The Making Of A Doctor for the Enterprise

1 front coverJanuary 11th, 2013 was the day that David Gerrold sent me the script for his parody of Star Trek and Doctor Who.

January 11th, 2013. Let that sink in a bit. Twenty-Seven months ago.

I’ve never worked with comic publishers so I’ve no real idea of what their expected turn-around time is, but I’m pretty sure that two and a quarter years does not go by between issues of the X-Men or Batman.

The whole thing started when David mentioned on Facebook (it is good for some things) that he had a comic script that had no home.

At the time, I was looking for ways to publish some new fiction on the new incarnation of Amazing Stories. It would have been a nice boost to our momentum, bringing out some new fiction a few months after the site debuted.

So I wrote to David (who I’d met a few times previously at conventions, memorably racing hotel elevators with him at 3 am in some hotel somewhere) and asked if he might not be willing to let Amazing Stories publish the script.

And that’s where the “fun” began. See, I have the utmost respect for David Gerrold, having watched his Star Trek episodes and having read many of his novels, and being keenly aware of how much impact and influence he has had on the Star Trek franchise over the years, not to mention his more recent advocacy on the part of the gay community and thoughtful, intelligent commentary on many of today’s woes: and I was also very aware that I was asking a favor from a really BIG NAME who really didn’t know me other than as yet another fan out there in internetland. Obviously it would be a great thing to be able to associate his name with the new website.

The real problems began right then. When I said “publish the script”, David must have heard “publish the comic”. I’d had some ideas of getting a few sketches to illustrate the script but doing so simply – the raw script, in text, on the website as a post.

It quickly became apparent to me that we had had a basic misunderstanding about what was going to be published, and it also became apparent to me that I was not going to screw my chances of publishing this gem by disabusing David of his understanding.

It took two emails (getting the script in, laughing uproariously and responding) for me to become a comic book publisher, something I’d never done or even imagined doing up until that very moment.

Now its true that Amazing Stories’ history does have some involvement with comics – Hugo Gernsback published three Superworld comics back in 1940 after he’d sold Wonder Stories (illustrated by Paul btw) – but I’m most certainly not Hugo and we’re not about recreating everything the man did.  On the other hand, those Superworld comics are highly sought after collectibles these days and my thought was – why not give it a go?

I had a lot to learn.

The first thing that needed to do was find an artist.  That took a couple of weeks and analysis of style by both David and I.  We agreed that we were looking for something somewhat “cartoony”, but not overly so.  Ultimately we settled on three different artists and, following a bit of negotiation, settled on Troy Boyle who was, to put it mildly, extremely excited to be involved in the project.

Troy put together a team consisting of himself, Jeff Austin for inking and Nic J. Shaw for lettering.  It’s some indication of the depths of my ignorance about comic book production that I was unaware that these talents would be required.  However, Troy was a pro and he walked me through the process.

Having gotten the actual illustrations going I then turned my attention to the printing.  There are, apparently, a handful of companies that most of the indie comic publishers use, so I hit them up first.  I’ve commissioned a lot of printed matter over the years, from books to games to magazines, so I was a bit surprised to discover that it was common practice to be charged for physical proofs – though electronic ones are usually free.

You know, I had a problem with that.  I’d have no real way of knowing what a physical copy would actually look like and I felt it imperative (underline and bold that word) that the final product would be something that a buyer would ooo and aaaaah over when they had it in their hands.  I wanted everyone who touched this comic to recognize immediately that it was quality.  Nothing less would do.

So I contacted an old friend down in Florida who owns and operates Dolphin Printing, a general printing shop.  They’d done some work for me during my paintball days and I knew that even if it was a bit more expensive, it would be worth having Dolphin doing the printing for the extra confidence I’d have in the job they would do.  Plus – no charge for physical proofs.  Bonus.

It was at about this time that things began to fall apart.  My father had been ill for quite some time and the end arrived on April 1st, 2014.  I’d gone down to Florida where they lived to help out as much as I could (not much;  anyone who has had family with terminal cancer knows what that means);  this was all complicated by the fact that my father had essentially been in denial, as had my mother, and my father believed he was going to beat the cancer and be able to get back to making all of the necessary “final arrangements”, but he never did.  This left me scrambling for several weeks, helping to arrange for the funeral, helping my mother deal, getting their house in order.

Why were we still in production in April of 2014?  Because Troy had his own brush with medical issues, conditions that prevented him from sitting and drawing for any serious length of time.  We all consulted and decided to push ahead (starting over was not a real option, nor was having someone pick up where Troy had left off with a different style).

Troy completed the artwork at the end of May, 2014.

Some time went by as I searched for the dollars to fund the printing costs;  over the intervening months the dollars put aside for that activity had had to go for other things and I was, as they say, “temporarily embarrassed”.  BUt I managed to secure the funds and some advertising for the book and we were able to move forward once again.

Off to the printer, who did his usual sterling job and sent out proofs a few weeks later.  I then gave the go-ahead for the final print run and – storms hit Florida.  Power outages prevented them from doing any work, followed by an intense period of playing catch-up on all of their print jobs (not to mention having to do set up all over again.)

Finally, the copies were finished and all of them were shipped off to David for signing at the end of September 2014.

As David says “it takes a long time to sign 500 copies”.  David finished in early February and the comics were shipped to Troy for his signing.

Then the snow storms hit and once again – delay.

Troy finally got the comics and a couple of weeks later sent them off to me.

And here we are.

I can’t say enough positives for the perseverance  and persistence of everyone involved, not the least of whom are those who ordered copies in advance and who have been waiting patiently without nary a complaint for nearly the entire duration of this odyssey.  Despite death, illness and literal “acts of god”, we’ve got a comic that is superbly written, excellently drawn, printed with the highest quality and that is truly a magnificent example of the indie comic.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely!  But please, next time, a few less unexpected delays!

Today, March 4, 2015, is release day.  You can order your copy in our store.  We’ll get it to you fast.

For some samples of the comic, go here.

To read more about release day, go here.

 

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