It arrived this week. When my first printer went late on me, I decided to pull the job for many different reasons. As such, I needed to find another one. Luckily, I had some nice samples to look at from my good friend Todd at Old World Comics. He used a printer in Plymouth, Michigan called Comix Wellspring. So I thought I'd get a quote. After agreeing, I placed the order. I was so surprised how fast I received the proof.
I had a few changes that I had missed. I approved and I should have the full 110 page graphic novel in my hands before you know it. While this is how I plan to package the book from now on, I haven't forgot about those that bought the Special Edition from Ashland Highlander Hero Con. I will have a special conclusion book for you to purchase at this year's event. You'll notice the cover favors an image I had on this site for a number of months. I decided to clean up the idea and make it a little clearer.
Pretty happy how it turned out. You'll notice the number 2 on it. Now I realize some of you at last year's Huntington Tri-State Con bought what I had as #1 and #2, a b&w and color book. But when I went to Ashland, I had a combo book of those two issues I entitled the Special Edition. If you bought these separate books and want the conclusion, the below cover is what you want. It would have been #3. But since, quite frankly, I sold more of the Special Edition combo book, it didn't make sense to make it #3 when so many would know it as a second or concluding issue anyway.
SPECIAL NOTE: If you just bought #1 (the b&w comics) from me at Huntington, tell me or show me a pic on your phone, and I will discount the graphic novel for you.
Many years ago, like any aspiring comic artist/publisher, I tried my best at creating a book for myself. But when it came to the title, I was always afraid I would come up with a name that someone else had already and I wasn't aware of it. When I created this book and concept, I of course wanted to name the book after the lead character. However, as I created the visual first and not exactly the name, I had some pause. What's a good logo and character without an equally good name?
I was fixated on the idea of Midnight. That's when the character would operate. So I came up with the Midnight Man. The same year, Howard Chaykin came out with a book called Midnight Men (google it, had nothing to do with masked men). So I thought about the Midnight Mask. Stuck for awhile, but whenever I'd add artwork under that logo, it just looked strange. I slightly remembered a book from the 80s called Masked Man. So that was no good.
Then, one day at the newspaper I worked at, it came to me very strangely.
I should have been working, I know. But that name was just haunting me. As I sat there, it just kept churning in my mind. "What kind of a name, that no one else has, can you come up with for a man in a mask?"
Definitely one of those d'oh moments.
It just resonated with me. It wasn't a name for my character. Never intended to be. But I thought, y'know, this is a descriptive title. Kind of like, "Guy in a hat." No one could trademark a saying. I had heard it for words to describe everything from criminals in masks, to Clayton Moore and the Lone Ranger.
I had my title.
Fast forward to the present day. Here I am finally publishing this book. The name man in the mask is still a descriptive word. No other searches came up with anyone using it as a title. If there were, being the overly prepared guy I am, I took a note from Lee Daniel's The Butler. He wanted the name The Butler so bad for his movie, but there were other uses elsewhere. The studio suggested adding his name to make it different. So that's what I did. I added my own name to a descriptive phrase.
It wasn't because of arrogance. I'm a nobody in the comic world. But it allows me to also introduce the guy who came up with the book in the same breath. Worked for John Carpenter when he was starting out. He was barely known when he added his name to Halloween. Not linking myself at all to him, but there's a spiritual connection.
My book is at the printer (still). So finally after two years of balancing work with the creation of my story, I'm catching up with some shows and movies I haven't given myself time to watch. Not a netflix guy, but I heard good things about Daredevil. So I finally got a free month so we could watch it.
Let me preface this with the acknowledgement that Daredevil, like Batman, like Superman, like any street level Golden Age character, was an inspiration for my book. I also know that Matt's pre-Daredevil costume in "Man Without Fear" is a black costume. But I felt that the outfit Tommy (the grandson runs around in) was different enough that when drawing this modern version, I didn't change anything.
However, as I've been watching (it's an excellent show btw), I wasn't prepared for as many uses of my descriptive title to describe Matt pre-Daredevil costume and name. Yes, my name is above the name of the book. Yes. I started promoting this book a good year before the show came out. But there's a part of me that feels anyone who has watched the show, and then picks up my book, will just think I'm trying to knock off on it. Which is the furthest from the truth as I can state.
In the years since coming up with this book, there have been many things I've had to change visually or tonally because someone beat me to it. Out of respect, I did the changing because I'm the one that delayed the book and let someone beat me to the punch. Yeah sure. My guy runs around in a tie and dress clothes like any masked character from the 40s. But I tried to do something as different as I could and make a reason for it. The stark contrast in his look I think does so. Nothing in masked comics is original. All the tropes have been done and redone and then rewashed. It's the story beneath the mask that you have to strive for originality. I think a coal miner moonlighting as a masked man is somewhat original. I'm pretty proud of that. His want to pass on something meaningful to someone he cares about like a grandson adds to that.
Creative publishing is challenging and frustrating. You'll hit moments where you think all your work might have been for nothing. Or that someone will accuse you of just trying to copy a fad (which no one has). But you have to take stock that something you cherish so much and have watched grow beyond you is strong enough to weather those rough times.
I try my best not to get too aggravated about things I can't change. But just received news from my printer that I will not be receiving my book before this weekend's Huntington Tristate Comicon. I busted my backside to get it done in time and now, I'm getting foiled by a scheduling snafu. I used a printer I have placed many novels with, so while not per se a comic or graphic novel printer, they gave me an awesome deal and an assurance of the turnaround I needed. Needless to say, I'm only using them this one time.
The book clocks in at 104 pages of story with supplemental pages in the back. I was looking so forward to holding it in my hands in addition handing it to those of you nice enough to purchase an earlier issue.
I suppose this is just one of those pitfalls of Indy publishing.
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.