Creating a noir comic book – part 10

Part 1 – Idea to concept
Part 2 – Concept to outline
Part 3 – Outline to page breakdown
Part 4 – Scripting and the first step of finding an artist
Part 5 – Finding a great artist
Part 6 – The great artist and defining visuals
Part 7 – From script to finished page
Part 8 – Identity and branding
Part 9 – Pitch package

This blog post has been way overdue. And with a sense of irony, that’s good, because that’s what this post is all about: waiting.



In the previous installment I talked about submission packages and how we went to London where a few editors really liked what they saw and wanted to see more. And the Great Wait was on. I’ll talk a bit about what to do while waiting in a bit.

But first, let’s get to the point in the timeline where we received emails from the publishers: Rejection emails. The first company, a fairly large American one sent us a standard rejection email two months later. The UK company, which we felt we had an even better chance at, sent us a rejection four months later.

Were we back to square one again?

Psychologically, rejections can really jolt you back and feel like a massive negative blow. I’ve had a lot of rejections, from big to small, and you just learn to live with them. No one ever got anywhere without wading through some rejections first. It’s part of any creative game.

It’s when these rejections arrive you need to look at all the positive aspects. We still had a great comic, and we did continue producing pages to finish our first issue. (Crucial point I’ll elaborate on a bit about further down.) And we’d managed to show a team of editors at two publishers what we were about, show off my writing and Emerson’s art. Just because you get a rejection doesn’t (necessarily) mean the project is bad in any way, it just means it doesn’t fit the publisher at that moment. Either due to schedule, genre and style, we being unknown, the financial risk too great in today’s market, or that it just didn’t stick with the editors personally.

But they had our names and saw our story and art, and that they’ll remember next time our names and art hit their desk again in the future. And that’s when they see that the team is still creating, still honing and keep getting better. And come that time, they might take a risk on us.

Gotta take the positive out of the negative.

Back to the crucial point mentioned. I knew the wait would be a long and arduous one. In every type of creative field this exist, and the most important thing is to hurry up and forget that you’re waiting, get back to the project you’re waiting on or new projects. Keep the wheels rolling.

Now, in the case of Spiral, we continued creating the pages to finish up the first issue. Since Spiral is just a 4-part mini-series I decided to go through with it despite rejections. Bigger projects or other type of projects might need to be considered up against the risk, though. If you’re reliant on getting your project in with a publisher for it to actually survive to the end, then you’re probably best shifting your focus over to new projects while you wait—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for when the no/yes arrives. When that moment arrives, you need to know how to play the ball. Is it best to put the project on ice, repeat and pitch to other publishers, or continue production anyway and have a back-up in self-publishing. This is project based, and up to the parties involved. My best advice is to talk it out and find good solutions for every creator involved. As a writer, don’t sit there and make calls you haven’t explored with your artist(s) first. That might derail the project completely. It’s a collaborative effort to reach the end result, no matter if you unload buckets of cash on your co-creators/artists, so make it collaborative.



With Spiral we had already finished up the first issue when that second rejection came through. We had our back-up plan, but also intended to continue finding a publisher. After showing the first issue around to people whose opinion would be valued, I realised we did have something good on our hands. It cemented our intention of getting Spiral out there, publisher or not. But favorably, it would be through a publisher. The hunt was still on.

Since I didn’t have the possibility to attend any conventions in the UK and the US during or after summer, I knew it would be really hard to get Spiral into the hands of editors. Sending it to the regular submission piles wasn’t really an option. Then a long-time industry pro suggested we try something different with a publisher I’d long admired: A physical copy sent to all the (non-senior) editors at the publisher’s HQ.

So we did. I printed up 25 exclusive copies with UKComics, wrote up an informal cover letter to each of the editors, explaining why such a freakish attempt was needed and what Spiral was. Enveloped that and a copy of Spiral #1 and sent it. To 9 different editors at that publisher.

A devious plan, bending the rules—because I don’t think it’s air we’re breathing now—but also one I hope will put both me and Emerson’s names to a variety of editors and especially showcase Emerson’s art. And the idea is that there’s a greater chance that one of 9 likes it, rather than the one person-shot you get by going through the official submission pile.

Did it work? We don’t know yet. As I type this the packages might have arrived, might be a day or two off, and it might take some weeks to hear back, if we ever do.

Such is the gamble. Such is the game. Such is the wait.

So now we’re back at the top of this article, to the great wait. But while this waiting happens in the back of our minds, me and Emerson are already working on another project (a one-shot) and intend to get back on Spiral #2 after that. I’ve also started gathering pull quotes from good people I know and/or admire, preparing for both the yes and no that might arise from this crazy plan.

So next installment of “Creating a noir comic book” will depend on the outcome of this plan: will I talk about working with a publisher, or will I talk about preparing for self-publication.

Check back in about a month, and we’ll see!

With an inventive, grounded spin on the costumed vigilante genre, SPIRAL has a chilly aesthetic I found reminiscent of Nordic thrillers, wrapped up within an intricate plot that puts character at the forefront. A massively intriguing opening chapter.

– John Lees

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