Swan Song

Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers was, as I may have mentioned on a dozen occasions, a long time coming. But Filson has existed in the Longshot universe almost from the very beginning.

Passingly referenced in a largely speculative way in The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers, he appeared in his own story in 1995, right after the Slave Labor Graphics edition made its debut. It was a story you probably missed, but one that now functions as a coda to Book Three.

I hadn’t initially planned on making a string of short Longshot Comics stories, but during my first appearance at the San Diego Comic Con to promote the book, I was set upon by a representative of Tower Records. He loved Longshot, and wanted me to do an original story for the comics page of their in-store magazine, Pulse! The chance to reach a young, hip audience of pop-music fans was a golden opportunity I promptly rejected. Instead, I suggested doing a story for their other in-store magazine, Classical Pulse! because a chance to reach an old, out-of-touch audience of opera fans was more in keeping with my self-sabotaging business model of zero market penetration.

Nothing mixes better than classical-music enthusiasts and avant-garde experimental minimalist comics, I always say. With that pearl of wisdom in mind, I wrote a story about the final years of Roland’s mysterious grandfather, and his interaction with British composer Edward Elgar in the Powick Asylum, where Elgar worked during his early career. This quiet end for Filson suggested nothing of the rollicking life of daring adventure I had in mind for him, but provided the eventual third volume of Longshot an endpoint to aim at.

Reprinted in Money Talks #4 to help build anticipation for The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers, that was the last anyone ever saw of Filson Gethers’s Music Lesson until now. The entire five-page story has been redone and reformatted, and is now the third Longshot story hosted on my Patreon page.

The Dot at the End of the Tunnel

Release day is here!

The entire Longshot Comics Trilogy is now available on various Amazon sites in paperback and for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Follow the links below to the dot-com pages, or head to your local-country version of Amazon to order your copies today.

Longshot Comics Book One:
The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers

The classic (dare I say legendary) original epic-minimalistic comic book that started it all 25 years ago. When it first came out it shocked—SHOCKED I SAY!—the industry to its core, with many top artists wondering aloud what obsessive-compulsive madman would ever attempt such a thing. An historic comedy saga, set in the waning days of the British Empire, it told an unparalleled story across an insane format of 3840 panels. With dozens of tiny panels per page, and the entire cast depicted as distant dots, no one had ever seen anything like it. Multiple printings, editions, formats and translations followed as the book became a featured subject of lectures, academic texts, and museum exhibits around the world. Now it’s back in print at last!

Book One Paperback edition

Book One Kindle edition

Longshot Comics Book Two:
The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers

“Magnum Opus” was a term bandied about when it came to the original Longshot Comic. Surely even the lunatic responsible for the first book would never attempt anything of the same scope or scale ever again. Well, that opus turned out to be not so magnum after all, because several years later the sequel launched and told another 3840-panel epic tale of the Gethers family. Hailed as worthy successor, with a story that intertwined and expanded on the original, fans who missed out on the smaller print run have been clamouring to get their hands on a copy for years. Now they finally can!

Book Two Paperback edition

Book Three Kindle edition

Longshot Comics Book Three:
The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers

On this quarter-century anniversary, the long-awaited third book has arrived. A prequel to the rest of the saga, this all-new chapter delves into the earlier generations of the Gethers family, and the wild ride between high and low society that ushered them through the triumphs and disasters of the British Empire and its colonies overseas. Adding over a century of material to the epic trilogy, it is the most ambitious chapter yet and, arguably, the funniest. Whether you’re a newcomer to the series, or a long-time reader, this volume makes for an equally perfect start or end point.

Book Three Paperback edition

Book Three Kindle edition

Visit my recently launched Patreon page for even more Longshot Comics material that will be rolling out in the coming days and weeks, including all the original short stories that haven’t been seen in decades.

Rewriting History

Returning to work you did decades ago and preparing it for a new release is a tricky thing. As an artist and perfectionist, you have to resist the urge to tamper with it. You have to accept that there are already plenty of fans who enjoyed it the way it was, love it for what it is, and don’t want their memory of it soiled by your compulsion to “fix” things. No, it’s not how you would have done it today, and that’s okay. It’s a snapshot of who you once were as a creator, and that’s worth preserving.

You can’t go and arbitrarily change things, even with the best of intentions. That would make you no better than George Lucas. And the next thing you know, you’re selling your baby to a corporate conglomerate for a measly four billion dollars—barely enough money to keep you in flannel shirts, and certainly not enough to pay for that life-saving chin-transplant surgery you so desperately need.

Revisiting the first two volumes of Longshot Comics, I saw a thousand little things I might have tweaked today. But I was firm in my conviction to preserve them as milestones in my career, if not outright monuments. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do a bit of a spit-and-polish. But I kept the editing down to a bare minimum. You would have to be some sort of obsessive superfan to spot the changes. The previously mentioned switch to all-British spelling is the most obvious alteration. Some added commas and slightly rearranged text within individual panels should be invisible. There are a number of word substitutions and trims here and there, but nothing important that modifies content or meaning. Mostly it’s about flow. I also discovered one or two typos that survived the ages. They were corrected. Hopefully I haven’t added any new ones.

So rest assured, even with the new format and the recreated artwork, these are the Longshot Comics of old. I did not paste any windows onto Cloud City. I did not remove anybody’s eyebrows during a grand unmasking. And Roland Gethers still shoots first.

Book Three was a different matter. Two-thirds of the script had languished on my hard drive for years. I’d started writing it after The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers came out in 1997, but petered out, suffering from Longshot exhaustion (a feeling I have become reacquainted with over the course of the past year). I’d open the file and add to it periodically, but it felt like it would never get done. No matter how many lines of dialogue or scenes I wrote, it seemed to be perpetually trapped at two-thirds—well short of the 3840-panel mark I was shooting for again.

Over the years, I turned down offers to reprint the first two volumes, determined that I would only do so when Book Three could be published right alongside them. More than once I rattled my tin cup at the Canada Council for the Arts to see if I could get some funding to incentivize myself. I was met with blank stares and dead air. Critical darling or not, my brand of artsy-fartsy was not artistic enough, nor flatulent enough, for their tastes. It took one of my foreign-language publishers to come at me with an advance to finally light a fire under my ass.

Revising an old, incomplete script, was not a crime against preservation to me. But I still retained a certain amount of material I liked, even knowing that’s not quite how I would write it today if presented with nothing more than a blank page and a vague notion. The end result is a hybrid of who I was back then and who I am now. The mix works, the humour is a few shades darker than ever before, and, unless I’m deluding myself, I think it’s the best book in the trilogy. Chronologically, The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers takes place before the other two volumes, and is as fine a place as any to start reading the Longshot Comics Saga.

So when is this long-awaited release?

Hint: all three books are already out on Amazon in Kindle ebook and paperback as of several hours ago. I’ll be announcing it here officially, with links and covers and all that good stuff, just as soon as Amazon finishes merging the digital and physical editions and adding them to my author page. If you’ve read this far, and are an eager beaver, I’m sure you can find them on the site yourself and be among the very first people on earth to buy copies. Or read them for free on Kindle Unlimited.

English as a First and Second Language

To-may-to/to-mah-to. Patomac/Potomac.

As pointed out by my most astute proofreader, yesterday’s short clip from Longshot Comics Book Three featured the spelling “Patomac” rather than “Potomac.” That was because I’d accidentally grabbed the page from an older backup version, rather than the current edition. It’s yet another example of a name or word that has changed over the years. “Patomac” was one of the spellings of the river in Maryland back when the scene in the comic was taking place, but I ultimately opted to go with the modern spelling for the three uses of the name that occur in the book. It’s less historically accurate, but it’s also less likely to trip up contemporary readers.

If only that were the only alternate-spelling decision I had to make.

One of the most irritating debates I have to have with myself as a publisher, is whose English I should go with. Spellings vary from continent to continent, and there are innumerable differences between British English and American English.

Stuck in the middle in Canada, we use a certain hybrid version of the language that I favour in my books. It’s a smattering of both, which I worry may cause confusion in two of my biggest markets. I don’t care for the often simplified American spellings, but I’m usually not a fan of the hoity-toity British forms of the same words either. Typically, I refuse to spell “colour” or “humour” without a “u” wedged in, but I don’t generally side with the overseas distaste for the letter “z” in everything from “realize” to “civilize.”

With the new editions of Longshot Comics, I decided to fully commit to British spelling. Most of the action occurs in England, while the rest takes place across bits of the British Empire, past and present. It seemed appropriate to go full Brit.

Even then, I had to fight with myself in a scene from Longshot Comics Book Two that featured a prominent American president, prior to his elevation from B-movie actor. It somehow seemed wrong for him to say “memorise” instead of “memorize.” Surely, if anyone across the entire trilogy were to speak in American spelling, it would be Ronald Reagan.

In the end, I stood firm on consistency, and stuffed the British spelling down his very American throat. It serves him right for darkening my teen years with what seemed like certain nuclear annihilation. He may have since been sainted by the Republican Party, but I make no apologies for portraying him as a bit thickheaded.

White House, Black Heart

Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau had an interesting chat this week. In an effort to justify tariffs in the current trade war, Trump suggested that Canada was a security risk to the United States because we burned The White House down during the War of 1812.

Critics were quick to point out it was actually the British who did that, and Canada wasn’t a country until 1867. True. But Canada was certainly a thing, split into Upper and Lower Canada. And our fighting boys had been repelling American invaders for many months before the British showed up on the coast to lend a hand.

I did a lot of research on this topic years ago because I had to be historically accurate…while I was writing a funny comic book about a bunch of dots.

Probably overkill.

But with the release of Longshot Comics Book Three: The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers, it’s time to reveal the unabashed truth of who exactly set fire to The White House and why. This revelation promises to be a scandal that will rewrite history books and our understanding of colonial North American history.

Coming very soon.

Longshot Comics Cover Reveal

I should never ever mention my own personal deadlines. I always set impossible numbers and schedules for myself, and then miss them. Which is perfectly fine, so long as I don’t tell anyone what my target date was.

Remember last blog post, when I said we were still on track for a Longshot release this week? Turns out, not so much. I decided to go with one final round of revisions, and another three proof copies to add to the stack of proof copies piled in my office. I think, at this point, the proofs from Createspace now outnumber the entire original print run of Longshot Comics. One day, when I gather them all together again, I should take a picture. And then have a bonfire.

I was hoping to get the new proofs in today, but it looks like they’ll be delivered on Monday instead. Once I do a final anal-retentive quality-control check, I should be clear to approve the books for distribution.

In the end, I only altered 33 pages. Only. At this point, we’re mostly talking nit-picky perfectionist crap that nobody but me will ever notice. Although, in my defence, I did catch a few genuine errors, including one some readers might have actually spotted if they were paying attention. Egregiously, I had transcribed the wrong name for one of Roland’s brothers in one panel. Unpardonable, I know. Rest assured, I kneecapped myself with a hammer as punishment.

Talk about the development and history of Longshot Comics will resume, leading into next week’s release (I’m pretty sure). To make up for lost days, I’ll just jump straight ahead to the cover reveal for all three volumes.

Mind you, this isn’t the true premiere of these covers. If you were subscribed to the newsletter, you would have already seen a slightly earlier version of these covers weeks ago. This is my not-so-subtle hint that you should sign up for said newsletter. People on the mail list will be getting a free Longshot Comics short story (or two) when the main-event comics come out.

Time Bomb

Two hours to air time.

Since the last time I mentioned Cinema Smackdown, I’ve become a staple on the show and have lost track of how many episodes I’ve done. You can pick through the archives at CJLO to try to figure that number out.

This week at 2:00 PM (Eastern), we’ll be talking about the catastrophic box office returns for Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the unfathomable reality we now live in, where a Star Wars movie can flop. Expect rants and recriminations as you listen live.

Work on the ebook editions of the Longshot Trilogy continues. If I ever said anything remotely neutral about Kindle Comic Creator in the past, I take it all back. As software goes, it’s a colossal piece of shit. But it is getting the job done, even as I fight it to the death every step of the way. We’re still on schedule to release this week.

That’s it for Longshot talk today, but to round out yesterday’s discussion of the back-cover history, here’s the full scan of “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” from 1896.

The Evolution of a Back Cover

I thought I’d take this moment to look back at one of the most iconic gags of the entire Longshot Comics series—the back cover.

When I first conceived of the joke, the priority was to get a scan of a public-domain Victorian drawing that would be a match for the contents of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers. In the pre-web, early-scanner days, this wasn’t a simple matter. Thankfully, I was already collecting antiquarian books, and a volume from 1896 led me to a page from the story “Mrs. Cliff’s Yacht” illustrated by E. W. Kemble. He is, I’m sure, still rolling over in his grave twenty-five years after first being unwittingly recruited for my often crass and puerile project. Scanner time was provided by a friend who lingered in university and had access to the computer lab where such exotic equipment could be found. I remember what a marvel of technology it was to see the scan from the book combined with a scan of a magnifying glass I owned to create one image that would be a key selling point for my epic experimental minicomic.

The original minicomic was an 80-page photocopied booklet that instantly caused waves in the comics industry. I was unconvinced anyone would ever buy it, but it was soon selling faster than I could produce new copies (painstakingly by hand). That original back cover was instrumental in putting across the whole premise to an audience who had never seen anything like it before.

When it came time for a new full-sized, widely distributed edition for Slave Labour Graphics, everything had to be reformatted and redone. That included the back cover, which was now going to be printed large enough to actually read the mock-up text of the comic page. I wrote a short extension of one of the scenes that could be read and understood around the edges of the magnifying glass, which, in turn, was rescanned at a higher resolution to go with Kemble’s drawing.

The subsequent German translation of The Long and Unlearned Life of Roland Gethers didn’t attempt to recreate the original back cover for their editions, however the Italian version went above and beyond to mimic everything I had done with the book to date (and then added lots of footnotes to explain many of the historical references and cultural in-jokes throughout). Although they didn’t have access to the Kemble sketch, they managed to find something very close.

It was back to the scanner for the latest edition (which also required a complete redo of all the artwork). With technology leaping forward, everything I needed on the software and hardware front was now standard issue in my home office. The newest reformat made the old magnified page obsolete, but it was a relatively simple matter to grab an actual page from the interior and make that part of the joke. The original magnifying glass was pressed into service to help me read all the tiny text I was transcribing, while the printed version was replaced by licenced art from a stock photography site.

The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers and The Inauspicious Adventures of Filson Gethers now also feature the iconic gag, but with pages from their own volumes, and original Victorian illustrations from other artists and antiquarian books. Shout-out to V. Gribayédoff and F. H. Townsend who, though long dead, are probably similarly miffed about their work being subjected to such an indignity.

Join me on my brand new Patreon page for more Longshot Comics material as we approach the release date for the entire trilogy.

Dot Dot Dot Ellipsis

Barring any late-stage hiccups, the entire Longshot Comics trilogy will be available to order through Amazon next week.

Yes, it’s done.

I thought I’d take these closing days to look back at the history of the Gethers saga, and the process of dragging the (mostly) Victorian and Edwardian shenanigans into the 21st century.

And what a process it was. Over 11,000 panels later, I have to admit it was more work than I could have possibly imagined. Despite worming my way through this routine before, the technology involved has changed enormously over the last 25 years, and everything was new and unfamiliar again. With improved tech comes higher expectations, and there were times when it was touch and go whether I could force various platforms and pieces of software to perform the way I needed them to perform in order to do these latest greatest editions justice. Compatibility issues, glitches, and bugs conspired to set fire to all the hoops I had to jump through. Let me take this opportunity to extend a special “fuck you” to the fine folks at Microsoft and Adobe in particular. Next time you need someone to stress test your shoddy coding or gouging business practices, put me on the payroll. I’m sure I can supply you with some handy, enlightening notes.

At this 11th hour, it’s now Kindle Comic Creator’s turn to tweak my balls for sport. This time last year I was still looking into the possibility of taking the project to an outside publisher rather than doing it all myself like it was 1993 all over again. One of the deal breakers was that my preferred publishers don’t do ebooks. That’s an essential market for me. Most of my sales come through Kindle copies of my books, or page reads from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. Although I do recommend Longshot fans opt for paperbacks when the day comes, I wanted a quality ebook option to exist. Thus Kindle Comic Creator. It’s a decent enough piece of software, but not without its quirks. Like its habit of arbitrarily closing on me for no other reason than I had the audacity to move a page. I think it does it for shits and giggles. There’s some AI algo out there that’s having a laugh every time it gets to inconvenience me for another 30 seconds. Well laugh it up, asshole. We only have to do this dance for a few more hours.

Longshot Comics goes dark for one of the mining sequences.

Roland utters his last line of dialogue in The Failed Promise of Bradley Gethers.

If you’re chomping at the bit for Longshot material, or if you just want to help support my efforts here at Eyestrain Productions, I now have a Patreon page. Patrons at various levels will get access to exclusive material, including new and expanded versions of the old Longshot short stories, some of which are spectacularly rare. For instance, were you one of the handful of people who bought the Longshot Comics t-shirt that featured an original 120-panel tale on the front and back, circa 1997? I bet you weren’t. But that’s the sort of fun stuff that’s going to be cropping up on the Patreon page in the coming days and weeks. Back me at the Collector tier and you can even receive signed paperbacks of the whole trilogy for less than you’d pay on Amazon—not to mention other upcoming novels I’m eager to get back to work on.