Strangeways update of a sort

Hey folks, you might’ve seen a solicitation from Image for a book called STRANGEWAYS. That is not my book. I’ve already talked to them. I’ll let you all know when there’s official news.

Work continues on THE LAND WILL KNOW, but it’s slow, primarily because I can only pay artists like a small indie publisher which means that work that pays better and has tighter deadlines goes to the top of the pile. Still shooting for a release early next year.

A word of explanation

“Hey, why did you remove all the free content from the STRANGEWAYS site?”

This is something that I’m never asked. And it turns out to be its own explanation.

I’ve left up the first chapters of both the books, MURDER MOON and THE THIRSTY. That’s more than enough to decide if you want to spend money on them. Putting out the whole thing online might have been a strategy that seemed to make sense at one time. But that time is past now. Perhaps it’s a winning strategy for sites that are delivering self-contained daily content. Particularly those that are merchandising out based on said content. Then the daily strip becomes the ad for the real moneymaker: T-shirts or whatever.

I should have figured that out a long time ago, but I’m dense and stubborn and woefully optimistic. It’s not a strategy that works for everything, and I should have recognized it. I’m not in the business of selling T-shirts or prints or resin statues or what have you. This is not to denigrate that business. It’s fine and I sometimes buy from said businesses. Just that I’m not running one of them.

I write comic books that I publish myself. Giving them away isn’t something that makes sense.

There was a time that I thought that the big comics blogs would be falling all over themselves to partner up with comics creators to make that kind of content and maybe even pay for it. Well, the truth of it is that everyone like free content, assuming it gets them some hits. But it’s not anything they’re really interested in promoting or paying for, not what it takes to make it work. My guess is that the people who drive those sites, their main audiences, only want to read about the comics that they already read. Confirmation bias writ real big. Co-evolution.

Oh that’s right. Co-evolution ain’t happening. The big blogs just reflect what’s going on. It’s not like that reflection has any impact on what they write up or gin up hits around. Hey, everyone needs hits to make their brand more valuable. That’s not a slam, unless it’s an exclusive strategy.

So yeah, feel free to read up the first chapters any old time you want.

One of the things on the list will be pairing up with a digital publisher. Looking into that now. When I’m not working on those other projects. More on those in a bit.

Stumptown 2012

FULL BLEED: VACATION ALL I EVER WANTED

Did I even write up my Wonder-Con this year? It was dreadful enough that I’m not going to go check. I’ll write up a short review as a reminder: SDCC crowds, expense and hassle without SDCC sales or sunshine (or just clouds) or locale. Oh, and the Anaheim Convention Center might be big, but it’s showing its age. These are easy gripes to throw, given that the show was relocated on short-ish notice. That it came together at all was miraculous.

But still, having the sight-lines blown away by gigantic pillars and booths, effectively hiding the back half of Artist’s Alley, that’s zero fun. As well as the observation that people at a big show like Wonder-Con aren’t headed to Artist’s Alley in order to buy books. They want sketches, maybe pages, that sort of thing. Trouble is, I just sell books. And on-the-spot five-minute-stories, which still aren’t catching on. Though I did move a few, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

An empty convention center.

 

My single favorite part of the Stumptown Comics Fest, aside from the excuse to visit Portland? There is no Artist’s Alley. There is no small press area. There’s only comics in every aisle and at just about every booth. There’s publishers selling books and there’s creators selling books or minis or pages or sketches or whatever. I realize that this sort of arrangement is impossible for a big show, and kinda antithetical to the whole convention course we’re in. The big companies dominate and the little fish sorta dart around behind their tables, hoping that people come down the aisles. Of course, it’s tough to do tiered charging for tables if you just throw everyone in the mix like that, so like I said, understandable that it doesn’t happen at bigger shows.

Continue reading

It’s heeeeeere

Unpacking copies of THE THIRSTY, from about forty minutes ago.

That’s Alex Sheikman’s art on the cover. The design is what it is. I still see stuff I could fix and will once this run sells out. It’s a thick sucker. 200 pages. All for 17.95. It’s probably nine issues worth of story and art, maybe a touch more. Even if you cherry-picked three dollar titles, you’d need to spend 27 bucks to approach the value. Sure it’s in black and white, but black and white tells the story just fine.

More on this later, obviously. I probably won’t shut up about it.

Gabriel Hardman on THE LAND WILL KNOW

I told you it was gonna be a big one. Here’s Gabe’s website, check it out if you dig monsters and great black and white art. And here’s his DeviantArt page, which is also not to be missed.

Here’s a fun fact. Gabe was the first guy to buy a copy of STRANGEWAYS: MURDER MOON. It’s early 2008 and I’m at Wizard World in LA (yeah, I know, but you have to start somewhere). MURDER MOON isn’t yet officially on sale, that being a couple weeks out. In fact, I remember stirring up a tempest in a teapot when Heidi linked to one of my blog posts about whether or not I should sell my book ahead of DM retailers getting a chance to. That was a bigger deal with guys like Jeff Smith selling his fancy one-volume BONE at SDCC before retailers could. But me, I’m small potatoes. All the same, I approached retailers at the shows where I was selling early to see if they were interested. By and large they weren’t (but for my friend Rory at Comic Relief, though that was another show and another time. Still miss him.)

Needless to say, I didn’t have a lot of people visiting my table. Sure, Josh did. Josh is great like that. But there was one guy who saw the poster and made a beeline for the table, just marched right up. Unusual, but I’ll take it. I scanned his badge and got the name “Gabriel Hardman,” which sort of stuck in my head. I know that I’d seen it before but I couldn’t pull out from exactly where. He introduced himself to me. “Yeah, I did a strip called “THE CROOKED MAN.”

Flash back to the days of people trying out for slots on Zuda. Most of them just didn’t do much for me (BAYOU and HIGH NOON being major exceptions). But there was one that stuck with me. It was called THE CROOKED MAN, and was a historical mystery with hints of fantasy, which some really great art attached to it. Of course, since I liked it and thought it striking, it got ignored by Zuda readers and didn’t ever run.

So here was the artist of this strip I’d really dug and he was very complimentary of MURDER MOON, not that I’d done the art, but I did kinda play a small part in bringing it into the world. Yeah, he bought that first copy. We talked art and stayed in touch after that. Now he’s a friend and has been for some time. He’s also a hell of an artist, as you can see in HEATHENTOWN or THE HULK (the red one) and AGENTS OF ATLAS (which is still my favorite thing that Marvel’s put out since Morrison and Quitely’s NEW X-MEN). Oh yeah, and the recent THE LIAR, which I haven’t had a chance to read just yet.

Gabe’s drawing the title story for THE LAND WILL KNOW. And frankly, I should be shot for asking anyone to draw the stream-of-consciousness nightmare script/outline that I presented him several months ago. I went back to work on it and got something almost approaching a story out of it. It’s still pretty loose. My comics writing tends to be pretty focused, but this time that all got thrown out the window. Can’t wait to see how it turns out. Have to say, I’m more than a little humbled to be working with him (which he’d probably respond to with his customary humility.)

And this has to be one of my favorite pieces of comic art ever:

STRANGEWAYS: THE THIRSTY to be carried by Diamond.

Yup. Just got off the phone with Diamond and it’s official. They’re going to be carrying STRANGEWAYS: THE THIRSTY and re-offering STRANGEWAYS: MURDER MOON to a hungry public.

Strangeways: The Thirsty cover

There’s the official cover. Had to change a few things, like black outlining on that text on the bottom to split it out from the background. Art, of course, by the inimitable Alex Sheikman, who’s also going to be doing a story for the next STRANGEWAYS book, THE LAND WILL KNOW.

Now if it seems as if I’m surprised, I have to admit that I am, just a little. Not because I think that the work isn’t worthy. Far from it. THE THIRSTY is, in many ways, a significant step up from MURDER MOON, at least on the writing end of things. The art is still great, though different, given the team of Gervasio and Jok. But the truth of it is, comics aren’t the same as when I offered MURDER MOON for distribution back in 2007 (though it didn’t come out until 2008). Belts are tighter all around. The PREVIEWS catalog is thinner, more people are launching off of webcomics and not single issues (which is a move that makes sense for a lot of reasons, though still, it’s hard to sell a digital comic at a show.) Threshold minimums are up and in general the landscape is that much drier and unforgiving, to use a westernish metaphor.

So it wouldn’t have surprised me in the slightest had Diamond decided to take a pass on it now. Still, I printed it up with a SKU/barcode on the chance that they’d eventually come to their senses. And honestly, I was ready to just sell the book at shows and hand sell to retailers and other backchannel operations. I’ve sold as many copies of MURDER MOON at shows as I have through Diamond. This is not a knock on them, but a reflection of the realities of the Direct Market and not being with a brokered publisher. Would it be nice to be up in the front of the catalog? Sure it would. But I’d be working just as hard to get the book into people’s hands as I’m going to be now. Like I said, realities.

Needless to say, there’s going to be more self-promotion ’round here for the foreseeable future. I’ll try to be a knowing guide and not a carny barker, but since I’m a natural introvert, it’ll likely be neither.

I’ll be working on a full press release once I get an actual date and code to point at. Unfortunately, even though it’s slated for November 2011 solicitation and January 2012 street date, I can’t get you the Diamond order code until just before that November PREVIEWS drops. In the meantime, it’s ashcan printing time. Need to figure out how much to show to retailers and how much to keep as a surprise. Gotta shake the hand and make the deal, as my friend Stan would say.

Alex Sheikman on THE LAND WILL KNOW

I know. I don’t usually just go right out and say it. But I did this time. Artist Alex Sheikman (who you might’ve seen in the FCBD version of THE DARK CRYSTAL from Archaia) and on the cover of STRANGEWAYS: THE THIRSTY, will be doing a story entitled “Are Not Men” for the upcoming STRANGEWAYS book THE LAND WILL KNOW.

STT_Cover.jpg

Alex first came to my attention as the artist of a book called ROBOTIKA, also by Archaia, and I ended up seated next to him at the San Jose Super-Con in 2008. Which gives me a chance to run one of my favorite pictures:

Jane serves cake

Yes, that’s Jane Wiedlin serving birthday cake on her birthday (as she did to just about everyone in artist’s alley that day — a highlight of the show.)

We talked for awhile and realized we had a lot in common as comics fans (Alex Toth, weird SF design and a love of Bronze Age comics, as well as enjoying a wide variety of comics material above and beyond just superhero books.) And in years since, we’d kept in touch, and even tabled together at a couple of shows, notably APE a couple of years ago and the disastrous Wonder-Con of 2010. Plus he drew that great cover for THE THIRSTY (as well as some chapter illustrations which got previewed awhile back).

Here’s some of his art for THE DARK CRYSTAL. Hope he doesn’t mind me swiping it here. It’s all for a good cause.

But what I really wanted to see Alex do was some sequentials. I asked and had the good fortune for him to be interested in the job and available. So it’s my privilege to have him working on a STRANGEWAYS story. Can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

I know. I say that a lot.

And in other STRANGEWAYS news, Michael May at Robot 6 did a nice little write-up on the artist announcements as they stand.

Who’s that artist?

As threatened on Twitter, I’m letting folks know about the next artist on THE LAND WILL KNOW (full personnel listing here).

Benjamin Dewey is a comic artist from Portland who’s part of the Periscope Studios (the hardest working people in showbusiness). I met him several years ago and I’m pleased to finally be in a position where I can work with him on a story. He’s done work for Marvel, IDW and most notably Dark Horse. “Blighter,” drawn by Ben and written by Jeff (The Dark Juggalo Himself) Parker appeared in a recent issue of DARK HORSE PRESENTS.

Ben is also an accomplished musician, as you can see here. Oddly, he’s not that intense in real life, where his youthful charm is a welcome antidote to the dark and blistering cynicism that pervades so much of the industry.

He will be illustrating a story called “Mine” which is one of the most straight-up EC horror tributes in THE LAND WILL KNOW.

Today’s mystery

Today has sucked from since about 2am. I won’t burden you with details.

However, in the spirit of positivity, I’m going to take a concrete step to de-suckify the day. In this case, it involves making an announcement about the upcoming THE LAND WILL know artist roster. You know, the one that I revealed Tom Fowler was part of last week. Well, here’s another one.

This artist is absolutely unique and fearless, able to juxtapose familiar (particularly for comics) symbology and history and his own personal view on just about everything and put them together in ways that I’m constantly surprised by and in awe of. He’s also produced one of the best comics of this year, in the form of the painted novel THE WOLF.

Yeah, that’s right. Tom Neely is doing a story for the next STRANGEWAYS anthology. It’s called “The Boot” and I guarantee you won’t have read its like before.

He was the only artist that came to mind when I was writing it out in my head, and I’m honored that he took the job.

Yeah. Okay. That kinda worked.

Strangeways update –

So let’s see. Busy week. Mostly busy with getting shows together (three in the last part of the year, maybe a fourth).

The Land Beyond/Sac horror
Honestly not sure if they’re calling it “The Land Beyond” anymore or not. This one’s in my hometown and towards the end of September. Mike Mignola’s gonna be there, along with a bunch of other cool folks. Might be worth a trip for some of you out-of-towners. If things work out well, this is the show where THE THIRSTY will be first available for public purchase, so if you want to be ahead of the pack, you wanna go.

The Alternative Press Expo
You know it, you love it. At the San Francisco concourse the first weekend of October. THE THIRSTY and bargain copies of MURDER MOON (I gotta start blowing them out–my loss is your gain) and Five Minute Sketches for everyone.

The Long Beach Comic Convention
Darwyn Cooke’s gonna be there. I mean, so are a bunch of other folks, but he’s at the top of the list so far as I’m concerned. This one’s on Halloween weekend (which means I’ll probably leave early Sunday so I don’t miss trick-or-treating with the kids). Still, should be a good time. The show’s in a nice place, right by the water.

THE THIRSTY is currently at Lebonfon in Quebec where it should be printed. Spent too much of this week fixing screwups that were entirely avoidable. Still should be printed up in time for all of these shows. No, it’s still doesn’t have big distribution.

THE LAND WILL KNOW (aka STRANGEWAYS book 3) is (mostly) written and artists have been locked in. I’m going to start announcing them. Okay, we all know Gervasio and Jok will be in on it, as they have from the start. They’ll be drawing the main storyline and a story called “Dry Heart” which some sharp-eyed among you might actually remember as being the story that was originally going to follow MURDER MOON as a monthly comic story, back when the book was going to be published by Speakeasy comics. There’s probably even preview pages floating around somewhere.

Oh, like right here
And right here

I might’ve lied. There’s only “Dry Heart” pages in one of those. But still, it’s a good interview with one of my favorite comics commentators (and friend), Jeff Lester.

So, THE LAND WILL know is really ten (or eleven) stories that lock together into one. Some are much more integral to the whole piece than others, but they do all play together. I hope that this all comes off, actually. It ended up being a little more (and I hesitate to use this word) ambitious than when I first planned. Anyways, I wanted to get a bunch of different looks at the world of STRANGEWAYS and see what other artists would do with it. And I’ve been pretty thrilled with the response and acceptance from the artists I’ve asked to work alongside with.

So here’s the first mystery artist revealed.

Tom Fowler originally came to my attention with CAPER, a mostly-overlooked DC crime series some several years back. And I actually got to meet Tom at SDCC some years ago (doubt he remembers it). Then again at the MYSTERIUS THE UNFATHOMABLE signing he and Jeff Parker did at the Isotope a couple of years ago. Since then, he’s gotten a higher profile in comics, working on a couple of Marvel books including VENOM most recently. And dig this, he does actual CARTOONING.

Tom’s working on a story called “Between Salamander and Jackstraw” which is mostly a revenge story, but really it’s an excuse for him to draw some crazy western stuff.

In other news, I’ll be wandering the floor of this weekend’s Worldcon in Reno, Nevada. I’ll have printed copies of my story “Tug on the Ribbon” for sale if you can find me, and even if you can’t.