Marc Alan Fishman: I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends
When I made the leap to the other side of the aisle, I did so because I had my brothers from other mothers right next to me. And because of both of them I’ve continued to push myself to do things I honestly didn’t think I’d be capable of. Thanks to Kyle Gnepper, I write this column. (OK, it helps that Mike Gold lets me.) Because of Matt Wright, I’ve gone from gingerly tiptoeing around 12 pages of simple interior art to crashing my way through 18 pages of the most complicated, action-packed work I’ve ever done. It’s because of those friends I smiled at complete strangers and pitched my wares with a steely grin, confident that the product on our li’l eight footer could stand next to anything else on the convention floor, and be considering a quality book.
I made that leap, and figured that the world of independent comic bookery was a lone-wolf business. DC and Marvel, Image, Avatar, Boom, and others – places I’d kill to be a card-carrying employee of – but knowledgable enough to know that it takes them coming to me (and me being worthy of them) that would make that dream come true. And given how cutthroat the industry felt from the outside looking in, I always assumed that the introverted artists holed up in the Alleys were happy to sell you a book, and drown their sorrows at BeerCon when the show ended; alone. Now, after half a decade in the trenches? I know now how very wrong I was.
I started in this business alone with my logo-mates in tow. I type before you now, amongst a veritable community of cohorts – all of whom share in my successes, and console me in my failures. It’s only fitting I take time out to give them their due. My column this morning is an affirmation that the Artist Alley is not a dark and scary place. In fact, it’s the most inclusive and sobering reminder that my dreams are what crush the perception of loneliness I’d anticipated long ago.
Of course, what column these days would be complete without first mentioning my frenemy du jour… Dapper Dan Dougherty. Now go-going his way to the next level of semi-obscurity. He quit his day job to chase the dream. His pen hasn’t stopped moving enough for him to breathe ever since. And because of it? He’s producing an amazing slice-of-life webcomic, a graphic novel with a known movie star, and he has the ear of several publishers; all while writing and drawing his own independent book (which I touched on last week). Beyond the op-ed reach-around I seem to be giving him week after week… Dan’s been integral in the recent successes of my own endeavors. Aside from lending himself to our Samurnaut photo shoots, providing me with a near-daily venting board, and an always keen eye for critique… Most notably? He introduced me to Wesley Wong.
Wes is a workhorse colorist (who doesn’t know he can digitally craft original work that makes me want to retire and then hire him), who joined the Unshaven fold with our ‘Curse of the Dreadnuts #2’. He seamlessly integrated his talents with my own, and helped shave weeks off our production time. And he did it on our budget (which for his sake was astronomical, so don’t get any ideas…). The best part is, he lives less than a half hour away and grows strong chili peppers. Should I ever need to clear my sinuses, he’s my man.
And then there’s Jeremey and Mallie Adams, of Malmey Studios. Showcasing their homemade cosplay wares at Mid-Ohio Con some two (or was it three? I forget.) years ago, I’d tepidly approached them to find out if they took on custom work, because they produced what I considered to be near-movie quality costumery. A year later, we had a full suit of Samurnaut Armor, and two life-long friends to break sausages and German beer over. Ever since, we’re never more than an instant message away. And when Unshaven Comics makes their way to San Diego and Las Vegas in 2015, you better believe the Samurnauts in Delta Mode armor won’t be too far behind us; thanks to a pair of amazing crafters who nixed my offer of a handshake in lieu of a hearty hug.
Or how about Trevor Mueller and Jim McClain? We met Trevor back at our very first Wizard World – the same fated one where we met a Weird Man Inside the Gold Mind – he was a joy to meet simply as a fan. He listened to our pitch. He soaked in our words. He bought our book! And then he told us how he too was hoping to be on the other side of the aisle in the coming year. He and Jim joined a great group of other comic makers and educators to participate with the Reading With Pictures project. Whereas I recall my teachers thumbing their nose to the notion that comics were more than kitsch, Reading With Pictures was founded on the notion that comics are an amazing tool in education. With Trevor’s Albert the Alien, and Jim’s Solution Squad between the covers? I know when my son is ready for school, he’ll happily be carrying volumes of them in his backpack. Of course by that time, I wholly expect the Samurnauts to make their way into a story or two with RWP. And yes, I’m not above shameless self-promotion and networking within my own column.
I could go on and on. Over time, the same faces that sat shoulder to shoulder with me, became named individuals. Comic making cohorts like Jon Michael Lennon, Leo Perez, Dirk Manning, and Rafael Nieves, who asked me how I was doing, and congratulated me when I became a father. Legends like Mark Wheatley, Marc Hempel, John Ostrander, and yes even Mike Gold continually break bread with my brethren and me. We’ve grown from bystanders with common interests into makeshift families that call to say hello, and only after a half an hour or so of kibitzing ask for a favor. It is indeed a gilded life I lead, without an ounce of gold to my name.
As Unshaven Comics continues our journey one self-made book at a time, we do so now side-by-side with those who lift us up as we do them. Our goals are the same. Our bonds grow stronger. I started this journey fearing I was alone… only to find out that thanks to comics, I’ll never be without a shoulder to lean on, and an ear to commiserate with.
Marc and Unshaven Comics are right now sitting at Table S13, in Artist Alley, at C2E2. Mention this article, and Marc will do a little dance, and give you any comic on the table for free. But not his table.