Part 2: There's Always Trade School
Where were we?
Oh, yeah, so there I was publishing my own mini-comics, and having a grand old time of it. Because my books were so well-received, I was asked by approximately nine million other mini-comics publishers to contribute to their books. I was busy, and I mean busy like Michael Jackson at an "Oil Up a Sixth Grader" convention. For a while my whole life became a blur of writing comics, correspondence (we actually still wrote letters in the early 90s, the Luddites and Amish that we were), and mailing out orders for my stuff. Any "free time" in the midst of all that was spent churning out articles ABOUT mini-comics for publications like Small Press Feedback.
In retrospect, it may sound like a lot of work for little pay off, but truth be told, I was having the time of my life. I was making lots of very cool friends, going to a ton of conventions, receiving a ton of great comics in the mail as trades (a staple of mini-comic society), and just generally doing what I love to do.
Along the way, I was also approached by a number of fledgling publishers about contributing to their full-sized indy comics, and I was overjoyed at the prospect of actually having a "real" comic sitting on the shelves of fine comic shops everywhere.
It was just around this time, however, that I realized two things about the comic book industry: (1) publishers are weasels, and (2) 95% of the best laid plans o' mice and publishers gang aft cattywampus. I don't know how many (probably well-meaning) small time folks with a grand idea and a vanity press contacted me about doing something for them, but it was damned near equal to the number of them who went under before ever producing a single issue of ANYTHING.
The worst was when a west coast company (which will remain nameless, not to save their pride or for legal reasons, but because I can't freakin' remember what they called their imprint) asked me to do a regular series for them. After some brainstorming, I came up with what could have been a very lucrative comic in the 1990s, a superteam book called Dawnrunners. The company paired me up with a very talented young artist named Brian Ching who was also new to the world of "pro" comics. Together we hashed out the basics, and went to work.
In record time, I'd written the first two scripts for the book, and Brian finished the penciled artwork for the first, and started on the second. We were stoked, and couldn't wait for issue #1 to hit the stands (I'm sure we both thought it would make us the next big thing in fandom). So we waited. And we waited. And...as you might guess, the company went merrily down the tubes, taking our beloved Dawnrunners with it. Unfortunately, as is always the case with these things, it was done on spec, so we didn't even get a little pocket change for our trouble.Eventually Brian would go on to do various comics, including Star Wars for Dark Horse (interestingly, we would both end up working on Witchblade, though not at the same time). And me, well, as you know, I became the hardcore legend of professional wrestling.
But that's a story for another time. The point of all this is that I would see my hopes for full-sized comics glory dashed on the rocks yet again. I began to think I just wasn't meant for comics that I didn't fold and staple myself.
Until...enter one Andrew Ford, a fellow mini-comics guy. Andrew had decided to kick it up a notch and publish a full-sized, b&w science fiction anthology, and he recruited from the ranks of his small press brethren for talent. I was teamed with artists Verl Holt Bond and Michael Neno, and we produced what I still consider to be a lovely little story called "One Small Step," a just slightly autobiographical piece about a man's love for the space program and the promise of space travel.
Because I was so happy with the story, I prepared myself to see it go down in flames like everything else. But for once my cynicism was thwarted. Andrew may not have had the money or resources of some of the other small publishers (as I recall, he and his uncle WERE the entirety of their AMF Comics imprint), but what he had that they didn't was chutzpah. His drive carried the project through, and within months, Cosmic Waves #1 hit the stands.
Well, OK, hit the stands is a bit melodramatic, especially since probably only a couple of thousand copies were printed, meaning that the chances of actually finding a copy in your local comics shop was about 100 to 1. And yeah, even if you did find it, the cover might not have induced your patronage, with its garish colors and unusual depiction of a boy choking a goblin (apparently his mom never told him he'd go blind from that).
But dammit, it was a full-sized comic book carried through Diamond and available in shops, and that was good enough for me. Yeehah!
We won't flash forward a few months to the first time I found a copy of Cosmic Waves #1 in a quarter box at a convention. You folks don't know me well enough yet to watch me weep like a widow woman...
Next: My holes are all cream-filled!