FROM THE VAULT PART 7: 2008: THE NOBODY
So what do I do after Essex County? I had spent every hour of my waking life from about 1999 to the publication of Essex County in 2006 dreaming of “making it” in comics. And by making it" I really meant getting published and putting out work that I could be proud of. Essex would accomplish that for me and more.
In 2008 I was nominated for two Eisners for Essex and the book sold much better than either I, or Top Shelf, ever imagined it would. I still wasn’t making a living on comics, but I was at least supplementing the income I made at the restaurant with royalties, so that I wasn’t living paycheck to paycheck anymore.
And, the success of Essex also meant I suddenly had new opportunities in comics open up to me. But I was also feeling a lot of pressure about what to do next. Essex had been a very personal story, one that drew on my entire life and childhood. It was sort of the classic “sophomore slump” that many bands have. They make a great first album because they have spent a lifetime saving up all those first songs, then suddenly, with all those songs now sung, they have to write a second album and record it in less than a year. That was sort of how I was feeling after Essex. I wanted to follow it up with something just as good and just as meaningful to me, but in a lot of ways, I had emptied the chamber making Essex.
It was around this time that I received a very unexpected email that would force this issue for better or worse. Bob Schreck was then an editor at DC Comics Vertigo Imprint. He was also a Portlander and knew Top Shelf co-publisher Brett Warnok pretty well. Brett had given Bob a copy of Essex County and Bob loved it, then he reached out to me to see if I wanted to pitch a project to him for Vertigo.