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Looking back, looking forward

Funny, that title. I’m a Cub Scout leader as part of my non-comics life, and “Looking back, looking forward” is the name of a Webelos (older Cubs) adventure that involves personal and Scouting history. It has been one of my favorite adventures for the Cubs — at 5th grade, these kids barely have a history to reflect upon. But after 4-5 years of Cub Scouting, we can sit back and talk about the campouts, the Pinewood Derbies, the fun Den meetings, the crappy weather that we survived…and so on. The kids’ tales get just a little taller, the memories get a little rosier. A good time.

And wouldn’t you know, the Boy Scouts of America decided to cancel that adventure as of June 2022. Sigh. Don’t know what to make of them sometimes. Actually, a lot of the time.

I neglected to write a self-reflection in regards to 2021, and that’s more out of fatigue at trying to manage a holiday household as well as put out The 12 (Week)Days of Comics Crowdfunding. That was a lot more involved than I had thought going in! Finding time to go back and read books that I hadn’t read in months…and really reading them, finding deeper appreciation for the creative efforts and then conjuring up the words to express that.

I won’t say that I’m a purveyor of what some call “toxic positivity”, but I try to find the good in much of what I see — and I make an extra effort for creative efforts like comics. I mean, someone put in hours if not days, weeks or months trying to make this object. They put it out for the public to view and pass judgement upon. Regardless of the quality presented, they certainly tried to some extent. That deserves a positive mention, if only for the bravery demonstrated. So year, the 12 (Week) Days took some effort. Hope you enjoyed.

Let’s look back, because that’s what you do when you begin the Period in Which One is Confused While Writing Checks. 2021 was a watershed year for yours truly as it relates to comics. I largely put the books – big and small press – down “for good” in roughly 1989 when I was into my senior year of high school and heading off to college. 30 years later, I picked up the comics itch again and started reading my old stacks and purchasing new books once again. I filled gaps in my collection – so easy to do by comparison when you’re an adult!

And then, 2021, I got back into small press publishing once again with the prodding of United Fanzine Organization Chairman Steve Keeter. Without even a single new book published, the UFO membership unanimously agreed to my re-admission to the UFO. This still amazes (puzzles?) me. I was hoping to have a good quality book to put my best foot forward, but I guess that wasn’t necessary. Talk about riding your reputation!

I already had a few scripts written and one book, Hologram, in production. William Caddell and I stumbled across each other on Facebook, and we worked out a mutually advantageous partnership that saw three minicomics created this past year, among other things on his end:

My BIG book of the year, of course, was Heroic: Heroes Now. I tracked down most every creative partner still alive from my high school days and put together what I sorta-jokingly call “my omnibus”. Every hero story I wrote back then – even an unpublished one!

So many awesome creative friends pitched in to make this a special book with new work using our old characters. Anthony Gray, Donald Tenney, Dale Martin, Scott McClung…and, of course, Matt Kanaracus. The book wasn’t perfect (It will be when I do a second printing!!), but it was a LOT of fun to make over the months. And all of those old contacts and friendships re-established! What a great feeling.

That’s it for published work, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the first script I wrote upon getting back into the comics game, one currently being drawn as I type. Patriot is by far the biggest single script that I’ve written, and Tony Lorenz has been working on it for months and – as I type – is nearing the finish line. I suppose this is more of a “looking forward” bit, but the project been gestating for almost a year now (I first opened Google Docs to write the script in March 2021). So let’s close out the look back at Patriot with Tony’s first character sketch, where my suspicions that he was the right guy were confirmed:

And then, lastly, this website. A place to share thoughts, talk about comics, promote creative efforts and serve as a digital repository for my works. It’s fun to have a real-time outlet to share. Thanks to all who read my posts, to all who read my stories and to those who have followed and liked the site.

Looking forward?

Hologram is going to get back on track. We have 9 more issues to go in this arc! Stuff has happened, so far beyond our control but so 2021 when you look at it. Rest assured, William and I are going to do our level best to bring the train into the station.

The next book on the horizon is Patriot. Tony’s art is lights out-great, and Larry Johnson illustrated a pitch-perfect cover.

A 33-page story awaits, and we can’t wait to share it with you.  

I have a couple other projects in the hopper:

Strange Times – A new catch-all anthology covering presumably everything not involving heroes.

The first issue will offer a curious little sci-fi tale by Alan Groening and me. I hope he doesn’t mind that I’m sharing this early piece of conceptual art…don’t want to give the story away!

And no art on it yet, but I still plan to revive Heroic as an anthology featuring my heroes of old and, who knows, maybe some new ones. I have a couple story ideas floating around the inboxes of some friends…let’s see if they come to be!

Lastly, the 12 (Week)Days and my George Pérez tribute suggest that I’ll use this site to share other ideas about comics in general. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see a healthy sprinkling of that as well. Who knows, maybe a general comics reader who stumbles onto my site sticks around to read a story or two!

So that’s it. We’ve looked back and looked forward. 2022 has the potential to be an exciting year. Let’s keep the viruses at bay and enjoy the lives we have! Thanks for your welcome back into the comics fold, and here’s to great comics ahead!

3 thoughts on “Looking back, looking forward

    1. I’m doing a little of both.

      I started with a knee-jerk distaste for collected editions but have warmed to them over the months. Some titles I have been completing, like Chaykin’s “American Flagg!”, Comico’s “Jonny Quest” or Conway/JLGL’s “Atari Force”, aren’t available in collected books so I have to hunt singles. (But I did find a reasonably priced copy of Willingham’s “Elementals: The Natural Order” on eBay, so there’s that.)

      I’m finding my collected editions coming more for titles where I have a full set of the runs in question. Byrne’s “Alpha Flight,” Wolfman/Perez’s “New Teen Titans”, etc. For those, I just enjoy the feeling of having the larger volume and diving in.

      Then there are the oversized Absolute editions, which are filled with backmatter. The qualitative improvement in presentation makes those functionally brand new purchases to me.

      So consider me single-issue friendly but collected edition-curious on back issues.

      Going forward with new books, I’m finding myself disillusioned with the way periodical comics are written right now. They’ve taken Jim Shooter’s edict of “catch the reader up in every issue” and tossed it out the window. I have been reading a lot of comics on a monthly basis, so that quick catch-up was useful.

      Now, the periodicals exist to create collected editions…to allow publishers a chance to double(-plus?) dip on multiple editions of the same content…but the collected editions are driving the bus, not monthly sales. It now is near impossible to jump in on the middle of a story arc and understand what’s happening. The only writer I’ve seen still adhere to the “onboard new readers every issue” model these days is Brian Michael Bendis.

      As a result, I’ve been buying the first issue of promising stories or arcs. If I like them, I then mark the title down on a list to buy the collected edition when it is released.

      There are always some exceptions — I love Tom King’s post-Batman work and am buying those titles religiously, as well as Tom Taylor’s “Nightwing” — but, for the most part, I’m trade waiting after that initial toe dip in the pool…and the quality of reading experience is much higher.

      How about you? Is this an issue? If so, how do you solve it?


  1. I agree with you on the new stuff, especially. Not only is much of it not written for single-issue consumption, it’s not published that way, either: when print runs are based (largely) to meet pre-orders, it makes it easier to just pick up a trade paperback than trying to track down a missing issue. Another reason I’m leaning more towards trades is because of things like DCs new Human Target series (great Smallwood art on this one, btw!), which is liberally peppered with house ads. Ads which aren’t generating any income, but are essentially a publishing choice to break up the story flow of the thing I paid to read in order to promote other projects. Waiting for the trade will give me a more satisfying reading experience…

    Liked by 1 person

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