By Vincent Ferrante
That's the title to a song (minus the Mama. That's just in the lyrics.) written by Bruce Springsteen for the album, The River, in 1979, that didn't come to be on the album but did come in at #28 on the Billboard chart when Dave Edmunds covered it in 1982. It also came to be a big inspiration to me whenever it would come into my head during the development of my comic book character, Witch Hunter, and the development of the company that was initially founded as just a publishing vehicle for him, Monarch Comics. Since then, it's seen the addition of three comic book titles, a book line, and, most importantly, seven people (and counting) who only see big things when they look to our future, which is why we're still here. Anyone creating comics, or thinking about it (or thinking about doing anything) needs to see big things as already here for them to come.
I starting making comics before I could read or write, stapling together issues of a character inspired by my hero then and now, Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell, make no mistake, although I love Carol) who I called The Blue Marvel (I should've trademarked him before Marvel did 38 years later. Oh, well). In fact, I was so young when I started making comics that the only other thing I did well was make, but that's a different kind of article. Witch Hunter started out as a few black-and-white comic book pages in 1976. He eventually found his way into a series of comic strips in a great comic book magazine called Comic Culture. Back then, I published Witch Hunter as Dark Spire Publishing and distributed the Witch Hunter ashcan editon at the '90s incarnation of the New York Comic Con. Our operating budget was whatever money I could get from my parents. I did some shows after that with the ashcan but didn't have a business plan, much help, or any more money. But I had a great love for comics and saw Witch Hunter going on big adventures inspired by my favorite things: Kamandi, The Tomb of Dracula, Dark Shadows, Planet of the Apes, and Babylon 5. Plus I had a really good blender that was able to mix those things together (lean on the Puree button annnd…repeat). So I kept going, not always looking where I was going, which led to a few accidents. Some happy, some not. But mistakes just help you to get better at everything. Some people, me included, wait too long for things to be perfect before pursuing what they love, whatever it is. Things will never be perfect. Use your judgment, follow your bliss, and get started.
I made some mistakes (I made a lot of mistakes) but, before I even knew the word, I embraced the concept of iconic comics. The best stories are the simplest that still contain miles of depth. See Aesop's Fables and Grimm Fairy Tales as iconic comic creator primers. Not everyone I partnered with, networked with, or asked for money from got iconic comics. That is going to happen to you, too. Some people think that story doesn't matter as long as you have a good look (and sometimes not even that), a good name (and sometimes not even that), and a lot of money to spend convincing people they like it (all too often that). Some people will just want to endow your comics with as many breasts as they can because, as they say, "that's what people want!" (That's what I want sometimes, too, but I don't need it to make good comics books. Give me a good story, a fun story, and slip in some meaning without hiding it in a big hammer you hit me on the head with and you've got an iconic comic, a timeless character, and a fan for life). I lost some investment, a creative partner here and there, and a few people I thought were friends because I held on to what I believed, and what I wanted my comics to be. And it paid off.
Ten years ago I LLC'd as Monarch Comics with the love and support of the first permanent addition to its staff, Lisa Hager, my wife and Witch Hunter editor. It was around the same time that I met the second permanent addition to my staff, although neither of us knew it then. Matt Herring, along with Brian LeTendre, were the hosts of the long-running Secret Identity podcast. We became friends and Matt has become a huge part of Monarch Comics, first assisting in our (so far) 10 years of exhibiting at the New York Comic Con and recently the author launching our Monarch Books line with The Unofficial Doctor Who Companion, Monkey See…Sea Monkey, and UFO, Your Favorite Band's Favorite Band.
Our art director, Blake, started working with us after one of our artists and a dear friend, Hunter McFalls, asked him three times if he was interested and Blake said no each time. So Hunter took that as a cue to give me Blake's number and we've been friends (and he's become a growing and indispensable part of Monarch Comics) ever since. Blake also became our webmaster after he started coloring Witch Hunter because we had a need, he had the skills, and he loved what we were doing. His comic book title, Evil Monkey Man, fuses the on-the-road feeling of The Incredible Hulk TV series with conspiracy theories into a fun sci-fi adventure comic. It was inspired by a song of the same name by the band, Fling Lois, in 1992. Hunter also brought in Phil Avelli with his comic, Horror Island, and Alfred Accetura, who has become one of our colorists, a fierce supporter of our iconic comics dream, and a great friend. Our most recent addition to the family came in the form of Joe Kitchell, who gave me a short story called The Last about Vikings when he approached our NY Comic Con booth as a fan a couple of years ago.
When I read it, I saw that it was more than a short story. It was a supernatural adventure comic about Vikings solving the first X-Files. This year, Joe will be helping us exhibit at the NY Comic Con as we promote releasing our comics and books in bookstores and on newsstands in 2019. I'm incredibly grateful to have Joe and the rest of the Monarch Comics family with me this year to celebrate another in what will be a long line of milestones, and it's all come about because of the greatest assets…love and gratitude. I've always loved making comics and been grateful to everyone I've attracted into my life. Those two things have helped Monarch to continue growing and its members to become closer every day.
You have to love what you do. When you do, you're already a success. Everything that comes after that, and it will come, are just really nice extras. They're not why you're doing it, whatever it is. When you create something out of love, it is good and it will only get better. When you create something good, anyone can sell it, especially someone who loves what you are doing. Find one of those people. They'll be one of your greatest assets. Don't aspire to become a comic book creator or anything else, because then that thing will always be in the future. Be that thing, and you will only become better and more successful at being it (see The Secret by Rhonda Byrne). From small things, mama, big things one day come, and they will come. The only difference between those who succeed and those who don't is that those who succeed don't give up. Never give up. Never surrender. By the way, we really need a sequel to Galaxy Quest. That was a labor of love, And it shows.
For more information on Monarch Comics, visit monarchcomics.com and/or visit our booth 2319, at the New York Comic Con this year. Thanks for reading. All the best, and Be Well. :)