Monday, August 07, 2017

Ghost Assassin-Where has this title been?

The most frequently asked question I have been getting from longtime fans of Darkslinger Comics is where has Ghost Assassin been?  Ghost Assassin was our first title in print and is our flagship title but it has been missing from our line up for the last few years.

The first story that I wrote for Ghost Assassin was a 10 page introduction story that I originally intended as a pitch for an anthology that was published at the time called Digital Webbing Presents.  It was my plan to use this story as a gauge for interest in the concept prior to starting an entire ongoing series.  My plans had to change though as the week that the story was fully completed was the same week that it was announced that Digital Webbing Presents was going to cease publication.  Luckily for me this was around the same time that Print on Demand was really taking off.  At the time the two companies that everyone seemed to be using were Comixpress (now defunct) and Ka-Blam.  After doing a bit of research I decided that the best option would be Ka-Blam.  I decided to release the 10 page story as a short comic titled Ghost Assassin: Prelude (it was 12 pages in length as it featured 2 pin-ups).  I printed a small run through Ka-Blam in February 2006 and had to go back to press within a few days or receiving them as I sold all of those copies to family and friends.
I ended up selling through two print runs before debuting this issue at The Eugene Comic Book Show on May 21st, 2006.  This was my first convention as a publisher.  Luckily for me Ka-Blam was able to get a third printing done before that show.  I did incredibly well at that show.  I sold through my third printing of Ghost Assassin: Prelude as well as some posters and a sketchbook that I had printed up for the show.  I made quite a few contacts, including the owner of PGX grading services, who slabbed a copy of Ghost Assassin: Prelude for me.

The majority of the friends I have made in comics have told me that the scariest moment for them was either the first convention they appeared at or the moment that they held their first physical product in their hands.  My experience was quite different.  The idea of creating something and releasing it out into the world didn't frighten me.  The way that I looked at it is that people would either get it or they wouldn't.  I had been a vendor at dozens of conventions prior to that show and I really didn't see how that one would differ.  Having something on the table that I created didn't change the experience for me in any major way.  No, for me the scariest parts of creating this comic would slowly be revealed over the next few months.

The story featured in Prelude was created relatively easily.  So easy in fact that it made me think that creating the entire series was going to be just as easy.  On that I couldn't have been more wrong.  I thought that I would have the first issue of the ongoing series out within 6 months of releasing the Prelude issue.  There was just one problem and it was a big one.  Unlike most of the comics I had written (though not published yet) I didn't know exactly how this one was going to end.  The majority of the story that I had flushed out at the point had happened prior to the story featured in Prelude.

Throughout 2006 I hit up as many conventions as possible and signed at any store that would have me (huge thank you to Cosmic Monkey for having me on several occasions).   I added digital sales channels such as Drive Thru Comics and got into as many comic shops as I could, including Lonestar Comics.  While sales varied from convention-to-convention, store-to-store, overall the response to Ghost Assassin was phenomenal.  The feedback I received from readers was extremely positive.  The reviews I had received were positive for the most part (the most common gripe seemed to be a $3 price point for a 12 page issue).  Within six months of releasing Ghost Assassin: Prelude I had my first movie offer.  It wasn't a good movie offer and I am glad that I turned it down, but still, I had my first movie offer.

All of this sounds like great news, right?  It is, but it had an unexpected effect on me.  I was all of a sudden afraid of the story that I had created.  That may sound a little odd but it doesn't keep it from being true.  People seemed to really love this book and I was afraid that the next issue was going to disappoint them.  What if I screwed up everything that they loved about Prelude?  And where exactly was I going with this story?

Having those thoughts in my head instead of the thought of just telling a good story caused me to do the exact thing that I feared.  After a year of thinking on what this story should be and where it would go I sat down and wrote a story of David's childhood that I titled Ghost Assassin: Origin.  I did everything wrong with this story.  Fortunately I figured this out early on and pulled this issue from my convention products.  But that still left me with the question of what to do.  I was experiencing writer's block which was a new sensation for me.  I wrote several Ghost Assassin stories around this time but they were all missing something.

It wasn't until I received a pitch from Michael Colbert in February of 2008 that things started to fully take shape again.  The plot of this story was excellent and I loved the title: In The Cards.  I bought the story from Michael and re-worked it a bit to make the characters seem more like the David and Todd that I had created.  In The Cards will be the main story in Ghost Assassin issue #2.
Working on this story accomplished something huge that none of the other Ghost Assassin stories I had been writing had managed to do, it cured the block in my mind.  Once again I was telling a story that I was proud of.  But I wasn't quite sure where this story would fit in in the overall Ghost Assassin story line that I was telling.  I continued to work on other Ghost Assassin stories.  Stories that would eventually become issues #3, 4, 5, etc....but something still felt like it was missing.

In 2009 (if memory serves) my best friend, Ty Wakefield, was admitted to the hospital because his lungs were deflating.  Ty had been fighting a battle with a vicious cancer called Osteosarcoma.
Our friend, Ben Kreger, and I drove up to Seattle to spend time with Ty while he was in the hospital.  I don't want to go into detail on that but while in his hospital room I started working on a new Ghost Assassin story that would later be titled "Mercy".  The story is about a man that hires David to humanely kill his mother who is fighting a losing battle with cancer.  After writing this story I really didn't know if I ever wanted to release it.  There wasn't anything mean spirited about it but it still seemed messed up, even for me.  A few weeks after Ty was released from the hospital he and I had a conversation in which he asked me what I had been working on.  I told him about Mercy and he asked to read it.  After reading it he demanded that I release this issue.  So I found an artist.  It was around this time that I started working with the immensely talented Joel Cotejar.  Joel was a perfect fit for the story that I was telling.  I wish Ty could have seen this story but unfortunately Osteosarcoma took him from this world before it ever saw print.

In the last quarter of 2010 the glass shop that I had worked at for my entire adult life went under and with it, my primary source of income.  This meant that I had to scale back on the amount of titles that I was working on and the conventions that I could afford to be an exhibitor at.  I had done 42 conventions and signings in 2010.  In 2011 that number had been reduced to a mere 5.  It was clear to me that if I was going to stay in this game I had to start working smarter.

I had heard of a new platform called Kickstarter and thought that it might be a good venue to get my projects into print.  I launched 2 Kickstarters in 2010.  One for the printing of Chronicles of Van Helsing issue #3 and one for the printing of Ghost Assassin: Mercy.  I will admit that I really did not know how to make the best use of the platform at this time.  I went for the exact amounts that I needed to do small runs and just barely made my goal on each of them.  While this was enough to get a small run of Ghost Assassin completed, it was not enough to do a large printing of this issue.

Ty passed away in April of 2011.  His funeral was a seven hour drive from my house.  I worked on a Ghost Assassin story for most of the trip.  I needed something to distract myself from the urge to break down.  But after the funeral I think that that is exactly what I did.  I sat down the day after and attempted to finish a Ghost Assassin story I had been kicking around in my head for months.  Upon reading it I was a little shocked at what I found.  This story featured 24 pages of David and Todd talking but it wasn't David and Todd.  It was Ty and me.  This story will never be released.  I put down my pen and didn't touch it again for almost a year.

It took me about a year to pull myself out of the depression that I found myself in, I got back to creating and running the Darkslinger business.  Ghost Assassin was nearly ready to go but I wanted to make sure that I had enough material to finally release this title through a distributor and get into as many comic shops as possible but in order to do this I needed to build up my bank account and I needed a plan.  We had been pitched a title called "Who Will Save The World?" that seemed like it may be a perfect fit for Kickstarter.  It was a full color one shot and had an excellent premise (World War 1 zombies).  The plan was to get the El Bovine Muerte webcomic going again.  Start working on new issues of Ghost Assassin, The Principalities and Chronicles of Van Helsing.  Use Kickstarter to launch Who Will Save The World? and if successful, use it again to launch The Principalities.  I planned on collecting Chronicles of Van Helsing into graphic novel format after issue #5 was released.  El Bovine Muerte would be collected into graphic novel format after the fourth issue.  And for the final part of this plan, Ghost Assassin was going to need to be pitched to Diamond to distribute.  The plan seemed solid enough.  But I made a critical mistake.  Who Will Save The World? was nowhere near complete enough to take to Kickstarter.  Rewards that were set to be delivered in 2012 were not sent until 2014.  A one-shot that was sold as a 52 page saddle stitched comic ended up as a 60 page perfect bound graphic novel.  Shipping costs through USPS had increased (dramatically in the case of international shipping).  Printing costs had increased.  Production costs of incentives had increased.  It seemed like we had made every mistake possible with this Kickstarter.  In the end it was a mistake that ended up costing me every dime I had and nearly cost me my house.
It took me quite a bit of time to build things up to the point where I felt comfortable releasing something again.  I did 1-3 cons per year throughout 2013-2016.  These years saw only 3 releases.  The Who Will Save The World? graphic novel, Chronicles of Van Helsing #5 and a Chronicles of Van Helsing: Sally mini comic that was completed in 2012 but didn't see print until 2016.
By early 2017 it seemed that things were finally becoming fully stable again.  I started doing conventions again.  To date I have done 10 conventions so far this year and have plans to do at least 4 more by the end of 2017.  El Bovine Muerte is back on track, there will be a new page posted this Wednesday.  I am once again working with artists.  Thus far in 2017 I have launched 2 small Kickstarters that were both a part of an event that Kickstarter was having.  One for a Chronicles of Van Helsing Glass and one for a print edition of El Bovine Muerte #1.  Both projects had a low funding goal that they met.  I was able to deliver on both of these projects before the projected shipping date.  This has given me a lot of confidence in my ability to run a Kickstarter that can succeed, not only in the funding stage, but also in the delivery of the product.
It has been the plan for Ghost Assassin to have a larger print run with better distribution and I think now is the time to bring this title back.  I believe that using Kickstarter can help to achieve these goals.  With a bit of luck the Kickstarter for Ghost Assassin should launch in late August.  The state of completion for each issue is:
-Issue #1: The interior is fully done: penciled, colored and lettered.  The Prelude short will appear as a back up tale in this issue.  The cover is currently being colored.  After that I will add the logo and graphic design elements.  The Kickstarter will not be launched until this has been done.  I made that mistake once, I will not make it again.
-Issue #2:  Features In The Cards as the main story, which is fully done: penciled, colored and lettered.  The cover is finished: penciled, colored and the graphic design is complete.  This issue features a new version of Ghost Assassin: Origin as a back up feature.  I have fixed what I perceived as being wrong with the original release of this story and feel that it is now ready to be seen by the (comics reading) world.  The Origin short is fully penciled, currently awaiting coloring.  If we exceed our goal of raising funds to print issue #1 the funds will be used to finish (and print if enough is raised) Ghost Assassin #2.
-Issue #3:  This issue features a story titled "The Dig."  The cover is fully penciled and is currently being colored.  The interior of the book is penciled and is currently awaiting being colored.
-Issue #4:  This issue is written but has not yet started the art phase.

So to answer the question of where Ghost Assassin is in a rather long winded way, it could be out by the end of this year.  With a little bit of luck and a whole lot of support.

I will be updating this blog and our social media profiles with information on the Ghost Assassin Kickstarter as it draws closer to the launch date.  Please consider liking Ghost Assassin on Facebook.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Adam Watson
Darkslinger Comics

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