Tagged: Curse of the Dreadnuts

Marc Alan Fishman: What I’m Thankful For – the 2017 Edition

Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping … into the future.

In a few short days, we’ll be breaking bread with our loved ones and indulge in a day where we give thanks by cooking and consuming more food than we need. Some sanctimonious scads will also donate time, money, and food to charities to actually be good people. And then, for some, comes the relatively new tradition of lining up at brick and mortar stores to purchase items at rock-bottom prices in the name of some long-lost holiday spirit.

I am thankful that I don’t partake in that particular assholery. But I digress.

This has been an awful year for an awful lot of reasons. Our President is a blowhard buffoon who has only succeeded in raising the collective blood pressure of the people he swore an oath to protect. Hollywood blew up, and it turns out it’s full of absolute monsters. That Donald Trump dick is an idiot and attained the highest job in the country, and that some of the most powerful men of media used their position to pray on unsuspecting women and men does not come. It’s just that it all piled up at the same time. So much so that I’m having a hard time finding the silver lining amongst the low-hanging clouds.

But I’m not a sex-predator. And despite all his idiocy, President Trump has not personally affected my day-to-day life significantly enough that I’m in any worse station. So, I venture forward. These are the things I am most thankful for here in 2017:

  1. Unshaven Comics finished our first graphic novel.

After over five years of work, me and my studio mates have put to bed our very first trade paperback. Collecting issues one through four of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts, and packing it full of bonus materials has produced a 192 page tome that represents literally the very best thing we have done in our lives – specifically speaking of our creative output. As of this writing, the final details are being laid into the file that will be gleefully sent to our printer. The only thing left to do with it this year is toss the necessary shekels to pay for it. This will allow us in 2018 to pursue bigger and better things. More Samurnauts. A refreshed brand. A commitment to sell harder than we’ve ever sold before. 2017 was the year we limped across the finish line.

  1. I’ve held a steady and stable day job at the same place now two years running.

Understand that for most of my career, I’ve worked for some ahem challenging people. After paying whatever dues to the universe that might have existed – I think – I’ve finally found a position that is just right. As an Interactive Media Project Manager, I’ve found a place that challenges me without overworking me. That offers me day to work from home. Actual vacation time. And most important… Support for my personal endeavors like making comics, without ever questioning my commitment to the company.

  1. The indescribable joy of fatherhood (but yeah, I’ll try to describe it)

In 2017, I’ve watched my older boy, Bennett, learn to read and write. Seeing him figure out words and have passion to hold a pen and write his name fills me with emotion that frankly my younger self would declare as trite to be enamored with. But younger me is an ass and an idiot. To see the world through my children’s eyes, is to remember joy that has long been stolen by a weary world. To both Bennett and Colton Fishman, there is no debt, fear of heart disease, crippling insecurity, or the ever-present feeling that we’re nigh on to nuclear Armageddon. In its place is unadulterated glee over video games, comic books, TV shows, and the high fives and hugs of supportive parents. And trust me, until you see my younger, the hilarious CM Fish himself, boisterously vibrate with pure delight over being handed a spoon to eat his yogurt? You don’t know joy.

  1. This space.

Yes, you read that right. In 2011, I submitted my very first column to ComicMix. And ever since, I have tried to carve out a tiny little spot on the big world wide web where my specific brand of snark could plant a flag. In 2017, I’ve been able to touch on all my favorite nits to pick. From yelling at DC’s Dan Didio for declaring comics are dead, eulogizing a lost friend, to ranking my favorite meals as a comic book creator, I’ve enjoyed being able to spout off whatever tickles my fancy, all while you – my adoring public – have afforded me the luxury of doing so without posting inside a vacuum. Every week, my Facebook feed teems with well-wishers, cage-rattlers, and crafty cohorts alike… all instigated by the words dribbled out of my mighty(ish) pen. Having this space is a boon to my psyche. Knowing that I can commiserate with all of you over every bit of pop culture bric-a-brac that floats past my cerebellum is something I can’t ever take for granted.

  1. Gummy Bears.

They’re still awesome.

  1. Injustice 2 announcing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will be playable.

Take my Rao-Damned money.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Marc Alan Fishman: The Light At the End of the Tunnel

For those of you who follow my li’l studio Unshaven Comics on Facebook, you’ll note a recent ramping up of delightful sharing. As pages get completed in The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #4, I’ve been too excited not to immediately share them with our fans. As such, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on a book that has taken more than a year beyond what I’d intended to see it be ready for release.

We’re not there yet, but the end is truly nigh.

For those sticklers who like details: three of us presently are mashing on the necessary color work – with about 20 more pages that need final effects. Everything is lettered. The book file is built. Literally, 20 pages need some over-the-top TLC, and they will be pushed into their final form. To ensure we round third base and dive for home, I’m even taking this coming week off my normal day job to only work on the book. By the time you read my article next week, I should be sending the book off to the printer – and likely attempting to gain back a weeks’ worth of lost sleep.

Not that I’m counting our chickens before they are hatched. Within these last pages is the crux of the issue – if not the entire four book series. Fight scenes dissolve into bigger fight scenes and culminate in a space fight that will push me to my limit with meticulously placed texture maps and Photoshop glow effects. Every single page matters. Every panel needs polish. If this is to be the culmination of five years’ worth of nights, weekends, holidays, and everything in between, there will be no half-measures.

If I am to speculate that my work is successful, I will look forward to those final steps to see the book become a physical, sellable object. The book is pressed into a high-res PDF and is carefully transferred to our printer. A proof is produced, and we spot check every page to ensure the trim doesn’t cut into any major details or words. Then, issues will be printed, cut, bound, and boxed. We’ll pick up issue #4 along with a hefty helping of issues 1, 2, 3, and the not so secret origin and make the 12-hour drive to Dragon Con in Atlanta. And there lies the grail of emotion I truly seek at the end of this process.

For five years, we have minted a minor (very, very, very minor) fortune by uttering a pitch that takes less than 20 seconds to complete. I’d say, “you already know it by now,” but if you know me then you know I’m not missing my window to boldly brand:

The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts is a team-action adventure about samurai-astronauts, led by an immortal Kung Fu monkey… saving humanity from zombie-cyborg space pirates!

And for the last five years, one burning question had remained deftly unanswered by our growing amassment of wonderful fans…

“Is this everything?”

Now, we can now look them dead in the eye, and place the entire series in their lovely mitts. A complete thought (plus a wonderful upsell if they want that origin tale) that took over a thousand hours to piece together across the birth of four kids, the marriage and subsequent moving of one Unshaven lad to Wisconsin and over 102 individual mortgage payments posted. Now for a single Andrew Jackson, the fruit of all of that labor is handed over with glee.

The light at the end of the tunnel represents more than just the culmination of a comic book. It’s the lighting of the torch that announces the next phase to Unshaven Comics. The only place to go from here is up. And now… it’s starting to feel like it’s actually true.

Marc Alan Fishman: When the Words Come!

There’s no single moment in the creation of the comics that I make that cement the driving feeling of accomplishment more for me than finalizing the lettering on a page. When it comes time to build The Samurnauts, my studio (Unshaven Comics for the uninitiated) subscribes to a combination of the so-called DC Style and the so-called Marvel Method.

The DC Style such as its short-handed via various wikis and whatnot is a full script treatment. This means that the writers produce a script that outlines every bit of information to be in a given comic –  from the panel descriptions, to the actual laid out dialogue, caption boxes, and onomatopoeia.

The Marvel Method is often the cited style of the stalwart staple of Marvel Studios, Stan Lee. Stan provided his artist collaborators the basic structures and story beats. He’d allow them to lay it all out as they saw fit. He then would come back to the final art, and add in all ‘dem fancy words.

To note: it’s likely in comics today that neither DC or Marvel actually adhere to these methods full-stop for the glut of writers they employ. It’s most likely down to individual preference, editorial management, or some combination of the two. And neither company originated these so-called styles.

Unshaven Comics utilizes both of these styles when it comes time to create an issue of The Samurnauts. Kyle Gnepper (resident writer and sales machine) is the full-script aficionado. As to why he prefers that style is an article I implore him to write on his own. What we’re here for today kiddos is to explore why I’m so enamored with the extemporaneous creation of the words that land on the page of the books that bear my name. Ya dig?

As I draw the pages, the script of my portions of The Samurnauts is always playing in my head like a Saturday morning cartoon. When we Unshaven Lads plot out an issue, we furiously take notes and debate on the outline. We create scenes, and story beats we want to hit on. We envision large set pieces, and tropes we want to pay homage to. When it’s time to translate those musings to actual actions? Well, for me, it’s all a matter of staring at a blank page and letting the story play out. I’ll layout panels (Adobe Illustrator is my medium of choice), and I’ll scribble near visually-illegible gestural drawings in the panels – my outline nestled in the margins of the artboard. From here, I typically bounce the final sketches to my artistic cohort Matt Wright. His keen eye for dynamic shots and action always set me up for logical-yet-exhilarating moments to capture in my final art.

By this point, I should make clear: my goal is to show more than tell. The immeasurably keen and kind Brian Stelfreeze once told me “A great comic book page can tell a story without a single word,” and I’ve long made what attempts I could to visually communicate as much as I could in the panel. This often translates to capturing my models with numerous poses, facial expressions, at different angles. My comic-making process is essentially a cartoon on mute for the first half of production. My end-goal always being to tell the entire story through the artwork first.

After the digital penciling, inking, flatting, and coloring, I’m left with a page ready for the final layer. Per the same conversation with Stelfreeze, I vividly recall him pointing out that “The words that appear on the page need not tell me what I’m already seeing. They need to fill in the gaps between the panels.” And so, with the page visually telling me one portion of the story, I add in my captions and dialogue in response to the action already on the page. With each blurb of text, I ask myself what am I communicating here that adds to the depth of the story? I’ll end on a recent anecdote:

On the first two page spread of the forthcoming The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #4 the action is clear as day; the Dreadnut dreadnaught (natch) reigns a hail of laser fire at the feet of the now-Delta-Wave Samurnauts, blowing them towards us (Power Ranger style!). Set in panels beneath the action we see their sensei, Master Al (the immortal Kung-Fu Monkey) imprisoned aboard their nemesis’ ship. We pull in on his pained expression.

When I outlined the scene, I knew that the action in the major portion of the page would not need to have a ton of dialogue – keeping in mind the sound effects of the lasers would be a key visual on top of the art. Pairing that action with the introspective moment by Master Al offered me the opportunity per Stelfreeze’s advice. The ability to counterpoint said action with narration that dives deeper into Master Al’s backstory (setting up Kyle’s five-page flashback on the following pages) becomes that thing that adds a layer to the artwork. By pairing reflective and solemn narration over the explosions creates a deeper experience – one I think that is best celebrated via the medium of a comic book. There’s no fancy star-wiping here, just a juxtaposition of incongruous actions that taken together tell us more than if they were presented more plainly.

And as I’d started saying at the top of this article, it’s here in these moments… when my unadorned artwork lays before me, I let Jesus take the wheel. Funny enough, I’m Jewish. I kid, I kid. Without a fully-developed script – paired with Kyle’s completed piece in front of me – I’m able to craft a more cohesive comic. One where my words set the table for Kyle’s, while still advancing the story in my portion of the book. It’s a balancing act that is the single most important selling point of The Samurnauts. Without that singular vision that marries the past to the future, our book is a mismatched mélange of wholly dissimilar action, save only for a monkey. Walking that tightrope, without a script to catch my fall is the kind of adventure that truly pays off when I’ve finished the last word balloon on the page and hit save. I reread the entire page, and play back the cartoon running in my mind. If it gels? It sells.

Excelsior, indeed!

Marc Alan Fishman: How To Plan A Successful Con(vention)

As Unshaven Comics prepares for the annual C2E2 mega-Midwestern-super-pop-culture-show in late April, it dawned on me this might be still another one of those rare opportunities to share the creative process – or in this case business process.

It’s widely known (to our seven fans) that Unshaven Comics runs a tight table. We have well-manicured wares, a quippy answer to every response to our pitch, and an approach to conventioneering that even the mighty Gene Ha was in awe of. But here and now, prior to hitting the show floor, we’re introspective.

This show will be a very big one for us. Perhaps the biggest in our careers. Why? Because we’ll finally have a finished series to pitch. The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts is set to be completed by the skin of our chins (underneath the beards, natch) and debut at C2E2. Four issues of Samurai-Astronauts, led by an immortal kung fu monkey, defending humanity from zombie-cyborg space pirates. And now we have means to see the whole kit and caboodle, and even top off the package with their secret origin issue #0 if we need a double upsell. But with that book finally hitting our wire rack, there’s much to consider.

First and foremost, tabling at a con is a business venture. With a set price that includes the table itself, and the materials to sell at said table, there’s a distinct need to profit. Meaning we not only need to cover those costs, we need to have money in the till when the last fan leaves the hall on Sunday. This money then allows us to attend the next con. With that in mind, there’s a conundrum to cover.


As I’ve ranted here before selling poster-prints is the single easiest way to make scads of dirty dollars on the con floor. A great poster could take a decent artist 10-20 hours to complete. It costs less than a dollar to print (unless you are somehow convinced fans care about archival paper and environmentally safe inks). They are then sold for ten bucks or more (on average), typically without a single haggle. In contrast, The Samurnauts will have taken 1000 hours of work split between three guys, costs us $2.85 to print, and sells for $5. We’re in the wrong business. But it’s the business we choose to remain in.

So, it circles back around: How do we do our voodoo at our table? Simply: we offer a large variety of products… but we sell just one at a time. Notorious as it may be, our schtick remains intact: A simple, laminated 8.5” x 11” sheet of paper asking “Can I tell you about my comic book?” held up. It stops people long enough to laugh, and before they can really think of a solid excuse… we’re pitching them!

While they flip through our issues and gab with Kyle (The Sell-o-Tron 5000 of Unshaven Comics), Matt Wright and I draw live at the table to attract other looky-loos. Our own small set of poster prints hang over our heads. With a handful of fun parody prints, mashups, and a few politically zingy pieces… we will grab a fair share of passerby purchasers. With cheap posters (we only charge $5, or 3 for $10), we bank good money while Kyle closes on great purchasers – readers who will (if we’ve done well in our books) will return to us year-in-year-out.

So what will differ Unshaven’s table this year versus last? Perhaps not much on the surface. Our pitch will remain the same; it’s really about closing the sale on issue #1. But when they linger, we’ll mention that the whole series is available then and there. We’ll juice the sale with a sticker or poster. If there’s a taker to the upsell, we may even take it a step further, adding in that aforementioned issue #0 and tossing in all our stickers and a poster. $25 for 200+ pages of comics and a bag of swag? Sounds like a deal to me. And if it does to this penny-pinching tribe member, perhaps, maybe, it will to game comic con crowds.

Next week, we’ll dive into the physical space we occupy. Oh, that’s right kiddos. We’re going trilogy here!

Unshaven Conventions: The Beards Strike Back in one week!

Marc Alan Fishman: The Unshaven State of the Union – 2017

My fellow geeks, nerds, nerfherders, and dweebs: I stand before you today afraid of tomorrow. As it’s only been a few weeks since Donald J. Larfleeze took the oath of office of these United States. Each day seemingly brings us closer to eminent destruction. With that in mind, I figured it would behoove me to survey the landscape for my little independent comic book studio and make some sweeping declarations for the year.

Declaration Number 1. The Curse will be Completed

The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts, our mini-series-that-is-taking-five-years-to-make will be completed. As of this writing, I have 13 or so pages left to flat. Then comes final coloring, lettering, and placing into the final print-ready file. All things considered, my aim is to have the book on the table for C2E2, which is April 21st. This is a necessity for the rest of the success we will have in the year to come. Because finishing the final issue means finishing the graphic novel collection, and finally making good on our commitment to our Kickstarter backers – who no doubt have plenty of reason to seethe at our inability to deliver anything on time.

Declaration Number 2. Unshaven Comics is Going Educational.

As detailed a few weeks ago, Matt Wright and I taught a pair of classes through our local park district. We saw over 25 students make their way into our li’l classroom and steal our hearts. To watch as kids come to grips with how complex a comic really is… a feeling I can’t describe save only for a basic grunt of elation. As we breakdown conceptualization, creative writing, penciling, inking, coloring, and lettering… the joy piled up until we were asked why the class was only two weeks long. Suffice it to say: lesson learned. We’ll be doing longer classes from now on.

Declaration Number 3. Upgrading our Brand.

The first post-Curse priority for us is to completely revamp the Unshaven Comics brand. This means a new website, new convention branding, new business cards, new merchandise (beyond Samurnauts), and new company apparel. Don’t worry, the “lego head” logo ain’t going anywhere. But maybe there will be a fun (and free!) Unshaven Avatar app… But you didn’t hear that from me.

Declaration Number 4. Three New Samuranauts Will Begin Production.

Unlike unnecessary walls, Unshaven Comics knows when something needs to be built. Upon the completion of Curse and our brand being refreshed, our little studio is making the attempt to up the ante of our output. Each of we Unshaven Lads will take on a new Samurnauts title by our lonesome. Kyle will pair with a new artist to create The Rage of Rep-Simian. Matt Wright will dip his toe into story development (and do the artwork, as per usual) and bring The Luchanauts to life. And I will once again tackle both story and artistic duties to produce an all-female romp (set in the 1980s) The Samurnauts: Night of the NuWave. While there’s no chance any of the books will be complete in 2017, we will get a solid headstart on them before the year is out. And this time around? We’ll be sharing our progress reality-TV-style with weekly production vlogs. #WeAreSo2013

And Our Final Sweeping Declaration… 5. We Will Continue to Have the Time of Our Lives

Let me never stray too far from reality. Making comics is not easy when you have a full-time day job, a wife, two kids and two business partners very much in the same boat. Finding the time to work and to go to conventions while maintaining normal lives takes plenty of focus. Which means above all else, when I get to work with my brothers-from-other-mothers, be it at a convention table or the studio, I do not take it for granted. We will cherish every memory we build in 2017, as we hit new and old cons alike. We will break bread with our ComicMix brethren whenever the opportunity arises. We will release new content, and cherish each new fan we make… while doing our best to continue to earn the love and support from our existing (and very patient) fan base.

So long as we’re not destroyed by North Korea, Russia, Syria, or Iran, I look forward to high-fiving each and every one of you at a convention soon.

And as always… Stay Unshaven.

Marc Alan Fishman: Danger – Driving While Plotting!


I often receive puzzled looks when I tell folks that Unshaven Comics makes the trek from the southern burbs of Chicago to the New York Comic Con by car. I reassure them that if we could afford to ship an entire booth setup and merchandise to the Javits, convince ComicMix’s own Glenn Hauman to pick us up from La Guardia (a hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone, let alone our most gracious host), and then be beholden to said Haumans for most of our transportation needs, we would. But, rest assured, we’ve made the trip enough for me to admit I actually look forward to the nearly 14-hour jaunt across Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

In those middle-hours of driving, somewhere between lunch and arriving in New York, we found ourselves unpacking The Samurnauts as a concept. You ever want a first-class ride on the creative-process express? Buckle-up, Sally.

When we finally complete Curse of the Dreadnuts (which by my estimation will occur before it’s 2017), Unshaven Comics decided that the next course of action would be to test each of our mettles to be the best creators we could be – individually. With The Samurnauts, we afforded ourselves an immortal mentor. This allows us to spin off the series into a bevy of period pieces that allow Unshaven to explore literally every genre and art style that tickles our fancy. Cool, no?

Over the course of the car ride, we came to a few conclusions. Matt Wright will plot and draw the entirety of a Samurnaut tale set in a sleepy Mexican village in the 1920s. There, Luchanauts will save humanity from the threat of an inter-dimensional demon with the power of their lucha libre. Kyle Gnepper will pen (and art chores will be a still-undetermined new deputy Unshaven lad) a tale of an early Samurnaut team waging war against Repsimian – the monkey-dinosaur hybrid bent on destruction.

And me? Well… I’m headed for a completely different direction. One that requires a bit of an odd digression. Follow me. It’s worth it.

Every year for the past two years, I’ve lent my artistic hand to my friend Nina Rose and her “Speak To Me: A Pole Event for Autism” fundraiser show. The evening is a raucous blast where hobbyist and professional pole dancers perform marvelous numbers all to raise money and awareness for Autism. I provide the posters, programs, and last year… collectible trading cards. The theme was the 1980s. It was the excuse to let my inner Patrick Nagle freak flag fly. And while sitting in the front row during the performances would render most with a carnal reaction to whoop and holler? I was left slack-jawed. I saw comic book stars in waiting. The spark of an idea for The Samurnauts was born in between twirling loops on a ten-foot pole.

Smash cut back to my Dodge Caravan, midway through Ohio.

My 2017 Samurnauts project? Well, it’ll be an all-female team fighting a Communist-Mutant-Hive-Mind of femme fatales… all set in the 1980s. We make no bones about it: Samurnauts is homage to the tropes we grew up with, recast in a modern light. What better tropes to mine than those directly from our time growing up amidst Sailor Moon, Battle of the Planets, M.A.S.K., and Jem and the Holograms? There are none better, and I won’t listen to you if you try to disagree.

Matt rides shotgun with notebook in hand, and Kyle leans far forward from the middle row of our packed conveyance… I start the ball rolling. As often is the case, I am the most lofty of the Unshavens. I immediately blather about girl power and passing the Bechdel test. Matt – the gear-head of the gang – is immediately drawn to discuss costumes, weapons, and accentuating my clean-line style. Kyle, the stalwart left-brain, cracks the whip on setting up an outline.

Exits whiz past as we bounce ideas from one bearded ne’er-do-well to the next. “We need to have a roller derby fight scene.” “Al (the immortal monkey leader…) needs to have a dojo in need of saving.” “They should all pilot attack ships.” “The Commie-Chics needs to have a spy, a close combat expert, a ballistics expert, and the strategist.” “We absolutely need the bitch on wheels business chick…” And so on.

By the time we needed to gas up the van, a scrawl of pages lay on the Caravan floor. A complete outline spanning two 36-page issues lay amidst character notes, weapon choices, set pieces, and big reveal plot points. And underneath it all, a personal challenge to myself to stretch my boundaries as an artist and a writer. To keep my tongue in cheek with the obvious choices, in lieu of smarter ones. To keep my designs clean and memorable. To ensure that the Samurnauts of this story are heroes, regardless of their gender. That the final book be fun, clever, and full of monkey-fighting. And this time? With way more Hammer pants and day-glo makeup.

And with that, the pages were tossed into the cashbox. Energy drinks were popped open. New fresh sheets were exhumed from the notebook. With five hours left to go, we had plenty more to plan for the future.

Marc Alan Fishman, In A New York Minute


I know each and every one of you sat dumbfounded last Saturday morning – your coffee in hand, and morning paper tucked firmly under arm – when perusing ComicMix and not seeing your weekly dose of Fishtastic opinions. I apologize to you. There’s no excuse for it. Simply put, I was at the New York Comic Con with my studio, Unshaven Comics, and I was too busy to produce a column worthy of your eyes. But I return this week with my now yearly diatribe about the largest pop culture convention my Lilliputian league of ne’er-do-wells attends.

If I were to be bold… it sucked. Our sales were levels of magnitude lower than any year past. As it’s the most basic measure of our meager success, I am apt to shake my head and angrily declare the six-day excursion a near-bust. But why?

On paper, everything was in our favor. While we did not come ready with the final issue of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts, we did have a new original piece to offer: Toolbox, as written by our own sales-machine Kyle Gnepper, and drawn by Dark Horse’s newest human acquisition, Kristen Gudsnuk. We also busted our bearded humps to produce a triptych of political posters – mashing up Bernie Sanders with Magneto (“Bernieto: Master of Social Magnetism!”), Hilary Clinton with the Scarlet Witch (“No more e-mails!”), and Donald Trump with Apocalypse (“Make Armageddon Great Again”). Simply put, product was not the problem with our final tally of sales.

And what of our now-infamous closing ratio… well, a look over my data shows an average closing ratio holding firm at our near-standard 42%. That meant nearly every other person we pitched to plunked down cold-hard cash for our wares. But unpack the specifics of that data and you start to see the bends in our bucklers. From our perch proudly in Small Press, sitting adjacent to the always-wonderful Brian Pulido (creator of Lady Death, amongst many other marvelous titles held by the diminutive powerhouse), Unshaven Comics simply couldn’t get enough warm bodies to stop and hear about our comic book. Specifically, we found a 21% decrease in available pitches to the equally sized crowd of attendees when compared to our numbers from 2015.

It’s at these times we analytical types start looking for answers. Did our bubble finally burst? Did we pitch our idea so many times it over-saturated the market? Do people not find us adorable anymore? Gleefully, the answer to all of those questions is a big fat no. Of the 723 people pitched over four days, only two dozen of them made mention of already knowing us. And in 18 of those cases, they still found something new to buy from us. The Samurnauts is still as novel a concept as it was when it debuted around the same time Donald Trump was giving pick up advice to Billy Bush. And let’s be clear: if anything, Unshaven Comics is even more adorable than in years past. So, don’t even. At all.

Why the sales slump? Perhaps it was location. Last year, Unshaven Comics took a corner spot in the back of the hall. Too often we found show-goers using the single expanse of dead space to be perfect for resetting costumes, counting swag, and reorganizing themselves. Listening to our pitch? Not so much. With that in mind, we opted for the significantly more cost effective booth in the front of the small press area. Lesson to be learned: towards the front of the hall, attendees are all trying to get somewhere. In the back? They’re just taking stock of their cash. As my grandfather would often tell me… “There is no utopia.”

Further to our real estate issues came the most interesting problem my studio’s faced in the last five years of conventioneering. ReedPop – the show runners – decided to book a live band to play their geek-twinged rock’n’roll just one aisle over (for fifteen minutes every hour, every day). I don’t know if you know this, but attempting to pitch your book amidst loud music doth not a sale make. While the band was plenty fine, their placement on the show floor was a calculated misfire on all counts. With little to no space for a crowd to assemble, they were at best audible evergreen to the folks perusing various vendors in the main exhibit hall. But one aisle over, sat angry small press booths all being drowned out. While we all scrambled to notify Reed of the folly… the best they could resolve to do was ask the band to play quieter.

All in all, I still find it hard to complain about New York Comic Con as an experience. Being in the car for twelve hours (or more, thank you New Jersey traffic) makes Unshaven Comics stronger (more on that next week). Being able to pitch to thousands of new customers every year bolsters our mission to grow our little fan base. And being a stone-throw away from ComicMixers like Mike Gold, Martha Thomases, Emily Whitten, and more? Well, it’s the gift the show keeps giving to us… if literally any of those people would have stopped to say hi. I’m not mad mind you… just disappointed. #DadVoice

Suffice to say it’s times like these I’m apt to be introspective. To look at the meager bank account of our studio, and the pile of unsold product, and wonder out-loud why others I knew at the show all boasted record-breaking revenues while we floundered. It’s at these times though that I stick to the thoughts and feelings that have gotten my little assemblage this far, thus far:

This past weekend, nearly 500 people handed their cash over to Unshaven Comics because they liked the comics we put in their hands and pitched. I got to see the smiles of my brothers-from-other-mothers as their work was complimented by complete strangers making snap judgments. It’s never been about the end. It’s always going to be about the journey.

And I’ll be damned if we don’t seek to complete the journey again next year… and come back stronger than ever.

Marc Alan Fishman: Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way … To Fail


For those following along with the never-ending struggle in my attempt to finish The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #4, it becomes clear that when I declare “Each comic takes about 250 hours to complete from concept to final print,” I’m being very serious. And with this, the last issue of the mini-series, 250 hours is a massive understatement. As I was lamenting on my social feeds how I was without topic this week – because I figured no one wants to really know my lengthy thoughts about Arrow given I just started on Season 3 last night on Netflix – the consensus spoke.

Chicago’s Resident King of Nerds, Elliot Serrano, made the pitch:

Dude, you’ve been going through all these trials with life and creating your book, talk about that. Talk about the process and what drives you to keep going.

And his suggestion was liked by numerous compatriots of mine. Who am I to argue when the masses (exactly three people) demand I share the secret inner workings of Unshaven Comics?

So, let’s start at the top, shall we? This issue was supposed to be done last November. December if I was being lazy. Here we are in August of the following year, and we’re still inking pages. I myself have three left. Matt has four or five. And then the whole thing needs to be colored, have special effects added, lettered, proofed, and then printed. Shortly thereafter, the whole mini-series needs to be compiled, bonus materials built, and the graphic novel (that 125 very very very patient fans have awaited) will be done too.

So what happened?

Well, Elliot, the answer comes in two parts as you suggest. First, the quality of the final issue. Issue 1 of the series was all about the setup. For me personally, the only challenge was a cold-open action sequence, and having to learn how best to draw my Samurai-Astronauts panel after panel. While, yes, I’d completed Samurnauts: Genesis the year prior to Curse, the truth is I used as many cheats as I could to get to the final panel. Speedlines instead of a background? Sure! But I digress. By issue 4, there’s no more room to hide. Every page is the last of major sequences. Major fights. Transforming Zombie-Cyborg space pirates. Super move after super move. And probably a story somewhere in there. For Matt? It’s page after page of giant robots fighting. Suffice to say, we’d bitten more off than we could chew, but would be damned if we let it beat us.

But if our own stipulation of making the final issue be as good as we want it to be wasn’t enough, life gets in the way. As detailed before, in several columns, both Matt and I each brought another child into the world some five months ago. While we didn’t carry the children in our beer guts (thank Rao…), it was no less stressful. Another mouth to feed is another blessing on your home (yes, indeed, Rabbi Krustofsky), it’s also not fed for free. Both Matt Wright and I have more than doubled our efforts in the work-a-day world; Matt has taken to Uber’ing for secondary sources of income, whilst I have taken on massive amounts of freelance web and print design. Both of us work solid 18 hour days, minus some of the weekend when we just get to play dad and husband. Somewhere without those 18 hours, we scrape, scratch, and claw to complete panels. We still meet every Friday night to work together. We still attend conventions – with Dragon Con coming in about a week, and the New York Comic Con a month later.

So, what of the process, and what drives us to keep going? Well, it’s perhaps a bit rote to say it, but it bears stating it anyways. What drives us is the same thing we assume all other indie creators; the thrill of selling our wares to complete strangers who get what we do and want to support us. We create because we can’t exist without creating. Since our friendship blossomed in the sixth grade (with the unmentioned-until-now-but-still-just-as-important Kyle Gnepper), we’ve spend decades creating and destroying creation after creation. It’s simply part of what gets each of us up in the morning. I could work 25 hours a day, and still need to make my own work before my head hit a pillow. And to that point, the process itself is even more predictable. We work. We don’t stop working. We second guess how deep the undertaking was every damned week. But then we look at the pile of pages of the best-rendered, best-written ideas of our young careers, and we yearn to see it in the hands of those who supported us.

Sometimes, it’s the simplest of answers that drive home the most salient points. We do what we do, because we simply couldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t. And while we’re not punctual, the proof will exist in print soon enough.

Please note that Unshaven Comics is declaring that issue 4 of Curse of the Dreadnuts will be debuting at the 2016 New York Comic Con this October, even if Marc and Matt end up working 25 hours a day until then to ensure it happens.

Marc Alan Fishman: Everything’s Better When You Relaunch

unshaven bbq brisket

It’s about that time of the year again for the annual Wizard World Chicago Comic Con. The show itself is very close to my heart. It’s the first comic con I ever attended as a fan. It’s where I went year in and year out to see DC and Marvel fight for comics supremacy. It’s where I went to grab bargains on lost toys and statues not found in my local comic shop. It’s where I’d attend numerous “How to Break Into Comics” panels every year and leave with my heart full of hope.

It’s also where my little studio, Unshaven Comics, would take the leap to the other side of the aisle and learn the fine art of the pitch. It’s where we’d learn that our future was with making books on our own terms and selling them to fans who appreciated the indie movement for what it was; where unpolished professionals honed their craft by presenting unbalanced final products with the hope of finding future success. This show has been, and will always be, our home show.

This is the first year since I can honestly remember where Unshaven Comics will not have a table. Let me make it known, of course, that my studio mate Matt Wright will be at the show, at the ComicMix table (Table 625! Come say hi!) to offer some commissions and maybe move a few books. But Unshaven Kyle will be visiting his mother in Ohio. And me… I’ll be at home. Working. OK. Maybe sulking a bit. Heh.

The reason? As a business, Unshaven Comics lives on the profits we earn at comic cons. But at this point our fourth installment of The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts remains unfinished. With a hefty table cost and limited vacation days for the entirety of our threesome, there’s a commodity cost to doing said business. And with the dire threat of go big or go home, we need to have that final issue in hand by the time we make it to New York Comic Con this October. So, basic economics dictated our abandoning of the home show. Bigger risk begets bigger rewards. You dig?

Also… last year we were bitten by the DragonCon bug. The four-day excursion in Hotlanta netted us the second greatest showing at a convention ever, especially when compared to the table cost. Therefore, when we were granted a green light to return, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. Sure, Atlanta includes long car trips to and from, a potentially pricey hotel stay, as well as the general doldrums of being on the road. But with attendance that rivals NYCC, well… Bigger risk begets bigger rewards.

By abstaining from our home show this year, I’ll have time to plug away at the final pages of a soon-to-be-released comic. Without Kyle being available, we could never have seen the sales we would have needed to be profitable at a show the size of ole’ Wally World. As they like to say often on my beloved WWE… it’s what’s best for business.

But all that being said, it’s still a bitter pill to swallow. One that will go down easier knowing I’ll be able to break bread with EIC Mike Gold (and as John Ostrander notes, that means good BBQ) and the rest of the ComicMix crew that comes out. I know the show floor will be a little less bearded without me this year… but we all know the truth in comics:

Everything’s better when you relaunch the next year.

Is Marc Alan Fishman Throwing in the Towel?


It’s typically around this time of the year where I admit to you that I feel like giving up on comics. On reading them. On writing them. On drawing them. On attending the innumerous conventions. On being so far on the outskirts of the industry I want so badly to be right in the center of, it feels like the mountain between success and where I stand is nigh insurmountable. Truly from this vantage point, I can’t see even beyond the first plateau before reaching menacing storm clouds.

Why so glum, chum? Well, for starters… My own book, The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts is just killing me. Between a full-time job, a plethora of freelance work, and two full-time children? My energy reserves around 11:30 begin to wane heavy. If I can ink a single figure in a night, I call it a victory. For those who play the home game, even know that Unshaven Matt Wright and I dedicate Friday nights to just Unshaven Work. But after we compare war stories of being husbands and fathers, after we go over what we did and didn’t catch on our DVRs (when we, you know, have time to even watch them), after we look at one another’s (lack of…) progress from the week before… well, we scribble, and scratch, and dream of the day the book is done.

Funnier still, we are all actually really wanting to start our next projects when this book finally gets done. Natch.

Beyond my personal book woes, comes the inevitable pangs of being far out of reach of the Mecca of comic-dom, the San Diego Comic Con. Unshaven Comics made one single attempt to get in, on a whim. We faintly heard the show-runners laughter booming from our south-suburban Chicago homes. To see the various postings, announcements, and general hilarity that spews forth from that geeky humanity bomb brings those deep seated resentments all indie creators must feel from time to time: Why not me?

And pair that with that that feeling where you’re elated for your fellow creators when they have a huge announcement (David Peterson’s Mouse Guard being greenlit for a movie, or knowing they’re filming Chris Burnham’s Officer Downe, or that Katie Cook is just minting mini mountains of money making work for Star Wars and some other properties she loves)… but then look back at your professional résumé and silently weep a bit. Natch.

It’s usually around this time I take stock of what all my little studio has accomplished. I look to the four complete Samurnaut books that have sold thousands of copies. I sift through memories of Baltimore, Charlotte, New York, Columbus, Kokomo, and Detroit. I bask in my Facebook Friendlist literally choked with true friends made solely because me and my two best friends decided to make comics and sell them. I inhale all of this slowly. Repeatedly. I squash those doubts, fears, regrets, and pains from my mind.

So we’re not in San Diego. Doesn’t mean we can’t do it next year. So Samurnauts isn’t minting us movie and merchandising deals. The first trade will be done in time, and ready for the public before the end of the year. Once that’s in our burly paws? Well, that’s when we can do more than dream. And when it comes to those jealous flashes from our friends and associates success; well, that’s met quickly with an old adage from the WWE locker room. “When those on top are over the most? Then it’s good for all of us.” The more comics continue to dominate TV schedules, movie releases, and merchandising meccas… the more demand there will be for more content. And so long as we believe that our content is worth the look? Well, we’ll be ready if someone ever does come a calling. And if they never do? Well I will still leave with thousands of fans, legendary friends, and a lifetime of memories.

With all that in mind? Consider the towel back on my shoulders. That’s the good part of being down. So long as you believe in yourself…

There’s always hope…

But for real, if Trump is elected, there’s no hope. Pack your things and meet me in Canada. FanExpo is great, aye?