Promotion around a book, especially a comic book, is usually centered around a couple of months before it’s released, and then maybe a week or two after it’s out there. Then, it’s on to the next, newest thing — at least for readers.
For authors, though, they’re often out pushing their wares long after the on-sale date, especially a creator-owned graphic novel like Love Buzz, published December 2009 by Oni Press. It’s a romantic comedy telling the story of young comic book artist Norm and his tumultuous relationship with girlfriend Maggie, and writer Len N. Wallace’s promotion is taking him to the Ivy League — specifically, a signing and speaking gig this Saturday at the Yale University bookstore.
The appearance came about after Wallace’s recent move to Connecticut from Kentucky, where he encountered a Yale bookstore employee with a higher-than-average interest in comic books.
“I think they said he had written something or other for Ninja Turtles comics at one point,” Wallace told Newsarama in a phone interview.Wallace is calling the talk “The Buzz(es) That Almost Was(es),” focusing on his nearly eight-year journey of getting his first book made.
“The history behind Love Buzz itself is a long one that may actually be more interesting than the book itself, but that’s for other people to determine,” Wallace said. “There were changes in publishers — one of them went out of business, the other one gave me kind of a bum contract. We ended up taking it to Oni.
“There was a point where I was planning on drawing the book myself, which would have looked terrible, and no one would have ever touched it. And then we had another artist that we picked up who ended up having to drop off the book, and then we ended up getting Michelle Silva on it.
“I wrote a script originally for it that was 300 pages; I had to edit that down considerably to get it down to the 184 page one that people are reading right now in stores. It’s been a long road, and I figured I could probably educate people on the ups and downs of getting your book published.”After all of that, Love Buzz ended up at Oni — the home of high-profile creator-owned titles like Scott Pilgrim and Queen & Country — due to interactions on writer Brian Michael Bendis’ popular Jinxworld message board between Wallace and Randal C. Jarrell, at that time managing editor at the publisher.
Jarrell was familiar with the work of Love Buzz artist Michelle Silva due to her connection with Local artist Ryan Kelly, whom she trained with at an art school in Minnesota. Silva previously had a pin-up in an issue of Local.
“That kind of got that door open, and we were kind of in disbelief, and we decided to just pitch to him, and see what happened, because what’s the worst that can happen? That’s how they ended up picking up the book,” Wallace said.
So much attention is focused on how to “break in” to the comic book industry, but Wallace knows that just because you get a book published doesn’t mean the hard work ends.
“I’ve been plugging away with it, trying to get attention wherever I can on it,” Wallace said of his ongoing Love Buzz promotion. “It’s gone pretty well. Still selling relatively decently, as far as I know. Other than that, I’ve just been working on other things, waiting for the next thing to get picked up so I can spend some time focusing on that.”One of those “other things” is a comic called The Zipper Club, illustrated by Brenda Liz López and about a group of five children at summer camp, all with congenital heart defects. It’s being serialized in the pages of anthology comic book The Gathering — an extension of another connection made on the Bendis boad, where Gathering publisher Andrew Goletz is a regular poster — and depicts subject matter very close to Wallace.
“I counseled for the last 14 or so years at a summer camp for children with congenital heart defects,” Wallace said. “I grew up with a congenital heart defect myself. There have been a lot of kids who have affected me in really nice ways, and I decided I wanted to do something that was a little more kid-friendly than the other work I’m used to doing, which is kind of filthy. “
The five kids of The Zipper Club, as Wallace puts it, “get to feel normal” within the camp.“It kind of puts you in this bubble, where you have other friends, and you can’t really do the things that they do all the time,” Wallace said of congenital heart defects. “You can’t play sports as much, you can’t go running around and getting crazy with stuff without having a feeling in your chest like you’re going to have to sit down.”
The plan for The Zipper Club is for it to end up a 200-page story, covering five summers with the campers. Beyond that, he’s also got a Kung Fu Panda 2 prequel story coming from APE Entertainment. But Love Buzz is clearly still a priority.
“My attention’s never going to be completely away from Love Buzz,” Wallace said, “because it’s been so long, and I’ve spent so much time pushing it up hill with my artist, and everybody who’s been involved with it over the years.”
Len N. Wallace will speak and sign copies of Love Buzz 2 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the Yale Bookstore in New Haven, Connecticut.