Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My Own Heart-Breaking Work of Staggering Genius

The tagline for Blogger says, "Share your life in a blog. It's fast easy and fun!" Or something like that. That's what I will now do, because it's sssoooo much fun.

It is the year 2000. About a year earlier, I had begun what would become my job, a job I still possess. I'm also about two years into a relationship that will be the measuring stick for all others to come after, good or bad. this is mostly due to the timing and duration of the relationship, not really because it was all that amazing. It's the benchmark because I was 23 and it last a long time and I had nothing meaningful to compare it too.

Anyway, with that perspective, the story begins. At some point, my friend John e-mails me and asks if I am interested in starting our own comic. He plans to resurrect two ideas from our youth, one funny and one serious. As it turns out, the funny one is a lot more enjoyable to work on, and we end up moving ahead with that one. It becomes the first online adventures of The Secret Monkey. The Secret Monkey is a monkey from the year 2525 who is trapped in the present day. To pass the time, he fights evil wearing only a paper bag with eye holes as a disguise. And I should add that John comes up with the plots, draws it, colors it, inks it, letters it and posts it on the actual website, while I write cheesy dialogue. But it is fun.

We go to a comic convention in Boston in November of 2001, after completing three issues and number of weird ancillary funny things like Mad Libs and fake fan letters written by us. At the Con, we hand out Bag's o' Fun, which are paper bags with eye holes printed on them that contain stickers, magnets and assorted other SM-related goodies, all of which we printed on our home printers. We handed out about 300 or so, and the hits on the website saw a noticeable bump. A couple weeks later, in December, John calls me to ask if I had seen the new issue of Wizard Magazine, the premiere comic magazine. Secret Monkey is mentioned, and praised. They even got our names right. The hits skyrocket into the thousands, practically overnight. Unfortunately, I can only focus on the fact that we have nothing on the website that we can actually sell to all these people.

We attempt to correct this. We print Secret Monkey #1 through a company in England that also offers to distribute the book. We attempt several times to get into Diamond Comics, basically the only company in the States that distributes comics to comic book stores. They reject us every time. Undaunted, we print issue #2. We are given half of a friend's table at a podunk convention in Attleboro to help us sell the book, and that same friend offers to put it on his shelves and hand out Bag's o' Fun at any show he attends. I also hand-deliver issues to several local stores that agree to sell them on consignment. About 6 years later, SM #1 still sits on the shelf at New England Comics in Allston. All the while, we are writing more and more comics, branching out to create a mini-series for the Heroes United, SM's group of super-secondary characters.

Eventually, we catch on at Benchcomics, a web distribution company that looks rather slick and cool, and promises to one day devise a way to charge people to read their books online. This is good, since we are hundreds of dollars in the red on this thing and I am of the belief that no one wants to buy a comic they can read online for free. Although SM proves to be one of the most-popular comics on Benchcomics, and we are even interviewed by a comics website, we see no actual money from it. It does, however, put John in touch with Chi, creator of another comic on the site, which will come into play later. We do work on a crossover with his book, which becomes the ill-fated Secret Monkey #9.

While my life was starting to crumble (said relationship was dissolving), we are given a glimmer of hope yet again when FM International, the second-largest comic distributor in the U.S. (and I mean distant second) picks us up and orders an astounding 11 copies of SM #1. Thinking we finally made the big-time, I pack up 11 copies and ship them off. As I recall, orders of issue #2 in FM drop to somewhere around 3. And I may be wrong. They they not have bought any. By the way, I'm pretty sure that out of those 11 copies, the distributor takes 60%. In all, we have still not made a cent on Secret Monkey.

End Part 1. Even I know it was getting too long... but has the fun begun yet?

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