To say it is has been hard to produce my 136 page graphic novel called ‘The Man With No Libido’ and get it to the attention of the public would be something of a giant understatement.
Something I naively thought would take me six months to put together and produce, instead took the best part of 3 years, my youth and several frayed friendships strained to breaking point along the way. So let’s start at the beginning. After realizing that I didn’t want to work in film anymore and that no-one was going to give me fifty million to tell my own stories I looked around and wondered if there was another way I could tell the stories that I wanted to when I realized there was and it was sitting on my coffee table in front of me. Comics.
To say I love them would be an understatement. I buy one Trade paperback a week and used to buy a couple of monthlies as well before the economy went south. Here was a medium were I didn’t need a budget and I no longer had to put up with idiot producers telling me that i should put more tits/explosions/monkey’s into my plots. I could write what I wanted for a fraction of the price of a film and wouldn’t have to compromise with my story. Just 100% me for better or worse. If I failed it was due to people not liking my story not one hashed together by a committee of people who couldn’t stand each other. All I needed was an idea and I had one.
Like everyone in life (unless you’re insanely lucky) I’ve been rejected in love. Sometimes nicely sometimes not. And like most people I’ve at some time gone and sworn myself off the opposite sex after a particularly bad relationship. The ‘I’m done with women’ or the infamous ‘All men are b*stards’ are lines that we’ve all trotted out at some stage so I wondered what if? What if you could do something about it if you wanted to swear off relationships? Wouldn’t life be easier? No complications, no messy relationships, no more compromising?
So I began to write the script. It was meant to be a small initial effort to start off in. Dip my toes in the shark infested water of independent comics and see what bit. That was until I finished the script. At the end of my first foray in comic book writing I had a 136 page story about a humble nerd called Mitch Daily who just wants the pain of rejection to stop. So after seeing a new procedure which would remove his libido and all thoughts of love, relationships or sex he decides that if he goes going to be alone he might as well be happy so he has the procedure. To say this doesn’t just change things for Mitch who becomes the new poster boy for this new non-sexual revolution but for the world over as ‘nice guys’ everywhere start to follow him in having the procedure is the trust of the story. It was a romantic comedy but dark in some places and every word was mine and what I wanted to say. Suddenly the idea of dipping my toes in the water went out the window as I planned to take a giant bellyflop off the top diving board.
Now that I’d poured out my blood, sweat and tears onto the page and was finished creatively it was time for me to cast my baby out into the world and hire an artist to shape it into the story that it was to become. This was going to be easy. I had seen lots of artists begging for work in comics and had met more than one grumbling that no one was giving new artists a chance. So here was me with my humble script, a logo I had made up for my company ‘Quiet Hell Comics’ (long story) and my life savings ready to pay someone to turn my script into an actual comic! I thought all I had to do was sit back and wait for the CV’s to role in and they did slowly.
Firstly let me say there is a lot of the artists that auditioned were good it’s just that there particular style didn’t suit what I was looking for. I wanted it to be the style of an OEL Manga (Original English Language) something akin to Scott Pilgrim or what Tokyo Pop was doing at the time. Our styles didn’t click and that’s cool maybe next time. Eventually I was blown away by a guy called Gus (not his real name) whose art made me want to bring it home and make sweet love to it. So Gus got the job and held it for 8 weeks until I fired his ass. Gus’s productivity at this time can be measured in three e-mails and one stoned missed call when he accidentally rang me instead of his dealer. I never heard from him again and as far as I know he might still think he’s the artist of my comic feverishly working away on it between bong hits. The second artist I hired was what I like to call an artiste. What prey tell is the difference between an artist and an artiste you ask? Well it’s simple an artist actually draws things while an artiste will talk about drawing things. If there’s a Turner prize for talking bullsh*t this guy who I’ll call Phil could in fact win it. He lasted three months before I canned him. So at the end of five months my project had two fired people, lots of stress and not one page of art drawn. Eventually I went with a guy I knew and who I actually took the time to audition were he had to produce pages for me before giving him the go ahead was a lad I ironically worked with at the time called Steve Kearney who would be the actual artist on the book. I now had an artist on board and we were finally rolling again. All I had to do now was sit back and wait for Steve to churn out the art work while I sat back and waved merrily at my six month deadline as it flew past.
As you might have guessed the drawing and the inking which I roped him into as well took Steve a lot of time to do. This wasn’t his first job and he was doing this at night and working during the day as bit by bit he made his way through my script. I can’t tell you the thrill of getting new artwork in and seeing a scene that you’ve had in your head for over a year now on the page in front of you. Bit by bit, scene by scene, the story came together and after eighteen months of steady work the pages were finished all we had to do now was get a letterer.
You’d think lettering would be easy right? Well maybe it is for other people, but for someone like me who still has difficultly mastering light-switches and has the steady hand of an alcoholic in remission it wasn’t. Steve was off recovering so I had to find someone else to step in. Enter stage door left my brother Billy. Billy volunteered to do it and more importantly said he’d do it for free. He had me at free.
The thing is Billy is a laid back fellow in fact he’s someone I suspect Gus would warm to instantly. So after some time in which threats, cajoling and to the eternal shame of my late twenties shouting down the phone at one stage ‘I’m telling Mom!’ were uttered we slowly moved forward with the lettering. That wasn’t to say there weren’t still hiccups. Halfway through my brother went for a test at his college and results came back that he was dyslexic. Yes I had the only dyslexic letterer in the history of comics working on my ‘professional looking’ comic book. We were also working on the deadline of my brother emigrating to Australia. One of my worst memories is us the night before he left for Australia staying up trying to finish the book as our family swirled around us getting passports, clothes and papers ready before they left in the early morning. Luckily just as we were nearly finished his computer broke. I don’t mean crashed now I mean broke so we moved it to my laptop that also broke and then the home computer which also broke. I have no idea what odds you’d get for three computers crashing simultaneously in one house but I can tell you the distance a computer screen can fly across a driveway after being thrown by a man at the end of his tether. Thankfully my uncle’s computer on the other side of town worked and we were able to up-load the pages onto it saving the book and my sanity. I then turned around bade my brother goodbye and waved as he left for Australia. I wouldn’t see him again for two years.
It was at this stage that I began to slightly relax. I mean the book is finished all I need to do now is get it printed. How hard could that be? I was my own publisher so there was no problem with content etc. And printing companies were well companies as in they did this for their living. After checking out a rake of different companies and checking prices I found one in close to me in Ireland that agreed to do the book and was the cheapest by far. This was for several reasons; if you publish a book in Ireland for yourself you don’t have to pay tax, also as I was Irish and lived in Ireland it would be a lot closer to me than one in Canada or China were I had also looked. I also wouldn’t have to pay for shipping or post which again would be a money saver. Yep I had this all figured out and with the company’s promise of the book going to print in three weeks’ time I was practically floating going out the door.
The next part of the story I will summarize. It took the company six months to print the book. The reasoning being they gave us a person who thought photoshop was a place where you bought picture frames. After many strained conversations and pointed e-mails. It was only after a clear the air meeting with the company head in which the work their ‘expert’ had done that I got an apology and more importantly a new person to handle my book. The efficient Eastern European woman they gave me took his mess of six months and after two weeks. Yes that’s right after TWO WEEKS the book was printed.
There were still mistakes of course. The dedication is way too big and I can’t look at the word ‘completely’ in my book without wondering which of the several spellings we have of that word is the right one. Some of you might be wondering why I might have being so frustrated with the time it took to get printed. Was it worth the threats and the sleepless nights? Well there was a good reason for this. I too was heading off to Australia.
Between the time that I had started the book and the time it was printed the entire Irish economy crashed spectacularly causing thousands of people to be unemployed with me among the huddled masses of the now defunct Irish state. Reluctantly I too had to emigrate as jobs became rarer than a 1930′s Superman no. 1 issue. My visa for Australia was expiring so I literally had to be there before a certain date otherwise I couldn’t go. So in the end I had a grand total of three weeks to launch my comic before heading off to the sunny Southern Hemisphere for an entire year. Even today I just want to hold my head in despair the day I walked through that particular printer’s door.
Anyway after a year in Australia and what I can only describe as a scatter shot approach to marketing my comic I’m back shilling it again. Diamond was good enough to turn me down and I went to an Irish distribution company who managed to lose two of my books I sent for their perusal before they also turned me down. On the plus side the book is now on sale on Amazon and has done well in all the independent comic book shops that have sold it for me in Ireland. I’ve met some cool people and learned a hell of a lot. I am also working on another less ambitious comic book which will definitely not be printed by the same crowd as before. I still have very mixed emotions when I look at my comic book but I still achieved something against some painful odds and my book is out there with my name on it and I am proud of my work though not fond of it yet. So that’s my story. I’m sure other guys and girls who have gone down the same path have a tale to tell also. So maybe next time you’re browsing through Amazon check out my title, it’ll mean more to me than you’ll know and help me and my little book begin to grow fond of each other again.