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Matchett’s Musings: Working at Grayhaven Part V

Matchett’s Musings

Working At GrayHaven Part 5:  You Are Not Alone In The Abyss

I spent 5 years with GrayHaven comics as a writer, editor and friend to the company.  In many ways I still consider myself the last of those things and I have many friends who still work with them.  I bother Andrew Goletz far too much on Facebook, speak to great friends and ridiculously talented people on a daily basis that I either met through GrayHaven or grew closer with through the company.  I also met people that I genuinely detest through my time there but I am very fortunate and grateful I met more good people than bad.

I’m not completely faultless, however.  I made mistakes and not just one or two.  I made a number of errors in judgment in ways I dealt with certain situations and dealing with people.  No one is perfect, least of all me.  However, the past is gone and it’s not coming back.  I hope in some ways the stories that I’ve told so far have been somewhat interesting as to my creative process but this article will be a little more educational.

This article will highlight two volumes that highlighted the best and worst of my GrayHaven experiences.  Ultimately I am very proud to have my name on both projects, they are both results of many hours of work that I think paid off in terms of output.  However, delivering a high quality book sadly isn’t the only mark of how successful a book is.

Before I get to them though, I realized there was one volume I forgot about last week.  So to prove that I am by no means perfect, I’m going to do a brief summary of the one GrayHaven story I did, that I honestly completely forgot about.

More than ever, let me stress that the following events I describe here are from my perspective only.  Other versions of events can and probably will vary.  I will do my best however to give you all the events as they happened.  Anyone who would like to offer a different perspective that either is similar to my own or differs from mine is invited to do so.

GrayHaven Presents: Sci-fi/Horror

So yes, this is the one I forgot about, although I’m not sure exactly why, as it is certainly memorable for several reasons.  The volume was a part of GrayHaven’s ‘Limitless’ line which was now looking to produce large, graphic novel sized anthologies which would even see some colour stories.  By and large, due to cost, GrayHaven rarely had done colour before (with one notable exception we’ll get to shortly) but these volumes had a healthy amount of stories with colour in them.

The first of these was ‘Sci-Fi/Horror’ which was taking GrayHaven’s most successful genre and adding in a large science fiction twist on top.  The volume featured a wonderful wraparound cover by longtime GrayHaven artist, Leo Gonzales who should be working on a big three book like 5 minutes ago.

When I was pitching my story, I had already delivered a few horror themed tales during my time with GrayHaven.  I wanted something this time that would really stand out though, something that would be genuinely creepy.  The first thing that hit me was an image of a man in a restaurant where all the people with him would be the same person.  It was an unsettling picture in my mind but I wondered how I could make it practical.  I literally built a whole story around this one image in my mind which is how the story that eventually became ‘REMWorld’ came to be.

Essentially REMWorld took place at a point in the future that (for an affordable price) you could customize your dreams.  Wanting to get away from it all for reasons that were outlined in the story, the main character chose this new fad to have a wonderful dreaming experience.  The trouble was that the tech started to malfunction and slowly but surely, the man’s subconscious turned the dream into a nightmare.  When I came up with the concept, I thought it was something really different that I could cram as much creepy stuff as I could think of in.  I could also use the advantage of the entire thing being a dream to give myself a certain freedom to do what I wanted and jump scene to scene with little or no explanation.  After all, what is a dream if nothing but random?

It was several months later when it was already printed when I realized the story bore some similarities to the movie Vanilla Sky, which in turn was adapted from the Spanish film ‘Open Your Eyes’.  I think however that REMWorld took the concept to a much darker place overall and I decided to never really let on about the similarity and hope no one noticed (until now, oops).

I thought the story turned out very well and it was really well illustrated by an artist named James Emmett.  I can’t honestly comment what it was like to work with James because I didn’t have any communication with him.  I wrote the story, I corrected the story after edits and poof it appeared.  Almost like magic.  I will say he did a great job and I hope to work with him more directly at some point soon!

The story also featured the debut of ‘Darma’, the virtual guide through REMWorld who took on a sinister personality as the story progressed.  I loved Darma, I really did and if I have my way, she’ll be back.

So that brings us to the main points of this article.  Sorry for the slight detour but now we’re about to dive in head first.  Abandon hope all thee who enter the Abyss.

Tales From The Abyss Vol. 1-4 (and maybe 5?)

It all seemed to be perfect, all the stars and the planets would align and all would be right with the world.  Like I mentioned above, horror was GrayHaven’s strongest seller and people wanted colour stories from us and existing creators wanted a shot at telling bigger and better stories.  When Andrew decided to start (at the time) the second spin off anthology to accompany the Gathering, a horror prestige anthology that would largely feature colour stories made the most sense.  We would even let people tell one story over multiple stories and we even had a top tier creator to tell such a tale over the books initial five volumes.

We had all the boxes checked, a big story for a pro lined up and more ongoing multi-anthology stories green lit from Erica J. Heflin and Inverse Comics super guru Kevin LaPorte.  It all seemed like it was going to go well.

Except it didn’t, it really didn’t.  Since I had edited the second and third volume of the horror books, I was the natural choice to take charge on this project too.  Since the workload was going to be nothing like none of us had ever attempted at the time before, I was joined in the editing chair by Erica J. Heflin.

Ultimately we produced four issues of the anthology that faced a multitude of delays, headaches and enough tales of woe to make anyone sit and wait for nurse to bring them their medication.  The first two volumes in my view, quality wise, were among GrayHaven’s best and they both overtook my long standing favorite of Vol. 6 as the best material GrayHaven had produced.  The third volume and fourth volumes were not quite as strong I felt but where of a really high quality I was very proud to be involved with.  I even had a story in Vol. 3 of Abyss which I’ll get it in a moment.

There was only one problem (on top of all the other problems the book faced).

No one cared.  We’d done everything right, we’d seen what people were buying, were requesting and had a pro on board and we gave it to them.  Still, no one cared and the four volumes of Tales From The Abyss which were produced were amongst GrayHaven’s lowest sellers.

Then there were the problems involved in actually getting the books out.  The book just seemed eternally cursed with problems that included but were not exclusive to the following

  • Writers being difficult
  • Artists being difficult
  • Writers not delivering scripts
  • Artists not delivering art
  • Writers refusing to change their stories for edits
  • Writers wanting their stories removed because they didn’t like another writer/artist in the same volume as them
  • Colourists being hard to come by, especially since GrayHaven were not paying talent at the time
  • Finding replacements stories/artists/colourists with sometimes not much time between the story needing to be done and the volume being printed

Of course, at the time anyone asked how things were going with the books, Erica and myself would smile and nod.  I wonder if we had perhaps pooled our efforts we put into trying to get this book chugging along that we would have accomplished something a lot easier, like say solving world hunger or curing the cold.

Honestly, it was just hellish trying to get the books out.  It seemed that the fruits of our labors were worth it because, like I said the volumes were great (by and large) and looked STUNNING but again…no one bought them.  Sales were so poor that when GrayHaven revamped their website earlier this year, the volumes were pulled from sale and Vol. 5 (to my knowledge) was never made available for purchase.

I often equate my time editing to like being in a room full of spinning plates.  My job was simple, don’t let the plates fall and I think I did that.  I think I was pretty good at that but the Abyss plates were like cutlery that fights back or cuts off your hands if you touch it.

I’m a big believer in cause and effect.  I think in retrospect that working on Abyss caused a domino effect that ultimately led to me leaving GrayHaven late last year.  Perhaps everything would have worked out the same but if Abyss had been handled by another editor, things may have been different.

I do hope that if you find a copy, you do buy it because the stories (by and large) are rather brilliant.  The talent that DID deliver and I COULD depend on, delivered in spades and did some of their best work.  It also featured the first pairing between me and my future Sparks collaborator, Kell Smith for a story that was in the 3rd Abyss issue.

I’ve complimented Kell a bunch but I can’t stress how much of a fan of her work I was by this point.  It was Erica’s idea to pair us together for the horror tale I wrote which was ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ and showed we had some creative charisma that would secure her place as part of team Sparks.

‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’, was something I conceived based on my absolute hatred of flying.  It’s not just not liking to fly (which I don’t) but it’s the overall experience of it.  Like I said in one of my earlier articles (available right here on Graphic Policy!!!!) I don’t like waiting.  Like at all.  To me, flying is just a constant state of waiting.

You wait to check in, you wait to get through security, you wait to get on the plane, you wait for the plane to take off, you wait on the plane, you wait to get off the plane, you wait for your luggage.  I just despise it and being a tall fellow, I get ridiculously uncomfortable when I fly.  I have often fantasized about being on my own on a plane but then kind of thought that would be rather horrible which is where ‘Fasten Your Seatbelt’ comes in.

I wrote a story featuring a man who woke up alone on board an empty plane.  I just poured all my hate of flying into the story and I think it was pretty creepy (even though Andrew and Erica kept calling it ‘Glenn’s Langoleers’, le sigh).  I think Kell did a wonderful job drawing the story and I think it stood proud among the usual high quality stories that Abyss delivered.

It was a shame that not many people got to read them.  It seems strange now that after all that effort to put out the books that they’re gone now.  All that time spent keeping those plates spinning I’ll never get back.  Still, I delivered what I thought were great comics and that was my job so I can hold my head high at least in that regards.

Sometimes though, there comes for a need for a comic where sales aren’t the primary force behind making them.  Sometimes you’re compelled to make a comic for something higher, something that sadly can emanate from tragedy.

You Are Not Alone Vol. 1 and 2

On December 14th 2012, America went through a great tragedy that is known as the ‘Sandy Hook elementary school shootings’.  I won’t the events of what occurred on that day because they are well known and you can find every opinion possible on the tragedy readily available online.

How it affected GrayHaven was down to how the tragedy affected our publisher, Andrew Goletz.  He felt compelled to do something in response to this heinous act and that is exactly where the concept of ‘You Are Not Alone’ came from.

The volume was going to be the biggest thing that the company had ever attempted.  It was going to be an anti-bullying oversized graphic novel that would help those that looked to help people that were treated differently because of their appearance, their race, their sexuality and other things that people can pray upon.  It also looked to help those that were dealing with issues that would perhaps lead to self harm or anorexia and who to call and/or contact in relation to these issues.

It was an extremely worthy project and one I was eager to be a part of.  I was heavily bullied when I was younger and wanted to help with the project that would hopefully help others get through similar experiences.  I wasn’t part of the initial ‘You Are Not Alone’ (or YANA as it became known) conceptual team but I was eager to offer any help I could.

Sadly, I was told that I wasn’t needed.  I’m sure Andrew wouldn’t mind me quoting him directly as he told me ‘I don’t think you’re a good enough editor’.

I was furious and I think that one sentence was another big contributor to me eventually leaving GrayHaven.  In retrospect I think I should have been more understanding and realizing that this was the most important thing that GrayHaven had ever done and it was much bigger than any of us.  I like to count Andrew as one of my closest friends and although we have had many, many arguments over the years about a number of subjects I don’t think he has ever done anything to intentionally hurt me.  Still at the time, I was angry and I just decided to pitch a story to the book in the hope that I could help someone with what I was allowed to contribute to the volume.

I wrote ‘00110001 (binary core for the number ‘one’) is the loneliest number’ which dealt with the very modern and real problem of Cyber Bullying.  I was tempted to tell a more personal take based on my own bullying experiences but I thought that there would be a lot of those types of stories.  I wanted to tackle an important issue that I didn’t think anyone else would think of (I was right).  I think I did a good job on the story and I asked previous collaborator, Paula Cob to do the art chores.  She did an exceptional job and I think the story hit all the beats that I intended it to.  In truth, You Are Not Alone is filled with many personal and harrowing tales that in truth nearly moved me to tears the first time I read it.  I think it truly lived up to its purpose and I was proud that my story was a small part of it.

There was a long gestation period for the project and eventually Andrew asked me to come on board and help get it out.  I can’t honestly remember what the problems were or how much work I did to help get the book out, all I remember is how I reacted.  I reacted like an utter ass who continually threw Andrew’s words about my ability as an editor back at him.

I did the job I was asked to do because I always did but looking back I should have just swallowed my pride and helped the volume (which again, was much bigger than me) get out but I decided to be difficult while doing it.

Eventually the book came out, it was a big hit and we heard a lot of stories from people who it helped.  We also got the most media coverage than I believe any other GrayHaven anthology and a follow up was soon seen as a necessity.

In a true 120, instead of not having me involved at all, Andrew gave me the responsibility of producing ‘You Are Not Alone 2’ all by myself.  Although it wasn’t quite as large as the first volume, the second one was due to be larger than any editor had delivered by themselves.

I was intimidated by this and knowing how important the project was, I wondered if I was capable.  Then, one of my fellow editors told me point blank that they didn’t think I could do it.  Like a bull that had seen a red flag, I swore that I would prove them wrong and worked my ass off to make sure the volume would be ready to go by September 2014.

Along with the other books I was looking after, I can honestly say that You Are Not Alone 2 took most of my attention.  I asked for help from as many artists and letterers that I could think of but never once did I contact another editor.  The gauntlet had been thrown down and I was going to deliver this volume over the finish line and I was going to do it by myself.

Which I did and I think I delivered a beautiful volume that featured great stories by a multitude of creators.  I was told to have it ready for production for September and I did that, only needing lettering done on a handful of stories but I had done everything else.  I had read through the hundreds of submissions, I had edited the stories, I had assigned artists, I had dealt with even more submissions once they reopened and I got as many stories lettered as I could without any budget.

In truth, I think the effort to put out You Are Not Alone 2 burned me out.  Other things happened after that, things were said about me and to me that along with everything else that had occured, caused me to leave GrayHaven.  It broke my heart because I had invested so much effort, time and finances into the company and I was now feeling I was no longer welcome.

Whether that was true or not, I’m not sure.  There are people I am still very close to there and there are those that after I left, decided to set fire to my virtual chair at the table and pretend I was never there at all.

On a final note, I want to talk about the story I wrote myself for YANA 2 which was called ‘Someone for Anyone’ that was wonderfully illustrated by Dan Laurer.  The story featured an old bear in a toy shop that was never paid attention to and was picked on by the more popular toys.  Finally, one day a little girl comes into the shop and takes him home.  I had long since been criticized by other editors for the amount of words I would use in a story and decided to tell this one without any words or captions.

I think the story met that challenge and Dan did a great job telling the story without one word of dialogue.  I had met Dan through chance when looking for an artist for a sc-fi ‘Alterna’ anthology where he delivered in spades on a story that I’m hoping sees the light of day very soon.

Dan has worked in the industry for years and is a great talent and I hope I am lucky enough to work with him again someday.

Still, I think it’s very ironic to look back at that bear, now my time at GrayHaven has come to an end.  It was a good toy but it still sat on a shelf, ridiculed by the other toys on a daily basis which caused it to feel undervalued and alone.

One day, the door opened and someone appreciated the bear for what it was.  I hope that one day, the door will open and someone will do the same for me.

Many thanks to Andrew Goletz for letting me do these articles and letting me say what I wished.  I’m sure I’ll be annoying him about something before you finish this.

Next:  The rise of Indie Comics

Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett

Matchett’s Musings: Working For GrayHaven Part IV

Working At GrayHaven Part 4:  And the rest

During my tenure at GrayHaven there was a lot of evolution and expansion, especially considering the fact that we were smaller than small press.  Our publisher and leader, Andrew Goletz was a fearless man who wanted to make comics that in some way would not only help build the companies profile but also create the comics he thought should be made.

These is why GrayHaven released books that were outside the Gathering, books that we wanted to make and could make because there was no one around to tell us we couldn’t.  Isn’t that the main appeal after all of indie comics?  It may not work out of course but there was no one to tell us we couldn’t try.

These are the tales of those volumes that I penned stories for.  I’m not sure if there as chronologically correct as my previous GrayHaven related articles but I’ll do my best.

Once again this only deals with volumes I was involved with as a writer and is from my own perspective.  Other versions of events may vary, I can only tell you what happened from my perspective

The Dark Vol. 1

The line of comics that would eventually become known collectively under the banner of ‘Limitless’ was, the brainchild of Andrew and one of GrayHaven’s founding editors, James O’Callaghan.  It was basically going to be GrayHaven’s answer to DC’s ‘Vertigo’ line of books where creators could craft ‘darker’, more adult stories.  We very much wanted to keep the Gathering as ‘all ages’ as possible so it was logical for us to create a line of books specifically targeted towards an older audience.

My story in this volume was adapted from a short story I had submitted on a contest the Bendis Board ran back in 2006 or so.  I believe the contest was called ‘the horror story meltdown’ or something like that.  The interest in the contest was low and there were only 3 submissions (including mine) so it was basically declared a 3 way draw.  The story was called ‘In Treatment’ and featured a physiatrist having a session with a seemingly very violent and homicidal patient.  When I was writing it, I took inspiration from ‘horror tales with a twist’ that were frequent staples of shows like ‘The Twilight Zone’ and such.  Basically, at the end of the story it is revealed the psychiatrist is in fact the murderer and she has kidnapped her therapist and is sedating him while torturing him with sessions like the story outlines.

When I wrote my previous article, I talked a lot about how comics can be used like no other medium to ‘mislead’ the reader.  I tried to do that here but I don’t feel I quite pulled it off with the same success I did in ‘The Saloon’.  In truth, I believe that this story was the worst one I produced during my time at GrayHaven (opinions on that one may vary).

The main problem the story had was the amount of words in it.  I just CRAMMED the story full of words that didn’t allow the art to do its job.  Keeping dialogue under control has never been my strong suit (I have gotten noticeably better, I think.  Still working on it.)  I wish I could take a second shot at the story sometime, I think with all I’ve learned in the time since I wrote it, that it would come out significantly better.

I worked on this story with Arcadio Bolanos who was an early GrayHaven workhorse.  Sometimes, Arcadio would illustrate 2 or 3 stories per anthology in the early volumes and was a big help to the company. I actually think his work on ‘In Treatment’ was among his strongest but the story overall is among my worst.  I’m not sure what he’s up to these days, knowing Arcadio I’m sure he is drawing something somewhere.

The Archives

After a period of time, the Limitless line was overhauled and driven by fellow GrayHaven editors, James O’Callaghan and Erica J. Heflin.  One of the main things they wanted to do with this line of GrayHaven books was produce prestige anthologies that had darker themes and fancy things like colour.

The first that Erica wanted to do was ‘The Archives’ which was based on history (either famous history or personal history) and she invited the GrayHaven editorial staff at the time to participate.  I believe at the time her logic was reaching out to people she knew would deliver while we tested out to see if this format would work for us or not.

With all of history available to me, I felt a bit spoiled for choice.  My first instinct was to do a story relating to the Kennedy Assassination (a subject I am fascinated endlessly by).  I then became torn because I also felt like I should do a story involving the Titanic.  Being from Belfast, where the Titanic was constructed and given that it was the 100 year anniversary since the ships doomed voyage, I felt obliged to do a story on it.

The concept stuck with me, so I wrote a story about the Titanic leaving Belfast and its final night, using Thomas Andrews (also from Belfast) as my central focus of the story.  I think I crafted a great story which was wonderfully illustrated by Fabio Jansen.  The story included a jaw dropping double page splash page of the ship in dock that may be some of the best art in any story I’ve ever written.  I believe that Fabio is currently working on a new Inverse project as of this typing.

This was a story I was very proud of and the volume overall was very strong.  I still perhaps need to get around to tell that Kennedy story that was kicking around in my head however…

The Dunes

This was another attempt from GrayHaven to produce a comic that had told one story featuring various different writers and artists.  In many ways, I believe you could almost count it among one of GrayHaven’s first one shots.  It was a murder mystery with a quirky twist that was primarily the brainchild of one of GrayHaven’s earlier unconventional writers in Sasha Makarewicz. 

The story featured a killer that used his victims to make ‘sand angels’ and featuring a protagonist in the style of Dale Cooper by way of Neil Gaiman.  The other writers (including me) were given the first few pages of the story, the overall outline of the story and a specific scene to write.  I was tasked with writing a scene where the protagonist (whose name escapes me) would be questioning the parents of the victim.

I felt I wrote a decent scene and it had some cool stuff I decided to throw in like making a splash page featuring dozens of pictures of the victim formed like mini panels.  I like trying to come up with unusual panel layouts or unconventional ways of telling the story because that takes (to me) as much skill as forming the words on the page.

The segment of the story I wrote also featured a line of dialogue I was particularly proud of.  Essentially the protagonist felt that because he was exploring the latest victims death and absorbing every aspect of her life, he felt he knew her better than even her parents.  The story overall was very non-linear and I felt had an ending that I’m still trying to fathom but was an interesting experiment I was happy to partake in.

The artist who worked on my segment was Gary O’Donnell who is a fellow Irishman.  I didn’t have much direct contact with him on the story and he did a few other projects with GrayHaven.  Last I spoke to him, I believe he was still on the small press scene looking for work.

Hey Kids: Fairy Tales

At GrayHaven it was felt that there aren’t a lot of comics for a younger market.  By and large, comics are usually for older readers with little to no effort put towards getting kids to pick up books.  So we decided to do it ourselves, with a mix of success.  There was a lot of debate during the short lived (as of this typing) ‘Hey Kids’ line about what was or was not appropriate for kids.  For the volumes I contributed to, I very much tried to go along the lines of Disney or Pixar.  I wasn’t looking to talk down to any of my potential readers, I wanted to write stories that not only younger readers could enjoy, but anyone could.

The first ‘Hey Kids’ volume was a follow up to the Gathering’s Fairy Tale issue which had been met with some success.  For this volume, I crafted a traditional fairy tale with a twist that I was very proud of.  In ‘My Darling Hero’, I told a story of a girl who was told by her mother since a young age that the only good way to meet a man was to get herself kidnapped by a brutish monster!

It was very much a tongue-in-cheek tale that sort of turned traditional fairy tale stereotypes on their head, much like Disney’s ‘Enchanted’ or ‘Frozen’ did.  It relied a lot on visual gags that I felt were effectively pulled off by artist, Devon Taylor.

Since his debut in the first fairy tale volume, I fell in love with Devon’s work.  He had a magnificent, highly professional style that I was desperate to apply to a story I wrote.  Poor Devon was likely tortured by my over eagerness but I honestly couldn’t help myself.  As I suspected he would, he knocked it out of the park on the story.  It’s one of my favorites I ever did for GrayHaven.

I think Devon only did a handful of GrayHaven stories, so I was very lucky to have him.  He was long appointed as the artist of a comic the company was released called ‘Tomorrow’ (the status of which I am unsure of) but I hope someone has snatched him up.  If not, I would honestly work with him again any day of the week.

Hey Kids: Superheroes

Another superhero volume after our non-superhero book that everyone thought was a superhero book didn’t perform well in Vol. 3 was always a puzzling decision to me.  Still, at this point I wasn’t involved much in any decision making and since I love superheroes, I looked to contribute a story.

Going again with a slightly unconventional slant, I introduced a rather ineffective group of super villains who look to induct their leaders son into the way of all things evil and such.  The majority of my GrayHaven stories had taken on a darker tone and I loved writing humour so this story (along with ‘My Darling Hero’) let me do just that.

I think this is another story that was restricted by the space I had and was probably too big an idea to cram in to so few pages.  Still, I heard quite a few positive things regarding this story and a lot of people said it made them laugh so…who am I to argue?  I would love to bring these villains back in some fashion (there’s me not wanting to let go of characters again).  Who knows what the future might bring for these characters and all the other ones who I’d like to see more of.

Longtime GrayHaven artist, Nick Francis was my partner on this tale and he did a lot of fun character designs for my cast of villains.  Although a relative latecomer to GrayHaven, Nick did a lot of stories with us and was the penciler for one of the many ill fated ‘Phase 2’ books ’11.59’ which was written by publisher, Andrew Goletz and was bloody good.  I can’t be accused of sucking up either because I left like 5 months ago or so, it really was bloody good.

I believe Nick found himself paying work with another publisher so keep an eye out for his name!

Hey Kids: Sunday Funnies

The idea of this book was to do one page, ‘newspaper’ strip style tales in the style of such classics as ‘Peanuts’ and ‘Calvin & Hobbes’.  This book had a lot of production issues sadly and a lot of drop offs that led me to having not one story but two.

The first was ‘Coltard The Conqueror’, which was a one page light hearted story starring a Dark Vaderish evil space lord in a day in his life.  I basically went ‘Saturday morning cartoon villain’ and went all the way to the end goal with this one.  I had a lot of fun writing it and it all came from when I met someone called ‘Colton’ and called them ‘Coltard’ by mistake.  I thought ‘Coltard’ sounded like the name of an angry villain and the rest, as they say, is history.

I have yet to see this story or recall who drew it sadly.  I’m waiting on my copy of ‘Sunday Funnies’ and let you all know how this one turned out, if anyone out there read it and enjoyed it, let me know!

The second story, featured a meta tale bringing back my haphazard hero from ‘Vol. 3’ of the Gathering, Commander Cosmo.  I was luckily enough to be teamed again with Nathan Lee James on this story and I had a blast bringing the character back with him.  I was even more pleased (and pleasantly amazed) to find that Cosmo featured on the cover which I really was touched to see.

At this stage, I was starting to see the ‘exit’ sign burn brighter and brighter with ‘GrayHaven’ and I wrote this story with that in mind.  I told a story that I felt was funny and ignored nearly every rule that had been drilled into me by various GrayHaven editors over recent times.  I thought the story turned out pretty good (Nathan was kind enough to send it to me) and I hope that somehow, somewhere that Cosmo will live again.

I had some good stories over these volumes.  Largely they were quick hits to keep my writing muscles going while editing was becoming more and more of a priority.

Still, I haven’t even begun to mention the two GrayHaven volumes that would represent my best and worst experiences with the company.

Next:  You Are Not Alone In The Abyss (Except you kind of are)

Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett

Matchett’s Musings: Working For GrayHaven Part II

Hey everyone!  Sorry about the delay, had some personal issues both comic and non-comic to deal with.  I’m back and will be posting from my regular Thursday (ish) from next week.  

Working At GrayHaven Part 2:  Bigger and Better (Part 1)

Welcome back to my memories of the stories I published with GrayHaven during my tenure with them both as writer and editor.  Last time we spoke about some of the early volumes I was involved with and some of the early lessons I learned as a creator and some lessons the company learned too.

Once again this only deals with volumes I was involved with as a writer and is from my own perspective.  Other versions of events may vary, I can only tell you what happened from my perspective.

I won’t waste much time and take you right to where we left off last time with Vol. 7, which I actually wasn’t in…but I was meant to be.

Note:  This section is a lot larger than I anticipated so I have decided to split in half.

Hope you enjoy!

Vol. 7:  Dreams and Nightmares

I don’t really remember much of the submission criteria for this volume but I do remember the story I put forward.   The entire volume was themed with ‘Myth’, which again was a genre I hadn’t played in much and was eager to explore.  I remember really taking a long time coming up with the story that became ‘Until The End’.

The story featured two wizards named Garth and Rex (short for Rexmus) who represented the light and dark side of magic respectfully.  Starting off in modern times the six page story told a tale of them essentially fighting each other since medieval times.  It was a story I was really looking forward to seeing published and I was paired with a new artist to GrayHaven.  I don’t remember this artist’s full name now but I believe his first name was Robert, who upon initial communication was very eager to bring my warring wizard’s to life.

After the initial communication though, he stopped answering e-mails from me and the editor on the book.  He vanished from the face of the earth and by the time we realized he wasn’t going to draw the story, it was too late to find a replacement.  This was my first experience with an artist who had let me down and flash forwarding to today it is something I have come across far too often.

There was nothing that could be done.  There was some talk of turning the story into a webcomic but that never really came to fruition.  The story likely needs a lot of polishing from what I’ve learned in subsequent years (this story was written in 2011 and I would say I’ve grown quite significantly as a writer) but I would still like to see it come to life at some point.

It is true what they say, there is no such thing as a wasted idea and some of this story may even appear as apart of something else entirely down the road, who knows.

My disappointed was short lived however as I was about to begin my most prolific period as a writer for GrayHaven.  The company as a whole was getting bigger and better and it seemed that I was going to face the challenge to do the same creatively

Vol. 9:  Once Upon A Time

Like I’ve said many times before, growing up my biggest influences to me for the rest of my life were likely ‘Batman The Animated Series’ and a complete collection of Arthur Conan Doyle ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories.  I can likely link everything I have liked or been passionate about back to those two things in some fashion.  Another big influence growing up that I don’t talk about very often is the steady diet of Disney movies I enjoyed in my youth…and even until today.

I’m a big fan of animated films and it all started with Disney films like ‘Aladdin’, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘The Lion King’.  I was really eager to participate in a volume based around Fairy Tales such as Vol. 9 of the Gathering was.  The only stipulation this time was that all stories had to have some moral undertone or ‘lesson’ for readers, just like all good fairy tales do.

I quickly came up with a story where the moral would be ‘always listen to your elders’ and would feature a cast of talking dragons.  I found it hard at the time to think of many fairy tales to feature dragons as protagonists and thought it would be something a really talented artist could sink their teeth into.  Essentially the story revolves around an older dragon telling a younger generation about a volcano where the most dangerous dragon of them all resides.  The young dragons are told to stay away but of course, one of them decides to check out the legend for himself and comes across the dangerous creature first hand.

Upon reflection it’s a pretty simple, straightforward story that really benefits from the art of Paula Cob who I worked with on this story and a few subsequent others.  Paula is a very talented artist whose work I adored when I first saw it in ‘Vol. 3: Heroes’.  She had worked primarily to date with a writer who also happened to be her husband in Ignacio Segura but I was eager to see if she would lend her manga style art to my little fairy tale.

Fortunately for me, she said yes and I’ve had the pleasure of working with Paula on a number of occasions.  I’m still a big fan of her work and find it sad that she doesn’t participate in GrayHaven stories as much as she used to due to her and Ignacio working on a personal project.  Her art style gave my story the scale it needed and I think added a lot to my fairly straightforward tale of doing what you’re told.

I also edited the book but don’t have many memories of it.  This likely means it all ran fairly smoothly which is always something to be celebrated.

Vol. 10:  The Unbelievable Arthur Richmond Is One Smart Cookie

Previously known as ‘the adventure’ volume I believe Vol. 10 is something that to this day sends editor James O’Callaghan into traumatic flashbacks.

A little background about Vol. 10, which began like any other Gathering volume and had people submit stories with a different take on the ‘adventure’ theme.  The trouble was that the amounts of submissions were low so it was decided that the interested parties would take their individual stories and combine them.

The new main story would feature a character called ‘Arthur Richmond’ who would serve as our Indiana Jones style protagonist.  It was up to our editor to figure out how all our individual stories would figure into a larger hole.  For that task, I cannot give but the highest praise to James who took several different stories (including one that had talking birds) and somehow made it work.  I would say he made it work more than any of the rest of us on the editorial staff would have in any case.

My section basically served at the books epilogue where we would discover that the entire tale was one told by an aged Arthur to a pair of young men in an adventurers club.  Of course they don’t believe his story of talking birds and magical cookies (you had to be there) so Arthur goes home, clearly dejected.  The closing scene has him go down in his home to a sizable trophy room, where indeed we discover his stories were all true.

It wasn’t conventional but it somehow did work.  I was proud to be a part of it and thought my epilogue gave it a suitable note to end on.  On this story I was fortunate to work with artist Sam Tung, who was an early GrayHaven fan favorite.   He only worked on a handful of GrayHaven projects before going on to do some production work for Iron Man 3 and GI Joe 2.  Apart from my misfortune regarding my Vol. 7 story, my extremely good fortune with artists seemed to continue.

Volume 11: Silver Age

This volume was a big passion project for GrayHaven publisher, Andrew Goletz.  He wanted to do a volume that would harken back to the classic ‘silver age’ of comics where Marvel where just coming into the eye of the public and comic took themselves a little less seriously.

I was initially tempted to bring back my inept hero from Vol. 3 ‘Commander Cosmo’ when submitting for this volume but it wasn’t an idea Andrew was in favour of.  He wanted to avoid stories that connected to each other as he did not want customers to feel pressured into buying several volumes in order to get a complete story.

Understanding and agreeing with his logic, I decided to do a story revolving around time travel.  I love time travel as a storytelling device and if you meet me for more than five minutes, I would say you’ll soon learn that.  I also decided that I would have a female protagonist as that was something I had yet to do in any of my stories to date.  Regular readers of these articles will know that I feel very passionate about the portrayal of female characters and having more of them in comics, so with that in mind I created Lucy Letwood.

Having stole a time band that her father invented, Lucy was a young woman who finally found herself LOST IN TIME!!!!  I basically wrote this story with a big stupid grin on my face and tried to have as many silver age callbacks as I could cram in.  I was especially proud of having the classic Stan Lee moment where a character would point out that something was crashing through a wall even though we could clearly see it.

It was drawn by an artist named George Amaru who has become something of a GrayHaven staple and is one of my favorite artists to work with.  Not only is George a really nice guy but he is extremely talented.  He gave the story the exact tone it needed and made my silver age multi panel pages work flawlessly.  I’ve worked with George a couple of times since, even tasking him with a Living With Death short ‘The Reporter’ which I released on the comics Facebook fanpage a number of months ago.  I’ve been wanting to work with George on something long term for years but at that time, it wasn’t possible.  These days he is a very busy guy working for GrayHaven, Bluewater and Inverse press on a variety of projects.  When his schedule clears up, I hope to work with George on something long term.

I brought Lucy back in a future volume and would love to tell more of her story at some point.  It was really with this story that I started to get more attached to the characters I was creating.  I didn’t just want them to be there and then gone forever, I saw life in them beyond the stories.

This was when I really wanted to creating larger stories starring some of the Gathering featured characters.  I knew that would have its own problems however.

Next:  More characters I didn’t want to say goodbye to, ghosts that aren’t ghosts and the final Gathering stories.

Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett

Matchett’s Musings: Working for GrayHaven Part 1

Matchett’s Musings

Working At GrayHaven Part 1:  Learning to Walk and Talk

I spent five years with small press publisher, GrayHaven Comics.  It wasn’t always easy or pleasant but I loved it.  In some ways my heart is still there and my path might lead me back there someday but for now, I have a lot of good memories.

It all started as just something to do for fun that GrayHaven publisher and owner Andrew Goletz suggested on a whim.  It has since become so much more and I like to think I played some small part in that.  Over the next few weeks I’d like to talk about some of the anthology stories I wrote for GrayHaven.  I want to talk about how I came up with the stories, who I worked with, some stuff I learned and some things the company had to deal with that made it better.

It isn’t always pretty but I hope people will find it informative and interesting none the less.  I’ll only be talking about the anthologies I wrote stories for here and most of my information is based on my own perspective.  Other perspectives may vary.

Thanks to Andrew for some info and his blessing to do this!

Vol. 1: The Thing With Feathers

If Andrew had been physically been in a room with us when he asked who was interested in doing the first anthology that became ‘The Gathering’, I would have shot my hand up immediately.  I’d wanted to work in comics for a few years at that point but I had no clue how to start.  I’d done a few web comics but nothing substantial and this just seemed like a good place to start.

When he found that people were interested and he found a number of talented artists to help out.  He came up with the theme ‘Hope’ because it reflected the feeling a lot of us had going into the volume.  The majority of us wanted to pursue a career in comics and the theme of the first volume perfectly reflected our optimism and dreams going in.

When I was trying to come up with my story, I thought I’d wait to see who I was paired with before really making a start.  I’ll be honest, nothing was hitting me initially and I thought perhaps after seeing what type of artist I was working with would get the creative juices going.

I was extremely fortunate to be paired with Brent Peeples, who after checking out his work seemed as if I could tell him to draw the phone book and he’d make it look amazing sent me back to the drawing board on crafting a story.  I don’t remember much about the initial script and I don’t seem to have it on my computer.  I think I didn’t really give Brent many details beyond the outline when I did come up with the idea.

Throughout my writing for GrayHaven anthologies it wasn’t just enough to write a good type of story.  After editing a number of volumes, I know that coming up with a story isn’t enough sometimes.  You have to sometimes come up with a concept that also stands out a little, something that is good and unique that no one else will come up with.  It’s a tough one to try and balance.

So I opted to go for something completely outside the wheelhouse and do a story about a post-apocalyptic world decimated by aliens.  Because why not?

Essentially I wanted to have a father scourging supplies for his wife who was giving birth.  We’d learn a little about the world, see some creepy images of the world and I was very keen to not actually see the aliens responsible.  I thought it would give the whole story a creepy undertone which Brent of course knocked out of the park.

I was so proud to actually have a story in a real printed comic.  Getting the first volume in my hands is a feeling I won’t soon forget and seeing my name on the back (a feature in early volumes of the Gathering that I miss) is something that still makes me smile. Looking back, I know the quality of Brent’s art carries the story.

It is overwritten, over soppy and has more post-apocalyptic cliché’s than you can count.  The story pales in comparison to the ones written by other long-time GrayHaven staples like Ray Goldfield, Doug Hahner and Jason Snyder.  The story itself did get some praise from comic pro Gail Simone but when I read it, I can’t help but despair.  The biggest problem the story has is the lettering.  Likely because I had written too much for the two pages I had, the lettering was contained all in caption boxes.  This made it difficult to tell who was speaking when and it seemed the letterer took it upon themselves to change the final line that is so cheesy it makes me want to vomit out my window.

There are still some elements of the story I like though.  It was a world I revisited briefly with future collaborator Paula Cob in the short lived web comic ‘After The Gathering’ and some part of me wants to go back to it.  Since then though, shows like Falling Skies have explored similar themes and the story is perhaps too dusty now to go back to.  It holds a special place for me though as my first printed work and was a place where I learned a lot of lessons as a writer.

While I obsessed over every word I chose, Brent only returned to GrayHaven once briefly for the first ‘You Are Not Alone’ volume.  I remember approaching him shortly after the Gathering Vol. 1 was printed, asking if he was interested in expanding the world we had created.  He gave me a very polite no before going on to much bigger and better things with companies like Image and Dynamite.  I hope our paths cross again someday creatively.

The book itself was a big success and despite those awkward first steps some of the creators had, there was a lot of heart and passion in the book.  There were some great talent still contained in the book and it sold well enough to warrant a sequel.  The company still carries on but there was something really special about that first book I was flattered to be a part of.

Vol. 3: Heroes

Ah Heroes, one of our best volumes in terms of quality and due to many mistakes was one of GrayHaven’s worst sellers.

A little background on that, before I get going.  I contacted Andrew about speaking about Vol. 3 and asked him how blunt I could be.  He responded with a list of mistakes and the following quote ‘I have vivid recollections of that disaster.’

Now don’t get me wrong, the book itself is great.  I would still rank it one of the company’s best but the problem was that no one bought it.  The first problem (which I had forgotten about but Andrew kindly reminded me) was that ‘Heroes’ was supposed to be two volumes.  It was supposed to be one volume that would deal with real life heroes along the lines of police, firefighters, etc and a second volume that would deal with the more fantastical comic book heroes.

We knew the latter would be a risk, outside of Marvel and DC it is difficult to get a super hero book to sell.  The market is coming down with super heroes and the consumer we were trying (and had) appealed to would likely not be interested if we made a book involving super heroes.  Sadly, neither got enough of one type of pitch for their own full book so Andrew combined both into one book.

Former GrayHaven art director and art guru Aaron Bir, delivered an amazing cover but it was very much further conveying that this was a book about super heroes…when it wasn’t really. In fact, Vol. 3 contained only a number of super hero stories by really talented writers who offered the stories in that genre with a bit of a twist.  Still even though you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, people did and a comic called ‘Heroes’ with a super hero centric cover did nothing to help it sell.  There have been many talks over the years of getting another artist to redraw the cover and rerelease the volume but that never quite came to fruition.

The final mistake, Andrew revealed to me was that he ordered a lot more of the book than Vol. 1 or Vol. 2 given that both of them had sold well.  Having a big, expensive volume that was geared at the wrong audience with a huge amount of copies was a recipe of disaster.  It pretty much killed any possibility of other super hero orientated stories when we did get more of an audience which shows you how much of an impact it had on the company’s future decisions.

Of course, all this is great in reflection and when coming up with a story I didn’t know what the future would hold for ‘Heroes’, I just wanted to tell a different story.  Since my first story had been quite dark (and wordy) I thought I would go for something more light hearted.  I’ve heard over and over that writing good comedy that actually makes people laugh is the hardest thing to do creatively.  I took this as a challenge and thought ‘well if I can make people laugh I can do anything!’

So I created the super hero Commander Cosmo, who essentially was Superman but a complete idiot.  In ‘My Day With Commander Cosmo’ the intellectually challenged hero would land in the front yard of his biggest fan where he would basically hang around.  In true ‘you should never meet your idols’ fashion the kid would soon get sick of Cosmo and soon remove him from his home.  Sadly for the boy, his mother had a new boyfriend who turned out to be the secret identity of Cosmo himself.

The story hit really well and Cosmo became something of a GrayHaven favorite.  I love writing the big goofball and have brought him back in parody web comics, other strips and he even was on the cover for GrayHaven’s ‘Hey Kids: Sunday Funnies’ volume.

On my part, the story is a bit slow to get going but it really was brought to life by artist Nathan Lee James.  His animated style and perfect comedic timing brought an extra layer to the story and once again, I found myself very fortunate to work with someone very talented.  He’s even been gracious enough to return for most of Cosmo’s subsequent appearances.

One thing in this story that Nathan did which wasn’t in the script, is one of my favorite things in any story I’ve done.

It turns out that Cosmo lands in the front yard after flying into a lamppost because he was too distracted by a *ahem* men’s magazine.  What Nathan included in the background of the initial few pages is the bent lamppost which foreshadows the eventual reveal that it was Cosmo who flew into it.  When I first spotted it, I laughed and thought it was something so small yet so brilliant, I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it myself.

Whether it’s with GrayHaven or not, I hope that Commander Cosmo will someday return but I think it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t hold our breath for ‘Heroes 2’.

Vol. 6:  Further Into The Abyss

The fourth GrayHaven volume was the first horror volume and was a big hit so we quickly did another one.  People seemed to love horror and because of that we’ve done four books under the banner as well as some similar themes and even made a book especially for it.

The tale of said spin off book ‘Tales From The Abyss’ is quite the horror story in itself but that of course, was all ahead of me.  The second volume was also the first one I was involved in editorially.  Not very heavily but this is the book I learned the ropes on until editing a book on my lonesome with ‘Vol. 8: The Fifth Dimension.’  It was also my favorite GrayHaven book for quite some time.  Everyone just knocked it out of the park on this one and it contains a story I wrote that I got quite a few good reviews on.

‘The Station’ originated as a prose novel which to this day sits on my hard drive begging for my attention.  Essentially it features a crew going to check in on a space station that hasn’t sent any communication for a number of days.  It turned out that the space station crew had discovered a special space rock that essentially turned them into monsters.

Every space horror is in danger of ripping off the brilliant Ridley Scott ‘Alien’ and mine was no exception.  The novel I had written really delved into the crew dealing with monsters but in the walls of the station and within themselves.  When I adapted it into a five page story a lot of that was lost obviously but it still made for a good story.  It got a number of shout outs from a few sites that reviewed it, even ahead of one written by former Supergirl writer, Sterling Gates.

Even though it works pretty damn well as its own five page story, I did contemplate writing a pitch for ‘the Dark’ anthologies that GrayHaven would publish down the road that would essentially be a prequel to this one.  I liked to build on universes I had created, even though generally GrayHaven didn’t really like follow on stories.  I think it’s probably best that this story stayed as a one off though.

It was however, the first appearance of the MaX corporation who I tried to cram into every story I wrote afterwards.  Go over all the stories I wrote and the logo will be there somewhere, I’ll wait.

The story was brilliantly illustrated by David Aspmo who brought exactly the right mood and tone the story needed.  He only appeared one other time for GrayHaven following this and I hope another company is putting his considerable talent to good use.

 

Vol. 7: Dreams and Nightmares

Two volumes in a row!  Go me!  I was really thrilled to be a part of this volume because…hey wait.

I’m not in this volume.

I was supposed to be though…the story which I’ll go into more, next week.

Next:  Wizards, Time Travel, Cowgirls and ghost stories that don’t feature ghosts.

Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett

 

Interview: We Talk with Drew Goletz About You Are Not Alone and Kickstarter

6c29c43d7495d0ba84539ef748da40ac_largeYou Are Not Alone was GrayHaven Comics‘ most ambitious project to date, bringing together an overwhelming amount of creators to take on issues like homophobia, racism and violence and tell people everywhere they were not alone.

Launched on Kickstarter, the project met its goal and them some, recently being released and making its way to various organizations dealing with those issues as well as its backers.

GrayHaven has recently launched You Are Not Alone 2, the follow up volume. What good is having the ability to reach people with our stories if we can’t put that to use in a beneficial way? There were so many stories that needed to be told and wouldn’t fit into the first volume.

We got to chat with one of the people behind the project Drew Goletz, the Publisher, Editor in Chief and President of GrayHaven Comics

Graphic Policy: Can you walk us through how You Are Not Alone came together?

Drew Goletz: When the tragedy at Sandy Hook occurred I was glued to the television. So many reports were coming out from social media and the news and as a father…as a human being, it was difficult to watch but I couldn’t turn away. All the reports. The personal stories. It all stayed with me. I was depressed and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Talking about it with some of the other editors was therapeutic in a way and I wanted to do something to honor the memory of the victims. Initially I thought of doing some sort of tribute book or a comic to raise money for families but after thinking about it for a few days it felt like it’d be trying to piggy bank a horrible, tragic event for a creative endeavor. No matter what the intent it rang as opportunistic for me to associate a project with Sandy Hook that soon.

But we still wanted to do something. We had put out a lot of comics and had a lot of talent on board. We decided to do something that could benefit people, particularly younger people before it was too late. Focus on bullying and racism and violence and depression and things that affect kids every day and give them stories with a positive message along with maybe some public service information on where people could go to get the help they need.

I also wanted it to be available for free to those that needed it. Economically, as the project got bigger and bigger that became less of a reality. Though a successful Kickstart we were able to raise enough money where I could offset a lot of costs and make the book available to those schools or youth organizations that wanted it and once the rewards were given away and run through we would make the book for sale for anyone else interested in getting a copy, which is where we are now.

GP: Over 60 creators participated in the release, how many submissions from folks interested to help out did you receive?

DG: Probably twice as many if not more. I was expecting it to touch a nerve but I wasn’t prepared for that type of interest. We are used to ‘open submission’ time being just crazy but this was a book that had soooo much interest early on and the hard part was that most of them were just wonderful. We didn’t want to cut them and the Kickstarter helped us expand from what was initially a 40-50 page comic to a 180 page volume. Unfortunately we still couldn’t accept every story.

GP: Part of the project was to get the book not just too comic fans and backers, but also schools, libraries or youth organizations. Have there been any that have taken you up on that yet?

DG: It was slow going on that front but yes finally there has been some movement there. In the middle of the actual campaign and immediately after there was interest, particularly from schools wanting us to come and speak about the project but I wanted to wait for the book to come out. Now it’s a matter of getting back in touch with people and arranging things. But we have heard from a number of places including non profits and schools who are interested and some libraries and we continue to spread the word and encourage those organizations to contact me to get a copy of the book.

GP: Have you looked at partnering with non-profits that deal with these issues?

DG: We have tried to put the word out to places, particularly anti bullying organizations that just envelop everything the book was about. There have been some stumbling blocks. I’ve been publishing for awhile but I’m less familiar with the ins and outs of non profits and organizations like that so making connections is starting from square one. Some places outright told me that they do their own thing and weren’t interested. Others were a wait and see. The best resource so far has been from readers who’ve gotten their copies and have spoken to people on my behalf and now connections are starting to be made.

GP: The topics covered in this include bullying, depression, homophobia, racism, and violence. What can we as comic fans do to help with these issues?

DG: I think it can start easily in how we treat one another online. We’ve given up hanging around the comic shop to talk about whether Superman could beat the Hulk to posting on Message Boards and Social Media to routinely call creators and fans names, threaten them, call them stupid or just generally bully them from behind the safety of a keyboard. If you see it happening, call people out on it. If you’re at a comic convention, and are a fan of a certain cosplayer or character maybe ask them politely for a picture and be respectful instead of wolf whistling at them or calling them names. Most of us got into comic books because we were fans of these wonderful super hero characters with awesome powers and costumes doing great things. Ask yourself before you post or run your mouth off to make someone feel less than human, ‘what would Superman do?’.

GP: There’s lots of call for more diversity when it comes to creators and characters in the comic industry. What do you think publishers can do, to help foster that beyond just hiring or creating characters?

DG: I think they’re getting better. I believe indie and small press offer more diversity because a lot of times these are creator owned passion projects that come from the heart. They aren’t necessarily trying to meet a bottom line and aren’t as afraid to take chances. DC’s Batwoman and Batwing and Marvel’s X-Men and Ms. Marvel and Mighty Avengers are good examples of them trying to shake up the status quo a bit but maybe offer those books at a lower price point to sway the readers who only buy Batman, Wolverine and Avengers titles to give something new a shot.

I think it’s a shame that the newsstand market has been basically ignored. I get the reasons why but a lot of comic fans discovered this industry through impulse buys at the grocery store or corner market. It’s up to comic companies to get a bit more aggressive in finding an audience. Do something with schools and show off this diverse array of characters that they have outside of Spider-Man, Wolverine, Batman and Superman.

And of course a lot of the responsibility also falls on the fans. For all the complaining that is done about too many Avengers or Batman or ‘Event’ books those are always selling and the titles that go outside the box a little tend to launch soft and quickly slide off the sales chart. You can’t say you want more diversity and then ignore books that come out that offer something different.

GP: The project was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. What lessons did you learn from running it? Any advice for folks looking to start their own?

DG: You have to have a project that interests people and this certainly had that and you need to be able to deliver on that project. We’ve run a few Kickstarts to varying degrees of success. I think this one was our best yet not just in terms of the amount of people involved but how I handled things on my end, lessons learned from previous mistakes. The size of the book forced us into delays and we were off target by about 4 months but I was constantly communicating with backers as to progress so they weren’t in the dark and when the books finally came in I took time off of my day job to ensure that those books went out immediately. I didn’t want anyone who pledged to not get their books or PDFs or whatever. I can still do things better but I think really it comes down to communication. Let people know what’s going on.

GP: To you personally, how does it feel getting this project out there? What has been the response so far?

DG: It feels so good. I’ve said from day one it’s the most important project we’ve ever done. Last Fall I was awarded ‘Comic Book Creator of the Year’ by the Philly Geek Awards for the work on You Are Not Alone.  We missed our deadline by a few months but as soon as the PDF was ready and we posted it for backers it was great to hear the response from people. It was such a great feeling to see this ridiculous amount of boxes arrive and hold the hard copy in my hands, the culmination of over a year of work from so many people. It was even better than the first time I ever saw my name in the credits of a comic.

The response has been amazing. I showed some emails to my other editors and told them that these things are so personal that even though it’d probably help ‘sell’ the book I don’t feel right posting them. People telling me how this book and even working on the project helped their lives in a profound way. I know all the hard work was worth it, now.

GP: You’ve mentioned working on a “working on a follow up book” as “demand warrants.” Are you planning on doing more focused releases on one topic, or keep it mixed like this?

DG: We’re in the process of doing You Are Not Alone 2. It’s a similar anthology covering many of the same themes but a bit smaller. We also have included some of the stories that didn’t make it into the first book.  I think even if there was no overwhelming demand for it we’d still all be on board for doing the project just because of what it is. I think there is a need for these types of stories to be out there and available.

And yeah we have discussed doing more focused themes in the same subject as we think it may be more beneficial to individual needs. If an upcoming Kickstart we’re doing proves to be successful we may actually announce and launch those in the midst of it. Stay tuned!

GP: What can we expect from you and GrayHaven Comics next?

DG: We’ve fine-tuned things internally. We all love putting out great comics and offering opportunities to indie talent but we need the resources to make it happen so we’ve rearranged some stuff and gotten more help so we can keep up with demand. More importantly I’ve fine tuned the ordering. There were some issues where people were waiting way too long for orders and that’s unacceptable so I’ve changed some things in the process and now the turnaround time has been less than a week since December.

The big news is we’ve announced the new themes for our Gathering anthology and Limitless books which coincides with Open Submission time for new writers. It’s always an exciting and busy time and we love seeing the new people submit ideas for the first time as well as returning favorites. Themes this time around will include Kaiju, Redemption, Time Travel, Terrible Jobs, High Seas (On the Water) and Magic.

We’ve also launched a new Kickstarter to help with the You Are Not Alone 2 project and other books in the works.

We’re hoping that this year will finally see the debut of Titanium Star, a sci fi western mini from Victor Gischler and Sam Tung. The first issue is completely done but we want to get a little ahead on the book so there are no delays once it starts rolling.

We also have something planned for our big 5th anniversary extravaganza. The project won’t be released until 2015 but we’ll announce what it’s all about at the end of this year and it’s big. A game changer for GrayHaven.

GrayHaven Comics Goes Digital

GrayHaven Comics has announced that they are partnering with Barnes & Noble to offer their library of titles digitally for the Nook. This is the latest announcement regarding digital comics that have included new Android apps from BOOM! and Dark Horse and DC Comics digital comic expansion.

For three years GrayHaven has dedicated itself to providing up and coming creators an opportunity to have their work published, often for the first time through The Gathering anthology while also have star creators like Sterling Gates, Victor Gischler, John Jackson Miller and Gail Simone lend their talents to the books.

In the latter half of 2012 GrayHaven launched the self-contained mini-series Mother and Son and Of Wolf and Woman and will spinoff a new full color horror anthology Tales From the Abyss and in 2013 Phase Two of GrayHaven begins with the release of more self-contained series:

Chronographer by Erica Heflin, Fabio Pio, Edson Alves and Carlos Paul and Run Like Hell by Elena Andrews and George Amaru adapted from the thriller with the same name, 11:59 by Andrew Goletz and Nick Francis, Titanium Star by Victor Gischler and Sam Tung and Tomorrow by John Coker, Jason Hissong and Devin Taylor.

The publisher will be making all their comics available in both print and digital and are actually having a “more aggressive schedule lined up in 2013 and 2014 than ever before.”

GrayHaven Phase Two Announcements

GrayHaven Comics has been hinting about their Phase Two for a while now and we got the first of their announcements last week.  Over the weekend they announced more projects, further diversifying their projects and showing why they’re an independent publisher to keep our eyes on.

GrayHaven Comics will be aggressively expanding their publishing line. New One Shots, Mini Series and Ongoings will begin to roll out over the next few months through New York Comic Con and into 2013

In addition to print collections of several of their popular web-comics there’s also the one-shot Sparks, a hard boiled detective drama by Glenn Matchett and Cassandra James and My Geek Family, a heartwarming slice of life tale by Doug Hahner and Dober-Man, a love letter to the Silver Age of comics by Travis Holyfield and Ed Whatley.

They’re also releasing 5 major projects in the first quarter of 2013:

Mini-series:

Chronographer– a time travel mystery by Erica HeflinFabio Pio, Edson Alves and Carlos Paul
Tomorrow sci-fi superheroic epic mini-series by Jason Hissong, John Coker and Devin Taylor
Run Like Hell – the comic adaptation of the hit YA Thriller by Elena Andrews and George Amaru

Ongoing Series:

11:59 – a post-apocalyptic horror series by Andrew Goletz and Nick Francis
Titanium Star a Sci Fi/Western series of mini series by Victor Gischler and Sam Tung

10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Andrew Goletz

We continue our interview series with members of The Gathering and GrayHaven Comics. We’ve put out the same questions to numerous individuals and can compare their responses. A hopefully intriguing interview series.

Check out our previous interviews.

Up next is Andrew Goletz, Publisher, Editor in Chief and President of GrayHaven Comics.

Graphic Policy: How did you get started in the comic book industry?

Andrew Goletz: I did a short story for a comic book anthology about 15 years ago which was my first comic book work. Around 2000 I was doing freelance for Marvel Comics working on their Official Handbooks to the Marvel Universe doing bios for various characters and then I also did some freelance for Eaglemoss’ DC Super Hero Magazine, again doing character bios for the magazines that came with the various figurines.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

AG: Ever since I knew how to read. Actually quite likely before that. I remember picking up various Iron Man, Batman and Superman comics at convenience stores and around the time Roger Stern began his Amazing Spider-Man run is when I started actually following a title and making sure to seek out new issues as opposed to just picking random titles off the racks while shopping with my parents.

GP: Do you read comics now? If so, what are some of your current picks?

AG: Absolutely. I’ve never stopped or even thought about stopping. I think the comic book medium offers a type of storytelling experience you can’t get anywhere else and the diversity of titles and characters continues to grow even stronger. The Big Two may dominate the charts (except for the most impressive showing for The Walking Dead #100) but there’s so much variety out there from companies like Image and IDW and Dark Horse and Oni all the way down to small press and self-publishers. It’s a fantastic time to be a comic book fan.

As for the titles I get now, I still read a lot from the Big Two. Batman and Daredevil are two of the best examples of how very good super hero comics can still be but I’m also a fan of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, I Vampire, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Earth Two,  and many others from Marvel and DC. Image has been so good the last few years that I’ll pick up every one of their new issues and give it a shot. The Activity , Blue Estate, Creator Owned Heroes, Dancer, Debris, Fatale, Grim Leaper, Lil Depressed Boy, Luthor Strode, Planetoid, Revival and Walking Dead are some of my recent favorites from them. I also really love Smoke and Mirrors from IDW, Rachel Rising from Terry Moore’s Abstract Press and The Shadow from Dynamite.  I’m also a very big fan of Clown Town from a small press studio, Inverse Press.  The creators, Kevin LaPorte and Amanda Rachels have done some incredible work with that book and I’m happy to have gotten a chance to feature some of it in our books as well.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

AG: I started it with the help of a lot of friends from Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld forums. After observing some false starts with various other anthologies and feeling the itch to create more comics I decided that if I took total control and tried to run the whole thing at least if it failed I could only blame myself. No what ifs? Thankfully there was a wealth of talent on those boards including Mike Lapinski and Brent Peeples who went off to illustrate Feeding Ground and Last of the Greats respectively and about two dozen of us told short two page stories with the theme of ‘Hope

By the time we were getting the first issue to print I already knew I wanted to do a second issue since so many people had asked about participating and I couldn’t fit them all in. We made the theme of the second issue ‘Despair’ and Gail Simone, who was a big fan of what we were doing  with the anthology gracious agreed to do a short in that issue.

Since that second issue we’ve been fortunate to have several pros contribute to the book including Sterling Gates, Glenn Greenberg, John Jackson Miller and soon Victor Gischler among others. And believe me, it’s incredibly cool for me to be able to work with pros whose work I’ve admired for a long time and give new creators and opportunity to have their work featured alongside them. The main draw of The Gathering though is opportunity. Opportunity for writers and artists to have their work published, often for the very first time, and be seen by a bigger audience. We’ve had close to 200 creators featured in our comics with many, many more on the way.

For some it’s just about scratching that itch and getting the story out. For others they see it as a springboard to bigger companies. At any rate I’m proud to be able to help them all as best as I can along the way.

GP: Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor into the comic creation?

AG: Initially we were thinking of doing what many anthologies do and tell one sequential story written and drawn in segments by many different people but even I thought that might be too ambitious to attempt for the first comic so I settled on just giving everyone a theme instead. For the first issue, Hope seemed like the obvious choice and then I wanted to go the opposite direction the second time out. Coming up with themes and trying to figure out which ones readers will respond to and creators will have fun with may be one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.

GP: What advice would you give to independent creators just breaking into the business?

AG: Go out there and create. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just go and do it. Whether you do a digital comic or self publish your own book or come up with six page pitches to show to editors go and get it done. If you can only write or only draw there are plenty of sites like Pencil Jack and Digital Webbing and Deviant Art or just about any comic book message board where you can find people to collaborate with. And when in doubt, pitch it to us.

GP: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experiences?

AG: I don’t know half as much as I thought I did.  Even just talking about themes I would predict that certain issues would sell better or worse than others and would usually get proven wrong haha. I’ve also had to learn that not everyone is going to be as excited about our comics as I am. To be honest initially I figured, hey we have a great product, some pros helping us out and this awesome little niche here where we’re actually helping creators realize their dreams of publishing. Who wants to interview me about all this awesomeness first? Unfortunately it’s hard to try and get comic book news site to sacrifice some of their space for a black and white indie anthology when they compete for hits with the latest events Marvel or DC is doing. I understand the reasons for it but it’s hard when you email a news site asking if they’d be interested in reviewing the books or talking to a creator and hearing no responses back. That’s why I am forever grateful to the reviewers who did take the time to read our comics and sites who spend time making people aware that we are out there. It is such a crucial help to the small press to get that type of publicity.

GP: Do you think it’s easier today for creators to get published?

AG: I think it is just by the simple fact that almost anyone can self publish their own work nowadays thanks to printers dedicated to helping small press and if that’s even too costly you can always do digital comics. It’s never been a better time for creators.

GP: How do you think technology like social networking or crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are impacting comic book publishing?

AG: Kickstarter was named, what, the 2nd biggest indie publishing company or something like that recently. They’ve been extremely helpful to creators. We’ve successfully funded four Kickstart projects over the past few years with a new one to come the 2nd week of August (along with our last Open Submission period of the year). It’s allowed creators to realize their dreams and gain funding for projects that may have otherwise taken them years to save for or not at all if one was afraid of the risk that comes with any publishing venture. I think the biggest thing crowdfunding has done those is allow creators to forgo a distribution model for comics that doesn’t really help people outside of the Big Two. Instead of hoping that someone will carry and distribute your comic, taking 65% off the top to do so and then trying to make minimum orders  just to maintain that deal using a crowdfunder allows creators to get their orders right off the top, paid for in advance. That’s huge for creators just trying to carve out a little chunk of the pie for themselves who usually just get the door shut in their face.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

AG: For three years we’ve self published anthologies and by the end of the year we’ll have put out 16 issues of The Gathering. Due to the success of our Horror themed issues December will see the launch of Tales from the Abyss, an ongoing Horror anthology and next year we’ll launch Hey Kids, an ongoing anthology aimed at young readers. We’ve already started production on collections of a few of our popular webcomics like Kid Robo (by Marc Deschamps and Chris Chamberlain) and The Bid (by Gary Hogan and Blake Sims) as well as the one shots My Geek Family (by Doug Hahner and Donal DeLay) and Sparks (by Glenn Matchett and Cassandra James) but the goal was to expand from that in a big way.

That brings us to Phase Two. Phase Two is taking all the lessons we learned in publishing an anthology for so long and taking some of the people who’ve worked with us a lot and giving them bigger projects to work on. Self contained projects. Mother and Son by Erica Heflin and Elias Martins, a 5 issue mini series just launched. Over the next few weeks we’ll be announcing a number of other mini series and one shots including a comic book adaptation of a novel and a series of mini series by one of the top creators in the business who recently just ended a long run on a team franchise title for the Big Two.

And here’s a little exclusive. Over the years it’s become a bit of an inside joke that I have never written a story in The Gathering. My wife has. My kids have. But I always bump my stories to give someone else a chance. My first published story in over ten years is available in The Archives, a historical anthology that just went on sale. So in thinking of Phase Two and big projects I figured this was the time for me to once again put myself out there on the front line of this experiment much like running with The Gathering so one of our projects is 11:59 an ongoing written by me and illustrated by Nick Francis. It’s a post apocalyptic monster series that I like to say is a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Walking Dead that launches in January.

Beyond that, The Gathering is still going to be front and center allowing for new creators to have opportunities to get their work printed and hopefully work alongside some fantastic pro creators as well who’ve already committed to stories in next years’ books.

Our comics can be ordered direct through us at http://www.grayhavencomics.com/comics/

For more information on GrayHaven and The Gathering check out the website www.grayhavencomics.com or follow us on Twitter @gatheringcomic