Back in my college days, I dated this intoxicatingly beautiful blonde who went to school at Buffalo State College. One time, when I was visiting her, it was during a vicious snowstorm. It was nothing new for Buffalo, but I was astounded. There was so much snow. In fact, I still remember the local kids throwing snowballs at my bus as it rolled into town. The amazing part was that the kids were throwing down at the bus. The snow along the roads was heaped so high that it was higher than the bus!
Comics creator Graham Nolan had a similar cold-weather experience in Buffalo, but the difference is that it sparked his uber-creative mind, and he has created a new comic from his wintery experience. The Chenoo is his newest project. The backstory is fascinating. Nolan’s approach to business is ambitious, and I’m betting comic itself will be a pretty good read too.
A Hidden Entrepreneur
One of the courses I teach at Ithaca College is called Hidden Entrepreneurs. The basic premise is that not every entrepreneur is like ‘that guy’ who shows up in front of the sharks on TV’s Shark Tank.
Graham Nolan is definitely a “Hidden Entrepreneur.” Beyond developing all the creative for his publishing company, Compass Comics, he’s also the business guy doing all the planning, strategy, finances and marketing.
That’s a lot to do, and he confided to me that the most difficult, and time-consuming part of it all is the marketing.
“Every day I spend hours to build the list [of potential customers]. Marketing is the hardest part,” Nolan said. “First it’s about getting eyes on it, then it’s about getting credit cards out of their wallets.”
Today’s pop culture landscape for creative storytelling is busier than ever. Nolan added that “There’s a lot of white noise” out there to compete with.
It wasn’t always this way. In the old days, Graham Nolan was a penciler working on big characters for the big companies, including Batman, The X-Men, and Iron Man. Times change, and as so often the case with comics, younger editors assumed more responsibility and then they chose newer, younger artists.
But making comics is what Nolan has wanted to do since he was twelve years old. Fortunately, he still does that, but usually as an indy comics creator. (Although I did enjoy his Bane: Conquest maxi-series from DC a year or two back.) And as a comics creator and publisher at this stage in his life, he finds it freeing and energizing to work independently.
He’s found there’s an audience for it too. At Compass Comics, Nolan is dedicated to publishing stories that wouldn’t find a place with other publishers. In fact, his latest, The Chenoo, is published as an oversized one-and-done, i.e. one long comic with a single story.
Graham Nolan’s been an upstate guy for a while, and he understands a bit about the snow and the brutal winters. He got this monster story idea right after he had dropped off his daughter at Buffalo State College during a fierce snowstorm. He imagined a monster coming off the ice on the lake. It seemed like a really good idea; so, he pulled into Spot Coffee (it’s Buffalo’s coolest coffee shop, trust me) to write it all down.
As he continued to play with the idea in the days and weeks that followed, he researched and found that there was this frightful Native American legend of a man whose soul became corrupted (usually due to cannibalism – ick!) . Nolan added his own mythology on top if all and came up with his own story of the Chenoo.
We talked about Nolan’s as a “Hidden Entrepreneur”, and for this one he’s a one-man-show. He doesn’t consider himself a penciller, but a cartoonist, and that means he does it all.
So, in this upcoming story, there’s another once-in-five-hundred years snowstorm. A group of strangers are stuck in a house and the Chenoo is trying to get in! It’s a forty-six page book. Seems like it should be the official comic of snow days everywhere, right?
Oh, and here’s something very cool! If the Indiegogo campaign breaks $30,000, Nolan will add additional pages so he can reveal the chilling story of the Chenoo’s 1977 foray into civilization.
(I wonder if the Chenoo was in Buffalo in 1985 when that epic snow-storm came and I visited my then-girlfriend at college? I don’t remember seeing him there).
Graham Nolan Still Loves Comic Shops
Graham Nolan’s Indiegogo can be found here. He’s become very comfortable selling directly to consumers. On the other hand, he loves comic shops so Compass Comics are available to comic shop retailers too.
The Chenoo Indiegogo campaign has two levels: Retailer 1, and Retailer 2. If a comic shop orders five copies, they get 20% off ,and if they order 10 copies, they get a 25% discount.
There’s another aspect to selling to customers and comic shops this way. Part of what he offers is a personal connection with his fans. He’s all about keeping folks in the loop along the way, and keeping the conversation going.
In fact, when I probed him to find out “what’s next”, he teased me with a science fiction invasion story about a father and son. But he went on to explain that he didn’t want to talk about that one now. Instead, he’ll be laser-focused on delivering what’s he promised his fans that he will deliver.
Maybe Graham is Good at Marketing
Nolan told me about one fun element of the story – part creative and part marketing. He’s offering fans the ability have a role in the story. Fans can bid for these in special levels of the Indiegogo. Two survivors and two victims, and he promises the victims will meet a very bloody end. I get the impression he’ll deliver on that promise!