I talk about STRAY all the time and even I don’t know what to say.
And you can imagine, then, the countless times I’ve been asked, “What is STRAY about? Who is Stray?”
(For clarification, when I write STRAY, I mean the book; when I write Stray, I mean the character.)
So, I suppose, the thing to do is answer the question honestly, because let’s be honest; a lot of comic book readers have never heard about STRAY.
And no, that’s not a shot to my ego. I’m perfectly fine with the idea that there are many who may have walked by the book on the comic shelves to get to STRAY BULLETS or STRAYER.
Or folks who are, at this moment, ignoring this very article on the FOG! site. These things happen.
This is the struggle for the creator-owned comic, and moreso, the struggle of the creator-owned superhero comic. But, on the off chance that you are taking a risk, putting any kind of bias aside, and are wondering, “What is STRAY about?” for the first or fifty-first time, let me then put a virtual arm around your shoulder and tell you about my “boy.”
STRAY began it’s life as a comedy. Originally titled BAD DOG (not to be confused with the Joe Kelly comic), it was a mix of Silver Age comic silliness…and Curb Your Enthusiasm raunchiness. I really love the relationship between Larry David and Susie Greene (played by Susie Essman) and thought that I could make a comic about nothing. And for a while there, it was looking pretty good. Pretty, pretty, pretty…’
My friend, Dean Trippe, drew the first ever picture of the Rottweiler on March 23, 2006 and while he looks NOTHING like this initial design now, there are a few things that got carried over…the bone club and the floppy ears on the cowl.
Now, why did this version of the comic not happen?
Mostly the aforementioned Joe Kelly book with the same title.
The market can’t support two books with the same name and I wouldn’t want to compete with Joe, a creator that I not only admire, but consider a friend.
And I didn’t have an artist in mind. 9/10 times, when I create a comic in my head, the first artist I see is another Dean…Dean Haspiel.
And while I could see Dino doing that version of the story, for some reason, I never approached him.
So, the book just stayed in the back of my mind, waiting for…?
I’m not sure.
Things in my life changed. I reconnected with the woman who would become my wife in 2007, and we were engaged and living in Staten Island, NY around the time of July 18, 2008. Batman fans will recognize that date as the release of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s second Batman movie, starring Christian Bale. I absolutely loved the movie, and went to see it on opening day with my wife, but it was the second viewing, a viewing that I went to alone, that changed everything for me.
See, I’m not a big fan of trying to make superhero stories realistic. I feel like that takes the fun out of it. But something about Dark Knight really hit me, and as I walked back home from the theater, I asked myself, “Could you take a superhero seriously?” And as I ran down the answers, getting kind of excited at the idea, I wondered what and who the character would be for this kind of story.
And I kept coming back to the Rottweiler and his mentor, the Doberman. I kept coming back to the idea of the sidekick growing up and choosing a life for himself.
And as I developed the idea, which was going to be called, unoriginally, THE ROTTWEILER, I was on the Staten Island Ferry talking to Caleb Monroe, another writer, good friend and godfather of my first-born. I was listening to Jane’s Addiction on my iPod when I took the call, and we started talking about what we were working on and I said, “I just don’t have the right title for it.” I explained a few of the minor details, and as he said the next line, I was looking down at my iPod, queueing up the next album in my Jane’s Addiction rotation, which would be Strays.
The words that came out of Caleb’s mouth, 3000 miles away in California, were, “Why not call it STRAY?”
Lightning struck. Not literally in New York or California, but I’m sure somewhere in the world, at that moment, lightning was striking. And wherever it was striking, I felt it right there on the ferry taking me into New York City.
As I began building STRAY, it was, at first, a love letter to WATCHMEN, and in many ways a de facto sequel to WATCHMEN (took place in 1989, originally), I “hired” my friend Steven Norman II to ink the book and his most important suggestion was, “Why not call Rotty “Stray” instead.
I think what I want you, the reader of this, to come away with is that creating things…they’re not always fully formed right away. They take time to mold, and if you’re lucky, the people around you, the music you listen to, the movies you watch…they all get in there.
But the biggest thing STRAY was missing? Was me.
Perspective is a hard thing to come to and with the book, it took my friend, Nick Florest (aka
rapper Varyus Waise) to show me that everything I was looking for, all of the ME that needed to be there was already there. It just needed, as the Joker said in The Dark Knight, a push. He wrote a song, called The Stray, and as we listened to it, my wife (who is much smarter than me) said, “He’s talking about your dad.”
My father was killed in a car accident when I was 15 years old and, if I’m being honest, it took many years to get over. I was depressed, I tried drugs, I was suicidal.
And that is what STRAY needed; it needed me.
And that’s how STRAY became a kind of therapy for me. It became a “semi-autobiography” of sorts. We brought it to Kickstarter, then we brought it to Action Lab Entertainment, and then we brought it to you.<cdon’t truly know how these things happen. How did I meet Sean Izaakse (on DeviantArt) and real ize that he was the guy to co-create a comic with? How did we get so lucky with Simon Gough and Ross A. Campbell on colors? How? I don’t know. Just lucky I guess.
So, here we are.
A second Kickstarter campaign to “kickstart” a bimonthly ongoing series. The goal is lower than last. The book will have a rotating cast of artists, starting with newcomer, Phil Cho.
We’ve told my story.
Now it’s time to tell his.