I'm going to depart from our usual Wednesday practice of posting a new page from Cloud 109 and just take a slight step back for a moment while I run through some of our current considerations. As many of you will be aware in common with a lot of other comic creatives we are in the process of putting together a graphic novel with nothing behind us but our own talents and a steadfast conviction that we have something worth saying.
Cloud 109 is a book dealing with real teenagers, living in a dystopian and dysfunctional world, who's one source of self expression and enjoyment is the cyber world of Cloud 109. Our intention is to create a real contrast between their day to day reality and the artificial reality of the world of avatars and online gaming. And once we've got the reader semi adjusted to that idea, we really start to play with their assumptions.
We did, at one stage early in this project's development, have a big deal publisher enthusing over what we were in the process of putting together, but in common with a lot of publishers, they have now cut back on their lists and are concentrating on their bigger selling titles and at that point we did decide that we would create our own gig with our own resources.
The truth is that for a lot of first time creators this is the only way forward, even if you have the attention and interest of a senior editor, they still have to sell you to the people with the purse strings and if you're not already tried and tested product with impressive sales figures to back you up, it is extremely unlikely in the current climate that those purse strings are going to be released.
However, at the same time as publishers are being forced to retrench, there are really exciting albeit difficult to quantify, opportunities opening up for creators, you only need to take a little visit over to ITunes to realize that we are on the brink of a communication revolution with the rise of the horribly titled but nevertheless laden with potential "app". which is tailor made for delivering comic strips in an attractive and zingy format, liberated from the shackles of printing, distribution and retail costs and even if books as we know and love them aren't quite dead yet, there are now some very attractive alternatives to help you get the message out and perhaps even generate some much needed funding.
However one of the many attendant risks of going down the self funding path is that you might be in danger of getting all self delusional, in other words (gasp - choke!) the reason that the world of big time publishing isn't beating a path to your door is that actually the magnum opus that you are devising is in reality utter crap. At this point it's worth checking out what the world of big time publishing is putting it's resources behind and asking yourself is my project in the same league and even if it is, is it too similar to what's already out there?
Here for example are what Walker Books and Random House are currently flagging up as their leading Manga titles aimed at pretty much the same market as "Cloud 109" and from the little that I can glean they are indeed very successful. But successful to the point that's it's hardly going to be worth anybody else attempting to squeeze something similar looking into an already very crowded market place, I mean there are only so many "Disneyfied" Manga titles with antiseptically clean looking teens you can produce before it all gets to look really old hat.
So I go back to our kids Cary, Rabby and Gina and I know that they are the real deal, they and many of the other faces that you see are actually real people following this story (which is another twist on reality) and even in their cybernetic incarnations their actions and words are informed by their real lives. In fact in the research that David and I have done putting this story into the hands of young readers in schools as well as friends and family, we have discovered that the thing that engages with children and particularly girls, are the real world Gina, Cary and Rabby. The fact that they don't live in a world of safe and "Disneyfied" stereotypical cliches but do have to walk through underpasses smelling of piss and vomit does give their story just that little bit extra in terms of addressing a world that they as juvenile readers (helicopter parents notwithstanding) are starting to engage with.
And talking of seedy underpasses here's some work in progress for the endpapers of our book as well as the dedicated website that we're in the process of devising.