But for me this is the successful climax of over a year of work. These stories that make up The Outbreak, including the story in “Monster at the Institute,” began as short stories that I wrote to take a break from my novel. I thought there was a slim chance I’d ever get “Monster” and the other stories in a literary journal (which does take some of the pressure off, allowing me to write a little more freely than I might otherwise). But then my husband mentioned that they might make good comics…
And so, through a connection to the Naked Wordshop, I joined Sunday Comix and floated down into the rabbit hole that is the Columbus comics community. And lord, did I have a lot to learn! Just a few examples:
- Drawing is really hard and takes a lot of practice. Like, a LOT. Over YEARS. Even if you’re trying to do it digitally.
- Sequential art is a totally different type of art. Just because someone can paint beautiful landscapes or whatever doesn’t mean they can set up a panel or keep one character recognizable page after page. That also takes YEARS of practice.
- You can’t just hand a comic artist a short story and tell them to draw a comic (well, maybe if you were willing to let the comic be the artist’s comic and not a joint project, because the artist really would be doing most of the work then). You have to write a script out page by page, with dialogue and detailed descriptions of what you’re imagining in each panel.
- It all takes longer than you think it will. There’s just more to do than you imagine.
Although “Monster at the Institute” wasn’t intended to be the first-launched story for The Outbreak, I was lucky enough to convince Michael Neno to draw it for me, and you guys are seriously going to love the results. Michael has a great throw-back style, reminiscent of the best 1950s comic art, which fits this story so beautifully. (In fact, if you’re really interested in that other comic knowledge I’ve gained, check out his digital book Creating Old School Comics: the Tips, Tools and Tricks You Need for Pre-Digital Cartooning for only $5!) I think Michael probably worked on this story once a day for more than a year straight, and the artwork reflects that attention to detail and hard work.
Once Michael delivered the completed artwork, I realized how drastically I’d underestimated the work that still needed to be done to get my website and the actual digital comic built! I worked crazy super hard on it for… I don’t even know how long. It felt like another year, but it was probably three weeks or something. Then I sent it out to my super-special “soft open” guinea pigs to click around and let me know what didn’t work. Then I incorporated all THEIR comments, and here we are. Finally. On launch day. Whew!!
The guinea pigs to whom I owe heaps of gratitude are: Valerie Acton, Matt Betts, Viven Barlow, Travis Horseman, Canada Keck, Kathy Matthews, William Minozzi (my husband), and Glenn Shaheen. They all offered advice on navigation, caught typos, helped with rewrites, and gave me technical feedback. Thank you all so much!
“Monster at the Institute” is six issues long, and I’ll post one a week over the next six weeks on Thursdays. To get reminders and other news about The Outbreak, subscribe to this blog (the button’s up top, but if you use Chrome, you have to do it however you usually subscribe to blogs)! Michael Neno and I are already working on the next story, but you’ll only get updates by checking here.
And now, without further ado, please enjoy the debut issue of The Outbreak, “Monster at the Institute.”