Thursday, September 29, 2011

Gear School short: The local angle

The short film based on my comics series, Gear School: Plug and Play has played in festivals all over the US and Europe, a fact that blows me away. But I am humbled by the fact that it has been selected as to screen at my hometown's film fest, The Salem Film Festival. Salem's festival has been named one of the top ten small film fests in the country by, so you know it's legit.

At the moment, I'm not sure when it will be screened, but I'll update the blog as more information becomes available.

And if you want to see a teaser trailer, I've posted it to this blog before.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Why a web comic now?

 Since 2008, all comics sales – single issue and graphic novels – have been in steady decline according to The one bright spot is that for the first half of 2011, graphic novel sales are up while single-issue sales continue to fall. (An aside: DC's rebot of their universe has given single-issue comics a bump, but there's no telling how long that bump will last and, once it fades, I don't think that DC can reboot its universe again.End of aside) The decline in sales of single-issue comics is significant because comics publishers have traditionally used these as a loss leader for graphic novels, toys and other merchandise. The Weekly Standard pointed out this practice in article, The Crash of 1993:

This might sound like an industry marching toward oblivion, yet in 2009, Disney paid $4 billion to acquire Marvel (DC was already owned by Time-Warner). The reason for this gaudy valuation is that the comic books themselves are no longer important to the comic- book industry. They’re loss leaders. The real money is in the comic-book properties, which power toy and merchandise sales, theme parks, and above all else movie franchises. Since
1997, 26 comic book adaptations have gone on to gross more than $100 million at the box office. Twelve of these grossed more than $200 million. More—many more—are coming soon to a theater near you.

 Italics are mine in that quote, by the way.

Increasingly, publishers are interested only in titles they believe can be exploited across other media, and they are less and less likely to take a chance on unknown properties.
Publishing first to the web, and gaining a following, seems to be a way to sidestep all of this. Penny Arcade  was among the first web comics to garner enough of a fan base to warrant a print edition (Dark Horse Comics published their books starting in 2006 and Del Rey stole them away from Dark Horse in 2010), but it's not the only one to see this sort of success. Publishers are also using webcomics in place of the traditional single-issue monthlies to build an audience. Avatar Press had great success with Warren Ellis's FreakAngels. Even first second, the comics imprint of traditional publisher, Macmillan, launched a webcomic, Mark Siegel's Sailor Twain.

And if one wants to eschew traditional publishers, webcomics are a way to attract an audience and self-publish. There are many examples of artists doing just this – Richard Steven's DieselSweeties (which also enjoyed a run as a print comic in several weekly newspapers based on its success online), Steve LeCouilliard's Much the Miller'sSon, and Ben Costa's ShiLong Pang, The Wandering Shaolin Monk are recent standouts. The lesson here seems to be that an audience will follow you from one medium to the next and, more importantly, support you financially if you can gain their loyalty.

Personally, I am leaning toward self-publishing once The Lonely Spaceman is completed, and there are a few different ways to gain funding for such a project. One is to apply for a Xeric Grant. The Xeric Grants were founded in 1992 by Kevin Eastman, of Teen-Age Mutant Turtle fame, with the express goal of helping independent creators pay for the production of their self-published comics. Tens of thousands of dollars are awarded every quarter.

Another means of funding your comic is to use a crowd-sourcing website like Kickstarter allows artists to post their projects on their site and ask complete strangers to pledge money toward their creation. Artists are only given the money of their projects are fully funded, but Kickstarter has a great track record of helping to produce comics. According to Publishers Weekly Kickstarter funds roughly as many projects as DC's Vertigo imprint. And it could be considered the third largest publisher of independent graphic novels in the US, behind only Dark Horse Comics and IDW. With the right pitch, a comics project has a decent chance of being successfully funded.

These factors, tradtional publishers embrace of webcomics and outside sources of funds for self-publishers, make me confident that a web comics project could actually be a viable commercial endevour. All one needs is a solid comics project.

Is The Lonely Spaceman such a project? I guess we're going to find out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Something you should read, weekend edition

The Big Sexy Problem with Superheroines and Their "Liberated Sexuality."
A couple of days ago, Laura Hudson wrote a great piece over at Comics Alliance about the way mainstream comics represent female sexuality. It really deserves to be read by everyone with an interest in the comics medium

This is something I think a lot about since I like to write female characters. I don't think I'm guilty of any of the offenses mentioned in the essay -- I hope I'm now -- but it's always good to be mindful, right?

Friday, September 23, 2011

What is The Lonely Spaceman?

The basics: The Lonely Spaceman is a full-color, 128-page comic written by me and illustrated by Matt Hope. It will be published to the web at (site currently under construction) at the rate of 3 pages per week -- a page will publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It will go live in mid-November and run for nearly a year.

So, what's the story? Well, it's sort of a SF fable. I also remember Joss Whedon mentioning about some episodes of Buffy that the metaphor was very thin. You could say that The Lonely Spaceman is a very thin metaphor It's about an astronaut who returns to Earth after a 200-year long mission to find the planet changed beyond recognition. The only way he can deal with it is to wear his pressure suit, his protective shell, everywhere he goes. The story is about how he learns to live without his protective covering. It has space pirates, romance, and a character based on Christina Hendricks in the Broken Bells music video "The Ghost Inside." So it's got that going for it.

Broken Bells "The Ghost Inside" from Jacob Gentry on Vimeo.

I found references to The Lonely Spaceman in various notebooks going back at least two years. The story hasn't changed much in that time, except that it used to be darker (and that it used to be called The Loneliest Spaceman). I decided to make it more whimsical because I thought that would be more palatable, and because I thought it would be more fun to write. I think everything I write starts out darker than it ends up in the final version. I am working on my issues, thank you very much...

As we get closer to the web site's actual go-live date, I'll be posting reminders. Many, many reminders, so you can check out the final product for yourself.

Next time: Why a web comic now?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Some things you should read

My Instapaper page is overflowing with good stuff lately. Here are a few examples. I think I may try and do a more regular links feature...

[A]n orgy of art for its own sake.
I'm lucky to know the graphic novelist, Craig Thompson, and I was very pleased to see his new book, Habibi, reviewed so well in The Guardian.

Embed a Comic Book on any Facebook Page.

Frankly, this just seems sort of neat.

Slave Labor... has decided to go digital-only with their periodicals.
This is a reflection of how terrible the comics market is at the moment. And a damn smart move on Slave Labor's part.

An interesting read, though I admit to being a bit self-serving since I hope to someday be a successful genre writer.

Ellen Ripley Is Clearly the Best Female Character in Scifi Film, and That's a Problem

John Scalzi speaks truth.

So, there's that done

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lonely Spaceman

I want to write a short series of posts about the new comic series I find myself working on. I hope this will prove interesting to someone other than me. Today's installment is pretty much just setting the stage and introducing the players.

Two, maybe three years ago, I stood on the stage at a Salem Ignite event and I told the audience how much I loved the Internet as a method of distributing... well, everything. I concentrated on comics and I closed with the promise that the next comics project I did would be published to the web.

It looks like I'm keeping that promise. I just didn't expect it to take this long.

I made several half-hearted attempts at getting a web comic up and running, but there were a couple of things that slowed down the process. The first is that a lot of people still see working in web comics as less prestigious than working in print comics. The second is that not a lot of artists want to work for no money up front with no guarantee of money on the back end. And, once I put it in those terms, it's not hard to see why they aren't beating down my door to work on such a project. I would definitely need to find just the right artist for this.

About that: It always helps to know people. In this case it helped a great deal to know Devon Devereaux. Devon is sort of a nexus of cool people (Malcolm Gladwell would call him a "maven") and when I told him that I wanted to work on a web comic, he immediately thought of someone I should contact – his buddy, Matthew Hope. Matt is a designer and he does illustrations for concert posters and other things. Devon sent me the link to his web site, Poor Man's Bread, and after poking around for just a minute, I knew I wanted to work with Matt. And I know on which project I wanted us to join forces. A lot of Matt's work has a SF feel to it and I've had a SF idea kicking around for several years. One piece in particular caught my eye and it's the piece that starts this blog entry. Often when I contact an artist about working together, I send them several ideas and let them choose which one most appeals to them. This time I sent just one idea: The Lonely Spaceman.

Next: What is The Lonely Spaceman?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Like a scene from a (lesser) Tennessee Williams play

As O and I were walking today, we strolled past the following scene:

A YOUNG MAN and YOUNG WOMAN stood on the sidewalk in front of a house. An OLDER MAN stood on the porch.

OLDER MAN: I have rules.

YOUNG MAN: I respect that, sir.


YOUNG MAN: Yes, sir.

OLDER MAN: I don't -- I don't want to be running a whore house.

YOUNG MAN (earnest): No, sir!

And then, thankfully, we were out of ear shot.