Dark Beach Creators Open Up
To paraphrase Big Daddy Kane, “Making comics ain’t easy.” It takes a tireless creative engine on top of a relentless marketing machine. Many of the people we discuss only need to have one or the other. Some people need to be both to realize their dreams.
Michael Ruiz-Unger and Tucker Tota are that rare kind, capable of pushing their dreams into reality without the benefit of an establish publisher or marketing agency getting them out there. They turned to Kickstarter to get the first issue of their book Dark Breach made and are about to conclude a new Kickstarter for the second issue. In fact, you should take moment to check out the incredible art their new book is sporting here.
In an effort to enlighten us about an experience most of have (so far) only dreamed of, these writers are taking a moment to tell us about their book and the experience of making their dream a reality.
Graphic Policy: Do us a favor and tell us a little bit about Dark Beach and what people will love about it?
Michael Ruiz-Unger: Dark Beach is a story about a crime scene photographer who lives in a future world where Earth has drifted away from the Sun. Gordo, our main character, gets mixed up in a murder conspiracy that is fueled by his obsession with the Old Sun.
GP: How did you originally come up with this idea?
MRU: It was a mesh of ideas that collided together over a week or two during a heavy New York City winter. I had rented out a shitty apartment, which had only one window and a tiny heater. It felt like the sun didn’t exist. At the same time, I was reading about 1940’s crime scene photographer WeeGee. Everything about him was fascinating to me (the photos and the police radio he had in his car). The two ideas just seemed perfect together.
GP: How long were you working with it before it was ready to be set in motion?
MRU: It took about three years before I actually started cranking the wheels. I wrote a quick treatment for it with a friend, then Tucker and I rounded it off and made it comic book ready. I would say, as a film director, that being frustrated at not having the budget to film something of this magnitude really pushed me to make it into a comic.
GP: What percentage of the book is finished before you begin designing a Kickstarter?
MRU: I would say the book is about 99% done. The rest are little things we find here and there that get changed. We want to make sure that it is absolutely perfect before sending off to our printers. We also want it done because we only want to focus on the Kickstarter and push it as much as we can. You can’t just throw it up and let it go. You have to promote the hell out of it.
GP: You’ve finished your second successful Kickstarter. What is it about Dark Beach that you think really connects with people in a way gets them to invest before they have ever even read it?
Tucker Tota: A lot of that credit goes to the comics community. There aren’t many art forms where people are taking chances on indie creators. There is more than enough great content coming from the big publishers, so it’s really amazing that readers are willing to look to Kickstarter for new and original stories. That said, I think Dark Beach is an indie comic but feels like something you could pick up at your comic shop, mostly because we made sure to work with great artists and use high quality printing. We also spend a lot of time on our design and marketing, so it feels as professional as the big guys.
GP: When undertaking an endeavor like this for the first time, you learn so many “unknown unknowns”. What did you learn while making issue one that allowed you to be better prepared issue two?
TT: The very first steps, finding your art team, figuring out how to tell your story in panels and pages, getting all that figured out for issue #1 made making #2 way easier. But we’re still learning and as we work on issue #3 I think we’re finally getting really comfortable with the process and telling the story as best we can.
GP: What did you find to be the best way to get people involved in the project?
TT: I think you’d have to ask Sebastian and Ray why they continue to work with us, but I think we all work together really well and I’m super happy to have found them. We have a group chat as a team and we constantly share ideas for the story so it feels like everyone is contributing and it’s not just us telling them what to do. We also send each other comics or movies we’ve been digging, so it’s a very positive and friendly experience.
GP: When you first started working on Dark Beach, did you create a proposal and shop it around? Who did you send it to?
MRU: We created a two-page sample, which we sent with a synopsis and an entire outline of the story and sent it to all the publishers. After months waiting for a response we realized what a giant waste of time that was. Those publishers don’t want to read a 10-page word document. So we said screw it, lets do this issue ourselves. Around that time we noticed how big Kickstarter was getting and how it was morphing into a place to not only jump-start your project but also sell finished products. I think we made the right move. The response has been great and even Guillermo del Toro pitched in to the Kickstarter.
GP: What made you decide to self-publish?
TT: If a big publisher had wanted to publish our book we probably would have taken the offer. But doing it ourselves has been a really great experience too. Interacting with the audience that we’re building from scratch is so rewarding and meaningful to us. And having full creative control over the project is priceless. It’s very encouraging to know that we don’t need someone to give us permission to make a comic.
GP: What were your backgrounds in writing/illustration that you felt comfortable taking on such a large endeavor?
TT: Mike has been making films for a long time and I write songs for my band Bad Wave, so story-telling is something we’ve been doing for a while. We definitely felt like outsiders when starting this comic, but really once you learn the technical aspects of telling a story through pages and panels, it’s all the same thing really. Characters, plots, settings, it’s all about a compelling story, the format is secondary.
GP: What’s your plan for distributing the book?
MRU: We plan on continuing the distribution ourselves. It’s tough when you only have one book out. People think you’re a one-time deal, that you don’t have it in you to make a whole series, but that’s not the case with us. We’re going the whole way. Surprisingly, some comic book stores that we’ve encountered don’t really care to feature independent comics books. To me, the most interesting stuff was in the indie section! Like when I found Justin Madson’s Breathers series. That was a game changer for me, not what the factories were pumping out weekly. But I get it, people have to make money. Also, we’re on Comixology!
GP: If you were approached by a publisher who wanted to pick up the book and get it out there for you, what would you be looking for before agreeing to that?
TT: I would want to know what we’re getting in exchange for giving up our intellectual property. If they can get our story out to a much larger audience, more than we could on our own, we would certainly consider that. But giving up the rights to something you create is a big deal to us, so it would have to be worth it.
Having read the first two issues, be assured Dark Beach is an awesome read that manages to thrive outside of any one particular genre. Their Kickstarter is ending in a few days so jump on board and be a part of making great, new comics!
Patrick Healy is a writer and artist, making pins and taking names. Check out his latest Kickstarter here!