Many people have asked when the next issue, mini-series or graphic novel in the Metro Med series is coming out. The short answer: 2007. Hopefully. There have been delays due to home life situations, and I think I'll leave it at that, but I currently have a script roughed-out and partly completed. However, the Metro Med book is currently seeking a new artist or art team.
Artist Phil Meadows has been my compadre ever since I made the jump from running a comic book magazine to writing sequential comics. It was with his help that I took this superhero hospital idea and made it a reality, winning the first "Small Press Idol" competition and then taking the book to Shooting Star Comics. All along, Phil has warned me that I would eventually need to replace him, as doing comics was just his hobby. This past year, Phil's "real" job as an architectural renderer has been busier than ever, plus he's putting more emphasis on quality time with his family. So we've decided to part on the most amicable of terms, and I wish him the very best.
This puts me in a frightening position. Phil did the art, the colors and the lettering, so now I have to find a new artist, or artists, or even a whole team. Since this new person (or persons...oh, heck, assume from here on out that the possible plural is implied) (say that three times fast!) ... ahem, since this new person will have to be tested out before we go into a whole limited or ongoing series, we'll have to do a one-shot. That means I'll need to come up with a new self-contained story, and start working with someone who hasn't been a friend for years and years.
Like I say, frightening. But I think Metro Med is worth it.
Metro Med is the first project I've done where someone saw the one page of preview art on a little stand at a convention and asked, "Can I buy this?" If you've ever worked at a convention as an indy creator, you know that most of your time is spent hoping a disinterested passerby will meet your gaze so that you can try to get them to look at your book. (I've spent too many cons doing that.) To have someone anxious to buy a book that is not out is no small thing. My local comic shop told me that someone I've never met recently asked to put Metro Med on their pull list because they didn't want to miss the next issue. I get numerous e-mails from people wanting to read it. Wanting to pay for it now, if only I had more issues available. I'm not saying that it's going to be the next "The Tick" just on these few bits of anecdotal evidence. Only that it is encouraging, and it tells me that I'm on to something. I want to at least try to get this project out there looking its best... maybe with a sexy nurse booth babe luring the fans over at San Diego... before I give up on this dream.
Maybe it'll be a hit comic book. Maybe it'll make the cover of Wizard. Maybe we'll even hit the comic book creator American dream of action figures and a motion picture option that never goes anywhere! Eh, I'd settle for a decent trade paperback doing modestly well on Amazon and on comic book shop shelves everywhere. Wouldn't you?
A little about the book, just in case you got to this page without browsing the site and haven't heard of it before:
Metro Med is, essentially, "E/R" mixed with "Astro City", "Chicago Hope" with a dash of "PS 238". It's about a hospital in what is called the "Tri-Metro", a megalopolis which has grown from three East Coast cities. Metro Med is a new hospital situated at the hub of these three cities. If you're a DC Comics reader, I'd say it would be comparable to having Metropolis and Gotham City across the river from each other, with Fawcett City to one side. We never say what state it is in, though it's somewhere near the Mason-Dixon line. The Tri-Metro is closer in feel to Philadelphia or Baltimore than to New York City.
Here's the key: The hospital is NOT superheroes-only. Superhero medical emergencies and non-emergency care isn't common enough to sustain a hospital facility and pay for the staff and equipment it would need. However, treating superheroes at just any hospital poses serious risks to bystanders, to the unprepared staff, and to the well-being and security of the masked individual. There has to be a hospital with the proper equipment, specialists and security procedures to treat a superhero (or villain), and it has to treat normal patients the rest of the time. The hospital has budget problems, staff shortages and nurses putting in too many hours, just like every other hospital. They have a force field generator, as well as a bean counter who demands that it be off most of the time. The inside of the hospital does not look like the Enterprise-D, there are no robotic lab technicians or anti-gravity gurneys (okay, there are a couple that can be pulled out of storage when needed), and only one of their ambulances can fly. I know that sounds exciting, but it's only a converted military craft and after a few trips you realize it's another form of emergency transport, that's all.
Unlike medical drama TV, which mines intensity out of the surgical scenes, in a comic book it's different. Most of the interesting stuff is seeing the action that brings about the emergency, dealing with the specific oddities of the case and interacting with the superhero/villain characters, plus watching the staff go about their daily lives. The book doesn't take place entirely in the hospital. I'll come back to this below.
Metro Med is going to be different from the normal superhero book, so the requirements of the artist are different than just the ability to draw bulging muscles and action scenes. Phil Meadows brought an architectural exactness (actually building the sets in 3-D) and technical expertise to the first Metro Med stories. I am not expecting the new artist to be Phil. Phil had his strengths and his weaknesses, both of which I wrote to when doing the script. I know the next person will have different strengths and weaknesses (we all have them) and I am prepared to change the next script accordingly. Here are the basic requirements of the art job for Metro Med:
My publishers, Shooting Star Comics, disbanded around the same time that Phil left, so we're looking for a new publisher as well. Thus, it's difficult for me to give the business terms of the arrangement; I don't know if it'll be a creator-owned book through a company like Image or if in the end I'll split it with a publisher who will then pay a wage. So let's just talk about this initial one-shot which we'll need so that I can gauge your work and we can shop it around.
First things first: Metro Med is my trademark, my product. All the characters are mine. However, you will be the co-creator of any characters you design, and that will be true even if you leave. If you design a character, you're marked down as the artist who co-created it. If a decade from now, one of these characters becomes an action figure that I see profits from, you get an equal cut of that. However, this does not mean you have rights to the character that you can yank. It's like how Dan Jurgens gets money from a Booster Gold action figure or if the character's series became a trade, but he doesn't have the right to remove "his" character from the DC Universe.
Also along those lines, I should warn you to protect any ideas of your own. If I'm brainstorming supervillains and superheroes for a story, you're welcome to help brainstorm. But don't suggest some character that you dreamed up back in high school and have dreamed of giving him his own comic. Any characters we come up with are part of the Metro Med universe.
Obviously, a lawyer will sort all these things out very specifically and in official jargon when the time comes, but I just wanted to tell you in plain English what the deal is right up front.
I think the most often-cursed phrase amongst comic creators is "back end money" (i.e. getting paid when the book makes a profit). Because no one ever sees that. Every creator I know has gotten gypped into working for free with promises of back end money. So I'm not promising that. I haven't made a "profit" off any of my books yet, because I spend more attending cons to sell them than I take in. And Metro Med #0 was essentially an ashcan.
I think Metro Med has a chance to go somewhere, even in this comic market. It's a book that people get interested in when they hear about it, and I've gotten so much positive feedback. I'm not going to B.S. you about hitching your wagon to this rising star or any such hype. I have a friend who was asked to be the artist on an 80+ page graphic novel...and when he suggested that they talk about pay, the writer was offended...as if doing all the art on his masterpiece idea was reward enough!
Well, I think it's ridiculous to expect an artist to do all that work and not ask for pay.
That said, if you offer to do it for free, I accept. I'm not stupid.
If, for the initial story, you want a page rate, we can negotiate. I should warn you, I can't pay a lot. I mean, we're not talking about you quitting your day job. I have a day job and I'll be squeezing the writing in my spare time, and I expect you'll do the same. I'm not getting paid for this, so my pay for you is coming out of my savings account. I predict the first story will take several months to finish. The page rate would be half per page and the rest delivered upon completion of the story, so that you don't turn in 20 pages and then leave.
I guess this is all very vague. Let's just say it's negotiable. I know there are a lot of artists out there who would have been grateful if they'd seen $50 at the end of their past projects. There are probably people who would do it for free in hopes that this gives them their big chance. I'm also aware that a quality artist is not someone that should be abused and expected to work for nothing, so I offer respect and if necessary whatever cash I can. Just...understand that I've got a mortgage too.
I will be reviewing portfolios at the conventions which I attend this year, which so far are MicroCon in St. Paul, MN and Wizard World Chicago. I may also attend Iowa I-CON. However, it would be best not to wait if you're interested. You may e-mail me digital attachments or point me to your web site. If you prefer to send *copies* of your work, e-mail me for my snail mail address.