I’ll Spare You The Pun About Slaving My Life Away

Greg Boucher writes for Bleeding Cool:

The life of an independent creator is tough. Don’t let anyone fool you, making comics is hard work.

boucherI’m not talking about the writing. Coming up with new, colorful characters, dangerous worlds, interesting stories or brilliant dialogue is the fun part. If I could, I’d do it all day. It makes all the stuff I’m about to talk about worthwhile. Lots of other people love it and can do it very well, some, far better than I can. No, what I’m talking about is the tedious, non-creative, back-end kind of stuff. Things like securing artists, staring for hours at lettering samples, comparing colorist portfolios until everything becomes a gray blob and sending out countless submission packets.

For years, I trolled the Digital Webbing forums, cold messaging artists based off of their portfolios. Eventually, I wised up and made a post looking for an artist, to let the messages come to me. I’d tackle contracts on my own, which, paired with a non-disclosure agreement, were my security blankets. I would work out payment on my own, which is never fun because I’ve always paid from savings or out of pocket for each page. I always feel like I’m either ripping someone off or being taken. I’d court the artist on my own, which seems like no big deal, but getting the artist familiar with the project was always my least favorite part of the process. I can’t begin to describe how awful this part of the process still makes me feel. Somehow having to explain that my main character only has three fingers and a thumb and no visible ears gives me the kind of stomach aches that would keep most people in bed. I stress over telling someone that this scene isn’t giving me what I want to see, or that the main character just doesn’t quite look like the reference material. I’ve done most of my own work when it comes to getting my stories out to the world, which has always been hard for me as I don’t particularly like to talk myself up. I hate constantly asking my friends and family to share my page or tell their friends about my latest issue. It kills me to ask for their likes or shares. Somehow, through all of my attempts to resist self promotion, I’ve become a veteran of submissions. I’ve been told “no” enough times that it’s stopped hurting. I have to admit it hurt pretty bad the first time. I’ve waited months to hear the results of talent searches, only to be told I didn’t make the cut. You’re going to hear the word at some point and learning to deal with it is a lot like learning to fall. It hurts less and the best thing you can learn to do as an independent creator.

With all this stress and all this heartache, I keep going. It could be stupidity, it could be stubbornness, or it could be the faith I have in myself, but I refuse to stop trying to tell my stories because I still have stories to tell.

One of those stories is the reason I’m writing this. A couple years ago, after spending what seems like forever working on my superhero title, “True North”, I started writing a graphic novel loosely based on an old role playing character from when I was in middle school. The main character, Balibray, is a famous gladiator and killer with his own code of honor. The graphic novel, titled “Slave”, starts with the sale of a new crop of boys to a gladiatorial school. Balibray takes exception to having to room with one of the boys, named Nareth. An older gladiator and mentor to Balibray, tries to calm him down. This mentor, Gearas, takes Nareth under his wing while realizing the potential in him as he did with Balibray years before. Nareth is caught with a book, which is strictly forbidden within the school. Balibray is quick to claim ownership, realizing that Gearas actually gave Nareth the book. It isn’t long before Gearas, long suspected of sewing the seeds of revolt among the slaves, is sent into a fight against Balibray as a means of punishment. I refer to this in the book as a fight Balibray cannot win. After dealing with having to kill his friend and mentor, Balibray has his revenge on the people that run the school and the local slave trade. The original, 72 page graphic novel is available for download at Drive Thru Comics.

Slave3I’ve recently written a follow up to the original graphic novel titled “Slave: the Depths”. In it, I explore what that potential is inside Balibray. I tried to play with Lovecraftian themes in this book and really highlight the magic in the world. “The Depths” is actually two separate stories. The first half features terror on the high seas, a battle to the death and the Queen of the Depths, Ulay’amat. The second half features Wood Elves and Dark Elves. It delves a little deeper into the mythology of the world in Balibray’s quest to find “The Wandering King“, a folk hero from his youth. The second graphic novel is 86 pages.

I’m currently running a Kickstarter campaign because I want to continue the story. I recently became a father, and am unable to do this without help. I’m asking for that help. I feel that fans of the original will love the new stuff. I also want to bring the original graphic novel to a new medium. With the money, I plan not only to have the 86 pages of art completed “The Depths”, but I plan to have both graphic novels printed. Something I can share with you, to hold in your hands, to put in a bag and board and into a box, or to give to someone to pass on the joy of the medium. The print copy of the original graphic novel will also include the 10 page preview story. The artist for the first graphic novel, Aleksandar Bozic will be returning to do the art for this sequel. and we’re both pretty excited to work with these characters again. A $20 donation will get you a copy of each graphic novel. There are fun incentives all the way up from there until the $150 mark which actually gets you a cameo in the the book. I hope you are as excited about this as we are and look forward to your support.

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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.

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