Tagged: Kyle Gnepper

Marc Alan Fishman: Dragon Con is for Lovers

This past weekend, Unshaven Kyle Gnepper and I braved a 10-hour car ride from Chicago to Atlanta to present our wares at the annual Dragon Con. While I could spend my article telling all of you the harrowing tale of how our booth was stolen and then how it turned out to be a simple clerical error, I figure it’s easier to spare you the banal details. Long story short, it always pays off to be flexible, kind, and eager to make the best out of any situation.

Since our table-saga is off the table, I could discuss how for the first time in now our tenth year of presenting at cons I finally bit the bullet to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Kyle and remain in pitch mode the entire duration of the con in order to see our goals be met. I could wax poetic about how it felt to step outside my comfort zone and really connect with complete strangers without fear. Long story short, we met our goals. I was tired every night, but feel like Kyle and I found our brotherly bond again after too-long a time. It will remain something I’ll fondly talk about for cons to come.

No table woes. No astonishing sales lecture. What’s left? The most important part of the con: The people.

As I’ve said before, Dragon Con is the con I would personally go to as a fan. The sheer amount of programming they offer in addition to a fantastic vendor floor and artist alley adds up to an experience that truly celebrates pop culture in nearly every form and facet. From our vantage point in the alley – thanks in part to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s sad cancellation (which in turn landed us their spot) Kyle and I were privy to just about every single con goer who made their way onto the show floor. To be clear: we heard rumor of tens of thousands of people attending the con, of which, I’d feign a guess that a solid half made their way into our portion of the America Mart in downtown Atlanta.

Beyond the amazing cosplay, happy families, and great geeks on-the-hunt-for-wares, something caught my eye. As wave after wave of people passed by, I noted gay couples, Lesbian couples, transgendered folks, asexual folks. Literally every race, creed, and color. And nary a one of them without a smile plastered across their maws. It was, above all else: inspiring.

And it hit me right in the cockles, I tells ya. Here, amidst the aisles of the Artist Alley, a procession of positivity parlayed publications and posters devoid of anything but an untethered celebration of pop-culture. It reminded me that while there’s plenty of nerd-rage between specific sects of fans – be it western comics versus manga, Trek versus Wars, or steampunk versus whatever group fears gears – there is a commonality that binds all folks who clip a comic con badge to their person. An acceptance of everyone’s right to be themselves. Because, where else but a Comic Con can we unabashedly declare not only our love for some specific nerdy-milieu, and meet nothing but acceptance to it by all who surround us. Because we too are different, and we too want this place to remain a sacred space where all are allowed to let our freak flags fly.

After four solid days of seeing every gender, sexual orientation, and science fiction fandom stroll past our twelve-foot storefront, Kyle and I left Atlanta tired but accomplished. Between the two of us, over 500 books crossed the border from our racks to the hands of happy fans. We sold every single poster we brought. And I personally sold out of every pre-made Pokémon card I packed. As Kyle and traversed the interstate from Georgia through Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana, our minds darted through the memories logged. But none stick out more for me (save perhaps that one customer who demanded one of every book we had on the table) then the cavalcade of comradery I saw at the show. A reaffirmation that the ties that bind me to comic books help me ground myself surrounded by like-minded people who celebrate our world in every way it presents itself. Amidst all the insanity our current overlords spew from on high… it was worth it to have four days devoid of hate; all hail Dragon Con, as it truly is for love.

Marc Alan Fishman: My Five Best Comic Book Meals!

Life is about balance. After last week’s screed on my personal health journey, it’s only fair I balance things out with a very gluttonous listing of my most favorite meals whilst being an indie creator. You see, a life in comics — part time, at least — find folks assembled around a table to break bread more often than you’d think. When logging in considerable hours at a convention, creators often will nibble here and there, and then run out of the expo hall in a mad dash for food when the con floor closes. Great minds have met over bowls of pasta and pizzas, whilst inking deals on Batman or the X-Men. Here are, in no particular order, five meals that remain stuck in between my teeth:

Miller’s Pub with Mike Gold

The first time ComicMix honcho Mike Gold asked Unshaven Comics to meet him for a meal, he chose Miller’s Pub in downtown Chicago. Prior to the lunch we shared, Mr. Gold was a fleeting presence at the Wizard World Chicago where we made our debut. The lovely late Linda Gold had stumbled across we Unshaven Lads, dying a slow and panicked death in Artist Alley. She listened to our pitch and promised to bring Mike by. After briefly meeting us, Mike and I exchanged e-mails post-show. When the opportunity arose to find Mr. Gold back in the Chicagoland area, he proposed a meeting of the minds. Over hot sandwiches and the first round of name-dropping stories we would succumb to hear on a yearly basis, Mike looked us in the eyes (as we demanded Unshaven Comics pick up the check) and said the kindest thing we’d ever hear in our careers: “Boys, I will do whatever I can to see you doing well in this business.” And let me tell you, nothing has ever tasted sweeter.

Breakfast Buffet with John Ostrander

A few years back, John asked us to pick him up at his house and drive him down to the Detroit Fanfare comic convention. We were more than happy to oblige. The next morning, he asked us to join him for breakfast. Amidst pans of bacon, lukewarm pancakes, and runny scrambled eggs, John waxed poetic about all sorts of things. Star Wars, the Suicide Squad, playwriting in Chicago, and even the secret origin of Wasteland all came tumbling out from John’s timid timbre. Matt, Kyle, and I sat in awe of an industry legend as he treated us as friends… not the drooling fanboys we were. And not to be undone by Mike Gold, John heaped a bit of praise on us (as we picked up the check): “Seriously, I don’t know how you guys do it. You have everything planned out to the nines. I’m in awe of you.” Not bad for the cost of a few plates of breakfast meat.

The CowFish with The Samurnauts

Unshaven Comics got greedy in 2013. Figuring we could sell tons of books by splitting up and covering more ground, we sent Unshaven Salesman 2000 (Kyle Gnepper) off to a show in Cincinnati whilst Unshaven Matt and I covered the HeroesCon in North Carolina. Knowing that sans-Kyle we’d be without our real power, our blue and yellow Samurnauts (Cherise and Erik) joined our menagerie to bolster our abilities. While we learned that four of us couldn’t match a single Gnepper, we did find something redeeming about the lackluster show. Unshackled from Kyle’s more predictable palette, the Samurnauts, Matt and I found a burger/sushi restaurant in a neighboring town. I could spend literally an entire article simply remarking about what all we ordered… or I could simply say we loved the place so much, the manager gave us coupons if we’d consider coming back the next night. And we very much did.

Brandy Hauman’s Homecooking

When Unshaven Comics makes the 14-hour trek from Chicago to New York (or, in fact, Homewood to Weehawken), ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman is always the most gracious of hosts — opening his home to us for the price of a few bottles of hooch. As the New York Comic Con sits on the single piece of New York real estate devoid of decent food, we often wind up at la Casa del Hauman for some real New Jersey takeout. But last year, Glenn’s amazing (talented, beautiful, funny, and charming) wife demanded she make us a home-cooked meal. A nice roasted chicken and some sides — but it was served over a table filled with laughter, embarrassing stories, and friendship. With this past NYCC our fourth journey to the city that never sleeps, this single meal stands out as a testament to the best part of the tri-state area: the people who you make friends.

Some BBQ joint in Stamford, CT

I’ll end here on the most sincere memory I have in regards to comics and food. As mentioned above with the meal at Miller’s Pub, with this meal Mike Gold quickly morphed from a coveted mentor to both a mentor and a mensch. When my wife and I got married in November of 2009, we’d invited all of the ComicMixers we knew — knowing that the gesture was largely symbolic given the distance any of them would have had to travel just to see a then super-fat Marc stomp on a glass and yell L’chaim. As it would turn out, the newly minted Mrs. Fishman and I would take our honeymoon out along the East Coast (we didn’t quite google that Cape Cod is really a summer town). Mike was quick to demand that on our way home, we move our route to swing down his way. There, not far from the WWE headquarters, Kathy and I would be greeted by Glenn, Mike, Linda, and a smattering of other ComicMix friends for a BBQ lunch. As with much of this list: I don’t remember the food as much as the feeling that I’d made friends I’ve held on to ever since. That these oddballs would welcome me and mine into their family has cemented that my life in comics has been filled with some of the finest meals a man could dine on.

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 The Power of the Personal Brand

When Prince Adam of Eternia would raise his mighty sword above his head, he could exclaim “I… Have… the… POWER!” and with it transform into He-Man. This would turn his pink and maroon body suit into merely a manly loincloth and pec-harness combo. He would be granted a physique that would make Vince McMahon want to give him the main event at Wrestlemania. Most important, he was now the mightiest mortal on his alien world – able to dispense of evil with but a flick of a forearm, and nary a tussle of his pageboy haircut.

When Marc Alan Fishman, Kyle Gnepper, and Matt Wright want to transform from slovenly suburbanite husband-dads into cantankerous comic book creators, they hold up their mighty laminated sign that reads “Can I tell you about my comic book?” and look mildly pathetic. But much like Prince Adam, that singular phrase has bestowed upon the lads a power unlike any other on their alien world; the power of a personal brand.

Making it in the indie comic scene is not unlike those mythical tasks undertook by Hercules. Unless you have untold fortunes lying around, the burden to even create original work (more specifically, comic books) comes with the unfair disadvantage of essentially committing to a second fulltime unpaid job. Once work is actually created… it’s time to market it. That in and of itself is somehow even harder than the act of creation!

From the very start of our first show (Wizard World Chicago, 2008), Unshaven Comics has committed to a very long game. We staked a claim to a table in artist alley, placed our first book on the table – along with some silly and snarky signs we just knew would get us plenty of attention (and they didn’t, not at all) – and sat with arms folded, awaiting untold riches.

And so we sat. And sat. And sat some more. Our smiles faded. Our fingers tapped. Our eyes darted to our neighbors in adjacent rows. How are they surviving this hellacious landscape of scavengers?! Soon thereafter, our neighbor took pity on us. “You have to put yourself out there. Just ask people as they pass by. I mean, what’s the worst they could say… No?” It was perfect advice to our green ears and yellow bellies. Kyle stood up. He asked the next con-goer sheepishly. They stopped! From there we launched into our pitch, and desperately tried to become their new best friend.

And then, perhaps out of actual interest, or perhaps pity, they bought our book.

And therein lay the rub to it all. The indie comic scene is built on the backs of personal brands. When virgin eyes and ears traipse across the convention floor, our wares are signal flares in the sky. As lookie-loos take a chance to hear us out, we not only pitch the pulp we put in their paws. We serve up a slice of our personality to boot. Each indie creator comes with a unique mystique that pairs to the work they make. For Unshaven Comics specifically… we’re unabashed in our formula:

We are brothers-from-other-mothers, who have a 25+ year friendship. We each bring separate skills that simmer in a singular pot, and present as a single brand. We are cheesy, but not ironically so. Our books are all-ages, not because we have a crucial need to appeal to the largest audience possible, but because the stories we want to tell are genuinely relatable to just about anyone who loves action and adventure. We are upfront and passionate about our product.

Whereas Kyle is always the most energetic presence at our table, I am working too; scanning the crowd, crunching the numbers, and spreading the word socially. And Matt anchors the table with his incredible and versatile art – attracting people to stop and enjoy his take on everything from superheroes to Cenobites. We are a singular machine, with a simple purpose. We promote what we do. We love what we do. And we need the world to see that and go all-in with us.

Look over each artist at a show, and you’ll see how they cultivate their own brands. Like Katie Cook and her mini-paintings that eventually landed her official Star Wars, My Little Pony, and Marvel gigs. Or Dirk Manning, whose mouthless maw has marketed his macabre books with equal parts solid professionalism, and DIY attitude. Or even perhaps Victor Dandridge Jr., “The Hardest Working Man in Comics!”, who started off with a single hook – an eight-bit art challenge – and has built a litany of indie comic series and convention-panel-emcee gigs that make him a well-known name across the Midwest comic circuit. Or, dare I ever forget my own frenemy Dan Dougherty, who has built his own brand by way of building up not only his own newspaper strip-style series Beardo into a brand, but a half-dozen other pieces in collaboration with his carefully chosen cadre of cohorts (including the aforementioned Mr. Manning from time-to-time).

Beyond the con floors though, you’ll find us all building those brands brick-by-brick. Be it on a day like today, where we’ll each be sitting in on Free Comic Book Day at our local comic book stores to promote our work. Or on social media, where we host live videos to interact with our homegrown fanbase. Or in our handcrafted newsletters. Or when we host classes at local park districts and libraries; teaching the next generation that the best way into comic books is to forge your own path. It all boils down to the simplest of truths…

To build our brands takes honed skill, patience, and determination to succeed. Without all three working together (be we islands-unto-ourselves, or three-headed bearded monsters), there is no brand to build. While any of us strive to stumble over, we’ve each committed to that aforementioned long-game. Cultivating one earned fan at a time, and hopefully producing enough to keep them on the hook until our dreams turn into reality.

We have the power, because we make the power.

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, In A New York Minute

new-york-comic-con-image

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

rabbi-krustowsky-the-simpsons

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: Color Me Good

7_8_14_1When we last left off, I’d taken you through the steps to get us towards completion of an independent comic book. Or really any comic book, I suppose. We plotted, outlined, scripted, gathered reference material, and now penciled then inked (or in my case, digitally rendered) each page in the book. Now, with a pile of black and white artwork, it’s time for the most unsung of duties: coloring, lettering, layout, and print pre-production. If you take nothing else from this week’s brain droppings, I hope you’ll leave with a seriously redefined respect for all the names that get penned in on the credits page. (more…)