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Showing posts with label Von Allan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Von Allan. Show all posts

Von Allan’s Wolf’s Head Comics at DARC (Digital Arts Resource Centre)

Von Allan in front of his Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario

Well, this is really neat! I was down at Arts Court here in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 27th to see my own exhibit. The Digital Arts Resource Centre (or ‘DARC’, formerly the SAW Gallery) had a show featuring artwork from my ongoing comic book series WOLF’S HEAD (see the formal announcement here). I have never seen my art this big before! The photos below are a great example of the exhibit, but the nature of the LED means that they display is a bit pixelated in the photos. Trust me: it looks amazing in real life. And you still have plenty of time to drop by Arts Court to see it; the show runs through October 20th, 2023!

They also created a nifty little flyer (PDF right here) that discusses my work with WOLF’S HEAD as well as my fellow exhibitor Helen Lam. She produced a truly lovely animation that looks fantastic on the LED display. The two exhibits “cycle through” and it’s pretty cool to see our different art styles sorta rub shoulders like this.

I’m incredibly honoured that DARC is showcasing my work like this. And if you’d like to learn more about WOLF’S HEAD, please visit its main website at https://wolfs-head.vonallan.com/. And, of course, you can visit my “shop page” if you’d like to buy a physical copy or digital copies (in Kindle format).

And with that out of the way, here are more photos! Oh, and before I forget! The photo at the top of this page is by the legendary Christian Marcoux (of Perspectives Vanier fame). The rest are by the equally legendary Sam Boswell!
Screenshot of a short video of Von Allan in front of his Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
The Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
Lauren from Wolf's Head at the Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
Lauren and Patty from Wolf's Head at the Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
Lauren from Wolf's Head at the Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
The Wolf's Head at the Wolf's Head exhibit at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa, Ontario
Digital Arts Resource Centre flyer discussing the Von Allan and Helenn Lam exhibit

Love, Laughter, and Loss—A Comics Collection now available in Hardcover


This has been a long-time coming, but I’m very pleased to announce the publication of my latest comics collection! And, for the first time, this is a premium hardcover! Titled LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS: A COMICS COLLECTION, this edition features nine short stories in full colour. The printing and colour fidelity are top-notch; in fact, I don’t think my work has ever looked this beautiful.


Cover of Love, Laughter, and Loss: A Comics Collection by Canadian comics writer and artist Von Allan

These stories have appeared in print before, mainly in two separate periodical collections that are now out of print. The first periodical was titled WIZARDS FOR HIRE — CHEAP! while the second periodical was titled STORIES! 2015 TO 2019. While I was very happy to see these two editions published, keeping saddle-stitched editions in print was, frankly, a pain. Publishing LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS is a much better way of keeping them in print. On top of it, many of these stories were recoloured for this new hardcover. And that means a number of these stories have never looked this good before. Am I happy with it? Oh yes!

All of these stories have also been released on this very website in webcomic form. In other words, there’s no need at all to guess on what’s included in the collection. All of these stories can be found at https://www.vonallan.com/p/comics.html — and you can navigate from there to find each individual story. The stories included in this hardcover collection are as follows (with links to make direct navigation even easier):
I just want to reiterate how pleased I am with this edition. I was actually pretty nervous about it; I’ve never printed a hardcover before and there were a few logistical issues that I ran into that slowed production as I took my time ensuring the best quality control possible. I was holding my breath when the physical proof copy arrived and I was pretty nervous when I “unboxed” it. My fears were misplaced; everything turned out beautifully.

If you love comics, especially independent/small press comics, I think you’ll fall in love with this edition. I know I have — and that’s saying something!

Links to Purchase


LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS: A COMICS COLLECTION is still “propagating” out there, but here are some initial purchasing links that I know of for sure. More will be added as they appear.

Photos of the Graphic Novel!

Love, Laughter, and Loss cover by Von Allan

Love, Laughter, and Loss cover by Von Allan

Love, Laughter, and Loss cover by Von Allan

Love, Laughter, and Loss cover by Von Allan

Love, Laughter, and Loss cover by Von Allan

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.

Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award Nomination


Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award Nomination graphic for Von Allan
Ottawa, Ontario (April 3, 2020): Von Allan, an Ottawa-based artist and comics creator, is one of the three shortlisted artists for the Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award through the Ottawa Arts Council. The award was established to recognize and encourage the achievements of Ottawa artists of all disciplines who have evolved beyond the emerging stage in their career to become recognized professional working artists contributing to the community. His fellow nominees are AM Dumouchel and Rebecca Noelle.

“In general, I try to measure my artistic achievements against my own goals and dreams,” said Allan. “In the arts and, I think, in life, the only real competition is against yourself. To push yourself. To grow stronger. To always be learning. For a long time that has been a difficult struggle for me. My learning curve and development as an artist was long and slow, with a lot of frustrating and discouraging reversals along the way. The key, at least for me, was to always keep trying to grow into the artist I imagined I could be. From that point of view, art awards are not something an artist ‘wins’ or ‘loses,’ but rather a signpost or waypoint along the journey. And I’m very pleased with this signpost!”

Wolf's Head Issue 1 Cover Illustrated by Von Allan
“Being shortlisted for the Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award is a significant step in my art career and a huge honour,” added Allan. “I’ve been aware of this award for awhile but it has always seemed out of reach. To be here now, nominated with two other amazing artists, is humbling. It’s also wonderful to be here as a comics creator. I am deeply grateful to the judges for their consideration.”

Von Allan was nominated in part for his ongoing comics project ‘Wolf’s Head.’ The story follows a newly created artificial intelligence (AI) on the run from its creators with the unexpected help of a janitor, her ex-police officer daughter, and their dog. ‘Wolf’s Head’ features Lauren Greene, a young woman who quits her job as a police officer after becoming frustrated with growing police violence. At the same time as Lauren is quitting, a secretive corporation across town has managed to create a seemingly perfect AI for war and profit; however, before the corporation can use the AI, Lauren’s mother, Patty, a janitor at the corporation, finds it. Patty is literally the kindest person the new lifeform has ever met and, as a result, it bonds to her, rejects its purpose and creators, and orchestrates a huge accident to cover an escape. Patty, overwhelmed, asks her daughter Lauren for help. Despite being broke and a bit lost herself, Lauren agrees to help, setting the stage for the story that follows: two humans, an AI, and a dog versus a warmongering corporation.

Wolf's Head Issue 3 Cover Illustrated by Von Allan
About Von Allan: Von Allan was born red-headed and freckled in Arnprior, Ontario, just in time for “Star Wars: A New Hope.” The single child of two loving but troubled parents, Von split most of his childhood between their two homes. Additional information about Von Allan can be found at https://www.vonallan.com/.

Von was featured in the documentary film “I Am Still Your Child” (http://iamstillyourchild.com/) and was the recipient of the Corel Endowment Fund for the Arts Award in 2014 and the CBCTrailblazer Award in 2019.

About The Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award: The Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award, which was renamed in 2019 to honour the legacy of the long-time Council Executive Director. This award is sponsored by GGFL, Chartered Accountants, and Mann Lawyers LLP. The recipient will receive a $5,000 award; two other finalists will receive $1,000 awards. More information about the award can be found at https://ottawaartscouncil.ca/en/council-news/peter-honeywell-mid-career-artist-award.

The Ottawa Arts Council will announce the Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award recipient at 11 am on April 8, 2020.

About the Ottawa Arts Council: The Ottawa Arts Council is an arts umbrella organization founded in 1982, following a recommendation by the City of Ottawa Mayor’s Advisory Committee on the Arts. For over thirty years, the Council has represented the interests of Ottawa artists and collaborates with numerous partners to strengthen the Ottawa arts community.

The Ottawa Arts Council is recognized as a respected, trusted and representative organization. The Ottawa Arts Council's partners include various levels of government and their agencies, businesses, patrons, donors, arts organizations and individual artists. More information about the Ottawa Arts Council can be found at https://ottawaartscouncil.ca/en.

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Wolf's Head by Von Allan

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

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