A little over seven months ago I was operating on four hours of sleep at night if I was lucky, piloting a big deck United States Navy amphibious warship loaded with over two thousand sailors and marines and packed with more firepower than you can believe humanly possible on a mission that took us through the merciless waters of the Arabian Gulf. Upon entering the mouth of this ancient sea via the Strait of Hormuz, we were quickly visited by the not so welcoming IRGCN (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy), who comprise the wild cowboy branch of the Iranian Armed Forces whose history dates back to the the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
These militant daredevils, traveling at speeds of greater than forty knots in their small, commercial, souped-up high speed boats, outfitted for war, would swarm around us, baiting us, pointing their rocket-propelled grenades “down range” and in our faces, fingers close to the trigger. And when we didn’t have one of these pestilent, gun-toting, self-proclaimed freedom fighters on our tail, we’d be dodging a mob of dhows, the generic moniker for Arabian and North African fishing vessels, their small hulls made of wood, rendering them, at times, almost impossible to detect on radar.
At night, when the moon was absent, everything would be quiet, still, empty and then you’d see a gathering horde of lights closing fast. And emanating from these wooden-hulled boats all clustered together were the colors purple, pink, whatever lights these fishermen could possibly get their hands on so as to identify themselves, at as close of ranges as a thousand yards, sometimes an eerie five hundred. I’d order a new course as fast as possible, or, at times, be forced to barrel our way through the Arabian fishermen, hoping they were aware of us as much as we were of them. And hoping, better yet, that a stray smuggler wasn’t also armed to the teeth with explosives and consumed by a terrible hunger for death and destruction.
There were nights, however, when it was total peace. Forty thousand tons of haze gray painted steel steaming through a foam of preternatural blue floating on the water’s surface. The scientists, with their need for categorizations and taxonomies, call this brilliant phenomenon bioluminescence. And when we weren’t admiring the ocean’s mysteries or the crescent moon at night, we’d hear the chattering of fishermen and commercial sailors on the radio making catcalls, chanting all sorts of vile indecencies about human genitalia and nonsense. The one nonsensical phrase that seemed to enter into the consciousness of the VHF spectrum of radio waves about almost every night was Filipino monkey. You’d literally hear dozens of fishermen scattered in the night repeating the phrase for hours on end, keeping themselves occupied.
I was a junkie for the sea, preparing mentally, physically, spiritually for the onset of a conflict, so juiced up with adrenaline and nerves that I didn’t even realize it might have been healthy to take a nap. And then I found myself in a grocery store when I returned home, deciding which bananas were most ripe. I remember a women in front of me in the grocery line, energized because she thought I cut her off. I let her go in front of me. “Well, you can go ahead if you’d like,” she stammered. It was probably the incident of the most ultimate existential concern for her that day and all I could think to myself was, “I don’t give a shit, lady. Just go ahead of me.”
And so I picked up an old hobby of mine that I had been too busy to focus on in order to ease back into life on land. Writing comics. And, fittingly, I decided to write about something I felt like I could, in a way, relate to. The real life nineteenth century American sailors who fought in the Barbary Wars off the coast of Tripoli seemed to work. This was an exciting, tumultuous time whereby America’s future was in no way secure and where the officers who led these ships were driven by a resolute desire for glory and country.
With a little bit of research I began writing the script for Preble’s Boys: Legends of the Officer Corps – the historical fiction, seafaring adventure of Commodore Edward Preble and the young officers who served under him, who later would go on to serve in the War of 1812. Although I don’t want you to think that this comic is just a simple retelling of the real life legends of Edward Preble, Stephen Decatur, Andrew Sterett, President Thomas Jefferson, and more, fighting the pirates in a conflict with considerable parallels to my own adventure. I really wanted to convey and even embellish, without diminishing the overall credibility of the story, the overall grandeur of the tale – the masculine-riddled energy of the officers, the duels, the battles at sea. Even the pirates and their beautiful traditions, their exotic gardens and the harems of the Barbary leaders, rolling with gorgeous, scantily clad, sensuous women. Think of a threesome with Vikings, Zenescope’s rendition of Grimm Fairy Tales, Master and Commander and now you have Preble’s Boys.
But, as we all know, no comic worth its salt can live on writing alone. You need fantastic art. And so I was fortunate enough to join forces with some of the best new faces in comics. Artist Crizam Zamora and colorist Dinei Ribeiro, who are recently coming off a huge success with Dynamite Entertainment’s The Precinct, have been working diligently on helping to bring this beautiful project to life. These two artists also continue to work for Zenescope and Dynamite on several other projects, Swords of Sorrow being one of them. I have also brought a talented letterer and designer, Deyvison Manes, on board. I’m positive we’ll be hearing his name more in the future.
Now the only issue is getting enough money to finish the project and see it go to print. We are close to finishing the first twenty-two page issue and are scheduled to see it done within the next month and a half. But to see the first issue of an intended eight issues series go to print we need support. Lots of it! The project has been recently placed on Kickstarter, and we are looking for crowd funding. And fast. Currently ten dollars earns you a free digital comic and fifty dollars earns you a free printed and signed first edition issue.
My team has also decided that if you help fund this project and help us earn two thousand more dollars collectively by the next two weeks then everyone who contributed will also receive a signed cover poster of the comic or, for those who cannot get enough of Crizam Zamora’s artwork, a copy of the Precinct signed by the artist himself. Your choosing. That’s our Bleeding Cool initiative! We hope you enjoy.