Joe White, author and artist of Annie MacCool, was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about his book and his experiences in digital comics. The guy’s got a full-time job, is finishing school, and he’s got time to write and draw a comic? If that’s not dedication then I don’t know what is. Now let’s get this puppy started!
I Speak Comics: Tell us a little about Annie MacCool
Joe White: “Annie MacCool” is my own take on Lycanthropy, Irish Mythology and my hometown of Milton, Massachusetts. It is the story of a quiet, picturesque New England town with an age-old secret. Werewolves. They live in the Blue Hills. A truce between the Townsfolk and the Werewolves have kept things peaceful for the last 50 or so years. The occasional hiker or roving band of teenagers will go missing from time to time, but for the most part, Man and Beast are making nice as neighbors.
Until Annie MacCool shows up. Her strange accent can be traced to County Galway in the Southwest of Ireland, and she is the last in the line of the Irish Warrior King Finn MacCool, a fabled slayer of beasts with a fierce Battle Frenzy ability. Annie’s sole mission in life is the eradication of all Werewolves, and Milton is just one more stop on the map for her. However, it might just be her last stop as interference from a well-meaning State Trooper thwarted her plan of attack and set in motion a chain of events that may well lead to absolute devastation.
ISC: Very cool stuff. So what motivated you to create a comic? Is it just a hobby or something more?
JW: I’ve been drawing since I was very young and my creative life has taken me down a few winding paths. Annie MacCool was originally written as a feature film script, but I didn’t really want to let the story just sit on a shelf so I decided to put pencil to paper and create my first ever comic book. I have several other scripts that I plan on converting as well, I had such a blast making “Annie” and I want to keep this effort going.
ISC: Why go digital instead of print?
JW: It was the most readily available option for me. I work full-time and attend school at night for 3D animation so I don’t really have much time to be knocking on publishers doors and sending out submissions.
ISC: Did you ever think about turning Annie into a web comic?
JW: Initially I started Annie MacCool as a weekly web comic and published ten pages of a scene from the script for every Saturday morning in October of 2011. Here’s a link for that segment: http://anniemaccool.tumblr.com/page/2. Ultimately I wanted to publish a more traditional 20+ page comic issue, so that was my October 2012 project and now here we are with issue #1. Oh an I want to give props to Boston artist Dennis P. Burke for inking the initial web comic in October 2011.
ISC: Why did you choose Graphicly as opposed to other services?
JW: I chose Graphicly because they allowed the most flexibility and control for the creator. The only trick was I had to buy my own ISBN codes. I would up buying a batch of 10 so looks like I have 9 more books to publish. Amazon Createspace will get the ISBN for you, but you cannot sell it anywhere else BUT Amazon. Comixology was still beta testing their self publishing, and they promised all kinds of obstacles and roadblocks in terms of “review boards” and “approval processes”. I uploaded my .pdf to Graphicly and was live within two weeks on the web, and in iTunes and Kindle two weeks later.
ISC: Which path did you choose to publish through? Web, Ebooks, or Apps? Was it cost-effective? Are you seeing any return on your initial investment?
JW: I published on all of them, actually. Graphicly offered a flat rate for the distribution and it was a great deal. I’m still waiting on the Nook and Kobo but I’m live on the Graphicly site, Facebook, iBookstore and Kindle. The sales data isn’t spectacular, I’ll admit, but I’ve learned that marketing is a whole new ball of wax.
It’s one thing to “hope to go viral” but you can’t count on that as a business plan. I’ve taken to old-fashioned one on one sales pitching with my trusty posters and flyers. I also hope that adding more issues and titles will bring a larger audience, as I’m sure people are more apt to get into a story if they know there’s more coming.
ISC: In your eyes what are some of the strengths and weaknesses of Graphicly? Digital comics in general?
JW: I can’t say enough wonderful things about Graphicly, I’ve swapped emails with everyone from tech support to the owner himself, and they’re all super friendly and extremely passionate about what they do. The strengths lie in the direct-to-audience connection for the creator, which is a great freedom. This goes both ways, and sometimes without the proper editorial support a story could well fail to meet its true potential.
The other issue is market saturation. There is TONS of stuff out there, so how do you put something out there that’s going to be a signal instead of more noise? That’s the artist’s perpetual challenge. I feel that as long as you’re staying true to yourself, telling a great story and doing it consistently and persistently, you will hit your stride.
ISC: Could being a digital comic creator become a career? Where do you see the future of the medium?
JW: Gosh I hope so! It’s really a combination of all the right elements coming into play, from the content to the marketing to finding an audience for it. As long as the power stays on, digital comics can be very successful. I will say this though, I do love going to my local comic book store. It’s a bit of a sacred ritual and you don’t get to do that on your iPad or Kindle.
Joe White studies 3D Animation at Boston University’s Center for Digital Imaging Arts in Waltham, MA. He’s lived in Boston most of his life but spent a few years in Los Angeles, where he hopes to return after school. He plans on making awesome stuff that people love until he’s put into the ground. Or space. Space would be cool.
You can check out all of Joe’s projects at http://www.optimusmediagroup.com and you can follow the man of many talents on Twitter @mightyjoewhite. Also go like the official Annie MacCool Facebook Page be sure to check out AnnieMacCool.com to pick up your own digital copy of this solid indy title!