The project I’m here to write about today is Your Are Not Alone 3, the latest installment of our anti-bullying anthology aimed at younger readers who are confronted with issues like abuse, depression, homophobia, racism and violence on a daily basis. The stories themselves are filled with messages of hope and contained within the books’ chapters are resource contacts for those who feel they have no place to turn.
For more than five years, GrayHaven Comics has offered itself as a place that supports new creative voices. In those 5 years we’ve published over 70 comics and featured over 300 different creators who often got their work published for the very first time.
Our most ambitious project to date was You Are Not Alone, our anti-bullying anthology aimed at younger readers. In the Fall of 2013 I was honored to take home the award for Comic Book Creator of the Year by Geekadelphia and the Philly Geek Awards for the work done on You Are Not Alone This was followed a year later by the equally important You Are Not Alone2.
Unlike our first two volumes where our crowdfunding was created a year before publishing, You Are Not Alone3 is almost completed. The final stories are being lettered and the book will be ready to go to print by mid to late August. This means your rewards will arrive shortly after the successful funding of this project.
The successful funding of our previous You Are Not Alone volumes allowed us to go above and beyond where we wanted to reach an audience. It allowed us to create additional copies and the money earned help to offset printing and shipping costs which enabled us to comp copies of the book to schools and youth organizations that wanted them.
The Kickstarter campaign is in its early days but we need some help in getting the word out there. We want to be able to reach goal quickly in order to put some cool stretch goals in place. Thank you for taking the time to read this and please pledge and share the link.
While we’re no longer picking crowd funding projects to spotlight on our site, we’re allowing project creators to make their case for their project on our platform. We remind individuals, we don’t endorse any of these projects, and that by supporting any crowd funding project, you’re taking any risks associated with doing so. – the Management
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
More stretched out than the film adaptions of the Hobbit, here is my third and likely final tales of my memories of working on the Gathering volumes for GrayHaven comics. There’s a lot more outside the Gathering I did with GrayHaven I want to talk about but I wanted to get this part of it out of the way first because I knew it would be the most extensive.
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 view of things.
Vol. 14: The Infinite Abyss
For the first few years of its existence, GrayHaven comic’s best seller by quite a fair margin was its horror books. At this point the company had produced two very high quality horror books and a third was pretty much inevitable. Since I had edited the previous horror volume (which at this point I still considered GrayHaven’s best), I was selected to edit this one also.
Editing however is a different story for a different time. After how well my previous Gathering Horror story ‘the Station’ had been received, I was eager to go to the horror well again for one last drop. This time I attempted to craft a tale partly inspired by the atmospheric horror movies and books I enjoy so much. I was a big fan of Stephen King classics like Misery and the Shining as a teenager and much preferred horror movies that had a slight creepy and psychological aspect to them. With some exceptions I was never a big fan of monster horror but found the aspects of old haunted places incredibly creepy. Along with hotels, I find that most people find hospitals to be naturally creepy settings. It’s a building full of sick people and creepy, clinical hallways so I decided to go one further and make it an old abandoned hospital that two kids decide to explore on a dare.
In typical horror tale fashion, their curiosity does not bode well and both kids meet a nasty end at the hands of a creepy ghost girl. The combination of the ‘creepy abandoned building’ and the ‘creepy child’ are tried and tested horror staples that I tried to put my own spin on. I was fortunate enough to be paired with my partner from ‘Silver Age’, George Amaru once more to try and craft a super creep tale.
I have to give George a lot of props on this one because I don’t really feel that connected to this story. I feel that the type of horror I was trying to go for is usually a slow burn and I was trying to pull it off in 3 pages. I also don’t like in retrospect how many cliché’s I leaned on and found the story a poor successor to my previous horror offering ‘the Station’. I felt that George really salvaged this story from being entirely forgetful so thanks for that old chum!
In the past year I have toyed with the idea of doing a horror mini-series and using that same hospital that appeared in this tale to try and accomplish what I couldn’t here. I would very much like to see more of the back-story I have developed for the building and perhaps add more depth to the ghost girl that featured here as part of a much larger story.
I’m sure I’ll get around to doing that someday. Hopefully sooner than later but considering my only completed full length creator owned work took 10 years to see fruition, it might be a bit of a slow burn on that one folks.
Vol. 15: A Fistful Of Panels
There are certain things in comics you can do that you can’t do in any other media. I could write an entire series of articles on the things that comics can offer its fans versus television or prose but one thing I like when it’s done well is misdirection. Comics can have you see a character and read a narration but misdirect you into thinking the narration is coming from another source entirely. A recent example of this being pulled off really well was Amazing Spider-Man 698 where ‘Peter Parker’s’ narration was revealed to be those of his enemy Doctor Octopus.
So I wanted to something like that and I thought the Western volume was a pretty good place to do it. I’m primarily a crime/sci-fi/horror guy so western was out of my comfort zone but I wanted a challenge. I was going to take on two challenges as a writer; I was going to try and trick my readers and do it in a genre I had not written for before.
To accomplish this I wrote ‘the Saloon’, which featured a character called Alex Quick who was going after the man who had murdered her parents in front of her when she was a child. To fool the readers, I allowed them to think a man at a poker game in an old style saloon was Alex and he was hunting the one responsible for the aforementioned murder. In actuality, Alex was the saloon girl who had been hanging around his shoulder the entire story and led him up to a bedroom and to his death.
To pull this off, I needed a top artist who would be able to structure the story to help misdirect everyone. I asked an artist named Amanda Rachel’s to draw the story and I was very fortunate that she said yes. At that point, Amanda was becoming our most prolific cover artist (I believe she has still done more covers for GrayHaben than anyone else) and had done a number of volumes already. She had started in GrayHaven from a company she co-founded with Kevin LaPorte called ‘Inverse Press’ and they had done a high quality mini called ‘Clown Town’ I highly suggest you track down and read.
Amanda was in high demand and really brought the level of skill the story required. I’m not sure how many people it fooled but ‘The Saloon’ was one of the few Gathering stories were I could honestly say I wouldn’t change anything. Amanda went on to further stories with GrayHaven and even worked with Arcana on ‘The Book’ before going back home to Inverse.
Meanwhile I had created another character I had fallen in love with. I wanted to tell one hundred stories with Alex Quick but had to say goodbye to her after too short a time. The problem with letting these characters and stories go after so brief a period was steadily growing.
Vol. 16: Ghost Stories
This volume was an interesting one for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, this issue featured a cover that was a result of a contest that was intended to find someone fresh and to also do something unique that other companies were not doing. The company received a lot of high quality submissions and I really like the the public poll chose as the winner.
Another interesting tidbit is that this volume had a criteria for its ghost stories that was a bit of a double edged sword. We asked people to only submit ghost stories that were ‘true’. The aim of this was to get writers to do some research which, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you is an essential part of writing. The trouble is that proving the truth behind a ‘ghost’ story is near impossible. I do believe in ghost’s myself but what was to stop me from submitting a story where Abraham Lincoln popped round for tea? People could submit their own ghost experiences as ‘research’ and there was little the editor could do.
The other problem is that some of the stories didn’t really feature ghost stories but more so, urban legends and none were no guilty than my story ‘Black Aggie’. I did do the research on this volume and found a ‘ghost’ story resulting a very real statue that people said horrible things happened around. The part of the story that really got my interest is that for quite a long period, the statue went missing and people would spot it during times of tragedy or loss before it reappeared, unexplained some time later.
It was complete urban legend but it was close enough for me. It got in and I felt I delivered a suitably creepy script that hit the notes I felt I had fallen short on in Vol. 14. I decided to go all weeping angel’s on the story essentially and felt I gave it enough of my own flavor to make it a good story, even if it didn’t entirely fit the volume.
For this story I was paired with a GrayHaven newcomer in Alan Anguiano. I’m not honestly sure what Alan is up to these days but when discussing him I feel I should remember advise my mother gave to me.
‘If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.’
Thus as all good things, my most prosperous period with the Gathering came to a close. It was a great run with some stories and characters I was incredibly proud of and I got to work with some stellar artists. I got busy with editing and working on volumes outside the Gathering (more on that later) and I wouldn’t return to the anthologies pages for a whopping 11 volumes.
Vol. 26: Alternate Reality
So much had changed during those 11 volumes. Long gone were the snappy clever sub titles each title had and while I was as busy as ever as an editor, my writing with GrayHaven had taken a backseat in favour of other talents. I honestly wasn’t happy there anymore for a multitude of reasons I won’t go into here. Suffice to say, things weren’t fun anymore and I was feeling increasingly less and less welcome at GrayHaven, whether that feeling was warranted or not.
Alternate Reality was a volume I very much enjoyed editing and featured a brilliant cover by my good friend, Alena Lane. There were some really strong stories in this one and I felt mine, while good got lost in the shuffle. When trying to come up with a concept for ‘Alternate Reality’ my mind had exploded with possibilities. Sadly, I had to come up with something that was going to be a quick hit. I only had 3 pages to explain how my world was different than the world we know and then get out before the next story.
I did ‘We have a problem’ which depicted a world that had came about after we had discovered aliens during the moon landing. Flash forward to the present, those same aliens had overrun our planet and humans were second class citizens, slaves or even pets. I thought the story turned out well enough and showed how much I had grown as a writer since ‘Black Aggie’.
I worked with an artist named Greg Kimmet on this one who did a sterling job. He had a really unique style that I felt complimented the dark and sinister tone my story was going for. I know he did a few other stories with GrayHaven but I’m honestly not sure what he would be up to now, I hope either the company or someone is putting his skills to good use.
Vol. 28: Paranormal Romance
I suppose most people don’t automatically think of ‘time travel’ when they look at this genre but it was in the submission criteria, so I gave it a go. At this time I was able to bring back Lucy Letwood from my Silver Age story. I’m not sure if the rule for returning characters had been relaxed or if no one was paying attention but I brought her back. Using Lucy in a far more serious story than what she had appeared in previously, I told a tale where she travelled to a retirement home and found there an old man who was her husband…who she had yet to meet.
Using both ‘the Time Travelers Wife’ and the ‘River Song’ story in ‘Doctor Who’ as inspiration I spun in an element of tragedy also. I let Lucy see that at some point she would travel to a time where she would meet the man in the care home during his youth, they would fall in love and she would die during a car crash leaving him to grow old to the point where she was meeting him currently. I felt it was a decent story with a ton of winks and nudges to my other stories that my kind editor, Ray Goldfield allowed me to keep. I felt it fell flat a little in some places which likely reflected my mindset at the time.
On this story I worked with artist Chris Dixon who had worked on a bunch of GrayHaven stories at that point. He was someone the company could rely on in a pinch and to do a good job on a story. I didn’t have much communication with him during the process of constructing the story that I recall. These days I know Chris has been long working on his own projects and I assume still doing GrayHaven work as of this typing.
Vol. 32: Western 2
This story was a long time coming and featured the return of another character of mine. Like I said earlier, I had been reluctant to say goodbye to Alex Quick and wanted to bring her back as soon as possible. Not only did I pitch to get her in this volume (which worked) but I also wanted her in GrayHaven Graphic Novel ‘Western/Horror (which didn’t). For her return in this volume I thought I would do something no Gathering story had ever done (to my recollection), the first ever crossover!
Back in Vol. 15 I was astonished to find a story very similar, yet very different to my own. Completely by coincidence, Jenny Gorman (one of those annoyingly talented people who writes and draws) did a tale featuring a cowgirl of her own. Like Alex, Jenny’s cowgirl was someone who had her parents taken from her and now swore vengeance in a most bad ass fashion. Whereas my story had leaned on misdirection, Jenny’s had featured an empowering almost ‘Tarinto’ style tale of vengeance which I really enjoyed. She had been with GrayHaven since its first ‘All Woman’ volume and done exceptional work both art and writing wise ever since and she fast came on my list of artists to work with. Noting the similarities between our stories, I approached Jenny about co-writing and drawning a crossover between them. She thankfully agreed and we had a lot of fun doing it. Writing someone else’s character, I felt a lot of responsibility but Jenny was incredibly encouraging and giving and I felt we did our girls proud.
For the first time in a long time, I was having fun again. I didn’t know it at the time but this was (as of this typing) my last Gatheirng tale. I had been there since the first one and had never envisioned not being involved with the anthology but yet, the end it seemed had arrived without me knowing it.
I kind of wish, in retrospect (isn’t it a wonderful thing?) I had known and I could have done a farewell story. I’m not sure how I would have done it or indeed who I would have done it with but it would have been nice. Still, if working with Jenny and bringing back a character I adored is my farewell, then there are far worse ways to say goodbye.
Next: Writing Outside The Gathering
Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett
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
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
Time check everybody! Yes this is indeed 2014. We’re one year away from the day Marty McFly went to the future. Despite the absence of hover boards and flying cars there is one thing in modern times that puzzles me to no end.
There are still woman who are paid less than men for doing the same job. There is no acceptable reason for this. Gender equality is an issue that crosses over many industries and the business of creating comics is no exception. Some of you may wonder why a man wants to discuss this issue. I mean, it doesn’t affect me, right? Well that is wrong. It affects all of us because we could be robbed of awesome stories from very talented people just because of their gender and there is nothing I love more than awesome stories.
At nearly every comics company, both large and small there has been a historical dominance of men both in writing and artistic contributions. Behind the scenes, there has been a bit more of a balance with editorial staff but only in the last 10-20 years or so. Before that time, comics were created, driven and marketed by men.
Last week I talked about how female characters are portrayed and treated by the industry plus the fact that they almost always play second fiddle to their male counterparts. This also seems to be the case for the ‘story behind the stories’. In recent years we have seen an influx of female creators and once again, on the surface it might appear that things are changing. In particular, there are now a number of female artists who get relatively high profile gigs, and some are of the most talented and respected people in comics today. We have the likes of Sara Pichelli, Amanda Connor, Rebekah Isaacs, Nicola Scott and many others. All are great talents who do fantastic work on their respective properties.
Yet they remain significantly outnumbered by male artists working in the industry. You might think that the immediate and obvious problem could be a lack of female artists but I know that is simply not the case. Over the past number of years Image has put out an anthology comprised of entirely female creators and GrayHaven Comics have published three. Having seen nearly every volume of the Gathering that GrayHaven has produced in its five year history, I can say with confidence that each of the All Women’s anthologies are extremely high quality and feature amazing stories by a full cast of female creators.
In my own comics career I’ve worked frequently with female artists and am very proud to share my ‘Sparks’ property with one of the finest female artists in comics today, Kell Smith. It is clear that the talent is out there and like all of us wanting to make an impact in the industry, they are hungry to accomplish more.
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much change where writers are concerned. It is true that at the recent New York Comicon, Marvel announced a number of female creators on new titles, but they were all featuring female leads. I’ve even heard from a number of sources that DC comics may have a policy that they only want female writers to pitch to books with female leads.
Why? I’m not sure. If there was a similar policy regarding male writers only writing male characters we would have been robbed of such great runs like Rucka’s Wonder Woman, Alias, the current Wonder Woman book and even the long running fan favorite Spider-Girl. There are a number of incredibly talented female writers in the industry right now and if men can write female led titles, shouldn’t they be granted a chance to write a male-led title at the top of the publishing line? More often than not, even when women write a male-led book it is not a main title or else is a title that features a group of men and women. As I try to think of a female writer that has a really high profile gig on a male-led title the only one I could recall was Gail Simone’s brief run on Action Comics back in 2005 and 2006.
Arguably, Gail Simone is the biggest female name in comics writing at the moment. She has had a long career at DC comics, redefining the Birds Of Prey, the Secret Six and many other fan favorites but she has only had one stint on a top tier male-led title which despite a lot of critical acclaim lasted only eight issues. Is there anyone out there that wouldn’t jump at the chance to read Gail’s work on a title like Amazing Spider-Man or Superman or the Avengers?
There are more female writers out there who deserve higher prominence. Some you’ve heard of, and sadly, many that you haven’t. If the companies perhaps think the market wouldn’t accept a female writer on a main title then perhaps they should look at the success of Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. Talent is talent and I think we deserve to read the stories that could be told if the current gender imbalance was even a little different.
As I said last week, things are changing – but very slowly. If there’s a talented group of comic creators being ignored then the industry is essentially trying to make quality comics with one hand behind its back.
I’m not sure about you, but I’d love to see what comics could become with both arms in full use.
Next: Gathering Stories
Many thanks to Mary Sheridan, a super talented female creator in her own right for helping me put this together!
Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett
Greetings everyone and welcome to what is the first in what I hope will be a regular series of articles. My thanks to Graphics Policy and Brett for giving me this opportunity!
For those that don’t know me and are wondering why you’re reading my ramblings, my name is Glenn Matchett and I’m a comic book writer/editor from Northern Ireland. Having grown up as a comic fan my whole life, its been my dream to write comics for a long time. I love this industry and this medium. I love talking about it, writing about it and even having friendly debates regarding it. Comics are wonderful, special things and I just want to be involved in that wonderful experience on some level.
In an effort to achieve this I’ve been working with publisher GrayHaven Comics the last few years. I’ve written and edited quite a few of their anthologies that are intended to give up and coming creators a chance to show what they’ve got. I’ve also managed to get some of my own solo work published which has led to a lot of positive reviews and people seeming to get the impression I know what I’m doing.
Working to achieve anything in this industry, it requires a thick skin, a lot of patience and even more luck. I’ve done pretty good for myself but I’ve also had a lot of disappointment and genuine heartbreak. When talking to Brett about what I could contribute to the site, I thought it might be interesting to pull back the curtain somewhat. What are my experiences trying to make it in this crazy industry? What have I learned? What can I pass on to people looking to do the same? It may be useful, it may not be but if nothing else it may give some folks out there a step by step guide on what NOT to do.
Along with my own experiences I want to write some articles about how I feel about certain key matters in the industry as a whole. Of course my thoughts and views are all my own but if nothing else, perhaps they’ll inspire some healthy discussion and/or debate. Please note that my personal experiences are pulled from my own memory. The situations I tell are dependent on my own perspective and should be treated as such. I am not here to name names or shame people. If there are people I have had poor experiences with I will not be naming them here. I will only speak of the experiences because as far as I hear some of those people have had little to no issues elsewhere so it is entirely possible the problem could be on my end, not theirs. I can only tell you things from my experience and what may surprise you is that it doesn’t show me in a favorable light all the time.
I will however be raining compliments on some truly awesome people and name dropping wherever possible
Welcome to my comics world…where sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Creating Sparks Part 1: Conception
The second of the solo works I have released that I mentioned before was Sparks by myself and Kell Smith (on sale here *coughs*). It was the second work I had produced but actually it came before anything else. Before all the short stories, the other concepts and other projects there was Sparks. The fact that it wasn’t released first is a complex tale I hope to begin to share with you all now.
It’s a story that lasts over 16 years so buckle yourself up and prepare for quite a journey of how I made this comic come to life. My journey as a writer began was I was very young. I would write stupid short James Bond and Sherlock Holmes stories that lasted 5-6 pages. I did it because I loved the Bond films in my youth and I grew up reading classic style murder mysteries like Holmes, Poirot and Miss Marple among others. I was also the kid in class that would really take my creative English assignments as far as I could. In my youth I was basically the author equivalent of the kid who coloured outside the lines in art class (although I did that too).
I loved to read, I always have both prose and comics. Growing up it was a healthy diet of mystery, Stephen King, some R.L Stine books, Harry Potter and the teen ‘Point Horror’ series among others. Comics wise I grew up reading the UK strips the Beano,Dandy and Buster but it was around 9 or 10 when I discovered American mainstream comics. I’d been a fan for years of Batman: The Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series so having these characters in regular monthly installments was quite a treat for my young mind.
With the expansion of the internet I began to track down as many Spider-Man books as I could because I adored the character (I still do). I worked my way through the controversial Clone Saga and backwards. I absorbed all the Spider-Man knowledge I could but it wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 when I read the Spider-Man comic that would make me want to make comics my career.
I can’t explain what it was about J.M DeMatteis and Mike Zeck’s work on the Spider-Man story ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ that affected me so profoundly. It remains my favorite comic work ever and I felt incredibly inspired by it. I’ve read comics that have made me feel the same way as ‘Kraven’s Last Hunt’ but after I finished the final page of that story I decided ‘This is what I want to do.’
Of course like most people starting in comics from scratch I had no idea how to do it. It was like a kid who says they want to be a cop because their dad is in some ways I suppose. I started by creating some of my own Spider-Man stories and jotting them down. It could probably write an entire article about some of the ideas I came up with that have come to fruition in some form or another but even back then, during my period of useful ignorance I realized that I wasn’t exactly going to jump into the ‘big leagues’ right away. As the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I had read enough online to come understand one of my earliest but most important lessons in comics which was ‘Don’t do what we do, show us what you can do.’ What that basically means is that no one really got very far by being an imitation, they all got their by producing their own work. This then possibly leading on to work for companies that liked their stuff so much, they were willing to pay that person to work on their characters.
I thought about doing something that was all my own. I was 16 and sitting in front of a Windows 95 computer in English class (showing my age) when I first came up with the concept of Melanie Sparks. The first thing I thought was that I wasn’t likely to get very far doing a super hero book. Even before I discovered the wonderful world of non superhero comics I knew that there was no way a hero book I created could stand out. I had to do something else and I went to another genre I felt very comfortable with, the crime genre. I had grown up with it and was a fan of crime shows so I started going ‘if I were to do one, what would I do differently?’
Most of you reading this likely know but crime shows can come in a variety of forms and can have a wide range of tone and quality. You get some shows that I would describe as ‘popcorn crime’ that is fun and you don’t have to think about much like CSI and then you have the more realistic crime shows like The Wire or True Detective. Back before the days of some of these shows I tried to come up with something different.
In a few hours I had decided to have a female protagonist. It wasn’t something I saw a lot of in comics at the time and I was trying to be different. I also decided that the female protagonist would be a Private Investigator working in America (likely California at the time). The concept of what the character would be called came next as I wanted a name that sounded cool and catchy, something that would stick in people’s minds. I also created a slightly inept but lovable secretary in Kathy and the main story of the first issue quite quickly.
Those that have read Sparks know the story, TV soap star Ruth Gates is brutally murdered like the character she portrays on the show she stars in. The initial scene of her sitting alone, miserable while she watches herself talking happily on the television came to me all right there in front of that old PC in English class. The entire thing came together quite swiftly including other characters and something else that I wanted to do that was rarely seen in crime fiction. I wanted to show the reader who committed the crime and show how Mel figured it out rather than keeping it a secret from both. The classic crime show ‘Columbo’ used this device to great effect and even now the TV show ‘Motive’ does the same.
It still wasn’t enough for 16 year old me though. I needed something else because while all these things weren’t the norm there was nothing new…nothing really special that made my story stand out. Then something occurred to me, an idea popped into my head that seemed completely insane. I’ll admit and this might sound strange but the idea initially frightened me. Could I pull it off? Would it work? If I could make it work then it would be unlike anything I could recall experiencing at the time. What I’m speaking of course is the shock twist at the end of Sparks 1 which I won’t spoil here. The last few pages came to me in a flurry and the final image a lot of readers have told me left their jaw on the floor came to me.
It all seemed to come to easily. Surely now that I had what I thought was a killed concept that the rest would fall in line…as if by magic?
I soon learned another important lesson in comics, nothing worth having ever comes easy…EVER.
Next: An idea and writing isn’t the same thing? Well I never!
Got any comments, suggestions or questions? Let me know! Also follow me on Twitter @glenn_matchett
You 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.
Last year GrayHaven Comics decided to create their most important project to date. The result was You Are Not Alone, a 180 page anthology that covers many of the issues youth face today including bullying, depression, homophobia, racism, and violence.
Over 60 talented writers and artists joined together to tell 3-5 page stories centered around these topics with messages of hope and tolerance. Andrew Goletz who put the project together was rewarded as Comic Creator of the Year by Geekadelphia for his work on this project.
After a successful Kickstart project last year the books have finally gone out to backers and school and youth organizations interested in carrying copies of the book for those who would gain the most use out of it.
To those who have suffered in silence facing abuse because of the color of your skin, sexual orientation, weight or interests. To those who are depressed and feel there is no place left to turn…You are not Alone.
In an effort to get this project into as many hands as possible, as easily as possible, GrayHaven Comics has launched a Kickstarter to help raise funds for printing this 150 plus page book with the goal being to give them away at schools and youth organizations for Free.
Best Pledge: Give as much as you can, this is for a good cause.
Risk: LOW – The GrayHaven team has run numerous Kickstarter projects and come through as promised. Very professional in how they use it and keep folks updated.