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Newsletter 12 September
You ready to get… dark? It’s been almost a year since the release of In the Dark of the Grove. And with September 1st having been declared the unofficial start of spooky season, I thought it was high time to do a book trailer.
Did you like it? It was an interesting experiment. More about that below. For now, please feel free to share the trailer far and wide. Every little bit helps. I’ll share it on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram too since those platforms love to hide YouTube content.
I got my comps for the Revealer One-Shot. What an exciting time. I gushed some on Twitter the other day about how much this meant to me. But I think I’ll post that here, too, for posterity.
I've loved comics nearly my whole life—starting with the mini-comics in MOTU figures when I was 5. Batman 89 really ignited it though. I wore out my friend's copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I submitted my first pencils to Marvel in 96 while I was still in high school. I quickly realized I didn't have the patience to be a comic book artist (hence my deep admiration for what they do) but as a poor, small-town kid with zero connections and zero resources, breaking in as a writer or anything seemed impossible. So I write prose. I work a day job.
I took a shot with my own comic book (as part of a doomed Kickstarter for a line of MOTU-style 5.5 figures) and I'm very proud of that comic (Eon Quest) but I think I can count the number of people who have read it on one hand. So having this opportunity means so much.
Huge thanks to the creative team who brought my little script to life. Dean Kotz for his art. So much of the story is about place and character, and he captured it all better than it was in my head. Carlos Badilla for the beautiful colors that captured a beautiful Chicago morning. And, of course, Jim Campbell for the lettering work. Lettering is often like CGI effects. You don't notice it when it's brilliant. Only when it's not. Also, I have to thank Adrian Wassel and the team at Vault Comics. Getting my work published by a company whose output I genuinely admire is the cherry on the top on all of this.
Finally, I have to thank my friends Luke Boyce, Tim Seeley, and Michael Moreci for giving me the opportunity to play in the world of Revealer. I know this might seem like a lot of gushing for 6 pages. But it's a first. And if you don't celebrate life's wins, what's the point? The comic comes out September 14 at your favorite local comic shop.
Things I’ve Greatly Enjoyed
Welcome back to TIGE! Another month, another recap of various media I’ve really been enjoying…
He-man and The Masters of the Universe (Netflix)
I wrote a lot about the first season of this in my journal last year when the first season hit. It’s 100% a show for kids. But I really enjoyed it as well. Which is pretty unusual as there’s very few kid-oriented animated shows I can actually watch to completion these days. Which is fine, because they aren’t made for me. Maybe it’s the fact that it looks gorgeous, or that these are characters I’ve loved for most of my life, but seeing this new version has been a joy. They radically altered everything from characters to designs to backstories. But it all works so well.
I bought the collector’s edition (with the BB capsule and other fun stuff) when the came came out, but because I’m such an infrequent video game player, I finally just got to the game. I adore it. It’s wild that Hideo Kojima was given the money to make this weirdo video game and that it’s been a financial and critical success. It looks gorgeous. Even seeing the rusting effects of “timefall” on your suit and vehicles is fascinating to me. I love the passive interaction with other players and the way it encourages cooperation. The sheer mechanics of managing your inventory and walking or driving around is a lot of fun to me. And the BTs are freaking scary. Very Lovecraftian. And then the cast! Norman Reedus. Mads Mikkelsen. Lea Seydoux. And then you have people like Guillermo del Toro whose likeness is used for some characters. It’s just a lot of fun. The world is fascinating and weird. I can see how not everyone would enjoy the game as it is. I think it’s made for a certain sort of brain and playstyle. It certainly is made for mine.]
Blood Stained Teeth
As much as I love comics, I’m pretty terrible about talking about series I love here. Part of that is it takes a long time to collect full stories. Part of it is that I go long stretches of not reading comics because my brain isn’t great at reading comics month to month any more. But Blood Stained Teeth is a recent entry from Image Comics by Christian Ward and Patric Reynolds. Vampires, much like zombies, have become so commonplace it’s kind of hard to get me excited about a new tale featuring them. What drew me initially to this book was the incredible neon-noir art by Patric Reynolds. But then the book really grabbed me with the story. It’s an interesting concept. The main character Atticus Sloane, has been turning people into vampires for the right price. This starts attracting a lot of unwanted attention, so he’s given the task of taking care of all the people he’s turned… permanently.
Revival by Stephen King
I am a latecomer to King. I’ve read most of his stuff from The Outsider onwards, and then have just randomly picked other titles from his back catalog. Some classics. Some less well regarded. Revival sits somewhere in the middle. But enough people whose opinions I trust talked favorably about it that I had to give it a go. Now, King likes to take the long road to a story. He can meander here and there. I actually think that’s usually a bonus and not a defect. This one took a little more time to get going than most. Part of my perception of this is probably colored by the fact that I didn’t even read a synopsis of the book. In any case, the book was extremely rewarding to me. Mike Flanagan (Gerald’s Game, The Haunting of Hill House, Midnight Mass) was supposed to follow up his excellent Doctor Sleep adaptation with an adaptation of this book. Man, I’m sad that didn’t happen after audiences sadly slept (no pun intended) on the other movie. I hope one day he can get it made somewhere.
Profound Mysteries I by Röyksopp
I’ve been a fan of Röyksopp since Melody AM. The Understanding is, perhaps, my favorite album but The Inevitable End is pretty far up there too. That last album was something of a hurrah for the duo. It was to be their last traditional project as they focused on other kinds of projects. So, it was a happy surprise when they returned with the multi-media, multi-part project Profound Mysteries. Parts I and II are out now. I’ve only had a chance to listen to part one for the most part. It has guest vocals from favorites of mine such as Allison Goldfrapp and Susanne Sundfør. The album runs the gamut from melodic piano to electro-pop. All of which I’m very much into. I haven’t even explored the more multimedia aspects of it yet. I’m excited to get the 6-disc vinyl of it in November.
The Last Goodbye by Odesza
Another electronic group whose work I’ve admired for a long time. I’ve listened to their albums A Moment Apart and In Return countless times, and have both on vinyl. The new album did not disappoint. I’ve listened to it a ton since it came out. Electro-pop, electronic, with dashes of soul, and even a little spoken word in the beginning. Like many of their albums, it feels like they take you on an emotional journey via song. It’s an album I find equally pleasing as an “active listen” where I’m relaxing and just taking it in and as “background” music when I’m writing or working.
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Substack-ing the Pros and Cons
Last month, I mentioned I wanted to do a little reflection on my time here so far on Substack. I came onto this platform partly because some comic creators I admire were doing so. It’s how I heard about Substack, to be honest. These creators got pretty hefty grants for their first year. It’s been interesting, as that year is over and their business model changes, to see how they’ve adjusted. Some are pretty much giving up using it to create comics. Others are scaling back. Some, like Scott Snyder, are pretty much keeping the course. But in his case he was doing comic book writing classes. I think the only people still producing comics and forging ahead is Jonathan Hickman and crew at 3M3W.
Making comics is not cheap. Without that big grant, looking at the financials, I’m sure some things were just not adding up. I mean, indie comic books as a business aren’t the biggest money makers out there to begin with. There’s a perception that comics don’t feel “as real” when they’re not printed and sold at a shop. Another example is Trixie Mattel and Katya’s Gooped substack. It recently folded, with a message about how, basically, this is a lot of work. For people like Trixie and Katya, who have other venues for creativity and making money, I’m guessing the time output versus the money made just didn’t make sense.
“But what, you ask, does this have to do with you, Jon? You are not a successful comic book creator or drag queen!” You are correct, but I was intrigued by the many parallels I felt with my own situation. I work a day job. All my writing takes place outside of a 40 hour week. It’s a second job, basically. One I love and am passionate about, but it’s still work. Trying to be some sort of content creator (shiver) is like a third job. I admire the hustle some people have. Endless streams of energy to make more and more content to feed the gaping maw. That’s just not me. I tried hard at the start, with new stories every couple months along with illustrations and audio versions of the stories. It was too much. It not only took away from my free time, but it took away from my writing time.
Now, I never expected to make money at Substack. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, to be honest. I like trying out new platforms and things, but I’m always a little wary too. How many different media platforms have you tried out that never caught on or fizzled out? I’ve tried plenty. But what I had hoped to do was grow my audience beyond my friends and family. My subscriber base is currently sitting at “26” after one year. I love each and every one of you. But, if I’m considering where I put my time and effort, is this the right venue? That’s the question I’ve struggled with.
So, my ultimate decision is to keep moving forward with this newsletter. It might get less frequent, unless I have something of substance to talk about. And I think I’m going to start cross-posting on my blog in case Substack kind of withers off. But I do plan to do a few more short stories I’ve had in my pocket from time to time, as the ability to easily publish those to podcast format is appealing. I had an idea to monetize the newsletter by serializing a book I’ve had written for a while now. It’s part of a series. I’m putting that plan on hold, and will look for other venues to share that story.
A little behind the scenes / further thoughts about the imagery in the trailer above. I had been using Midjourney AI to make some character tokens for a D&D game I’m DMing soon. It was fun to play around with, and it occurred to me that maybe I could get some creepy imagery out of it for a trailer. AI artwork is something I’m of two minds about. For this particular project, it was fantastic. I really loved the results, but then again I wanted a nightmarish feel and it can supply that very well. But I’ve seen things on social where people submit AI-generated images for art contests (and won!) or try to create comic books from them.
As an artist myself, that is much harder to swallow. I think there’s some great, practical applications for it. But I also fear it’s overuse. I imagine AI-generated creative work is going to undergo (and re-undergo) evaluation for years and years to come. Is it a tool? Or is the AI the actual artist? Is the person putting the prompt in the artist, or are they more like a client? Can an amalgamation of references be something new? There’s a lot to think about here. I have reflexive fears, but I am intrigued to see how it will develop. As a former graphic designer, it’s hard not to think about the havoc that templates and apps and software have had on that field. And the results, while sometimes good, are often generic and even just plain bad.
I believe the current iteration of AI art will fall out of fashion quickly. If everyone is able to produce nightmarish dreamscapes, then no matter how pretty or scary or intriguing they are, they’ll become old hat. I used this imagery in my trailer very much aware of that. Strike while the iron is hot, I suppose. It definitely isn’t a replacement for doing art myself, or hiring artists. But for the purposes of this? I think it worked.
Scenes from Gay Domesticity
True snippets of my life with my partner.
Sign that we watched too much Food Network / August 31, 2012:
Me: I could make the Chili
Paul: No, there's no time to develop the flavors!
Me: That's true.
Thankfully, we now have an Instant Pot and there’s plenty of time to develop those flavors. Phew.
Your Monthly Memorable Internet Image
A not-by-me image I stumbled upon.
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