I've doodled, but I've never been able to really draw. Sure, through the years I've done something here or there that I liked well enough to place in a binder and say "Hey, doodle. You're not bad. You're sticking with me," but I think I've only done that like twelve times in twenty-nine years.
I've never been a great artist, no, but I do wish I'd held onto more of those doodles. I wish I would have known a dozen years ago that for the rest of my life, I'd like to look now and again at something silly I drew at age seventeen. During class in my senior year of high school, for instance, I took a piece of notebook paper and drew a grinning kid holding a meat cleaver. I called him Sic Sid, and I gave him a friend named Timid Tim whose meekness matched Sid's eponymous sic-ness, and that was it. Two friends: one with his eyebrows raised and his hands thrust deeply into his pant pockets, the other grinning with psychotic, murderous glee. It didn't mean anything, and I didn't really know where those images had lived before I put them on paper. It was just a doodle. I showed it to Seth Wofford who thought it was funny, and I lost it, and there was nothing more to it.
Not long after, Jerry Shubert bought the 2002 album Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls and played it for me. Inspired, he suggested we start our own horrorpunk band. We could all have nicknames, he said, like Wednesday 13 and Johnny Rotten. We started casting our friends as the bandmates and coming up with their stage aliases. Sic Sid came to my mind, but ultimately, nothing came of the music. We graduated high school and all went our separate ways.
One night a couple of years later, we were all back in town - Jordan Slentz, Jerry Shubert, Greg LeBlanc, Cory Jones, Dereck Coleman and myself. We sat around listening to a few eerie and theatrical bands - My Chemical Romance, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and The Dresden Dolls - and talked for a while about the common quality between them. We decided they all had a certain... spookiness.
Inspired by the music and the conversation (and perhaps the beer), we knew the time was right to resurrect the band that never was. We started a list of nicknames, with Sic Sid and Timid Tim topping the page. One name was so catchy, we almost decided to make it the band name. But no... it could only be Spooky Corps. We separated to our corners, excitedly working out songs and coming back together to toss our ideas around and spitball a purpose, an angle, a message.
A story started to stitch itself together in my mind, grabbing the lyrics and connecting them in strange and unexpected ways. There were tales of the psychotic and the supernatural; of loves lost to vague tragedy and hands that couldn't wash clean. We'd constructed pieces of a world, and separately probed its mysteries. Whatever horror we each drew back became a part of its enigmatic fabric. We would each play characters from the tale! The show would be mostly music, but - oh! - with theatrics! We'll be the members of Spooky Corps and act out scenes from the story between the songs!
We dreamed big.
Time passed and dedication waned, but off and on over the next few years Jordan and I continued to develop a rough backstory for this narrative in an attempt to to weave together the dangling ends of these songs' assertions. Two or three times a year, one of us would offer a thought. We'd talk out a few things, resuming our work where we'd left it, slowly building a world and telling each other its story for days, and then drop it and say nothing on the subject for months.
Finally, on November 13th, 2007, I sat down and wrote up a rough draft of the story's first part, presented as a musical with eleven songs. I sent it to everyone involved whose email address showed up in my hotmail contacts. I thought production would skyrocket and we'd be on our way to world conquest.
Nearly seven years and over seventy-seven thousand words' worth of email exchanges later, we still hadn't put down anything solid since that first draft, though the vitality of the story and my desire to tell it never lessened. There was just so much to explore it was hard to know when to start! It grew, and changed, and surprised us, and never stopped being interesting. Delivering the story as a fictional band telling of their adventures had lost its allure, and we'd considered making an animated musical graphic novel online, but realized we didn't know the first thing about animating or writing musicals or making graphic novels or releasing material online. At one point, I wanted it to be a sung-through stage production. So... there's that.
Then, due to some strange mental anomaly, I decided it made the most sense to keep it simple. Pick one medium. We took out the music and saw that the comic book format provided the most realistic option for facilitating the sprawling, philosophical, adventurous, supernatural epic the story had become. You don't need film equipment or studio time or a cast, crew, and venue to make a comic book. You only need a few talented, creative people, and we've already got two.
I'd become an office manager by this time, and unfailingly asked everyone I'd hired who showed artistic ability if they ever drew a anything spooky. Five of my coworkers - Nick Lepley, Joey Gutierrez, Matthew Little, Mehone Tebedge, and Patricia Kelley were all kind enough to give me free concept art through the years. Nothing makes you want to write your story like watching quality artists put it onto paper.
So in 2014, I got to work. And I mean /really/ work. I wrote most days for about five months, working hard to make sense of almost a decade's worth of story material. My memories of the good blended with the false starts and dead ends of the bad, and some days my wife had to deal with a husband in a strange fugue state, mumbling to himself about timelines and lost histories and bumping into walls.
But I persisted, and finished the official second draft outline of Spooky Corps, Part One.
On November 15th, 2014 - seven years and two days after I finished the first draft of the first part - Jordan and I stood in front of a giant whiteboard and outlined part two. We recorded the session, and I listened back to it the following week, furiously scribbling notes and guiding the raw ideas we'd had into their places in the narrative. Over a few days, I roughly wrote Part Two into a four page outline. Jordan and I have continued working on this project most days since.
We're doing this.
Is Image or Avatar or Fantagraphics going to pick up the book and publish it? No, probably not. Yes, we'll probably end up trying to get crowdfunded or will have to pay a few artists to get it done on our own. But I'm approaching this as seriously as I'm able to increase the chances of any of that happening. And who knows? I believe in this story. Maybe some publisher's going to decide to pick up my proposal from the slush pile and believe in it too.
But if I CAN'T find any publishers who want to give this guy with no industry resume or experience a chance, and I can't find any artists who want to illustrate the comic AND who I can afford, then I guess I'll have to learn to draw, and I mean r/ draw, and do it myself.
We're going to tell this story. I've never been a great artist, no. But this world needs Spooky Corps. I'm not going to let it turn them away.
Thank you for being here. Stay tuned.