Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Comics: Bronx Angel--Politics By Another Method (Cover)

The cover for Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method.
Cover art by Manny Trembley.
To see the page at full size, click here.

Well, I guess I can't really put this off any longer.  And I suppose I don't really want to.  I mean, this is really the reason I started this project, to put this story back out there.

If you're wondering, the answer is yes, I do still like this story.  For all the problems this little book has--and I know there are problems--I think this story still resonates even now, nearly ten years after I started writing it.  But there are problems here, lets not fool ourselves.

For one thing, there are maybe a half-dozen typos in the text of the various word balloons that I happen to know are my fault because my letterer, Ben Rollman, simply cut-and-paste from the script I sent him to make the word balloons in the first place.  Proletariat Comics was a good little company in a lot of ways, but our copy editing was crap.  I'll go ahead and blame Ken Olsen for that.  Ken, that shit is still your fault.

And then, too, I'd thought I was going to be able to get the book greyscaled on the cheap.  That happened with the ashcan, the 14-page Bronx Angel: Born Leader story that I ran here when I first started doing Sunday Comics.  But for this one, my colorist quit just after production started, and it pretty quickly became clear that I'd have to spend something like $25/page to have this thing toned, and well, that was more than I was willing to invest in a project that was already costing a lot more than it was ever going to bring in.

When you start writing your first book, I think it's natural to assume that other folks are gonna be interested in your work.  That your work is going to find an audience--naturally--because it's your work.  But what really happens is that you toil away on something that's either an obsession or a labor of love or both, and then you get to a certain point, and you're like, "Here!  Look at this thing that I made!  Isn't it awesome?!"

But the world isn't paying the slightest bit of attention.

People have lives, and anyway, nobody reads anything, and that's even before you consider the flaws in your work and/or the fact that it means something to you because to you there are emotional connections lying just below the surface on almost every page.  But to others, they don't know your life, and even if they did, that emotional resonance wouldn't exist for them.  Which is to say that writing is a craft--a difficult one--and the odds are that with your first book, you didn't succeed in putting all of those connections out there in a way that other folks will immediately, intuitively understand.

For me, that realization happened after we published the 14-page ashcan.  We put it out there, and I sent it to some reviewers, and pretty much everyone who read it liked it.  But getting folks to actually give us even the time it takes to read a 14-page mini-comic was like pulling teeth.  And that's when we were giving it away for free.

It was like: "Proletariat Comics?  What the Hell does that mean?"  Or, "What?  You guys are a bunch of Communists?  I don't wanna read somebody's manifesto, man."  And that's even when we got their attention in the first place.


It was my fault.  The name was too clever by half.  The idea that experimental creators could somehow rise up and create something new and revolutionary in the industry was just too... subtle.  The rest of the subtext overwhelmed the important parts.  I mean, I liked it, but the rest of the world totally missed the joke.

On top of that, I called the book "Politics By Another Method", which is a not entirely oblique reference to Clausewitz's famous book, On War.  Well, that reference isn't overly oblique if you went to West Point.  The rest of the world, however, thought they were reading a political treatise published by a bunch of NYC-area Communists.  The idea that this was a book about a Bronx-area gang war, that I was trying to look at it through the lens of a military education and a life of service...

Suffice it to say that even before the book came out, I knew that Bronx Angel: Politics By Another Method was gonna struggle to find an audience.  So I scaled down the production, left the line art as is, and cut out about half of the story.  What was originally a 135-page book became 80-pages, including the ashcan.  I hated doing that, but on the other hand, it's a tighter,more focused story now.  Spice's girlfriend Maryanne lost her story arc, and Angel's sister and his family became little more than props in the background, but then again, the story of Angel and Darlene is now front and center, and that's not a bad thing.

Anyway, everyone has a first book, and one this is mine.  Warts and all.  Enjoy!

By the way, the cover art here is by Manny Trembley, and I have to thank him because I know he cut me a break on the price.  Well, Manny has a new project looking for funding on Kickstarter right now, so if you like this cover and want to see what else he's got, let me encourage you to go take a look at his site.


  1. Is the Trembley cover new? Interesting to hear the full story behind a project I remember from back in the day.

  2. No, the Trembley cover is the original. I asked him to do the cover back when PC LLC was part of the Repercussion Comics Group.

    Jason DeGroot used to run a really great forum, and at that time, Manny was video game artist who hung out there, occasionally doing indie comic work--mostly for the love of the game. He did a cover for RIP, and I really liked it and asked him to do this one for BA:PBAM.

    The other cover was Joel Klampert's, for the #0 issue. That one probably got a little more play because folks generally liked that story better, but this is the one I blew up, framed, and hung in my basement.

  3. I still dig this book and my only issue with it was (and I mentioned this back then) was the inconsistency in the art. Some pages/panels were very nicely rendered; others were just OK. But story-wise, I thought it held together well. Believe it or not. I still have that poster as well hanging in my basement too!

    And yes, Ken was just about worthless. Did he do anything, really?

  4. Thanks Jerry. All I'll say about the art is that I've seen a lot of indie books that don't look nearly this good. I grant you that Randy has some trouble holding faces from panel to panel--and, in fact, I'm pretty sure that's why Manny drew the cover with Angel looking away from us--but still... Of all the problems the book had, the line art was he least of my concerns.

    I've often wondered whatever became of Ken. I know he got one of those Hope the Vampire stories published in some kind of anthology, but beyond that... One of life's great mysteries.

    1. I hear you, man.

      Hope Eternal...I remember that now. I recall doing a logo for it as well. It seemed like a cool concept but he never seemed to do much with it. I just recall him passively-aggressively complaining quite a bit about various things.

    2. heh. You loved Ken. You know you did.

  5. Oh yeah. Nothing but love for the man. I just don't get people who say they want to do something (i.e. make comics) and then do absolutely nothing to achieve that goal. Boggles the mind...