The Grave Doug Freshley is a comic with a lot of promise. It’s the story of a former farmhand and tutor who rises from the grave to seek revenge on the gang of outlaws that killed him and the family he worked for. The comic was first solicited in 2008, and some advance copies must have gone out, because it received a positive review from Johanna Draper Carlson at Comics Worth Reading. ComicMix interviewed writer Josh Hechinger a few months later. Hechinger (who was only 20 at the time) described the story as “[Sergio] Leone meets Looney Toons.”
And then … crickets. As Hechinger explains on his blog, pre-orders were too low to justify the print run, so the comic was solicited then canceled. I gather from this post that this happened not one, but three times, which must be incredibly frustrating, and Hechinger says that this last time, when the book was solicited for an October 2010 release, he didn’t do much publicity for it because he didn’t want to talk up a book and then have it not come out — again.
This is one of those situations where digital can make all the difference, though: Yesterday, iFanboy posted the news that the comic is available on Graphic.ly and showed off the first few pages with a demo of Graphic.ly’s web app. (iFanboy is owned by Graphic.ly.)
Curious about the comic, I opened up Graphic.ly on my iPad to check it out, but Doug Freshley was nowhere to be found — not in the “Featured” menu, not filed under the publisher, Archaia. So I clicked the link at iFanboy to take me to the web app. The link brought me straight to the Doug Freshley catalog page, but when I logged in, that page disappeared and I was taken to a “featured comics” page that … didn’t include Doug Freshley. I did manage to track it down — it was listed under Archaia and in the Free Comics area — but only when I remembered to look under the letter “T,” because Graphic.ly alphabetizes all titles starting with “The” with the rest of the Ts.
This puts the comic (which is quite good, by the way) at an unfortunate disadvantage. There is no way to search for a comic across apps on the iPad, so the web is still the best way for creators and publishers to promote their digital comics. That means the web and the apps have to play nice together. That did not happen here. Furthermore, in this day and age, no app should be alphabetizing comics that begin with “The” under the letter T. People buy stuff on impulse, and the more hurdles you put between them and the thing you’re trying to sell, the more likely it is that the impulse will fade before they part with their money.
All that aside, The Grave Doug Freshley is a nice comic, well written and well drawn (the art is by mpMann), and hopefully the digital release will help it find its audience.