2011 – The Year in Review

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Another banner year for Black Snow Comics in which much progress was made. You can compare it to the 2010 review or the briefer 2009 review.

So what all did we do this year? First, we switched to digital comic making after I got my Bamboo tablet for Christmas lat year. It was a slightly awkward transition from pen and paper, which you can see by looking at the I’m Famouses of the time, but I like to think I got the hang of it rather quickly.

The last Pen and Ink Famous
The last Pen and Ink Famous
The first, very sloppy, Tablet drawn Famous
The first, very sloppy, Tablet drawn Famous
The second, greatly improved, Tablet Drawn Famous
The second, greatly improved, Tablet Drawn Famous
The First Comic of 2011
The First Comic of 2011

So we ushered in the new year by joining the digital media age. I’m Famous! was the only comic we had going at the time, and I really wanted to do something special to celebrate the one year anniversary of the comic on Feb. 2nd. So I did this:

I'm Famous's first anniversary
I’m Famous’s first anniversary

I really like that picture. Alex thinks it looks like a wacky sitcom. Anyway, the celebration continued with our first celebrity (well, quasi-celebrity) guest, Alex’s friend and the man behind Asian Man Records, Mike Park (formerly of The Chinkees).

Mike Park pt. 1
Mike Park pt. 1
Mike Park pt. 2
Mike Park pt. 2

If you are wondering how Mike reacted to his comic appearance…with indifference from what I saw. Oh well. That was followed up with this movie poster for Skategoat, which was pretty random and a joke only people who read Rosenstein’s bio on the site would fully appreciate.

Skategoat, a bizarre in joke
Skategoat, a bizarre in joke for loyal fans

So February was a month of celebration. I believe it was also the first month we joined and won the contest at Comicracy and ranked at the top of Comic Hovel, something we’d continue to do monthly for the rest of the year.

Then something weird happened. A man known as Daddy Rich, whom I would later learn some interesting and unsavory things about, contacted us (from prison!) to do comics for his Black targeted magazine, Urban Image. And I thought it was an opportunity worth trying. So we came up with the Black centric comics, Aw Hell Naw! and Black Power, and a few illustrations, all of which you can see on our Urban Image Magazine Facebook photo album.

So we did that for a couple issues of the magazine, but it wasn’t getting us much exposure, and we weren’t really comfortable with being a part of the magazine after reading the content. We also didn’t really like doing the racially focused comics. After that I somehow was labeled as an urban artist, and I was more shocked than anyone. I got several offers from people (some even for pay!) to do more Black focused comics, some of which I thought were leaning towards racist. I really don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or get into any controversial racial themes, and politely declined.

The nice upside was I learned that we had quite a few Black fans. Who knew? This was not a fact lost on Alex and I, and would play a role in some of our decision making later down the line.

In April I’m Famous! got a terrible podcast review from Digital Strips that actually ended up causing me to improve my style a lot in the end, so I guess it was a good thing. But man was I pissed off at the time, and it did nothing to help my confidence. But like I said, it made me a better artist by pointing out a few legitimate flaws I worked to improve.

We also tied to win a Thor contest on Comicracy with these special Thor themed I’m Famous! comics.

I'm Famous! Thor pt.1
I’m Famous! Thor pt.1
I'm Famous! Thor pt.2
I’m Famous! Thor pt.2

We won a nice shirt, hat, CD, a video game, and we were put on the list for the movie premiere in Hollywood. Good times befitting of I’m Famous!

I started really getting to know a lot of other webcomic makers sometime around here and gained some cool friends. I also got some sweet guest art.

This is also around the time I solicited Black Snow and I’m Famous! to publishers, and shockingly many of them were interested this time! This led to several offers print our stuff or work on other projects. For the first time in our 10 years of making comics we were actually popular and in demand!

Unfortunately all the deals were weak and the projects were not anything we were interested in. Lame stuff. There was something major that came out of it all… One publisher we were interested in really wanted to do a Black Snow graphic novel, they just wanted a different artist to do it. Ouch! Well, I put pride aside and we looked for one. And had a hard time finding anyone interested without being paid up front. A lot of greedy people out there.

So we thought long and hard (Ha!) about things and what exactly we were trying to sell. Originally we were going to make Black Snow Issue 7, which would would’ve picked up right after the events of #6. We also considered doing an Issue 0 origin story of sorts, but had trouble writing it. Then after a fateful talk with Larry Marder at APE 2010 we decided to make a graphic novel follow up to issue 6, called Last Call.

So we were trying to sell the first 6 issues either in their original forms, or preferably in a compilation, and the partially written graphic novel follow up. When we really thought about it we realized this was not what we wanted to be selling. We didn’t like the old issues and weren’t really happy with the way we were trying to move forward based on them. So we made the tough decision to basically erase all our previous work on the series by restarting it as an all new graphic novel, which you now know as Two Drink Minimum.

Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum
Black Snow: Two Drink Minimum

So we redid everything, trying to improve upon the original. New story, a more true depiction of Detroit and its population, new character designs, a new art style…a lot of new stuff really, but still based on the spirit and intent of the original. We made the decision that I would stay as Black Snow’s artist, and we would eventually try to self publish (so no lame publisher could dictate to us). Somewhat bold and brash, but I still think the right decision. So once again I did my best to up my drawing game, I think I did a pretty good job.

I wasn’t the only one who thought so, and I started getting a lot of compliments on my work. Meaningful ones that let me know people were taking me seriously as an artist, possibly for the first time. And I started to feel like a real artist. So I chose to concentrate on my storytelling and improving my skills with Black Snow, and took a break from I’m Famous! in June. I knew overall people enjoyed Famous more, but they seemed to respect Black Snow more.

Then in July we started on a partnership with a friend we met over the net, Mark “Rawr” Egan of rawrtacular.com, the Manga you now know to be I’m Famous in Japan!

I'm Famous in Japan!
I’m Famous in Japan!

And so there rest of the year basically went. Rawr would do Famous in Japan! when he had time and I would do Black Snow when I had time. I worked hard to improve my art, read some more books on the subject, tried new things and developed my style. I also got into photo manipulation, which seems like a pretty untapped and unique art form at this point. And we spread to more and more websites, and won more contests. In turn we gained more of a following.

In October we went back back to the Alternative Press Expo, and were much better prepared for our 2nd convention. We got a bunch of cool merch made up for the event and sold quite a bit of stuff. We also made a very fun mini comic for the show, which led to us meeting Daniel Clowes. Like APE 2010, it was a real learning experience.

We redid the website, several times, including the installation of Comic Press. We also pushed hard on the social media, with some positive results (always nice to interact with fans).

In September we put out a Black Snow compilation book and I’m Famous! Vol. 1. We finally had books for sale! And we sold a few! We also started selling ad space on the site for a little cash flow.

Eventually I started doing Famous again, and still push forward with Two Drink Minimum. We also created a new comic, Detroit Mock City, which will debut Feb. 6th in the Cartoonist Studio contest. I’m really excited about it, and think people are really going to be into it. Hell, we may even have a chance of winning!

So what else will 2012 hold? Probably the conclusion of I’m Famous in Japan! It was always meant to be a one off mini series, and Mark is busy with two comics of his own. I’ll continue to do Famous intermittently. With any luck, and a hell of a lot of work, we’ll finish Two Drink Minimum and tell the first part of our big story. Alex and I really look forward to seeing it finished and getting people’s reactions to the final product. If Detroit Mock City takes off then you’ll see a lot of that, especially if we win the contest and get a deal. I really like doing it and it comes out in a way that is almost effortless (in comparison). We’re also set to appear at the Big Wow Comic Fest in March, though we’ll probably skip APE in October.

And who knows what else? If 2012 is anything like 2011 we’ll be busy and making great strides! Hopefully you’ll be along for the ride.

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