By Matt Petras
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Creating a comic is hard, and it can be even harder when you’re alone.
“Drawing comics can be very isolating for creators,” says local cartoonist and regular Current contributor D.J. Coffman. “That seems to be a common problem that a lot of creators have, is that when you’re drawing a comic, you’re by yourself at your table, for hours and hours; maybe you have the self-doubt, as in all things, but definitely in comics.”
Coffman’s new crowd-funded project, 7×7 Comics, unites a small group of local comics creators using collaborative workshops to combat the loneliness of cartooning.
The collective, which seeks funding from the online crowd-funding platform Patreon, will meet monthly and chat regularly online to keep each other on track delivering new pages of their respective comic series. Seven creators, randomly assigned one of the seven days of the week, will deliver a new page of their individual comic series every week. The first season for the project will run for eight weeks, starting Sept. 2.
All of the comics will be distributed online for free, but anyone who contributes at least one dollar a month to the Patreon page will get each page seven days early. Higher tiers, which climb to $25 a month, offer rewards like physical artwork delivered in the mail, a t-shirt, commissions and more. All of the money collected will be distributed evenly among the seven creators.
When Coffman got the idea for the collective, he contacted the first people on his mind, and, though some declined because of other commitments, a bunch agreed. Eventually, he landed on the number seven.
“First I was just gonna do a few people. Maybe like three or four,” Coffman said. “And then we thought seven is kind of cool. Seven days, seven creators.”
The idea is that getting creators together, in person in addition to frequent online communication, will create an encouraging, productive and positive environment.
“A lot of times, creators will just quit,” Coffman said. “A couple of these guys, I know they’ve kind of started to try to do something, but then kind of fell off, so this is finally giving them the push to finally do something.”
Though seven has become the magic number, there are currently only six members of the collective: Coffman, Mikey Wood, Scott Hedlund, Angela Oddling, Ian Sharpley and Shawn Atkins. The seventh spot is open, and instead of picking someone directly like the rest, Coffman wants the collective to pick its next member from submissions. Anyone in the Greater Pittsburgh area can apply to be the final member, whose comic will release on Wednesdays.
“There might be a diamond in the rough out there somewhere,” Coffman said. “We all are in this circle already, but there might be someone that’s a little shy or someone that we don’t know about, or someone brand new to the city that’s moved in, who doesn’t know anyone and we don’t know them.”
The collective has already released synopses for the current six creators’ series on its Patreon page. Coffman will, on Tuesdays, deliver a new chapter of his series Secret Forces, which currently runs in the Pittsburgh Current, that follows a zombie invasion.
“It’s not your typical zombie story, I’ll say that. It has to do with a neighboring dimension full of what we call zombies, people that are born of death energy, and they come here for our water because our water is life energy,” Coffman said. “And, you know, hijinks ensue.”
Atkins’ Sunday comic, Hard Lemonade, will mix the science fiction and western genres in a revenge story, whereas Hedlund’s Thursday comic, Kaiju Kitty, will pit monster against feline. Oddling’s story, perhaps the most grounded, will follow the lives of ghosts residing in Pittsburgh.
Wood’s series, The Adventures of El Fantasma, which will release Mondays, is a luchador action comic. Though he’s built a solid reputation in the area, he’s been away from comics recently.
“I needed a little boost,” Wood said.
Sharpley’s series, A Synthetic Life, which will run Saturdays, takes place in the future and explores humans adding synthetic parts to their bodies. The collaboration thus far has helped Sharpley get his ideas down on a page.
“It’s good to have other creatives to lean on,” he said.
That’s the idea behind the collective, really.
“This is kind of a way that they can try out something new and also support each other,” Coffman said. “Almost like a support group for comics.”