The Hardest Part: Lex Wilson on KLAY

I’m a big fan of both Lex Wilson and Jason Strutz, so I was quite excited to see their new 7-day-only “Quickstarter” Kickstarter campaign for their new one-shot comic, KLAY. It’s foggy in my memory how long I’ve known each; Lex through his Eagle Award winning comics work, and his absolutely hilarious performance of his own “Romeo and Meatbox” story at a Flyleaf Books event, goggling to see him as an extra on ABC’s Revolution, and of course his recent work on the “Islands” radioplay. Strutz was (along with Jeremy Whitley) one of my first Bull Spec interviews, for their Order of Dagonet comics, and he went on to do two print issue covers and other interior illustration for me, and I’ve also enjoyed his fantastic work on David Foland’s Pizzula, before, and this is completely unfair, he moved several states away. Still, he’s been no stranger, and he’ll be back in a couple of weeks for NC Comicon.

Here, they’ve put together a multi-style story of “A superhero sidekick with elastic/morphing powers crosses multiple realities to solve his own murder” where Strutz has had to display both a typical 4-color “superhero” style as well as a darker-toned “noir” as well as peeks into other realities. Lex writes about all — and it’s a lot! — the other “stuff” that it takes to be a comics writer, well beyond the actual script writing itself.

KLAY: A super hero "Quickstarter" (7 days only!) comic book's video poster

By Lex Wilson:

The hardest part about writing comics is how little it actually involves writing. And this goes beyond the typical reluctance of an introverted author who’d rather not have to self-promote. Writing the script for Klay took a week or two. Being the writer of  Klay has taken over a year.

Writers of many comic books must become project managers (or at least co-managers) of a team, and regular readers of this blog can likely picture the venn diagram showing the tiny area where the skillsets of great fiction authors and those of great leaders overlap.

So we have the writer, the penciler, the inker, the flatter, the colorist, and the letterer. Sometimes an editor or an additional artist on layouts or design. Each additional member of the team can add additional complexity to a project–and an additional hurry-up-and-wait delay–especially when you communicate over email. That Jason inks and colors his own illustrations has value in “streamlining the team” on top of his obvious skills in those areas. It’s also how I can view the lettering of my own work as an actual time saver.

It can be depressing to a new comics writer to hear that breaking into writing comics involves anything more than “writing great comics” but instead: “networking, self-promoting, going to conventions, going to certain bars on certain evenings of conventions, reviewing portfolios of potential collaborators, pitching projects to and receiving rejections or no response at all from potential collaborators, submitting work to and receiving rejections or no response at all from publishers, befriending this artist or that editor, becoming a publisher if necessary, working with printers, learning how to read and perhaps create a contract, knowing small business law, running a crowd funding campaign, politely and patiently checking in with collaborators when they stop responding to email for weeks or months, and, of course, writing great comics.”

But there’s joy in collaboration as well, of course. Each time I opened my email during Klay‘s creation, I might get a new set of pencils or inks or colors as Jason brought our story to life and created our heroes and the city of San Francisco in two unique styles of art (the story involves multiple realities). And connecting with readers makes me wish I was young enough to understand how to use Twitter.

An additional “team member” in this case was a backer from a previous Kickstarter, who partially funded its creation. Since it started as a promised, modest “minicomic based on photographs” starring him, and evolved into the more traditional comic we finished, we needed to stop and check in with him to make sure he was on board with major changes, starting with “How would you feel if you were starring in a real comic?” and ending with questions about expanding the print run via Kickstarter and where/whether he might want his name in various places beyond the agreed to credits.

More recently “writing” this comic has meant creating and running a Kickstarter to fund the printing around a schedule which would allow Jason to sign the printed material when he’s in town next month. This required us to experiment with a 7 day “Quickstarter,” which created an unexpected challenge to overcome: Our roughly 20% funding in the first day would be a win for a typical 30 day campaign, but, at a glance next to those other Kickstarters, six days left with 80% to go looks more like a doomed project, and a backer’s time is better spent elsewhere.

Now it’s a matter of finding the balance between self-promoting and annoying my friends, readers, and peers. Inevitably some will be frustrated with what I do, and inevitably others will ask me a month from now why I never told them about it, and inevitably we all would have been happier if I’d spent the week actually writing.

Necessary evils are still, after all, evil.


The Kickstarter campaign for KLAY runs through Mon, Nov 3 2014 10:07 PM EDT.



Lex Wilson (Alex) is a writer and actor in Carrboro, NC. Stuff he’s written has won the Eagle Award (comics) in 2012 and Writers of the Future (prose) in 2013. Other comics and prose have appeared/will appear in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Outlaw Territory 2 (Image Comics), To End All Wars, FutureQuake, and elsewhere. More at LEXWILSON.COM

Jason Strutz is the illustrator behind the Cask of Amontillado and the upcoming The House of Montressor graphic novel from Red Stylo Media. He also publishes a variety of Make Your Own Comics, ABC books, and other comics. More at STRUTZART.COM

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2 Responses to The Hardest Part: Lex Wilson on KLAY

  1. Pingback: Coming to Town: Jason Strutz for NC Comicon | Bull Spec

  2. Pingback: November newsletter: Garth Stein and NC Specualtive Fiction Night, and (in December) Julia Elliott and Fred Chappell | Bull Spec

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