Let's Make Some Comics

I drew my first comic when I was around 5 years old.

I had never watched the Swamp Thing television show (I wasn’t allowed), but I was transfixed by the commercials on TV and toys advertised in the Sunday paper.

The shapes these figures cut were twisted up and gnarled around the edges. They weren’t cleaned up and streamlined like the Ninja Turtles cartoons, not obvious heroes like my clean-cut, all-American G.I. Joes either. I’d only recognize years later that the grim aesthetic that attracted me to the idea of Swamp Thing alone was the gothic horror I’m still obsessed with today. They were approachable monsters; probably how I coped with being imaginative and a scaredy-cat.

Being denied the opportunity to actually consume the pop-culture, I turned all that pent-up enthusiasm into a comic book instead. I don’t know if I’d ever even read a comic, but I took 6 splash pages, stapled them together along the spine and carefully crayoned what little dialog I could write. Dad “read” my comic to me before I went to sleep for I don’t know how long after that. He improvising 90% of the dialog, turning a climatic battle of mossy titans to a Who’s On First farce; Swamp Thing defeating his enemy by towing one of the evil monsters around by the eye-stalk despite much protesting. I still remember being delirious from laughing at his punch-drunk pleadings of “nooot the eyeee.”

I continued to make comics through high school. I substituted the gothic maybe-heroes of age 5 for high fantasy knights and my own flavor of superheroes. When it came time to pick a college, I couldn’t really afford or justify Joe Kubert’s School of Sequential Art (but hey, weren’t those ads incredible?) and went to a local community college instead. I met Jay at my first day of college, in fact. We were in the same program for the same reasons; we wanted to make comics, but figured we might want to have a fallback too. Graphic design. Just as print was “dying,” wouldn’t you know.

We started an anthology with others in the program a year or so later and continued making comics together through our 16 years of friendship. And about a year ago, after all of the anthologies and script-trades and short stories, he called me up. “Hey,” he said, “remember that comic we tried making years ago? About the woman and the aliens and AM Radio? Why don’t we make that? Like a full, proper, long comic.”

So here we are.

While print really did go the way of the black rhino (not dead, definitely diminished), I got a job at a design agency where I ended up designing and coding website templates. I’d started coding fan-sites on Tripod before, and so ended up getting to evolve with the web; as it went from static to dynamic, dynamic to interactive and finally blossomed into fully featured applications, I hustled my way into doing code and eventually product design for startups. I’m still in love with the web I discovered on Tripod, probably as much as I am with comics, for similar reasons. We have not yet begun to find the ceiling on what comics are capable of and, similarly, we’ve stopped experimenting with the web too. The browser we have amounts to a flexible, organic canvas, capable of morphing to fit every screen and delivering every kind of media. Peanut butter, meet chocolate. This project, on the technical side, is the culmination of a lot of experiments I’ve been running over the years.

So that brings us to here and now. Abducted is basically 50% written and drawn. We have one issue launched, with another on the way next month, and a series of mixtapes, podcasts, and blog posts planned. This is the longest thing we’ve collaborated on. This is the most ambitious thing I’ve done. I’m trying not to screw it up.

I’m excited to share what I learn along the way, maybe letting this site stand as a collected trade, soundtrack and directors’s commentary all to boot. We’re here to experiment with the sequential medium without without forcing it into the conventions of film, or optimize for other platforms and advertising. The templates I’ve made for this project will be open sourced, and I’ll be publishing all the gritty details of my experiments here, hopefully for everyone’s benefits.

Let’s make some comics.

-Zach

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