Armando.

Spencer “Spade” Shelton and his rag-tag band of thieves, The Undoubtables, will have to stay one step ahead of the police and a crew of deadly mobsters if they hope to shake off the rust and pull off their latest heist.

Once again, we have to jump into the way, way back machine and venture to a strange and dangerous land where music was ruled by Lady Gaga and the final Harry Potter flick was making billions in ticket sales… a world known as 2011.

It was around this time that I had written my first set of five-page pitches that included a superhero story, a sci-fi space tale, a gritty crime yarn (see: Chambers) and a fun Ocean’s 11-esque heist story. In 2012 I found gracious artistic collaborators to bring these stories to life and by the end of the year, they were making the rounds to publishers, with most being rejected as quickly as I could send the digital files.

Then it all changed…I got a nibble on the heist story known as The Undoubtables, and soon I found myself on the phone with a publisher (seriously, no one ever uses the phone anymore…I thought that was pretty awesome) and they walked me through what they’d like to do with the comic, how they’d promote it and why they liked it. Digital was just becoming a thing, and they were excited for the comic to help pave a digital path for them. Then they offered Emre and and I a contract.

Well, as you can imagine… I was ecstatic. I hit up Emre and after some discussion we decided to give it a go and bring the full 4-issue series to life. It would be a ‘breakout’ project for the both of us and would help us put (and hopefully leave) our mark on the comics world, establishing us as creators. Emre, who was attending comics school in Sweden at the time, was encouraged by his teachers to draw the book as part of his training, which I still think is just about the coolest thing ever, and since the contracts were signed we’ve been hard at work on the finished product.

Fast forward a bit — In August 2013 we completed work on the debut issue and then in December 2013, wrapped the second installment. Here in 2014, I’m proud to say that the entire 88-page series has been colored. Currently, we’re finessing some of the colors on issues 3 & 4 and once those are settled, I will letter the last 44 pages and we anticipate to see the first issue released digitally within the next couple of months. In fact, the first issue is poised to release as soon as we’ve turned in the third!

Much like my 2013 series, Chambers, once all four issues have debuted digitally, they will be collected in a print trade paperback edition that you can hold and cherish forever.

The publisher has been patient with us and is still very encouraging with the title. They’re excited and I have to admit, I’m really excited too.

It’s gonna be a good year.

TULogo

2013 in Review

I had spent the majority of 2011 and 2012 making plans. Setting goals. Crying and rocking back and forth in the shower. And this year, everything began to pay off.

In life, people always seem to come back to their childhood loves, and for me, that meant comic books. In my youth, my friends and I would dream of putting together our own comics and spend countless hours swapping issues in order to save some cash while still enjoying the many events of the Marvel and DC Universes. After my music career (if you could call mostly getting paid in beer a career) started to lose its luster, I knew that I needed somewhere new to focus my creative energies, and comics were it. I was finally going to write the comics I had always dreamed of. It would be a small success for myself and my childhood friends, whether they were aware it was happening or not.

I spent a lot of time at the keyboard writing and talking with potential artists and in 2012 wheels began to turn and ink began to hit paper. Finally, in 2013, all of those crazy ideas started becoming a reality.

You May Already be a Winner – This five-page short, graciously drawn by artist Jacob Warrenfeltz was released in The Gathering: Crime anthology by GrayHaven Comics in July. The anthology was originally slotted to run a five-page short of my character Denise who went on to star in Chambers (more on that later) but I had to pull the pages from production, but luckily editor Douglas Hahner allowed me to re-pitch a story to fill the void.

This book will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first comic story that someone else paid to print (it’s the little victories). You can pick up a copy of the 32-page anthology here.

ChambersTradeCoverWebChambers – In September, my four-issue crime-fiction miniseries (is there a theme developing?) Chambers was released by Arcana Studio. The book was part of a digital-first initiative where the publisher would release each issue through the ComiXology platform and then ultimately collect them into a physical trade paperback. This comic has the honor of being the first book signed to Arcana by former VP of Publishing Erik Hendrix.

In a twist of fate, the original artist backed out of the project right as the contract was on the table and I had the daunting task of finding a suitable replacement. Luckily, I was working with collaborator extraordinaire Kristian Rossi on another project at the time. He was interested in taking up the reigns and submitted a test page which ended up coming out better than I ever could have imagined. Erik agreed that he’d be a good fit and contracts were signed and production began. Colors for the book were provided by Kefas Armando who gave a gritty realism to the pages.

For a first miniseries, I’m proud of how this book came out. Reviews have been positive and it will always be a fun shoot-em-up cop story that I enjoyed telling. A big thanks to Erik Hendrix for believing in the project, his wife Amanda Hendrix, for helping me edit and providing an honest and helpful voice of reason, and everyone at Arcana for promoting the project as the issues released. The physical trade will be published in March of 2014, but in the meantime, the digital collection is available on ComiXology here.

Timeless – Also in September, GrayHaven Comics hooked me up again by publishing a three-page short in the anthology The Gathering: Sci-Fi 2, a follow up to their most popular collection to date. For this time travel tale, I collaborated with artist Michael Nigro who brought amazing detail to each panel and drew many awesome historical locations. I wrote a lot of short comics over the last year but each one  presented it’s own set of difficulties, obstacles and learning opportunities. I appreciate the GrayHaven crew for all of their constant support in encouraging me to write really crazy things.

Michael has gone on to work on some really awesome wild west-inspired projects so be sure to surf over to his website to see all of the cool things that he has drawn in the past year. You can pick up the Sci-Fi 2 antho, featuring 38 pages of great stories here.

InnovationCover_smallInnovation – Back in July, I came up with this crazy idea to write an ongoing comic book series and utilize a myriad of artists to help tell the tale. Over the course of one weekend I wrote the first five scripts and began mapping out a world, characters, plot points and all sorts of other craziness. Little did I realize that artists would understand what I was doing, think it was cool and want to be part of it. Fast forward to October. I’m headed to the New York Comic Con with printed copies of the first issue of Innovation in tow. It all came together quickly and beautifully. In NYC, I even got some hang time in with one of the issue’s contributors.

In November, we took the project online as a free, albeit non-traditional webcomic and to date more than 100 pages have been written for the series with over a dozen artists signing up to help bring it to life and put their stamp on the universe. A huge thank you goes out to the original team of Ken Perry, Mike Hatfield, Damon Threet and Stan Chou who helped establish the look, feel and tone of the world and who have supplied many a great idea in the process. Reception for the book has been warm with some great reviews, but there’s so much more coming and I’ve only scratched the surface. For anyone who’s reading it and is just completely confused…that’s okay. That feeling is normal. Answers will come soon. Read the first four chapters for free at www.innovationcomic.com.

Compromised – Also in November, GrayHaven Comics continued to treat me kindly with the release of The Gathering: Spies anthology. For this three-page short I teamed up with Tomasz Witas for a dark and gritty tale of an elderly spy confronting his greatest nemesis one more time.

I want to extend an especially large thank you to Tomasz, because after having eight different artists work on the story, he’s the person who came on board and fully brought it to life. I recently got my hands on a copy of the book and I was proud to see that we were the last story featured. It’s always nice to influence how someone feels when they end a book! Grab the 36-page anthology right here.

That was it!

That was my 2013 in comics. Not bad by any stretch of the imagination and it was nice to see some projects that I’d been living with for over a year finally see the light of day and be able to share them with readers.

If you’re a numbers person (I am not), here’s how it all shook out:

Pages published in 2011: (A big, fat whopping) zero.
Pages published in 2012: 3
Pages published in 2013: 119

Now, I’m no mathematician, but this year showed at least a 9,000% increase in published work.

You may be asking yourself, after reading that extremely long block of text that came prior to this line, “What’s next, Wes?”

Awesome things.

January 2014:

Hoodwinked – GrayHaven Comics will release a four-page short that I penned for The Gathering: Public Domain anthology. The story features art by Chambers-alum, Kristian Rossi and it was great to work with such a talented fellow for the third time. The anthology is slated for January and once it’s released, I hope you’ll pick it up to see how I handle a classic public domain character that everyone will recognize.

Early 2014:

Unit 44 – I also plan to release the first issue of my sci-fi/comedy comic Unit 44 that I successfully funded via Kickstarter in September. Art for book is being completed by Eduardo Jimenez, who has been an absolute joy and pleasure to work with. Because this book doesn’t have a publisher attached, I’m quite excited about the prospect of self-publishing it myself to see what will happen.

The Undoubtables – While my adventure/heist book with Emre Ozdamarlar is still in production, it comes closer to completion with each passing day. This was the first book I ever signed a contract with a publisher for and I’m ecstatic with how this book is shaping up and excited to reveal the publisher who will be bringing it to you. It’s a fun story with some great characters and I anticipate readers being able to pick it up digitally within the first quarter of the year. Colors were handled by Chambers-alum Kefas Armando and it’s a good looking book full of adventurous and explosive fun.

April 2014:

In the Drink – Come April, GrayHaven will drop another short of mine in The Gathering: Survival anthology. This collection will feature a three-page story that I wrote with art by the fun-loving Robyn Seale. I’m really excited about this one because there are no words in the entire story. I didn’t need them because Robyn did an absolutely amazing job at telling the reader everything they needed to know with her art.

TBA 2014:

Innovation – With more than a dozen artists signed on to help keep the sci-fi story going, I expect to be dropping 20 pages worth of story every few months. The second issue should go online in December 2013 or first thing in January, as well as numerous other times throughout the year. Stay tuned as our first arc continues!

The Temporal – This was the first project that brought me together with Kristian Rossi, and hilariously enough, the last of our collaborations to be released. This 32-page one-shot is a story about a young scientist who discovers the secrets of time travel and all of the crazy stuff that happens in such a scenario. This story has been folded into the world of Innovation and will set the stage for some interesting things across both titles. Stay tuned for some fun news on this one!

New Life – We got a great start on this miniseries, managing to complete the first issue in 2013, but since artist Logan Miller and I are both students, time is not always on our side. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to complete the final three issues in the new year and serve them up to you, piping hot at some point. Stay tuned for more news as it develops!

Did you really read this far? Holy crap…I feel like you deserve a prize.

I hope you have a safe and happy holiday and a prosperous 2014!