151. POSTING DICK HAMMER: THE DAILIES as a web comic online

diary entry: March 19th, 2007
to cover December 17, 2006 through March 19, 2007

I had begun drawing the pages for DICK HAMMER: THE DAILIES, on November 30 2006, and was able to get eleven pages completed by January 17, 2007 (one page being the “cover image”). One entry was a “double page spread” which I entered as a two-date entry when I posted them online (listed as pages 4-5). I then broke one of the nine pages into two, making it two entries (pages one and two). And finally, I decided one panel should be zoomed into, to make a separate, second entry (panels 12-13). So those eleven pages became fourteen days worth of entries.

I had no web experience, so I told my web helper that I wanted him to set up for me a page where I could just post each new image myself, as I finished them. I didn’t want to have a “click here for next page.” I liked the idea of just scrolling down, down, down, as the story continues.

That said, I still wanted the images lain out so that you could basically look at (and hopefully enjoy, sit back and appreciate) one entry at a time, and then scroll down to the next one when you were done taking in the previous one. The idea with this project was to give each day’s entry a feel that it is its own self-contained little story, with a beginning and end. But that it adds to and builds up the overall story.

It took my web helper a few months to establish that set-up for me, so by the time I had begun posting the images, I was theoretically a couple months ahead of schedule. I planned to post one image every week. I liked that I had made this lead time for myself, because it’s always safer to give yourself a cushion. The other thing though, is that I planned to bite into my cushion a little, and post a number of images all at once, to help get the story started in advance. The first images are just cityscapes, so I thought I should post a lot of these at once, rather than make readers wait an entire week before showing them the next cityscape with absolutely no advancement of story. I “back-posted” the dates, to give readers the feeling some poor suckers might have had to have checked in every week to see basically nothing. It was a gag.

I wrote a long text intro (as I am prone to do with any of my projects), and then posted the first six entries, and voila! The web comic had begun!

I formally announced the release of my web comic by sending out a mailer to the mailing list I’ve slowly been collecting at conventions. This list also includes a lot of stores, and anyone who has been kind enough to take time to review my work. Then I went to a couple message boards to announce the web comic, and I also posted a bulletin at myspace. Lastly, I sent a personal email to Scott McCloud, who I consider the guru of web comics.

After that, all that was left was to check my emails every few hours to see if anyone had written me to say how much they enjoy it. I’m still waiting on that last part, and beginning to check a little less frequently (now three months into posts).

The pacing of the comic is pretty slow, so I’m thinking after the story has actually run for a little while (What I mean here is not that a bunch of posts are up, but that posts are up that actually convey a bit of the story), I’ll need to send some new hype out.

I was afraid some people might look at it, and then go, “Maybe I’ll check back in a month. And one of my friends confided that this is how he felt about it. Hopefully, it will gain interest as the story actually proceeds.

I just finished posting the introduction sequence, and added a new text sequence featuring the No-Good, Dirty, Stinking Back-Stabbing Rats. I had this idea from reading reprints of old 1950’s comics. As Al Feldstein told me (and I later read further confirmation from a Stan Lee introduction to a hardcover collection of Kirby’s giant monster comics), comics used to get a significant delivery discount from the post office, so long as they contained two pages of solid text. For this reason, all the old comics had these stupid-ass text-only “features,” that no one ever read. And the publishers knew no one read them, so they didn’t care who wrote them, and probably didn’t even bother to proof-read them.

So I was looking at these text features, and actually reading some of them, and thinking, I’ve got to put a text feature in some of my comics. And I sat on it for a while, and tried to come up with a feature that would be fun as a “text only.”

A few years ago, I had bought some old radio programs of “The Shadow” on Cd, and I enjoyed them enough to buy a number of other radio programs. Recently, I had hopped into my car, and the local college radio station was playing a radio show, and I listened for a minute and realized it was a Dashiell Hammett “Sam Spade” adventure, and it got me all excited, to the point I wished I didn’t have to get out of my car.

And then the next time I happened upon an old text piece in a comic, it hit me. I should do a film noir radio show as a text piece, to give a little break between chapters, in my Dick Hammer web comic. The whole point of radio shows is that you’re hearing all this stuff. You hear footprints, and a knock on a door, and a door open, and you can’t see any of it. So I thought, What if I do a a radio show, which is dependent on sound, but you can’t actually hear any of it, you have to read it instead? Portraying sound just through text. Will readers be able to “hear” the show? Find out . . . only in Dick Hammer: The Dailies!

I started thinking of Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Michael Madsen’s torture and “ear” scene.” I wanted to try and invoke violent, disturbing imagery like that, just as an experiment. To see if I could make “listeners” (readers) squirm, without “seeing” or “hearing” anything.

The final element to the Dick Hammer web comic was deciding I wanted to title every chapter with a real pulp fiction title. I realized I didn’t care if the title had anything to do with the chapter, or even with the story. I just wanted some melodramatic titles.

I was reading James Bond novels and realizing Ian Fleming titled all his chapters, and I was thinking, I never title any chapters. I never even think to title chapters. That might be fun.

Also I had just finished reading an anthology of Cornell Woolrich short stories, and all the titles were so vibrant and corny and fun. So one day, I sat down in my living room with a pen and piece of paper, and jotting any stupid-ass phrase that came to mind, jotted down I’m guessing sixty or so ideas that I’ll be able to pick from, each time a new chapter comes up.

Even with all my advance work to keep on my “once a week” deadline, I’ve managed to get behind schedule. I didn’t even realize I was behind, but last week, as I posted the latest contribution, I realized my previous contribution was ten days earlier. That’s no good. And what’s especially no good is that I’m down to my last entry that I have finished in advance, and it needs to be posted this week. That means this week, I will have officially dried out my two month lead-time, and will have to make sure to publish one post a week. Wish me luck, fans.

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