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Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts

Ottawa’s Digital Arts Resource Centre and Comics Creator Von Allan team up for an Exhibition

Photo of the Von Allan display at DARC

Von Allan, an Ottawa-based cartoonist and comics creator, will be exhibiting artwork from his ongoing comic book and graphic novel series ‘Wolf’s Head’ at the Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) in Ottawa’s historic Arts Court building. The exhibit will run from September 22nd through to October 20th and will take advantage of DARC’s 2.13m (7ft) LED display. Rather than being a static display of artwork from ‘Wolf’s Head’, the artwork presented at the exhibition will be animated, transforming ‘Wolf’s Head’ into a unique and altogether different format that readers of the series have never experienced before.

“Presenting artwork from the ‘Wolf’s Head’ for the LED exhibit was a wonderful opportunity to experiment and play with artwork from the series,” said Allan. “It gave me a chance to not only animate some of the characters and sequences from the story, but also to recombine my art in a way that is very different than its original presentation in graphic novel form. That part was exciting, but also a challenge: could I reconstruct disparate elements from the story, present it to viewers of the LED display, and still create a narrative flow? That took some thinking and experimenting, but I’m really pleased with the result. I think it will give viewers a chance to see my comics in a unique way. The LED display is different than the ‘normal’ experience of reading comics and I think the reaction of passersby will be fascinating to see. And, of course, the sheer size of the LED display is a big part of the whole experience; no one, including me, has ever seen my art presented that big.”

Wolf’s Head’ features Lauren Greene, a young woman who quits her job as a police officer in Metro Detroit 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 accidentally 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; two humans, an AI, and a dog versus a warmongering corporation.

“One truly unique aspect of the exhibit is that it’s presented without sound,” added Allan. “And so I had to be sure that all of my artwork and storytelling could be followed without sound. In a way, adapting my art to the digital format felt like a bit like it must’ve felt for artists adapting work for the old Silent Film Era. As part of that adaptation, I also got to experiment with the use of intertitles to help connect various aspects of the narrative. In a way, I’m familiar with the idea of intertitles; comics and graphic novels often use words to do exactly this when it comes to panel and scene transitions. But, doing it for the LED exhibit meant that I had to be careful about the number of words used and the amount of time each sentence would show on the screen. The project was a really fun challenge and I’m thrilled to be able to see it on display.”

Von Allan's Wolf's Head Logomark

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 his childhood between their two homes. Additional information about Von Allan can be found at https://www.vonallan.com/.

Von was featured in “I Am Still Your Child,” a documentary film (http://iamstillyourchild.com/); was the recipient of the Corel Endowment Fund for the Arts Award in 2014 and the CBC Trailblazer Award in 2019; and was a finalist for the 2020 Peter Honeywell Mid-Career Artist Award. Von also received two separate rounds of grant funding for ‘Wolf’s Head’ from the City of Ottawa (a $4,000.00 grant in 2020 along with an additional $4,000.00 grant in 2022, both in the Literary Arts — English category).

Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC) logomark

About Digital Arts Resource Centre (DARC): Digital Arts Resource Centre (formerly SAW Video) is a not-for-profit, artist-run media art centre that fosters the growth and development of artists through access to equipment, training, mentorship, and programming. Our mission is to support a diverse community of media artists empowered by technology, programming, and the exchange of ideas.

Our core principles are independence of expression, affordable access to all, and paying artists for their work. Digital Arts Resource Centre values diversity and actively promotes equity for all artists regardless of race, age, class, gender, sexual orientation, language, or ability.

The Digital Arts Resource Centre is located at 67 Nicholas Street. Additional information about DARC can be found at https://digitalartsresourcecentre.ca/.

Cover of ‘Wolf’s Head’ Book 1 in hardcover:

Cover of the hardcover of Wolf's Head Book One graphic novel by Von Allan

Wolf's Head Book 1 Trailer

I’ve very pleased to share this, though it took quite a bit of work to get ‘er done. So! This a short trailer I created for my ongoing comic book series WOLF’S HEAD, specifically for the first hardcover collection. It took some doing, mainly because there are some short animated sequences; since I’m definitely not an animator, I had to learn some new tools to make it work. That’s the challenge of creating anything, but perhaps especially art, but it’s also part of the fun, too. It’s also really neat to see my art presented in this way. Still me, but different.

This is really a narrative trailer, for lack of a better phrase. I wanted to avoid just “throwing” artwork at viewers and try, as elegantly and succinctly as possible, to get to the heart of the story. I think the trailer does that, but of course, you will be the ultimate judge. ‘Course, if you like it, please do share it far and wide.

For those interested, I used Blender to create the animations and then put the whole thing together using OpenShot. Both software packages are free and are very powerful. Blender, in particular, is remarkable. Folks have made full length 3D animated films using it, but I was really taken with Blender’s 2D options.

The video is embedded below, but if you can’t see it, you can view it directly on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A1llp9chMzw

Talk Ottawa Interview

Teaser image and place holder for the Talk Ottawa interview with comic book artist Von Allan

One of my very first long form interviews and one that I thought was lost! This was done way back in 2008 with James Hendricks, then host of Talk Ottawa here in Ottawa, Ontario. This interview meant a lot to me since I was basically just starting out and he and the producers of the show were very open and welcoming.

James and I chat about comics and graphic novels, the challenges of being an indy artist, and the changing face of technology and how that applies to comics. We also do a deep dive into my very first graphic novel, titled “the road to god knows…”, that deals with parental mental illness. In the case of that comic, I drew on a lot of my own experiences growing up with my mom; she was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was very young. We talk about that, too.

Oh! My art that was presented in the original video was pretty rough, so I decided to update it with art revisions I did some years ago.

The player should work below. If not, or if you'd prefer to watch on Youtube, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tS8ADTEwBcI

Von Allan Studio's Graphic Novels for the Holiday Season

With the holidays just around the corner, I thought I'd take a moment and summarize my two hardcover graphic novels that were recently published. Why? Well, I think that they both are perfect gifts for the holiday season! I'm very proud of both of them. I think they both are the best representations of my art and writing that have ever seen print. Both books are beautiful and I'm extremely pleased with how they both turned out.

Both hardcover graphic novels are available pretty much everywhere in the world. One of the remarkable things that the internet has brought us all is the relatively easy way to find and buy books. I still remember, back in my bookstore days, how tricky it was to actually books. And if one goes back any further, prior to the internet, finding specific titles, especially indy books from indy authors, was extremely difficult. One would have to search local stores, reach out to fellow fans in other towns and cities, and even write to stores in other countries to track down a title. Now? It is so much easier. It really is a remarkable change. For an independent comics creator like me, it is a huge change.

With that said, here we go!


For WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1: WE ALL WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD, you can find a listing of stores carrying it by visting https://www.vonallan.com/2021/12/wolfs-head-book-1-in-hardcover-worldwide.html or by visting the Von Allan Studio Shop Page. Plus there are online stores like Amazon.com, Bookshop.org, IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, and so on. Previews of the graphic novel can be found right here and there's a tremendous review by Frank Plowright over at the Slings and Arrows Graphic Novel Guide site.
Cover of the Wolf's Head Book 1 hardcover

WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1 collects the first six issues of the ongoing WOLF'S HEAD comic book series in full colour. The graphic novel version is 176 pages long in full colour. And what's it about? Well, here's what my illustrous editor and I wrote for the synopsis:

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.

And here's a fun little teaser I did that showcases some of the themes and art from the collection:
Wolf's Head Book 1 teaser that showcases art and writing from the hardcover graphic novel

It really is a fun graphic novel with all kinds of twists and turns. I'm very proud of it and I'm extremely pleased with how sharp the printing turned out.


Next up is my hardcover short story collection! Like WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1, this is available worldwide and is widely available online at sites like Amazon.com, Bookshop.org, IndieBound, and Barnes and Noble. Photos of the graphic novel collection and more links can be found right here or by visting the Von Allan Studio Shop Page.

Love, Laughter, and Loss: A Comics Collection front cover art

Unlike WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1, this is a short story collection featuring some of my favourites. All of these short stories are available for free on this website (you can find the links to each short story in webcomic format here). Frank Plowright also did a great review of the collection at https://theslingsandarrows.com/love-laughter-and-loss-a-comic-collection/.

Here's the short synopsis from the book:

This collection contains nine short stories by Canadian writer/artist Von Allan that, together, represent the best and worst parts of life; love, laughter, and loss. Travel around the world (and sometimes even off world!) with average people, heroes, cowardly adventurers, and even a dog. While these stories were previously published in two periodical collections ("WIZARDS FOR HIRE-CHEAP!" and "STORIES! 2015 TO 2019"), this marks the first time they've appeared in a premium hardcover format.

And here's a teaser image from the collection!

Love, Laughter, and Loss: A Comics Collection teaser that showcases art and writing from the hardcover graphic novel collection

Like WOLF'S HEAD BOOK 1, this short story collection is perfect for fans of comics and graphic novels. The short stories really range in tone and theme and I'm extremely pleased with how they look in print.

So, that's that! Two beautiful graphic novels that fans of comics will fall in love with. If you need a gift for someone (or even just yourself!), please do consider them. You won't be disappointed!

Vanier Artisans Christmas Craft Sale

I'm very pleased to announce that I'll be one of the participating artists in this year's Vanier Artisans Christmas Craft Sale. This is organized by the always capable and wonderful Charlotte Taylor and she's bringing together a wide range of artists of different disciplines for the sale. I really like that; I don't like "silos" and the idea that artists have to "stay in their lane" or somesuch has never made much sense to me. I like that different artists can get together for an event like this. That's a neat way to share art and a great way to have some fun. And a special bonus is that I designed and illustrated this year's poster, too!

The poster has all the details. And there's also a Facebook event page for it at https://www.facebook.com/events/1277240033075854/

I'll be bringing a number of my comics and graphic novels, including the hardcovers of WOLF'S HEAD and LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS. Plus prints, cards, and a few other odds and ends. And I think a very special guest will be joining me there, too. That's all hush-hush and super secret! The only way to find out is to come!

So if you're interested in meeting some amazing artists and perhaps buy some lovely art for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or "just because," please drop by on Saturday. It should be a lot of fun!

Poster designed by artist Von Allan for the 2022 Vanier Artisans Christmas Craft Sale

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


United Kingdom





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:

Love, Laughter, and Loss Wraparound Cover

I've been meaning to post this for a little while. While the front cover of my latest hardcover LOVE, LAUGHTER, AND LOSS: A COMICS COLLECTION is readily "discoverable" online (and, of course, on this very website), the wraparound cover isn't. Let's remedy that!

I really like how this one turned out! And it looks great as a physical copy, too! For more photos of the actual graphic novel as well as links to all of the stories contained in this volume, please visit https://www.vonallan.com/2021/05/Love-Laughter-Loss-Comics-Collection-by-Von-Allan.html

Oh, and I should add that Frank Plowright over at The Slings and Arrows Graphic Novel Guide did a fantastic review of the graphic novel. It's up at https://theslingsandarrows.com/love-laughter-and-loss-a-comic-collection/

Love, Laughter, and Loss wraparound 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.


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.

Some early WOLF'S HEAD reviews

Some early reviews of my comic series WOLF'S HEAD are slowly but surely making the rounds. I've included a few snippets below. If you've read any of the issues so far, please consider rating (and even reviewing them!) over on Goodreads.

WOLF'S HEAD issue 1: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36809058-wolf-s-head

WOLF'S HEAD issue 2: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41562440-wolf-s-head

WOLF'S HEAD issue 3: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43396709-wolf-s-head

Review Snippets

The Midwest Book Review: "This new and original, full color, deftly scripted, impressively illustrated comic book series is a fully engaging, page-turner of a read and would prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to personal reading lists and community library collections."

The Comics Beat:  Philippe Leblanc from The Comics Beat did an in-depth review of the first two issues. It's great, so please go have a look!

Various Goodreads Reviews

Issue 1: "I loved reading this book and recommend you try it out. 1) Really strong female characters. 2) The plot is not just compelling, but highly relevant to what's happening in our world today."

Issue 2: "I bought this issue because I'm a big fan of Von Allan--particularly "the road to god knows"--and I'm glad I did. It was an intriguing and engaging read, with likable (yet prickly and real-feeling) protagonists, big surprises, and some super sketchy super villains."

Issue 3: "After reading the first two issues, I was deeply into the plot and characters--intrigued and invested. In this issue, the story line accelerates and explodes and I reached a new warp speed of page-turning. Can't wait for the next issue!"

Trailer for I AM STILL YOUR CHILD documentary

I've been fortunate enough to be involved in a documentary project focusing on the children of parents with mental illness (COPMI). It's a pretty amazing project and I've been thrilled to be involved. Megan Durnford, the writer and director, Katarina Soukup, the producer from Catbird Productions, St├ęphanie Couillard, Alex Margineanu (cinematographer), St├ęphane Barsalou (sound recorder), and the rest of the crew have brought an empathy to the film that is quite remarkable. There are still a lot of societal taboos regarding mental illness and I think this film might help challenge that.

So why did they get  in touch with me? Well, my mom was diagnosed schizophrenic when I was quite young. I actually wrote and drew a graphic novel titled the road to god knows... that is an account (albeit fictionalized) of my experiences with my mom's mental illness and my growing awareness that she was not "okay." I didn't go the full autobiographical route for a number of reasons, but one of the main one's is that my mom died before I even started the comic and I wanted some emotional distance from the work and my own life.

The documentary uses quite a bit of my art through it, but I should note that I actually re-drew a number of pages specifically for the film (I'm going to do a follow-up post specifically on this subject in the near future).

The film will be airing on CBC Montreal through the documentary series Absolutely Quebec on Saturday, September 16th. It will have a wider release shortly after that. I'll update the website as I know more.

In the meantime, the trailer linked above really captures the tone of it very well.  I think it's beautiful. For more on the film, keep an eye on the Facebook page and the official website.

Wolf's Head by Von Allan

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

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I Am Still Your Child Trailer

Documentary Film Excerpt