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Matchett’s Musings: Working For GrayHaven Part IV

Working At GrayHaven Part 4:  And the rest

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

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

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

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

The Dark Vol. 1

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

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

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

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

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

The Archives

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

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

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

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

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

The Dunes

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Kids: Fairy Tales

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Kids: Superheroes

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

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

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

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

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

Hey Kids: Sunday Funnies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Matchett’s Musings: Working for GrayHaven Part 1

Matchett’s Musings

Working At GrayHaven Part 1:  Learning to Walk and Talk

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

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

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

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

Vol. 1: The Thing With Feathers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vol. 3: Heroes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vol. 6:  Further Into The Abyss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Vol. 7: Dreams and Nightmares

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

I’m not in this volume.

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

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

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

 

Matchett’s Musings: Creating Sparks Part 2

Creating Sparks Part 2: The Basics and Getting the Green Light

I remember in English class something my teacher said something to me which I feel is very true. ‘The moment you write something and consider it brilliant is when you should stop.’ In essence what she meant was ‘don’t get your head up your own ass too much.’ Indeed you see it all the time in comics, movies, music or any other industry you can think of. You see people struggle and fight for their spot, producing amazing work but then they get their big break. They become a sure-fire hit, they get told their work is genius and after a while that stops being true. The fire, the motivation to really deliver is gone because no matter what you do, people will buy it.

The reason I’m saying that is I never really think you stop learning to write, especially in comics. Literally every work, every project I learn something new. Sometimes it’s something small, sometimes it improves the quality of my scripts a great deal. However when I started out, after creating Sparks which was closely followed by a concept called The Immortals (more on that later) I had no idea how to put together a comic script. I wasn’t even sure how to structure prose properly and so I completed a lot of stories that went pretty much like this.

Turning to the audience, Glenn gives them a big smile.

Glenn: Hello audience!

Audience: Hello Glenn!

Taking a bow, Glenn proceeds to bask in the audience applause.

Around this time I also sent a full letter of ideas forward to Marvel. I posted it all the way to New York and even put in the legal form the big 2 make you sign anytime you want to submit work/ideas to them. Looking back it was so unprofessional and so deluded of me that the entire submission may have been done out in crayon with cute little backwards letters.

There are plenty of books on how to write comics or to write period. The likes of Stan Lee, Peter David, Brian Bendis, Stephen King, etc have all crafted books on how to write.

I’ll admit right now that I have read none of those. I certainly encourage others who would likely benefit greatly from it but I never did. I just learned through buying a lot of comics.

That might sound strange but one of the wonders of the modern age of comics is how much effort put into collected editions. With some of these collections you get an assortment of DVD/Blu-Ray type special features. You get sketches, pin-up art and sometimes you get scripts. Full comic scripts from the best in the industry and how I learned to put together scripts was by reading other scripts.

I also found a number of other writers putting their scripts online, what then has followed is some trial and error. I’ve included some stuff, ditched other things and tried my best to find my own way to do it. I learned the difference between full script and ‘Marvel style’, how to structure a page and some interesting things I never would have realized.

I found that there was no real ‘wrong’ way to do it. Every writer laid out their full scripts differently and I came across quite a variety of styles. I would probably call my own mostly a blend of Neil Gaiman, Ed Brubaker, J. Michael Staczynski and a little of myself.

Being an editor with GrayHaven I have the pleasure of reading literally hundreds of scripts for anthologies and I pick up interesting things here also. Little hints and tips I use to adjust my own style. If there is anyone out there looking to write comics or wants to learn how to do it better (we can all improve) I would highly suggest reading scripts from peers or pro’s. It’s astonishing what you can pick up. Often times whenever I green light a pitch for a GrayHaven anthology I sometimes get the writer going ‘This is great…now what do I do?’ I then send them some strong scripts I have received over the years.

I would like in particular like to mention GrayHaven vets Ray Goldfield, Doug Hahner, Sean Leonard and Jason Snyder who have great instincts when it comes to scripting. There are many others who I’ve found helpful but those guys are top-notch.

Something I really liked from Neil Gaiman’s scripts was the informal manner he wrote in. In her introduction to Absolute Sandman Vol. 3, Jill Thompson wrote how much of a pleasure it was to read Gaiman’s scripts because of this. I thought I would do the same and I do attempt to do so on a regular basis.

Now obviously it’ll depend on the artist and publisher. The majority of the latter I have worked with enjoyed it but others consider it a distraction. When it comes to your publisher, if they ask you to write the comic script standing on your head and reciting ‘Old McDonald’ then you must do so but…more on this later.

So I started to write comic scripts because mainly, I learn by doing. I first wrote a Booster Gold one I published on Facebook for fun. I was loving the comic series at the time and thought ‘Well, why not?’

I also wrote a script for artist Aaron Bir for his then website Sequential Stutter. I tried to find the story and can’t which is a shame because it was the first comic I had published anywhere.

Then came the beginnings of GrayHaven comics. I’ve told the story over and over so I’ll keep it as brief as possible. Good friend and fellow Jinxworld poster Andrew Goletz asked a bunch of us if we wanted to do a comic anthology for fun. It turned into Vol. 1 ‘The Thing With Feathers’.

I could probably (and will likely) craft an entire article on where I get the idea for some of my GrayHaven shorts but my first actual printed comic work was in there. The feeling I got when I heard that first book, saw my name on the back (which I still miss) is something I will never forget. I also got to work on with artist Brent Peeples who went on to much bigger and better things with Images Last Of The Greats and other work for IDW, Zenescope, Valiant, Dynamite. I loved working with Brent and hope that one day, our paths cross again.

Vol. 1 of The Gathering was a big hit commercially and critically. It wasn’t perfect but people liked the potential and what it offered. A publisher was willing to let unknown creators throw themselves out there, for better or worse. Having learned over the years that breaking in was very difficult to those who could only write and not draw, it was great to see somewhere that offered that.

I helped out GrayHaven the only way I could in the early days which was financially and with any advice Andrew was willing to take from me. Time passed, more volumes got released and we even had some great pro’s like Gail Simone and Sterling Gates help us out.

Soon we had over 8 volumes with more on the way. New volumes were being announced, I’d sent pitches and Andrew approved them along with another opportunity. Due to my initial support he granted me a one shot. It was quite something as back then, the only solo work GrayHaven had approved was Doug Hahner and Donal Delay’s My Geek Family which had earned it through winning a contest.

I was over the moon and my mind exploded with possibilities. I went back to the idea that came first, I went back to Sparks. I pitched it to Andrew who liked it but wanted one change, he wanted it to be set in Britain and not the US because back then in the days of 2011 when this all happened it wasn’t all that common. Nowadays we have quite brilliant crime dramas set in the UK like Sherlock, Luthor and Broadchurch but at the time it was a great idea so I was all for it!

He then asked me who I wanted to draw the story and I gave him a list of 4-5 names, the first of which in an interesting twist was Kell Smith. However Andrew went above and beyond to a secure an artist (here thereafter referred to as artist A) who was immensely talented and seemed to be on the cusp of real success.

It was all set! The car was there, the key was in the ignition and it was all a go. I had only one problem. I had an enemy I wasn’t fully aware of. An enemy that had operated in the shadows for years but it seemed that now, just when things were taking off for me they were about to become my archenemies and a frequent pain in my rear.

Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty

Batman has the Joker

Even the Powerpuff Girls have Mojo Jojo

It turns out that Glenn Matchett’s enemy was named ‘impatience’ and we were about to get very well acquainted.

Next: Artist A, Artist B and Kell Smith

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.”

10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Sterling Gates

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.

George Amaru Victor Gischler Cassandra James James O’Callaghan
Elena Andrews Ray Goldfield Nathan Lee James Chris Page
Arcadio Bolaños Andrew Goletz Sean Leonard Amanda Rachels
John M. Coker Doug Hahner William Levert Jason Snyder
Marc Deschamps Erica J. Heflin Marc Lombardi Sam Tung
Donal DeLay Gary Hogan Glenn Matchett Leigh Walls
Nick Francis Travis M. Holyfield Brad Nelson

Up next is writer Sterling Gates.

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

Sterling Gates: It’s an extremely long story. The short version is that I spent a few years working as Geoff Johns’ assistant, and through that connection I met DC Comics editor Eddie Berganza. Through Geoff’s help, I was able to sell my first story to DC in 2007, “Fear is a Baby’s Cry.”

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

SG: Absolutely. My parents owned a comic book store in Tulsa when I was a kid, so comics have been a part of my life for, well, as long as I can remember. My Dad was a huge Silver Age Marvel collector, so I’d spend hours looking at the covers of his runs of Amazing Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, and the Fantastic Four. I didn’t take ‘em out of the bags, though. Just read the reprints! [laughs]

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

SG: A lot of DC books, Avengers Academy, Daredevil, Saga, Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, Batman, Aquaman. And that’s just looking at what’s on my desk right now. I’m a huge fan of what Mark Waid is doing on Daredevil, though. It’s no mistake that book won so many Eisner awards this year. It’s fun, exciting, pitch-perfect superheroism. Marks’s got such a nice handle on Matt’s voice, it’s…well, I’d think Mark were a blind lawyer if I didn’t know any better. Aquaman has a quality to it that I can’t describe. Geoff has made Aquaman cooler than cool (Editor’s note: that’s ice cold!), and for the first time in my life, I consider myself an Aquaman fan.

GP:  How did you get involved with The Gathering?

SG: It was all Gail Simone’s fault. Gail was talking about the anthology on Twitter, and I asked how she got involved and she put me in contact with Drew.

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

SG: Well, I’m focusing mostly on horror genre work with The Gathering. I cowrote a story for the Western issue with my friend Cody Cundiff, but I’ve mostly been working on horror stories for the anthology. Usually, I write a lot of superhero fiction, so I’m thankful that Drew has let me go outside my usual zones to play in genre I really love. If you’ve ever spent any time reading my Twitter feed, you’ll know that the horror genre is one of my personal favorites, and it’s nice to get to tell some stories with a horror bent.

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

SG: Read a lot, write a lot, draw a lot.

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

SG: That I don’t read enough, I don’t write enough, and I don’t draw enough.

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

SG: Yes. And there are some huge success stories in the self-publishing world, too. Look at 50 Shades of Grey, for example. It was a self-published ebook series, and now book one is the fastest selling novel of all time. Of all time! Incredible.

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

SG: It’s diversifying the comic landscape, which is wonderful. We need new stories, new types of stories out there. The other day, I wondered out loud to my friends if a romance-style comic book could find an audience online, or be published through someone’s Kickstarter efforts. Romance and Western comics were huge from the 1940s through the 60s, but publishers discovered they could make more money with the superhero books and those genres died out. With crowdfunding around, could you do modern soap opera-style romance comics? Would people want to read those kinda stories?

GP: What can we expect from you next?

SG: Besides my ongoing horror stories in The Gathering: Tales From The Abyss? I have a couple projects in the works right now (including one outside of comics), but unfortunately I can’t really talk about them until they’re formally announced. Sorry!

10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Cassandra James

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.

George Amaru Victor Gischler Nathan Lee James James O’Callaghan
Elena Andrews Ray Goldfield Sean Leonard Chris Page
Arcadio Bolaños Andrew Goletz William Levert Amanda Rachels
John M. Coker Doug Hahner Marc Lombardi Jason Snyder
Marc Deschamps Erica J. Heflin Glenn Matchett Sam Tung
Donal DeLay Gary Hogan Brad Nelson Leigh Walls
Nick Francis Travis M. Holyfield

Up next is artist Cassandra James.

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

Cassandra James: I mostly got started through places online like DeviantART and Digital Webbing. By talking with people and learning about the behind-the-scenes production of comics I was able to not only network but really become serious about getting a career penciling comics.

Despite wanting to be a penciller my first professional gig was a small coloring job for Devil’s Due Publishing that I got through a friend on DeviantART, Tim Seeley.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

CJ: Yes! When I was little I used to read the Disney and Sonic the Hedgehog comics and as I got older I became obsessed with the X-Men and Justice League cartoons. It was natural for me to then move onto cape comics as I got older. Characters like Wonder Woman and Professor X have been with me all my life.

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

CJ: Sadly I don’t have as much time to read comics as I used to but I have a stack of trade paperbacks next to my bed and am constantly buying things on ComiXology. I’m currently really enjoying Dark Horse’s new Conan the Barbarian series, DC’s Ame Comi line, Image Comics’ reboot of Glory and the new Captain Marvel from Marvel comics.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

CJ: I love this story. One morning I woke up, sit down at my desk with a cup of tea to start my morning email checking and what-not and see that I had a private message over on the Bendis boards, it was from Gail Simone. I opened it and burst into tears; my husband (who’s sitting next to me) panics and asks me what is wrong. I can only smile and point at my screen; Gail was asking if I’d like to illustrate a story she’s written for the next Gathering anthology.

At this stage I haven’t had much comic work and was still very green, so to be asked by one of my favorite writers to draw one of their stories was a pretty big deal. Since then I’ve been able to work with some amazing creators on various Gathering anthologies, it’s been so much fun and I’m so honored!

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

CJ: For me it doesn’t factor in too much, mostly because the writer already has the story written by the time it reaches my hands. Although obviously I try and match the style the writer is going for with my art.

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

CJ: Network, network, network! Every gig I’ve gotten has been from posting on a forum or through a friend or creator I’ve previously worked with. People in the industry are very cautious about working with people they don’t know, but one glowing recommendation from someone already in the business will go a long way. (This is why it’s also not a good idea to burn bridges and be a total jerk to an industry pro. The comic business is small and word travels fast, don’t cost yourself a career by acting like a jerk.)

Even if you’re an artist there is a lot you can learn from an editor or a writer and vice versa. Posting your work online is a great way to not only get it seen but to get feedback you may not get anywhere else.

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

CJ: Deadlines are important. You may look at a comic and think, ‘I can draw better than this, why did this artist get hired?’ The answer to that is usually because said artist could deliver the work in a timely manner. You may produce work that looks like Da Vinci but if it takes you a week to draw a comic page, you’ll never be hired because companies don’t want late books.

The hardest thing for me as a professional was upping my page rate, but with practice and hard work it did happen. I went from one page a month to being able to knock out 6 rough penciled pages a day for my latest Image book.

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

CJ: I think so. With websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo it’s been possible for independent creators to self-publish their own books. Not to mention the success of web comics as a publishing medium.

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

CJ: I think they’re a great way of getting books that may not be looked at by the bigger publishing houses out there printed. I was also a part of the successfully funded Womanthology Kickstarter campaign, we had no idea when we started that we’d end up raising over $100,000 in a month.

I think Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are great places to garner support not just from a monetary standpoint but from a market research standpoint. I can only hope that places like Marvel and DC are taking notice of the comics that not only do well, but outstanding well and try and emulate that success for themselves. I feel that many of the bigger comic publishers like the Big Two don’t really take risks with their books, they pander to the same 18 – 30 year old male demographic and I think that successfully funded projects on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo prove that comics are for everyone and can be sold to anyone if you do it right. Comic fans have a lot of money that they’re willing to hand over if you’re willing to produce top quality, original books.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

CJ: I have two more Gathering issues to do (one is an erotic issue, reowr!), the Valentine TPB from Image is coming out in September and the Sparks one-shot written by Glenn Matchett sometime next year.

But besides that no big plans, fingers crossed that I’ll have some big works to lead me into the New Year!

10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Leigh Walls

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.

George Amaru Victor Gischler Travis M. Holyfield Brad Nelson
Elena Andrews Ray Goldfield Nathan Lee James James O’Callaghan
Arcadio Bolaños Andrew Goletz Sean Leonard Chris Page
John M. Coker Doug Hahner William Levert Amanda Rachels
Marc Deschamps Erica J. Heflin Marc Lombardi Jason Snyder
Donal DeLay Gary Hogan Glenn Matchett Sam Tung
Nick Francis

Up next is artist Leigh Walls who contributed to The End of an Afternoon’s Street-Fighting which appeared in The Gathering, Volume 4: Into the Abyss.

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

Leigh Walls: I’ve always written and drawn comic stories for myself.  Usually superheroes or robots or race comics.  It wasn’t until the late 80’s/ early 90’s that I realized that it was a “real job.”  I interned at the Marvel Comics editorial offices in ’94 during high school and then went to college, studying cartoon art.  After graduation, I worked with a small (very small) comic company where I learned of my love of inking.  After that I did a few odd jobs where I wrote or drew small comic strips that never saw the light of day until 2007 when I self-published Bloody Pulp Magazine with a couple of my college buddies, which became my first “official” comics publication.  Following, I did a couple of other self-publications until I met The GrayHaven guys in 2011 through a friend of my brother’s who was also the writer of our The End of an Afternoon’s Street-Fighting story in The Gathering Vol. 4, Camille Dewing.  The rest as they say – dot dot dot.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

LW: A HUGE fan.  I mean I think I was a fan of drawing comics before I became a fan of reading them.  I remember reading comics on the floor of our shared bedroom with my brother.  I think my favorites were his favorites: X-Men, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, the Avengers…

I would cherish the days when he would decide to count, what seemed like, an endless collection of comics and we would come across the books that I rarely saw because they were older than I was.  He also used to get the Marvel Comics subscription where they would ship the books to your house with a paper sleeve around them.  I used to read the books before he got home from school or work and put them back in so he wouldn’t know.  It broke my heart when they switched the books to being shipped in a sealed, plastic baggy.

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

LW: I do.  Not as much as I used to but, I’m still “addicted.”  My old stand-bys are (The) Savage Dragon by Erik Larsen and Image Comics and Hellboy by Mike Mignola and Dark Horse Comics.  I don’t pick up the Marvel or DC books as often anymore because (BEWARE! Small Rant Approaching!) I feel the books have gotten a little too mean spirited and a lot less fun.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

LW: My brother is friends with Camille Dewing, my writer for The End of an Afternoon’s Street-Fighting that was featured in Volume 4, Into the Abyss.

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

LW: The theme was horror and Camille came to me with a story that was based on a true experience her grand-father had during THE war; WWII.  So, when she came to me with it, I was thinking old-school inking and Ben-Day dots for shading (what folks sometimes call Zip-a-tone) and, of course, lots of shadow.  The final image in the story, which is also the reveal, was really intimidating but, I think I pulled it off in the end.

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

LW: Hmmm… Love what you do, first of all.  This is a hard business and a lot of it is without thanks or benefit and at the end of the day, if you don’t love it, it will eat you alive.  Also, just get it done.  Now with Print-On-Demand and a lot of the crowd-funding options out there, you don’t have to wait for Marvel or DC for that big break.

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

LW: It all goes back to just get it done.  The mistakes or the little things that look like big mistakes in your artwork only really look big to you.  Don’t let those things discourage you and just GET-IT-DONE!

Also, be sure you make yourself leave the house at least once a day, but not when you’re supposed to be working.  Take a break, once in a while.

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

LW: Now I didn’t say it’s easier to get paid but, you can definitely get published a lot easier than when I first got out of college in 1998.  When I printed Bloody Pulp Magazine in ’07, I was like, “That’s it?”  There’s no reason why anyone who has a story and some time can’t put out a comic or a book… or with Youtube, a movie.  Very interesting times, indeed…

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

LW: It’s making it possible for fans to get and fund the comic or movie or book that they’ve always wanted.  Not to mention the direct contact fans can have with their favorite creators almost every day of the year.  I remember how much I geeked out when Erik Larsen replied to a tweet I made… or Dave Johnson or Dan Panosian!  It’s really making the behind the scenes stuff accessible to the public which can be good and bad.  I mean, I like the access and ability to reach my favorite creators but, at the same time, I miss being surprised.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

LW: Right now, I’m doing a horror story with Doug Hahner for The Gathering that should be ready by the beginning of the year.  I’m also working on a comic book series called Trey with FacePalm Comic.  I’m on the 3rd issue which should be complete in another month and a half.  I’m also working on a second issue to a small book I put out last year called Guardian Knight Presents which should be ready to buy around March of 2013 and there’s a graphic novel that’s making a rumbly in my tumbly… but I can’t say when that’s going to be happening.  Maybe sometime next year.

10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Ray Goldfield

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.

George Amaru Nick Francis Travis M. Holyfield Brad Nelson
Elena Andrews Victor Gischler Nathan Lee James James O’Callaghan
Arcadio Bolaños Andrew Goletz Sean Leonard Chris Page
John M. Coker Doug Hahner William Levert Amanda Rachels
Marc Deschamps Erica J. Heflin Marc Lombardi Jason Snyder
Donal DeLay Gary Hogan Glenn Matchett Sam Tung

Up next is writer Ray Goldfield who makes it number 25 in our interview series with The Gathering team.

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

Ray Goldfield: It’s been a dream of mine to write in comics for a long time. Like many fans, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I would do if I got to write my favorite characters, but it wasn’t until recently that I started focusing on telling my own stories through independent comics. The Gathering is my first published comic work.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

RG: I’ve been reading comics consistently since I was 8 years old. I first dipped my toe in the pool with the Archie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic, an obsession for me as a child. From there, Superman died, Batman got his back broken, and Green Lantern went crazy, and a lifelong obsession was born, heh.

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

RG: Oh, yes. I still read pretty much the entire DC line, a good chunk of Marvel’s, and any independent comic that catches my interest. Some of my favorites at this moment are Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman, Vertigo titles The Unwritten and Sweet Tooth, Image miniseries Planetoid and Grim Leaper, and Oni Comics’ supernatural western The 6th Gun. And a lot of others. I could go on all day, really. But by far the most rewarding experience I’ve had in comics recently is breaking out of the superhero groove and starting to buy more independent and creator-owned comics.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

RG: Before Andrew was our editor in chief, we were both posters on the Jinxworld message board, and regulars in the DC Comics Megathread I started a few years earlier. After several years of talking comics with him, I was definitely excited when he told us he was developing a new anthology comic and wanted to include many of the DC Thread regulars as writers, if we were interested. It was a great experience, and since then I’ve been pitching to later waves when inspiration hits me.

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

RG: It’s definitely both a challenge and an inspiration. There have been some themes that have just stumped me, but turned into amazing volumes. On the other hand, there were times where a theme that seemed challenging at first, like the upcoming True Ghost Stories, wound up sparking an idea for me. I find the variety of themes to be very helpful in breaking me out of the superhero groove I was stuck in for a while.

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

RG: Write, write, write. Then write some more. Write whatever you’re interested in, even if you don’t have a place to have it published right now. Practice is a good thing. I would also say to find a good friend, preferably a fellow writer, to bounce ideas and scripts off of. Learning how to polish a script is almost as important as learning the basics of writing, and you’ll need both if you want to go pro. And finally, make sure you’re getting out there and pitching. There are a lot of anthologies out there (including ours!) that are taking pitches from new creators, and independent work is a great way to get your name out there.

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

RG: I’ve learned a lot during my time at GrayHaven Comics. But probably the most important lesson is how to take constructive criticism. The perfect first-draft script is almost as rare as the unicorn, and when you send it in, corrections and changes are almost inevitable. The first time you open your e-mail and see that red font, it can be a bit daunting. But virtually every writer, from the newcomers to the big guns, likely goes through the same thing, and it’s important not to get discouraged. And there’s nothing more satisfying than learning from past mistakes and turning in a script that needs little to no editing. Also, I would say it’s important to develop a rapport with your artists. Keep the lines of communication open throughout, and be ready to take input from them on how to make the script stronger. I’ve been lucky to have great creative partners like Kent Holle, Nathan James, Fred Stressing, and Jeremy Carson in my time on The Gathering, and they’ve all helped to make my stories what they are.

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

RG: In a sense, yes. The internet has opened so many doors for like-minded individuals to find each other and get a comic together, much the way GrayHaven did. However, I think there’s a double-edged sword to that. While it may be easier to get a comic off the ground, it may be harder to get noticed, since the independent comic book has experienced a boom with a lot of great product. It’s important to keep on your feet and look for what’s working and what isn’t. That’s why the constantly shifting themes of The Gathering help us, I believe – with each volume, we can see what’s catching on with the readers. For instance, strong sales for our Horror volumes led the company to launch an ongoing Horror anthology, Tales from the Abyss, launching later this year.

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

RG: I think this is very tied in with the increased opportunities for independent comic book publishing, in that it’s definitely a great opportunity for a lot of talented creators. But at the same time, there is an added pressure when your supporters have “skin in the game”. They expect quality, and with so many comics seeking Kickstarter support, it’s a very competitive field. Overall, though, it’s an amazing net positive if you know how to use it.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

RG: On the writing end, right now I’ve got stories coming up in several volumes, including Romance 2 and Pulp Heroes (edited by Doug Hahner), Fairy Tales 2 (edited by Glenn Matchett), True Ghost Stories (edited by James O’Callaghan), and a six-page story in the second issue of Tales from the Abyss (edited by Glenn Matchett and Erica Heflin). I’m also in the process of developing a Phase Two project, based on an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a long time. More on that as it develops, heh.

I was only brought in as an editor a few months ago, so the first volume under my purview won’t be hitting till next year, but it’s already shaping up impressively. The theme is Fantasy, under our growing “Hey Kids” banner. Editing my first volume has been a challenge, but my writers have been making it easy on me, with a lot of them turning in incredibly polished, clever scripts well ahead of deadline. And open submission season is right around the corner with a new Hey Kids volume that I’ll be steering.

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