So, back to our heartwarming tale of a stranger in a strange comic book land (hey, it IS strange; haven't you ever been to a convention? It's 65% desperate, sexless nerdiness and 35% stench).
Anyway, my comics "career" was doing ok for what it was. I was doing a bunch of relatively successful, critically-acclaimed mini-comics, and an occasional indy gig here and there (like the aforementioned Cosmic Waves, or Tyim Court's wonderfully irreverent Narcoleptic Man, which can now be read online).
But I didn't feel "complete" yet, as I hadn't published a superhero comics, which is what brought me (and truth be told, the majority of us) into the comics vocation/avocation in the first place. Luckily, a series of coincidences eventually threw me together with my small press cohort and pal, Jerry Smith, and the two of us began work on a series I'd created called Holey Crullers. The premise of the book was that of a donut shop for superheroes and villains, a place where characters could talk without all the fisticuffs, allowing me to do what I really love: writing dialogue.
So we put out a digest-sized comic, Holey Crullers #1, featuring two stories. The first was about the super-fast Speeding Bullet, whose powers were slowing driving him into a deep depression. The second features teen hero Deb-U-Ton encountering, and taking advice from, a rabbi with dissolving powers called the Acidic Jew.
The first issue did well with my fellow small press pals, but there was concerned among them that this "talking heads" format wouldn't be dynamic enough to carry more than a single issue of a comic.
Naturally, being the contrary SOB I am, I decided to make it a continuing series, and eventually cranked out six more issues, and almost no fight scenes whatsoever. What they did feature, however, were superheroes and villains conversing in adjoining bathroom stalls, Crullers' waitresses thwarting evildoers, crimefighters driving VW bugs, homeless superbeings, overweight superbeings, elderly superbeings, giant monsters eating donuts, the creators of the comic being besieged by escaped baboons and errant bluesmen, and just about anything else I could think of that was the antithesis of the average superhero comic.
Given that I was trying to do everything the opposite the way capes & tights book are normally done, it should have been a recipe for failure and ridicule (like the rest of my life). But darned if it didn't work somehow.
Then, somewhere around Crullers #4, I set up my usual table at the Chicago Comicon. It was an average year, but as always a very pleasurable time. About a month later, however, I received a letter from a guy named Jim McLauchlin, one of the high muckety-mucks at Wizard Magazine. In it, Jim told me he'd picked up issues of Crullers at the convention (based solely on thinking it was a cool name). Moreover, he absolutely loved the comic, and was going to make sure Wizard did an article on the damned thing.
And so they did. I was interviewed for the mag, and within a couple of months, in Wizard #79, there was a story about me and my comics. In fact, there was four pages about my stuff, in the most mainstream comics publication in the country, four pages about an unknown black and white mini-comic, right there alongside articles about the X-Men and Grant Morrison. How did it feel? Well, take the best sex you've ever had in your life, combine it with the satisfaction of a great meal and the release of a really fine poop, multiply it by ten, and you'll have some small idea of how it felt.
The Wizard folks pulled out all the stops, too. They even had some of their staff dress up in makeshift hero costumes and sit at a donut shop counter for photographs that were included with the article.
(Here's a little known fact: when I sent Jerry the script for Crullers #6, I requested that he take the main photo from Wizard, of the heroes at the counter, and incorporate it as an image into the "Loose Ends" story that dealt with the origin of the Crullers franchise, which he did. Then, when the stories were redrawn for Common Grounds years later, I asked the same thing of artist Dan Jurgens, and he also played along. There's something about the self-fulfilling prophecy of all that which really appeals to a part of me).
I really felt I'd arrived because of that article, and it began changing things for me almost immediately. My mail orders for Holey Crullers increased exponentially. My sales at the next year's ChicagoCon were so brisk that I had to send home for another box of comics before the weekend was over. A couple of comics shop owners asked me to do signings at their shops. It was certainly a different reception from the dog-and-pony show I'd previously had to put on to get anyone to notice my comics, or the sneers I'd received if anyone DID notice.
The biggest change was yet to come, though. What I didn't know is that Jim had passed on my comics to a fella named Fabian Nicieza, and...well, let's leave that for next time.
Next: Troy Hickman Destroys the Acclaim Universe!