ymmv .15 – Writing the Love of your Life
I love writing Deer Editor.
I’ve written a small sample of comics, from 5 page shorts, to a collected trade of story that’s 100+ pages long, but pretty much everything has always been very hardwired to end. I know no one’s entrusting a six year plan to me, I can’t ask an artist for that sort of commitment, nor would I imagine I’m even that good yet. To build 59 issues to stick the landing in 60 is the sort of thing done so rarely, and only done so well by absolute titans of the game.
So I’ve written all my stuff to end, and I love endings. The way Headspace closed with that double page spread– gutting stuff from Eric Zawadzki. The upcoming double page spread we end on in Negative Space-– it’s going to slaughter fans of that mini as Owen Gieni and I bring it all to one final crescendo. Fatherhood was always building to that final splash. One of my very first shorts, Survivor, was all about the nut kick given on the final page.
I dig an ending. And if I’m only being given short games to play, well, you play that game of inches and don’t waste a fraction of it. Which means I often end brutally, I end permanently, and in sticking that landing I salt the earth. To come back would be to soften the blow, to undercut the hard work, to cheat the reader. It’s why none of those books/stories will ever get sequels. They. Are. Done.
But Deer Editor is the exception. The first issue, Kickstarted way back in September of 2014, was a crazy labour of love. Written on my phone while my one-month old daughter slept on my chest in the middle of the night– the only place she’d sleep, and only if I walked, so to the dark streets I went, tapping away at my phone while periodically checking over it to ensure I wasn’t walking into a ditch or someone’s living room. I took what was a funny typo joke from twitter, I did a little research on the phone, I percolated, then sifted through my noir lens, and the story came out. It was a beautiful process.
Then I took it to Sami. A guy I met through the glorious sungod made human, Ed Brisson, who introduced him to me and we’d not looked back. Sami and I worked on a pitch– which is about to launch as Chum, a miniseries from ComixTribe some 2-3 years after conception– and then we did this eight page short that’s the start of something big, and still not ready– and then I knew I wanted to work with him again. But there’s only so many times you can tap the same well, right?
I took Sami the script for DE #1 and told him that I loved this book and character and could only see it through his art and that I’d love to make it with him and I could front a small fee. A paltry sum, an offense to many, no doubt, but Sami had, for some reason or another, put his faith in me and we made the book.
Yep, we made that first issue over about 18 months. Y’see, Sami kept getting paying gigs, rates I could never meet, and so I’d tell him to go with the other gigs, I’d wait– I wasn’t going to take this story anywhere else, I’d let loose a Trojan into my Google Drive and destroy all the files before I’d take Bucky to another artist. So I waited, and he waited, and every now and then he’d tap away at a page or two. He was busy, but he always seemed keen.
Eventually, his dance card freed up for a minute and I slipped in and we twirled and held each other tight like lovers, and the result was this fantastic thing we’d created.
An anthropomorphic lead, a chance at some journalism noir, and we did it all with tablet page views in mind– so the pages are horizontal, designed for optimal use on tablets. And when we conceived of this, Marcos Martin and Brian K Vaughan hadn’t yet done The Private Eye so we felt like geniuses. We were by no means the first, but it still felt like the wild west. It still is pretty fun, but there’s a clear Sheriff in town now.
However, with these slight tweaks from the norm, the one-shot nature of this intro issue, and then we took it to Kickstarter, and with a digital only campaign, no less. We felt like we were making 21st Century Comics. It was fun, and scary, and in the end perfectly exhilarating.
Our Kickstarter was fully funded in about 25 hours, and we went on to 230% success, and people seemed to dig the book. I got to deliver the better number of dollars Sami deserved from the whole affair because we split it about 2/3s to him, as it rightly should go. Now, whenever I sell the limited run print versions at cons people always love it. Hell, Bucky is my con banner for a reason – beyond just the fact that Nic J Shaw’s design fu, and letters on the book, are sublime.
Deer Editor was the sort of moderate indie comic success I could hope for at my level. But I always wanted more.
While Sami kept getting paid elsewhere, and then he lost his mind and committed to all three issues of Chum, and got them done, I was in the background pecking away at more Deer Editor scripts. This thing was something I could not just shelve. I always wanted to do more, I always hoped, but these things are hard to align. Plus, Sami had just come off like three years and at least 100 pages with me, surely he needed a break?
Thankfully, hell no. As Chum wound up, Sami asked if we could ever get back to Bucky. I slid my well worn and polished script for the second issue across the table and Sami’s eyes practically lit up in email form. I was going to some weird places, stretching the character and the world, and Sami was down for it.
So he started working on art for the next issue, and I started scripting the third issue. And then getting ideas for future volumes, and I started realising I wanted to do this forever. I want to get to know the sideline characters more, I want to play in the alleyway vignettes as well as the bigger political issues. I want to live in this world.
Now, I know that’s not reasonable for any number of reasons. But this opening arc is three issues, and Sami’s going to manage it, and then we’ll probably close for a while. Sami’s so boss I feel certain Chum is going to get him thrown into yet more paying and high profile gigs– especially when they see what Mark Dale does with those pages with his colour alchemy. When you aim for surf noir, well, you gotta bring the pretty with the emotional.
For now, I’m going to be stoked to close an arc for Bucky. Making even a three issue mini in this climate of indie comics, and at my current level, is no small feat. Especially when you are graced with art on Sami’s level. So I won’t be too greedy or petulant. It’ll be a dream come true to have this little story be told, to have Bucky star in something that started as a one-shot and then expanded, and all because of Sami’s love and commitment.
Because Bucky feels like family to me now, I’m thinking about him a lot. I have a Lego minifig of him [which Sami made for me, because he’s just the best] and I know eventually, if we can manage it, we’ll come back. Because I feel like with Bucky we can do anything we want. The first issue is political noir like CHINATOWN but the second issue has vampires. The follow up cap on this story is somewhere in between, part RAISING ARIZONA and part THE ROOKIE. And of course all of those things thread – at least they do in this book. Anything goes, and Sami always goes with it, or makes it even more insane. I look forward to drawing from Dario Argento and/or David Cronenberg in future possibilities.
It’s wild to have this freedom. Freedom of world, freedom of getting paid directly through crowdfunding, and freedom of storytelling. That’s why DEER EDITOR is my baby, and if I can dip back in once every few years with Sami, maybe just on a short, maybe another 3 issue arc, something, anything, then that’d be the dream.
Because it’s fun to slam dunk a narrative close like you’re Barkley owning the key over all the kaiju, but it’s another thing to have this malleable and wild world to play in with one of your best friends.
We are Kickstarting Deer Editor: Fearless [our second issue] right now [CLICK THE LINK TO HIT THE CAMPAIGN AND GET YOURSELVES SOME ANTLER NOIR] and it’s got me smiling and sweating in the same moments. I’m sweating on getting Sami paid as well as we did the first time, but I’m also smiling that the comic is all done, and Sami is already sitting on thumbnails for the next one, and that we are going to deliver and I think the readership are going to dig hard on what we do with this follow up. It’s easily worth the 18 month gap. Easily.
If things go well, we’ll feel safe about Kickstarting the next issue to close this story. And if all things go well, well, maybe we can start to eyeball more future plans. Maybe, pie in the sky, this becomes somewhat sustainable. Wouldn’t that be the dream?
I know I want to write Iron Fist one day, and I have a killer Adam Strange jones that needs relieving, and working at Dark Horse has been amazing, but sometimes it’s just nice to know that the thing you are working on is something that you absolutely love.
You tip your hat forward, dig in your spurs, and ride into the sunset.