This morning as I sit here in my office drinking my coffee, I find this article is the hardest article to write for this column thus far. Not because of something crazy happening or something negative hindering the book. It’s what I cant share with the world yet. As we speak, there are wonderful pieces of artwork and story sitting on my drive on my office desk that I have been advised not to share with anyone, yet. However, something sparked into my head that I needed to ask Brett to do after talking with the books editor and being green lit to do so.
I asked Brett if it be ok if he would allow Graphic Policy to be the first site to publish Trans* Planetarium preview pages. Brett being the awesome dude he is, said yes. But Brett, being an awesome editor, said why don’t we allow Graphic Policy readers tell us how what they think of the books first few pages? Needless to say I loved the idea. Allowing Graphic Policy fans to read the comics first few pages and giving there feedback sounded like an epic idea. Good or bad, we want you readers to let us know what you think.
It is people like Brett and readers like you guys that allow me to do what I love to do. With that said, I owe you all a lot. So, here is the projects first pages from its first chapter. Its been a long road from February until now. A lot of: late nights, redrafts, money spent ($2,000 to be exact), hours of home work to make this story impactful and meeting awesome people who believe in the books message as much as I do. This passion project has taken a lot from me and those close to me. Because its message is simple; we must love each other and ourselves without bias or objection if we are ever to make this world a better place.
You can provide your feedback in the comments right here, or you can make comments on Facebook or Twitter too!
So without further due, Graphic Policy proudly gives you the inside look of Trans* Planetarium!
You know in this business it’s hard to sell ideas or get people to rally behind you. Very seldom do you meet people who actually give a crap about an idea you have or want to see you succeed. Everyone is usually trying to push their own idea or opinion. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing. It’s just, in comics things are extremely competitive. Everyone’s racing to the top with the next big idea. So, a human rights idea? I didn’t think would have a chance, honestly. But, then interesting people got involved. People to whom this day, shocked the crap out of me.
So, almost a year ago I started talking with Matt Hawkins [You know, this Matt Hawkins – Ed.] online via chat and posts. [I’m convinced Phillip’s superpower is his charm. – Ed.] Asked how he got started and so on. He’s a really honest guy and it always amazed me how he answered without hesitation. Of course this was when I saw him online. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t know the dude on a personal level. He’s just a guy who I have come to respect and admire. Someone I look for knowledge about the business from, when he has a free moment, which to be honest, isn’t that often. But still, he’s a cool guy and didn’t have to answer any of my questions and yet he did.
So, I did the craziest thing. I emailed him venting out my frustrations over not getting a creative team together for Trans* Planetarium because most thought its transgender protagonist and subject matter too controversial. Why? I have no idea. Hell, at the time it made sense. Why not vent to the guy at the top of Mount Olympus and see if I could get his advice? In two minutes flat, Matt told me some cool stuff about comics that I hadn’t thought of. How tailoring a comic to a specific audience sometimes works better and so on. Then he asked me something I didn’t expect. Matt asked, “Phillip, do you need an editor?”
Man, I about jumped up from my desk with a heart attack of excitement. I told Matt yes, and next thing I knew I was talking to Renae Geerlings, the Managing Editor at Darby Pop Publishing. Renae was awesome. Even though when I met her she was busy with a 100 different things like a book expo and managing things at Darby, she really gave me her time when she could. I only had the three synopsis points and the first draft of the script , Renae worked some real magic. I often tell people I gave Renae a shotgun buckshot blast of ideas [You have no idea how true this was. – Ed.] and she, being an amazing editor, knew right away what points should be there and what was truly missing. And what was the most important thing I was missing? Authenticity. It was cool, I wanted to help. But, it wasn’t enough. Renae was really busy and couldn’t commit due to her already hectic schedule, but, she wanted to see this project succeed. Believe me, Renae saved this project when she got me the perfect person to give that authentic voice to be Trans* Planetarium’s editor. In fact here’s what Renae gave me for this article:
Phillip had been talking to Matt Hawkins (Top Cow), who referred him to me as a possible editor, but given my full schedule, I couldn’t take on another project. I did, however, happen to be working with someone whom I thought would be a perfect guide for the project given her own experience: Kristine Chester.”
So, enters Kristine. A talented, strong woman who has a deep passion for comics and who has worked with the LGBT community for years on facing hard social issues because she herself is transgender. Now this part of the story gets hilarious.
So, Kristine jumps in and gives me a great view into the trans* world and begins to edit dialogue and such, as a working interview so to speak. I never worked with an editor before and just thought, “Hey, she is hired and can do this awesome!” So, I make the changes and send them back to her thinking she already knew she was hired, thought I said nothing of the sort. I just assumed she knew. So, I laughed out loud when she called me and asked “So, am I hired?” Which I replied, “I thought you knew that you were?” And from there we have been doing our best to bring this comic to life. [In my defense, I usually get a “You’re hired,” “Welcome aboard,” or “Get to work.” – Ed.]
Kristine, has been amazing. She definitely gave me insight that Google search just couldn’t give and an understanding that I want our readers to get after they read our comic. Kristine is definitely the perfect editor for this project for so many reasons. Which is why our next article is going to be from her perspective. About being transgender and about working on this project. I truly believe you, the readers, will admire her courage and strength as I have. Thank you for reading and hope to entertain you soon.
I want to welcome a new column from Graphic Policy contributor Phillip Knox who along with other folks is working on a comic series Trans* Planetarium. The Trans* Planetarium team is going to take us through the process of comic creation, talking about their experiences with the series. – the Management
Trans* Planetarium is a comic series I wrote, that’s in the process of being drawn. It tells the story of Alice, a 24 year old transgender woman, who has suffered hardship and rejection from the world, and attempts to end it all by committing suicide. Alice is saved by a Seraphim, a divine power committed to guiding her towards self acceptance and who challenges her to face her inner demons (literally), so that she may gain the courage necessary to help change the world around her.
For the next few weeks the creative team on Trans* Planetarium: myself, editor Kristine Chester (Marketing Associate Darby Pop Publishing, Senior Contributor Fanboy Comics), artist Joanne Romae, and colorist Brikalyn Benigno are going to explore the comic creation process, from the script to the art to seeking a publisher. The place to start is how this idea came about and why we decided to create such a story. Well, let me explain:
Back in February this year, I decided, as a comic creator, I wanted to do something more with my stories. I wanted to create a story of social importance. One that, in a way, shared my moral belief that we are all equal and deserve to live life to the fullest without prejudice like Stan Lee’s X-Men had done. But, I also wanted to write and create a story that would push my storytelling out of its comfort zone. Why? To be honest, I still don’t have an answer.
I found myself watching a documentary on Hulu about Grant Morrison. How he worked out his comic ideas and what drove him to create such beautiful works of comic genius, that has both fans loving and hating him at the same time. However, we all seem to admire his talent and come to appreciate the way the man thinks. So, there I was on my couch just watching as a typical fan boy as Grant Morrison gave me the best advice. As he answered the interviewer in the most honest way, “I create my stories as they play in my head. It’s like a million films all playing at once and I want to share them. If no one likes them, I don’t care, I just enjoying doing them because all of my work bears my heart.”
I’ve heard artists and creators say that writing from the heart is the way to create the best story possible, but it never really sank in until I was listening to Morrison’s description. All comic creators write out of passion and not for the money. We have this urge to bleed our hearts out into these beautiful stories and share them to the world. But, I hadn’t bled yet. I created a horror comic called Tatted for fun last year and became involved with The ODD Comics’ The Bud as a publishing agent because I enjoyed the character’s premise and the challenge of selling it. Until this point, I never knew what it felt like to create a comic book that tore open my heart strings. That was until I found my inspiration for Trans* Planetarium.
Growing up, I don’t know how or why I was built into accepting all people and loving them no matter what. Without judgement. Without fear. I just have always done it, even when it wasn’t popular. I was shocked when I found an old article where a man saw a trans* woman with her boyfriend at a bar and proceeded to beat her boyfriend senseless and strangled her to death. You mean to tell me as civilized as our world is, we still have monsters willing to kill another human being for the crime of being different? I mean, I felt my blood boil in a heated rage like I never had before. I don’t know what it was, but I felt compelled to do something. Especially since I found myself delving deeper into America’s transphobia issue and finding out some dark truths in this country about inequality that I thought didn’t exist.
And then it hit me. I can use my love for comics in the most positive way and provide a voice for a community that has seen so much ugliness because of ignorance. So, the idea for Trans* Planetarium was born. I wanted to educate people about the transgender community in an attempt to stop the bigotry and hatred that ignorance bred into our society. And within minutes of my decision, I began to sketch out the logo that was going to be used for the story’s title.
In seconds I knew Trans* Planetarium was going to be the name of the story. Why? Because in my head it sounded really cool when you said it out loud, and for the other, because of what its meaning implies. Trans is used to explain someone going: across, beyond, or through. Which is used to describe a transgender person who chooses to go across one gender to another and planetarium, which is a theatre built primarily for presenting educational and entertaining shows about astronomy and the night sky, or for training in celestial navigation. Putting them together though, is a play on words that fit the story’s main goal: Transforming the world’s viewpoint on transgender people, so they are willing to understand and accept the transgender community with love and grace.
Little did I know as a straight, cisgender (which means not trans*) man, the fight I was getting myself into. Nor, did I know how many awesome people I was going to meet along the way to ensure this story was going to be created and published. It’s all still amazing and humbling me to no end. Next week, I’ll cover the script writing process for this comic and how two comic community powerhouses Matt Hawkins (Top Cow) and Renae Geerlings (Darby Pop) found the perfect editor for this project and why I am still in shock those two wonderful people were so willing to help me. Thanks for reading. Hope to entertain you soon.