Saturday, 15 October 2016

Creator Spotlight: G.M.B Chomichuk

I first met G.M.B Chomichuk at the C4 comic con in Winnipeg in 2014. He was wandering around before the show started, checking out some of the other tables and talking with folks he knew and those he didn't. I'm not sure what brought him to my table but he introduced himself and we chatted briefly about my books. Behind me and to one side was a local comics podcast (The Last Panel Podcast, as a matter of fact) who started talking with him just as we were wrapping up our conversation, asking if he'd be interested in taking part in one of their shows. 

It was then that I got the first taste of what Mr. Chomichuk is like, or Greg as I've come to know him. The thing that drives him is creating art/comics. He lives and breathes it. Not only that, he loves to see others create and wants them to embrace that passion and for it to be acknowledged. At this point I had spoken to him for a total of MAYBE three minutes and he pauses his conversation with the podcaster and says "who you SHOULD be talking to is Andrew here, a local guy making some pretty cool-looking comic books."

Here was this guy I literally JUST MET promoting my books to someone else. He's being asked to take part in something and immediately he changes it into making it inclusive for a complete stranger. I will literally never forget that. They ended up buying every book I had out at the time and are always one of my supporters at C4, even having gone and reviewed the LEGACY trade paperback on one of their episodes. The odds are very good that they would never have picked up any of my books had Greg not thought to mention me. 

See at this time I was still really getting out there with my books and had no idea what the creative community was like. You hear stories of people cutting each others throats just to get that step up to expose their work and such. I had some creator friends who I'd met mainly online that were supportive but of the local community I knew very little. It was encouraging. 

Since then I've gone to a number of Greg's launches for his own work, including the stellar graphic novel, Infinitum and have found him to be a hell of an artist and writer. How this guy isn't on everyone's Must Read list, I have no idea. The art is all a style of its own, heavy on the black with a feel reminiscent of comic book greats like Tim Bradstreet but still very much its own thing. His writing is equally impressive; as layered and deep as his art, while still being entertaining. 

The thing about him that continues to impress though is his attitude and personality. His "day job" as a teacher shines through in his speaking (you must see him live at one of his launches- he's VERY good) and in his on-going pursuit of encouraging others to create and to get their creations out there for others to see. Gregory believes that the creative process is something to be embraced, enjoyed and that sharing in the love and excitement of it is essential above all else. 

Passion is what drives a creator to do what they do, both the fuel and the fire, and G.M.B Chomichuk has that in spades. To quote his website: Join the Fight! Make Comics! At the very least go grab a couple of HIS comics; they're as awesome and inspiring as the man who created them.

GMB Chomichuk on: Instagram, Twitter and his website.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Some Days (Beware, This Is A *Whiny* Rant)

Some days I hate my life. Don’t get me wrong, I know people all over the world have less and are happy. It’s not about having for me. It’s about doing. It’s about feeling like I’m not doing enough, like what I am doing isn’t what I am meant to and it’s certainly not what I want to.

Again, this is nothing new or unique.

I never claimed it to be.

Overall I have a fairly good life- love, family, a job that pays (some) of my bills. Things that some people would kill for; things some may never have. Does that make me ungrateful? Maybe. Do I care? Not especially.

I know I’m grateful for the things I have and the people that are in my life- if anything the awesomeness of those things is what makes it that much more frustrating.

Before I started making comic books I worked a shitty job, much like the (less) shitty job I work now. Working as an auto parts person in a dealership means you’re never right, it’s always your fault and doing two or three things at once is never enough. I know you’re thinking “yeah, right”.  Tell you what, you go do my job for a week and tell me it isn’t like that. For the most part that doesn’t bother me; I’ve got a solid enough ego and the pay is decent for a fairly reasonable amount of work- there’s some heavy lifting but far from what one would call back-breaking. Stress, sure, but lots of jobs have that.

No, what gets to me is that I started making comic books and discovered a whole new world a world that I want to live in, not the drudgery of the one I do now.

It’s a world where people, at least the ones I have worked with, are extremely talented and even more humble than that about their gifts. A world where working together as a team is a must but more than that, it is a pleasure. One where everyone works towards the same goals and gives it their best effort and always wants the next job to be even better. It’s a world where, although the pay is low or even non-existent, the rewards are immeasurable.

You can’t put a price on what it means for a group of people to bring to life a story that didn’t exist before- to birth new ideas and new characters and situations. Pulling that off is amazing. And, much like the birth of a “real” person, it is not without its perils and pains. But it is ALWAYS worth it. Even when things don’t turn out the way you expected or wanted to, it is worth it. 
Until you’ve worked the hundreds of hours that it takes to put together a comic book it’s really hard to appreciate fully- I was a fan for almost 30 years and still never really understood how harrowing and elating it is to create a story in this medium. 

As a writer, you live with these characters in your head for days, weeks, years; they become as real as to you as the people you walk past on the street. You can hear their voices as you type; you understand the things that motivate them, the things they fear. Despite this knowledge, they still surprise you. They make decisions or take actions that seem so against what you had planned for them- not unlike a child might do to a parent. 

As an artist- whether it be pencils, inks, colors or letters, you create the world that these characters inhabit as much, if not more, than the writer who wrote the story. You fill in all those little details that make it come alive. The way a character holds themselves as they deal with a stressful situation, their body language, their expressions, the way the lighting strikes their face. Artists do all this as they toil away for hours and hours. They get to know every facet of each page, building and erasing, adding and taking away until the art of the page, of the book is done; so much of it subtle enough that only THEY know everything that went into it. 

There lay the problem- these are the things that I love and the people that I love doing them with- artists and storytellers, creators of worlds that are fictional only in the sense that they do not exist unless we create them, and once we do, they become real- to both ourselves and our readers. We cheer them, we boo them, we witness the rise and fall of both heroes and villains. With every page we experience we invest some of ourselves into it- both creator and reader. 

So how can one NOT want to live in that world? A world where people care, where they want nothing but the best of results and support each other in doing so?

Clearly there are many reasons one cannot do so- chief among them is the financial costs- putting these sorts of stories together are not cheap and we all have bills to pay. Comic books, even at their height, are unfortunately not a large money medium. One cannot hope to invest a few months of work and see the sort of returns that you would from a feature film- and even though some charge such, good luck getting ten bucks per head for a comic. 

Like the majority of independent comic book creators I know, that means I have to have a day job- some are lucky and have ones that they love doing, others… Well we do what we need to get by just like anyone else. We use the time we steal from friends and family to pursue what we are passionate about- telling stories and sharing them with others. We stay up and pull all-nighters to finish inking a page, we write dialogue in the shower, we letter on our lunch breaks and color the moment our kids go to bed. We work on birthdays and anniversaries, on days off and after long shifts. 

We do it not only because we love to but because we are driven to. 

Something compels us to keep chipping away at the ideas that call to us while we wake and even while we sleep. Characters whose stories need to be told; stories that resonant with us and perhaps with some of you; stories that can have great depth and meaning and some that are just meant to be fun and taken at face value. 

If you are one of those brave souls who have embarked on this path with us, as a reader or fellow creator, I must thank you. Your words of encouragement and excitement are the shoulders that we lean on when the story just isn’t working out right, when it seems like the page will never finish being drawn, that the colors seem off or the words just won’t fit. It propels us to greater heights as we strive to one-up the story we did before to excite you as much as scare ourselves that perhaps we might have over-reached or pushed so far that our reach exceeds our grasp. Just because we are driven to do something doesn’t mean it’s easy, but you all make it that much easier. 

Even on the days where we hate everything for being so damn hard. 

The days where it seems nothing will ever work out, that we’ll never get ahead or get that break that allows us to do what we love as our sole occupation. It’s a double edge sword, once you fall down that rabbit hole of creating comics- it can cut you with a harsh reality of mounting bills and low sales, but it can cut away all the troubles in the world with a simple, “that was a really great read, dude.” 
That’s my rant, thanks for being there- I’ll keep plugging away at these books if you’re willing to stick it through with me- it’s no fun when you go at things alone. I don’t want fans, just friends along for the ride.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Novel Writing Journal Entry #1


I'm writing a novel.

No, not right now. This is just the first instalment in a series of journal entries that I'm going to write chronicling my... Well, my journey. After all, that's why they call them journals, right? I seriously have no clue but it sounds right so let's run with that.

As I said, I am writing a novel. If you subscribe to the S17 Newsletter, not only are you already aware of this, but you've read the rough draft for the first chapter. So far all the feedback I've received has been positive. I'd write the book either way, but it's nice to hear other people think the story so far is interesting.

I have begun several novels but so far have yet to finish any of them. This one, Formerly Known As the Indestructible Kid, will be the first. It might kill me in the process but by damn it will be finished. Even if it has to be published posthumously. The reasons for not finishing them all pretty much come down to losing interest. It's probably why I'm suited better for writing comic books- a typical S17 comic book script clocks in at under 5000 words. A "typical" novel is usually in excess of 120,000.

Quick math will show that to be like writing LOTS of comic scripts. My attention span is to the point that, while I'm writing those 5000 words my brain has already gone off on three different NEW ideas that I'd like to work on. It's not that what I'm working on (novel or script-wise) is by any means boring, I just naturally run to the shiny new idea. Self-discipline and I are not exactly the tightest of friends. 

To sit at a keyboard or with a notebook (but let's face it sooner or later the damn thing needs to be typed up anyhow) for the amount of time to write a novel, even if it's the thing that you're most excited about in the whole wide world EVER? That takes a LOT of willpower.
Like A LOT.

So, yeah. Lots of other shiny ideas and sitting there hammering away at the same thing day and day out. That's a couple of reasons I have a hard time with writing novels. Pacing was also an issue for the longest time until I realised a chapter is just like a comic book page. You have to have something at the beginning to draw people in, some cool stuff that happens in the middle, and an ending that makes people NEED to keep reading; early mornings and obligations be damned. Once I figured that part out, pacing was no longer as tricky.

The other problem I have is once I know an ending for a story, I start to get bored with it. I read because I want to know the story- from start to end. Once I've read it, I'm good. I don't have to go back to it again. I do, but that's because of habit more than anything. So when I plot out a story, it's essential for me to get to it as quickly as possible before other ideas pop up, ones I don't know enough about just yet, and take over.

I started FKA sometime back for National Novel Writing Month (a pretty neat event where you try to write 50,000+ words of a novel within the month of November) and I've more or less picked up where I left off, adding a few thousand words to where I had stopped a couple years back. Getting back in the groove of writing the character, Jared Rayburn, was not quite as easy as I had hoped but I figured a little rust was to be expected given the length of time between writing sessions. The more of it I write, the smoother it becomes so I take that as a sign I'll be back in tune with him before long.

Right now the goal is to finish the first draft by the end of April/beginning of May. Looking at my word count and how far along I am, that may be a bit optimistic, but that doesn't mean I'm not going to try to do it. After all, I've already announced a release date of September 1 and there's a lot to do after just one draft- more drafts, editing, putting it all together for release- tons of work. I'm going to do a few more of these journals to update my progress (or lack there of) and the struggles involved in writing this book (hopefully they are far and few between) to not only keep track for myself, but so anyone else who is thinking of writing a novel sees that they aren't the only ones going through this- because there are certainly times where it feels like that.

Thanks for reading and we'll talk again soon.