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.

Housekeeping!

I imagine that as a housekeeper in a hotel, my day would be utterly ruined by walking inside a room to tidy up, only to find a decaying body inside.

It always bums me out when I surf onto my own blog and see that it’s been weeks since my last update, or in this case, nearly a month. I don’t want to be that decaying body that people check in to look for. I want to prove that I’m alive and well, so I’m taking that opportunity now.

At times I find myself doing so much writing and reading that the last thing I want to do is write or read about myself. However, comics is an arena in which presence equals productivity, so I thought I’d fill in the gaps on what’s been happening throughout the radio silence that has occurred over the past few months. Thankfully, it’s all amazing things.

For whatever reason, September, October and November were months filled with crashing waves of inspiration and motivation and I found myself churning out more writing then had come in the prior six months. Needless to say, it was awesome.

  • I wrote three issues of of a 5-part comic books miniseries I hope to put into production this year.
  • I wrote a complete 96-page comic series that I’ve found an amazing artist for, and look forward to self-publishing in the coming year.
  • I wrote 50 pages of another series and presented it to a dream artist who has agreed to come along for the ride.
  • I wrote a 24-page one-shot about zombies.
  • I wrote a 24-page one-shot about hipsters.
  • I wrote half of an action/comedy video game that is currently being built for release on the PlayStation platform within the next year (I will also write the other half of it).
  • I wrote a 3-part script for a choose-your-own-adventure style game that will be released for iPhone and Android smartphones within a month.
  • I’ve written more than 40 pages of a sequel to one of my published comics.
  • I’ve read some amazing comic books and non-fiction books.

I don’t know what’s in the water, but it tastes amazing. My eyes and fingers have been busy, so forgive me for not paying more attention to my blog, but I trust we’re all glad that I’m not rotting on the floor.

I feel like I could have come up with something better than the “rotting on the floor” analogy, but I’ve also come to remember that they can’t all be winners.

The Darby Pop Script Contest

So, Darby Pop publishing, home of some oddball comics including 7th Sword, Doberman and Dead Squad are holding a script contest for up-and-coming writers. They’ve challenged those looking to break into the comics biz to to write a complete 22-page one-shot script for their character, Stingray, who appears in the pages of the superhero-comedy comic Indestructible. The winning script will be drawn up and subsequently published by Darby Pop and IDW in 2015.

While this is the first time I’ve mentioned it here on my blog, I now have time to do so because on Wednesday I submitted my finished script for the contest.

Hot off the heels of placing in the recent Titan Comics Undiscovered Talent Competition, I knew this would provide a fun exercise in creativity, deadlines and working with a pre-established intellectual property. One of my goals as a comic writer has always been to tap into the work-for-hire market and “play with another creator’s toys,” if you will, and Darby Pop’s contest was just the thing to get my brain going. I’d always wondered what would happen if I were given the opportunity to write for characters created by someone else and, boy, did I get a crash course in doing so!

First things first…while I’d heard of the comic Indestructible, I hadn’t actually read it, so my first order of business was to cruise over to ComiXology where I picked up the collected edition of the first four issues and proceeded to dive right in. There’s a chance I may have even ignored several real world responsibilities while I devoured that thing. (Let’s keep that between us, okay?)

Indestructible was created and written by Darby Pop President Jeff Kline with art by Bernard Chang, Salvi Garcia, Javi Garron and Chris Johnson, tells the story of Greg Pincus, a slacker who lives in a world, not unlike our own, where superheroes are not only high-powered crime stoppers, but A-list celebrities to boot. After (sort of) stopping a robbery, Greg is mistaken for a superhero and thrust into the spotlight where he must wrestle with enjoying the perks that come with the celebrity status while wanting to come clean with his friends, family and the world over that little detail…he doesn’t really have powers. Before long, Greg is approached by the League of Defenders who attempt to recruit him to their ranks. Much hilarity ensues.

After reading the first volume a few times, I was taken aback by how funny it was. If there’s one thing I love, it’s funny. The characters were three-dimensional, had strong motives, were likeable and the humor was a nice mix of slapstick and the occasional riff on superhero tropes.

Of course, as I read I made notes and collected information on the aqua-powered female character Stingray, for whom I’d be writing a script. A hero-gone-bad, the femme fatale showed a penchant for nefarious deeds, drugs and had loads of strained relationships with the other characters in the book. In an odd turn of events, she didn’t appear in much of the volume, but her scenes were poignant enough to give a sense of who she was as a character, which was all I needed to get my brain doing it’s creative thang.

The contest rules stated that any characters from the book were on the table to play with and the time period in which the story was set was open, so already Darby Pop was providing writers with very few restrictions, something I greatly appreciated. On my next pass through the book I investigated other characters and heroes, ultimately deciding to set my one-shot before the events of the first volume. The germ of the idea was in motion and the thought of getting to write for a brash, younger and more emotionally-charged group of heroes provided limitless potential.

Over the course of a few nights I did my outline, page breakdowns and on a recent Sunday afternoon, drafted my first issue of the script. A tight outline made all the difference and I found myself in the fortunate position of not having to cut or pad a single scene. As a comic book writer, that’s a personal victory right there. After letting the script sit for a few days, giving me a chance to review it with fresh eyes, I made my edits and let it sit again. This week after a final round of polish and dialogue tweaks I was ready to “send the kid off to school.”

This contest was rather brilliant on multiple levels…it not only gave writers a reason to put on their thinking caps and experience life in the work-for-hire trenches, but it also got people reading their book. I was darn impressed not only with what Kline and company did in the first volume, but with what new writer Ken Kristensen did on the subsequent four issues. Good comics are good comics, and I’m glad I found something else to add to my pull list.

The deadline for the contest is October 22, after which I’ll share a deeper look into how the idea came together, perhaps the outline, beat breakdowns, and if it’s determined that I’m not a winner, maybe even the finished script. As I learned more about the Stingray character, the idea of a broken super-powered human who could play the hero or villain, depending on the day, became such an interesting idea to explore and I thank Darby Pop for holding a contest that’s encouraged writers to write and will judge entries based on what they’re bringing to the table as a “solo artist.”

Though, I don’t envy them having to read all those scripts…

I had such a ball with this project and regardless of which talented scribe is chosen as the winner, it gave me the confidence that I could in fact write for a pre-existing property…and perhaps even do it well.

Fingers crossed.

Here’s to the Future.

With CHAMBERS on the books, THE UNDOUBTABLES poised to begin serializing digitally within the next month or two, NEW LIFE halfway complete, UNIT 44 in full-on production, and several shorts in various stages of completion, it left me with a well of new material that was on the verge of going dry.

Sure, INNOVATION is kicking behind the scenes and we’re releasing a new tale every few weeks, but in the comics game, creators always seem to be working roughly a year ahead of schedule. With 2014-2015 belonging to the titles mentioned above, I found myself wondering, “What about 2016?” As I grow older and time continues to move in fast forward, I knew that the year would arrive well before I was mentally prepared for it. Here’s to being proactive.

Looking back on the past month, updates have been sparse across this ye ole website, and the main reason being is because I’m in the process of writing my next comic book series.

I knew I had to get something going if I wanted to keep my name associated with comics, so in mid-April I hunkered down to begin what will (ideally) be my big release for 2016. The biggest problem with writing a new comic? You actually have to sit down and WRITE IT. As it turns out, these ideas don’t manifest themselves as written scripts while I sleep. Lame, I know.

I keep an “idea” file of different zany thoughts that come across my mind at any given time. Some are short, one-sentence riffs while others are full paragraphs and even others are full pages. When I need something new to work on, I go to that file, re-read everything and see what sparks my imagination.

One of the things I’ve learned about myself as a writer over the past year is that I had read enough comics that fell into the categories of “dark and gritty” and wanted to focus on things that were a bit lighter (Hello, Unit 44!). But because readers seem drawn to those dark comics, I thought it might be fun to tackle a subject that could be dark when it needed to, but also be a lot of fun. So, as I took a final scan through the ideas folder, I landed on an idea that will eloquently meld the qualities together.

This idea will take the reader to dark places and find the light within.
It will be funny.
It will  be entertaining.
It will be absolutely, completely bonkers.

It’s also one of the most autobiographical things I’ve written and I’d even go so far as to say that it’s (slightly) based on a true story. In my mind’s eye, I see this impending comic book as the perfect narrative to bring together fans of CHAMBERS with fans of UNIT 44, and I’m all about the unity. Sure, I’m being vague on the details, but that’s because they’re still being worked out. Why would I show you what I got you for Christmas before I wrap it?

So, where am I currently? Before I typed a word of script I spent several days connecting plot lines, building characters and giving myself a general outline to work from. I’ve completed work on issues 1 & 2 out of a (proposed) four issue series. I’ve also revised the first issue four times, with a fifth scheduled. On my past works I’ve done two revisions, maybe three if I’m really trying to get a certain theme across, but this book will likely have more love, care, time and attention put into it than all of my past works combined.

It’s interesting how as a creator, as soon as you put work into the public eye (where you can never take it back) you begin to notice everything that’s wrong with it and you have fleeting moments where you can’t help but feel like a complete hack and an utter jerk for coercing people into reading it. And while I’ll always stand by my past work, the benefit of these fleeting moments is that it shows me just how much I’ve learned. With that learning comes vast improvements to future writings. Everything I’ve learned from the books mentioned above is coming in full effect on this new script and you’ll eventually receive a story that is better for the missteps I have made in the past.

I’ve also been working on this narrative alongside reading The 90-Day Rewrite by Alan Watt, which is a fantastic book that has armed me with innumerable tools that have only strengthened what’s to come. If you’re a writer, I highly recommend this book. It’s like having a person in your corner who will yell at you and make you feel comfortable all at the same time.

So, why am I writing all of this?

For one, I fear that a lack of updates to this website indicates a lack of productivity. For two, because I’m excited about what’s next. Because I’m excited about the future. Because I’m excited that I found something else that I want to say through the comic book medium.

Most of all, I want you to be excited too.

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!