New Year's Resolutions.
Lose weight. A substantial amount of weight.
Save money. A substantial amount of money.
Find a publisher for the FEMME NOIR miniseries.
Maintain a weekly schedule on the FN webstrip.
Try not to be so grumpy.
Hey....anything's possible, right?
Greatest movie trailer ever.
Yesterday morning, while I was taking my shower, my wife was surfing the web on my computer (I have DSL). She read a few of her regular comic strips and then swung by the Apple Quicktime movie trailer page to see what was new. Next thing I know, she's dragging me from my shower to see the greatest movie trailer ever: SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.
Shot entirely without sets or locations, everything but the actors in this film which is a perfect realization of a '30s pulp universe is created digitally. The trailer looks amazing, like a Republic serial with ILM effects or a Max Fleischer Superman cartoon brought to life. I can't wait.
Back when STAR WARS: EPISODE 2 came out, I lamented how unworthy the story seemed to be, and mentioned to Ron Fortier how cool it would be if today's digital "world-building," so well demonstrated in Lucas' films, were applied to some classic serial or pulp characters like Flash Gordon or Doc Savage... but would you believe Captain Midnight? Well, that's who Sky Captain and his Flying Legion most remind me of (or maybe the Blackhawks), and I am so thrilled.*
*Coincidentally, in about a month or so, "An Eye For A Spy" will introduce SUPERNATURAL CRIME's own aviation hero...The Midnight Eagle!
Occasionally, in with all the porn, international money-laundering schemes, viagra discounts and prescription med offers, I receive an e-mail about SUPERNATURAL CRIME and the characters on the site. Today I received a missive from Roninja, who writes: Isn't Brother Grimm a combination of The Shadow and The Crow?
Well, first of all, it's "Grim" with one "m."
While there's no question that The Shadow is an influence especially visually, with his large snap-brim hat and black, flowing trenchcoat a more apt comparison to a pulp character would be the Shadow's more psychotic competitor, The Spider. On the other hand, The Crow isn't really an inspiration, because I originally came up with Grim about five or six years before The Crow movie was released, and I never read the James O'Barr comic until after the film came out.
Secret Origin of Brother Grim: Years ago, I met a guy who'd bought the rights to some old comic book characters originally published by ACG in the Fifties. We met at a small weekend comic convention in New England, and he was impressed with some of my early indy comics work. He suggested that I come up with modern versions of some of the characters, no doubt figuring that I'd work cheap (he was right). One of these was a superhero called Nemesis. Nemesis was an FBI guy who died in the line of duty, but his spirit was sent back to earth by a mysterious entity, where he took over the body of a dead gangster. To me, this meant that he was really basically a zombie, even though the original publishers never dealt with that. So as a horror fan, I thought it would be cool to take this Fifties superhero and turn him into a much darker character. Well, nothing ever happened with that guy, but a lot of what I developed for a revised Nemesis character was incorporated into Brother Grim a few years later. When Ron Fortier became involved, he added all sorts of new stuff to the concept, bringing the character even further away from its inspirations.
So while the character of Brother Grim is visually influenced by pulp characters like The Shadow and The Spider, the undead aspect comes more from my interest in horror films and fiction, not from any specific character like The Crow.
Thanks for your interest!
UNION STATION & DAMNED.
A few days ago I received copies of two new graphic novels in the mail.
One was UNION STATION, by Ande Parks and Eduardo Barreto, published by Oni Press. It's a historical crime novel very much in the tradition of Max Allan Collins' ROAD TO PERDITION and its sequels (has ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION: SANCTUARY come out yet?), very well written by Parks, a well-known comics inker. This is his first pro writing credit, and it's an impressive debut. The art, by Barreto with whom I worked on Tekno*Comix' MIKE DANGER comic a few years back along with the aforementioned Collins is sublime. Eduardo is an extraordinary artist, whose style is ideal for books like this one. (I really should get back in touch with him...) His art in UNION STATION is among his best ever. Based on true incidents, the book is remarkably well-researched and is impossible to put down.
The other was the collected edition of Steven Grant and Mike Zeck's DAMNED, originally published as a miniseries by Homage Comics, and now in a nice trade paperback from Cyberosia Publishing. I don't always care for Grant's writing, but I did like his PUNISHER work (especially the RETURN TO BIG NOTHING graphic novel), and his style is perfectly suited to hadboiled stuff like this. As for the art, Zeck's work here is a revelation. Generally percieved as an extra-slick, mainstream superhero stylist, Zeck, in DAMNED, shows a side to his art that is much grittier, realistic, and just plain amazing. I've read and re-read the original issues of this story 'til they're about to fall apart, so this collected edition is especially welcome.... and recommended.
Making money with webcomics.
I got an e-mail today from a fellow from Chile. It read, in part: "Me and a friend are developing a comicbook miniseries. Here in Chile there is no comic industry, and most people don`t even know that comics exist. But on the other hand, there`s enough people with access to the Internet to make something interesting. So, we are thinking about making it as a webcomic, at least initially, although we don`t think somebody here would pay to see a comic online. That`s the reason I`d like to ask you about your experience putting your comics on the web for free. I`d like to know if you make any money with it and how. We`d like to know if there`s a way to do it and receive at least something that could make us think about continuing developing comic stories in the future."
Well, this got me thinking.
I've been offering my comics for free here and at Atomic Pulp for some time. Haven't made a cent of any of them, except for the brief time that Gravedigger & Perils on Planet X were part of the ill-fated AdventureStrips subscription site, and then it wasn't more than a few bucks. Femme Noir also appears over on Kevin Smith's Movie Poop Shoot site, and I'm not paid for those, either.
From talking to other webcartoonists and from my own experiences, there seem to be only a handful of ways to make money with webcomics. You can charge subscription fees, either alone or as part of a larger subscription site, like Modern Tales. You can ask for voluntary contributions with a virtual "tip jar." Or you can sell merchandise like t-shirts, mugs and print collections.
Now, I never expected to make much money with webcomics. I started SUPERNATURAL CRIME simply to have an outlet for my creative efforts. Joe Staton and I originally figured that the potentially wide exposure and lack of editorial interference was more than enough reason to do Femme Noir online, and we haven't changed our minds. But, I must admit, I often wonder if the time and effort that my collaborators and I put into our comics is appreciated by even the small number of regular readers we have. I try to maintain very high standards of quality with these strips both art-wise and story-wise. Take a quick look around the 'Net and compare Femme Noir or Brother Grim to most of the webcomics out there, and tell me how many look or read better. There may be a few, but I humbly believe we're among the most professional-looking strips on the web.
Professional quality takes time... and sweat. Which is one of the reasons why we've rarely managed to stick to a weekly update schedule for more than a few months at a time. When paying work or other commitments come up for me or any of the SC creators, they have to take priority. If SUPERNATURAL CRIME earned any income, it would be the priority.. but it doesn't.
I don't charge anything for access to SUPERNATURAL CRIME's comics. Neither do I have Google banner ads, or obtrusive pop-ups, even though adding them to the site would generate revenue for me. There's no PayPal or Amazon tip jar, and I don't have any plans to add one. As long as I can continue to pay for the hosting of the site and can find the time to work on the content, I won't. Probably.
I make these comics because I have to. I also thrive on creative collaboration with talents like Joe Staton, Ron Fortier, Delfin Barral, Rick Burchett, Jon Plante and others. And as long as I think people are reading them and appreciating them, I'm going to try and keep them coming for free.
Um...people are appreciating them, right?
I get very little e-mail regarding the site, and when we had an active Forum*, very, very few used it. When I had a CafePress store here on the site offering SUPERNATURAL CRIME t-shirts, mugs and whatall, nobody (except for my mother-in-law, God bless her) bought anything (although with CafePress's markup, I can understand that, I guess the stuff was pricey). Don't get me wrong the e-mails I do receive are greatly appreciated, and go a long way towards keeping new material coming. But more would be better.
Anyway, I'll be writing back to my new friend from Chile, and I'm going to be honest about it. If making money with his online comics is what it will take to keep him creating, then he's going to have a tough time of it. Maybe like me he'll find a different sort of satisfaction in it. I hope so.
*Right now I'm leaning toward reviving the Forum, as soon as the Moll and I can get one set up with our new hosting company. If I do, I hope more people will take advantage of it. Discussion will never be limited solely to SUPERNATURAL CRIME and other Mills creations if you're a fan of my comics, we probably have other common interests, too.
Don't call this a "blog."
I don't know what a "blog" is. I'm guessing it's short for something. But whatever a "blog" is, this isn't one.
It's a journal... of a sort.
For much of my adolescence, I kept a journal, but in recent years I'd fallen out of the habit. For some time now though, I've felt that it would be to my benefit to resume the practice, and this website seemed a good place to do it. But don't get the impression that I believe that I'm such an interesting fellow that the public is aching to read my deepest thoughts (frankly, they're generally not that deep) I'm an egotist, but not that much of an egotist.
I won't be writing things here on any fixed schedule. But, when I have something to say or desperately need to vent, or just want to share my reactions to a movie or book or graphic novel that I've recently seen or read, I'll write something here. Whenever something happens in regards to the various projects I'm working on SUPERNATURAL CRIME-related or otherwise I'll report it here. If there are momentous events in my personal life especially if they have an impact on this site or my aforementioned projects I'll probably mention them. I don't expect that this will be "required reading" for anyone.... but I hope that it will be, on occasion, interesting and entertaining.
Right now, I'm reading GUN MONKEYS by Victor Gischler, a great Florida crime novel. It's pulpy, fast-paced and fun. I haven't finished it yet, but it's shaping up nicely.
Last night I watched the Warner Brothers classic THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, which was recently released on DVD. It stars George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino in a rather odd mix of story genres. It's one of those movies that starts out as one thing, changes direction midway through, and then ends up somewhere else entirely. A minor classic, directed by the great Raoul Walsh, with great performances from the entire cast. It's one of those films that really inspires me, with crackling dialogue and just plain meaty melodrama the kind of storytelling that an audience can really sink their teeth into, and the kind of storytelling that I aspire to. It may be considered "old fashioned," but maybe I'm just hopelessly old fashioned myself.