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* As of next Friday, June 19th, I will be posting all remaining sketches in the Myrant Sketch Store onto other online venues at slightly higher pricing.
They will thereafter still be available in the Sketch Store until sold, but at those slightly higher prices.
So, original pricing on all sketches in the Sketch Store will remain in effect through midnight, June 19th.
I will continue to post new sketches and/or select vintage Bissette original art that falls within the sketch pricing structure (in short, under $100) throughout the coming weeks and months.
The initial pricing on Myrant will be the best-ever price — so if you see something you like, and can afford it, jump on it. Unsold sketches will be offered via other venues after their Myrant Sketch Store debut; however, after that debut week, they will be available at slightly higher prices.
In short, Myrant first price will be the best price!
This is all part of my ongoing 2009 experiment with online income venues.
As many of my generation have realized, any hope for the future of our own personal projects requires cultivating a creative online presence.
Personally, the ultimate plan is to find a means of subsidizing my returning to the board to work on Tyrant. As James Sturm said to me two weeks ago, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.”
I do, however, have to make my own way, as I’ve exhausted my last shot at finding a publisher for the project.
FYI, I have been quietly shopping Tyrant around for years, outside of traditional comics publishing circles; it’s a two-tier proposal, proposing two ways of publishing a first self-contained, ‘satisfying read’ graphic novel.
The first would be the least expensive and the quickest to accomplish, a volume comprised of revised/expanded Tyrant #1-3, ending with the hatching of our diminuitive hero. This would require less than a year to complete, and could be done with a modest advance.
The second would a more ambitious volume collecting the revised Tyrant #1-4 material and concluding that part of the story with about 80 new pages, some of which were done back in 1996-97. This would require some financial commitment from a publisher, and would take at least two years to complete.
In all cases, any interested parties essentially ultimately want the equivalent of another entire 100+-page Tyrant graphic novel completed and in hand — two-five years of additional work, completed — but of course no one is willing to finance such an effort.
As was the case back in 1993-94, if I want Tyrant to exist, I must find a way to self-finance its creation. It may come again to self-publishing, when you get right down to it, though the Direct Market as we knew it is now in its final stages of implosion.
I’m not complaining, mind you. This is just how it is. It’s my baby, I have to make it live. But I’m also not getting any younger.
As you all know, I’ve never, ever had outside advertising or banner ads of any kind on my various blogs, boards or websites, and I do post daily content.
At present, the Sketch Store is my initial stab at subsidizing Myrant, the time I put into it, and the free content I provide daily — and, hopefully in time, my returning to work on Tyrant.
Along with the book illustration projects, the Sketch Store project is also been a means to another end — getting my drawing chops, as best I can manage, back to where I was when doing Tyrant.
Thanks to the work just completed on The Vermont Monster Guide, I’m almost there. Working as extensively as I did all winter on those illustrations was a gas, and really pushed me over the top in terms of getting back to my ol’ skillset. I’m currently wrapping up work on illustrations for the signed-and-limited Cemetery Dance edition of Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman, and those are turning out even better (fun to finally be working with Neil’s creations, after all these years).
Frankly, I may never again in my life arrive at the peak skills I had when doing Tyrant #4 (the only time in my life I was able to focus singularly on one project – Tyrant, when it was self-financing and self-sufficient), but I do feel I’m back to where I was with Tyrant #3. Not too shabby for an old dog like me.
I continue to teach and write for my bread and butter. I love CCS and teaching, it’s the best thing I could possibly be doing with my life. Thanks to CCS (and the original impetus from my son Daniel), I continue to draw for my own pleasure, and the best is yet to come.
There’s a lot of great new projects underway, and some will come to market in 2009-2010. I’ve only mentioned a couple here (The Vermont Monster Guide, “Copper”) because they’re done, they’re in, they’re soon to be published. Others are pretty far along, but it’s too soon to talk ‘em up — besides, in this recession, any of them could go belly-up at any time.
It’s my hope that Tyrant will be one of the projects for 2012 — time, and finances, will tell.
My deepest thanks to those of you who have already supported my work via Sketch Store purchases! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Well, that’s it. The experiment continues, and there will be lots of daily eye-candy posted here for all of you to enjoy.
There’s always new and vintage Bissette sketches (including all those shown above) here –
SpiderBaby Archives: Taboo Origins, Part 2:
Remember, please, that all this took place long before DC/Vertigo existed.
This was a time when no mainstream corporate comics publisher was invested in the horror genre at all.
At the time, John Totleben and I were collaborating with Alan Moore and Rick Veitch — initially under editor (and original Swamp Thing cocreator) Len Wein, and as of Saga of the Swamp Thing #25, with editor Karen Berger – on our now-historic run on Swamp Thing.
At the time, though, Swamp Thing was no big deal; we were each being paid DC’s lowest page rates in our respective industry assembly-line catagories. We had, however, earned a genuine ‘buzz,’ thanks in large part to the enormous support of the retail community and a string of positive reviews from the late Don Thompson in the weekly The Comic Buyer’s Guide.
And Dave Sim sure was paying attention.
Dave thought we had a tiger by the tail, and wanted us to understand we were the tiger, and we were playing with our own fucking tail. We didn’t need Swamp Thing or DC; we were, in fact, investing ourselves into renovating, resurrecting and making their defunct corporate property worth something. “There no inherent merit in it without you,” he told John and I face to face at Mid-Ohio Con. “When are you guys going to wake up to the fact DC needs you more than you need them?” Dave wanted us to be self-publishing, not feeding the DC machine.
The Catch-22 in that logic, though, is Swamp Thing is what was putting us on the map. As Joe Kubert had told me when I was his student in 1976-78, “You need a comicbook series to get your work and name out there.” Swamp Thing and DC Comics had brought us to Dave’s attention, in fact. And round and round it went.
We were, in our own little neck of the woods, really trying to do something different and unique with Swamp Thing. It was an opportunity, and we all seized it with all the passion, energy and hard work we could muster.
I was already restless, though. I hated the intrusion of superheroes into the pages of Swamp Thing (and said so, apparently with enough vigor for Len to tell me it was his idea, a white lie told to me so I wouldn’t direct my ire at Alan, who was the real catalyst for the coming of the Justice League into Swamp Thing with #24), and even having bucked and shucked the Comics Code with SOTST #29, we were still working under mainstream comics restrictions.
That forced us to be inventive with our subversion, but the necessary (to my mind, essential) evolution of horror comics required something more radical and unfettered.
Horror comics were otherwise in a funk. DC had launched and cancelled Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan‘s Night Force, and a tentative stab at resurrecting their ersatz ‘mystery’ titles had been taken with the mediocre-at-best Elvira’s House of Mystery (undone by being dominated by inventory material, the leftovers of the previous House of Mystery series that had gone belly-up). The best mainstream horror that remained was Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum‘s ‘Brood’ storyline in The Uncanny X-Men, and that was at best a lively soap-operatic Alien riff.
Far from the newsstands, Pacific Comics had launched an anthology series entitled Twisted Tales, edited and scripted by Bruce Jones, who had done truly innovative, cutting-edge scripts for Warren’s Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Alas, though Bruce worked with some great cartoonists in Twisted Tales (including a two-pager John Totleben drew; great job from John, working from a silly werewolf gag strip script), he abandoned the orientation that had made his Warren work so contemporary in order to do EC Comics retreads — and when Pacific succumbed, Eclipse Comics published the rest of the Twisted Tales inventory and launched their own misbegotten series Tales of Terror — beloved by some, but having worked with Eclipse off and on from its first issue, I can tell you from hard experience editor Cat Yronwode loathed horror as a genre, and had no idea what made it tick. Eclipse just new it sold — so, horror was something they would do, even though they had no understanding of or respect for the genre.
Even those who loved and understood the genre were content to essentially retread the three-decades-old EC template, still trying to stomp some life into that old corpse.
Tom Skulan’s FantaCo Enterprises was the only retailer in the land who really dug horror, and Tom’s initial success as a publisher (in comics and with the pioneer genre book Splatter Movies by John McCarty) prompted him to fire off his own horror anthology comic, Goreshriek.
Again, I was there from the very first issue, with my story “Cottonmouth” (which I ballyhooed at length last year on Myrant, building up to the Halloween 2008 debut of Christopher Garetano‘s film adaptation Cottonmouth) — but whenever Tom and I would talk about what I saw as the real untapped potential of the medium, Tom would shake his head and say, “Steve, it’ll never sell. People just want gore and love the horror hosts — it’s just a horror comic, after all.”
When Dave Sim extended his invitation to John and I in 1985, I was ready and eager to prove that a genuine, dead-serious horror comic — a horror comic for the 1980s, one that could encompass all that was being done and could be done in the genre — could exist and find its audience.
From the initial tentative contacts, we were getting a positive response from the creative community. The first-ever letter from a potential contributor John and I really wanted to include in Taboo arrived before the end of 1985:
Chester Brown had been mailing John and I copies of his self-published minicomic Yummy Fur since its initial issues. We loved Chester’s work, and thought his sensibility was just what our as-yet unnamed horror comic needed.
Our dream, in fact, was an anthology that would embrace cutting-edge work from new cartoonists like Chester, rising genre dynamos like Clive Barker, and ‘not to be touched with a 500-foot-pole’ pioneer vets like S. Clay Wilson. Hell, nobody in mainstream or the Direct Market indie comics would ever publish S. Clay! We eventually got some terrific stuff from Chester (by the fall of 1986), along with new work from S. Clay and a sterling intro and unpublished art by Clive… all of which was published in Taboo 1.
By February of 1986, we had accepted our first finished scripts and one completed story — “Pyjama Girl” by Eddie Campbell, a two-pager Eddie had shown John and I back in 1985, when we spent some time with Eddie and his wife Anne in their Brighton flat. All Eddie had were photocopies — he had sold the originals to a fellow on a beach in Australia, if memory serves — but we were blown away by the story, and very much wanted Eddie to be part of our anthology because of his aversion to horror. There’d be nothing of the old musty genre trappings about anything Eddie might have to offer.
Eddie’s sensibility, too, was a key part of the mix, and defined another breaking of long-standing genre boundaries, while chilling the reader to the bone in ways no ‘straight’ horror comic tale ever could or would.
By February, I had also written multiple drafts of an invitation letter to be sent to potential contributors. Amid the papers I just uncovered, I found this lengthy draft I’d mailed to John and to Dave at the end of February, 1986.
It opens with an outline of what we were offering contributors, and what we hoped to see from them.
[Note: Please forgive the poor readibility of some of these ancient documents. These were photocopied from typed pages, at a time when photocopy technology wasn't nearly what it is today -- and when my impoverished state of affairs meant I was using typewriter ribbons until they'd given up their final microscopic speck of ink and were yielding pages that were damned near illegible. I did my best to make these readable for the purpose of these posts -- but they're still pretty rough going.]
Note, too, at this point we were still thinking small — 40 pages per issue.
Dave was trying to talk me out of doing our anthology as a Dangerous Visions-like compilation of cutting-edge contemporary comics horror. “Stick to the comicbook format, Steve,” Dave advised. “It works in this market. You can always do a trade paperback collection at a later time.”
My copy of this letter to John and Dave also included hand-written notes, struggling with the nature of the invitation, and to ensure invitation was not misinterpreted as an assignment — an immediately-perceived peril I saw working in the freelance environment we were all used to by the mid-1980s:
Dave was satisfied enough with our initial progress and decisions to have finances in place by March 1986. Working with Dave’s Aardvark-Vanaheim secretary Karen McKiel – who was during her employ at Aardvark-Vanaheim a tremendous help to John and I and, later, my wife Marlene (then Nancy) and I — we cut our first checks that month for the first scripts and one completed story we had in hand…
To be continued! Next time:
The Taboo Manifesto’s First Draft, Puma Blues Blues…