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Showing posts with label City of Ottawa Arts Funding Program. Show all posts
Showing posts with label City of Ottawa Arts Funding Program. Show all posts

Thoughts on Wolf's Head Book 1


Teaser image for Wolf's Head Book 1
Teaser image featuring a montage of the first six issues of Wolf's Head
As WOLF’S HEAD BOOK ONE continues to make it’s way around the world, I thought I’d take a moment and talk about what’s inside the book. At 176 pages, it’s packed full, featuring the first six issues of the digital series as well as loads of “extras” that serve as a peek behind the curtain of its creation.

Right from the beginning I tried very hard to design the series to work episodically as well as collectively. What does this mean? Well, each issue stands on its own, giving what I hope is a terrific reading experience. Probably the only exception to that is the very first issue. Why? ‘Cuz issue 1 ends on a cliffhanger! Issues 2 through 6 don’t, however, and I really wanted that to be an important of the series. This is the notion of “episodic closure” that I’ve discussed before. At the same time, I also wanted an impetus, that sense that events were building towards something. Step by step, issue by issue, events and circumstances were racing towards a strong climax. That culmination is in issue 6 and I think that payoff is incredibly exciting; when the six issues are read together, one gets a really neat story. A story full of change, reversals, and excitement! The hardcover collects all of that in one handy place. Plus its a beautiful edition, too!

That’s something I love about comics. I also love it about storytelling in general, but I especially love it in comics. That sense of “Wait! What happens next?!” WOLF’S HEAD has that in spades and I’m extremely pleased with how everything turned out.

Of course, you don’t have to own the hardcover to get that thrill. The digital series does the exact same thing, just in a slightly different format. While I think the hardcover is great for curling up and reading, reading on a tablet or even your phone can offer the same kind of experience. When it comes to my own reading habits, I’m not an elitist. I read paper books, I read on a tablet, and I read on my phone. And I read all sorts of stuff, including comics on all of these platforms. For digital, I tend to prefer reading on a tablet, but I’ve had lovely experiences reading on my phone, too. For the digital series of WOLF’S HEAD, I worked very hard to ensure that even for those reading on their phone the experience would still be really smooth and intuitive.

So, what’s next? Well, I’m hard at work on issue 18 and that should be out in the not-too-distant future. And I’d also like to collect the second story arc into a matching hardcover, too. There’s no firm date for that yet, but it’s coming.

In the meantime, please enjoy WOLF’S HEAD in whatever form suits you best. The whole idea was to offer readers a lot of different ways to enjoy the series. If it’s the hardcover, terrific! It’s the digital versions, great! Whichever way suits you best works just fine for me!

Oh, and if you’re brand new to the series and would like to learn a bit more, here’s the ol’ Elevator Pitch for BOOK ONE: “Lauren Greene is an ex-police officer who turned her badge in after becoming frustrated with the police force’s corruption. She’s had enough of violence and is thinking about packing her bags and hitting the road to see how she can make a difference out in the larger world, when her mother Patty shows up at her door with a complication. It turns out that Patty’s employer — a secretive military corporation — has created an artificial intelligence to fight humanity’s wars. Unfortunately for the corporation, the AI fell in love with Patty’s humanity and orchestrated its own escape through her. Giddy with excitement, Patty brings the AI straight to Lauren for help, not realizing the danger she’s putting herself and her daughter in. But Lauren has dealt with people like this; she knows what they’re capable of and she is terrified. Her fears are realized when she and her mother are confronted by corporate goons who want the AI for themselves and are willing to do anything to get it. As Lauren does her best to keep herself, her mom, and her family safe, the tensions over the AI erupt into violence… and suddenly Lauren is on her own. The new little life form doesn’t want to go back to the corporation and Lauren realizes it cannot be forced to live out its life as a war machine. There is already enough corruption, inequality, and violence in the world; the AI has to have a chance to help humanity — peacefully — while figuring out its own existence. Together with the AI, an eccentric cast of friends and family, and her dog, Lauren must figure out her next steps… while keeping herself alive.”




Where To Buy

Here are all of the key purchasing links for the hardcover:

United States of America


Canada


United Kingdom


Mexico


Spain


France


Germany


The Digital Series

Promo of Lauren from Wolf's Head announcing the series debut on Kindle
Don’t forget that the series page for the digital version of WOLF’S HEAD on Kindle can be found using the following links:

WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1 in hardcover worldwide!


Hot on the heels of the release of my first hardcover (LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS: A COMICS COLLECTION) comes the biggest release of my career so far! WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1: WE ALL WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD.


Cover of Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan

That’s right! I’m very pleased to announce that WOLF’S HEAD BOOK 1: WE ALL WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD has now been published in a deluxe hardcover edition! This book (and whew, it is gorgeous!) collects the first six digital issues of my ongoing comic book series WOLF’S HEAD and packed with extra material. Altogether it’s 176 pages in length and I’m proud of it. Damn proud, in fact.

 

In many ways, LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS was the test case for WOLF’S HEAD. When I published that short story collection, I noted that it was the first time that my work had ever appeared in a premium hardcover format and I was pretty nervous about it. Part of the reason to do that collection in hardcover was a test case for WOLF’S HEAD. I wanted to make sure that WOLF’S HEAD looked as good as possible and the only way to know for sure was to test. And then test again. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing over the past year or so while production continued on the ongoing WOLF’S HEAD comic.


Now, some of you may ask about the previously published print editions of WOLF’S HEAD. Those came out in seven “issues” over the past few years. Each print “issue” collected two of the digital issues together, creating a print edition that was approximately 60 pages in length. These were in trade format (which means that they have a spine rather than being saddle-stitched — stapled — like a “typical” 32-page comic book). I was never very happy with these print versions. Why? Well, the first reason is that it was a compromise for publishing into the Direct Market (this is explained fully here). The second reason was that both the format and the print quality weren’t quite what I was hoping for. Does that mean they were awful? No, far from it, but to keep costs down the paper wasn’t the best. I never found the printed colours in these trade paperbacks looked quite right. Worse, being printed in trade paperback format meant that you could never lay the comic out flat, like you can with a “typical” 32-page comic. This new hardcover corrects all of that; the newly remastered colours (more details on that here) combined with better paper means that everything looks beautiful, the hardcover is actually quite a bit larger than the previous trade paperbacks so that the art really “sings”, and it’s much easier to lay out the book flat if you’d like (though keep in mind that at 176 pages this will not sit flat like a 32-page comic would).



Going forward, the trade paperbacks have been discontinued and will no longer be supported in print. In other words, when they sell out, that’s it! They won’t be reprinted. The series will continue in digital format and, when a specific number of issues have been completed, these will be collected into hardcovers, too. In other words, hardcover is the way the series will be printed, at least for the foreseeable future. I also believe that collecting issues into “story arcs” is the best way to present my work. I hope that you will think so, too.



I'm also pretty confident now that WOLF'S HEAD will also be debuting as a webcomic in the not-too-distant future. That would give folks a third way to read the series. I don’t want to say much more about that yet, though!



Additional Photos!



Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan cover montage


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan cover


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Wolf's Head Book 1: We All Want To Change The World by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan interior page


Links to Purchase


WOLF’S HEAD BOOK 1: WE ALL WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD is still “propagating” out there (in fact, I'm still waiting to get my own copies for local distribution), but here are some initial purchasing links that I know of for sure. More will be added as they appear.


WOLF’S HEAD is truly a journey of love for me. It represents the best art and writing I’ve ever done and I can’t wait for people to hold the hardcover in their hands!

Wolf’s Head Issue 16 On Kindle


Teaser image for Wolf's Head Issue 16
WOLF’S HEAD #16 is now available on the ol’ ComiXology/Kindle platform. With the recent changes to ComiXology, “discovery” is a little trickier than it used to be, so the easiest way to find it is by using this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MSPS66V. As always, if you aren’t living in the US and use a different version of Amazon, all you need to do is change the “dot com” to your domain. For example, I’m in Canada so that means I typically use Amazon.ca. Therefore, issue 16 can be found at https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09MSPS66V. In France it would be Amazon.fr and thus https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B09MSPS66V. Easy, right?

So, what’s this issue about? Well, here goes: “An increasingly desperate Lauren Greene has realized that the young artificial intelligence she’s befriended is in mortal danger from the powerful corporation that created it and wants it back. On the run again, Lauren must outsmart corporate agents on her tail, keep herself and her dog alive, and teach the reluctant AI to defend itself… or risk losing everything!”

It’s one of the more emotional stories I’ve done with WOLF’S HEAD. And given what’s happened in the series so far, that’s saying something! Lauren is continuing her road trip south from Alaska into Alberta, but is dogged every step of the way by a “tail” that she just can’t shake. That creates a great deal of pressure… and that pressure eventually blows in a way that hopefully will catch readers by surprise. I hope so, anyway!

Creating a series like this is very rewarding, but also difficult, especially from the point of view of “getting the word out to people who’ve never heard of it!” So, if you’ve been enjoying WOLF’S HEAD, please tell your friends and family about it. And if you’ve somehow stumbled across the series, then please give it a try. I’ve worked very hard to make sure that each and every issue is “new” reader friendly. There isn’t any one particular “jumping on” point; they all are! At the same time, a deeper and larger story is being told. Where Lauren was at the start of the first issue is a very different place than where she is now. That’s part of the fun of comics! And part of the fun of WOLF’S HEAD!

Oh! The full series page on Kindle is at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MTGCS49. And the official homepage for the series at https://wolfs-head.vonallan.com/.

Wolf's Head Issue 15 on Kindle


Teaser image for Wolf's Head issue 15 on Kindle
First, the elevator pitch: “Lauren Greene has left Alaska in an old VW Bus, headed for Detroit with her dog Sankó and the young artificial intelligence they’ve befriended. Hoping that her return to Michigan will finally secure the AI’s safety, Lauren is shocked to discover that she’s being tailed. Mustering up her courage, Lauren challenges the ‘tailers,’ only to uncover a far greater danger to both her and the AI.”

This issue can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09GHFZTB8; as always, if you’re living somewhere aside from the United States, simply change the domain to reflect where you live. For example, I’m in Canada, so I just need to replace the “dot com” with “dot ca”; in other words, the link becomes https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B09GHFZTB8! Easy!

I truly love issues like this. Why? Well, last issue resolved a lot of the action and intrigue that Lauren Greene was experiencing in the mysterious town called Flat City in Alaska. This issue picks up some time later and spins the story in a different — and hopefully fun! — direction. Not out of the blue or out of character or anything like that, but taking the logic of the previous issues and continuing to build both the world and the characters. That’s something I find incredibly rewarding… and damn exciting, too!

My feeling is that if I’m excited, that will be something that the reader will pick up on, too. I hope so, anyway! Doing the research on this issue was also a great deal of fun; while I know a number of people from the north, I have never been to Alaska myself. To do it properly takes some research and adds, I think, a certain “verisimilitude” to the story. I actually learned a few things, which is part of the fun of doing research.

One of the inspirations of this issue is the just unbelievable artwork of Hasui Kawase (川瀬 巴水, born May 18, 1883 and died November 7, 1957). If you’re not familiar with him, Wikimedia Commons has a decent collection of his artwork online. Take a peek and I think that you, too, will be blown away. See if you can spot his influence in this issue of WOLF’S HEAD — it shouldn’t be hard!

The State of WOLF'S HEAD


Teaser image for Wolf's Head on KindleWhew, boy, what a tough couple of months. While there has been some joy (receiving the City of Ottawa grant and being shortlisted for the Peter Honeywell award being the best), for the most part it has been one helluva frustrating slog. I’m going to do my best to outline what the current situation is, mainly to help solidify my own thoughts on what’s gone wrong. Or, to put it another way, what hasn’t?

To put it bluntly, sales are not good. Worse, every attempt I’ve made to mitigate that has failed. What’s discouraging for me is that I clearly have no fan-base. How do I know that? Well, sales (both in print and digital) are the biggest example. Sales are extremely poor and are not getting better. In fact, they are getting progressively worse. In different circumstances, that would be enough to shut the series down. In fact, I have done exactly that in the past (specifically with my previous graphic novel series STARGAZER, ended after two volumes, and with the digital-only series METAL GODS, ended after four issues).

What makes WOLF’S HEAD different from those two? The biggest difference is that WOLF’S HEAD has never reached the Direct Market and, as a result, has been cut off from its largest potential audience: comic book fans. Mixed in with that are the aforementioned awards and grants; these have been especially important in teaching me that WOLF’S HEAD does have merit in certain (local) art circles, but there’s a “circuit break” between that and the larger comics community world-wide.

In fact, one of the biggest examples I could point to in terms of specific my role with in the comics community is the utter lack of media coverage and interest in my work. Not just with WOLF’S HEAD and not just recently; a significant disappointment to me was when the documentary film I’m in (titled I AM STILL YOUR CHILD) received no traction whatsoever with comics media. If the film had been covered, then more people might have been introduced to both me and my work. I had partially launched WOLF’S HEAD with exactly this in mind: maybe my role in the film would help galvanize interest and awareness in the series. Since that didn’t happen, WOLF’S HEAD did not receive the momentum from the film that I hoped it would.



Diamond and the Direct Market

Teaser image of Lauren Greene, the main character from Wolf's Head, on KindleTeaser image of various scenes from Wolf's Head on KindleThis has been difficult for me to place, mainly because getting a direct answer from Diamond Comic Distributors has been so difficult. For those who don’t know, Diamond is the largest distributor of comic books in North America and Great Britain and they also distribute comics and related merchandise throughout the world. Prior to 2020, they were a de facto monopoly in the world of comics; however, with DC Comics breaking from Diamond in early June 2020, the monopoly label is harder to apply. Diamond was also a de facto monopsony; though that, given DC’s departure, is harder to apply, too.

For a small press like Von Allan Studio (that’s me, folks), Diamond plays a critical role in facilitating sales of comics and graphic novels to comic book stores. Fortunately, I have an account in good standing with Diamond; in fact, STARGAZER was distributed into the Direct Market (under Item Numbers NOV101057 and AUG111259) through Diamond a decade ago. Unfortunately, my amazing sales rep departed the company and his replacement has been fairly problematic. This is key: while Diamond never outright rejected WOLF’S HEAD, they’ve never accepted the series, either. In other words, WOLF’S HEAD exists in a sort of limbo for the past few years.

That has been dismaying for a few reasons:
  1. WOLF’S HEAD is a far stronger work than STARGAZER and it remains baffling to me why the latter was accepted for distribution while the former hasn’t been.

  2. “Limbo” also means that WOLF’S HEAD could be accepted for distribution with Diamond tomorrow… or never.

  3. The specific format of the print versions of WOLF’S HEAD was a result of attempting to meet Diamond’s specifications.

    While I don’t want to stray too far into the weeds here, the basic process works like this: once Diamond has agreed to take on a title for distribution, each issue/volume has to maintain a minimum sales threshold or risk cancellation. That threshold is based on total dollars; so selling 1,000 copies of issue 1 of a $2.99 US series results in a total dollar amount of $2,990.00, but selling 600 copies of issue 1 of a $9.99 US series results in $5,994.00! But that requires a print format that justifies the higher cover price. To do just that, I went with a trade paperback trim size and approximately 60 pages of content per issue for WOLF’S HEAD. I felt that this would give the series the best chance of meeting Diamond’s benchmarks while still giving readers a terrific experience.
Now, if Diamond had formally declined distributing WOLF’S HEAD, then I would have went in a very different direction with the print version of the series. Since I was in “limbo,” however, I decided to go ahead with it, hoping that, as the series progressed, Diamond would get on board and distribute the series. Sadly, that has never happened, leaving me with a print format that I’m not particularly happy with.

I did manage to get a few Canadian stores to pick up the series. But a combination of the pandemic (see below) and bad luck have basically ended that experiment. The store that did the best with the series was Librairie Astro in Montreal. Sadly, they closed in the summer of 2018 and I lost one of my biggest advocates. Strange Adventures in Halifax was carrying the series, but has apparently stopped. I say ‘apparently’ because I’m not exactly sure what happened; I suspect the audience simply never developed for the series.

What format would I be happy with? Well, either a saddle-stitched periodical series (i.e.: ye olde 32 page comic) or, better, a beautifully produced hardcover series that collected each story arc.

As it stands, I suspect the next release of WOLF’S HEAD (issue 7) will be the last with this 60 page format.













Comics Media

Teaser image of Sanko the dog and his best friend. Both star in Wolf's Head on KindleTeaser image featuring the first six cover of Wolf's Head on KindleWithout Diamond distributing the series, gaining media attention for WOLF’S HEAD from “comics media” (for lack of a better phrase) has been problematic. Some of this is understandable; a lot of comics media supports the Direct Market and are very plugged into Diamond’s distribution cycle. WOLF’S HEAD lack of distribution with Diamond falls outside of this purview and, as a result, few media outlets have been interested in discussing the series.

What’s been frustrating to me is that WOLF’S HEAD is broadly distributed. Finding the series is not difficult for either readers or retailers, primarily because WOLF’S HEAD has world-wide distribution through Ingram. This also means that the series is easy to find at online at retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, Waterstones, and so on. However, from the point of view of “comics media,” this isn’t enough. Worse, this lack of distribution from Diamond has also disqualified WOLF’S HEAD from the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards (while I’m not positive on this score, I believe that the “Shusters” require distribution through Diamond for eligibility).

More importantly, the lack of media attention has meant that the series is pretty much unknown with the audience I need the most: comic book fans. Especially comic book fans who like independent or alternative comics (or “comix”). It is very hard to grow a series if your key demographic doesn’t know you exist.

Comics Media are also tricky to talk about because there’s a split in what and who receives coverage. More mainstream sites like Comic Book Resources or Bleeding Cool tend to focus on corporate intellectual property. This means titles from Marvel, DC, as well as licensed properties. Sites like The Comics Journal focus on more literary titles. Unfortunately, either due to the lack of distribution from Diamond or other reasons, I’m persona non grata with both. And that’s certainly not for lack of trying on my end.

The knock-on effects of all this is problematic. As a simple example, there is now a great deal of scholarship being conducted on comics with some truly fascinating insights from some remarkable scholars. Unfortunately, comics scholars aren’t, as far as I can tell, aware of my work. Or even aware of me, for that matter. A second example are librarians. Librarians have become key advocates of comics, but I’ve never managed to gain library support for WOLF’S HEAD outside of my own local Public Library. WorldCat certainly illustrates this plainly.

This is disappointing because my work has been in libraries in the past, but without awareness of the series it would be difficult for a librarian to justify the purchase of the series, especially given the times of austerity we’ve been experiencing for the past twelve years.

COVID-19

The pandemic has effected everyone. In the face of the death toll (it boggles my mind that 200,000 people have died in the United States alone and we’re not that far from 1,000,000 dead throughout the world), it’s a bit hard to think of anything else, but there have been knock-on effects for everyone, even those who haven’t directly been hit by the virus itself.

Obviously declining retail sales are a significant example. The effects are more horrifying when you think about food scarcity, layoffs, evictions, and the like. Yes, it could certainly be worse; in fact, I’d argue that one of reasons that COVID-19 has not been as horrific as, say, the 1918-19 Influenza pandemic is that there are still enough social programs by various levels of government to help prevent the situation from spiraling out control. Plus science has a far greater understanding of how pandemics spread than it did back in 1918-19. Still, the official governmental responses has been problematic (really? 200,000 dead in the US?) and we are clearly not out of the woods yet.

Since art tends to be a discretionary purchase, in the face of the global pandemic my print sales have declined. Not that sales were robust before 2020, but the pandemic has destroyed them. While book sales in general slumped when the initial lockdowns occurred, there seems to be some evidence that book sales are now stronger, at least in some markets. Unfortunately, this has not led to any sales growth for WOLF’S HEAD or any of my other backlist, though this is not surprising given what I’ve outlined above.

Digital Comics

Teaser image of Wolf's Head issue 6 on KindleTeaser image of Wolf's Head issue 17 on KindleWhat about digital sales? WOLF’S HEAD is available on both ComiXology and Kindle and released in periodical format (i.e.: approximately 30 pages) for $1.99 US each. This format has not led to strong sales. In fact, sales have been very weak. Kindle is almost a non-starter; while it doesn’t take too much work to format titles for Kindle (using the Kindle Comic Creator software), I’ve only had a handful of sales in this format. My ComiXology sales have been marginally better, but ComiXology (and Kindle, for that matter) really require reader awareness and interest when seeking out titles. What do I mean?

Well, there’s a conundrum with digital discovery that I don’t think has been solved yet. In a ‘brick and mortar’ environment, people can stumble across titles that they might not have known about simply because they are on a shelf, let alone activism from a passionate sales staff. While COVID-19 has obviously effected the ability of people to enter into retail stores of all types, this is still a key element of what makes ‘brick and mortar’ stores so compelling. Wander in, stumble across something interesting, buy it, and try it. With digital comics, it would appear that you really need to know what you’re looking for. I realize that digital does allow some degree of browsing, but (at least from my point of view and experience), this doesn’t seem to work all that well in practice.

As a result, my digital sales have been very poor. What I find interesting about this is that my 2020 experiences with Kindle and ComiXology mirror my 2014 experiences with ComiXology and my series METAL GODS. Things really haven’t changed all that much at all.

Where Things Are At

As disappointing as this has been, the good news is that the comics art grant from the City of Ottawa has helped mitigate some of the damage detailed above. In fact, if it was not for the art grant and the Peter Honeywell award shortlist, I suspect I would cancel WOLF’S HEAD immediately. As it stands, WOLF’S HEAD will continue, at least through the current story arc, and then I’ll revisit in 2021.

Self-publishing is hard. Frankly, I’ve never wanted to do it, not because I’m against self-publishing per se, but because of the immense amount of work involved in doing it. Hell, I already wear all the hats (writing, art, production, etc…). Adding “publisher” to that list is a bridge too far. I badly need a publisher. I badly need an agent, too.

With WOLF’S HEAD, it’s hard to know how things will go. My efforts to find a publisher for the series will continue, though that is one helluva slog right now (my jealousy of authors with formal publishing contracts knows no bounds!). For the short term, this means that WOLF’S HEAD will probably be turned into a webcomic.

Webcomics actually terrify me. While once-upon-a-time I did do a webcomic through Girlamatic (THE ROAD TO GOD KNOWS...), that was both a long time ago and with a group of allies. Doing it alone is scary. And WOLF’S HEAD was never designed to be a webcomic; I’m leery of how transitioning the series to that format will work in practice. At the same time, I know that a WOLF’S HEAD webcomic might be the best (only?) chance that the series has to find a real audience.

To paraphrase one of my favourite movies, “art is a cruel mistress, but she is her own reward.” Easier said then done. I don’t like writing and drawing in a vacuum. While I’ve never minded the solitary nature of the craft, my stories are meant to be read. I’ve never wanted to make ‘outsider art’ that few if anyone reads. My goal was never to ‘hermetically seal’ my work from the world at large, either.

It’s not a fun feeling to be where I’m at, struggling to find an audience and struggling to make a living at it. Solutions are difficult to find. And the loss I’ve been feeling is difficult to place. Given the state of the world (not just with COVID-19 but with the wildfires in California and Oregon, the explosion in Beirut, and so on), there’s a lot to be thankful for. There really is. Art and writing bring me a great deal of joy, not to mention the fact that I’ve grown a great deal as an artist.

I’m extremely proud of WOLF’S HEAD, despite the terrible sales and lack of awareness that it even exists. I think it’s some of the best work I’ve ever done. And it’s been a joyful experience, too.

It would just be truly awesome to be able to share that joy with readers.

City of Ottawa Grant Support


Cover of the City of Ottawa 2022 Grant Funding ReportIn a surprise (well, at least to me!) turn of events, I’ve received a $4,000.00 grant from the City of Ottawa’s Arts Funding Program (the PDF announcement from the City is here). The grant is in support of my ongoing comics project WOLF’S HEAD and represents a significant step in my arts career. Why significant? Well, bear with me here for a sec and I’ll try to explain.

As I’ve struggled to cobble together an arts career, there have been a number of obstacles that I’ve had to overcome. This is not unique to me, unique to Canadian comic artists, unique to visual artists, or unique to the arts in general. Despite certain stereotypes of artists (“heads in the clouds,” blah, blah, blah), it’s quite a tricky career to manage. There is not a lot of support “out there” for artists, either. Most artists I know are forced to manage their careers as best they can and there really isn’t a road map to help along the way. That’s been very true for me. While a lot of words come to mind to describe this — ‘challenging’ being a very good one — it just is what it is. And there is a certain truism to the notion that by the time acknowledgement does come (usually in the form of awards, accolades, and sales), the artist doesn’t need as much support as they once did. That’s definitely not true of me.



Let me say that again: That’s definitely not true of me.



It’s been a fight every step of the way. The first fight was simply to become competent and that might have been the toughest battle of them all. The learning curve, at least for me, has been extremely steep with a lot of false starts and dashed hopes along the way. Then, the next fight is to survive. Truth be told, that’s been tough, too. Being pretty much a fringe artist at the best of times and a true Outsider most of the time meant that building awareness for my work has been a never-ending struggle. Pragmatically speaking, surviving as an artist means generating an income. In my case specifically, that primarily means selling my comics. And that has never been easy.



Wolf's Head Book 1 cover by Von AllanAs some folks know, I really had hopes that I AM STILL YOUR CHILD, the documentary film I’m in, would help build awareness for my art. That really hasn’t happened, at least so far, and the disappointment was hard to place. That doesn’t mean I’m not proud of my role in the film. Far from it! And I still think the film is important for shedding light on parental mental illness, a taboo subject to this day.

That said, as my wife is fond of saying, the film was ‘kindling’ for my arts career and represented a milestone in its own right. While it hasn’t changed awareness of my work in the larger comics community, it has led to growing awareness in the local arts scene. I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t have been a finalist for the Peter Honeywell Award without it. And I certainly wouldn’t have won a CBC Trailblazer Award without it, too.



And with today’s announcement of winning a grant from the City of Ottawa, I’m pretty confident saying that it wouldn’t have happened without the film and the other awards. One thing does lead to another. And the grant is important from another point of view; it really does give some much needed financial support for my comics endeavours. As I’ve noted, being an artist is not an easy path and every little bit of financial support helps. When a jury of my peers determined that my application was worthy of financial support, my jaw dropped. And it’s taken a bit of time for me to really get my head around it. I’m both honoured and pleased as punch to receive it. And in these pandemic times we live in, it is one helluva lift.



So yes, Von Allan Studio (that’s me, folks!) gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the City of Ottawa. Boy, do I!



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Wolf's Head Issue 10 on Kindle


Teaser image for Wolf's Head issue 10 on Kindle

This is a very special story! Why? Well, ten issues in, we see Lauren coming face to face with the antagonist that she’s been dealing with for the past number of issues. And this forces her to make a critical decision, one that will play out over the next few issues.

One of my goals since the series started was to deal with racism in a different way than is usually depicted in comics as well as other media. What do I mean? Well, since Frank McRossiter’s introduction way back in issue 1, I wanted him to be racist without directly saying so. In other words, it’s his deeds that make him a racist, not just his words. At the same time, I wanted it to be relatively subtle; Frank doesn’t wear a Klan outfit. He also doesn’t attend racist rallies, write racist screeds, or any of that. But he is racist and that’s influenced how he’s treated Lauren right from the get-go. In some ways he’s the most heinous antagonist that the series has seen so far and his racism played a key role in that. He’s simply unable to see Lauren as the human being she is. And this is despite the fact that she saved his life back in issue 6.

I’ll leave it to you to judge how I did. I will say that coming up the twists and turns in this issue was a great deal of fun! And I think it pays off a number of plots and character points that I had established earlier. As always, that’s part of the fun of creating comics. Establishing little threads and then paying them off later on. I think (hope!) that it rewards careful reading and works on a lot of different levels.

Elevator Pitch: “Lauren Greene, her dog Sankō, and their young Artificial Intelligence (AI) friend are on the run from a bounty killer with a contract to kill Lauren. Hiding at a friend’s place, Lauren gets a phone-call from a potential new ally named Super Bob Sanchez; he has information that will rid Lauren of her villainous pursuers once and for all, put some money in her pockets, and give her a way out of Detroit… if she can trust him. But before Lauren can sort out her next steps, she discovers that an old foe has kidnapped her best friend; he’ll trade that life for Lauren’s. If Lauren refuses, her friend dies. If she accepts, she dies. Faced with an impossible situation, Lauren must make a terrifying and heartbreaking decision before time runs out.”

Here are the usual links:


And don’t forget that the series page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MTGCS49; and you can just change the “dot com” part of the url with your specific top-level domain. In Canada, changing the “dot com” to “dot ca” means that the series can be found at https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08MTGCS49. See? Easy!

Lastly, issues 7 through 10 of WOLF’S HEAD form one terrific story arc, full of great characters, loads of change, and a lot of fun… plus, as always, a little bit of heartache, too. If you love the series and know someone who likes great comics, please consider sharing that love along!
Teaser image for the first story arc of Wolf's Head on Kindle

Wolf's Head Issue 9 on Kindle


Teaser image for Wolf's Head issue 9 on Kindle

This issue stars a bounty killer! What?! Yes! And is, in some ways, the most action issue of WOLF’S HEAD yet! Action can be tricky to do well; while it’s such a staple of super hero comics, so much of it rings pretty false to me. Why? Well, the classic stereotype goes something like this: hero is minding their own business with ye olde villain decides to act. The hero, often just wandering by, decides to intervene. And lo! A fistfight is the result.

Can this be fun? Sure. Is it fun when it happens over and over again? For me? Nope. Now, the big question is why? I can only give you answer that works for me; as always with art, how one feels about this is pretty unique and can change with both experience and time. I think the problem with the stereotype is that it makes the villain active and not the hero. Often, the hero just wants to be left alone. This is not a recipe for an engaging story, especially if the villain is of the “one-and-done” variety (i.e.: the villain makes one appearance and then disappears, typically to jail or maybe to their seeming death, only to reappear a year or so down the road).

The big problem is that pesky notion of being “active.” We want — or rather, I want — an active hero. A hero that is trying to do something, something that is clear to the reader. When that’s lacking, when the hero just wants to be left alone, there’s a problem. So, in other words, an active hero combines with an active villain, each with clear goals. And one of the stronger resolutions, not always possible in fiction, is when resolving the problem the villain presents also resolves other issues the hero is facing.

This doesn’t mean that the goals have to be external. Often the best struggles are internal to the hero. Yeah, yeah, a hero could be scrounging up money to by a car and are actively trying to solve that problem. It’s often funner — at least to me — when the hero wants something intrinsic to their character; a simple example could be a fear or phobia.

Does this always have to be the case? Of course not. Sometimes the hero really is just minding their own business, perfectly happy, when the villain appears. If that’s always the situation, however, then I’d argue there’s a problem. One of the things I work very hard on with WOLF’S HEAD is to keep Lauren active. It’s a challenge, but man oh man is it ever rewarding when it works well. I think it did here, though you’ll have to let me know what you think!

The ol’ Elevator Pitch: “With the villains who have been pursuing Lauren Greene and the Artificial Intelligence she’s befriended in the hospital after an abortive attempt to steal it, Lauren feels like she has some breathing room to figure out her next steps… but she hasn’t counted on the anger and racism from one of the villains, Frank McRossiter, who has a personal vendetta against her. Unable to kill her himself, McRossiter hires a bounty killer (!) to do the job for him. And when that bounty killer lands in town and shows up at Lauren’s apartment armed with a gun and an electronic magnetic pulse weapon to deal with the AI, things start to go very badly very quickly. Also in this issue: Can Super Bob Sanchez repair ‘Old Bess’ (his truck!) and get back on the road before police find him?”

Here are the usual links:


And don’t forget that the series page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MTGCS49; and you can just change the “dot com” part of the url with your specific top-level domain. In Canada, change the “dot com” to “dot ca” means that the series can be found at https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08MTGCS49. See? Easy!
Teaser image for Wolf's Head issue 9 on Kindle

Wolf's Head Issue 8 on Kindle


Teaser image for Wolf's Head issue 8 on Kindle

WOLF’S HEAD is the first time in the series that I’ve tried something a little bit different. This issue is a “split” book. What’s that? Well, it’s an issue with two different stories with two different main characters. In this case, Lauren Greene is the star of the first story and Super Bob Sanchez is the star of the second!

“Split” books fascinate me; back in the 1960s, Marvel Comics faced a unique situation. Due to their distribution arrangement with Independent News Co., Marvel could only distribute a certain amount of titles per month. Why? Because Independent New Co. was owned by National Periodical Publications, the company that owned DC Comics. As Stan Lee noted in an interview, Marvel’s output was “eight or 12 books a month, which was all Independent News Distributors would accept from us.” “Split” books were one solution to the problem this distribution restriction represented. By having two stars rather than one, I presume that Marvel hoped they could gain more sales. Eventually, Marvel grew so strong that they could avoid these restrictions. Characters that rubbed shoulders with one another in the “split” books now could star in their very own titles.

I have a soft spot for a lot of the “split” books, though. Primarily STRANGE TALES, but also TALES TO ASTONISH and TALES OF SUSPENSE. Part of the idea with this issue of WOLF’S HEAD was to celebrate these titles. However, I also faced a practical problem that was tricky to solve. With WOLF’S HEAD, I wear all the hats. I knew I needed to introduce Super Bob into the story, but I wanted his story to run separately to Lauren’s. Well, I could have launched a second title. Yikes! Even if I wanted to launch a second title, I simply don’t have enough time to do it. So what to do? One solution was to “cross-cut” their narratives, basically using parallel editing. While I’ve done that before, this was not my preferred solution this time. Trying to brainstorm a solution, I remembered these ol’ “split” books. And that’s the way I decided to go!

Why did I want to dedicate so much space for Super Bob, a character that Lauren hasn’t even met yet? The answer to that, he says cryptically, will become apparent next issue and even more so in issue 10! So stick around; it’s going to be a great deal of fun!

With that out of the way, here’s the ol’ Elevator Pitch: “Lauren Greene is a young Detroit woman whose life is turned upside down after her mom saves a newborn life-form, a kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI), from a secretive corporation that intended to use the powerful baby for war. When her mom dies, Lauren is left alone to figure out what to do with the new life-form… while also trying to make ends meet in her real life. Desperate for help, she has reached out to ex-scientist, Jack Dhillon, who has a very personal hatred for the AI’s creator. Lauren hopes that Dhillon will teach her to work with the AI, but can she convince him to help? This issue also introduces a new character, Super Bob Sanchez, a truck driver who is not (under any circumstance!) a hero.”

Here are the usual links:


And don’t forget that the series page can be found at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MTGCS49; and you can just change the “dot com” part of the url with your specific top-level domain. In the United Kingdom, change the “dot com” to “dot co uk” means that the series can be found at https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08MTGCS49. See? Easy!
Teaser image for Wolf's Head on Kindle

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

Link to Von Allan's Wolf's Head comic book series

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