One local artist is striving to enter the comic book industry. So far, Chad Byrne has produced two issues of the gore-filled Manndrake the Spooky Executioner.
Comic books are often thought of as one-trick superhero ponies, but they can be a great medium for any genre, even classic horror.
Chad Byrne, a local comic book writer and artist, published the first two issues of his horror comic book Manndrake the Spooky Executioner last year.
“I’d like to give Manndrake 10 years of my life, I think.”
– Chad Byrne
Byrne says the idea has been in his head for quite a while. He used to draw storyboards of the character on sticky notes when he worked at a comic book store in another province about 20 years ago.
Now that the idea has come to fruition, the artist says he would like to stick with it for more than just a little while.
“I’d like to give Manndrake 10 years of my life, I think,” Byrne said.
David Stephens, the manager of Timemasters comic store on Torbay Road, mentions another comic book that ran under one creative team for 10 years – Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four. He says Lee and Kirby held the record for a creative team working on one title together for 40 years. So Byrne’s sights may be on coveted territory.
Stephens says he’s believed comic books are an effective form of storytelling since he was a hopeful English student. He says the reason some people won’t give them a chance may be due to a fundamental misunderstanding.
“I think people generally associate comic books with superheroes, and that kind of limits their view on it,” Stephens said. “It’s not a genre; it’s a medium, and people are just discovering that.”
He says that any genre can be told through the medium, despite its reputation.
Take Byrne’s work, for example. His book, Manndrake the Spooky Executioner, is part of the horror genre.
“I will draw anything in it. It’s for adults; we’re all adults here”
– Chad Byrne.
Looking around Byrne’s basement, it isn’t hard to tell where he gets the inspiration from. Upon entering, you might mistake the place for an old collector’s store. His walls are lined with character memorabilia, and there are four trunks full of comic books scattered around. The most eye-catching part of his collection, however, is the large cabinet of old VHS tapes, almost all of which are classic horror films.
On the page, Byrne’s art is reminiscent of the vintage covers to his tapes. In fact, his work is so engrained in the horror genre that it’s hard to pitch to publishers. His comics have the bloody terrors, obscene gore and twisted nude imagery to boot.
Byrne says that’s why he’s printing independently as of now, out of pocket.
“I will draw anything in it. It’s for adults; we’re all adults here,” Byrne said.
He believes there’s an audience for his book, it’s just hard to find without traditional promotion.
“It’s just finding ways to get people to buy this unheard-of comic and want a physical copy of it. It’s hard,” Byrne said.
Stephens says even the books that take off sometimes take time to find their moment these days.
“Not everyone’s going to be like Peter Laird and Kevin Eastman with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where they have boxes in their living room and the next day it takes off and you have to do a fifth and sixth printing. It’s just not that kind of world anymore,” Stephens said.
However, the comic connoisseur does have advice for those trying to make it, and that advice is to get out there.
“I would say create that comic, make that comic, and look up all the local comic shops in your community, province, country.”
– David Stephens, owner of Timemasters
Stephens says creators who don’t use social media need to get on it now. It’s free advertising and networking, but it isn’t the only thing.
“I would say create that comic, make that comic, and look up all the local comic shops in your community, province, country. Cold call them. Get copies in their hands. Even big publishers send out previews,” Stephens said.
Stephens says most shops will take a title from a local creator, even advertise it in the store.
Byrne actually did cold call one store, Down Town Comics, and copies of his book can be found on their shelves.
“I think I’ve cracked the code – how to make comics,” Byrne said.
He hopes it will become less of a hobby and more of a profession.
“It would be a lot nicer if I could get by just doing this. I would be a lot happier,” Byrne said.