I spent time reflecting on the previous year (as I always do) and thinking about the future. This was an interesting one, and makes me wonder if I'm getting closer to actually punching through.
I know, I don't focus much on my personal life when I ruminate like this. Well, I don't care about my personal life. That's easy to deal with. Want more friends? Reach out to more people. Want to fall in love? It might help if you dated more often than you do. Pay down your bills? You're already doing that, and your vacation only resulted in you adding about $100 total to your balances, so thumbs up, sport. Want to have more sex? Quit saying, "No," so often.
Everything in my life revolves around me trying to smash through this brick wall between me and actually being a successful writer. Please note I don't have to be like a Dan Brown or anything like that. Just knowing that I'm creating things and there is demand for them, from readers, from editors -- in other words, that I'm being what I was created to be -- is what I'm after. Everything goes on hold when I'm really cooking. I see fewer movies, play fewer video games, and even * gasp * post less frequently to my blog when I'm really working on something. All so that, when my life is finally and mercifully over, I can look back and say, "I gave it all I had. Any lack of success is due to luck or fate or the old boy network or what I created just not working. No one can say I didn't do all I could."
This year is a little disappointing to me from the "I did all I could angle." This is the lowest output I've had since I started this whole bizarre journey back around 2007. 2007 saw me writing video game reviews for Video Game Trader, my first comic in the form of Final Shadows #1 being posted online, my first official debut in something held together with staples with Video Game Trader #5 seeing print and the Morbid Myths Halloween Special 2007 (it appears MM was published first, but it was close, so I could be wrong about that being my official debut, but I doubt it), and the debut of Stress Puppy on the Hard Way Studios web site. As far as actual creative work, I was already hip deep in working on Genotype Prime, Final Shadows was done and waiting for the artist to get off his ass and finish it, and had a decent backlog of articles for the mag and a huge backlog of strips. I also, thanks to the RAD kit, started making video games, starting with my humble fan game based on the Pearls Before Swine comic strip, Biff's Adventure, a very simple time killer that, I must admit, has a certain charm to it.
2008 continued to be interesting. The Stress Puppy strip was doing fine as far as web comics go -- readership eventually hit the triple digits, not bad for a strip done just for the hell of it and as an extra on the site (it was never intended to be another main feature like PvP or User Friendly). I had finished up Genotype Prime, and Dwayne Biddix, the artist in residence at Hard Way Studios, wanted desperately to work on a project with me. We settled on what would eventually become The Supremacy (original working title? The Assembly. That's for any Peter G trivia geeks out there). I wrote my ass off, and continued to work on strips. It helped keep my mind off how Diamond was jerking us and the publisher around. Kept working on games, including an idea for a simple game based on The Sire. However, I lost contact with the creator (he stopped returning my emails. He eventually became a staff writer for Rob Liefeld, so I figured The Sire was toast and scrapped the project). This year also saw Peter David appear at the Wizard World Chicago show, where I gave him a copy of MMHS2007. I had to. I didn't expect him to read it, and I know I'm no longer the Peter David cheerleader I used to be. But the guy had a huge influence on me, and I did learn much from him. Personal feelings didn't matter, what mattered was doing the right thing and honoring and acknowledging the positive impact he had on me. I have no regrets about doing it.
Then came 2009, when everything changed. To help kill time, I created the Stress Puppy graphic novel, The Rise Of Holly. It actually made it out (I think) in March. The Supremacy finally limped out of the starting gate with the publisher self-distributing it. I'm not much for self-promotion (I'd make a horrible hype guy for a hip hop group), but I knuckled down and, with everyone else at Hard Way, worked the phones to pimp the book. It was timed to be released on Free Comic Book Day. I'm mercurial -- I can be ostentatious, or I can be introverted. Throw me into, say, a new social environment or an improv situation, and I'm Hell on wheels. But when it comes to something like declaring myself, "I IZ A COMIK RIGHTER!!!," I bottle up. But I overcame it so I could do a signing when the book debuted to help spread the word, get the sales up, and get the series finished. See, I didn't really consider the credits I had so far to be anything to brag about. But here was a book that was actually going to be in comic book shops. But I didn't just want the one issue, I wanted the whole series to finish. I wasn't just happy to be there, I wanted to stay there. I wanted to have a shot at landing at Genotype Prime landing with, hopefully, a mid-tier publisher in 2010. I wanted to build.
The signing was a huge success. I still remember seeing friends like mornblade and b_briarwood showing up not only to buy The Supremacy, but also bringing their copies of the Stress Puppy GN to be signed. I worked the crowd, selling them on my personality as well as the concept. The book almost sold out at the store. In fact, out of the 1K print run, it was almost gone everywhere. Fantastic for something done while sticking our hams against Diamond's glass. I felt better than I ever had in my life. I made it into stores. I found out that Erik Larsen and Jimmy Palmiotti said The Supremacy #1 was one of the best comics they read that year. My work was the first for the studio to actually make it into comic shops. After seventeen years of beating my head against that brick wall, it was finally breaking down.
It was also during this time that I had picked up a book on chibi art, ostensibly to help me create better characters for my video games. A throwaway concept for a game wouldn't leave my mind. I reworked it a bit, and wound up creating Rhapsody and Melody and the Sound Waves comic book. I wasn't sure if I should do it, given how green I was. But it was working, it was fun, and thanks to print on demand, I wasn't risking my financial future on it, and started moving forward with it. I also started work in earnest on Head Above Water, a story I was really proud of and couldn't wait to finish and introduce to the world.
But, as often happens when you are chasing dreams, Reality shows up to put you in your place. Despite the publisher announcing it was moving forward with The Supremacy #2, they bungled it (cutting the cover price and making us have to move 2.5K copies instead of just 1K to keep the momentum going didn't help. In fact, we almost made 1K. Most comics experience a 50% or greater drop off between the first and second issues. Our drop off was single digit percentage points. Damn, I was pissed when it fell apart). The studio started trying to self-publish with a couple of titles, Shelter and Suicide Note (neither of which I was involved with) while keeping on looking for an artist for Genotype Prime so they could ride the momentum of "hot new writing talent Peter G". They also asked me to be the writer on a revival of their Captor Of Torments series, and I anxiously said yes. The studio learned that just because people say they like something and will buy it doesn't mean they actually will. Shelter and Suicide Note did terribly, and you could feel the enthusiasm of the studio die that day. And just like that, Peter G was on his own again.
I started trying my luck at local comic shows, and got a crash course in how they operated. Simply put, there are some shows I now refuse to do because the organizers don't have a fucking clue what they are doing. Because I'm not part of the system and don't have name recognition, I'm dependent of foot traffic. Some of these people don't promote their shows at all (the 2009 Tinley Park show), and I spend most of my time drawing or just sitting around like Applejack at her cart during the Grand Galloping Gala. On the other hand, other local pros became aware of me, and I made some great friends doing it. Connie Faye, Russell Lissau, and Art Baltazar invited me to join them for pizza after a show that got hit by a freak snowstorm. I wasn't expecting to make a ton of money, just hoping that the show would be worth my time. And the comradery made it worth my time.
Also, I found out the brick wall was as strong as ever. I got almost thirty copies of The Supremacy #1. Twelve of them are signed by Biddix, Chris Carpenter (the EIC of Hard Way), and myself and in my personal archives. The rest were sent around in the spirit of blatantly shameless whoring, either trying to promote the series or as samples to other studios. After all, I wasn't just another wannabe writer, I actually made it into stores! I gave copies to places like Top Cow, Avatar, and Aspen. Never heard anything back.
2010 saw me continue to work on Sound Waves, and the strangest things started happening. That year was the inaugural year for C2E2. I had never really been able to show my work at shows, no one is interested in writers (the closest I got was years ago when Cat Yronwood looked over something I had done. She said my art was amateurish and poor and would never work. I walked away confused -- she didn't get what I was trying to do, so I just sort of wrote the whole thing off). But while talking at the Archie Comics booth with some random guy, I showed him one of the Sound Waves comics, and he seemed to be grooving to it. He turned out to be the second in line at Archie editorial and asked me to send him some writing samples. He liked what he read, but said there were no slots open on the schedule, "but try again later." He didn't respond to anything later, but still, not only getting face time with an editor but an invitation to pitch to him again is a pretty big step.
Wizard World that year, where I got in a little dust up that resulted in me sporting a black eye for a few days (don't ask), also saw an appearance by the folks from Ape Entertainment. We were casual acquaintances from the shows, they knew me and my ambitions. I think part of the reason we got along so well was that, while I was an aspiring writer, I was never trying to shove my work in their faces, so they could relax around me. I talked with them about what success I was having, and the EIC was probing my writing style and thought process. He really like Sound Waves, although he agreed with me that it didn't have the potential for a regular publisher to run with it. I asked him if I could run an idea past him, basically a pitch. He said sure. I gave him the rough idea behind Quantum Redshift. He thought it sounded good, he didn't have a problem with the basic coloring for the Sound Waves covers, so put something together. I wrote the entire series in one week and had the pages ready shortly afterwards. Never heard back from him, which is disappointing, but what can you do, and I suppose this qualifies as a successful pitch session, even if the final results didn't measure up. I tried pitching Quantum Redshift around to a couple of other publishers (I actually made it to the final round at Image before anyone hit the gong), but nothing came of it. Also, Head Above Water didn't attract anywhere near the interest I was hoping it would. I also released my first Hannah Singer book.
This year, the long strange trip continued. Once again, Sound Waves, a simple all-ages for fun comic series that is nothing like what is on the market, did what The Supremacy could not and dealt aces. Zenescope asked to see samples of my writing for their new all ages line-up they were partnering with the Discovery Channel to make (nothing further, not only from them, but no Discovery comics other than the shark one that was already out at the time, so I'm guessing that idea is Code 4). Wizard World saw my stuff being ooo'ed and aaa'ed over by a manager from Jim Davis' Paws studio. Several small publishers (three of them this year) were actually interested in seeing my stuff, although more from a penciling standpoint than a writing standpoint. Still, people are actually starting to notice me now, to the point where I'm thinking I need to come up with something where the artwork falls more in line with their expectations. It's not the simplification/ amateurishness/ minimalism, that is causing problems, but my approach. The composition of my scenes is intentional -- when you are writing quiet, introspective stuff, drawing it with dynamic poses and angles that reach out to the reader instead of making them passive observers (the infamous "peeled banana") doesn't work. It would make Sound Waves just as overblown as any Marvel title. And it wouldn't work for Red Riding Hood because the gags are king -- changing the angles and such undermines the pacing. Still, coming up with something where I can do something like what they are looking for might not be a bad idea. Still, to go from all that to just one issue of Sound Waves and the second Hannah Singer book kind of feels like a step backwards. (I know, I did plenty of work and pages that didn't see print and will someday, but I'm talking stuff that actually made it out into the wild.)
Red Riding Hood is still working through the pitches so far, nothing to report there. Still working on more Hannah Singer stories. With Doctor Whooves finally in the can, there are no partially finished projects sitting around. I now have a completely clean slate and can start working on Sound Waves again (which I'm really looking forward to, I miss the girls).
And I look at that brick wall.
It looks back at me.
And I roll up my sleeves, spit on my hands, and ready the sledgehammer for another swing.