Hello! Welcome to Cloudwrangler Comics. If you’re reading this, first know that I am super stoked that you are here! This endeavor means the world to me (heck, that WORD, Endeavor, means the world to me. It’s my favorite one,) and I know it’s something that I can’t do alone. Cloudwrangler Comics is, for now, my portfolio page as a writer, but with your help, it can be so much more. I’m nervous about this particular approach, putting so much of my work raw out in to the world like this, but I’m hopeful and excited about this approach.
How did I get to this place? I’ve wanted to write comics since I was a kid, but I’ve been in “Comics Recovery” on and off for years (more on that later.) I got serious about it around the end of 2012, when I decided to attack a fiction piece I’d been working on from a new direction. I’d fallen off the comics wagon again, thanks largely to the New 52 and a new Defenders title by a guy I’m a big fan of. Iwas writing bits and pieces of stuff on the web, mostly about one of my other great passions/nerdy pursuits, Soccer. But Fiction was, as it had been for years, stalling on me. I had great ideas, whole worlds and lives in my head, and I just could not make them walk and talk on their own. So I decided to take a different tack, and give the thing I always wanted to do a try.
Now, when I say I “always wanted to write comics,” I might not mean what you might expect. I wasn’t driven since my first cape comic to become Chris Claremont or Stan Lee (my first cape comic was New Mutants #50, since you asked. I’d been into G.I. Joe comics before that, an extension of my action figures, and it looked awesome right there next to the counter at my local comics shop in Mesquite, TX.) But I was in love with the mythology almost immediately, and I began consuming X-books like some people consume food. I was a geek as a kid before, but now I had a THING, comics became my thing. That said, I had no idea I wanted to write, that I was made to do it, for many years.
Growing up, I was an imaginative kid. When my friends and I would gather in the front yard to “play soldiers” (we actually played “G.I. Joe”, victims of branding,) I was always the kid who thought up the scenario. We’re dropping in by the air conditioner around the back of Billy’s house, y’all, charging across his front lawn to the street, holding the line there, when the bad guys will ambush from … you get the picture. I was an avid reader of a lot more than comics, and was telling stories and making fiction even as a 10 year old. My Mother, the strongest guiding force in my life, looked down her rather intelligent nose at my comics, asking me what I thought I was “getting form them?” I used to tell her I was learning about good stories form them as much as any book or movie. I told her then I would write comics one day, more as adolescent rebellion than any real life dream.
Years later I would go off to college, having given up comics in High School for a new past time / obsession. Girls. Girls did NOT date comics geeks in Texas in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, and I’m not ashamed to say I stopped going to the comic book store on Wednesday afternoon the first time a girl named Jackie told me that her Mom wouldn’t be home until 6pm. But I never gave them up completely. I’d pick one up in a bookstore or a newsstand (there still were such things back then, even out on the frontier in Texas) and flip through it. I just wanted to see if Batman, Spiderman, all the X-men were still … alive, you know? They were my heroes and my friends when I was younger, and I missed them, even though my 17-year-old self was way more interested in his girlfriend (and his trumpet. I was also a giant band nerd, so I had to lose the something nerdy if I was gonna get laid, right? Boys are stupid.) High school really lit the writers fire in my belly, though. I had a great English teacher, Cora “The Cobra” Dugan, who told me I was one of the best fiction writers’ she’d had in her class in years (after a vocabulary assignments where I got so carried away with the pirate story I turned in I forgot to use all the requisite vocab words. Oops.) I still have that assignment in a box somewhere, and it was the first time I started thinking about storytelling as more than what made me happy. It was the first time I ever considered that telling stories was who I was, not just something I loved.
College saw a bit of a return to the world of comics, a bit of falling off the wagon if you will. You get into the dorms and suddenly there are so many MORE people, and it’s so much easier to find some that are like you are, that like the things you like. I knew a few comics guys, and read a few comics. I met guys who were into other things too, and I learned new passions. I also realized that no matter how much I thought I wanted to be a jazz musician by night and a lawyer by day, I really wanted to write. My first college literature course had me changing my major in a heartbeat to Creative Writing, and my parents were dutifully horrified. But I was never happier then than when I was stomping the halls of the English building, smelling the dust of old books and the wonder of big ideas. I was convinced then that literary fiction was my bag, deep moody stuff that was important. My brief return to comics wavered as my professors began teaching me about plot structure and characterization, about mood and word choice. One of my creative writing labs was run by a poet, who taught me to agonize over every single word, not just each sentence or paragraph, and brightly colored books where shit was blowing up seemed less important.
But again, they were always there somewhere. I just couldn’t shake ‘em, like a junkie with that monkey on his back. I’d find myself slipping comics into my backpack and sneaking off to the journalism building (my minor) to read them so none of my English profs would see me. I should have know better. My advisor had a London subway sized poster of The Clash covering an entire wall of his office. He wrote this wildly speculative fiction and introduced me to Harlan Ellison, and he probably had a pile of comics in his desk.
And then suddenly I had graduated, with my degree in Creative Writing and Mass Communications from a school that had the word TECH in the name, and I realized I was qualified to do … nothing. So, grad school it was. That didn’t help the comic book addiction, mostly because I was stone broke.
When that didn’t work, I ended up bartending, and that was a great joy. I took the job because one of my professors had once told me to “meet as many people as you can,” in order to really understand creating great characters, and I took it to heart. I approached the bar business with a passion that kept me in it for 10 years, first behind the bar and eventually running bars and consulting for folks who were starting new ones. It was a good gig for a young man without kids, but age eventually led me to look for a different life.
That was 10 years later, and I had been writing awful fiction all that time that never went anywhere. I had a stack of cool ideas, but I was so out of practice, so out of shape, that everything I tried was just garbage. Then the Internet happened, and there were blogs in 1998 and 1999, and thought to myself, “Self, at least start doing that. Blogging, just babbling about your won personal bullshit on the largest public forum ever created in the history of MAN? At least you’ll be stretching the writing muscles again.”
And thus Cloudwrangler was born. The name comes from the idea that gathering the concepts of character, plot, mood theme and language together into art is much harder than herding cats. “It’s like wrangling clouds, man,” I said to my best friend Kevin, and he said, “That’s it. That’s the title of your blog. Get to it.”
Cloudwrangler became who I was on the Internet as it exploded, and soon it was my identity on twitter and every other damn thing out there. I was writing fiction again on the side, long form weighty stuff that I thought was important again, and it was still all just awful. I just couldn’t get past the idea that writing had to be this life-altering thing for other people, that my work had to affect the planet. What a pretentious asshole, huh?
And then I fell off the wagon again, hard, in the back seat of my buddy Faust’s car. Faust had always been an unapologetic comics guy (I should have been more like that) and in the map pocket of his car I found a copy of Robert Kirkman’s Battle Pope. I spent that whole ride cackling like a damn fool, and I went to the comics shop the very next day. I started reading it and lots of other humor comics, I ran across Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, and before you knew it I had a $50 a week habit again. And I realized how easy it was to fall back into it, because I had never really left it. I had been picking up the odd book here and there for years, reading it or just flipping through to make sure everyone was still ok, and I was old enough at that pint not to care who thought I was a nerd. The Internet was making it cool to be a nerd, fer cryin’ out loud, and I was thankful for it.
But jobs and life kept me from approaching comics as a profession. I did finally decide, around the time I quit working in bars and got a “day job” (shudder) that I wanted to write what I loved. I finally became reconciled that I liked stories where people drove fast and blew shit up. There was no shame in it, and I attacked writing trashy novels and screenplays for a while. I had no idea what I was doing when it came to writing for the screen, so I just faked it for a while, and I still couldn’t get any of my stories to work. I knew they were good stories, good characters that would make people happy because they made me happy. That is, when they weren’t insisting on doing things I didn’t want them to. Good characters live their won lives inside a writer, but often you realize you’ve got a great character in the wrong story, and you have to start all over. I did that a lot in those years.
And then I met the right girl. That’s almost the end of the story, but not quite. Carla and I lived far away form each other, and we did the long distance thing, and then I did the moving thing. I came from Austin to San Francisco, and I quit my “day job” and she encouraged me, practically begged me, to write exactly what I wanted to write.
I fell off the comic book wagon for the last time, unapologetically diving into comics and even collecting (I’d never bothered with bagging and boarding comics before, I was that dude Jason Lee was bitching about in Mallrats) and Carla couldn’t have been more supportive. I began reading about writing comics, and before I knew it, I was taking one of my favorite ideas that wasn’t working and saying to myself, “Self, try starting this story with ‘Page One, Panel One’ and see what happens.”
And then there it was. The story just flowed out of me, and I realized where the big changes needed to be, and it became one of the ideas you can see here on this site, a book called R.A.T.S. Carrie Coulton was the character who convinced me that I was finally writing what I was SUPPOSED to be writing.
I’m supposed to be writing comics. I wish I had artistic talent and had learned to draw, but I never did. So I’m creating as much as I can on my own, and putting it out there into the world, and hoping to find willing collaborators. I know these stories won’t be fully realized until other artists get their hands on them, and I’m excited about that. Art isn’t made in a vacuum, it’s collaborative more often than not, and I love that idea.
So, here I am, on this new endeavor (there’s that word again.) It’s an important thing I’m doing, I think, worthy of a bigger word than “try”. I’ve been peeking around inside the business of comics, and falling more and more in love with it every day. Cloudwrangler Comics is that endeavor, my work telling stories in what’s been my favorite medium my whole life. I own it, I love it, and I hope you all like what you find here.
Now, who wants to make comics?