|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.