Saturday, January 29, 2022

Genesis of "Liebestrasse" (available June 2022!)

 This has been a very long time coming, and I couldn't be more pleased with this news. Excepting of course, we never had the history to draw from.

The project first started as I toured the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz camps. As the Nazi's attempt to show the world how well they were treating their ghetto inhabitants, Theresienstadt had detailed records that made their way to the museum their today. Reading the stories of the inhabitants, it was easy to read between some lines, as to who there was queer.

Sitting on a bench in Kraków's Planty, I began imaging how normal life must have been like, and one moment later, everything on its head. I imagined what my life might have been like, and the lives of the men whose stories were in the museum. And the first sketches made their way into my sketchbook.

Years later, after Greg Lockard and I had successfully collaborated on several short stories ("Trying Something New," "RE-Infinity," "A Sincere Lack of Manners and Subtlety," and "Star Players") I wanted ask Greg to work with me on the short story version of "Liebestraße" for my collection of romance stories On the Romance Road. All I had were a few sketches and idea for the opening scene (a bait and switch of a normal life upended). Greg and I brainstormed the two main characters, the feasibility of their meeting, and he developed the story. He enlisted the coloring talents of Hector Barros, and we completed the story in 14 pages.

The story was translated to French for the magazine La Revue de LGBT BD and Greg made a mini comic in English for convention sales... and quickly  the folks at ComiXology Originals hired us to expand the short story into a full original graphic novel.

Greg's research and care was a real inspiration for me, both in my drawing of Liebestrasse as well as forging my own goals as a writer as I entered graduate school. 

The book was completed, debuted at Thought Bubble late 2019 as a digital-first publication, and was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic as well as for a Tripwire Award for Best Graphic Novel. I don't recall the original print plan (thank you Covid brain!) but I am proud to share with you that it will be available from Dark Horse in June 2022

And, PS, I took liberal inspiration from an old movie poster of the 1940 Hitchcock version of Rebecca to make this unofficial promo graphic!

Friday, January 28, 2022

Work I Might Share


In the Summer 2020 term, I took "Short Story Workshop," producing even more work you'll probably never see. In this class, we had to write a 3-page shortie, then four 10-20 page stories. Here I learned that my "style" is fairly formal and it was work to break out of that. Fortunately, my humor was able to show through even when out of my comfort zone (as well as my seriousness). 

My stronger pieces were "The Boy Who Couldn't" and "Paradox Solved," both described at times Kafka-esque. Color me flattered! I was extremely disappointed in "Alone at Last," which was meant to be something of a ghost story, but I felt fell far, far short.

My best piece from this class was "Things Don't Always Suck." You may remember this as a comic short from nearly twenty years ago! I'd always loved the characters and the premise--three roommates who all were experiencing a personal set-back, and each envious of what the others had--but never was satisfied with my comic story. 

This version took the characters, some of the moments from the comic short, but recast it in a way that gave the story so much better form, shape, and detail than it had as a comic. In large part, if the comic was draft two, then the final short story would have been draft five or six. A great lesson to revise and rewrite. It was delightful to revisit Jon-o, Nate, and Dascomb, (Marnie, too... she was the most fun to write) and in a way to be a bit proud of!

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Work I Won't Share

Maybe you've asked what I've been up to since I finished work on Liebestrasse in the Fall of 2019, at least I hope you have. True enough, my comics output has dropped, but my creative output has not!

Since the Summer of 2019, I've had the great benefit by my employer to pursue a Master of Arts degree, with a concentration in creative writing. I'd invested so much in draftsmanship over the years, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to focus on my writing. 

Among the work you'll never see are five pieces from "Writing Nature" from the Winter 2020 term. We had to write two short pieces 3-5 pages in length and three longer ones. These aren't my strongest pieces ever...let's say non-fiction writing is really uncomfortable space for me. However, I did get plenty out of the class: (1) it was my first writing class, and producing so much over a 10 week period (in addition to all the readings) was a good way to dive in; (2) there's plenty of fiction with nature writing, do forcing myself into this territory will serve me well no matter what I do; (3) one of my goals in the program was push myself into uncomfortable places to grow as a writer. So, yay!

My work included:

  • a look out my window (this was the class warm-up exercise)
  • a tale of the rats and rabbits in my neighborhood, oddly humorous
  • another shortie about rabbits
  • a meticulous recounting of yardwork at my country house which I think showcased my anxiety
  • a tale of a series of Mount Cardigan hikes as metaphor of a faded friendship

The class was eye-opening in that I could see the calibre of classmates in the program, and I figured out pretty quickly where I was trying to benchmark.


Saturday, January 22, 2022

2022, hello.

Happy New Year! Fingers crossed for 2022.

I'm not really into resolutions per se, but I do like to target bad habits and minimize them if I can't eliminate them.

Here and there, I've been able to evolve bad habits into a ritual. In this way, coffee is a victory.

I don't think I even had my first cup of coffee until I was 23. I somehow survived university without it, but I couldn't escape it in Saint Louis. Even still, it was a social drink for me. It took me another six years to actually buy a coffee-maker for my apartment.

From there, a few cups turned into a pot, with extra fill-ups within an hour or two after I arrived at the office.

At some point I was given a single-cup maker, and though fresher, it didn't make a good cup of coffee. I avoided the packaged K-cups, using the refillable thingie. At least I wasn't adding to landfills.

I tried a French press, but never really took to it.

Enter the mocha pot.

I was in Glasgow with my French friend Xavier Lancel, editor of Scarce Magazine and two American comic creators--Greg Lockard, living in Spain at the time, and Monica Gallagher. And in our AirBnB was a mocha pot, a stove-top espresso maker. I fell in love!

On my return home, in my building's free room was a used mocha pot. I grabbed it. I was a full convert, and when the handle broke off, I broke down and bought a new pot. 

It takes enough effort that I never make a second pot. So I've made a ritual of preparing the coffee, as well as boiling some hot water for a tiny teapot I picked up somewhere, so I can make myself Americanos.

Perhaps I should have converted from a trip to Italy rather than Scotland, but one can't choose these things.