Propped against a wire book holder, a fairly flimsy black-and-white booklet called Velvet Garden, faced the throngs at last spring's GalaxyFest. The booklet sat at Ryan Davis' vendor table, and enough people bought his pitch — and the "rough" of his new comic — to fund a limited run of a full-color glossy version.
In June, at the 2012 Denver Comic Con, he made more than 100 sales, enough to publish the next issue.
Davis is a 30-year-old with a dream: He wants to break into the big time in the comic book industry. He and his partner, Colorado Springs artist Gunther Goltz, have come up with what they hope will be a winning story that will catch the attention of big names.
"There are basically two ways of breaking into the business," says Steven Seagle, the Colorado Springs-bred co-founder of Man of Action Studios (creators of Cartoon Network's Ben 10), supervising producer for Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-man series, and veteran comic book writer for both DC and Marvel Comics. "You can either produce your own comic, or you can know someone in the business.
"If you produce your own comic," he advises, "do it from top to bottom. Find a way to get it out to the world. Self-publish it. This is your calling card."
Velvet Garden is based on a 1980s urban legend about a psychoactive video game machine called Polybius, released by the U.S. government as an experiment in mind control. Davis and Goltz will officially unveil the second issue Saturday, Aug. 25, at Escape Velocity, the comics-and-graphic-novels store where they both work. But they've been selling and giving out samples for several weeks.
With Velvet Garden, they're actually debuting the three-volume, 18-issue series with Volume No. 2. Davis, who wrote the story, and Goltz, the illustrator, decided that it would showcase the story line better than the first volume, a prequel that goes into the game's background.
"In the first issue, the reader learns about Hitler's experiments with mind control, and some of the machines he built, but we didn't want readers to think the series was a World War II story, because it's not," Davis says. "So, we went with the second volume, which takes place in the '80s."
The first (chronologically) of the three-volume set is called Wicked Garden, and the last, which is set in Colorado Springs, is titled Neon Garden. All three will eventually be made into distinct graphic novels, each made up of six serialized comic books.
Though he's been in the business for a decade, Davis has worked with the single focus of breaking into the industry for about a year. That started with co-creating a publishing company called Ruby Carriage, through which he produced several Internet-based comics before this current endeavor.
Having a central location or imprint where people can find all his work makes things easier, but doesn't cover all the bases. Seagle says most comic fans still want something they can hold, and publishers want to see good-quality artwork.
"The quality has got to be great. It has to be the same as, say, your favorite comic, but in an original voice only you can provide ... you also have to basically give the thing away."
Get 'r done
On that topic, they're well supported by Escape Velocity, which allows them to carry the comic in the store. "Where I work ... I can't say enough. They're committed to getting graphic novels and comics out there," Davis says.
Their goal is to have all six issues of Velvet Garden completed and compiled into a graphic novel by the next Denver Comic Con, which runs from May 31 through June 2, 2013. Each issue they release locally brings them closer to that goal, with the profits from the previous issue funding the next.
Even if they don't meet that goal, however, they'll have a body of work to show off and present to prospective publishers.
"The first question most comic book professionals ask, however, is: Have you already done one?" says Seagle.
To that question, Davis and Goltz will be able to reply with a resounding, "Yes. Want some copies?"