Writer Eric Hobbs made his bones last year with The Broadcast, a graphic novel about neighbors gripped by the panic caused by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast. This week sees the release of a new graphic novel, Awakenings, penciled by Gabe Pena. Awakenings is a supernatural cop story set in a future version of New York City and featuring a cop who is accused of murdering his own son. Hobbs self-published Awakenings as a black-and-white comic before it was picked up by Arcana, so I asked him to tell me a bit about his experience with self-publishing and the evolution of the story.
Brigid: The Broadcast was my introduction to your work, but I know you actually wrote Awakenings first, and actually self-published it with black-and-white art. Can you tell me the story of how that happened and how it worked?
Eric: Awakenings has been a long, long time coming. I think I wrote Awakenings about a year before Broadcast so it's kind of crazy to see it hitting stands a year after Broadcast was released.
Basically, Awakenings came into existence because a friend introduced me to comics and I quickly decided I wanted to get involved as a creator. Most people are shocked to hear this, but I started writing Awakenings about a month after picking up my first comic. I fell in love with the medium that quickly and wanted to do something right away.
Anyway my friend and I were going to do it together but that fell through so I started looking online for an artist to bring on board. I eventually found an incredibly talented penciller in Gabe Pena, and the thing just kind of took off from there. I brought on an inker and a letterer and just slowly started to teach myself the business of comics publishing.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the project wasn't nearly enough to make up for the fact that I didn't have a clue what I was doing as a publisher. Even though we had a book that was getting great reviews and moving a good number of units each month—I was barely making enough to pay the print bill let alone everyone I had promised page rates to. We put out four great issues, but I put myself in so much debt I had to shut down production. I had to move back in with my parents. It was ... it was kind of a crazy time.
Brigid: What brought it to Arcana's attention?
Eric: So at that point I was sitting on a story that was half finished. I couldn't stand it. Everyone who read the book was really responding to the work, but I just didn't have the means to keep putting it out. I put it on the back burner for a while to make sure everyone involved was getting what was owed to them, but I knew I was going to finish it eventually. Once my financial situation got a little stronger, I got everybody together again and we started publishing it on the web. It slowly developed this small yet really loyal following. Those guys would come by the site everyday and post positive comments about the series that really helped keep me motivated to see it through to the end. Anyway, Sean O'Reilly became a fan of the comic online and approached me about bringing it to Arcana and it just went from there.
Brigid: What inspired Awakenings, and what do you feel sets is apart from other supernatural-cop stories?
Eric: That's a good question because there are a lot of supernatural stories floating around right now. I guess, for me, it always comes down to the characters.
When I wrote The Broadcast I wanted there to be a compelling story there even if you stripped all the War of the Worlds stuff away. It's the same with Awakenings. If you take the horror elements away from this story, there's still something there. It's about a guy who's been accused of killing his own son and how he deals with that accusation. It's a little deeper than just your typical cop-on-the-run story.
Brigid: The book is about a detective who is suspected of killing his own child. How did you deal with writing about such an emotional subject?
Eric: It's not easy! But that's the only stuff worth writing about, right? And once you figure out what the heart of your story is, it gets a lot easier. It does kind of write itself. While Awakenings is about a guy on the run who's looking to clear his name, it's really just about a guy who wants to earn his wife's trust. Even as the whole city is tracking him down, this guy just wants to make sure his wife doesn't believe what people are saying. With his son gone, he doesn't care about anything else. He knows things aren't going to end well for him, but he wants them to end knowing his wife still believes in him. It's a very dark story, but there's something kind of sweet about that.
Brigid: How has the book changed between the original version and what readers will see this week?
Eric: The only major change is that the book is now in color. New readers will get a chance to read the story in its entirety while old fans who didn't catch up online will finally get a chance to see how this thing ends. Hopefully they'll find it was worth the wait.