Endings … and Beginnings

It’s finished.

mixtape #5 cover-small

With the files out the door to the printer’s I can announce production on Mixtape #5 and Mixtape Vol. 1 is – to borrow movie biz terms – “a wrap”.

It’s oddly fitting that April 2014, a month that sees the first Pixies album since 1991, also sees the conclusion of the first arc in the saga. But, Mixtape #5 is indeed finished and indeed closes out the story begun in April 2012.  I’ve always been a believer that for a story to have resonance, it has to actually end.  And Mixtape #5 represents an ending of sorts. It concludes the journey our characters have been on the past five stories, bringing them together just in time to start pulling them apart.

So the question you’re asking is probably something along the lines of: “is it over?”

Believe me once you read this one you’ll believe it is actually The End.

Probably because this issue in particular deals with death, with losing a person you expected to see every day, and takes us back to that basement and that box of magazines, T-shirts and mixtapes unearthed on page one of issue one. We also learn the identity of just whose box of memorabilia it is.

mixtape 01 pag 01

While much of this issue will read like an end to the series rest assured it’s not – scripting has already commenced on the second arc, which takes our mains through their final months of High School and living in the same town together. College and real life beckon, and where these characters all end up will be surprising (at least I hope so).  Volume 1, which I’ve titled “Left of the Dial”, is really the first act of a much larger story. We’ve set our characters up and their central dilemma - how do we remain friends when it seems like the entire world is trying to pull us apart  – is the one that carries us through the second volume “Daydream Nation”, into the third, and beyond.

Speaking of surprises, we’ve included one (or several, depending on how you look at it) in this last issue of the first arc. Hopefully it’ll make you want to go back and re-read the first four issues (or check them out if you haven’t already).

Mixtape #5 will be available April 30 thru Indy Planet, and this website.  Digital versions of issues 1-4 are available on iTunes right now, with #5 arriving same day as the print version.  There’ll hopefully be a flurry of activity on the Mixtape front. Media copies of the newest issue have already gone out, and some interviews on the series and its future are in the planning.

Thanks again to all of you for your support of Mixtape. Believe me a black and white comic about teenagers and feelings isn’t the easiest of sells so I appreciate every person who’s read it and will hopefully continue to read it. It’s certainly been the most rewarding project of my career, and believe me when I say it’s just getting started.

That’s Entertainment …

Once you reach a certain age the milestones in your life take on something of a mythic quality, not so much for what those milestones are but for when they happened. Once you start measuring those moments in multiples of five, ten, twenty years and more you realize “man I have really been at this a while.”  I mean look at 2014 on a purely cultural level. Kurt Cobain, gone 20 years ago this April, Green Day’s “Dookie”, Oasis’ “Definitely Maybe”, Soundgarden’s “Superunknown” all turn 20 this year, as do  Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump and The Lion King.  Friends, ER and My So-Called Life debuted in 1994.  Heck, even 2004 was ten years ago.

Also 10 years old ... "The Facebook"

Also 10 years old … “The Facebook”

In related news it’s been fifteen years since I said goodbye to the world of dragging myself from the bed to the shower to the outdoors to commute to a day job for the sole purpose of keeping a roof over my head.  Because it was the 3rd of February 1999 that I became a full-time writer.

I’ve related the story of how that happened here, but the number of years it had been were this vague, amorphous blob to me until scribe Ally Malinenko asked how long I’d been writing full time. And when I realized it was actually 15 years I really didn’t know how to feel.  It certainly feels like 15 years; I’ve been a writer longer than I held any day job, and those 15 years nearly equal my Elementary, Secondary, and post-secondary education in length.  If my career were a person it’d be the age where it’s sneaking booze from the liquor cabinet.


Pictured: My Career

So I have a career. And while it’s been great (I can’t imagine doing anything else because I don’t think I can do anything else) I’d like to take the occasion to burst some bubbles on how glamorous a career it is because it isn’t glamorous.  Let me walk you through it …

1. It’s really hard

Okay, say you’ve “made it” and you’ve got the call and are now writing full time, seven days a week, three sixty five days a year, or however you wish to. You rise when you want to, you write however much you need or want to, you call it a day. And yes, that’s the basic core structure of my day. But that’s just the writing part of it. You also have to figure out how you’re going to live on what you make as a writer. And unless you have many jobs lined up – what we call work for hire – guess what? You’re going to be spending nearly as much time hustling for work as you are doing the actual work. Emails, phonecalls, face-to-face sitdowns, pitching – the actual work part of your job that basically forces you to clean  yourself up, put on your nice clothes, and go to these meetings and events and networking opportunities and be seen. Because as long as you’re locked away in your writin’ hole you’re pretty much invisible.  And even if you do land the job, there’s going to be months of contracting and back and forth and notes and meetings and maybe at some point you even get paid. So make sure you have an adequate cushion of money to live off of while working for others.  Oh, and you can pretty much kiss the idea of “retirement savings” good-bye. There is no retirement; there is only death.

Pictured: Your Retirement Plan

Pictured: Your Retirement Plan

2. It takes a physical toll

The first year of professional writerhood was and remains my best year financially. I had a big job on my plate that was financed and funded, and had a deadline for the start of production. So all I did for 7 months was wake up, make coffee, go to my basement office, write, then come upstairs, dinner, watch movies, go to bed, repeat the process.  There were week-long stretches where I barely ventured outside. And know what happened? I got fat. Not huge, but my muscles atrophied from lack of use, and my belly and my ass multiplied because I was basically sitting and eating and not exercising. And it was late in that first year that I realized how bad it had gotten; I wasn’t looking good and I was feeling worse.  So on New Year’s Eve 1999 I resolved that I was going to get into shape. And on January 1, 2000 I started doing just that. Beginning with simple walks in my neighborhood, the depth of my inactivity revealed itself with shins screaming in pain and my elevated heart rate. I barely managed 30 minutes of just plain walking that first day, but the next day I went out again, I walked longer, I walked further, and it didn’t hurt so much.  And onward, and within a relatively short time I found those walks easier. I walked longer, and farther and faster each time. And it’s the one New Year’s resolution  I actually have managed to keep to this day where I make sure to get outside at least once every day and get in a good long walk at the very minimum.  So there’s a positive. Now back to despair.

Swimming is also great exercise, as Joe Gillis discovered face-down in Norma Desmond's swimmin' pool

Swimming is also great exercise, as Joe Gillis discovered face-down in Norma Desmond’s swimmin’ pool

3. You’re constantly judged/categorized/dismissed

Every job you get is the first job you get. Because every job is different and unless you’re blessed to have employers with deep pockets who love you and want you to work for them exclusively, everybody you work for is a blank slate and you’re a blank page. They may know you by your work or your reputaion, but when you come to them angling for a job or they consider taking one of your original works on, every word you write, every word you speak is under intense scruitiny.  That’s assuming you get to the point of them offering you a job. They may hate your work – work that other people love.  They’ll want to know why it’s been so long since your last produced credit (because you worked for years on projects that never got made, went into turnaround, got sucked into an interdimensional vortex), they’ll want to pigeonhole you as a certain type of writer (because I’ve most notably done horror and sci fi that’s apparently the only thing I can write), and if they do hire you they’ll negotiate down, not up, so by the end of the job you’ve basically broken even if you’re lucky. And while they say they’ll pay you more the next time there usually isn’t a next time because they’ve gone with someone they can pay less than they paid you the first time. Glamorous, right?

Payday! Cha-ching!

Payday! Cha-ching!

4. It’s hand to mouth

Vacations? If you can afford them take them, because you won’t be able to afford them – not where you’re going.. When you have the time you don’t have the money and when you have the money you don’t have the time because you’re working on the thing they’re paying you for.  Unless you’re one of that 1% of writers considered to be “A” list, you’re scrounging for work along with everybody else.  If you’re so lucky to land the job and get paid a decent wage, hold off on buying that champagne to celebrate, or heaven forbid buying yourself a new TV or computer or Playstation, that money gets banked, and you dole it out bit by bit to cover bills and life stuff and make it last as long as possible before your next job which is barely on the horizon. I’ve had maybe one case where I segued from one paid gig into another. The rest of the time you’re waiting for contacts to be signed and watching your bank acount drain like a rusting chevy’s leaky gas tank.

On a positive note if you do have the money and the time for a vacation, for God’s sake TAKE IT. getting out of your cave and experiencing actual life stuff is the fuel that keeps your creativity going. Without the experience of different places, people, or cultures you’re writing to the room you’re in, not to any larger human experience, and that’s when your writing takes a turn for the worse.

Pictured: My last vacation 2 years ago.

Pictured: My last vacation 2 years ago.

5. Benefits?  What benefits?

Forget retirement savings plans, forget health benefits paid by your employer.  Also, banks and credit card companies LOVE self-employed people on Bizarro Earth, so if you live there, great. But if you live here, they laugh at you like those kids laughed at Carrie on prom night. The government laughs at you also, epecially around tax-time. If you aren’t setting aside money from each payday to pay your tax bill guess what? Those “savings” you were putting away to weather slow periods? Uncle Sam and or Revenue Canada thank you for the foldin’ money.  Yes you get to write off a good amount of your expenses – supplies, percentage of your rent or mortgage, travel for work etc. but those expenses get the fine tooth comb treatment. I can’t recall a time where I didn’t have to supply receipts and other info to the taxman to verify income and expenses, which delay any refund you may get.  Also, you won’t get any refunds.  Now, there are benefits; working from home, working in your pajamas, rising from bed when you want to, but they realy don’t even out when you bust a crown and need to empty your bank account to pay for it because the third rate insurance you pay into doesn’t cover dental.


Pictured: Your Dentist

6. There’s always a bigger fish

I’m extremely fortunate that there’s a core group of people and companies that still call me up to offer me work on a fairly consistent basis. I’m lucky people still want to meet with me. I’m lucky to have people consider themselves fans of my work.  But in the words of a wise Jedi spoken fifteen years ago there’s always a bigger fish. Take your average film school. Every year your average film school graduates 40 students. All looking for the same thing you are; to work, gainfully, and steadily.  Now multiply those 40 by every year since you graduated. Now multiply that by every film school on earth.  And multiply that by everybody who graduated before you. Add in the ones who never studied your craft who made their own movies anyway and scored big and that’s your competition.  Good luck!

Pictured: Your competition

Pictured: Your competition

7. You’re at constant risk of being devoured

At some point the work is going to dry up and you can’t help it. You reach your “best before” date, people stop returning those phone calls, someone younger, fresher, more dynamic who “speaks the lingo” has moved in on your turf and you’re shuffled off to the corner.  If you’re smart you’ve diversified and nabbed work in different mediums – media, advertising, etc – and disciplines that can help keep a roof over your head, or you’ve been lucky enough to work on some big projects that pay you residuals and dividends for years to come.  If you’re really smart you’ve taken your years of contacts, experiences and so forth and branched out into producing or developing your own projects with others.  But unless you’re SOMEBODY, unless you have a readership or an audience or a fan base that supports you because you are writing something, it’s going to be rough. That never changes. It was always rough, and with each year it gets rougher.

"Trust me, your profit participation will keep you quite comfortable in your old age" CHOMP

“Trust me, your profit participation will keep you quite comfortable in your old age” CHOMP

So why do it? Why go down this path? Why quit your day job, that steady paycheck, that structure and that order in your life? Why walk away from security and safety and embrace the unknown?

8. It’s worth it

Years ago – more than fifteen, closer probably to twenty-five, we gave my grandfather a book for Christmas. We got him books every Christmas but this one was different.  It was blank – just empty pages with a leather bound embossed cover called “Things I learned” by R. S. Abraham. It was a book for him to write down his thoughts, his stories. A man who fought in WW2 as a midship gunner in a Lancaster bomber, flying raids over enemy territory with a 1 in 3 chance of survival.  A man who was only 22 years old, leaving behind a new wife and young daughter he wouldn’t see for years. A man who returned to Canada, raised a family, worked hard, lived to see his children have children, and lived to see his home at Christmastime filled with his extended family.

Years after he died, while browsing the shelves at my dad’s house I saw that book, “Things I Learned”, filed away.  I pulled it out and opened it, wondering what he’d written inside it.

Every page was blank.

Presented without comment

Presented without comment

He never wrote a thing down. His life, his experiences — all of it was lost. I would never know what his stories were. In time everybody who knew my grandfather will be gone and his stories will be gone with the rest of us.

All lives end. That’s a fact, and it’s what makes life worth living. Because everybody has stories.  They may be short, they may be lengthy, they may be books or poems or paragraphs jotted down on a scrap of paper.  But they’re all comprised of experience.  Death robs us of loved ones, and robs us of their memories and experiences and the lives they lived.  That’s sad, but it is what it is. The natural order of things.

But a story untold and a story forgotten?  That’s a tragedy.

And that’s why we do it.  That’s why it’s worth it.

[The above are my experiences as a screenwriter. Judging by the responses they're pretty much a given no matter what part of the creative arts/self-employment grind you find yourself in]

Every (Fictional) Life Has A Soundtrack

I’ve come to realize I’m not one for writing or talking about my “process”. There’s plenty of other places online you can look to read about “process”, and there’s plenty of people who are happy to share what their process is. They’re all interesting and informative, and also contradictory and probably of little use to you.

Ahem ...

Ahem …

That’s because they’re talking about their process; they aren’t talking about what process works best for you.

Some insist on powering through the first draft and revising after it’s finished; others swear by revision as you go.  Some obsess on word count or pages per day; others are concerned only with “good” pages. Some brave souls rise at 5am and write for three hours before starting the day proper; others write in the evenings when the day is done.

Point being, you have to find a process that works for you. And what works for you will probably work for nobody else but you.

So here’s a piece about my process. Please feel free to ignore it.

* * *

For me it begins with the idea. Sometimes it’s a well-conceived idea; other times it’s just a rough sketch of one. From there I think about whose story “my” story is; the characters. Male or female, child or adult – I’ll try various combinations and complications before settling on POV. From there, assuming the story I’ve put together is any good, and the characters I’ve conceived are going to be interesting enough to follow, I clear the decks, close my door and start writing it. I outline before I draft, I treatment after I outline, I look for leaks and plug plot holes the best I’m able, and once that’s done, I start writing. Because if I don’t, this happens:


But before I do any of the above, I listen to music. Music may in fact be the most important part of my process. If I haven’t decided on what music I’m going to write to, chances are I won’t be able to do any writing, and what I do write will be shit.

Okay maybe not shit, but difficult.

My favorite approach to this is to assemble a playlist or mixtape to accompany whatever particular project I’m working on.  This is music that gets me into “the zone”, but more importantly into the character’s heads.  I’ll tailor a playlist to a specific character, and use the songs I choose to illustrate their personalities, their hopes, their fears, their everything. I’ll create several such playlists for any given project, and I’ll listen to them when I’m focusing on a particular character or subplot.

There’s a couple of reasons for this. The first I already mentioned; to get into the characters and the world they inhabit. But the second is more basic; to get me going. Because sometimes you just … can’t … get … into … the writing part of writing. You have lousy sleep or a lousy day, you’re at one of those points in the story where you’ve lost the plot.  You want to do anything but write.

That’s where the playlist comes in. Because you’ll sit there and you’ll listen to it, or you’ll throw it on your iPod and go for a walk, and pretty soon the story will come back to you. And once the story comes back to you, you find you’re able to write it down.

Now, this music doesn’t have to be of the period the project is set in. In fact I’d advise strongly against that. The reason you create a writing playlist is not to be authentic but to be real. To connect with the characters and the story on an emotional level.  So unless you grew up listening to Civil War era grassroots music, using that music to score your Civil War era story is going to make it a dry museum piece. Ask yourself what your characters would listen to if they were alive today (and seeing as they are your characters they are alive)? Would they be into rock? Punk? Country? Hip-hop? Try and see them as living, breathing people, not just words on the page and an idea in your head. Put yourself in their headspace and assemble a list of songs that relate to them, their trials, their troubles.

A long-in-the-works project of mine is a murder mystery set in Renaissance Italy. It’s a novel, my first (unpublished, though if anyone’s interested …), and it was written primarily to 60s British Invasion and 90s Britpop. There are two main characters, each with alternating perspective chapters. One was 50-something, the other a 20 year old. Any time I was writing for the older character I lived on a steady stream of Rolling Stones, The Hollies, Manfred Mann, and the Yardbirds. For the 20 year-old, it was Blur, Oasis, Elastica, Inspiral Carpets, Happy Mondays, and so on.

Pictured: a renaissance man

Pictured: a renaissance man

A screenplay I wrote about famed Canadian WW1 Flying Ace Billy Bishop was written to early 90s alternative; grunge mostly, but a lot of Pogues, Dropkick Murphys, early U2, Depeche Mode, and Duran Duran. I wanted to capture a feeling of excitement in the lives of Billy and his fellow fliers, all young twentysomethings taking to the skies to vanquish their enemies. Because a substantial portion of the screenplay dealt with the after effects of being the most famous killer in the world, I balanced fast paced rock with more introspective music for the quieter scenes.

There are other examples. A suspense thriller I’m currently writing is being scored to a lot of Madchester era music, which is appropriate given the main character has walled herself off from the world and is living in something of a nostalgia bubble, so it made sense for her to be into the music she was into as a teenager.  A thriller I wrote for a prod co about an EMT on the edge had a lot of 70s Punk in the mix – The Diodes, The Demics, The Clash, The Ramones. Music that reflects the thoughts of a main character living on the edge.

And obviously, there’s Mixtape. A lot of people have asked about the role of music in writing a particular issue, and I’ve talked about that here and here. But the shorthand of Mixtape is every issue has a mixtape; a 14-15 track playlist assembled by whatever character is front and center for that issue. I start with the playlist in a lot of cases (I only really cracked issue #4 after cracking the playlist), but sometimes the playlist results from the plotting, as if the character assembled their mix in the aftermath of the events dramatized. Since I outline each issue with a great amount of detail anyway, by the time I’ve settled on the story itself I’ve got the playlist ready to go.

That all being said if your particular project is of a  period where music – contemporary music – is available, use it. If there’s an emotional component also, even better. A TV pilot I’m penning right now is set in the 1950s, so naturally that playlist is comprised of 50s Rock and Roll. This works on both levels for me as I grew up with that music, not because I was around in the 1950s, but because my parents were.  That was the music they grew up with and I grew up with it by osmosis (and on long rides in the family station wagon). Listening to the music the characters in this TV project would be listening to helps me understand them better, whether the scene or scenes I’m writing are being mentally scored to The Platters, Etta James, Ricky Nelson, or Elvis.

Not this Elvis. That's a different project.

Not this Elvis. That’s a different project.

Now, things I’m not a fan of using are movie soundtracks or scores. I know a lot of people swear by them, screenwriters in particular. And there have been times when I’ve thrown on chase music when writing a chase scene, or fight music when writing a fight scene. But the problem I always run into (and I’ll admit it may be a personal thing) is that the images I associate with that music – Indiana Jones chasing a truck, Batman chasing The Joker – are images crafted by somebody else, and those images have a tendency to infect whatever you’re trying to write.  Now there are worse crimes in movie making than riffing on something someone else has done to great success – and to be blunt, it makes what you’re writing a much easier sell.  But as I’ve become a more seasoned, confident writer I try and step back from those influences. I figure I have my own stories to tell, so why try and duplicate what’s been done, subconsciously or not?

* * *

So that’s it, really. That’s my process and it probably only works for me. But maybe it’s worth a shot if you’re stuck on a plot point, or something with your story that just isn’t working for you. Or maybe all you need is white noise to keep you from getting distracted. The point is you need to find what works best for you, and stick to that. Don’t let people like me or anybody else tell you what you’re doing is wrong because it’s not wrong; it’s right for you.  As long as what you do works for you it’s better to stay on that track than try and write like someone else.

Because they already do that.  Your job is to write like you.


Left of the Dial

Well, it’s all been building to this.

mixtape 05 cover v2Mixtape #5 will arrive in February/March 2014. It is the concluding story in the “Left of the Dial” arc that contains issues 1-5. It also brings the story full circle, to a degree, returning us to events in issue #1, which made its debut in April 2012. In a way it functions as the end of the Mixtape story, and represents a new beginning at the same time.

I first conceived Mixtape in October 2008 (though the roots of the story go much deeper than that). So you get the idea how long a journey to this point it has been.  There were delays even before the first issue was published, and delays that followed that first issue. But in the last 12 months we’ve managed to get issues 2, 3, and 4 out the door, which is something of an accomplishment given how many indie books don’t make it past their first issue. At times I was tempted to throw in the towel, but it was through the encouragement of the book’s many fans that convinced me and everyone else involved in Mixtape that ours was a story worth telling, and continuing.

Mixtape #5 (the title of which you’ll just have to wait to find out) revolves around endings, of moving on from the past, of the inevitability of change. It’s a story about death, but also one about life and memory, about those moments that didn’t seem significant at the time but took on a greater importance when you look back on them from years down the road.  It closes the first chapter in the Mixtape story, and to some it may feel like the end of the series (don’t worry; it isn’t)

So reaching this point, the conclusion of the first arc, has been bittersweet. I’m glad I’ve been able to see the first story arc to completion; though what form the series will take from this point is still a bit of a mystery. Do we stick with single issues, or do we focus on a series of trade editions that tell one overarching storyline?  How much of the story do we tell?  Market forces will decide some of that, but the next arc, “Daydream Nation” has already been plotted (with two of its five stories already scripted), and the third arc (tentatively titled “Come As You Are”) is just appearing on the radar.

So rest assured the series will continue in some form, though currently the focus is on finding a publisher to help us get the trade edition of Mixtape Vol. 1 into stores. I’m already talking to a few, and the hope is that we’ll see this TPB in time for NYCC 2014, which as of this writing is still just under a year away.  I’m also hoping to include some bonus tracks in the trade edition; additional pages, playlists, character sketches, some behind-the-scenes stuff, and maybe a few surprises.

I’m also looking into locking in a couple of foreign language editions of Mixtape Vol. 1. I know many of artist Jok’s fan community has been anxious for a Spanish language edition of Mixtape, so finding the right publisher for that will occupy a good part of the new year also.

That means that Mixtape #6 likely won’t appear for some time still. I’d like to get going on it in 2014, but getting the trade edition out will be my priority for the immediate future. What’s been great about the book is that 2013 saw it gain a wider reach; new fans discovering it; old fans discovering it still exists. There’s a slate of 2014 Con appearances in the works and we hope to take the series to an even wider audience. But getting a trade edition will be essential for the future of Mixtape

Comics take a long time to produce. And producing Mixtape has been worth every penny, every hour, minute, and second. It has been the most satisfying creative endeavor of my career.

And it’s just getting started.

Sharp Avenger

As you’ve probably figured, I am something of a comic book fan.

Now I’m far from the biggest one; there’s guys and girls half my age who know more about comics than I ever will. And I’ve never been a fan of the marvel/DC superhero books. I’m aware of them, I know the characters, but I’ve never been “into” either universe.  I’ve never been much of a superhero fan either. Sure I’ve read Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns, and Marvels, and am a big fan of All-Star Superman but I’ve never bought a superhero book on a regular basis, with the exception of Kurt Busiek’s amazing Astro City series.

But I was never able to get into reading regular Marvel or DC universe books. Probably because the back stories were so dense, likely because so many were crossovers, or referenced other books (which meant you had to buy those too). Mostly because I just didn’t find superheroes that interesting.

My comics readership waxed and waned (the mid 1980s to late 1990s were my Golden Age) over the years, and when I got back into the funny books in the late 00′s, it was titles like Y: The Last Man, DMZ, and The Walking Dead that stoked my interest, and in their own way led me to create Mixtape. Having been mired in Mixtape production I sadly have less money to spend on comic books (because I’m spending it on my own), but with Mixtape #5 illustrated, the first arc in that series is almost complete so I have some time now to pursue other comic book projects.  And I get to announce one of those right here:


And it’s a superhero book.

In one of life’s ironies, I’m more interested in superheroes now than I was at the optimum age. If you were to ask if there’s any superhero stories or characters I’d be interested in telling a story about in my idea pile, I’d answer that there’s several, including one Superman story I’m dying to tell (seriously, anybody at DC reads this, hit me up).

I think it’s because I’m interested in them less as characters and more as icons; as what they’re representative of. They envision a world of wonder that’s a lot more appealing than the world we’ve got. They represent the ideal we all strive toward.

Naturally, Sharp Avenger is a piss take on all of that.

Sharp Avenger is the brainchild of David Buceta and David Braña. David is also the graphics whiz responsible for lettering the recent and upcoming issues of Mixtape. So when he told me about Sharp Avenger and asked if I wanted to be involved, I couldn’t say no. For me the opportunity to be part of a very European comics collection was too good to pass up.

Sharp Avenger collects the work of some of Europe’s hottest new comic book talent, and I’m honored to be a part of it. They are crowdfunding the book to pay printing costs, and you can learn more about all of that here. So if you’re a fan of superheroes and a fan of European comics work, please throw some support their way!