Memories of Deadlight Studios

 

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Dead Men Tell No Tales #1 Cover by Ben Templesmith

Since today is Flashback Friday, I was reminiscing about my early days as a comic creator. Of course, the first thing that came to mind was Deadlight Studios. It was 2006 and my first creator-owned mini-series, Dead Men Tell No Tales, had been published by Arcana Comics. It was a smash-hit, and I quickly gained a devoted (and awesomely crazy) following.

Around that time I was producing several webcomics, and I had signed one of them, Jim Reaper, to a deal at Silent Devil Productions (remember them?). I was also involved in several anthologies and had many comic pitches in production. I was thrilled to be making comics and I was anxious to reach out and connect with aspiring and established comic creators. But what I really wanted to do was to help newcomers break into the industry. If anyone had been through hell to get there, it was me. Surrounded by naysayers who were the closest to me, and living in a seriously messed up situation, I had done it. And I wanted people to know if they worked hard enough and didn’t give up, they could make it, too. What they needed, I knew, was positive people around them who would encourage and provide a bit of guidance–someone who had seen some success, had a critical eye, and would tell them the truth… even when it hurt.

Enter Deadlight Studios.

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What a magical time that was! With my trusty partner in crime, Darrell Mogg, we created a visually stunning website with a lively and thriving community forum. A couple of times I even got my buddies, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith, to drop by and say hello!

My good friend, Amer Kokh, provided the art for the site together with friend and Dead Men Tell No Tales colorist, Michael DeVito. I never could have made it happen by myself. These friends caught my vision and helped me make it happen. It was a magical collaboration and I’ll never forget the experience of bringing it together and giving it life.

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During the course of our conversation I brought up the idea of putting together a horror anthology titled Deadlight Theatre. The forums were abuzz and it was really a wonderful time as forum members put together teams and created several short horror stories for the anthology. Everyone was excited.

And then it was gone. People were shocked.

The truth of the matter is that I was being medically separated from the Army and at the same time, I assumed sole responsibility of my three young sons, so Deadlight Studios took a back seat to raising them. I was unable to keep it going and give my sons the care they needed, and as any single dad will tell you, they would have done the same thing. Some people understood, some people didn’t. But no one was more disappointed than I was.

Some people on the outside say it was a noble idea to create a community where comic creators help one other. I mean, there are others who have done something similar, but none of them were headed up by an industry insider. Some might say it was a dumb idea, that I should have concentrated on my own brand rather than worrying about other “schmucks” trying to break into the industry. Whichever camp you fall into is your prerogative. All I know is that I am still close friends with many fine people I met during the “Deadlight Years,” and I gained invaluable experience that I believe will ensure the success of Hocus Pocus Comics. So I will call it a WIN.

 

Rest in Peace, Deadlight Studios. You are gone but not forgotten.

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-Dwight

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UPDATED: Elevator Issue 2 is Live on ComiXology AND Amazon Kindle!

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JUST RELEASED: Elevator Issue 2, Hell to Pay, on ComiXology and Amazon Kindle! Click on the links below to purchase, and, as always, if you like what you have read, please rate, review, and tell your friends:

PURCHASE ON COMIXOLOGY

PURCHASE ON AMAZON KINDLE 

-Dwight

The Story Behind Houdini’s Silver Dollar Misfits

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I’ve always enjoyed reading the stories behind the stories that I love. Taking a look behind the curtain, if you will, to glimpse the process, struggles, and sacrifices that writers have made to create stories that have influenced and inspired me throughout my life. Reading The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, for instance, was nearly intoxicating. I was amazed, delighted, encouraged, moved to tears in some cases, and affirmed by the intimate details I read. The collection of the Professor’s letters still stands as a cherished work that I return to time and time again. And so, in the spirit of Tolkien’s letters and the many behind-the-scenes records that authors have left behind for us to enjoy, I have decided to share the story behind creating Houdini’s Silver Dollar Misfits. It’s nowhere near as grand, I know, but I hope you will find it enjoyable nonetheless.

Several years ago while I was writing The Surreal Adventures of Edgar Allan Poo Book 2 for Image, I was struck with what I believed was a fantastic story idea: a modern-time group of friends who find a magical silver dollar that had belonged to Harry Houdini. Together the ragtag friends would use the strength of their friendship, teamwork, problem solving, and the magic of the coin, to solve mysteries and help people. My head said I didn’t have the time to develop the idea due to a heavy college workload, the challenges of being a single dad of three little boys, and the pressure of writing a sequel to a successful book, but I did it anyway, because, hey, sometimes you have to make time when inspiration strikes.

After a couple of weeks I began my artist search. Now, for those who don’t know, artist searches are fun, but they can also be arduous and a bit depressing. If I had a dime for every artist who turned me down over the course of my career I’d have Alex Ross covers on all my books.

But that’s another story for another time.

After several days of searching I came across a charming webcomic by cartoonist Worth Gowell. I really liked his style and thought it would work perfectly for the story I’d fleshed out, so I sent an email and pitched the story to him. Honestly, he wasn’t thrilled with the story, so he suggested that a teenage Houdini would be the star, the story in the late 1880s, and his friends would be circus performers. My gut said no, No, NO. A period piece starring a beloved historical figure? I was already doing that in Edgar Allan Poo. And how would an audience respond to a cast of strange and unusual characters that were referred to as “freaks” in their time? I tried to reason with Worth, but, considering the fact that I believed he was the right artist for the book, I eventually conceded. Even so, I am still extremely proud of Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits. Next to E.A. Poo, it is my favorite book I’ve created. I even intended to make a continuing series of adventures, but, sadly, that did not work out. In fact, I’m sad to say that the book went largely unnoticed. The lesson I took away from the experience was to stick to my guns when I felt strongly enough something.

So here we are. I am now a publisher, and I can tell the stories I want to tell, how I want to tell them. The beauty of the whole situation is that Kid Houdini and the Silver Dollar Misfits now serves as a prequel of sorts to Houdini’s Silver Dollar Misfits! I say “of sorts” because it is not necessary that one read the old book to “get” the new book, rather it serves as an introduction to the man (the myth, the legend) behind the silver dollar. That’s it. So one need not comb the internet to find the first book…unless one wants to. Hey, I am still extremely proud of Kid Houdini and believe it is a wonderful story that is well worth seeking out.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this project. Mathieu and I have worked extremely hard to bring you something that we believe is magical! We can’t wait to share it with our friends (yes, that means YOU)!

-Dwight

PS – Don’t forget to mark your calendars for February 1st when the project goes LIVE on Kickstarter!