Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Synesthetic Part 1: The Beginning

[image: the initial Synethetic proposal to creators]

The Synesthetic Anthology is a 140 page, self-published creation that involved the organization of over 20 different creators. The project took about two years to put together from concept to finished product. Everything was done in-house. Synesthetic represents ten years of professional experience packed into a frantic two years span trapped in our tiny living room way out in Denton, TX. To give you an idea of where Denton is located: it's twenty minutes past Corinth, TX. And you never even HEARD of Corinth, don't try and pretend. Out in a small college town, locked away at Space-Gun Headquarters (ie. our tiny cave of an apartment), we did the impossible. And "impossible", I mean "craziest and stupidest thing we could do at that point". But we're young, we're allowed. And these are my experiences of how I drove my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

About two years ago, Jake Ekiss approached me about putting together an anthology with his friend Evan Bryce. They had recently bought the Image anthology 24Seven and thought how cool would it be to do a similar project with our friends. There was a sense of creative freedom on those pages; it seemed like a great deal of fun. Evan had been thinking about this project for a while when he approached Jake about it. In their various discussions and instant messaging, they brought me aboard to help out with the more technical stuff and to contribute a story. They also established that a overall concept was needed to tie the book together; something that brought the pages in as a whole and not a series of disjointed stories with various aims. They began debating between the abstract concepts of time and sound. I believe each had an idea for that concept and wanted to be able to do it. Somewhere in those discussions, they thought why not do both? By bringing in some concepts from McCloud's Understanding Comics, they added space as another theme. This was the birth of the hard to pronounce "Synesthetic". With the hardest part over, we began to look for other creators that would join us on this project. It was a fun idea, who wouldn't want to work with us? Oh, how little did we know.

Evan had gone to HeroesCon that year with the plan of sending out feelers to the comic book pros that he knows. That wasn't his only reason for going, but he thought "might as well ask while i'm here". We knew that if we could get one or two established names on the project, then we'd have an exponentially larger chance of getting published by an actual publisher. We also approached people at Wizard World Texas and CAPE! with our proposal. We quickly found out that everyone was hesitant to work with a rag tag band of unestablished names. Which is understandable; we had no publishing guarantee, no money, no history, no experience in this sort of thing. Evan had done just some things in the industry at that point (flatting and coloring); Jake and I did a webcomic that barely made a splash on the internet scene. We had nothing to really give them as an incentive. This was a major blow to the initial drive for the project. Support in the industry equates to respect, and we came to realize just being friends with them was not enough. We had to prove ourselves every bit of the way.

Right around this time Jake and I had started to meet more and more of the local comic book scene. We started to attend the monthly sketchgroup started by the folks at Stumblebum Studios. We found that the local scene was diverse and thriving; people seemed genuinely into comic books. This presented a great opportunity for us: these creators were local, much easier to communicate with, and we could sell them on the project in person (which turned out to be very important). This is when we spent a few days drafting up a proposal to bring to the sketchgroup. This was an agonizing process. Not only did we have to establish our goals, intentions, and means of doing it, we very little to no grounds to be even asking this of them. We had met these people once or twice before, with no real credentials other than our biweekly webcomic (which i doubt any of them even read or even looked at). They had every right to dismiss us, and we knew that. Which is why our proposal was so meticulously put together and worded.

This project had to be about a group effort. We could not come across as unfinanced entrepreneurs: lazy "idea guys" who would just sit back, make others do the work, and then reap the benefits without a sleepless night and stacks of energy drinks. People who come up with "cool ideas" are a dime a dozen; "cool ideas" are worthless without the hard work that will make those ideas a reality. So we made sure they understood that we would be in the trenches as well, side-by-side, working hard with them and working even harder FOR them to make this project a reality. We discovered that some people are hesitant to work on something because they feel that they are lacking in a certain area (drawing, inking, coloring, lettering, writing, etc). To alleviate that, we stated that we will either find that person for them or do it ourselves. We were there as a support for them on this project; and that is what really sold it for a lot of people. We also established that we would be taking on all the financial costs and risks involved in putting the book together, getting a copy printed, and traveling across the country to show various editors at Wizard World Chicago and Baltimore-Con in 2007 in the fall. This would give all the creators six months to put together 6-10 pages, which was a nice cushy deadline for everyone.

We approached the sketchgroup in at the end of 2006. We got a lot of positive response, people seemed really interested; which was much better than we had anticipated. The concept was open ended; it had a wide range of possibilities, and (hopefully, HOPEFULLY) we didn't come across as a bunch of newbs asking for a handout. Things were on the ball, ready to roll. Then the standstill. Nothing. No responses, no action, nothing. The project seemed dead in the waters again.

That spring I visited New York City with the full intent of moving there when my lease ran up in August. I met with the NYC office of my freelance agency to talk about job prospects. I talked with my cousin about housing and generally felt the city to see if I could live there. I fell in love with it: the hustle, the bustle, hell, even the subway system. I was determined to be in NYC by the year's end. As you can tell, things change. Let me state that I am not unhappy with how things turned out; I just want to you to fully appreciate my point of view of the situation. Yes, I had saved up a few months worth of bills to work on Synesthetic. Yes, I was fully dedicated to the project. But when the project doesn't seem to be that dedicated to you in return, you have to face the reality that maybe it's time to move on to other things. I was setting things up for my eventual move; and then, like I said, things change.

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