So, one Sunday in February of this year, I was driving home from a night on the beer. The head was a touch rough and I was listening to the Sunday morning radio talk shows. A gentleman who I am ashamed to say I hadn’t heard off, called William Sliney, was being interviewed about his recent appointment to the comic power house that I had heard off, Marvel. He was chatting about breaking in, what it felt like to meet people that worked for Marvel and how he has the enviable luxury of working from home on what is clearly his dream job.
That interview with Will was the Spark – what followed was the Fire.
I landed home and told my wife, Jill, that I was going to write a comic book. I am sure a part of her thought, here Gavin goes with another one of his hair-brained ideas, but to be fair to her, she immediately gave me her support, encouraged me to do it and told me my dinner was in the oven. I got cracking. I typed Will Sliney Marvel into Dr. Google (that guy knows pretty much everything), and within seconds I had an e-mail address for Will. Boom, Will got an e-mail and so did Stephen Mooney. That very night, Stephen responded to me, as did Will on the following night. Their advice can be summarised as follows – start small, talk to people, check out ICN, get yourself an artist, talk to Rob Curley, get something published, ask advice, check out Darrin O’Toole and the Lightning Strikes guys. I was encouraged by two things, one was the response from both the lads was genuine and two, the indie scene in Ireland seemed to be on the rise. Duly, I landed into Sub City and nabbed Rob as he came into the shop to cover Richard’s lunch break. Although Rob didn’t know me from Adam, he gave me some great advice on getting an artist, what printers to use and also told me that if I did get anything published he would support me getting it on his shelves. Shortly after this meeting I attended a talk in Trinity College, some of the names on display were, Declan Shalvey, Stephen Mooney, Robert Carey, Rob Curly, Darrin O’Toole and the event was hosted by Eoin from Lightning Strikes. There was a lot of solid advice and I was more determined than ever to get my ideas down and start making comics.
I dropped an e-mail to Darrin O’Toole shortly after this event. His response was not only brilliant and motivating, but very comprehensive in what I needed to do next. Armed with all this advice, I started work on my first ever script “Saviour”. A road trip to Ennis was next where I met the Abandoned lads and an artist that I had just made contact with, Anthony O’Neill. To say my meeting with Anthony was the single biggest game changer for me is an understatement. Anthony really liked my idea and agreed to work on the script with me. His influence is all over the finished Saviour story and his help brought this story to a fantastic level.
Next, I needed some more artists to work with me, as I had finished several other scripts. Ger Hankey came on board for “Monkfight” and when he sent me the thumbnails, I was delighted to see his style perfectly matched what I was trying to achieve with the story. In fact, I still have his character sketches on my laptop as my desktop background. S Rhoades from a little place called the US of A was next to sign up with me. His emotional pencils again capture the feel that I was aiming for in the last story called “Homeless”.
Having completed three short stories and re-reading them again, I realised that the content was not exactly light-hearted, and pretty much straight away the name of the book hit me – “Innocent Tales”. In the background to all this, I had decided that I was going to self publish my first couple of books. Again, there were several reasons for this. One, most publishing labels need (or at least desire) to see a writer’s work published. Two, I am 35 years of age and couldn’t be arsed waiting around on rejection letters. Three, and most importantly, I wanted to learn this trade. Not only the writing, I wanted to learn what is takes to publish a piece of work, so it would stand to me as I grow and develop.
I hadn’t the first clue about any of this. Although I have read more than my fair share of comics, I really didn’t think much more about the whole process that brings a comic together, and boy, if ever I hear the words “steep learning curve”, I think about the last six months of my life. On top of my 9 to 5, I started throwing every waking moment into comics and getting myself somewhat established. I had an idea for a cover and chanced my arm one morning by asking a dude called Tommie Kelly would he mind helping me out. Just as Anthony gave me a break by agreeing to work with me, Tommie agreed to do my cover. This was unreal and I really couldn’t believe my luck, as I had seen a lot of Tommie’s work online and through ICN.
On top of that, Tommie has been a rock of advice to me. I met up with him in Ardee a few months back and we talked, and talked, and talked a little more. That’s what happens when you put two people from Dundalk together in a small room. Innocent Tales would not be what it is without the mentoring from Tommie Kelly, so I would like to say to you Tommie “Thank you sir”. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I was thinking about what I was going to call my label and what look and feel I wanted. Now, I have always liked Monkeys, and who doesn’t really. Being from Ireland, he had to be green, so Green Monkey was born. But was it going to be Green Monkey Print, Green Monkey Publishing, Green Monkey Comics – what? A quick jot down of the initials gave me a quick answer – GMC it was. Another man came on board around this time, Gareth Watson. Gareth designs logos and he designed “Smigsy” for me (the name of my wee monkey). The jungle writing, colours, look and feel took 5 or 6 weeks of back and forth with Gareth, and I am delighted with how he looks. A website was born www.greenmonkeycomics.com and Gareth gave it a much needed face lift to what you see today.
Lettering, Manga Studio, Photoshop, TIFF’s, PNG’s, PSD’s were all alien to me, so again, another visit to Dr. Google and several hundred Facebook messages to Tommie and it would be safe to say that I still don’t really know what it is I am doing! As the months went by, my Dropbox folder would notify me of work coming in from the guys. I want to bring you back to a moment that I still don’t have the words to describe. The first ever panel I received from Anthony. This is the opening panel of Saviour and indeed the book. This panel is sitting on my main computer still as it’s desktop background. It landed in Dropbox on a Sunday afternoon, approximately 10 or 11 weeks after hearing Will. When I opened the file, a surge of raw emotion swept over me. To see something in front of me that was a thought in my head and I wrote down a description of, now sitting here in front of me, was and still is, indescribable.
Moments like that kept happening, as art piled in, sketches, thumbnails, finished outlines, inks, finished pages, grayscale, fonts, spell check, proof reading, covers, variant covers, tweaks, adjustments, tutorials, questions, answers, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter, research, contacts, feedback, writing, re-writing – it was relentless. It has been at least 7 months since I channel hopped on the tv remote – I don’t even watch trash tv anymore, a bit of sport and an odd boxset and that’s it. I don’t have time for tv, and I am not missing it. Eventually, the PDF was pulled together for the printers. I couldn’t believe that I was nearly there. I pressed the button, let’s do this thing. A week later I was in checking the proofs, the covers looked amazing, the pages were in the right order, I tried to visualise the finished book but couldn’t. I had to trust my instinct. Make it so.
Last Monday, I got the call to come pick it up. It was like going for an interview, I had tingling nervousness flowing through me. I didn’t fully know what to expect. I got into the printers and he pointed out my boxes on a pallet and said, there you go, all done. Then he brought over one of each of the covers and laid them out before me – “UNBELIEVABLE”…. There it was, all the sweat and love that I poured into it, along with Anthony, Ger, Steven and the cover artists, Tommie, Dennis Coyle III, Shawn Langley and JP Jordan. I was a very, very happy little bunny, I can tell you. It was fantastic.
I dropped off issues in all the comic stores in Dublin and as you read this, it should be available in Dublin City Comics, Big Bang, Sub City and Forbidden Planet. I am extremely pleased with this book and although I know it is far from perfect and I still have a lot to learn, I hope everyone that reads the book, also, takes some enjoyment from it. Each of the individual stories is designed to tell a story that engages the reader and makes them think a little. I am working hard on bringing Innocent Tales 2 and 3 to print, and there are several other projects that I am also working on, which I can’t share much detail on at the moment. Here is what I can say, Ruairí Coleman who has a story in Innocent Tales 2 and is immensely talented, and Dennis Coyle are working with me on a pitch we are putting together for some of the bigger publishing labels. Also, Brian Naughton is working with me on another project with the same intention. Eoin Hurrell is colouring some work “Perceptions”, Anthony is back for another story “Desperate Measures” and Nigel Flood is working with me and Ger Hankey on “Ghostcar”, and plenty of other people on various projects which I will give you more details on as they arise.
There are two thoughts that I would like to share with anyone that is trying to make their dream come true, whether that is writing, pencilling, inking, colouring, lettering, reviewing or pretty much anything that they want to do, and, granted, I am not remotely qualified to give advice, but here goes….
One, my mother thought me that you were never lost as long as you had a tongue in your head. What she meant was, never be afraid to ask for help, the worst than can happen is that you are in the same place after asking and need to ask someone else. The best is, you get help.
Two, keep reaching. Like Smigsy, and all good monkeys, keep reaching for that next branch, that is the only way you are going to get there.
For more information about Green Monkey Comics, and Innocent Tales, visit: http://www.greenmonkeycomics.com/