-by Glenn Matchett
Thanks for checking in once. As a creator of an indie book myself I know how hard it is to get people to read your book. People work hard for their money and taking a chance on a book by someone you’ve never heard of is a big thing to ask. Even if it’s just $2 or $3 but what if you could try your luck on an indie comic and just spend $1?
I’m biased but I think that GrayHaven boasts some of the best undiscovered talent in the industry. We’ve had people go onto bigger and better things but we have a lot of very talented folks working hard for us that seem to be virtual unknowns to the industry at large. One of those many, many talented people is artist and writer Donal Delay.
I’ve been with GrayHaven since day 1 and I’ve seen a lot of people come and go. Donal is one of the rare super talented folks who has been with us since Vol. 1 and is still with us to this day. In our first volume he crafted a story with a fellow editor and amazing writer Doug Hahner called ‘Recovery’. In a volume where it was for many creators (including myself) their first foray into comic creators ‘Recovery’ was one story that stood out in quality among all others. It was a short story that people took to and even won an early poll on GrayHaven’s website that earned it the distinction of being the best story in our first few volumes. I doubt Doug will mind if I say that this in no small part to Donal’s amazing art style.
Reminding me of the old classic Sunday funny strips with its charm but with an added depth to it Donal’s artwork has to date graced eight GrayHaven publications and there will be many more I hope. I’m not here to talk though to talk about his GrayHaven work though, I’m here to talk about the fact that many talented people Donal has not let just one company or one medium contain him…he is looking beyond that.
Currently through his website (link here: http://donaldelay.bigcartel.com/product/boston-strongboy) Donal is offering a digital comic that he wrote and drew for $1. Like I said a number of weeks ago when I wrote about ‘The Default Trigger’ it seems that Donal is using the internet to get his work out there and at a price that is hard to argue with. As major publishers increase price and either decrease their page count or keep it stagnant little known creators like Donal are offering strong work for a bargain basement price. This story in particular is 29 pages and is a bio comic centering around legendary boxer ‘The Boston Strongboy’ John L. Sullivan. I’ve never been a fan of boxing in general but being a fan of Donal’s work and also a fan of cheap comics by talented folks I gave it a go and wasn’t sorry. With minimal dialogue Donal crafts a stunning tale about a boxer I knew nothing about but I grew to care about in 29 short pages. The story is simply lovely to look at and with a few short words Donal says more with his art that many writers do with pages of dialogue.
I caught up with Donal so he could tell us more about himself and the story he’s so brilliantly crafted here!
GH:Tell us more about yourself Donal, how did you get into comics in general?
DONAL: I started reading as a kid. Grabbing them from gas station racks when we went on family vacations. One of the first books I read was Wolverine. It was drawn by Marc Silvestri and I loved the art.
GH: What is your artistic past, where did you learn/hone your craft?
DONAL: I’m self taught. I started drawing because I loved comics, and my sister was good at doing realistic fantasy art. I hated the fact that she was better than me at something and started tracing Bart Simpson from the TV Guide. Back in the day when The Simpsons was in its first season. When I grew out of the “just start drawing” phase everyone has at the beginning, and got into the craft of things, I tried to consume as many tutorials as I could. Anatomy books, perspective. Even How To Draw Garfield books, because they teach you the basics of combining shapes.
GH: How did you first get associated with GrayHaven?
DONAL: Wow. I think I have the brain of a 90 year old man, because I can’t even remember. It’s been a while. I want to say it was when I drew a two page comic written by Doug Hahner, in Seussian rhyme, dealing with his cancer for one of the earliest GrayHaven anthologies. Things just kind of snowballed from there. At least, that’s the first thing I remember working on. It was such an emotional story I definitely didn’t do justice.
GH: You’re offering Boston Strongboy online, any chance we might get a printed version at some point?
DONAL: I doubt it. It has a 16:9 aspect ratio, so I don’t think the cost of printing would justify it for a 28 page book.
GH: How do you feel being able to make comics available online has benefited small press creators like ourselves and how do you see it influencing the future of the industry?
DONAL: It’s a massive benefit. Before, you had to go through the whole song and dance of submitting to publishers, doing portfolio reviews, getting hired, making a name for yourself, and possibly branching out to creator-owned work once you have an audience, or break your bank account and get a business loan the Jeff Smith way. But, honestly, that’s still a viable path for anyone out there, but how many of us are Jeff Smith? NOW? You can bypass all that jazz and publish your comics online, then print with built in support from people who want THAT BOOK because they want that book. And, honestly, if it wasn’t for webcomics, I doubt we’d have some of the amazing books/comics we do have.
I see online publishing, and webcomics as influencing the industry in a huge way. This is the way most people choose to consume their media now. Tablets, phones, laptops. Printed books will always have their place. It’s not going away any more than books went away when movies and TV were invented. It’s a new medium in which to tell stories.
GH: Tell us how the idea to do ‘Boston Strongboy’ came about?
DONAL: I was gearing up to do 24 Hour Comic Day, and because writing is not my strongest suit, I cheated a little bit and was looking for at least a concept to write during the event. Something to just start my brain. I knew I wanted to do a comic about bare-knuckle fighting, because how hard can it be to write 24 pages of fighting? (hint: it’s hard. Especially if you want it to be interesting) After an hour of research, I came across John L. Sullivan. Thought he was an interesting character, and did the 24 Hour Comic Day. Once I was done, though, I thought it was interesting enough to put more effort into it. Rewrite it, and better linework because the original was scratchy nonsense with a tech pen.
GH: Did you find it more challenging to do a story yourself vs. working with a separate writer?
DONAL: Definitely more challenging to do a story for myself. I can draw all day. My purpose as storyteller when working with a writer is to make sure the writer gets what they want/see onto the page. I don’t make beat changes without discussing it with them and if they want changes, then boom. Change. Easy-peasy. They hand me a script, and I do the part I love the most: visual storytelling. But, writing for myself is harder because I’ll have scenes I’ll want to draw, but might not work for the story, so I find myself wanting to justify leaving them in. Then you have page counts to consider, like in short stories. I write in a vague novel, film mesh and visually pace the way I want it to pace when I do layouts. How any of these writers have a clear way to write and pace their story to fit, say, 5 pages, is like watching Penn & Teller to me. But, I love both.
GH: Do you enjoy drawing true to life comics? It’s something I could see as being very difficult but you seem to have a knack for
DONAL: It’s very fun. I mostly do it because I’m not confident in my writing abilities that much to write a totally fictional story, and I haven’t studied that craft as much as I’d like. But, it’s helpful when you have a story already told. Plus, there are SO MANY interesting people in the world with such amazingly unbelievable and cool stories that just sound made up. But, there it is in history books.
GH: What’s ahead for you? What else do you have coming out soon or in the near future?
DONAL: In June, Doug Hahner and I will be putting out a one-shot mini comic called My Geek Family. A slice of life comic about a day in the life of his family. It’s an adorable all ages book. I also have a webcomic I’ll be launching soon, called Daring Adventures, my love letter to campy sci-fi serials on the 40s-70s, complete with spaceship designs that look like they should be on strings. That’s taking up most of my time, as I get closer to launching it. In spare time, I’m also working on a 54pg book about blues legend Robert Johnson and getting that ready to sell digitally. Writing a few more ideas, and doodling for others that are too far away to mention now.
GH: What indie comic should everyone be reading right now?
DONAL: I’m mostly reading stuff I can find online, like Amy Falcone’s Clique Refresh. Tavis Maiden’s Tenko King. Daniel Warren Johnson’s Space Mullet. Meredith McClaren’s Hinges. Mike Norton’s Battlepug.
For printed comics: Any of the wonderful anthologies GrayHaven is putting out, especially You Are Not Alone. Not just because I’m in it, but because it’s a book worth your attention. Outside of GrayHaven books, Head Lopper is really all I’ve read in physical form.
Remember to check out Donal’s book (and only for a buck) right here: http://donaldelay.bigcartel.com/product/boston-strongboy