Category Archives: Year In Review

Year In Review

Here we go again. A post to try and summarize the year that was and, man oh man, 2020 was quite possibly the strangest of them all.

In mid-February I announced I was stepping down as Coordinator of Seneca’s Animation program after 14 years and would be starting an 18 month sabbatical from teaching in April so Stacy and I could travel to more international conventions and take advantage of big creative projects I had underway. Two weeks later, the pandemic started to take hold on this side of the world and all our big plans for the year began to unravel. Within a month it was clear 2020 wouldn’t be anything like what we planned.

But, we persevered.

I cancelled my teaching break (but still stepped down from being in charge of the program) and went online to deliver lectures. The students managed to keep up with the shift and have done well despite it all. A bunch of writing projects stalled out or crumbled, but other unexpected ones stepped in to pick up the slack. I started my run as the writer of Conan the Barbarian and, even with delays, it’s been a dream to work on. I ran my first Kickstarter campaign for a hybrid comic-RPG project and it did really well. Star Wars, Stranger Things, and more D&D. The entertainment industry shuddered (and, in some cases, shuttered), but we’re still here doing our thing.

Stacy and I tried to use the extra time at home to spruce up our place a bit, expand our cooking skills, and be more mindful of time while doing our best to stay safe. I did a bunch tabletop gaming via Zoom and played online video games with my brother. Even with all the chaos, we know we have a lot to be grateful for. The bonds between friends and family have been physically distant but emotionally resonant.

Touch wood, so far we haven’t had any Covid-related emergencies in our family and, at the end of the day, that’s more important than any creative or travel setbacks. We’re healthy on the whole and weathering it all far better than most.

The broad brushstrokes of the world were dark but little moments gleamed and that’s what we try to stay focused on.

Winter 2021 looks like it’s going to be rough, but somewhere past that will be better days and we’ll be that much more thankful for the time we spend and places we go.

Lots of love to all of you as we close out the year. Be good to each other and keep fighting.

Jim

Year In Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to sum up the year that was in a post here on my site. 2019 had some of the highest highs and lowest lows in recent memory, closing out the decade in ways I never could have imagined.

At the center of it all was one of the most difficult things Stacy or I have ever gone through – early in the year Stacy’s Mom discovered she had cancer and, through the spring and into summer it aggressively overtook her and she passed away on July 12th. Doreen, my second Mom, was an incredible woman filled with deep love for her family and a joy for making things and bringing happiness to others. Her loss struck us hard. Navigating the latter half of the year has been tough and we’re still finding our way through it, bit by bit.

School and writing are both going incredibly well even in the face of our family tragedy and the contrast between those two aspects of my life are surreal and, honestly, sometimes hard to ratify. Talking about comics, games and creative projects seems small at times given these tumultuous times.

So, I think that’s the lesson of 2019 – The work is important, but not as important as the people in my life and the bond between us. There’s joy to be had in writing, convention travel and the ridiculously nerdy things that define my career but they’re in service to love, family, and friendship. We have to help each other while appreciating the time we have and the experiences we get.

Dungeons & Dragons became a real focal point this year with comics, the Young Adventurer’s Guides, D&D Live in Los Angeles, and a TEDx Talk all about how D&D changed my life, but in the end it still filters down to creating and maintaining emotional connections. The same goes for my creator-owned projects, my Marvel work, and teaching at Seneca.

What lasts are the bonds built between us and the stories we create, so I’m trying to head into 2020 with hopes of strengthening those bonds even further and telling as many people as I can how much they mean to me.

I hope you do the same.

All the best to you and yours as we head into the new year.

Year In Review

I’ve been writing these ‘Year In Review’ posts since 2010, and each time I try to summarize what’s happening in my life and the gratitude I have for all these incredible experiences.

2018 was intense but saying that at this point feels redundant. They’ve all been intense. Intense is now normal, I think I’m just better capable of handling it.

That was kind of the theme this year – This is crazy but somehow, we press on and make it work.

At Seneca we’re lining up our Animation program review for 2019, and it looks like big changes will be happening again as part of that process. It’s hard to believe I’ve been coordinator of the program for 12 years. I’m proud that we keep innovating, making improvements to keep the courses relevant and make sure our grads are ready to go out and kick butt in the industry. I’ve been here long enough now that some of our grads are coming back to teach as well and that’s a surreal and gratifying experience.

The new subway stop at York University has completely changed how I get to school for teaching. Instead of grinding my way through traffic and worrying about parking, I start my days by reading my lecture notes or catching up on comics. It’s been transformative and cut down on stress that used to eat into my day.

Speaking of reducing stress, I started working out in late July and it’s helped me keep moving so my sedentary jobs don’t continue to wreck my neck and back. I feel better than I have in years and I’ve lost a bit of weight too, so that’s been exciting and unexpected.

Stacy and I did the regular convention circuit in North America and also traveled to Johannesburg and Vienna. Zipping around the world for comic conventions, balancing work and sightseeing, is becoming a reality and it’s something I hope we get to keep pursuing in 2019 and beyond.

Creatively, 2018 was mind-boggling:

Hey Jim, how would you like to co-write the world’s biggest superhero team while their new billion-dollar movie comes out? While that’s going on, how about co-writing a crossover between one of the hottest cartoons on TV and your favorite hobby, the one that inspired you to become a writer in the first place? Just for good measure, how about taking the reins on a new generation of young heroes to guide their formative years?

Yeah.

I look at that insane rundown of releases and I’d say I could hardly believe it, but I’ve got the gray hairs to prove that it all really happened. Between teaching and writing it really is two full-time jobs, with promotion and travel heaped on top. I love all of it, but the juggling has been wild at times.

I decided to cash in some of the creative credit I built up at Marvel and worked with Nyla Innusuk and Sean Izaakse to create a new Canadian superhero. The response to Amka, and the way readers from Canada and abroad have embraced her has absolutely blown me away. If we get any Snowguard cosplay in 2019 I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle it.

Wayward the comic series wrapped up in October, but we still have our final Deluxe Hardcover and the co-op board game (designed by Jon Gilmour) arriving in 2019. The animated series fell through and the rights have been returned to Steven and I, so my agent is now back on the attack looking to get it attached elsewhere. Fingers crossed.

Writing Evil at Baldur’s Gate and co-writing Rick and Morty VS Dungeons & Dragons made this year special, but I’ve got even more Dungeons & Dragons material coming in 2019. Comics and game stuff aplenty, but I’m sworn to secrecy for now. More details coming soon.

2019 is looking good. If things go the way we’re planning it could be another banner year.

If your 2018 was rough, I hope the new year brings better news and brighter days. If the year was good, let’s keep that momentum going!

Year In Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to sum up the year that was in a post here on my site. 2017 was a strong year for me on a personal level and that felt a bit odd compared to the tumultuous and difficult state of the world at large.

We celebrated 10 years at our house in Toronto. I can’t believe it’s been a decade living downtown at the same address. It’s our home base in the middle of the city and, now that the subway extension to York University is finally up and running, it’ll be even easier for me to get to school without worrying about traffic snarls and parking hassles.

Speaking of school, teaching at Seneca was unexpectedly rocky with the Ontario College Teacher’s Strike lasting five weeks, throwing our schedule and finances for a bit of a loop, and creating challenges for the many students I coordinate in Seneca’s Animation program. Keeping our facilities open with computer labs and life drawing sessions running helped give some semblance of structure to the strike period and that helped our students weather the worst of it, but there are still ripple effects to the curriculum and schedule that will make the Winter term more hectic than usual. Thankfully we have a wonderful staff and community of students working together to move things forward.

On the creative front, I made deeper strides at Marvel, wrapping up Uncanny Avengers and plugging away on Avengers: No Surrender, a special weekly story line that starts January 10th, co-written by industry superstars Mark Waid and Al Ewing, with art by Pepe Larraz, Kim Jacinto, and Paco Medina, with editors Tom Brevoort and Alanna Smith keeping the whole thing running smooth. It’s the biggest project of my career so far and, with the extra attention being shown to the Avengers leading up to the May release of the Avengers: Infinity War movie, I’m hoping No Surrender does well with new fans and old. Beyond that, I have a new monthly Marvel series I’m taking over in April that should be announced soon. Exciting times!

Wayward was optioned by Manga Entertainment for a possible animated or live-action series and is being turned into a co-op board game by Jon Gilmour and the crew at IDW Games. I don’t have any more official news on the show front, but everything seems to be moving forward bit by bit. All this media stuff takes time to get rolling, even in the best of scenarios, so I’ve learned to just let it happen at its own pace while Steven, Tamra, Marshall, and I stay focused on building the comic.

The Glitterbomb: The Fame Game mini-series just wrapped up this week and we’ll have a collection for it in the new year. With so much abuse and harassment in Hollywood finally coming to light we struck a chord with readers, but those collection sales will determine whether we’re able to come back for a third and final mini-series in the Fall of 2018. Whether or not we do, Djibril and I are talking about working together on future projects.

Working on the Dungeons & Dragons comic series has been a blast but getting the chance to spend a few days in the D&D offices brainstorming story material for an upcoming RPG product was an extra-surreal thrill. I’ve always felt closely connected to the RPG industry and having another chance to make new friends in that space and find like-minded storytellers passionate about what they do is always inspiring. There’s more good stuff coming on the D&D front in 2018 and I can’t wait for you to see what we have planned.

Stacy and I are in Japan for the holidays and that’s come with its own set of challenges. On the morning of December 24th she took a bad fall and injured her back and we’re still riding out the aftermath of that as we get ready to head into New Year’s Eve here in Tokyo. Stacy’s injury put a damper on part of our trip, but thankfully we’re here for each other and in the end that’s what matters most. Together I know we can overcome any of life’s many challenges.

On the whole, I’m heading into 2018 hopeful and thankful – Hopeful about where things will go and thankful for the wonderful opportunities and events happening in my life. I hope your holidays have been relaxing and prosperous and that the year ahead looks bright.

Year in Review

As I’ve done in years past, I try to use this post to sum up the year that was. 2016 was such a strange and turbulent time around the world and that made it even more surreal as I personally had a banner year in my work and personal life.

In May, Stacy and I traveled to Japan for a 6-week sabbatical, mixing in a few work-related events with an extended stay in Tokyo along with a half dozen other locations. It was something we’d been planning for the past two years and really was the trip of a lifetime. So many wonderful experiences and such meaningful time spent together, it’s hard for me to even describe. It strengthened the bond between the two of us and got us thinking about future travel opportunities.

After the big course curriculum changes in 2015, this year was way smoother by comparison. It’s my tenth year as Coordinator of Seneca’s Animation program and so I have a pretty good feel for the hills and valleys that come up as each term rolls along. With a record number of applicants to the program, the current group of students is one of the strongest we’ve ever had the fortune of teaching. I’m excited to watch their skills develop.

Comic-wise, I thankfully had far more highs than lows. I finally had the chance to tackle a monthly superhero series at Marvel with the new Thunderbolts, and the repercussions of delivering on that looks like it’ll ripple into 2017 and beyond. More news on that as we head into the Spring.

Launching Glitterbomb, a new creator-owned comic series at image, was an especially wonderful opportunity. Pushing my storytelling skills with something unexpected and working with rock solid newcomer Djibril Morissette-Phan has been a blast. We’ve got fun plans for the second arc arriving later in 2017.

Wayward continues and the whole team has been so incredibly consistent and wonderful that I need to make sure I don’t take any of it for granted. In an industry where even Marvel and DC series can struggle to make it past issue 12 we’ve just sent our 20th issue off to press, which is a heck of a milestone. On that front as well, we’ve got exciting plans I can’t wait to share with all of you.

Dungeons & Dragons, Street Fighter Legends: Cammy, the upcoming Freelance series and Monsters Unleashed: Avengers – I feel like I’ve hit a good groove in terms of material that exemplifies what I do best and collaborators who I work really well with.

I feel so incredibly fortunate to be able to teach, write and create, working with and meeting so many amazing people. I know things look bumpy for the year ahead, but my fingers are crossed that we’ll all be able to weather the storm. Wishing you and yours a very happy and prosperous new year.

Year In Review

StacysBirthday2015

Here we go again, a look at my year in review. I’ve been doing this on my blog for the past few years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). It’s a nice way to sum up my thoughts on the year that was and take in the ups and downs that came with it.

2015 was a bit bumpy in spots, but on the whole things are rolling along. It felt like a transitional year, building momentum for new things to come in 2016.

Stacy and I are doing really well. Having a bit of time over the holidays to step back and realize how fortunate we are was really nice. Our marriage is strong and that stability permeates so many other aspects of our life.

Throwing my back out in October (after struggling with aches and pains through August and September) was a wake up call on my health. Physiotherapy and regular stretching is helping a lot and it doesn’t look like I’ll need back surgery. I need to make sure I don’t ignore my body in the future. I’m turning 40 in 2016 so it’s something I need to pay a lot more attention to. Message received.

Over at Seneca we rolled out the biggest curriculum change since I took over as Coordinator of the Animation program back in 2006 and, barring a few equipment/technical glitches it seems to be going really well. The faculty are easing into the adjusted schedule and students seem to be enjoying the new options we have available to them. I’m teaching the new Portfolio Development course for the first time starting in January, so that should be a neat challenge.

On the creative front it was all about wrapping things up. The final issue of Skullkickers arrived in August (though it will keep serializing for free online until March 2016), completing a five year journey with Edwin, Misty, and Marshall that’s really changed my life. Building that body of work and proving I could deliver a professional quality comic has lead to dozens of other freelance opportunities and been an incredibly creatively fulfilling experience. It felt strange to finally finish it off, but also very satisfying.

Samurai Jack also wrapped up with #20. At the time it looked like that issue might be the last that people saw of the time-traveling samurai, but earlier this month Cartoon Network surprised everyone with an announcement of a new season coming next year. What that means for the comic stories or my involvement is still up in the air but, as both a fan and a small contributor to the whole, I’m excited to see what Genndy and company has planned.

Wayward continues at a good pace and all of us on the team are pumped for people to see what we have planned in the new year. The story is a roller coaster ride of ideas, the hardest thing I’ve written so far, and knowing that we’re building this without the safety net of an established property is scary and exciting. Although I have an end in mind as we work away on the series, I don’t have a set number of issues for the middle. Our fingers are crossed that reader support continues and we can have a long and healthy run.

I have a new creator-owned project that’s been percolating since September and is now gaining momentum. The story and mood are something really different from what I’ve done before and the artist I’m working with (a newcomer) is going to knock people’s socks off. I also have a couple work-for-hire commercial projects in development and I’m pretty sure one of those will be announced in the next few weeks. Good stuff coming in the spring and summer.

Otherwise, Stacy and I are planning a major trip for the summer. Every fourth year at the college I get a sabbatical term, four months to step away from teaching. We’re planning to head to Japan for over a month, doing research and working on our creative projects, but also settling in a bit and enjoying the day to day life in one of our favorite places. There’s a ton of work to get done before then, but I know in the back of my mind I’ll be quietly counting down the days.

Two goals for the new year:
Focus on what I can do instead of things out of my control. It’s so easy to get pulled into a whirlwind of frustration and regret wondering why things aren’t going the way I expect or wishing things were different, but it’s not productive. Next year I want to make an even greater effort to stay focused on my own growth and let the rest roll on.

Make sure my family, friends, and collaborators know they’re valued. I work and spend time with so many amazing people and it’s important to let them know how important they are to me. I always feel it but next year I want to make greater efforts in expressing it.

Year In Review

2014-Stacy_and_Jim

Here we go again, a look at my year in review. I’ve been doing this on my blog for the past few years (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) and it’s a nice way to sum up my thoughts on the year that was and take in the ups and downs that came with it.

Stacy and I continue on our wedded adventure, juggling work and play, social time and alone time. It’s filled with challenges but, like everything else we’ve tackled, it always goes better because we’re together. Having Stacy in my life is a joy and an honour.

Between replacing the stove, the car, our porch and façade, and a new laptop it was an expensive year, that’s for sure. As Stacy mentioned, we’ve replaced almost every appliance in the house over the past 2-3 years so hopefully everything runs a bit better from here on out.

Travel-wise it was another busy time, with 12 conventions in total, but almost every location was somewhere I’d been previously while on the ‘ circuit’ (with Washington DC and Phoenix as the two exceptions), so it felt familiar rather than hectic.

Last year I scripted over a 1000 pages of comics and that was a hell of a milestone but I said I probably wouldn’t be able to do that again this year. Yeah well, it happened anyway. I had a slew of comic writing projects in 2014 and, once I realized how close I was last month, I hunkered down and made sure I hit the 1k mark again. Admittedly, I took it right to the line (finished the last set of pages this morning) but it’s done. Whew~

I know in the grand scheme of things it’s about quality, not quantity, but I’m incredibly proud of the work and feel like I’ve learned a ton. Pushing myself to meet intense deadlines and deliver stories I’m proud of both on time and as kick ass as I can make them is crucial.

Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, Ultimate Spider-Man: Web Warriors, Figment, Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons, Munchkin, Conan-Red Sonja, and a bunch more, some of which won’t be out until next year… So completely crazy.

Oh yeah, and that other one – Wayward!

Working with Steven Cummings to launch a brand new Image creator-owned series and having it well received by readers and retailers alike was a complete rush. Everyone on the creative team is pumped for the new chapters we have planned. Can’t wait for people to read it!

2015 is shaping up to be another exciting year.

At Seneca College we’re making the biggest changes to our Animation curriculum and facilities since I took over as Coordinator of the program in 2006. We’re reworking the flow of courses, updating assignments, and incorporating more technology to match the changing industry. It’s a lot of work but the end result should make us more competitive and deliver even better education to our amazing community of students.

On the creative and freelance front I’ll be continuing with Wayward and wrapping up Skullkickers. I don’t want to get into the whole farewell thing with SK just yet but, suffice to say, it’s going to feel strange reaching the end. A bunch of my other freelance comic writing projects are wrapping up but I have a few proposals in the hopper I’m waiting to hear back about. It’ll be interesting to see if any of them pop or what other opportunities emerge as the year rolls on. I wrote a bit about my thoughts on the comic industry in 2014 over on The Beat.

Other meditations for 2015:
• Less stuff, more experiences: Stacy and I have been talking about the stockpile of ‘things’ we’ve accumulated. Having things is great but once you hit a certain threshold it just piles up in ridiculous ways and you stop appreciating what you have. We want to pare back on the rampant collections of things and focus on experiences – new places, great meals, and better time spent with people we care deeply for.

• Art for art’s sake: Although I did some drawing in 2014, it definitely took a back seat to my writing projects. I’m hoping to sketch more outside of school demonstrations and put more fun ideas down on paper visually in 2015.

• Empathy, honesty, and communication: Thinking carefully about others, reaching out to people who matter, staying in touch with those close to me and making sure they know how much I appreciate them.

I know 2014 was a rough year for many people and that the world at large was filled with tumultuous news and heartache. I hope your year was a good one despite any difficulties and that if it wasn’t you can close the book on the season and start fresh in 2015.

Thank you for your love and support. All the best to you and yours!

2013 – A Great Year That Almost Wasn’t

2013 has been an incredible year, but it sure as heck didn’t start out that way.

Wrapping up 2012 I thought I had a firm sense of where ’13 was heading. I’d accepted a contract to take over DC’s Birds of Prey with issue #18 and was working away on scripts, excited about my first writing gig for the “Big Two” of comics. When the new year began and the whole thing fell apart, I did my best to bow out gracefully and retreated for a while.

I haven’t spoken publicly about it before but, honestly, the whole thing shook my self confidence to the core. January and February were a slog of frustration and nervousness. I dreaded convention season and people asking questions about it or wondering if I’d screwed the whole thing up. I didn’t want to dwell on it, but I couldn’t stop thinking – What if I’d somehow missed my shot and that was it?

I wanted to burrow and hide. I felt like the year was going to waste as I watched friends and colleagues kick ass and take names on new projects. I’ve had setbacks before, but this one pushed a bunch of unexpected emotional buttons and brought me low in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. A lot of those feelings of frustration informed the post I wrote last month about jealousy.

Stacy was my rock through all of this. She listened, she advised, she kept me going. She knew other opportunities would present themselves and helped me look towards those instead of beating myself up over things I had no control over.

I’d turned down a project with IDW in November so I could focus fully on Birds of Prey, but thankfully had kept close ties with the editor. Even though the original project we talked about was already spoken for, he asked if I’d be interested in pitching on something else they had coming down the pipe – Samurai Jack.

Between Jack and Skullkickers I started to regain my focus. I knew I could do the work and wasn’t going to give up. Each month got a bit better and my productivity kicked back into gear-

Skullkickers, Samurai Jack, Pathfinder, Legends of the Dark Knight, Makeshift Miracle, Shadowman, ShiftyLook, and a whole lot more. I’ll talk about this in more detail in another post but, in brief, in 2013 I scripted 1000 comic pages while still working my full time day job. If I was compensating for feeling like a failure, then I think that did the trick.

Last year I said I finally felt like a writer and that 2013 would hopefully be the year I become a good one. In many ways that came true. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a professional, in both word and deed.

2014 is looking incredibly exciting, with great things happening at Seneca College where I teach and new comic projects coming down the pipe, both creator-owned and work for hire. I’m not making any predictions about how it’ll all go, but I think I have a better understanding about how to stay focused and keep plugging away.

I know it may sound corny but I’m serious when I say this – Don’t give up. There will be lost opportunities and frustrations, regrets and anxieties. Do everything you can to focus on what you can control and keep your integrity intact. Do all you can with what you have. That’s what the year represents to me.

Thanks for sticking with me. I hope 2013 was a good year for you and yours and that 2014 is looking bright.

Year In Review

XMas2012
Stacy and I on Christmas Eve at my Aunt and Uncle’s

It’s time again for my year in review post. I’ve been doing this for the past three years, looking backwards and forwards, trying to gauge where things have been, where they are now and where I’d like them to be in the year ahead.

2012

Last year I said 2011 was one of the “busiest and most intense years I’ve ever had”. I thought 2012 would calm down but I was wrong. Without a doubt, 2012 was the busiest year I’ve ever experienced. Invigorating and exhausting at the same time, it was a year of big milestones.

Marriage. Two years married and Stacy and I are doing very well. Our schedules can get sideswiped with responsibilities and last minute deadlines, but we’re still able to come together and provide love and stability to each other. My marriage is so incredibly precious to me. I have a hard time expressing that without falling into cloy prose that’ll send you all into sugar-shock. In short – it rocks.

Career. Um, yeah. I put my nose to the grindstone and wrote more this year than every other year combined. 2012 was a tornado of productivity writing and lettering over 150 comic strips, writing 16 issues, 14 tutorials, and a graphic novel, attending 15 conventions, running a comic talent contest with 300+ submissions and helping create a booster pack of game cards for Munchkin. This was the year I really pushed to get my work out to a wider audience and it looks like it’s working.

Travel. In late 2011 I said that I tapped myself out on travel, but 2012 was my most intense travel year yet. England (London), USA (Albany, Anaheim, Boston, Indianapolis, London, Los Angeles, New York x2, Northampton, Oakland, San Diego, Seattle x2) and Canada (Calgary and Halifax x2). I don’t want to make any predictions for 2013 based on how bonkers this year was, but I’m planning on being home more often.

Looking Ahead to 2013:
With ongoing commitments to Skullkickers, Birds of Prey and Pathfinder along with Klonoa and Wonder Momo for ShiftyLook and Makeshift Miracle Volume 2 as well, it looks like 2013 will be just as busy as 2012 on the writing front. Add that to my coordinating and teaching responsibilities at Seneca along with UDON projects popping up from time to time and things are looking decidedly work-heavy.

In 2013 I need to make sure I don’t miss all the social stuff. Family and friends need to be a priority in the coming year. I did a great job focusing on getting projects done in 2012 but a balance needs to be struck. I can already see that making time for rest and fun times will be a challenge, but I have to make sure that happens or else I’m going to burn out.

Things I’ve learned/mantras on my mind for 2013:

Communication is invaluable. If you can impart your message with confidence and clarity you’re ahead of the game.

Self motivation is a renewable resource. A short break, a nice meal or a good night’s rest can make all the difference when you need to pick yourself up and take another crack at something.

Hard work is more valuable than luck. Don’t expect something to happen just because you ‘hope’ it will. You have to build it yourself. Any help you get from outside is a bonus, not an expectation.

It’s incredibly difficult for me to sum up the experiences and emotions this time out. Picking a few key moments from the year doesn’t seem to do it justice but I don’t want to ramble endlessly either.

Okay, how’s this:

2012 was the year I felt like I could actually call myself a ‘writer’.
In 2013 I’m working hard to get good at it. 🙂

Year In Review

Almost a year ago to the day I posted up a Year In Review for 2010 with thoughts on how the year had gone and intentions for 2011. 12 months later, I’m here to see how that went and do it again.

2011

2011 was one of the busiest and most intense years I’ve ever had. 2010 was a juggling act between personal and professional while this year was almost entirely career-focused. It was a roller coaster ride.

Although I’ve been working for UDON since 2003 on a variety of professional projects, this was the year where I felt like I finally stepped out and made my own personal work a priority. I kept UDON projects rolling, but Skullkickers and Makeshift Miracle were at the forefront and it felt great. As difficult as it could be at times, the well of energy I can draw upon is much deeper when I’ve got such a large personal stake in things.

Marriage. Stacy and I were, quite literally, in the Honeymoon phase of the marriage and that’s been wonderful. Even when things are nutso we’ve both been pushing to make sure our joy together and communication is a priority. Having the marriage as the rock bed of our life has been stabilizing and reassuring despite all the other ups and downs.

Career. A focused and dedicated push forward with creator-owned comics along with a slew of UDON projects, teaching/coordinating and planning future projects aplenty. I’m learning a lot about myself, the industry and making new friends throughout it all. I’m hopeful that it can all continue to grow.

I did a ton of promotion/interviews and a lot of them went really well, but I have to call special attention to the chat I had with Guys With Pencils (part one and part two) and the swap-interview I did with Cullen Bunn (part one and part two) as two absolute standouts. They struck the right note and delved a bit deeper.

Travel. Another crazy year on the move. England (London and Teesside), USA (Seattle, Chicago, Boston, Charlotte, San Diego, Indianapolis, Chapel Hill, Annapolis, New York), Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone, Nara) and Canada (Calgary, Banff). I thought last year was the peak for travel but I managed to go even further in 2011. I do honestly think I travel-tapped myself out, mentally, so 2012 isn’t going to be quite as ludicrous. No, really.

Looking at last year’s list of goals for 2011, here’s what I had listed:

Communicate joy. I made some progress here but it’s still a goal to expand this in 2012. It’s easy to get caught up in negativity and psyche myself out but I want to keep a positive attitude as much as possible and let other people know how much they mean to me.

Buy less and buy smarter. This worked quite well in 2011, actually. Stacy and I made a conscious effort to buy less overall and I feel like we didn’t impulse shop.

Cook more. I did cook quite a bit but when time was crunched it was way too easy to fall back on the foods I already know how to prepare. I’m hoping to push my culinary skills a bit more in 2012.

Keep going. Simple, right? Don’t stop.

Looking Ahead to 2012:

Stacy’s creative projects continue to move forward and I’m hopeful next year will be her breakout. If you’d read what I’ve read you’d know exactly how wonderful her stories are and the pitch-perfect balance of engaging characters/snappy dialogue that permeates her writing. She’s rocking it.

Seneca will get more of my attention in the new year. The school has been running well but I feel like we’ve been navel-gazing and focused on making internal changes. In 2012 I want to really show off the great work the students create and let the animation industry (local and abroad) know what we’re capable of.

Skullkickers will continue and we have big plans. We won’t be able to put out 11 issues like we did in 2012, but the third arc of Skullkickers will be so jam-packed with good stuff that I think it’ll make up for the frequency. That arc, ‘Six Shooter on the Seven Seas’ will finally tip our hand a bit, answering some of the big questions (How does the big guy have a gun in a medieval fantasy world? Is there a bigger story being built?). I feel like it’ll be our best chance since the comic launched to grab new readers and keep them intrigued. Munchkin-Skullkickers arrives midway through the year and it will be another great chance to expand the readership. The gang at Steve Jackson Games have been incredible to work with.

Makeshift Miracle also continues with chapters 3+ arriving online. The first printed Makeshift book will also arrive late April/early May and the cover and pages to come are just as jaw-dropping as what you’ve seen so far, trust me. UDON has committed to at least 2 books for Makeshift to tell the newly expanded story and, if it goes particularly well, I know where I’d like to take things beyond that. Fingers crossed. Once the pre-order info is live I’ll be relentlessly pushing that through every social channel I know and your support will be unbelievably appreciated.

Beyond that, I’ve been working with an incredibly skilled artist in Chicago on developing a kids graphic novel adventure series. The pitch was completed last month (story outline, character designs and 6 finished coloured/lettered pages) and I’m incredibly proud of how well it came together. I’ll be pushing hard in 2012 to get it attached with a publisher I think really understands what we’re going for. I’d rather take time and make sure we find the right fit rather than jump in too quick and waste this opportunity.

Other stories are bubbling around in my brain, I’m just looking for the right art collaborators to make them a reality – a generational horror story, a deadline-driven supernatural suspense mini-series, a modern-spun fable with stage magic and faerie folk, a super-powered sci-fi survival tale, a black-hearted violently sarcastic look at movies & media, a rapid-fire deconstruction of heroes and their adoring public… working on Skullkickers has helped me push past some of my creative fears and over the next few years I’d love to develop all of the above, one way or another.

Things I’ve learned/mantras on my mind for 2012:

– You’re the only one who can move your creative goals forward. Make it a priority. No one else will do it for you.

– Don’t make unrealistic plans. Those can only lead to disappointment. Compartmentalize your goals and set achievable milestones.

– Don’t expect someone else to throw you past the goalpost and tell you ‘You Scored’! You have to build your own momentum in 2012.

– We all want that end result and wish it was easy. We’re all scared, nervous, jealous, unsure. We all have good days/bad days.
Keep pushing.