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The Fifth Column:
Self Publishing: The Road To Hell
By Dwayne McDuffie


Calm down. I'm not about to attack self-publishing, I'm about to commit self-publishing. I've been working in comic books as a writer and editor since 1987. I've contributed to over a thousand comic books, working for Marvel, DC, Harvey, Valiant/Acclaim and other companies I've either forgotten, or am too embarrassed to admit to in public. I even helped start my own company, Milestone Media, which co-published (along with DC Comics) over 250 issues. What I haven't done, at least so far, is self-publish.

That's about to change.

I'm currently working on two self-published comic book projects, one is called GIFTED, it's about the new girl at a Michigan high school for gifted kids. I'll tell you all about it someday. My other self-publishing project is a romantic comedy called THE ROAD TO HELL. My intention is to make periodic progress reports on THE ROAD TO HELL right here in my column. We're going to learn about self-publishing together.

First, some backstory, as best I can remember, THE ROAD TO HELL started in 1989 as a proposed screenplay collaboration between myself and Matt Wayne. Around the same time, Marvel/Epic comic book editor Margaret Clark started a new position with upstart UK Publisher APOCALYPSE. She asked if we had anything she could serialize in her new magazine TOXIC. Since they were paying easily three times as much as either of us were making in those days and since the deal also let us retain the rights to the property, we said, "Hell, yeah." TOXIC ran 32 issues before Apocalypse (its publisher) went out of business, our story began running in issue # 31. Regular readers of this column know all about the dreaded McCurse™ that dooms any web site that dares to publish my words. You may not be aware that this curse has also taken down an entire print publishing company. So anyway, Toxic died and despite beautiful painted art by Colin McNeil, THE ROAD TO HELL was never completed.

A couple of years later, I adapted our first five comic book scripts into screenplay format, then promptly forgot all about it. In 1998, Matt and I dug out the notes and rewrote the thing top to bottom. That screenplay was optioned by Barry Levine of Takoma Productions (later the producers of the proposed DAMAGE CONTROL movie). We've got it back, now. After failing to sell our beautiful brainchild to every single comic book company we could think of, Matt and I decided we'd publish it ourselves.

So here we are. As I mentioned, I'll report on our progress from time to time. You'll hear us argue about budgets, paper and format, marketing, distribution and God knows what else. Our next big hurdle? Finding a new artist. Due to pressing commitments (and our unbelievably crappy budget) Colin McNeil, the original series artist, was unable to rejoin us for the latest incarnation of THE ROAD TO HELL. Rebounding from the disappointment, we were somehow fortunate enough to convince the incredibly talented Rick Parker to step in. Unfortunately, our luck reverted to form. Rick had to bow out of the project this week. Our loss. Shortly we'll be asking yet another terrific artist to tilt at our windmill of choice. Will she agree? I'll let you know.

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