MARC ALAN FISHMAN: “We Interrupt This Snark for a Shameless Plug”
Hello all. I thought I’d change things up a tad today… and not just tear into a character, creator, or comic that drives me bonkers. I figured instead it’d be fun to discuss a comic I actually love. OK, this may not actually count. Why? It’s my comic.
Unshaven Comics is my studio/self-publishing/merchandising pet project, alongside my brothers-from-other-mothers, Matt Wright and Kyle Gnepper. Back in 2006 we were lucky fuckers who were given a shot to make a book for an actual publisher. I won’t get into the details, but suffice to say we learned more lessons than we earned dollars. We wouldn’t trade that experience in for the world; especially because it’s how we came to meet Mike Gold. That’s not where the story ends though. In fact, it’s where it all begins.
Having finished a project on someone else’s terms, Unshaven Comics looked around for someone else to work for. Unlucky for us, publishing a tiny educational comic book about immigration isn’t the way to get on anyone’s radar. Thus, we looked inward. Why do a book for someone when you can do one for yourself, right? If comics aren’t going to pay our bills, it might as well be something we give a damn about. Thus, Disposable Razors was born. Pie-eyed, we pitched it to Mike. “Anthologies? They don’t sell.” And like happy drunks, we just kept on keeping on.
Disposable Razors conceptually isn’t a hard sell. For us? It’s an exercise. A single issue to tell a single story that leaves enough of a world developed that should we care to return to it, we can. Issue 1 was Kyle’s baby, Chasing Daylight, wherein a group of four guys learn about the frailty of friendship by way of a demon. Issue 2 was fishtastic: Iron Side: Living Will, wherein a retired geriatric superhero straps up his boots on one last mission before he meets his maker. And as I sit here looking at it… Issue 3 is now a reality as well. This time around the three of Unshaven lads really worked as a team (with Kyle penning half, Matt painting said half, and crazy me writing and drawing the other half). Issue #3 is homage to our childhoods. I need only give you the pitch on this one. The Samurnauts™! Astronaut Samurai led by an immortal Kung-Fu monkey fighting evil demon dinosaurs. I can’t even type that without smiling a little.
A recent exchange with my friends at ComicMix posed an interesting question. “What exactly are you looking for, Unshaven Comics?” In our wildest dreams, Marvel or DC comes to us and says “Hey, how about we give you a shot.” In our less-but-not-really-cause-it’d-be-amazing dreams, Image, Avatar, Boom or Dynamite comes to us and says “Hey, how about we give you a shot.” But in the real world? DC isn’t calling. Marvel ain’t either. Avatar and the like are after licenses, and their creative teams are generally established. Trust me, this kind of talk from me even two years ago, wouldn’t happen. I’m an admitted dreamer. But, getting married? A kid on the way? It has a knack for opening the bigger picture to a guy.
Unshaven Comics was founded because at the time, our early 20s, we had our future at our fingertips. We knew the traditional routes into comics. Matt could have easily made a portfolio, pitched himself to editors at con after con, and if he was lucky? Land a gig doing a backup in an annual. Once. And Kyle? Getting into comics as a writer is about as easy as… well… getting into comics as a writer. And me? A jack of all trades, a master at none. I can color. I can letter. I fancy myself a writer. And if I put my mind to it? I can pencil and ink. If I were lucky, a publisher might use me in a pinch (cough, The Original Johnson, Volume 2). But I digress… Like I said, we were founded on the idea that if we were to make it into the industry, it was all for one, and one for all. Insane? You bet your ass. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Doing our own books means I have to hang up the snark gloves and ask myself what I want to see in a comic. With backs against the wall, and your soul for sale for five bucks a pop, whilst sitting at a six foot table in the midst of real professionals? It’s exhilarating. And with every sale to a stranger, a knot in my stomach forms. Will they like it? Are fooling ourselves? Does the book look professional enough? Oh my god, is there a typo?
Sometimes, the reactions we get astound us. We had a girl buy book 1 on a Friday. She came back to the table on Saturday gushing. She bought book 2. Other times? We get slapped right in the jaws. Johanna Draper Carlson of “Comics Worth Reading” stopped by our table last year. She flipped through the issue and a long frown came upon her face. “This is just… not good. But I like your logo!” And she was off. She tripped a little over our now dead egos, and moved on. I could wax poetic as to why I think our comics are the bee’s knees… but frankly I’m the artist. Too close to my work to know if I should just be reading them, not writing them.
For the last five years I have given up a social life. Both my and Matt’s amazing wives have allowed their husbands to spend near every hour that isn’t at work, eating, pooping or sleeping… making comic books. Disposable Razors #3 in fact, was near 225 work-hours, last I counted. And those hours? Not 9 to 5. That’s every night after working day jobs. It’s weekends not spent relaxing on a couch, or watching a movie. From taking reference shots, scripting, penciling, inking, coloring, lettering, editing, reediting and prepping the book to print? The last four months of our life have been nothing short of exhausting. All for 36 quickly read pages of art and words. We’re tired. We’re cranky. We’re hoping people buy it, and don’t spit on us.
And we’ll do it all again tomorrow. Why? Because, when you’re living the dream, you never want to wake up.
SUNDAY: John Ostrander
- JOHN OSTRANDER: How Piracy Made Me A Comic Book Writer (comicmix.com)