Making The Promise

After completing The Damned, Alex and I decided to take a big jump and pitch to an anthology planned for publishing by an acquaintance, Russell Nohelty, through his label Wannabe Press. This was a massive undertaking that involved 30+ creatives teams, contracts, a big Kickstarter campaign and a printer in China. Looking back it was a real crash course in small press publishing. Russell is an amazing publisher and Alex and I really owe him so much for accepting our story and providing this development opportunity. We aren’t much closer to being at Russell’s level but we now have a decent appreciation for what it takes to get something like this done and can claim to be a bit more “professional” wrt making comics.

The approach for this collaboration was quite different than The Damned. For this story I wrote a rough, rambling synopsis, that Alex went and fully thumbnailed. Spoilers ahead !!!!

Night Life (working Title)

Pitch: Suffering from a bout of insomnia, Angelica Ruiz ventures out on a hot August night for a quick fix. But soon after leaving the comforts of home she gets the eerie feeling that someone or something is following her and she’s about to learn that you can’t escape your past!

Story: Angelica is in her mid forties and fit, but on edge (think Linda Hamilton Terminator 2). She is married to Tom, who she wakes up next to at the beginning of the story. They have a child, which we should see sleeping in a panel before she leaves to look for a quick fix for her insomnia. When she wakes she is quite on edge, but her husband is fast asleep and the house is completely silent, save the sounds of a felix the cat clock in the bathroom. We see her watching television, doing pushups and sorting the laundry. During this period the time changes from 10pm to 11pm to 12am. She is out of things to do and still not tired so she leaves a note “you’ll probably be asleep when I get back but in case you aren’t, just went out to get a pack of cigarettes”. She goes out side and gets into a beat up truck. This is the first time you see that they live on a farm. We see the remains of charred building, perhaps an old barn, in the moonlight as she makes her way towards the main road. By the time she reaches the main road, which is only a few hundred yards away, she is already starting to get sleepy… but she is clearly now committed to getting these cigarettes. She turns on the radio and floors it like a woman on a mission! A few minutes later she swerves off the road, into a corn field, to avoid a deer in the middle of the street. The car won’t start. “Shit, I left my phone at home. At least I’m only a half mile away from Earl’s, might as well head there and get a ride back. He better not be out of Marlboro’s.” Now the scary part begins! She hears rustling in the fields, is it the wind or something else? “Who’s there? Must be the wind. I swear if you’re playing a prank I will kill you! The sooner I get to Earl’s the better.” She heads back onto the street and sees what appears to be two headlights slowly approaching her. She begins waving, but the headlights stop about 50 feet from her. She yells out for help and the lights lurch forward and stop. She is seriously freaked out so she starts running. The lights continue to slowly pursue her so she darts into a cemetery. As she runs through the cemetery she begins hearing growls along with voices wailing “you promised” “you broke your promise”. When she reaches the other side of the cemetery the lights are again waiting for her. This ratchets her up even further and she makes a bee line to Earl’s gas station in the distance. By the time she reaches the edge of Earl’s she looks back and sees the light have disappeared. In an attempt to regain composure before entering Earl’s she talks to herself “Angelica, girl, you need to get your shit together, there’s no such thing as ghosts.”  She enters Earl’s, and the attendant clearly recognizes her. “The usual?,” he says. “No, pack of Marlboro’s,” Angelica responds. He pauses and says “Are you sure you don’t just want a cup of coffee?”. Angelica snaps back “do I look like I need a damn cup of coffee!?”. He shies away and she realizes that she’s snapped.” Sorry Earl, my car broke down on the way here. Could you give me a ride back home?” .  “Sure Angie, this time of night no one will notice if I’m shut down for 15 minutes.” “Thanks Earl, I’ll just have a quick puff while you’re closing up.” Angie steps outside, lighting up a cigarette with her eyes to the ground, mid step. The door swings closed as she puts the matches away and she looks up… to be greeted by a young girl with a dog on a leash.  “you promised,” the girl says. Pan back to Angie whose face is in terror. Back to girl, “you broke your promise,” she says.  Back to Angie who is in terror and can barely utter the words “it can’t be… we miss you so much…”. Back to girl but she now appears to have burn marks on her and the dog is missing patches of hair “you promised,” she said.  Back to Angie who is starting to cry “no honey, I’m sorry, I swear I put that cigarette out.” Back to girl and dog who are now fully charred… “You lied to daddy that day and smoked behind the barn when Lily and I were playing there. You broke your promise then and you’re breaking your promise now.” We see the cigarette fall from her hands to the ground as she is lit on fire. There are no screams. Earl pulls up his car from the back and is alarmed by the fire. He jumps out of his car and runs for fire extinguisher…. “Angie! Angie!”. FIN.

We can switch genders, have it a monster or demonic instead of a ghost. The idea is that this firs draft should gives you a  lot of classic imagery from scary movies to tell this story.

We took the thumbnails to Russell who provided editorial feedback. I can’t stress enough how good it is to have an experienced editor provide feedback about pacing, character motivations, reveals, etc. I don’t know how much time Russell spent thinking about the feedback but it read very stream of conscious but on point. Alex and I incorporated all his comments and the final story is much better as a result. For this story Alex wanted to go with a quicker, looser art style as opposed to the more photorealistic approach in the Damned. This allowed him to complete the artwork faster and give it a more lively feeling.

In the first week of the Kickstarter campaign we raised over $10k! We ended the campaign just over $27k with 624 backers. Our target was $16k. I’m not that familiar with Kickstarter campaigns but I started to take note and saw several comic book related campaigns exceed $100k. Those campaigns seemed to be supported by a lot more backers. Looking into it a bit more, these seemed to be books that had built a following on-line as a web-comic. For those interested in getting your work funded via Kickstarter, take note!

Here are two banners for my Facebook profile page that I had to update after the 1st week of the campaign! I also had fun and changed my profile pic to a match the theme.

The artwork is a snippet of the cover by Aaron Alexovich.

Mockup of the book. The eyes glow in the dark!

The finished books sitting on pallets at the printer.

Alex and I sitting at a Starbucks pre-signing copies of the book. The signature collection page is a nice idea… but getting them all is going to be an amazing achievement as the creative teams are spread out across the US. If you pick up a book, Wondercon or San Diego Comic Con 2018 may be your best bet to secure a lot of the signatures.

Almost ready for the signing party at the Comic Bug in Manhattan Beach, CA. The printer missed San Diego Comic Con 2017 so Russell will have the book there this year (2018).

The great thing about the contract is that the creators retained further publishing rights to their work. The anthology comes in at more than 200 pages and costs $40. That’s a lot of value but some folks don’t have or don’t want to spend that much. We decided that we wanted to provide the story at a different price point for those that wanted just our story. However, we didn’t want to undercut the sales of the anthology by selling a $5 version of our story. We decided that we’d sell a more premium version of the story for $15 that included additional content AND original art on each cover.

Our quick plan to add more content exclusive to the standalone version.

The pristine blank sketch covers ready for numbering and art work!

Last page of Alex’s “famous artists” tutorial as well as the full color ad for the the anthology. I painted the eyes in the ad in one copy so they glow in the dark. I’m not sure which one this was, so check your copy!

I didn’t want to put all the burden on Alex for the new original content since he might end up sketching a lot of covers so I assigned myself duties creating the ads as well as a letters column. We still need to make the FOMM club pins to hand out at conventions. Note that Madame Mystica doesn’t appear at the beginning of the Promise, but we used her here for the letters page. She will be making appearances in our future collaborations.

Sketch cover 6 of 75 in red pencil and beautiful ink brush. Original art by Alex Bodnar for only $15. A steal!

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