This weekend I’ll be at Intervention – a convention geared toward webcomics and other Internet entertainment – in Rockville, MD. This is my first year at this show, but it’s one I’ve wanted to attend for years now, so I’m glad I’ll finally be able to do so. I’ll be sharing a table with my super-cool friend Brenda Kirk from Geektress, who will be promoting her own original artwork and cartoons. We will also be next to Christiann MacAuley of Sticky Comics, a good friend of mine who I’ve done a few shows with in the past. It’s going to be a great weekend, so if you live in the Maryland/Virginia/DC area and have ever wanted to meet me or pick up one of my books, this is going to be the best time to do so!
Last Saturday was the fourth anniversary of my science-fiction/comedy comic Moon Freight 3. It was also the day that my good friend Brian Kozicki passed away, so you can understand why I didn’t talk about it then. It’s been a crazy four years, full of ups, downs, laughs, serious stories, and a lot of learning and growth as a writer and artist. And it is also time to make an announcement that has been a long time coming:
Moon Freight 3 will come to a close on November 16.
I’ve been working toward this end for a long time. I’ve known HOW the story was going to end almost since the beginning, but I didn’t know WHEN that ending was going to be. I only actually wrote it down for the first time earlier this year, so I could have it when I needed it. Even then I could tell the end was upon us. And as another month or so passed, I could sense even more that I was going to need it soon. So I wrote every strip between where I was in the production process and the end so I could make sure a few small loose ends were tied up and a few other things were set up for the big finale.
Some of you may be asking why I’m choosing now to end the strip. Honestly, it’s only about nine months earlier than I originally intended to end the strip. For a long time I only saw Moon Freight 3 as having a life of about five years at most, so the fact that it will run four years and three months isn’t that far off the mark. Could I have kept the strip going for another nine months, to get it to that point? Sure, but when I made the decision to end the strip I felt that I had told all the stories that I wanted to tell. I’m comfortable ending the story now, and I don’t feel it’s being dragged on unnecessarily or ended prematurely.
Did The Center of Somewhere have anything to do with this decision? Yes and no, but mostly no. As I always do, I was idly brainstorming one day as the ideas for CoS started coming to me. I’ve had plenty of comics come to me like this, so I did what I always do: I took notes to save for a later day. Maybe CoS would be the strip I did after MF3. Maybe it would be one of the other ideas I had brewing. But then the ideas kept coming. And kept coming. And kept coming. And I knew that CoS wouldn’t be a strip that waited. It wanted to be created, and it wanted to be created NOW. So I started seriously scripting and fleshing out the characters more. And then I started drawing it. And then I realized I could potentially have a five-day-a-week comic on my hands. And it was then that I knew that it was time. It would be okay to end Moon Freight 3. My cartooning career had a world beyond my Martian inspection station, and it was going to be fun.
So what happens next? Besides Center of Somewhere, I have a few other comic ideas in various stages of production, but I’m only writing those. I’m working with some very talented artists and I hope to be able to make some concrete announcements soon. I also have to finish collecting Moon Freight 3 in book form. “Messing With Heads” may not have been funded on Kickstarter, but I’m working on a Plan B now. I still have to collect the final 15 months of the strip, too, and that book should be released in early 2013, if the Lord is willing and the creeks don’t rise.
So that’s it. The story of Larry, Bolts, X, Katie, May, Kim, and everyone else is coming to a close. But the story of Fingullet, Nick, Oakland, and Turbo is only just beginning, and soon you’ll see some new friends make their way to their little corner of Middle America. I have absolutely no regrets about my work on MF3, and I’m exceedingly happy that I was able to tell a story that long on a regular basis, learning so much along the way. So stay tuned for the next few weeks, and be there Sept. 24, when the eight-week concluding epic begins, and the lives of our regular guys in space change forever…
This Saturday, August 18, 2012, I received some of the worst news I’ve heard in a long time: Brian Kozicki, owner of my local comic book shop Buried Under Comics, suffered a heart attack and died. His business manager had picked him up for breakfast and he complained of chest pains. He was immediately taken to the hospital and rushed to the ER, but it was too late.
To most of us, Brian was more than just a comic book store owner, and Buried Under more than just a store. It was a second home, and Brian made it feel like a home. Because of him many of us have met our closest friends, or, yes, even the people they plan to marry. Some of us he gave jobs, myself included. Starting in early college he had me working there on new comics day and Saturdays, and even when the rest of life got in the way and I couldn’t work there for a while, he always welcomed me back. Working there on weekends for so many years was one of the best jobs I ever had, and all the friends who were there with me agree.
Brian was the antithesis of the stereotypical comic store owner, embodying everything the Comic Book Guy from “The Simpsons” wasn’t. Comics stores too often have the stigma of being run by scam artists trying to swindle people with overpriced collectors items, but Brian would have none of that. For as long as I’ve known him he always believed in comics as reading material and nothing more. It was far more important to him to connect a reader with a story they would like instead of taking their money for some “hot” item.
Local and independent artists had a champion in Brian. He wasn’t the guy to only carry the popular comics. He loved looking for new work from lesser-known artists, and stocked as many of those kinds of books as he could afford. If someone from the area showed Brian their work and asked if he would carry it, he almost certainly did. He appreciated the value of hard work and respected anyone willing to put themselves out there and try, and showed that appreciation the best way he could.
Brian spent hours talking to people, and I mean that literally. He especially loved talking to children. He firmly believed that comics were important in helping kids learn to read, and he was always giving out free books to kids, or donating comics to literacy programs in the local schools, and the like. He never talked down to children, but treated them as well as any adult.
His love for his customers went beyond just talking comics, too. He helped others when they needed it in his own way. One recent example is last October, when a freak snowstorm knocked out power to 90 percent of Connecticut. Because the comic shop was on the same power grid as the hospital, the store had power back almost instantly, when most people didn’t. So Brian told people that, if they needed to charge their phones, computers, generators, or whatever, they could bring them to the store. I can’t think of another business owner who would offer that and not at least want people to buy something in return, but he never asked for a cent.
I first met Brian when I was 17 years old, on my second visit to Buried Under Comics. To a shy, introverted teenager who was scared of his own shadow, Buried Under was a haven. It was full of comics and people who liked comics as much as I did, and Brian was at the center of it all. He was friendly to everyone who came in the door, treating the high-paying customers the same as the teenagers who could only get a few books a month. Brian spent hours talking to me about comics, life, and anything that might happen to come up. The time he spent with me helped so much in bringing me out of my shell and preparing me to take on a world the young, nervous me was just not ready to cope with. I will be eternally grateful for everything he did in helping me become the man I am today.
If all that wasn’t enough, Brian never stopped believing in me and my dream to work in comics. From my first day cartooning, he was one of my most vocal advocates. He talked up my comics to his customers and online. He was the first to ask to carry my books when I printed them. He always offered to let me have signings there. He even has a quote on the back cover of my “Gang From the Store” book – a comic about my time working there, remember – and he was SO happy he got the chance to do so.
Brian was my ex-boss, my advocate, and most importantly, my friend. He and Buried Under have been some of the very few constants in my life through late high school, college, and beyond. It never occurred to me to think of a world he wasn’t part of. And now he’s gone, and I’m struggling to cope with his absence.
Rest in peace, my friend. I can only pray we’ll meet again someday.
This Saturday is the third annual ComiCONN convention, and for the third time I will have a table for all my cartooning fun! I will have the book collections of my comic strips The Gang From the Store and Moon Freight 3, I will be doing plenty of sketches, and I will have other merchandise for those who are interested. And of course, I will be telling everyone who will listen about The Center of Somewhere. So come on down, bring a friend, and have a good time! ComiCONN is easily one of my favorite shows, and every year has been a blast. And since last year the show was reduced somewhat by a hurricane and we STILL had a good time, imagine how awesome this year, with it’s great weather, is going to be!
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my new comic strip endeavor, The Center of Somewhere. It’s a comedy strip about the people and animals (talking ones) that live in an unspecified Middle American town. It’ll be about fun, and wackiness, and whatever stories I feel like telling. It’s going to be five days a week, it’s going to be in color, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Welcome to the Center of Somewhere. I hope you stay a while.