In September 2012, Larime Taylor launched a Kickstarter for a comic book series that was, at the time, titled "Dark Zoey" -- a horror-comedy about a young woman named Zoey struggling with the ever-present temptation to kill.
Kickstarter-funded comics are a very, very common thing, but Taylor's stood out due to the extraordinary circumstances of the book's creation. Taylor was born with a condition called arthrogryposis, which has left him unable to properly use his arms or legs. Taylor writes, draws and letters his comics solely with his mouth, using a Wacom Cintiq tablet.
The Kickstarter gained notice among fans and industry professionals, and exceeded its $1,500 goal by nearly $8,000. The series was later picked up by Top Cow Productions, where it debuted under the Minotaur Press imprint last November under the new title "A Voice in the Dark." It was a major step up for Taylor, but his struggle has continued -- earlier this week, he posted on Tumblr that "the book is on life support," and "sales continue to drop" despite his best promotional efforts.
Following a seven-issue run, "A Voice in the Dark" gets a new #1 from Top Cow starting this September, in a five-issue miniseries subtitled "Get Your Gun." That will be the new model going forward for the book -- a series of miniseries -- and Taylor talked in-depth with CBR News about the highs and lows of his past year crafting the series.
CBR News: Larime, it's been about a year now that "A Voice in the Dark" has been at Top Cow. From your perspective, how did that change things for you? Obviously there are inherent advantages to being at a publisher, you've done a lot of conventions, and gotten more recognition for your work
Larime Taylor: It's definitely been a step up in that it's great to have a publisher now, and I can be a part of the Image and Top Cow brand. It's really helped to get the book out there, and get some exposure, and actually have a career now -- that's always a good thing.
It's also been a lot of hard work, and frustrating at times. There's really a lot of ongoing issues in the industry with the portrayal of female characters in comics, and to be doing a book that is very female-driven, and trying to handle it in a more realistic and respectful and tasteful approach -- and kind of getting crickets from the people who are often the most vocal about the treatment of women in comics is frustrating at times. But it is what it is.
Not just female characters, but you've also got minority leads in the book.
The main character is a character of color. The supporting cast has a number of characters of color. [The main character's] uncle is a black gay detective -- there are lots of different minorities, and representations of groups that you don't see in comics. Lots of demographics that you wouldn't normally see in a comic book. And it's not just there for diversity's sake -- they all exist as real people within the story world, and are who they are for reasons. It's not like I just went down a checklist -- "OK, I have a gay one, I have a black one, I have an Asian one." It was very organic in how it came about. But because it's not a big two book, it's not a superhero book, it's not really on the radar for a lot of people.
That's something you just kind of get used to after a while -- really a lot of the discussion that goes on about representation of women and cultures in comics is aimed more at the big mega companies, main pop culture stuff. Because that's what most people are seeing. And I agree wholeheartedly there needs to be better representation there, but it does get frustration sometimes -- that there is better representation and better portrayals in popular culture if you look outside the two big, mainstream companies. There is a lot out there. There is a lot of diversity, and there are a lot of other creators who are doing great things, as well -- and that often doesn't get talked about.
You have been getting some good notice and good attention in the past year -- TV news pieces, and some pretty big name professionals have endorsed your work, and done covers, like Ben Templesmith with the new #1.
There's been a lot of great things, and by and large, it's been a huge lift and improvement in my life, and the comic and my career and everything. I'm very grateful to everyone that's been supportive of it. Terry Moore did the introduction for the trade -- that was really, really humbling for me. He's one of my indie heroes. To be able to get something like that in my book was just a major reality check for me. [Laughs] "Did he really just write that?"
Do you think, especially with the mainstream media attention -- people are interested in your process, and your condition, and how you're making everything happen with both writing and art, that sometimes the actual content of the comic gets overlooked? That would have to be frustrating as well.
Well, sometimes. Anytime you're getting somebody to look at the comic for whatever the reason -- because of how I do it, or what's in it -- it's a good thing. It all helps the book. I have a lot of retailers that hand-sell the first issue or two to people, and they'll tell me that once they get people to read it and to actually take a look at it and get into it, they keep coming back. I've had some retailers say that they tell them, if you don't like it, bring it back to me and I'll give it to somebody else, and nobody has yet.
Once the initial obstacle is overcome of it being black-and-white, not very commercial-looking kind of a book -- once that barrier gets overcome, it actually does have a pretty good following.
Let's talk about the new volume starting in September, "Get Your Gun" -- what's new this time around? What do people need to know about where things pick up with the new #1?
It's going to be in color going forward. Part of the reason that we're starting with a new numbering is that it's going to be in color -- it's also kind of an easier jumping-on point if people see a new #1 than if they see issue #8. Psychologically, it's just easier for people to pick it up and get into it. The first issue of is being written with new readers in mind. I'm continuing where issue #7 left off, but at the same time I'm also doing it in a way that new readers can be introduced to what's going on, and catch up without having to necessarily go back and buy the first issues or the first trade -- although I obviously encourage them to.
They'll be able to pick it up and read the little bit on the inside cover that explains the story so far, and then jump into the book, and have an idea, within a few pages, of what's going on. I start with another flash-forward, about a four month jump from where issue #7 stops -- at a very high-tension, impact climax moment -- and then I rewind for the next few issues to tell how I got there, picking up from where issue #7 actually did stop, and then catching back up to the present. In catching back up, it allows me to bring new readers in along for the ride. The story's largely told through Zoey's diary entries, so I was able to, after that jump forward, put you into her mindset, through her diary entries, of what she's going through and what just happened and what her normal life is supposed to be like, etc., so new readers can acclimate very quickly -- but without it being, "and then I do this, and then I have that." It's more organic. It really frees me up to bring in new people, and to make it more accessible -- but also to keep it interesting for the people who are coming back.
So hopefully it's a good jumping-on point for people, it's a good place for people to get in on the story if they haven't yet -- and hopefully go back and check out the previous stuff, but it's not necessary. But I am writing with that in mind -- the easier it is for a new audience to jump in, the more likely they're going to.
Is that the plan going forward -- a series of miniseries?
Yeah. Ongoing monthlies are harder to do, especially as an indie. Even "Saga" doesn't come out every month -- they take months off in between arcs to reload. I'm a huge fan of "Locke & Key," so we're kind of going in their model -- each new arc has a subtitle. It's its own little story within a story, but it all ties in and relates to the bigger picture as a whole, and that's kind of what I'm trying to do -- break the story up more into slightly quicker-paced, more intensely packed arcs of about five issues that tell a beginning, middle and an end, and moves the story forward on a bigger scale, but has a more immediate impact.
There was a bit of decompression in the first one that I thought was necessary in setting things up and really getting to know the character and such, but long-term, that isn't necessarily that sustainable. You have to keep the book moving to really keep interest. I'm trying to have slightly more bite-sized beginning, middle and end stories that will serve to keep the reader hooked, and move things forward. If I have to stop for a while because sales aren't there and I need to go do some other books and I come back to this eventually, then it's not like I'm just leaving it completely hanging. There would be an ending to the last arc that at least wrapped up that story, even if maybe the grand picture isn't completely cleared up yet -- at least you're not left with nothing resolved.
It's been nearly two years since we first talked -- at that point, you basically first started drawing the book because you kind of had to. It wasn't your original plan. In that time, how do you assess your progress as both a writer and an artist?
My art has gotten quite a bit better. I'm a lot more confident in my art. I'm still not going to be drawing for Marvel or DC anytime soon, and I accept that -- that's just not who I am as an artist, it's not the style I do. But it serves the story that I'm doing, and it fits the story I want to tell. I'm getting better at digitally telling the story rather than having to rely quite so much on the dialogue, and he diary entries. I'm able to show more than tell, which is helping a lot. I was really pleased with issue #7 in that for the first time, I think there was four, maybe even five pages that had little to no text at all -- where before the idea of a page that didn't have any text would have scared me. Now I'm feeling my art is solid enough to actually pull that off, and I'm having a much easier time telling the story digitally. I could not have done some of the things I did in issue #7 in issue #3 -- I needed to be at issue #7 to pull some of that off.
It's been encouraging for me, that I've been able to have the visuals start to catch up to my writing, because I've always considered myself a writer, first and foremost.
We've discussed in the past how incredibly fast you are with your method -- is that still the case? Still producing at the same type of rate?
My production rate's still about the same. As far as just line art, drawing a page, I can draw anywhere between two to five pages in a day, so I can get the book done pretty quickly in that respect. I am finding myself putting in more detailing, doing more depth, more background, etc., and it's not slowing me down that much -- I'm just getting faster doing it, and processing the detail.
"A Voice in the Dark: Get Your Gun" #1 is scheduled for release from Top Cow Productions in September.