Sunday, September 25, 2016

Or Die Trying: My Vow for Creating Comics

The War For Kaleb Part 1
I’ve finally made the decision to re-brand my comic book, “The War for Kaleb” by separating it from my former series, “Leftovers”.  After doing numerous cons, it occurred to me that the confusion in selling the book, and marketing it was cumbersome at best being that “Leftovers” has always been an anthology of my short stories.  Then comes along, what was originally supposed to be the last “Leftovers” story, "The War for Kaleb".  Problem is, it’s a three part story.  So my pitches always played like this:  “This is my series “Leftovers”, where you can jump into any issue, and not be lost…oh, except for issue 4 & 5.  Those are a connected story, so you need to read 4 before 5.”  Yeah, nice and streamlined from a marketing perspective, right?

So the re-branding has begun.  Posted are the reissues, of the covers separating “The War for Kaleb” and “Leftovers” from each other.  Now, if you have the originals, they are no different than these, sans the covers.  There is no reason to buy them again, unless you really have to have the new covers. 

The War for Kaleb” is going to be his own man going forward, and I will be promoting it extensively as such.

The War For Kaleb Part 2
Another thing I’ve been taking away from the last few cons is something a little bit more disheartening.  My cousins, Justin, and Shelley Briggs Callahan (guest writer of “Leftovers #2, and author of upcoming book “The House of Life”) and I were talking about how it seems the majority of people are fixated on only the things that are familiar to them.  For instance, the amount of prints being sold at cons of known characters, be it from Marvel, DC, Star Wars, or what-have-you, has become astounding.  Now, I don’t find the act of this, to be inherently wrong, or bad.  I find the need of some artists to have to do this, unfortunate.   My wife also does this.  A lot of us do it, due to the fact that we can’t make the money back for the tables we pay for, unless we give people what they want.  Meanwhile, these same writers, and/or artists, have some amazing work that they have labored, literally upon, hundreds of hours for their own original stories, and characters, that they have created out of nothing, only to overshadow, themselves, by a drawing they took a small amount of time of a more popular character.

A perfect example of this is on my deviantart page.  Many years ago, made this drawing of Deadpool, as birthday gift for my best friend.  It is currently one of the most popular Deadpool drawings on deviantart, with a view count of 31,888 at the time of writing.  However, if you take a look at other pieces in my gallery, particularly that of anything that I have created, the views are severely lacking.  Take the cover for Leftovers #4, it currently stands at 102 views.  One would think that maybe the attention that my Deadpool drawing grabs, would point someone in the direction of other works I have created, but that unfortunately is not the case.

Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that well know pop culture is awful.  Everyone who knows me, is fully aware, I love me some Star Wars and Batman.  But the thing I love about them is some (not all) of the original, visionary stories they bring to the table of narrative fiction.  Same as, Concrete, Pop Gun War, Titan, Study Group Comics, and many other narrative stories that may be lesser known (please check out the extensive list of lesser known creators, and stories in the links below!).  There are hundreds, and thousands of awesome, over-shadowed stories out there waiting to be discovered, be it comic books, movies, novels, or TV shows. 

The world of the narrative arts, and comic books in particular, have become crowded.  It is hard to be heard in the sea of noise, and the over reliance of nostalgia.  With shows like Stranger Things, and movies like The Force Awakens coming out, there is a good reason everyone is so obsessed with them.  They make us feel similar to the way we did when we originally saw The Goonies, E.T., or Star Wars.  But for someone like me, it wasn’t quite the same.  All the beats were there, and some of the spirit, but there was one big reason those movies originally hit us hard when we first expanded our imaginative universe in them:  They were brand new.  We will never fully capture that feeling again.  And how can you?  The world of pop culture has become a drug pushing industry set on selling you that “first time”, but we are doing nothing but chasing the dragon.  We keep looking for that fix, to get that first high again, but it will never be there no matter how hard we try.

They are “Member Berries”.  The newest episodes of South Park, calls out this form of force feeding the audience nostalgia as of late, by personifying our need for such things, with “Member Berries”:  a bunch of berries that have faces, and remind the person eating them of all the things they have grown to love, by whispering to them things like “Member Jurassic Park?  Oh yeah, I love Jurassic Park!” “Let’s ‘member Chewbacca again!  Yeah Chewbacca!  I love Chewbacca!”  The person eating them goes into a trance and is comforted with only the things they already know and love.

Like the body wants to be nourished by a variety of healthy foods, and exercise, the mind prefers to absorb many forms of stimuli.  I think we sometimes confuse what we think as horrible, with what is different.  I’m guilty of this too.  I will see something, and think to myself, “what are they thinking?  Why would they do it that way?  WHY IS IT NOT THE SAME???”  But what if I’m looking on it with fresh eyes?  What if I was seeing something for the first time, similar to that as a child?  The older we get, the more we have eaten from the “Tree of Knowledge” and the harder it becomes to except what is new.  Instead of being mad because we didn’t like Batman V. Superman, why don’t we move on to something else, like the movie Super?  There are so many stories, and things to love out there.  With all the energy and attention we give to hating things, we could instead be discovering brand new means of imaginative stimuli.  Some of them are great, and some of them won’t be, and that’s okay.  What you may hate, another person will love, and it will become their own.  And that is what's so amazing about it.  We can find the things that make us who we are. 

And this is who I am.

I have never sold prints of characters I haven’t created, or fan art at cons, and I don’t usually do commissions due to my anxiety of drawing in public.  I’ve always felt that I would rather have someone buy nothing from me at all, than give them the choice to buy something other than my comics.  However, going forward, I will be taking it a step further, as I will not be posting artwork based on other people’s creations on social media either.  Spiderman, Batman, and even my most favorite fictional character of all time, Darth Vader, does not need any more attention from someone like me.  They are doing just fine without me.  And what if I need the views or hits?  Well, according to my popular drawing of Deadpool, it doesn’t even really matter.  Deadpool unfortunately hasn’t done me any favors, by getting anyone interested in my books.  In my original ideas.  In my complete stories, characters, and artwork, that I have created out of nothing. 

I’m not condemning what anyone of my fellow artists, and creators are doing, nor am I saying they should stop.  I totally get it.  It’s hard out there.  I have panic attacks watching all the people go by my table, and not glance my way for hours on end, because I have nothing recognizable to offer them.  But then there will be someone out of the crowd, that will come up to my table, and tell me (after hearing my monotonous sales pitch) “This is exactly what I was looking for!  Something different.  Something new.” They may like, they may not.  But they gave it a chance.  They will open up their world to something they’ve never experienced before. 

That is why we like the things we do, and not because we are constantly reminded that we like it in the first place.  

What follows is a list of lesser known artists (some more than others) that deserve to be looked at.

Also, I'm going to be actively sharing posts of my fellow artists, every time I see something posted, on social media (regardless of whether or not it is fan art).

I hope you check out some, or even all of them!

Comics, Books, and Illustration, and Fine Art
FarelDalrymple (Pop Gun War, The Wrenchies)
Study Group Comics (Awesome indie comics sight, for free web comics)
Inbon (Creator owned studio full of emerging new talent)