I just put the store back on the site. Even though I would prefer you to order from INDYPLANET, I wanted the option of being able to provide the books and maybe some other merchandise. Give me a bit to stock up though. Thanks!
2017 is gone. I started it out preparing the next phase of my book. But as Con season got closer, I started realizing before I moved on, I needed to do more in getting the characters out there. So I allowed the future to take a back seat to selling what I had. Which meant more cons and a hard look at how I sell my books.
I made an effort to improve my art before embarking on a new series. I used 2017 to try new things. I worked on my style as well as how I produce the artwork. In that respect, I made some headway and success with that as I used my time to work on storytelling and clarity. As I unofficially put the book on break, I think it will be very obvious how the new books will reflect my year of improvement.
On the tail end of 2017, I tried collaboration with another creator. While I’m having fun working from someone else’s scripts, Man in the Mask is still my main focus. If anything, watching how someone else form their stories can only help me make a better work of my own stuff.
This brings me to 2018. You’ll finally see the graphic novel on digital stores and a print on demand service. To celebrate, it will have a new cover and new material. I’ll go into that later.
And the series. Wow. It still surprises me I’m talking about a series. My time away has made me look at what comes next a different way. Thanks if you’ve been waiting on it. I promise you I’ve been working to make it be the best it can be.
Finally, I am going to post new work more often both here and the website. I often let this page or my website be the last on my list. I’m gonna work my best to change that.
Here’s the mantra of 2018.
FROM JUNE 8, 2017
Looking through my files today, noticed something I hadn't thought about. It was a year ago that I finished my long in planning, long in production graphic novel. Finishing the book was an accomplishment I really thought I'd never do.
I'm a longtime comics fan. I don't really remember a time they weren't in my life. And I'm in my 40s, so that's a long time. In my teens I started drawing my own. I would staple sheets of paper together and make my own. Of course, I wanted to draw or write for the big guys. But an interesting thing happened as I got into my 20s, I wanted to create my own characters. Fueled by all the great indy characters I had been exposed to (Nexus, Mage, Grendel, Grimjack, Madman), I wanted to come up with something near my heart and sensibilities. That's when I came up with the idea of making my grandfather, my Pop, into a masked hero. He had long been my real life one and it just seemed natural to make him one. I'd introduce a legacy aspect to it to include myself to a small degree and that was my story. This was 1995.
Life kept passing. Family ordeals, job stress and unhappiness, as well as, a massive self depreciating/ inferiority complex kept me from creating my book. I really thought it would never be a reality on many levels, especially after my Pop passed away.
But life can be funny. My friends who had been creating comics on the side started to become more and more of an influence instead of me being jealous of them. The hunger for producing my book returned out of necessity, maybe because I was finally ready for it. That was 2014.
I was coming off the longest period I had ever gone through without holding a pencil. To say I was rusty was being kind. But as I started it, I found myself not downing myself for what I was drawing. I was focusing on actually working on the book instead of whether I was ready or not. For the next two years, I would continue this journey through changing formats how I was going to present it, to the final graphic novel it became.
It's rough in places. A lot of it was created from years of plot points and thoughts never scribbled down and played in my head a million times. But I'm proud of it. I think when people see it sitting on my table I'm sure they have their own conclusions about it. That's fine. That's their right. I may not always explain it the best I can or be the salesman it deserves. How do you describe a life's dream? It's the story of a coal miner who moonlights as a masked hero, who does so until age makes him think towards the future and his grandson taking it over. From there it turns into a story about the pressure of growing up with a big responsibility over your head. A family drama much more than a masked one. See I can explain it.
By the way, those that have bought it, while a small group, have honored me by saying how much they like it. That is a feeling I will never be able to explain.
Just released a Prelude story that kind of bridges the graphic novel to the new series I'm working on. That last sentence still baffles me that I'm speaking in future tense for the book.
I know that was long and drawn out. It was just a spur of the moment musing of where I've been and how I got there. Thanks for reading.
From the start of all this, I haven't exactly ran this like a business. I have my graphic design biz so I didn't really want to consider this a business. But as I go on and on with it, I realize there are things, if I was to succeed in some capacity that is, I'm going to have to do.
My plan for the series was to offer new books as I did cons. But even with as many cons there are nowadays, I realized that it wasn't enough to keep me motivated to produce. And it would keep me very regional and might one day inhibit growth. So I thought about formal distribution, which for the comic industry is Diamond Distributors which practically has a strangle hold on the comic retail side. Even well know books have problems finding an audience with the current distribution model. So i'm not too sure how much I should focus on that.
Other than cons, digital distributions like Comixology, Indy Planet or Drive Thru Comics seem like viable options, if anything a place that I can regularly produce the series. I'm a print guy. I prefer feeling the book in my hand. But I think digital has some perks that I may partner with whatever other method I'm going to do the print comics in.
In constructing my plan of release, I decided I wanted to have a primer book that would allow me to tell a little story that takes place between scenes in the graphic novel. This story would give a reader who hadn't read the graphic novel a taste without spoiling the journey to Tommy's taking on the mask. They would get broad strokes but I won't reveal how Tommy came to his decision or the conflict within. Also within this PRELUDE, would be a character by character "WHO'S WHO entry. It'll be a mix of a bio and where I'm trying to position them as the series begins. Also going to throw in some behind the scenes notes of their creation and why I included them in Tommy's story.
This PRELUDE factors into my distribution as an entry point for those that have been hesitant to pick up a $15 graphic novel. It tells you enough to enjoy the series but allows for you to find stuff in the graphic novel I don't plan on retreading. The graphic novel was my quick origin of Tommy and his family. I focused on key events opposed to drawn out scenes. I knew I would lose some people of the price and length. As I've said before, the graphic novel was for me and if you enjoyed it, THANK YOU SO MUCH. The series I'm making for myself but also for those that have encouraged me to continue. With distribution, I just want to make sure I can reach as many as I can.
A lifelong comics fan, Mike W. Belcher is the writer/artist of MAN IN THE MASK. A story he's had with him for over 20 years.