Christmas Comes Early at DriveThru Comics

Xmas-July

Now at e-distributor DriveThru Comics, it’s their annual Christmas in July sale, with 25% discounts on select titles from a wide range of independent publishers large and small—and that includes StarWarp Concepts! So if you’re looking for digital editions of our comics, graphic novels, and the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, then DriveThru Comics is the place to be. There you’ll find The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, Lorelei: Sects and the City, Lorelei Presents: House Macabre, Troubleshooters, Incorporated: Night Stalkings, and The Chronicles of the Sea Dragon Special—all at reduced prices!

Christmas in July ends next Friday, July 31, so head over to the SWC store at DriveThru Comics right now and get busy shopping!

Happy Birthday, Bob Larkin!

Today, my friend Bob Larkin—the living art legend whose paintings grace the covers of my Saga of Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign—turns 66, and is still producing incredible images, even as younger generations of horror and comic fans continue to discover his large body of work. Take a look!

LarkinArt04LarkinArt02These days, Bob is busily working for Topps, painting trading cards for their upcoming Mars Attacks: Occupation set, which is a sequel to the classic card series published in the 1960s. All of us here at ’Warp Central are eagerly awaiting the set’s release—and to see what other projects Bob has in development!

To see more of Bob’s stunning work, pay a visit to his art blog, Bob Larkin: The Illustrated Man.

To enjoy some of his amazing pencil artwork in printed form, order a copy of The Bob Larkin Sketchbook from the StarWarp Concepts webstore.

Happy birthday, Bob!

Talking Writing and Self-Publishing

One of the complications of being an indie-press publisher and author—sometimes the most frustrating complication of them all—is finding ways to promote your latest release.

You can mail out review copies, send out press releases, make requests for interviews, or even fill out preexisting questions available from a website dedicated to writing (otherwise known as a “self-interview”), but there’s no guarantee you’re going to get media coverage. Still, you do what you can to get attention.

When you’re successful, you wind up with something like my interview with the newspaper The Queens Gazette, which appeared in the print edition and was featured on the paper’s website. Or “Pandora Zwieback and the Bloggy Thing,” a guest post that I was invited to write for the site Writing Belle. Or the cover feature article/interview in IndyFest Magazine #85 (still available for free download). Or my upcoming interview at the site Write a Revolution (I’ll let you know when that gets posted). When you’re unsuccessful, however, you can wind up with completed self-interviews that are passed over by the sites you submitted answers to.

Guess which type of interview this is? 😉 Hey, but why let a completed interview go to waste, right?

Here, you’ll get a little background on my literary history: my first break as an author; my decision to self-publish The Saga of Pandora Zwieback; my thoughts on current publishing trends; and a few other topics. Give it a read—and then (if you haven’t already) purchase a copy of Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2. It’ll make all the complications experienced by a small-press publisher worth the effort!

SRoman_PhotoQ: Welcome, Steven. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?

I’m multi-published. In addition to the novels and graphic novels I currently write for my company, StarWarp Concepts (including the Saga of Pandora Zwieback young adult books Blood Feud and Blood Reign), I’m the author of the novels X-Men: The Chaos Engine Trilogy (BP Books/Simon & Schuster) and Final Destination: Dead Man’s Hand (Black Library), the graphic novels Lorelei: Sects and the City, Sunn, and Stan Lee’s Alexa, and a number of short stories and comic book projects for various publishers.

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go—mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published, and why or how did you choose this route?

Well, I’d written some comic books and short stories early in my writing career, but as a novelist I got my start in 1997 with a mainstream title: the original, licensed novel Spider-Man Super Thriller: Warrior’s Revenge, based on the Marvel Comics character. It was part of a Marvel book series co-published by Byron Preiss Multimedia Company (BPMC) and Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Books imprint. It actually turned out to be a ghostwriting job—the original author’s manuscript had been rejected and I was hired to rewrite the book from scratch, but the covers with his name had already been printed, so I never got cover credit!

blood_feud_lg_cover_2013In 2010, I decided to go the self-publishing route by reviving StarWarp Concepts—a publishing company I’d launched in 1993 for my comic book projects—as a book-publishing house. And in 2011, I released my first young adult dark-fantasy novel, Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1. The reason I decided to self-publish it was because I’d done the agent-and-editor submission dances, sending a proposal around in hopes of a book deal and/or an author representative, only to have it rejected for some head-scratching reasons. Most of them fell under two categories: “It’s just not right for us,” which is sort of agent-speak for “I just didn’t care for it on a personal level”; and “Could it be more like…?,” which means they’d like you to knock off something successful—at the time I sent the Pandora proposal around, everyone was trying to clone Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. (Today, it’s things like E. L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey and John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.)

So if I’d been willing to rip off Twilight, I might have been signed by any number of agents, but I wasn’t interested in that approach. Self-publishing removed the unpleasantness of dealing with ridiculous, non-constructive feedback.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I think I wrote the Spider-Man novel in a couple of months—with the original manuscript rejected, I had to make up for the book’s lost production time. It was a scary time for me—it was my first novel, someone else’s name was going to be on the cover, and I had to jump right in and start writing. Thankfully, Marvel’s licensing department was happy with the results, and that’s what led to me soon after getting the assignment to write three X-Men novels that sold exceptionally well.

With Blood Feud, it took about a year or so to get it into a shape I was happy with. And then I handed it over to Howard Zimmerman, a friend and former editorial boss of mine, for editing. Once he was done constructively ripping it apart—I wound up rewriting half the book and adding new material, based on his spot-on edits—Blood Feud was finally ready for publication. And based on the feedback and positive reviews I’ve received, it was worth all the effort!

spidey-warriorQ: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

How’d I feel? Like a kid with an intense sugar buzz! I mean, it would’ve been nice to actually have my name on the Spider-Man book, but when I held a copy of the printed novel for the first time, I couldn’t help but be excited by it. And anyway, I finally got my name on the cover when I wrote the X-Men: Chaos Engine Trilogy novels a few years after that, and that was even more exciting!

As for how I celebrated when Warrior’s Revenge came out…I think I treated myself to White Castle hamburgers, or something. Yeah, I know, not the most exciting way to celebrate, but I was happy enough.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

With the Spider-Man novel… Unfortunately, neither BPMC nor Simon & Schuster did any promotion for the series as a whole; the books were just sort of put out there with no fanfare. So if a Marvel fan happened to come across Warrior’s Revenge in a bookstore—great! Otherwise, no one really knew it was available. The same thing happened a few years later, when the X-Men novels I wrote were published—but those sold huge numbers in spite of the lack of publicity.

pan_comic_0With the Saga of Pandora Zwieback and my other StarWarp Concepts projects, since I’m sort of the master of my own fate—being the publisher as well as the writer—I’m much more proactive in how my work is promoted. I send out press releases and review copies, print up catalogs and brochures, make appearances at horror and comic book conventions and book festivals, heavily blog at the StarWarp Concepts and Pandora Zwieback websites, and set up interviews—like this one! To promote the debut of Blood Feud, the first Pandora Zwieback novel, I published a free full-color comic book, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, that introduces Pan to potential readers, and handed out a couple thousand copies at conventions—and then I made it a free digital comic that can still be downloaded from the StarWarp Concepts site.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

I like to think my writing and storytelling continue to improve with each project. Looking back at the Spider-Man novel, I can see the beginnings of my character-driven action stories, but it’s rough in comparison to, say, Blood Reign, the current Pandora Zwieback novel. Pan is probably the most fully realized character I’ve written, but there’s so much more to her story I’m looking forward to exploring.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

It’s sort of a mixed reaction. On the one hand, the time has never been better to be an author, with the advancements constantly being made in self-publishing tools. On the other, as an editor, copyeditor, and proofreader with over twenty years’ experience, I’m always surprised by the number of self-published authors who haven’t taken the time to really learn their craft—story structure, plotting, consistent story continuity, even correct spelling and punctuation. In those cases, it’s reflective of an attitude I used to run into at conventions, when I’d explain to visitors to my table that I was a writer, not an artist: “Well, anybody can write a novel.” Actually…no, not everybody can. Not without working at it.

That said, there are a lot of talented authors out there who know their business, and those are the ones whose works are worth tracking down. As for the rest…well, even in the worst-written novel you can often see the story the author intended to tell—they just need to keep honing their craft in order to tell it better and clearer.

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrQ: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

Discovering that there’s actually an audience out there for the kinds of things I write! When I hear from someone who’s read my Pandora Zwieback work and they tell me how much she reflects their own thoughts and feelings, and is even someone they’d love to hang out with, then I know I’m doing a good job as a writer. And that’s a pretty nice reward!

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

As lame and clichéd as it sounds, keep at it! You can only get better by working your craft, by learning the tools of the trade—by which I mean the publishing “bibles,” Webster’s Dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style—and by learning to take constructive criticism. I often tell folks that Blood Feud, the first Pan novel, wouldn’t be the critically acclaimed book it is today if I hadn’t listened to my editor when he told me what needed fixing. Do all that, and one of these days you might find your name on the cover of a book, too!

My latest work, Blood Reign, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2, is currently available for order from online and brick-and-mortar bookstores and the StarWarp Concepts webstore. Visit the Blood Reign product page at SWC for more information, as well as a sample chapter.

Subscription Service Shakeup Doesn’t Affect Pan’s Adventures

blood_feudOn June 30, e-book subscription service Scribd announced that they were making dramatic cuts to the number of romance titles they offer, due to the large number of genre fans who’ve “rented” so many books that Scribd is losing money. Distributor Smashwords estimates it may adversely affect 80–90 percent of the romance and erotica titles they handle.

But do you know what this shakeup doesn’t affect? The StarWarp Concepts dark-fantasy novels Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 and Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2, which remain part of Scribd’s catalog!

Written by Steven A. Roman (that’s me!), Blood Feud: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 1 is the critically acclaimed novel that begins Pan’s story, explaining how she, her parents, and her friends, are drawn into a conflict among warring vampire clans searching for the key to an ultimate weapon (or so the legend goes)—a key that just so happens to have been delivered to the horror-themed museum owned by Pan’s father.

Blood-Reign-FinalCvrIt’s a character-driven action-fest that leads immediately into the second novel: Blood Reign: The Saga of Pandora Zwieback, Book 2, in which Pan faces even greater challenges as the clans draw up plans to go to war with humanity. Leading the charge is a fallen angel named Zaqiel, whose previous attempt at subjugating the world was stopped by Pan’s monster-hunting mentor, Annie—who, back in the day, was Zaqiel’s lover!

If you’re a Scribd subscriber, or know someone who is, be sure to add Pan’s adventures to your book queue—and then get started reading!

I Am the Author, And You Will Obey Me…

As an addendum to the recent series of posts about the creation of Pandora Zwieback–related covers for books and comics, I thought you’d be interested in seeing a truly odd choice for subject matter…

Larkin-Capaldi-Me

What you see here is a pencil sketch by “Pandora Zwieback” cover-painting legend Bob Larkin, drawn on a blank “sketch cover” that Dynamite Entertainment published as a variant for the second issue of their Doc Savage comic series. Only Doc Savage, the Man of Bronze, doesn’t appear on the cover. Instead, you’ve got actor Peter Capaldi (The Thick of It, Torchwood: Children of Earth) in costume as his most recent, world-famous role: Doctor Who. And standing in front of him, looking rather dapper in his black ensemble, top hat, and John Lennon sunglasses, is…me. In the garb I wear to conventions and book festivals in order to draw attention to the StarWarp Concepts booth.

Yeah, I was surprised by this, myself. But as Bob explained, he was drawing a bunch of Doc Savage sketch covers commissioned by fans—including the one done for me, teaming Doc with our adventurous Ms. Zwieback—and had a blank left over. So, liking my con outfit and aware of my fannish love for Doctor Who—I even once got to write a short story for a licensed Doctor Who anthology, as I discussed in this post and this other post at the StarWarp Concepts blog—Bob decided to combine the two, just for the hell of it.

Well, I certainly love it. But I have to ask: With my black outfit and goatee, standing next to the Doctor, does this make me a future incarnation of his oldest enemy, the Master? Only time may tell…

Pandora Zwieback: A Team-Up That Will Never Happen

And now for something completely different. Following the recent run of posts about the creation of the covers for the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, IndyFest Magazine #85, and the comic books The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0 and The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, I thought you’d be interested in a different sort of cover-art story—for a onetime crossover of characters you wouldn’t expect!

Painter Bob Larkin, in case you didn’t know, is an art legend whose paintings have graced a ton of covers, movie posters, and trading cards; his covers for Marvel Comics—including Dazzler #1, The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian, Planet of the Apes, The Hulk!, Haunt of Horror, and Monsters of the Movies—are instantly recognizable by longtime collectors, even if they didn’t know that he was the artist. But what you may not be aware of—unless you’re a fan of 1930s pulp-fiction heroes—is that he’s primarily regarded as one of the top Doc Savage artists in the world. Probably the #2 Doc painter of all time, right behind his friend and mentor, James Bama, who established Doc’s iconic look of cropped, widow-peaked hair and ripped shirts in the 1970s, when he was painting the covers for Bantam Books’ reprints of Doc’s pulp-era adventures.

James Bama's 1970s cover for the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze.

James Bama’s 1970s cover for the first Doc Savage novel, The Man of Bronze.

Created in 1933 by editors at publisher Street and Smith and developed by pulp-fiction writer-for-hire Lester Dent (under the house name Kenneth Robeson), Clark “Doc” Savage Jr. was the king of the pulp adventurers: a multitalented genius whose superhuman muscles were outmatched only by his incredible brain. In fact, Doc was so superhuman that the creators of a certain Man of Steel “borrowed” a few elements in the development of their own character—where do you think the first name Clark, and the Fortress of Solitude, came from? Doc had them both first. Aided by five associates who were experts in their fields—but whose knowledge of each field still couldn’t surpass Doc’s—and his two-fisted cousin, Patricia, Doc fought all manner of bad guys and madmen, and built a fanbase that continues to grow to this day.

In the 1970s, Bantam Books acquired the reprint rights to Doc’s adventures, and it was Bama’s eye-catching covers that grabbed the attention of a new generation of readers (me being among them). When Bama departed the series, he left some pretty big shoes to fill, but Bantam’s art director knew exactly who could fill them: Bob Larkin. Just take a look at these covers (just three of many), and you’ll know Bob was the right artist for the right job.

Larkin-Doc-CoversSo, you ask, what does all this Doc Savage talk have to do with our resident Goth adventuress, Pandora Zwieback? Well, everything in this particular case; I just wanted you to have some background for what follows.

A few years ago, publisher Dynamite Entertainment acquired the comic book rights to Doc (and ignored all attempts made by me and others to get them to hire Bob for covers). And like most publishers these days, they print sketch cover variants for certain issues: covers that, beyond logos and price boxes, are completely blank so that you can get artists to draw on them. And when I snagged a copy of one of those sketch covers, I knew exactly which artist I was taking it to, and what I wanted him to draw…

Marvel_Two-In-One_21One night, while I was talking to Bob, I asked him if he’d be interested in taking the blank sketch cover and doing his own version of the Ron Wilson cover for Marvel Two-in-One #21, a 1976 comic that teamed Doc Savage with the Thing from the Fantastic Four (Two-in-One was a series in which the Thing teamed up with all sorts of Marvel characters, usually in stories that lasted only one issue). You see the cover there to the left: Doc and the Thing, crashing through a wall.

However, as I explained to Bob, I didn’t want him to reproduce Wilson’s art. I wanted him to draw, not the Marvel version, but the real Doc Savage (in other words, the Bama and Larkin version), and instead of the Thing, I wanted somebody special charging alongside Doc—a certain Goth adventuress. Bob loved the idea, and it didn’t take him long to turn my idea into an actual pencil drawing:

DocSavage-Pan-Cover

Damn! Makes me wish it were a real team-up!

And so there you have it: Pandora Zwieback, “guest-starring” in the second issue of Dynamite’s Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze. A team-up that will never actually happen…but it certainly makes you think of what that might be like, doesn’t it? A happy, sarcastic Goth chick popping into the 1930s to go adventuring with Doc and his gang…hanging out with Pat Savage…probably running into her immortal, shape-shifting, monster-hunting mentor, Sebastienne Mazarin…

Yeah, that definitely has some possibilities. 😀

Thanks, Bob!

Creating the Pandora Zwieback Annual Cover

Wrapping up our review of Pandora Zwieback covers, here’s the story of an illustration that was never intended to be cover art. But it looked too good to pass up when I got it in my head to publish The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, a one-shot special that would feature three original stories: Pan’s first comic book adventure, by me and artist Eliseu Gouveia; a Pan short story, by me; and an eight-page “Tale of the Paniverse” (my term for events set in the same version of Earth as the one presented in the Pan novels—it’s a comic book thing) by friends Sholly Fisch (currently the writer of Scooby-Doo Team-Up) and Ernie Colon (a legendary artist whose lengthy credits include Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld and Richie Rich).

still_a_happy_goth_by_liesterIn 2011, as I was gearing up for the release of Blood Feud, the first Pandora Zwieback novel, I considered ways to attract attention to this momentous occasion in publishing history, and eventually came up with the idea for an art gallery featuring Pan. But it wouldn’t just be any sort of art gallery, it would be “The 13 Days of Pan-demonium,” during which thirteen commissioned artists would present their unique takes on SWC’s latest leading lady. (As it turned out, only twelve artists wound up being commissioned, with me ending up as the thirteenth contributor.)

The first artist I approached was Henar Torinos, whose manga-influenced gothy style grabbed my attention during a search for “happy Goths” in the online art community deviantArt. Henar’s art came up first, mainly because she had two pieces on display: “Happy Goths Exist” and “Happy Goths Still Exist” (which you see to the left). It was the joy expressed in that second piece that caused me to e-mail Henar about the 13 Days project, and include a link to the digital version of the Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0 comic. She immediately got back to me with a yes, and asked what I had in mind. I told her I was looking for her interpretation of Pan—as long as she stayed on-style with Pan’s design, and left an open space for the inclusion of the Blood Feud cover, I wanted her to be the one to come up with something amazing. And did she ever!

pandora rockslowLG

Titled “Pandora Rocks!” it has Pan sitting on the shoulders of her best friend, Sheena McCarthy, while they attend a concert (perhaps one put on by their favorite death-metal band, Sarkophagia?), while Pan’s immortal mentor, Sebastienne “Annie” Mazarin, looks on. And check out the monsters! And once webmaster Dave de Mond had Photoshopped the Blood Feud cover onto a blank sign Henar had placed in the background, it was ready for its Internet debut.

Then in 2013, I decided to do the Pan Annual—but what could I use for the cover? I considered commissioning a new drawing, but then I looked at the 13 Days illustrations and thought, Why not repurpose Henar’s art? That colorful, manga-ish, happy piece was certain to catch the eye of prospective comic book buyers. So I e-mailed her an offer to reproduce the illustration as a cover, and she agreed to it. From there I handed the design process over to Mike Rivilis, who, in no time at all, turned out the final cover:

SWC_PanAnnual01

That’s a great-looking cover!

henar-torinos-pan-annualAnd who was the happiest Goth of all, when the published comic debuted? Why, Henar Torinos herself!

By the way, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1 is still available for purchase in print and digital editions—just visit its product page at StarWarp Concepts for more information, including sample pages.

Creating the Pandora Zwieback #0 Cover, Part 2

As you’ll recall, yesterday I was telling you the story behind the cover for what became a revitalized StarWarp Concepts’ first release in 2010: the promotional giveaway The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, which was intended to introduce readers to Pan and her forthcoming literary debut in the novel Blood Reign. I’d scripted the seven-page story in which Pan would speak directly to readers, leading up to a sales pitch for Blood Feud that required Pan to hold up a copy of the book (the cover for which would be digitally inserted).

Pan0-rev-sketchBut when the artist I’d hired, Eliseu “Zeu” Gouveia, e-mailed his pencils for the story, the sales-pitch page had been replaced with an image of Pan and her monster-hunting mentor, Annie, gleefully running through a gauntlet of monsters. A revision would be necessary—which meant it was time to break out a marker and sketch what Pan was supposed to be doing, so Zeu would have a clearer understanding of my intention with that page.

What you see here is just…tragic. There’s a reason I focus more on my writing than my drawing. 😀 But it was good enough to show Zeu what I was looking for, and you’ll find the final version of page 6 in the comic. As for what to do with the rejected page…

“Y’know what?” I wrote to Zeu. “Don’t trash those pencils—because I think we’ve got our cover art here!

That’s right—it might not have been the page I was looking for, but it turned out to be the perfect cover image! So I told Zeu to ink the piece, and soon enough I was looking at this:

Pan0-CvrInks

Perfect! And when I gave him the go-ahead to color it, this was the result:

Pan0-finalart

Now that’s cover art! The next step was to involve the comic’s designer and letterer, Mike Rivilis, a talented book designer I used to work with back in my editorial days at ibooks, inc. and Byron Preiss Visual Publications. (For SWC, he also designed and typeset the illustrated classic Carmilla, designed the graphic novel Troubleshooters, Incorporated: Night Stalkings, and designed and lettered the graphic novel Lorelei: Sects and the City and The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1.) I explained to Mike what the comic was for, and what design elements were needed—like lettering the seven-pager and typesetting sample chapters from Blood Feud in the back of the comic—and I gave him a rough idea of how the front cover should turn out.

There was one thing missing, though: a Saga of Pandora Zwieback logo. For the Pan novels, designer Mat Postawa simply has the series title arc across the front cover, in a traditional font, and hand-draws the titles. The comic, however, would require an actual title treatment. So I turned to the one artist I knew who had decades of experience in creating comic and book titles: Bob Larkin, cover painter of the Pan novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign. I wanted an old-style horror logo, so I sketched out what I had in mind and explained to Bob that I was looking for something along the lines of the lettering styles used for articles in the classic horror magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and the logos of Marvel horror comics of the 1970s:

Horror-Title-Lettering

Not surprisingly, he immediately understood what I was looking for—we’re both old-school horror fans (that Haunt of Horror cover painting is one of Bob’s, in case you hadn’t guessed)—and a day or two later he sent over his take, which I thought was perfect. I forwarded it to Mike, who was just wrapping up his design and lettering work on the comic’s interiors, and soon enough we had a finished cover:

Pan0-finalcvrNice, huh? And it all started with the happy accident (as the late painter Bob Ross would say—we don’t make mistakes, we have happy accidents) of Zeu drawing the wrong image for the Blood Feud sales-pitch page. It’s great when things just work out, isn’t it?

By the way, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0 is still available for free download—I ran out of print copies a few years back—so just click on the cover link you see in the right-hand sidebar and snag your own copy of this (now) digital comic.

Creating the Pandora Zwieback #0 Cover, Part 1

Sometimes a cover idea immediately pops up when you’re putting together a book, comic, or graphic novel—as you’ve witnessed in my previous posts, outlining the process involved in putting together the covers for the Pandora Zwieback novels Blood Feud and Blood Reign, and the cover for IndyFest Magazine #85. Other times, you just kind of stumble into one, as in the case of The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0

Around mid-2010, I’d decided that I’d make the announcement of StarWarp Concepts’ triumphant return to publishing at New York Comic Con, that annual geekfest held in October. But rather than just set up a booth and hand out bookmarks and catalogs promoting the company’s upcoming titles, for Pan I wanted to go an extra step to really get some attention: StarWarp Concepts was going to publish its first comic book in eight years—and it was going to be a giveaway. But first, it needed an artist.

I’d just worked with a Portuguese artist named Eliseu “Zeu” Gouveia on a proposed revival of my succubus character, Lorelei—and one of these days you may get to see those pages—so I e-mailed him and asked if he’d be interested in this new project. Well, of course he was! And he could deliver final art and digital color by the deadline I gave him. What he needed, though, was a script, so I got to work on my part of the job.

Here’s where the unexpected cover comes in. With the script delivered, Zeu started penciling pages, one of which involved Pan making a sales pitch for Blood Feud directly to the comic’s readers:

PAGE 6
PANEL 1: LARGE PANEL (so we can fit in the important information about the book). Pan holds up a copy of Blood Feud [a Photoshopped insert of the cover image] next to her head so we can all get a good look at the cover.

1. PAN: PRETTY WILD, HUH? AND THE FUN ALL STARTS IN THE FIRST NOVEL:

2. DISPLAY TYPE: BLOOD FEUD: THE SAGA OF PANDORA ZWIEBACK, BOOK 1

3. PAN: THAT’S WHERE ANNIE AND ME WIND UP IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR AMONG RIVAL VAMPIRE CLANS, WITH THE SAFETY OF THE WHOLE WORLD AT STAKE! (no pun intended)

4. PAN: IT GOES ON SALE [Date to be inserted].

5. PAN: IN THE MEANTIME, YOU CAN ORDER A COPY BY USING THE COUPON ON PAGE 8 OF THIS COMIC, OR BY VISITING MY WEB SITE

6. DISPLAY TYPE: WWW.PANDORAZWIEBACK.COM

7. PAN: WHERE YOU’LL ALSO FIND ALL THE LATEST NEWS ABOUT MY BOOK SERIES!

PANEL 2: A smaller, inset panel near the bottom right-hand corner of the page. Pan, interrupted in the middle of her sales pitch, looks off-panel at a voice calling to her.

8. PAN: AND DON’T FORGET TO VISIT MY PUBLISHER’S SITE, STARWARPCONCEPTS.COM, TO CHECK OUT THEIR OTHER PROJ—

9. SHEENA: (off-panel) HEY, ATTENTION WHORE!

But when Zeu e-mailed jpegs of his penciled pages, what I saw instead for page 6 was this:

Pan0-CvrPencils

Which, as I’m sure you’ll agree, is an awesome image of Pan happily running toward danger and dragging Annie along with her, and which perfectly sums up my approach to Pan, who as a horror fan is thrilled to go on horror-related adventures…but it wasn’t an image of Pan doing her best impression of a huckster selling Blood Feud to the masses.

A revision would be needed…

To Be Continued!

Pandora Zwieback: Creating an IndyFest Magazine Cover

At the start of this month, Dimestore Productions released IndyFest Magazine #85, the latest issue of their monthly spotlight on independent publishing, music, filmmaking, and other topics. IndyFest #85 features a profile of StarWarp Concepts and yours truly, and cover art by Eliseu “Zeu” Gouveia, with whom I’ve collaborated on The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0, The Saga of Pandora Zwieback Annual #1, and Lorelei: Sects and the City—and which you can download for free from the IndyFest site. (So what’re you waiting for? Go snag a copy!)

A few months back, I e-mailed IndyFest’s publisher, Ian Shires, and asked if he’d be interested in interviewing me for an upcoming issue, so that I could spread the word about StarWarp Concepts and the Pandora Zwieback series. Ian—having been a fellow small-presser back in the day when we each produced photocopied, hand-stapled comics—remembered me and, especially, remembered my succubus character, Lorelei, so he said he’d love to run a feature article if I could provide him with artwork for the issue’s cover—say, an art reproduction from one of SWC’s books. I said, “I’ll do you one better: how about an original illustration of Pan and Lori crossing paths?” Naturally, Ian liked the idea.

So I contacted Zeu, explained the situation, and said, “I don’t have anything specific in mind; maybe a cemetery setting? Just take your best shot at coming up with something.” The result was this:

IndyFest cover1I couldn’t help but grin. Cover images of old issues of Marvel Team-Up and Marvel Two-in-One—Marvel Comics series starring, respectively, Spider-Man and the Thing (from the Fantastic Four), who got together every month with a special guest star (Daredevil, Iron Man, the Black Widow, etc.) to fight bad guys—popped into my head. This was exactly the sort of dramatic image I was looking for!

However, a bit of tweaking was required. Having taken a look at previous issues of IndyFest, I noticed they always placed their oversized EAN box and issue number in the lower right-hand corner. I thought maybe the magazine’s designer could shift them a little to the left so that Pan’s leg could straddle the number and box, but then Zeu solved the problem with an updated sketch.

IndyFest cover2

Why, this one worked even better! Now it was an image with a story to it—or at least a story that suddenly hit me. I e-mailed Zeu and said, “Hey, that crypt Pan is kneeling on? Can you put the name Laurel Ashley O’Hara on it? That’s Lori’s real name, so it’ll look like Pan’s investigating the grave and Lori’s not too happy about some gothy Nancy Drew poking around.” So Zeu made adjustments, and…

IndyFest cover3

Sold! I gave him the go-ahead, and before you knew it, I had the finished art:

Pan-Lori

Spectacular! There was room at the top for the magazine logo, the bottom right-hand corner had plenty of space to accommodate the EAN box and issue number, and room for cover copy on the upper left and lower right, without the need to run text over either Pan or Lori. So I passed it along to IndyFest and, at the beginning of June, when the issue was published, I saw…er…this…

IndyFest85-cvr

Hm. Well, that was disappointing. I knew the IndyFest logo was going to be placed over Lori’s hair, but that’s sure a lot of text and large-size letters on that cover—and don’t think I missed that my name is used to cover Lori’s cleavage. And what’s with the call-out images covering the bottom left-hand corner—and Lori’s headstone?

The first thing I did, after putting the word out that the issue was available for download, was contact Zeu and apologize for how all his hard work turned out, because I felt awful about it.

But it has given me an idea for a Pandora Zwieback & Lorelei crossover comic that would display this cover art in all its proper glory… 😀

Next: My spur-of-the-moment Salute to Cover Designs Week celebration continues tomorrow with a look at the process behind the cover for The Saga of Pandora Zwieback #0. Join me, won’t you?