Tagged: Curse of the Dreadnuts

Marc Alan Fishman: When You Can’t Have It All

Touching Evil

Barely six days ago from the time this article prances across the interwebs to be posted to my little corner here at ComicMix, I will have once again broke bread with our ol’ E-I-C Mike Gold. Mr. Gold was in town (Chi-Town) for secret business. I’ve long since learned to stop asking for details, as when such a query is prodded Mike is prone to drum up a story with no fewer than seven name drops, and four blink-and-you’ll-miss-it delicious details about someone famous in comics. Before you know it, the subject has been changed, the barbecue brisket has hit the table, and you’ve completely forgotten your original question.

It was on the ride home that found Unshaven Matt Wright and me doing as we’ve come to do weekly: wax poetic about the state of our lives. You see, marrying our wives roughly two months apart, buying homes roughly five months apart, having our first kids about six hours apart, and then the second kids about two days apart has led he and I to fairly symmetrical lives. As such, these days … it’s been the world crashing down on top of us, whilst we have nary a baseball cap to keep from impending concussion. The finite details here are irrelevant. Let’s look to the macro.

When we’d completed our Kickstarter, we’d been about halfway through the inks on our final issue to-be-collected in the Curse of the Dreadnuts four-part series. Matt and I each felt that a solid four-to-six weeks would be all it’d take to plow through. Well. That was back in November. It’s not November now. And we’re still working on those final 10 pages or so. It’s blindingly frustrating. More than others may know because as much as we could choose any number of distractions in our lives preventing the completion of our book, it’s honestly the unrelenting pile-up of all of them at once rendering us barely able to scratch at a single page a week – if at all.

Reconnecting with Mike this past weekend reminded me that no amount of money sitting in my bank account will make up for the life not lived. Since November, when I should have been shuttering my side business to hunker down on a book, I took on five new freelance clients. And while I told myself the little bits and pieces of work they threw me would allow my family to exist when my wife eventually took her current maternity leave, I know I’m mostly lying to myself because the honest-to-Rao truth is I can’t say no. Until now, I suppose.

For example, take my ComicMix cohort Emily Whitten, who recently took a polite bow in order to tackle sundry missions in her neck of the woods. I read her wave goodbye and applauded. Make no mistake: I’m not going anywhere. I show up on a site a day before John Ostrander every week, which allows me to say I open for John Ostrander weekly to all geeks I meet on the street. I can’t ever give that up. Plus, my rants and raves about the geek culture I hold so dear is one of my favorite escapes when I sit down to write. But I digress. And screw Peter David. I stole that line from my high school choir director. Natch.

But the hunger pangs to be a true creative is now far too strong. I’ve denoted my fellow Midwestern comic makers doing amazing things as of late, and it makes me a brighter shade of Sinestro in jealousy of their output. My number one frenemy Dan Dougherty? He’s recently collected his comic Touching Evil http://www.beardocomics.com/#!touching-evil/c17ar into a trade paperback and is presently poised to release issue eight. And it’s seriously one of the best books I’ve read in years. I die a little every time I admit it.

As for Dan’s karaoke cohort, Dashing Dirk Manning? Well, he just launched a Kickstarter for the third volume of Tales of Mr. Rhee (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dirkmanning/tales-of-mr-rhee-those-who-fight-monsters-hardcove?ref=nav_search, and I’m one of the 100+ backers onboard in the first day. By the way, Dirk met goal in less than half a day. It’s fitting given how wonderfully macabre that series is. Then there’s my good buddies Leo Perez and Mikey Babinski, who both landed their art into exclusive tie-in trading card sets for the upcoming Ghostbusters movie. Trust me, I’m barely scratching the surface. My Facebook feed overfloweth with glowing announcements of soon-to-be-released goodies. All my friends… living their dreams, while I tackle yet another logo, business card, and UI update.

Until now. My name is Marc Alan Fishman. My shoppe is hereby closed. My studio is now open nightly. My book will be done. I know now that I can’t have it all. But the truth is, I never needed it all in the first place. It’s time to get back to doing what I love. The rest of the world can wait.

Marc Alan Fishman: Into the Great Digital Marketplace!

When Unshaven Comics released its first publication, The March: Crossing Bridges in America, digital comic bookery was still mostly magic. The next year, when we released Disposable Razors #1, a glut of apps flooded the market promising the future for the indies, and ComicMix was knee-deep in online readers. Our books remained ink and paper. Our sales climbed.

The next year, a few of the apps went the way of Star Trek Voyager and Deep Space Nine. Disposable Razors #2 remained a glossy non-app. By the third issue, fewer apps remained commercially viable. Front-runners were forming, and Unshaven met every fan questioning when we’d offer our wares online met with the same confounded faces. Three more years passed, and we remained stubborn. And finally today, I’m happy to say we’ve joined the digital age.

You still can’t get our books digitally as of this posting… but it’s happening none-the-less.

In our defense, Unshaven Comics largely refused to take ourselves into digital comics because we were skeptical of a glut of things. Amongst them: how ubiquitous a platform and file-type might be, how payments would be processed, and how we could connect with fans if they downloaded our books (legally or otherwise) leaving us to sign napkins at the con for nickels.

Suffice to say, that glut is mostly dust now. ComiXology has arisen as the most adopted platform for digital books. Purchases on their app exist as licenses to read and enjoy for life. Of course if they go belly up, who knows. But I guess that’s part of the fun. Payments for indie guys like Unshaven Comics come once a quarter. And you get 50% of what comes in for your books. And as far as con-goers… well, it took long enough to grasp, but we finally get it. The world can exist with both a collectible market and a commodity market.

You can’t get Scott Snyder to sign Batman #75 on your iPad. Well, you could, but that might be awkward if you go back to read the issue. That, and people might think you stole your iPad from Scott, since he wrote his name on it, and that won’t end well for anyone. The digital comic marketplace is built for those looking to consume more than collect. Convention tables sell items for those looking for the opposite. I’ve long read e-mail chains from ComicMix’s Mike Gold over his continually growing digital pile of books he’s currently plowing through.

Quite frankly, who could blame him. The next time I know I’ll be leaving on a jet plane with hours to spend sitting, waiting, flying, and then sitting and waiting more… knowing that I could load up my iPad with a few volumes of all those books I’ve been meaning to absorb could be the difference between memorizing a SkyMall, or actually consuming something amazing. (Sadly, yesterday SkyMall filed for bankruptcy. I totally wanted one of those hot dog toasters because why not. But I digress.)

So, Unshaven Comics will soon be on ComiXology, via their “Submit” program. Off the cuff, it’s a great idea that is being crushed under its own weight. We Unshaven lads submitted our first issue of Curse of the Dreadnuts back in July of 2014. A few days ago, we were accepted in. Now, there was little to no explanation as to whether an initial submission takes longer than subsequent offerings, or if the program is simply that backlogged. And when I say “little to no” I mean “none.”

Beggars can’t be choosers, and I assume that the length of time it takes to get from submitted to being in-app is in direct correlation to the sheer number of indie creators attempting to push their way through. And given the likelihood of the mountainous sales one assumes come with e-publishing a book from the kids down the street, it’s not a surprise if ComiXology doesn’t place more emphasis on expedience with the program.

But let’s get back to the bigger point. After years of fighting it, Unshaven Comics has given in to the digital devil. The fact that with a little promotion, a little luck, and maybe just a lot more luck, we might move a few issues. And perhaps in another five months another issue will hit that digital rack, ready for hungry fans.

The system can only improve with time. Technology will continue to be adopted at incredible rates. Media will continue to exist in the shifting sands of ownership versus permanent rentals. And comic book creators will have a new avenue in which to compete with the big boys. And while our place within the app will be akin to our meager alley tables at the big conventions…

A spot on the floor is all it takes to earn a fan. Digital or otherwise.


Marc Alan Fishman: Con Shopping Extravaganza!

While I am buried deep under a pile of production – completing “The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts #3” in time for Wizard World Chicago later this month – Editor Mike reached out to inspire me. In other words, he didn’t want me to bore ya’ll one more time with my annual bitching session regarding the passion of the indie creator. Instead, he suggested I suggest to you, my adoring public, a few books that I’m reading and loving right now… that do not come from the big two publishers. There was only one problem with this prompt.

Since I’ve been knee-deep in digital art-ing, lettering, editing, coloring, and laying out(ing?) a comic for the last month or so… I’ve basically all but stopped reading comics.

Of course I could fall back on my staple suggestions: Touching Evil by Dan Dougherty, Solution Squad by Jim and Rose McClain, Product of Society by Cheeselord Comics, and Monkey Fist by Sun Bros. Studios. But then it dawned on me, I could kill two birds with one stone! I could excite the masses about the passion of indie comics without suggesting any particular book at all. Indeed kiddos, I could be that good.

When the book is off to the printers and my life is freed up once more to consume amazing comics, I’ll find myself at Wizard World Chicago. And where better than the annual comic con to take a chance to immerse myself in sequential fiction not otherwise touched by Mickey Mouse or Brother Warner. My plan is simple:

Seek books within Artist Alley, and Artist Alley alone.

Across dozens of tables will sit books built first and foremost out of passion. While it’s likely true that Scott Snyder is symbiotically betrothed to Batman, at the end of the day the caped crusader is not Mr. Snyder’s own creation. Not to get all Robert Kirkmanny here, but there’s something to be said when a book is wholly the idea of a given writer (and/or artist). Without the constraint of an editorial office, calendar, or marketing strategy, an indie title has the least weight on its shoulders to succeed. Of course the alley cat who peddles the pulp sure wants due-payment and fortune. Suffice to say though, there are far fewer hands in the cookie jar wanting their rightful crumbs. Because of that, I’ve found that the independent book tends to push the edge harder conceptually speaking. And because of that, the books may not be as polished on the page, but they read incredibly in the mind.

Set a budget, and buy a breadth of material – not pour a fortune down one well.

As a creator I want nothing more than passersby to be so enamored with The Samurnauts that they feel compelled to purchase every last ounce of material available at the table. But turn that table around and I’m often a misanthropic cheapskate. In a case of “Fool me once, shame on me…” a few times I got snookered into less-than-stellar indie titles in my early twenties. Because this was well before the near-affordable print-on-demand days, these indie rags went for double the price of a typical DC or Marvel book. And they weren’t in color. And they were poorly written, drawn schizophrenically, and sold to me under false pretense.

Well, a decade later, and I’ve crawled out from the behind the rock. My tactic is simple: Get the pitch, agree with the pitch, look over the product, ensure the product is priced appropriately, and make the damned purchase. But I digress.

The key to making the most out of exploring the Artist Alley is as I’ve noted above: it’s all about trying out a ton, not committing to an entire series without first enjoying only a taste. If an artist is worth their salt, they’ll make their line of work available to me after the show is over, or at very least offer up to me the next shows they’ll do. In the day and age in which we live, social media is the great uniter. And any artist in the alley not taking advantage of the free services that open their art and products to the world simply do not deserve my continued business.

In essence, my trip through the convention will be amassing an unencumbered anthology specific to the genres, art styles, and creators I find most akin to my wants and desires. And with an open mind (and an empty stomach…), I’m going to make it a mission to be social. To look every creator in the eye, and proudly ask them to tell me about their comic.

And in a few weeks, I’m going to let all of you know exactly how it went. Excelsior.