Everybody wants to be famous, right? I mean, that’s certainly the impression space aliens would form of the human race after a quick review of its social media activity. So then, you’ll understand why I found it fascinating to meet a creator at Boston Comic Con 2016 who – after convincing his employer to lay him off so he could make comics full time, a successful Kickstarter campaign and several years of writing and illustrating – sees no need to put his name on his work.
“I wanted the work to stand on it’s own and let people read it without any preconceived ideas based on the author’s name,” says – well, let’s just call him “the creator.” “Whether it was male or female, famous or unknown, or a name that gave any kind of religious or nationalistic type of idea. To me, the story is the story, so why should anyone care who wrote it? You either like the story or you don’t.”
The story the creator refers to is that of Farlaine the Goblin, a tree goblin shaman from the forest of Fin-Din, told in seven parts. Farlaine, like his mysterious creator, is on a journey filled with exciting highs and discouraging lows. And while the creator hasn’t ventured through his fictional Saltlands or Racelands, he certainly has plenty of stories aspiring comic talent can surely relate to.
Plotting His Escape
Like Superman or Spider-Man, every comic writer or illustrator has an origin story. The creator’s began on his couch, where he doodled the head of a troll-like creature. This character quickly evolved into an otherworldly shaman with an empty bag over its shoulder.
“I had this sudden idea about shamans and how if they got their power and magic from the forest – what would happen if they went on vacation?” the creator says. “They wouldn’t be near their forest, so could they still do magic? It occurred to me that they’d need to take a tree with them, and with that idea, the whole thing clicked.”As for that name – the creator always loved that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were named after classic artists. Farlaine takes his name from someone a little more recent than Leonardo da Vinci, however – Spawn creator Todd McFarlane. And the artist’s influence on the creator’s pencils is certainly evident. Flip through any of the Farlaine books and you’ll see heavily detailed pages filled with expressive characters.
Story ideas were flowing, but there was one little problem standing in the creator’s way – his day job. After about seven frustrating years of website programming work at a company that valued politics over hard work, the creator was ready for a change. While the prospect of being laid off might terrify many workers, the creator convinced his employer to do just that. The elimination of his position in turn provided him with 12 months of unemployment pay – enough to scrape by on while he began to chronicle Farlaine’s graphic adventures.
The Ups and Downs of Making Comics
Of course, 12 months of unemployment checks aren’t all aspiring talent needs to launch a character. The creator has also turned to Kickstarter. And though he managed to raise $12,489 from 153 backers, he admits that starting a project on the crowdfunding platform isn’t a one-way ticket to success.
“It still seems like most of it is about marketing,” the creator says. “If you can get CNN to run an article about your Kickstarter, you’ll probably get a ton of new backers and a career out of it. But if you’re just posting on Facebook and Twitter and sending out emails, don’t expect some windfall of $100,000+ for your passion project.”
The creator adds that in the age of social media, those who post a lot online, hit the convention circuit and have large social circles are the ones who seem to succeed. Getting the attention of a major publisher also doesn’t hurt.
“Sadly, much of this industry seems to be more about networking,” the creator says.
That’s not to say the creator hasn’t worked hard to network and get his work into the hands of those in the comic industry. His stories sound similar to what an aspiring actor in a film or TV show might experience trying to land his or her big break – essentially, they’re depressing.
“I’ve submitted it to every major publisher and most don’t even reply back,” the creator says. “Most, it’s just silence.”
In one instance, the creator showed his book to someone from a major comic publisher who looked at the rectangular trade paperback and simply said, “Wrong shape.”
“Didn’t even care about the content of the book.”On the Bright Side…
Right about now, anybody with a head full of great comic ideas may be rethinking those dreams of breaking into the industry based on the creator’s stories – but it’s not all bad! Farlaine and his adventures have been warmly received by many, especially young girls and women.
“Generally, most people that start the series seem to come back for more and tell their friends about it,” the creator says. “I’ve gone to a few conventions where someone picks up the book, reads it and loves it, and start talking it up to random people all over the convention. I’ll have people come by being like, ‘I saw some guy raving about the series so I wanted to check it out,’ which is awesome.”
For the creator, though, the greatest reward to date is simply finishing each installment of Farlaine’s giant adventure. While some writers and illustrators may finish a project and never look back, the creator rereads his all-ages work, as he created something he genuinely wants to read.
“There’s also a huge sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing the books and seeing them in print and knowing that people, and especially kids, are reading and enjoying them,” the creator adds.
The Adventures to Come
Farlaine has spent many years wandering the various Oddlands of Wug, just looking for a land to call his own. Currently four of the seven books chronicling the goblin’s journey are available to readers. The creator finished Book 5 at the end of 2017 and expects to have it on sale in spring 2017. The immediate goal, though, is to have Books 6 and 7 finished by year’s end – before he has to crawl back to a cubicle.Of course, if Farlaine the Goblin finds a larger audience, in addition to a land of his own, the creator may not have to worry about returning to the 9-5 world.
“I’d love to see this picked up by Scholastic or a real book publisher and get it colored and into the kids section of a bookstore,” the creator says. “I don’t think it’s a normal fit for comic shops and their audiences of feral 15-year-old boys, but moms and Europeans and people that want to read smart and creative comics I think would love it.”
To join Farlaine on his journey, or just learn more about this very determined goblin, visit farlaine.com.