So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #034: End Game

Sup, nerds. I know I’ve been away for a tic, but you’ll forgive me right? I changed day jobs — and I’m sure you’d love to know all about that — and it put me in Austin last week. But I’m back in the saddle here in my newly upgraded Man-Cave/Actual-Adult-Office and ready to populate your brainstems with pop-culture thoughts and prayers.

I could wax poetic on Wrestlemania and the subsequent superstar shake-ups, but I’m saving that until next week. You’ve been warned. I could compare and contrast Captain Marvel to Shazam, but frankly it’d wind up being very mean to Shazam — because comparing the two flicks would be akin to comparing a fine meal at an upscale farm-to-table fast-casual restaurant… and Arby’s. I could detail my recent love affair with the binge-worthy Santa Clarita Diet but I just started season 3, and I don’t want 100 people to spoil things for me.

So, what does that leave me? Oh, how about the whole reason I have a column here in the first place? Independent comic bookery!

At the tail end of March, Unshaven Comics (my lil studio, don’t cha know) had a decent showing at the annual C2E2 comic con in our “home” city of Chicago. The con itself was plenty enjoyable. Our neighbors on both sides were fun, genial, and downright friendly. Our friends and fans came out in droves to give us well wishes and high fives. I personally minted a minor fortune (see also: gas and food money for a whopping 2 weeks, baby!) selling my PokeVengers cards. Please don’t alert The Pokemon Authority I’m making parody art. The best thing to come out our con experience though, was a sobering declaration.

Sitting 12 hours a day at a table without a new book to sell literally caused me to cringe more than a dozen times throughout the weekend as fan after fan asked “so what’s new?” . All we could do was meagerly point to a Captain Marvel / She-Ra poster and a parody of an MC Escher piece we’d completed since the same time last year when we tabled.

One of the tent poles of the Unshaven brand is knowing full well that we are all working full-time day jobs, and are full time husbands and fathers to amazing children. So, we plainly know that our wares do not come with the frequency we’d honestly like. But that being said, it’s been too long since a new issue of The Samurnauts has made its way to the table. And with that stark realization? It was time for us to take a step back and survey the landscape.

Our compatriots in the alley have all long since lapped us in content production. Some small fish have since been scooped up into small press tables and are inking minor movie deals. And seemingly all of them are collaborating with one another on awesome projects. Parties we’d long since given up awaiting our save-the-dates for. It genuinely felt as we looked over a 20% drop in sales from 2018’s C2E2 to 2019 that maybe we rode this wave for as long as we could. For 10 years now, we three — best friends for over 25 years — have traveled far and wide with our cheaply laminated and totally famous “Can I Tell You About My Comic Book?” sign.

With a wavering spirit, I turned to Matt on our drive home after dinner with our awesome friends out of Evansville, IN.

“Dude.”

“I know.”

When one has 25 years of friendship? There’s little need for over explanation. But allow me to extrapolate:

Matt and I are clearly the hang-up in production. As the artists (and me also being a writer, designer, marketer, and restaurant reviewer for the company, natch) we know that our meager 1-2 hours a night tops isn’t going to rock book-after-book out for Unshaven Comics. We also both know that in a heartbeat (and a mild investment, lol), Unshaven Kyle could be a dynamic imprint unto himself. His zeal, drive, and keen eye for amazing collaborators (see: Kristen Gudsnuk!) means he never has to stop. But for Matt and I? To continue means to commit. And we admitted to one another finishing a 200 page book together in The Samurnauts: Curse of the Dreadnuts took more out of us than we let on to anyone. Until now.

“Dude.”

“I know.”

And with that, the gauntlet was thrown. Not yours, Thanos. Sit down. Matt and I know that we’re either in this industry or we’re barnacles ready to let the current take us away. And neither of us are ready for that by a longshot. But spirit means nothing in the face of actual production. So, here on Pop Culture Squad, I’m declaring it to all 38 of you reading:

By the end of 2019, Matt and I will have produced each 18 pages of fully colored artwork ready for imposition and lettering in our respective follow up Samurnauts series. And if we can’t do that?

Then Unshaven Comics is snapped into the cosmos.