Yep, here we are one final time. I’m here to conclude the eternal tale of the struggles to get Run Like Hell out there, and move it on to its final chapter. But remember, all of this is for nothing if we don’t hit our goal! We are SOOOO close! Help us push it over the edge. The time for delay is over. It’s put up or shut up time, so please PLEDGE!
(**UPDATE: Obviously the Kickstarter campaign is long over, so ignore these requests.)
And now, let’s finish this adventure.
…Continued from PART TWO.
(Or you can start from the beginning with PART ONE.)
MY COMIC BOOK/GRAPHIC NOVEL LEARNING CURVE.
Let’s see, where were we? Oh yes, a graphic novel. I had connected with Jason Burns, who as you may have seen from that previous Variety article, was working for Viper Comics at the time (a company I actually had history with since I had pitched a film adaptation for one of their properties, but didn’t get the job. But that’s a whole other story). Jason was going to shepherd me through the process of adapting my screenplay into a full fledged graphic novel. Only, there was that little, itty-bitty issue of me having never written a graphic novel, let alone a comic, and thus having no clue how to do it. I know, just a small problem. But that wasn’t going to stop me. Like I’ve done many times in my career, I was simply going to figure it out.
Writing is writing, and a medium change was nothing. I tracked down countless raw graphic novel scripts and read like crazy. I learned the formats. I learned the tricks. I learned everything. Screenwriting itself is a visual medium, meaning you can only write what you’re able to see on the screen. You don’t get a novel’s (or blog’s) crutch of being able to hear a person’s thoughts or inner voice. So the visual aspect was something I was already used to. But there were a lot of other tricks that were unique to the medium. I learned things like making sure you keep your panel count varying because if you just always look at uniform pages of 6 or 8 panels, it gets boring fast. And sometimes you have to even hammer home a moment with a single frame “splash page”, and that is a finely tuned skill when to use it. I learned that dialogue has to be kept to a minimum, especially back-and-forth dialogue, or else it wouldn’t fit in a panel. I learned how each and every page had to end with a type of page-turner, so, well, people would actually turn the page. I learned that when writing a script for a graphic novel, not only are you writing the dialogue, but you are writing every single thing that happens in that panel, and even if it’s in wide, mid, or close up shot range. In a graphic novel, you are not only the writer, but you are the director and cinematographer as well. It’s enlightening actually, but also a lot more work than people may first realize. I have a HUGE respect for comic book writers.
So I had engrossed myself in reading these scripts, learned the format, and was ready to start. This was when I was given my printing parameters. They told me that it was to be three chapters, roughly 32-33 pages each, with a total page count of under 100 pages. Anything over the 100 page mark and the cost of the printing, thus the book, goes up. There was a magic number to hit so they wanted it to be kept under 100 pages no matter what. Plus, chapters? Okay, now I had to relearn things again. Each chapter had to be broken up into its own thing. In a film script, it’s a three-act structure, but the middle act is WAY bigger than the other two. A simple translation wasn’t going to work here. I was told to think of changing my film script into three episodes of a TV show instead of a three-act film. It’s a tricky situation because that meant A LOT of material was going to have to be axed. Well, it had to be done. Sorry script.
Long story short (I know, too late), after a few months of research and learning curves, I finally had a graphic novel script. I had lost numerous characters. I had lost numerous plot points. I had to combine some of these characters into one, and mash some storylines together. Plus, there were some sections that simply wouldn’t translate for the book, so they had to be altered completely. But alas, a finished script. I was ready to move on. Oh, and I should note that by this time, Jason Burns had left Viper and was working for another company called Outlaw Comics. That company shuffle that seems to plague me, and so many others in the film world, had already started in the comic world too. Regardless, I didn’t care. I had a script. Now to find my artist.
CUE KARL SLOMINSKI.
I’m not going to mince words. Karl Slominski was a breath of fucking fresh air. I had looked at tons of artists’ samples, and couldn’t find the right fit. It’s not that these other artists weren’t great. In fact, they were all amazing. Some of them have even since blown up into huge and successful artists. But they just didn’t fit with this material. My script was nuts. It was bizarre. It was horror, but comedy, but adventure, but effed up. The style of the art had to emulate that same vibe that was in the writing. It was then that I came across Karl.
Karl’s style was amazing. It was exactly what I was looking for. It was jagged, wreckless, and what I like to call “controlled chaos”, which for me, is pretty much the highest praise. I connected with Karl, he did some test sketches of the first couple pages, and sketched a few ideas for the characters, and as soon as I saw them, it was game on. We worked together over the phone and internet (mainly internet). He was an east coaster, I was a west coaster. Welcome to the world now.
This process took a few months, but they were fun months. Karl would send me page dumps, usually around 10 pages at a time. Every time I got one of those emails I couldn’t stop smiling. Slowly, but surely, I started to actually see this project of mine that I had held in my head for so long, pop to life. Characters had expressions. The insanity actually was starting to be visualized. As with everything, I was never completely correct on the first try. There were some pages that had to be altered a bit, a few that had to be resized or retouched, and a few others that had to be completely redone. But honestly, for the most part, these situations were minimal. Karl was a pro, through and through, and his work was bar none amazing.
Finally, after those fun few months, we had a fully drawn book. Our partnership just clicked (and that’s what a graphic novel is, a partnership). Just as requested, it clocked in at just under 100 pages. 98 to be exact. We were now ready for our final review and then we could get this baby lettered and launched. This was 2008. FIVE years ago. Book. Done. Ready to go. Boom.
WHO KNEW THE COMIC BOOK INDUSTRY WAS JUST AS CRAZY AS THE FILM INDUSTRY?
This was when all the weird shit started to go down. Now, I’ll say as much as I can, mainly because to this day don’t even know all the details, but let’s just say things went awry. The people at Outlaw all of a sudden disappeared. I couldn’t contact anyone. I didn’t know what was going on. It was radio silent. My point man Jason Burns had since left for APE Entertainment, so he didn’t really know what was going on anymore either. It was a weird time. Working with a company for so long on something, then POOF, nothing. It wasn’t until a few months later that I finally discovered that there were some legal issues with the company. I don’t know the specifics of them. I don’t WANT to know the specifics of them. Business stuff always scares me, which is why I prefer to be the artist. But long story short, I heard through the grapevine that all of Outlaw’s assets were frozen while some kind of internal investigation was taking place. Super duper, because guess what? Run Like Hell was one of their assets. Run Like Hell was frozen as well. Sigh…
My book was locked away and untouched because of all of this for over two years. Many San Diego Comic Cons came and went when I thought I’d have my book in my hands, and didn’t. It killed me to walk around booths of companies I knew I could have worked with, and didn’t. It was a tough time. It soured me on the comic book industry for a while. I even had three additional graphic novel ideas I was prepared to do next, some of which I had already scripted out, but I didn’t pursue any of them. I figured if all this garbage can happen to my book that’s already finished and can’t get released, why wouldn’t it happen to my next ones too. So I simply left it all behind, and went back to my insane film career.
I’ll try to fast forward through this section because I get a little heated here. It was a crazy time. After many years, I finally connected with some people who said they could help me with my book. I’ll leave specific names out here because, well, to put it nicely, I don’t feel I was treated right. Numerous promises were made. Numerous dates were given. Numerous companies were “supposedly” contacted. I was ignored. Emails and phone calls weren’t returned. As an unproven entity in the comic book biz, I was ignored and disrespected in pretty much every way possible. Whatever, after spending a long time in the film biz, you sort of get used to this type of behavior. On the bright side, I did luck out in one way. Because after a few years, my attorneys were able to actually get my book unfrozen and back to me. I had heard many others weren’t as lucky (like many of poor Jason Burns’ books, who is an amazing writer and deserves insane kudos). So I know I was lucky in that department.
Still, even with my book back to me, I was stuck. The book had no home now and was essentially nomadic. Without a company behind it, no one wanted to take on the bizarrely out-there material from a first-time graphic novel writer. We were looking for, in the film world we call, a “negative pickup”. And it was just not working. Many companies expressed initial interest then moved on with their own properties that they had a more vested (and financial) interest in. Two more years passed during this time. It had now been four years since the book was actually COMPLETED, and still it just sat.
FINALLY, A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: KICKSTARTER.
It was now 2012. I had had it. My book was going to get released no matter what. After all this time, I was just sick and tired of it all. I tracked a few people down at SDCC that I knew knew something, and cornered them into giving me answers. Finally, I got them. In a weird irony, I was told that Outlaw Comics was now getting a second chance at life. Only it was a new incarnation. The Outlaw label had now been bought by APE entertainment, and was going to be the name for their new “mature readers imprint”. APE themselves were mainly known for licensed fare. Usually geared toward kids. They did Richie Rich comics, Sesame Street, Kung Fu Panda, amongst many, many others. They’re an awesome company, but they couldn’t release something like Run Like Hell under that banner, so they were going to use the Outlaw name for that kind of thing. They planned on making a big splash by re-launching Poison Elves, a hugely popular adult series. Fine by me. As long as my book came out. I was a little sheepish with going back to Outlaw, since that was the name I connected with the beginning of all this madness, but whatever. New company. New vision. I had hope (again). Let’s do this.
That’s when I was told that they didn’t want to do print. They only wanted to do digital. *face palm*
I had discovered that during the past 5 years of my nomadic book’s life, the entire comic book industry had been changing drastically. Everything was going digital now. No companies wanted to spring for actual print costs anymore. Especially for an untested property like myself. But dammit, I still wanted to have my first graphic novel printed on actual paper. It was abundantly clear that if I wanted this book to actually see the light of day, I’d have to make it happen myself. And dammit, that’s what I decided to do. Enter Kickstarter.
Kickstarter was going to be the answer. That sounded easy enough. All I needed to do was earn $8000 for printing and shipping costs and my decade-plus dream of Run Like Hell could be a reality. Simple enough. Not only was it my first graphic novel, but now this was going to be my first Kickstarter as well. This whole project was wrought with a ton of firsts. Well, guess what? Building a Kickstarter is NOT easy. Kickstarter is a TON of work. Lucky for me, I was introduced to a “king” of Kickstarter to help shepherd me through my process. Josh Elder, if you are reading this, thank you. Thank you for getting me through this last chapter in this seemingly endless scroll of insanity that is my book. Just a splendid and fantastic guy all around.
The next few months were set in motion. Writing up the Kickstarter. Coming up with a “road map” full of rewards and benefits that would draw people in. I knew I had to create a video for the campaign so I wrote one up that continued the weirdness of the book. To make this video become a reality, Godofredo Astudillo and his company, Tidy Brighty Productions, became my heroes. They helped film and edit my little two minute ditty I wrote up, and they did such an amazing job that when I saw the completed version, it made me want to animate the whole thing! By the way, if you ever need any of this kind of work done, go to them. They’re amazing. They’re professional. And they’re damn good at what they do. www.tidybrighty.com. So finally, after a few more delays (of course, right?) eventually, after pulling teeth every step of the way, here we are.
As of writing this, I have 5 days left in the campaign and I’m $7,160 in toward my $8000 goal. I have full confidence that I will hit it. But it’s a weird feeling. I’ve been with this book through so much of my career, that I honestly don’t know how I’ll feel when it finally comes out. Like I’ve mentioned earlier, the struggles with this book and the struggles in my career in general have mirrored each other so much that it’s odd. When the struggle defines you, what do you do when it comes to an end?
Anyway, there you go. The Run Like Hell journey. Believe it or not, as long-winded as this tale was, can you believe I even left a bunch of parts of Run Like Hell’s crazy story out? I didn’t even touch on the Comics Accelerator drama, the brief situation with a few specific (unnamed) companies, and a LOT of the initial screenplay drama. But I think I said more than enough…
Regardless, realize this is just one tiny little snapshot into the difficulties in getting any story to see the light of day. Whether it’s a film, TV show, comic book, web series, art show, clothing line, ANYTHING… always know that most of the time there are countless issues and struggles behind the scenes you’re unaware of. When someone’s art comes out, show respect. You may not like it. Hell, everyone has an opinion. I know I do. But dammit, just respect that a ton of work went into it. Horrible movies, crappily created art, even novels that seem like they were written by a 3rd grader, all have been a labor of love for someone. You don’t have to love it, but just know that they do.
Now, let’s just see what happens from here with my own little piece of art. Run Like Hell’s torrid past has been over a decade old now, but its future is far from over, but let’s just hope that it’s (relatively) smooth sailing from here on out. Although, somehow, I doubt it.
Thanks for listening to just my cathartic, emotional, road trip through Run Like Hell’s history. And to think that this this is just one project out of hundreds of mine. Each one with their own history of insanity. And that’s just me. Everyone has their own stories of their trials and tribulations. These are crazy industries I work in, for sure. But dammit, I love them too much to stop. I’ll deal with the crazy forever. It’s worth it.
Take care, friends.
UPDATE: Guess what!? In a surprise twist, there’s an unexpected PART FOUR to this journey!!!