'Fade From Blue,' the little indie that could

[Fade From Blue] In Fade From Blue #1 and #2, hotshot relationship writer Christa gets a little unwelcome news from an ex-boyfriend, then suffers even more humiliation when she thinks she's being hit on at an STD clinic.

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For writer Myatt Murphy and artist Scott Dalrymple, the past couple of months have been busy ones. The two are responsible for the bi-monthly "Fade From Blue" from Second 2 Some Studios. With the third issue about to come out, this little independent publication is quickly gaining steam with positive reviews and growing interest. Diamond Comics has made "Fade From Blue" their "Under The Reading Lamp" pick for September and issues #1 and #3 were both "Certified Cool," both important distinctions for any small press book looking to get noticed. That led to the first printing of issue #1 selling out with a second printing offered in the September Previews. The book also received high praise from Gina Villa, the Vice-President of CrossGen Comics, who wrote in her July editor's column that runs through every CrossGen book that "Fade From Blue" was a must-buy book. So, now that you know there's some good buzz out there for the book, what's it about?

"'Fade From Blue' is the comic written like a TV show so that both men and women can get into the series just as they would an episode of 'Law and Order,'" series creator and writer Myatt Murphy told CBR News. "It's the story about four half-sisters (Marit, Iya, Christa and Elisa) that are on the lam. The back story is that nine years ago, life was peaceful for all four girls, each living separate lives in separate towns. Their father, a polygamist involved in organized crime, had managed to keep four wives in four different states, keeping all four families oblivious to each other's existence. That is, until something terrible happens.

"When Marit finds her Mom's dead body one morning, her life changed forever. Left behind was the killer's cellphone and with it, a message from a man named Highball ordering the deaths of her mother and three other women. She sets out to find the killer, only to find each half-sister, orphaned in the same tragic way as herself. She takes all three sisters and the four forge a family out of necessity, hiding out until their father can find and save them. But Daddy never comes home…and the four settle into a decade of lies, constant moving and the reality that they will never know the truth about what happened in the past.

"In issue #1, Marit (now a police sergeant) answers a hitman's phone while on duty…and hears the voice of Highball on the other end. The comfortable life they have begun to get used to is about to break apart again…and that's 'Fade From Blue' in a nutshell (OK, a big nutshell!)"

While when you first read through that description you might think, "Wow, that doesn't happen." But all a reader needs to do is watch an episode of Dateline NBC or some other prime time "news" program and you'll find that the concept isn't too far from reality, as Murphy can speak to from experience. But that's not the only issue you'll find explored in "Fade From Blue."

"The main storyline about their father is the serious and slightly unbelievable plot line (I say slightly because, believe it or not, one of my friend's was in love with a man accused of murdering his ex-wife, so truth is certainly sometimes stranger than fiction). After that, there are many other tangible sub-plots including abusive relationships, body dysmorphia, dishonesty, alcoholism, Herpes, unrequited love and yeah, the occasional murder once in a while… but none of these topics are handled in some lame, after school special treatment whatsoever. They are just woven-in problems that are a part of these girl's lives to give the reader an idea why each sister acts the way she does.

"I will admit, there's even one theme that's secretly being covered throughout the series that won't rear its' head for quite some time (It's tied into the truth about what happened in the past, so I can't reveal it just yet.) I'm kind of hoping someone will be clever enough to discover it on their own.

"The personalities of the characters come from people I've met, known or heard about, really. Many of my friends ask if a certain character's quirks or problems are based on them, but the answer is usually no if they have to ask. That's because anyone I modeled the characters after were asked permission before I broke ground on the book. I didn't want them to pick up the book down the road and feel exposed unless they felt it was an honor to see themselves sewn into a story. Still, I love when someone I know assumes it's them that Christa or Iya is partially based on. I think that shows how easy it is for many people to find themselves in the characters and that's the ultimate compliment."

Some might find a guy writing a book about four women, all with unique and very strong personalities, a bit presumptuous, but Murphy pulls on the experience of women he's known throughout his life to mold the personalities of each character in his book.

"I rely on everything I know and for what I don't know (and there's plenty of that), I always turn to my female friends, which I have plenty of," said Murphy. "See, I went to a predominantly all-girls college where I was sometimes the only guy in a class of 30 women. Guys, it sounds like paradise, but trust me… it was a whole other world that opened my eyes to certain truths about women that many guys never get the chance to see. During that time, I also lived with three women at once and have had female roommates for another 7 years on top of that, so I have plenty of material to draw from.

"I've been writing for women's magazines like Cosmo, Self and Glamour for years now, so that keeps me in tune to certain expressions and issues. But, I also have several women that read it while I'm in the production phase to weed out any male mistakes I may make. I typically take the same approach in writing 'Fade' as I do for women's magazines. I'm not used to writing anything without researching it first, so it's a lot of calls and e-mails to old college friends I know to make sure I'm not ever writing up the wrong tree."

Response from female readers of "Fade From Blue" has been completely positive, thus far.

"So far, it's been nothing but favorable in ways you couldn't imagine. When Scott and I gave out copies of #1 at Wizard World East, we had dozens of women (who were just there to support their husbands/boyfriends) that came back to the booth just to tell us 'Fade From Blue' had gotten them into comic books. It's been an amazing tool for readers to get other people into comic books because it's really a gender-neutral book written more like a TV show… so anyone can read it. I think the funniest thing is watching faces drop when convention goers ask to meet me and realize I'm not a girl. They apologize almost immediately, but hey, I always take it as a compliment.

"I'm also very fortunate that Scott's art is so facially expressive and realistic when it comes to body types. I think that really plays as much into why 'Fade' is so easy for anyone to get into."

When Myatt set-out to publish "Fade From Blue" he realized one of the biggest challenges self-published series have is keeping to a rigid publishing schedule. Numerous self-published series have seen a first issue published, then a second one is released four or five months later with a third one coming a year after that! So Murphy and artist Scott Dalrymple completed seven full issues before they even solicited Diamond Comics Distributors. Having finished seven issues of "Fade From Blue" in just six months proved to the two of them that this bi-monthly schedule would be a cake-walk.

"The first ten issues are one, continuous story arc (although they can still be read separately) that will create ripples in all four sister's lives that will move them in different places than where they are now," said Murphy. "After that, #11 will dabble a bit into their futures, with an immediate return to the present. I want to keep the stories written like TV shows after that, so they stand alone yet still propel the story forward. But the 10-issue storyline that starts the series, I feel, is necessary to give you a real clear sense of what these girls have evolved into in the present. That way, readers will be more sensitive to the tragedies and celebrations of their past and of their future."

One of the more surprising aspects of this series, aside from the intrigue found in the pages of "Fade From Blue," is that each issue only costs $1.50, well below the average $2.95 cover price found on most comics.

"When we set out to do 'Fade,' we wanted to create a series that would be different than what was already out there. Besides creating a book that was female-freiendly yet gender-neutral, we wanted to lower the price. The current price of 'Fade' is only $1.50 and #1 premieres at a price tag of just $1. This threw a lot of retailers because when they saw it in Previews at that price they simply assumed it was a very small press book, even though the book is of the exact same quality as your average $2.95 black and white comic. Now, people are finally catching on that it's half-price only because we want it to be. In fact, we've had many reviewers say it's better than 75% of the books out there that are twice the price, so word is traveling fast. Plus, the lower price makes the book really fly at conventions."

Murphy met artist Scott Dalrymple through a friend a couple of years back and he's been Murphy's go to guy ever since.

"Well, I was living in Pennsylvania at the time plowing through my first comic book series called 'Two Over Ten.' 'TOT' was a dark fiction story that's centered around a young Irish girl who secretly and unconsciously keeps the universe in order. The penciller on the book (Chris Rhoads) didn't have time to ink his own work, so I had called the Kubert Art School for a reference and met Jay Davis. Every few weeks, I'd drive to his apt. in NJ to pick up pages, until one day I saw a picture on his wall drawn by Scott, who had attended Kubert's school as well. I was so impressed by his work that I asked for his contact information. As it turned out, Scott lived only a few miles from me in PA. After we met (at some grungy Burger King right after a comic book convention), I wrote a back-up story for 'Two Over Ten' for him to illustrate called 'Far From Saints.' Then, when my penciller couldn't keep doing Two Over Ten for time reasons, I asked Scott to finish the remaining two issues. We've been working together ever since."

Murphy's new to comics, but not new to writing, with credits in major weekly and monthly magazines. And of course there was that (mostly) all-girls college he graduated from.

"I'm probably best described as a guy that really can't make up his mind," said Murphy. "I went to school to be a shrink, landed at an all-girls college for four years (Marywood University) which was a real lesson in respect, got a job as a magazine writer by a bizarre twist of fate, ended up writing regularly for the past eight years for almost every major magazine including Maxim, Men's Health, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan and Glamour… and now, I'm dipping my toe into the comic industry. Who knows? In five years, I'll either be a boat show promoter in Florida or selling Garden Weasels and the Flat Hose door-to-door!"

In the coming months readers can expect to see Murphy and Dalrymple continuing their work on "Fade From Blue" and have plans for an annual that Murphy says will be done in a way "that's never been done before…something that will cross over from comics to bookstores if we do it right. Something that anyone, and I mean anyone, would enjoy on its own and then hopefully be curious to know more about 'Fade From Blue' and comic books in general after that." In addition to his self-published work Murphy's been approached by a couple of editors to pitch on some projects, but that's too early to talk about now.

"Fade From Blue" will see it's first collection after issue #5 comes out, with issues #6 - #10 collected once that arc is completed. Murphy's previous self-published book, "Two Over Ten," will be available as a 176-page trade paperback in November, with an $8 price point. "Far From Saints," the back-up story that ran in "Two Over Ten," will be offered as a one-shot comic, also in November, for the regular cover price of $1.50. You can also find Murphy's work in print at your favorite newsstand.

"In magazines, man, you never can tell. I never know from one week to the next what I'll be asked to work on, but you can pretty much count on me trying to infuse comic pros into everything I can. I managed to get Joe Mad into Men's Health and Maxim, I got Bart Sears into Maxim and in October, Maxim's "Best Of" issue includes an article that Andy Park and I worked on together called 'Get Ready For Super Sex!', a feature riddled with mainstream comic book references and Andy's amazing art. But don't be surprised if you see my name attached to some less-glamorous, embarrassing articles down the road about 'The Power of Onions' or 'Hepatitis C: The silent killer.' Hey, I gotta pay the bills somehow if we're gonna keep 'Fade From Blue' only a buck fifty, right?"

And if Murphy had one final message to send to his readers, what would it be?

"That's easy: Thanks for giving Fade a chance and the best is yet to come."

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