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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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!