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None McBlacker

Last week saw the final issue of McBlack vol.01 go live on ComiXology. You can now buy all three issues for under $3 USD.

I’ve been seriously doing comics for nine years now and McBlack was my first big project–and it’s still perhaps the most popular comic I’ve produced. The work has never been available to a bigger audience and it feels like a good time to reflect on the whole thing.

McBlack Volume 1I wrote the script for McBlack in 2005. I’d self-published my first comic–an anthology full of six stories, all from different genres: a holocaust story, a war story, a horror fable, an SF skit, a martial arts yarn and a semi-fictional travel journal. I guess you could now look upon that as a declaration of intent. If there’s anything that characterizes my work that’s probably it: a willingness to try any genre or idiom. But I also wanted to do longer, more focused work. I knew it would be tough, as an unknown writer, to find an artist for a big project, so McBlack was an attempt to write something I would want to draw. I didn’t know if I would be able to pull it off, but I decided to give it ago. Perhaps the only reason it worked was that I decided I would hire an inker. It took a year to find the right guy, but once my friend Chopper John hooked me up with the redoubtable Dave Gutierrez there was no going back.

Having an inker took some pressure off. I didn’t have to sweat that every miserable line I drew would eventually wind up in some poor kid’s comic–I told myself the kids would see Dave’s lines. It also freed me up to concentrate on the actual drawing–and to clean up my act. I was worried I would lose Dave if the pages were too messy.

It took me five years to pencil volume 1. I didn’t want to release any of it until I had the whole thing done, given how slowly it was going, and in the end I decided to forgo serialization and publish straight to trade.  I almost didn’t publish it at all. I thought perhaps I would leave it in a drawer and let The Sixsmiths be my first published graphic novel–something drawn by a real artist, that would be published overseas and distributed properly around the world. I’m glad I didn’t, but it was a narrow call.

In the end I think it was Ron Salas’ beautiful cover that persuaded me to put the book out. I’d been sitting on the cover for three years and it provided plenty of motivation through the hard slog of penciling–as well as plenty of wistful moments wishing that I could have had Ron draw the entire book for me.

You can see me learning how to draw–how to visually tell stories–on every page. Sometimes I figured it out, sometimes I faked my way through, sometimes I failed.  Sometimes I just changed the script when it called for things I could not draw. Sometimes I surprised myself, though. I remember how proud Dave was that I managed to pull off the motorcycle in issue #1.

I also changed the script because I decided the story needed to be funnier. In the original version all the jokes are in McBlack’s voice-over, and the dialogue was deliberately terse. The comedic dialogue that’s now a hallmark of the book was really an attempt to distract the reader from the shortcomings in the art.

I have spent a bit of time with this book recently while getting it ready for ComiXology, so I’ve really had a good look at the whole thing recently, and you know what? I think there’s some legitimately funny moments there. There are some good panels. The splash page with the exploding monster truck in #2 is probably still the best piece of finished art in my portfolio. While the storytelling isn’t always elegant, it is clear and quite functional. I can see why people like the book: big visuals, comicbook violence, one-liners.

I haven’t yet sent ComiXology the one shot issues that followed, but you can expect them later this year. I won’t be uploading Lady McBlack until that miniseries is complete (it’s coming, I promise–delays in other projects have had a knock-on effect and I have not had time to draw the remaining forty-four pages). In the meantime, if you have read the book on ComiXology I’d really appreciate it if you would rate and review it there.


— Jason

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