Vito Delsante writes;

The common adage about writing anything is, “Write what you know.” Whenever I’m asked for advice about writing (which is surprisingly often, considering I’m not what you’d call a “household name”), I amend that to say, “Write what you know, learn what you don’t, and fake the rest.” I’ve written a few familiar faces (Batman, Superman, Red Sonja, even Albert Einstein) and when you work with someone else’s toys, it’s incredibly difficult to inject yourself into them. Not impossible, just difficult. Which is why I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve done on my new creator owned book, Stray, currently seeking funding on Kickstarter.

On the surface, Stray looks to be a typical Batman-clone, and I’ll grant you that. I am a huge Batman fan, and will probably die regretting the tattoo on my shoulder. However, I think to dismiss Stray as a send up is extremely premature. A few weeks ago, I wrote this sentence out:

“___man is dead, and it’s up to his former sidekick, R___, who now goes by ___, to solve his murder.”

That’s pretty damning. But what you don’t know, and what I do know, is what separates Batman from Stray. And this is the part in the conversation where I do a callback to, “Write what you know.”

My father died in a car accident when I was 15. This was made all the more tragic when you consider that I spent my entire summer before that October with him. I was a mess. No, I was a mess for many years after that. I faked my way through a lot of social interactions while inside, all I wanted to do was die. Not necessarily commit suicide; that was too much of a commitment. I was depressed and suicidal, but I was lazy about it. I wanted divine intervention to hit me and take me from the Earth. And I wasn’t particularly close to my father; it’s just that in those 3 months, we became really good friends. We made up for that lost time. But, it didn’t matter. Everything was a waste. I had never been able to take advantage of having a father (you know, talking to him about girls, cars, sports, or whatever). And now that was gone. It sucked.

Like I said, I walked around in a fog for a long time. I don’t quite remember how I snapped out of it, but I knew that at some point, I was going to have to talk to folks about it. In a way that, hopefully, helped them (and me). Along the way, I started creating comics. I came up with two characters, the Doberman and Rotty, and thought about doing a Silver Age comic mixed with Curb Your Enthusiasm called, Bad Dog. I tabled it. I started thinking about it more, working on other things, and realized I could tell a story that I had in my back pocket with these characters. I went to work on their tale…

And then something happened.

After I wrote all four issues, I gave them to my friend, Nick Florest, who is a hip hop artist that goes by the name of Varyus Waise. He went on Twitter and asked if anyone had any ideas for a concept album, and I replied, “How about a soundtrack?” He took the challenge. After reading the scripts, he delivered a song called, “The Stray.” And without realizing it myself (it took my wife one or two listens before she pointed it out to me), I found out that through Nick’s song, I had written about my dad’s death. My suicidal tendencies. My intermittent drug use. My climb back. The reclamation of my manhood. Someone else had to see it before I did.

This is my attempt at redemption (as well as Stray’s). This is my attempt at teaching by example.

This my story. I hope you’ll join me.


About Rich Johnston

Chief writer and founder of Bleeding Cool. Father of two. Comic book clairvoyant. Political cartoonist.

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