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Well, here I am with a kickstarter. Me and my friend Martin Dunn are trying to get funding for a pretty awesome graphic novel we’re co-writing based on an idea and story by his 7 year old daughter Evie. 

Evie’s dog Rosco passed away a few months back, and to deal with her grief, she made up a cool story about her going to Mount Olympus to get her dog back from Zeus. We’re having a lot of fun developing this idea and aren’t exactly asking for a fortune to produce it. You can check it out BY CLICKING HERE: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/conartistent/fetch-an-odyssey

We’ve JUST made the minimum goal of $5,000 which will cover the creation of the art, full color and the printing. Barely. We’ve put up some cool stretch goals, but now folks are dropping their bids and the number is creeping dangerously close to going back down BELOW the minimum. If that happens over the next few days, the kickstarter will fail.

I mean, it’s not like we’re offering to make BOWL OF POTATO SALAD for ourselves! That kind of epic creation made over $200,000 dollars in a few DAYS! I hate the universe sometimes.

Martin and a few friends always have suggested that I do Kickstarters for my other projects like “The Wellkeeper”, and I’ve always said the same thing: “I’ve got a small collection of very loyal readers, but very few people that actually want to spend money for my work.” It’s always been this way, but I’ve always been told that I’m being silly and that I would “kill it” if I did a Kickstarter. 

Well, here we are working TOGETHER on one and Martin is scratching his head wondering why this isn’t getting close to the traction we were hoping for. His past Kickstarters outperformed this one easily.

But he didn’t suspect the power of what I like to call the “Curse of Derrick”! See, while I’m agnostic, there’s a part of me that strongly believes that the universe likes to watch me dance like Yosemite Sam shooting at my feet for his entertainment. Seriously.

I believe that if there IS any directing mind in control of the universe, it gets it’s kicks watching me struggle to not drown. It never just outright KILLS me, but it always seems to keep me from DIRECT success or failure. It likes me RIGHT in the wiggle room between the two, stressed out and struggling. 

I’ve long known that a Kickstarter would not be a massive success. When I was drawing my “big girl” art regularly, while I got a bunch of commissions, I regularly was asked to make a print collection book of my art. Folks really seemed to be excited by the prospect. Of course, when one became available, I sold 3.

Dandy & Co. was the most successful thing I’ve created. At it’s peak of success it was being read by tens of thousands of people, with spikes as high as a few MILLION when I did guest strips for PVP. We got the comic distributed through Diamond when a FAN submitted it FOR us. Although that wasn’t killed by cosmic forces so much as my then-wife sabotaging it by pulling my ability to promote the comic by deciding to buy 2, 150 gallon Salt Water fish tanks and become a salt water fish collector without ever asking ME about the purchases. 

Maybe the universe sent her. 

And while the Wellkeeper does well at conventions, it sells modestly at BEST online. I have tons of friends that love it, but don’t buy it. Other friends that are artists that I can’t PAY to do drawings for it to help me get some attention to it. It’s frustrating as HELL to be 11 issues in to a 12 issue run and have almost no more “buzz” for the series then I did at the beginning. 

Ultimately, I just have to deal with the reality that this “Curse” is just my way of joking away the reality that too few people actually give a shit about my work. I’m not only not an A-Lister, I’m not even on the list. 

My fellow self-publishers either don’t KNOW I’ve been doing this longer then they have or pretend to not know. But either way, I’m not invited into my own local scene. Comic stores I shop at regularly don’t care to carry my own books. Press releases for new projects are ignored and all-in-all, too few people really care about anything I do. 

Maybe I need to just acknowledge that while drawing comics has been my dream all my life, I’m simply not good enough to do it for a living and I need to just give up.

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So, just a few months ago, I quit my job. It was a mildly dramatic affair although I walked out before saying anything I couldn’t take back. It was a decent paycheck, but one that was both painfully boring and overly demanding of both my time and emotional commitment. And worse still, it was a job that was actively against my personal endeavors in comics. So, after much consideration, I chose to leave that job in search of work more in line with the dreams that have driven me throughout my life.

The good news is that I wasn’t wanting for work for long. I re-connected with older clients and got much more creatively fulfilling freelance illustration and graphic design projects AND ended up working on 3 really exciting comic projects. The first two, back up stories for JC De La Torres’ IDW comic projects and the third, a regular art gig on a yet-to-be-announced comic book. 

What this means is that aside from continuing my creator owned comic, “The Wellkeeper”, I’m now actually being paid to draw another comic. While I’ve been successfully self-publishing my own comics for over 12 years now, I feel like I’ve finally crossed a threshold I’ve been dreaming about all my life. I finally feel like a real professional comic artist. 

As of yesterday, I turned in the completed artwork for the first issue of this still-unannounced comic and got paid for it. I can’t begin to describe how great it feels to have a very difficult decision validated in the most tangible way possible. 

Now, back to The Wellkeeper #11. I gots DEADLINES to hit! Woot!

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One of the more common questions I get from folks regarding my comic book, “The Wellkeeper”, is when I’m going to “finish” it. And by “Finish”, they mean “color”. As if the current 8 issues are somehow incomplete in their current form because they are printed in black and white. 

But the reality of it, is that each of those issues IS finished. They were conceived and drawn in black and white with no thought ever given to ever being colored. But that doesn’t make the book somehow incomplete. And it certainly doesn’t make it a coloring book. Yes, I’ve been asked that.

As I get older, I find myself being drawn more and more to black and white comic art. I find myself grabbing up more and more of the Marvel “Essential” collections: Cheaply reproduced, phone book sized collections of up to 20 or so issues of a series, all in black and white. These are USUALLY printed on cheap paper to boot, but I don’t give a crap because they’re STUNNING to me. 

The first of these that I ever bought was the ESSENTIAL WOLVERINE vol. 1. When this series originally was published back in the late 80’s, I glossed it over. The coloring at the time wasn’t all that fantastic and I felt that this series was handled rather poorly in that regard. But in BLACK AND WHITE, it’s a whole other story. 

Suddenly you have the structurally perfect work of John Buscema with one of the greatest inkers ever, Al Williamson, and it’s BURSTING off the page. All the texture and moody atmosphere that was obscured by the color of the period are crisp and sharp as day. I learned more about inking from just staring at Williamson’s exquisite rendering of atmosphere in those first few issues then I had in the last few YEARS of practice and study. 

From there, it’s been a flood of brilliant comic art by some of the industry masters reproduced in Black and White. The first 2 volumes of “Savage Sword of Conan" feature the collaboration of John Buscema and the incomparable Alfredo Alcala. These stories are unlike anything I had ever seen before. Alcala’s rendering over Buscema’s best work (In my opinion) are a revelation. Every shaft of light, every fold of fabric, every tense muscle perfectly delineated and light and modeled and toned. Color could do nothing to this work but obscure it. 

As a comic artist, I generally believe that if you’re penciling and inking a page, it must be colorist-proof. What I mean there, is that if you ever think to yourself: “Well, the colorist will fix this” then you’ve failed as the artist. Now, I’m not talking about true collaboration, where you and the colorist are in constant communication creating a singular piece of art, planned that way. I’m talking about the more traditional, assembly-line kind of comics where each person in the process is different and rarely in communication. 

When you’re drawing your page, it should stand on it’s own. If you can print your comic in black and white WITHOUT the colors and it still works, you’ve done your job. 

And for me, that job is complete onto itself in black and white. The Wellkeeper is not drawn with the intention of ever being colored. The lighting and texture are specific and there in the line work. I do not rely on a colorist to make the sky dark purple so that you know it’s night time. That’s MY job. 

So if you’re out there thinking that a comic must be colored to be “complete”, think again. Take a look at some of the AMAZING work being done in black and white. Ted Naifeh’s original “Courtney Crumrin" comics. Richard Moore’s lush and stunning "BONEYARD”. Jeff Smith’s “BONE” and “RASL”. Terry Moore’s “Strangers in Paradise”, “ECHO”, and the incredibly creepy “Rachael Rising”. None of these masterpieces need color to be complete. (Of course, in the marketplace, color still usually equates with “REAL comic”, and many of these HAVE since been colored for wide release. Le Sigh.)

Check out IDW’s STUNNING hardcover collections of the original “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Dive into the first two "SAVAGE DRAGON Archives" by Erik Larsen to see all the beautiful line work and tone that is often obscured by the overly rendered digital colors of the early days of Image. Dive into the the "MODERN MASTERS" art books from TwoMorrows Publishing. 

There’s a wealth of incredible work out there, where masters of the craft create complete worlds without ever relying on the skills of a colorist to “complete” them. 

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What am I blathering on about now? Well, it’s ME, so it’s always safe to assume that the answer has something to do with making comics. Of course, this rant can be applied to anything you’re passionate about creating. 

But in this case, specifically, it’s about making comics. 

A lot of friends tell me at shows and online that they’re jealous that I’m up to issue #9 of my comic, "The Wellkeeper". I hear a lot of “Man, I wish I had the time” and “I don’t know how you do it” and the like. The one that usually gets my proverbial goat is “Man, you’re lucky.”

To hell with THAT noise. “Luck” isn’t a factor in anything here. I’ve worked on "The Wellkeeper" through the collapse of at least 2 relationships. I pushed through when I lost my job in 2008 and drew pages when I had little more to eat then ramen noodles. It’s not luck. It’s work. 

I can’t NOT create comics. When I’ve stopped making comics, you’ll know that I’m dead. But it’s not like the time is magically delivered to me via a Harry Potter Time Turner. I find it in between everything else I can.

I won’t commit to TV shows with long-running plot lines. That sucks up too much damn time to follow. I almost never sit and watch a TV show or movie without a page on my lapboard getting inked. Video games? Forget it. WAY too much of a time suck.

I make comics.

Even when Heidi and I are out watching a movie, I’m mentally working in the background half the time writing in my head. Figuring out the twists and specifics. That doesn’t ever turn off. (Except for karaoke. That’s DERRICK time! lol)

Do you have anxiety about doing it? Darn, that sucks. Me too. I’ve been medicated for my anxiety and depression for YEARS. But, like everything, you have to push PAST anxiety, fear and depression to do ANYTHING. And it’s hard as all get out. Some days, it doesn’t work at all no matter what you do. But if you don’t try to a little more every day, then you’ll never get anywhere. You’ll remain stuck being that person that WANTS to make comics.

Worried that your dream comic is too complicated to do right? Then dream up a simpler comic that you CAN do right. Every one of us has a magnum opus in their heads. And epic tale requiring 20 some-odd issues with the highest production values possible to tell. A sweeping adventure with a thousand inter-connected characters all told in brilliant, eye popping color that will set the industry on it’s ear. I’ve got MINE in the back of my head same as you do. We ALL have them. But if you insist that you MUST come running out of the gate with your own, personal “Watchmen” and that nothing else will do, congratulations. You’ve just BUILT the brick wall that will forever bar your way.

"The Wellkeeper" is a fairly involved, winding story. The core story will take 12 issues to tell. But this is not my first rodeo. I failed on completing my sci-fi fantasy epic, “Scarred World”, largely because of the time and financial expense that is full color. I completed 4 full color issues out of a planned 6 issues before I stepped away and realized that it wasn’t working and that it wasn’t going to get done right. And each issue took me a YEAR each. So that’s 4 years of creation  that I walked away from.

But in a way, it was for the better because my writing wasn’t there yet on that book. No, I had to pull back from “Scarred World” and start fresh on something I COULD tackle. That’s where my web comic strip "Dandy & Company" came in. "Dandy & Company" wasn’t as ambitious. Every 4 panels was a complete strip. The plots started simple and funny and as I got better at the sequential storytelling, I allowed the stories to evolve and become more involved, going from a gag-a-day comic strip to more sweeping adventures often lasting months at a time. 

I experimented with SIMPLE line work. I experimented with different storytelling techniques. I experimented with color and I experimented WITHOUT color. I learned that there was precious little that really NEEDED color to work. I learned how to be economical with my lines and dialogue. But above all, because I was putting those strips out there on the internet for all to see every DAY for years, I learned to develop my courage. To deal with critics and detractors. I learned to just DO it, put it out there and then do it again. 

The brilliant John Buscama used to teach artists to throw away their erasers. And I don’t believe that meant that you’re supposed to put out crap. I believe that means you don’t allow the desire to be PERFECT become the road block that stops you from ever getting it done in the first place. The anatomy on that page you just drew isn’t perfect? MAKE it perfect on the NEXT page. And the page after that and the page after that. Sooner or later, you’ll find that you’ve got a LOT of pages. And those pages make up a book that you can print and sell and show off. It’s your first issue. And now that you have that, you can move on to your NEXT issue.

Do what you CAN do. Work with what you’ve got. Can you draw but don’t consider yourself a writer? Then LEARN to write. There are tons of resources out there. Or just learn by doing. Start making up your own stories as you go. At least your learning while DOING. Don’t sit in a corner learning how to be perfect forever, while never DOING anything with it. Write.

Are you a writer that can’t draw? Guess what, you can learn how to do that too. And don’t give me the old “I can’t even draw a straight line” excuse. Nobody comes out of the womb with inherent skills. And talent is just a word that means someone with the drive to make it happen. I wasn’t all that magically better at drawing at 5 then anyone else my age. I just kept at it and kept at it when other kids didn’t. Sure, if you’ve got the money you can MAYBE hire an artist to draw your dream comic, but that’s a pain in the ass prospect and you know it. First there’s FINDING an artist that you like that will draw YOUR dream project for what you can afford. Then there’s KEEPING that artist. Ask around, it’s not easy. But the raw reality of it is that there’s no artist out there that will EVER be as passionate about your book as you are. So start drawing. 

And if your concern is that your skills aren’t good enough to render the magnum opus of your dreams, then start on something you CAN draw and work your way up to the epicness when you get better. 

That’s the point that I keep coming back around to, I suppose. Do whatever you can do. Is full color and obstacle? Do a black and white book. Are you intimidated by the scope of your 24 issue epic adventure? Draw a one-shot character study first. Crippled by the fear that your book won’t be as good as the books you’re reading? Understand that it won’t be, but that all your favorite creators started out sucking too. But we know who they are because they STARTED.

DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. Don’t be defeated before you even start by setting an unscalable mountain ahead of you. 

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#vemon #eddiebrock #symbiote #sketch #sketchaday #doodles

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Some fun from my sketchbook. #superman #manofsteel #sketch #sketchaday #doodles #dc #dccomics #clarkkent #sketchbook

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Okay, maybe not ONLY the Doctor. Marty McFly and a few others have the unique abilities and or means to actually return to the past to somehow disrupt your memories of the anal retentive things we all hold dear. But the point I suppose I’m getting at is that there really isn’t any way that a movie that you don’t like or agree with can harm your nostalgic childhood memories of a cherished corporate property like the Transformers or Superman unless you let them. 

It seems like every day a new photo or rumor leaks online and immediately, my fellow nerds fly off the deep end in a tizzy because of organic web shooters, Perry White’s race or  Superman’s behavior. (Yes, he’s killed before in both the comics, films, and cartoons, so quit whining.) The complaint tends to fall along the lines that one’s favorite hero would never do something like that or shouldn’t look like that, etc. 

But part of the big problem here is that no matter HOW personally connected you feel to Superman, he isn’t your character. All you can do is complain and stop buying products with his face on them. 

But this rant here isn’t yet another anti-hyperbole manifesto telling you all to rope in the crazy. Instead, I’m proposing something radically different: TAKE all that awesome, crazy energy and DO SOMETHING with it. MAKE something that no hollywood studio can ever screw up because it’s YOURS!

Don’t like that Warner Bros. allowed Zach Snyder to make a Superman movie you disagree with? Too bad, you can’t change that. But you CAN create your own hero with a moral code that can NEVER be corrupted by focus groups and a studio focused on darkness as a selling point.

Don’t like when a character’s race is changed because…. well, probably because you’re a racist. But whatever, you can make your own all white, super KKK friendly comics to sell at all the rallies. Go you!

My point, I suppose, is that if you step outside of the safety and comfort of just complaining and make your OWN magic, the only one who can bastardize those creations for a quick buck is YOU. But until you do that, you’re in charge of the worlds you create. You decide who lives and who dies. You decide who kills and who doesn’t. You decide EVERYTHING. And who knows, if you take all the ideas that you’ve got about how super hero stories SHOULD be told, some of us might want to come along for the ride.

Stranger things have happened. ;) 

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All of you people that think the ending of “MAN OF STEEL” was a well reasoned but difficult exploration of what is and isn’t the right thing to do when facing an impossible set of choices just don’t GET IT! You don’t understand! Superman isn’t a “character” with a growing personality and all-too human flaws. Superman is a 2-Dimentional icon. What he is is what he always was and always is and any variation from that unflappable and childish ideal rapes my childhood. (And all the instances of this thing happening before don’t count because I don’t like those either)

Don’t you realize that for the perfect being that is Jesu… Superman, there is ALWAYS a way to save the day! Even when there totally isn’t, it’s the writers fault for putting him in the exact kind of situation Superman would regularly be put in. They should have written in a back door so as to never have to challenge the pristine, unquestionable perfection that is Superman. Or just write a story with an easier solution. Because that’s WAY more exciting. How DARE they depict the character in a realistic light and not feed us yet another nostalgic trip down happiness lane where no problem is too great to turn the world back on. For Superman, there’s ALWAYS a way. Even if that was makes absolutely no sense. Because THAT’S satisfaction!

I mean, we’re the internet, Hollywood. We would obviously accept a hyper convenient deus ex machina that defies all common sense and wouldn’t ever nit pick the concept to death. (*Cough* Red Matter *Cough* Unobtanium *Cough*) We’re just not that petty. (*Cough* Tribble Blood *Cough* Midichlorians *Cough*)

Give us what we want! I’m sure that by the time we can agree on what that is, you’ll be willing to spend 250 million dollars on exactly that. And then all of us comic fans will rush out to see it. Maybe even TWICE. And then you’ll be rolling in millions, Hollywood. (Apx. 2 whole million dollars based on the current sales numbers of the Superman comics. Cha CHING!)

Also, Hitler. There, Internet law dictates this argument is over.

*Sigh*