Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Starts and stops

There's one pitfall to creating comics that probably won't make any money and are funding straight out of pocket without a corporate budget - starts and stops. I've had a few of these. Some of them are just because I start the project, it loses steam or I focus on something else, or I decide to stop paying an artist for the title or an artist gets other work.

This is the case with my first two books, Mack Turner: Slayer of the Dead and Steel Creek (formerly Legends of Steel Creek). Both started strong and with a lot of steam.

Mack Turner was the first. One of TJ Comics' launch titles. I actually created the character around 2007 when I was trying to find the funding to purchase the comic book rights to Ghostbusters (that was muddy).

When I launched TJ Comics, I found a great artist who was willing to do everything (pencils, inks, colors) and created a style that immediately bolstered the imprint from a "webcomic publisher for fun" to a full-blown publishing house. The quality was on par with the big companies and I was really excited. We burned through the first 2 issues and then everything started to seriously slow down. Why? Simply because the artist got work with Marvel. It's hard to argue or compete. After all, my intention was for him to be discovered. We got through issue 3, but it's been stuck there for a good 2 years. I never wanted to be that guy that had delays in titles, BUT I've come to learn that is the reality behind creator-owned and indie comics at this level.

The second half of the story (issues 4, 5 and 6) are written. I actually hired another artist with a somewhat similar style who completed issue 4 but I ran into roadblocks with his inking and finding a colorist so I decided not to move forward with the book. Luckily, the original artist expressed interest in finishing the book with the caveat that it would take him a while. I've seen some of issue 4 from him, and I can continue to wait... even though I'm anxious. Seriously, he's a great talent though and has done color work on some of Marvel's biggest books.

I've recently decided to revive Steel Creek. The evolution of this book is storied to say the least. Steel Creek is actually a prequel my senior final in college, a screenplay entitled "Legends of the West." Was never really a fan of that title, but it was serviceable at the time. The entire thing was my homage to Clint Eastwood and an entire genre that has always spoken to me. The events that take place in Steel Creek are actually mentioned in that screenplay as well. At one point, I had also wrote the sequel to "Legends of the West," so there's a whole trilogy at work here.

Steel Creek actually began as prose short stories on a website. I thought I'd write them, post them and collect them as a book later on. It started strong, but the long-form prose just didn't hold my interest or satisfy me creatively. The only answer was a comic.

I found a phenomenal artist, Ger Curti, who loved the idea of doing an Eastwood-style Western. We initially started the book as a weekly webcomic. One page a week and that went for about a year. But truth be told, I couldn't afford to keep doing it as Ger's work absolutely warranted a higher rate. So I collected a "Volume One" made up of three chapters and printed it up to sell at conventions. It did well and I was aiming to continue the work, but then the whole New York Comic Con 2011 happened and I nearly shut down the imprint.

As I've mentioned before, after NYCC 2011, I put everything on hold and focused solely on re-writing and moving forward with Patriot-1.

At one point, I wanted Steel Creek to be this kind of elaborate, seemingly never-ending story. But looking at it now, I know where it's going and how to get there and I've redone the plot and am preparing to move forward. I'm not sure if Ger will return. He's expressed interest, but once again funding might be an issue so I may have to find a similar artist to finish out the story. That's ultimately up to him.

I've also rebranded Steel Creek. It was originally called "Legends of Steel Creek,"  because it was tied to that original screenplay. The title has been changed simply to "Steel Creek" and I really think it's much more simple and powerful.

The first chapter of the story is available at for $1.99 in PDF format. If you check it out, you'll be directly supporting the continuation of the book.