Monday, April 7, 2014

My First Legit Comic Cover (and how it happened)!

Just a bit of cool news for those of you who follow me as an artist.

But first, the not always cheery backstory.

As you may or may not know, my childhood dream had always been to animate for Disney. That was before computer animation took over. I also never got trained in animation, because when I started college, Disney was saying they wanted people with Fine Art degrees (they would handle the animation training), so I kinda ended up getting a degree that wasn't exactly my style. When I graduated, Disney's views on that had reversed. But, they were doing more firing than hiring anyway. It was all going computerized. So, there I was with an art degree and no idea what to do with myself. Not to mention, I didn't go to the best college for dating, so I didn't even have the supportive girlfriend to keep me from falling into the vicious depression that claimed my prime years. I was, for all intents and purposes, a shut in for around 7 years. No foolin', I was in a very deep, dark depression, though I kept it mostly to myself.

At some point though, a very sweet person whom I never really got to know well enough to remember the name of at this point, told me about a website called DeviantArt where people posted their art, got feedback, interacted and all that, and I gave it a shot. I hadn't done any art for like 7 years. Seriously. And suddenly, I was at it again, even getting the occasional commission. I also met someone who had a website called Werewolf Cafe, and this also got me doing more. I started doing a pre-Moonlight Motel werewolf comic for them. I was writing and drawing again. I started trying to find a local magazine that would publish another of my three or so comic strips I'd created during high school and college, but before I had any luck with that, I combined my strips to create Moonlight Motel. I got in touch with a college buddy who published one of those free magazines you see in all the stores, and he started running Moonlight Motel in it. I don't, in every case, remember how I got started with some of this stuff, but at some point, I started dabbling in independent film too, what there was of it in the town I used to live. They were trying to make it a big thing there, though I don't think that ever happened, ha. But, for a while, I did some storyboarding, creature design, promo art and stuff for film people down there. I was mainly hoping to get some work in front of the camera, but that never happened with that group (almost, but the biggest project I was working on and had an acting role in shut down before production), so I started doing some stage acting, a very brief stint anyway, with a local college. I had a tiny role in Alice in Wonderland one summer, and did a bit of work with their sketch comedy team at a local festival. By then, it was probably, oh, 2009 or so...  

During that personal Renaissance, I also got involved on a graphic novel project with a local writer I had met on one of those independent film projects (the big one that fell through, mainly due to disagreement among the producers). He had this dream of a 5 part series of graphic novels centered on a young druid and a barbaric warrior, and their adventures traveling the world and encountering notable myths and legends of history along the way. He needed an illustrator, and I needed a breakthrough project, but I had no experience with illustrating comic books (only reading them). We got to work, and eventually, we had a finished product. We took it to a comic con and handed some out to people in the biz, and we tried other stuff to get it out there to, though in most cases I don't think we were doing the right stuff. I was pretty much letting the writer field it all since it was his dime and he had some pretty strong ideas of how he wanted to do things. I can't say I was all that proud of the project. It was my first try at doing a comic book, and I didn't have a knack for it yet (still getting the hang of it, and my style is always going to be a bit too cartoony for the big name titles). Besides that, the printer screwed up on the cover. It wasn't great, but it would have at least looked a little better if they'd let it bleed to the edges, as it was supposed to... Well, anyway, the writer adored the finished product, and we pressed on. That first book was all black and white, something else that didn't help it impress people, but we sold a few copies. We soon got to work on book two, simultaneously working on a color version of book one that was being broken up into comic issues. Book 2 never got very far. The first part of Book 1 in full color did make it to print. It was a huge improvement over the black and white graphic novel, though still not perfect. We took it to the comic con again, sold a few copies, but shortly after this, the writer, as far as I know, disappeared from the face of the Earth. No idea what happened to him. He just vanished from my knowledge.  

As I said, this brings us to around 2009 or so, when I was working as a graphic artist at Fast Signs, where I'd been for a year or so I guess; a job one of my two best friends landed for me. This was very helpful, because I have no luck with applying for jobs. I mean, in all that time, I did apply for a lot of stuff. I had a couple of minimum wage jobs here and there, but they were only temp jobs. Even with a college degree, that's all I managed to get hired for. And, I'll be honest, I was not the best graphic designer either. I'm a cartoonist and illustrator, pure and simple, ha.  Anyway, my main focus at this point was Moonlight Motel, which I was being published in my friend's magazine at the time. However, my younger sis was living in Austin by then, and she wanted me to come be her roommate, and I'd had plenty of living in the Valley already (with still not a single date to show for it), so I took her up on it. I think it was 2010 when I moved up to Austin. It is hard to tell, because my dad also got diagnosed with Leukemia as I made plans to finally move out. I should have held off, but I had already given notice to leave my job and everything. I spent most of that year driving back and forth between Austin and the Valley. My mom was diagnosed with cancer not long after my dad. I was pretty stressed out. I had been getting into shape, and that fell through with all that was happening. I developed psoriasis from the stress. I had met the girl of my dreams in Austin, and things had initially seemed to be going great, but that went down fast since all the back and forth was keeping us apart and also preventing me from finding a new job.

Still, through it all, I had been doing a bit better with my art. I was getting more commissions, and I was doing more for my comic strip, even though I had pulled it from that Valley zine and was focusing on making this website for it. DeviantArt was my main source for commissions, and somewhere during this rough time, I got contacted by GrayHaven comics through there. They needed some artists fast to fill in some gaps, and I landed my first illustration gig for their new, independent company. Okay, this is where I cut to the chase.

For the last 4 plus years, I have been doing random illustration jobs for GrayHaven comics. Their company, which mostly (but not exclusively at this point) publishes anthology comics that bring together several authors and artists in each book, has been growing like crazy. I've illustrated stories in 5 of their books now, and had a sampling of cover art published in a 6th. It's been a big boost for me, got me a gig illustrating a webcomic for that will be published as a book in the near future, and besides that, though it took some time (as I said, not good with landing day-jobs, ha), I eventually found work in Austin to pay the bills and support my attempt at building this sorta late-in-coming career in comics (of all kinds) and illustration. Got into a great apartment last year too, still roommates with my sis, and though I've got a lot of things in my life to fix still and have yet to find someone to cuddle with at night (it's so easy for most people, isn't it? I never seen to even meet anyone who is single though, and that 7 year depression and no-fun college really screwed me over in the dating experience department), and though I lost my father and a cousin, and nearly lost my mother over the past few years, not to mention totally losing my heart, there were some good moments here and there too, and recently, I had a great one... So, enough of this history of my life, what am I rambling about? So sorry for the hold up, this may have been a little overblown. I thought it was going to be only a paragraph or two...

Well, a few weeks ago, GrayHaven Comics came to me again to ask me for a bit of an emergency rush job. They needed an artist for a cover and a one pager in their upcoming, kid-centric anthology comic, "Hey Kids", and they knew I had been wanting to do a cover. This was right up my alley too, considering my style. By the way, that's the great thing about GrayHaven. It doesn't matter what your style is! Mine usual style is cartoony, of course (though I hope they know how flexible I am, and that I can do realistic stuff too, ha). I of course jumped at the chance to do a cover. With the theme of this issue being Sunday Funnies, one would figure the cover should include some of the characters that would be featured within the book, since I can't really put Garfield and the Peanuts on the cover, and I didn't really wanna put parodies of them either (though I almost went with that option). Well, I at least knew that GrayHaven fave Commander Cosmo was in the book, since I was illustrating his one page story for it too, so I took that as a possible focus, and I sorta channeled the style I had seen on the comics I grew up reading for years, Disney comics. You know, Uncle Scrooge and all that. It's a much simpler style than what you see on a DC or Marvel book most of the time. Anyway, I got it done and got it in just under the wire, my 6th book for GrayHaven to have illustrated a story within, and now it is in print for you all to go purchase! The book is "Hey Kids: Sunday Funnies," and you can click on the image of my cover below to go to the page and order it. No, I do not get any money from the sales, but it still would be cool if you did, and I'll sign it for ya if you ever ask me to, ha. I'm pretty proud of this one, and it's my first ever comic cover art gig for a real comic company! Woohoo! Hoping they MIGHT publish my still-in-development Moonlight Motel graphic novels in the near future! Okay, I am soooo late for bed it's not even funny. Honestly, I may have to find another day-job soon if I don't start getting more sleep!

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