It’s true. Believe it or not just about this time one decade ago Alex and I wrote the now much maligned Black Snow issue 1 and I started drawing it. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
I’ve been drawing Black Snow for ten years. The character is that old. Hard to believe? Or perhaps just sad to believe. I’d hoped to have achieved more in 10 years.
At least we can honestly say that we were one of the first webcomics, especially one of, if not the very first to be doing webcomics in the full comic book issue style. So we have our spot in history, even if the world at large doesn’t know it.
Well, actually Alex and I wrote Black Snow issue 1 in late 1999, after being inspired by the film Mystery Men. Then we did nothing with it and forgot about it.
Then in late 2001 I was inspired after watching the Tick’s short lived live action TV series and making a short student film that was a comedy about super heroes (search YouTube for SUPERiority complex HEROES to see my teenage writing and acting). I read my How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way book, remembered Black Snow and drew some of the characters I recalled. Here, for the very first time, I’ll show you those original drawings from my sketchbook, complete with notes on my ideas for the characters (most of which changed or were not used).
I also drew a few curves for Angel, and half a Barkeep. As you can see from my notes I had forgotten a lot of the original ideas and concepts, and had a much more lighthearted Tick-esque (it was the only comic book I had read at the time) style of stories I wanted to tell with no overall arch. Some I still think sound fun.
So I drew these and showed them to Alex. He was excited. He remembered a lot more about the original issue 1 than I did, so we modified things based on that. One of the first things he said was Black Snow looked too placid, not like the bad attitude character we had apparently written. So I did my best to fix that and here you see my second and third drawing of Black Snow and my first idea for a logo.
We saw that top drawing and knew we were on to something. That’s when we rewrote issue 1 (the original had been lost on an old computer of Alex’s, and it would be some time later before we found it, and saw how bad it was).
We finished writing it really quickly from what I recall, I started drawing it and I believe I had it finished by Alex’s birthday the following March.
So that’s how we started this drunken super hero comic so many years ago.
What have we done in that ten years? Completed 6 issues of Black Snow
(out of the planned 25). We put them all on the web (originally on GeoCities, then our own site which has been redone more times than I can count), letting people see the progress page by page, and eventually printed them all as well (and got rejected by several publishers). It took about 6 and a half or seven years to do those six issues, due to a number of reasons (mostly my slow drawing, and Alex’s slow writing).
In 2003 Black Snow had a brief, but memorable run as a comic strip in my college newspaper. Around this time we also got Black Snow advertized on the back of an unrelated comic strip I did for a company about mini-bike safety that was published in a magazine (the strip was Jonny Freestyle and it appeared in something like Motorcycle Industry Magazine (I’m too lazy to look at my archives)).
In 2009 we started our semi autobiographical comic strip Day Camp, which I think helped us move forward a lot creatively, because we weren’t locked into our rigid plans for Black Snow. It never really ended, we just stopped, but it could come back some day as it was a fan favorite. We also got our first critical review from ArtPatient.com and it was quite positive. We also got our second “review” from Something Awful and gained an enemy, which would later become an ally that I ended up doing some art for.
In 2010 We started the much beloved Black Snow spin off comic strip, I’m Famous!, which quickly surpassed our other comics in popularity. We had our first public appearance at APE, and got some advice from Larry Marder. Based on that we decided to halt work on Black Snow issue 7 (and issue 0 for that matter) and start on a graphic novel follow up titled Last Call. I even drew a nice cover. But mostly we just kept cranking out I’m Famous!
This year, 2011 in case you didn’t know, we continued I’m Famous! We created two new comic strips and some illustrative artwork for Urban Image Magazine, which appeared in a few issues. We had a larger presence on other comic sites, winning numerous contests and gaining new comic friends (many of whom we exchanged art and banners with). We were approached by several publishers (in fact we are still talking to some) but chose not to take any of the deals offered. We were also approached by people who wanted to collaborate or have us work on their comics, or even help them publish their comics, none of which excited us too much. After much soul searching we made the tough decision to cancel Last Call and start Black Snow over from scratch as the graphic novel Two Drink Minimum. We gained a friend in Mark “Rawr” Egan, whom we came to consider our third member and created the I’m Famous! manga spin-off I’m Famous in Japan!
We also went back to APE and had more of an impact, even making an impression on Daniel Clowes.
So things have greatly picked up as the years went on and as we took things more seriously. And I can only see them getting busier and better (we may not be to far off from selling print comics online!).
So that’s a somewhat brief history of Black Snow Comics (which became Black Snow Comics in 2009, once we had a second comic) that gives you some idea of where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing. Not mentioned, but obviously a factor is that I’ve steadily read more comics, books about making comics, improved my drawing, went from scanning fully inked drawings to scanning lined drawings that I digitally inked, to now drawing fully digitally on a tablet and have just gotten better overall. As has Alex and his writing.
I mentioned that I hoped we’d have succeeded more by now, and I meant it. I dream of national publication, a strong fan following and earning a living. I don’t dream of fame and fortune like I once did, just some moderate success really.
I know this post has been a bit all over the place as I wasn’t sure if I wanted to focus on talking about 10 years of Black Snow the character, the comic or the company, so I tried a bit of all. Hopefully you found it enjoyable. I don’t have any big fun anniversary plans like I did for one year of I’m Famous! earlier this year. In a way that’s fitting, as the spirit of I’m Famous! is so over the top, while Black Snow has always been more low key. Also, I’m Famous! was basically a year of fun, while Black Snow has been ten tough years of persistence and self doubt (I often thought of giving up).
I’ll just leave you with a few closing thoughts. The character of Black Snow (and much of the supporting cast) have really become part of my life over the years, so much so that I can almost picture them like real people, friends even. I’ve always felt that Black Snow represented the everyman, often the worst parts of him, but the everyman none the less. I believe anyone can relate to him on some level, and know I see a lot of myself in him.
The comic has become a major part of my life. I’ve never dedicated myself to anything for such a long period of time (except my wife!) and it is something I believe in. I can’t really see my life without it at this point. There’s something to be said about sticking with something for so long. Beyond just dedication or having a goal. I think it’s having a passion.
So while Black Snow may never see the light of publication and that success that I dream of, at least I’ll always know I tried. I don’t plan on ever giving up my dream, and really just being able to create something I love with my best friend is a dream in itself. So I’ll keep drawing, and Black Snow will always be there for me, and more importantly, he’ll be there for you.