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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

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 – George Amaru

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 today is artist George Amaru.

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

George Amaru: As I suppose most artists do, I started by answering ads for different assignments that were posted on some art community/comic forums.  Most unfortunately never saw print.  I finally found “real” projects with Tezlon and Wolfman Productions Interantional, as well as some other smaller publishers.  I still serve as editor and artist with Wolfman.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

GA: Oh, Absolutely.  I’ve been reading comics on a regular basis since 1992.  Before that, I read them sporadically and was a fan of the TV shows and movies based on comic characters, most notably Superman: The Movie.  That’s where it all started for me.

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

GA: My pull list is shorter now than it used to be due to the economy and just not having as much time, but I do still buy comics every week.  Right now my main titles are Action Comics, Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Detective Comics, Batman, Justice League and He-Man.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

GA: I participated in one of their open submissions and was chosen to work on a short story for their Romance 2 volume.  However, a scheduling snafu caused the story to be delayed to a later volume, so the second story I did was actually the first one to be published.  It was a story Erica Heflin wrote for the Fairy Tales volume.

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

GA: For me, the theme of the issue mostly determines the script that I get.  I generally don’t have input into which themes are chosen.  However, I do use the theme to help me establish the “mood” of the artwork.  For example, I worked on a ghost story for one of the young readers issues.  Though the script was already light-hearted, keeping the theme in mind helped me to decide on the visual style of the piece, which was heavily influenced by the old Casper cartoons and comics.

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

GA: I guess I can only speak to the artists reading this, but the most important thing is to get your work seen.  This is easier than ever to do with the advent of the internet and digital and webcomics.  Don’t wait for someone to find you or for something to happen for you.  You have to produce work, whether you write and draw your own webcomic and release it online for free or collaborate with other creators, or whatever, you’ve got to get product out in front of the public (and editors) and get yourself noticed.  Companies like creators who come with a pre-existing audience. Another important step is to go to conventions and get portfolio reviews.  Talk to editors from companies big and small and talk to other artists who are already working.  The point of a portfolio review is not necessarily to get a job right away.  The point is to get feedback and guidance and also to make some connections that may pay off later.

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

GA: I think one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is part of what I wrote above.  Don’t wait for something to happen.  Your dream job isn’t going to fall in your lap; you have to MAKE it happen.  Seek collaborations, answer ads on message boards, etc.  Send submissions to any and all companies willing to take them and follow up with newer samples often.  Whatever you do, whether it’s work for someone else or something for yourself, always continue drawing and practicing.  Keep working to hone your craft and always continue to grow.

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

GA: I think it is, especially if you include digital and webcomics into the mix.  The advent of print-on-demand allows anyone to get a book in print affordably.  Also, digital distribution allows creators to get their work out in front of the entire world via the internet.  While it is harder than ever to get an indy book picked up by Diamond, it has never been easier for an independent creator to get their books out to a large audience.

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

GA: I definitely see a positive impact from these sites already.  They allow smaller publishers and solo creators to get their books printed and out in front of an audience without going bankrupt in the process.  It also offers creators a way to contact and market to a large potential audience while also essentially pre-selling the book.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

GA: I am currently working on the Havoc 21 Presents series from Wolfman Productions International, where I will also debut my creator-owned title Legacy of the Falcon and other titles from my own Amaru Studios line.

I also have a great project in development with Grayhaven Comics that I’m very excited about.  It will be announced at New York Comic Con, so stay tuned for more!

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