Writings from the Writer

Matt Dursin shares some thoughts on this (and other) comics and how it all comes together




"Nobody knew health care could be so complicated."


Yes, that was a direct quote from President Trump. He then followed that up by saying that his people had come up with "a solution that's really really I think very good." I don't want to get all political here, but, come on, dude. Ice cream is "very good." Empire Strikes Back is "very good." When the health of a country is being debated, I want the guy who is in charge of it all to come up with something a little better than that.


I know. It's wishful thinking. But he did say that it's a complex issue, and I'll give him that. How could it not be when it's such a big business? If you don't think so, let me put it this way: when I was in in college, I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, and I was told that in 5-10 years, they would have a cure, no problem. It's been over twenty years, and the only thing that has changed about my treatment of the disease is the cost of the medication. (Hint: it's gone up.) And I'm one of the lucky ones who have health insurance. Years later, I got stricken with something called "Wegener's Vasculitis," which was an even more serious auto-immune disease that attacks your kidneys, lungs, and just about everything else, and when I saw what one of my antibiotics was going to cost me $1000 for a three month supply (and that was with health insurance covering a chunk of it), I thought that something may be wrong.



Sure, it's complicated. But ask the kid with diabetes or the soldier with shrapnel in his gut if their health care plan is "Very good." Or if it's better to just have stolen medication. Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of the law like the characters in this comic, but I'm not even sure what the right side is anymore.






Kickstarting the Dream



Back when I started with this comic, I was offered a chance to write a guest blog post for the website Forces of Geek to help promote my little endeavor. I like to think it helped quite a bit, because there were definitely a lot of people who donated to my Kickstarter that I didn't know, even people who gave to the larger reward tiers, which had prizes like, "Be drawn into the comic." I had no idea that was something people were interested in, but it worked. Anyway, thanks again to the folks at Forces of Geek, and for nostalgia's sake, here is the blog post I wrote for them back in the dog days of 2013.





As far back as I can remember, or at least since that live-action Flintstones movie that almost ruined John Goodman’s career, I railed against Hollywood to make something original.  Sure, once in a great while, something like Inception or Manos: Hands of Fate would come along and restore my faith, but mostly, a look at the top-grossing movies of all-time reveals a lot of films made from previously-created material.  Of course, take this all with a grain of salt, because it’s coming from a guy who likes a lot of comic book movies.


Despite my cravings for original content in movies, in 2009 I came to find myself in a Comics Experience Introduction to Comic Book Writing class, in which students were forced to pitch to our instructor, former Marvel and IDW editor Andy Schmidt, an idea for a 5-page comic story on the very first day of class.  Using my vivid imagination and drawing on my long history of comic-reading, I came up with… an idea about a guy writing a comic book.  Andy quickly (but politely) cast that crap-tastic idea aside and urged me to have something better by the next class.


Under the gun and not trying to sound like an idiot any more than I already had, I started to draw from a screenplay that I had been hammering away at for a while about a guy who lives in a small town and robs pharmacies and gives the medicine to the townspeople who can’t otherwise afford it.  The idea came partially from my own dealings with the health-care system in this country (For the record, I never robbed a pharmacy.  Quite the opposite, in fact.) and from one of my favorite childhood stories, ever since the Disney animated adaptation: the story of Robin Hood.  So, not quite as original as I had hoped.  Then again, there are supposedly only 36 dramatic situations.


Armed with this inspiration, I hammered out my five pages, to rave reviews from my classmates and even Andy himself He did tell me that he wasn't sure at first that it was going to work, but was pleasantly surprised when it did.)  Upon finishing the class, several of us decided to get our stories illustrated and combine them into an anthology book (appropriately titled Out of Our Minds: Tales from the Comics Experience.).  Seeing my five-page script completely drawn, inked and lettered, I was emboldened.  Why not keep it going?  I would only need seventeen more pages to have an honest-to-God comic book story.  Even I can handle that, right?


Well, as it turned out, I could handle it, and thanks to my screenwriting background and the skills and techniques I learned in the

class, Robin Hood: Outlaw of the 21st Century soon became a reality.  Well, sort of.  Believe it or not, writing the comic was the easy part.  Funny thing about funny books is that they need to be drawn, inked, lettered and colored (even the black-and-white ones).  Even with the first five pages complete, I would still need to get the other seventeen.  Still, I felt I had a viable, marketable idea, especially when Sherlock came along, and I realized that maybe everything old can be new (and good) again.  So, I pressed on.  Fortunately, the same artist I had hired for the initial five pages was still available, and willing to finish the book.  Then, I contacted comic veteran Mark McKenna about drawing the cover, and we worked out a deal where I would donate to his Kickstarter, and instead of receiving a commission as my reward, he and artist Jason Baroody (Combat Jacks) would create my cover image.  All the chips were falling into place.  Except that I still had to pay for it all.


Thankfully, I could also turn to that crowd-funding site that all destitute creative people go to for help: Kickstarter.  A friend of mine had used Kickstarter to get his salsa recipe in stores, and if he could do it, I could, too.  So, I gathered my courage, made a ridiculous video, and launched.  It was by far the scariest thing I have ever done.  The first few hours saw a lot of my amazing friends donate.  In a couple days, word began to travel, and a few kind strangers pledged.  Even Mark McKenna, who was already paid for his work, donated.  Then, days passed and nothing happened.  And my anxiety rose.  Taking my salsa friend’s advice to “whore myself out,” I pasted the link everywhere I could think of.  I emailed co-workers and old high school buddies and even started “cold-calling” (via Twitter, Facebook and Google chat, not actually talking on the phone.  Who does that anymore?) people I hadn’t seen in years, and slowly, I was creeping closer to my goal.


As I write this, I am roughly one-third of the way to the end, with a little over two weeks left.  I am cautiously optimistic that I will get there, but even if I don’t reach the goal (in which case, I don’t get a penny), Robin Hood: Outlaw of the 21st Century will be a comic book.  It just may take a little longer.  Hopefully, by the time it is done, Hollywood hasn’t put out its own version by then.


Note: I made it.  It came down the last day, but I made it with a few hundred dollars to spare.  Shortly after the Kickstarter ended, I hired a colorist and letterer, and paid the artist the remaining money he was owed, plus a little extra for having to draw donors who gave $75 or more into the book.  Then, once the printed copies came, I had to mail them all out, and then sell the book to others. Who knew that making the Kickstarter video would be the easiest part?  





From Page to Panel


The College I work at for my real job puts out a literary magazine every Spring. It is mostly comprised of student artwork and creative writing, but occasionally faculty and staff submit work, too. I thought it would be fun to submit a piece that I called "Robin Hood: From Page to Panel, to help illustrate how a comic book script goes from the written script to a comic book page. I was inspired a little by David Mack, so I actually printed out and tore up the pages of the script that I emailed to the artist so that I could then tape them to a printout of the actual page itself. I know that someone who is a whiz at Photoshop could have done it quite easily, and with fewer tape marks, but I thought this came out pretty good. (I'm particularly proud of the smoke from Marion's gun going over the words.)  



























































Planning a Robbery 101

My friend Clay and I are great, big G.I. Joe nerds from way back (which is why there is a subtle reference to them in issue #1. As a funny addendum to that reference, Clay and I acted out what the boy's robbery-planning may be like with their precious G.I. Joe action figures (and others thrown in for fun). Sadly, these are pretty much all that remain of my once proud action figure collection, thanks to eBay and the fact that, as a kid, I really beat the Hell out of them. Hope you enjoy!