An introspective on “Wrong Way” by Martin Dunn.
“Bonnie and Clyde meets Fight CLUB by way of SLC PUNK!”
That is the tagline in the pitch for this series that has been the most challenging, therapeutic, and fulfilling creator-owned work of my comic book career.
I originally started working on “Wrong Way” back in early 2012. At this time, I was dealing with a lot of depression issues and was just in this really bad headspace. I’ve stated in interviews and stuff recently that at this time, I had started to feel like I was “trapped in my own glass house.” The whole thing started with me journaling really. I began to vent my frustrations of that present time and would counter it with a memory of a better time in my life. It was this weird cynical versus optimistic war I was fighting with myself. It wasn’t until I went back and was reading through those entries that I realized that I really was romanticizing these memories.
In 2009, my ex-wife removed herself from the equation. I could go into the gritty details, but lets just say she didn’t leave on amicable terms. In the aftermath of our separation she had left me with the full responsibility of our 4 kids. Overwhelming circumstances for anyone.
This beast of burden if you will, was the animus of what would become “Joshua Black”. I started dating my ex-wife when I was 17-years-old. I was 27-years-old when this all went down and to be completely honest, I was very much still a 17-year-old in mindset. I’d spent 10 years of my life in a toxic relationship in which I was constantly making decisions based on emotion and not logic. The encouragement to continue this story started with my girlfriend at the time. She insisted I should keep going. What started out as a personal journal, a way to match up my thoughts and battle my depressions, turned into a 74k word story. It was sometime in 2013 when that same girlfriend was also editing my work and said “You should just make this a comic!”, I argued “I don’t think it would work!” She was never good at being told no, and eventually I lost the argument and developed an early version of the first 24-page script. This version was never used, I ended up doing a massive re-write, but it was the origin. I had some initial ideas to keep pushing and making this book happen, but after some false starts, I lost interest and let it sit and collect dust for the past 3 or so years.
Enter Cori Walters –
Remember, (if you’re still reading this) that when I wrote this book, I was in just a horrible place. My depression was winning at that timeframe, and I just wrote this story to help with that. I have travelled a rough, crazy, almost unbelievable road to get to my current place in life. I’m a recovering addict with 14 years and counting of sobriety, I have bipolar disorder, Anxiety, and ADHD. My entire life was engulfed in chaos since I was a young kid. It was all I knew, and it wasn’t until I met some people after my separation from my wife that helped me put together who I truly was, that I ever knew anything that resembled happiness. I mulled over the decision for a good week probably before deciding I’d do it. I like a challenge, and I really wanted to work with Cori.
“How’d we get here?”
I hadn’t touched this story in like 3-4 years. When I first decided to do it, I sent the script to 3 different editors. Aly Dunn (My loving fiance and the EIC of CAE Studios), Brie Tart (My awesome friend, talented writer and editor of “Fetch”), and David Sirois (My favorite editor I’ve ever worked with, currently edits “Joshua Black”). The first thing everyone pointed out to me was that all of the characters were downright horrible people and unlikable. When I wrote this story initially, I had a very cynical perspective of myself and the people in my life. My chaotic life and the way I’d tried to avoid romanticizing any of it, led to me writing a story in which all of the characters were broken, depressing, unlikable, and callus. This led me to scrap that script. I decided it was time to rework the story, keep the parts that mattered, but redefine each character based on my point of view now, and compare it to my point of view then. When I rewrote it, I made Trey more like myself now. I’m no longer in a horrible marriage, however, I am a struggling comic creator trying to establish myself in the scene. I work everyday to nail that big dream job and opportunity at a bigger company, and while my parents are more supportive than Trey’s, It wasn’t always the case, and I’ve dealt with that type of scrutiny to this day from others.
Once the script was in progress, Cori was already sending pages. I will tell you, there is nothing more insane, terrifying, and equally awesome as having an artist on a project who has to bother the writer for more pages. However, before I knew it, we had the entire issue 1 penciled, inked, and now I needed to letter it.
What defines a passion project?
I honestly don’t know what the actual definition would be. I firmly believe a “Passion Project” is something that gets your blood moving, it is almost like a euphoric high. It’s so vastly different than something you’d consider a “side project”. With this book, I put the entire contents of my passion into every page, layout, letter, etc. I wanted this book in it’s essence to be not just a story, but a piece of art, a piece of myself, I wanted people to do more than just read it. I wanted them to admire it. I know that is pretentious as hell, but I couldn’t put in less than my full effort.
I spent days learning to do hand lettering, each balloon is hand drawn. I actually made the cover using old school punk rock poster methods. I cut out each individual piece and pasted it to an 11×17 comic board, and then scanned it. I made both a newsprint and an inkfield texture to layover the entire book.
I spent so much time building this book. It was and is a labor of love.
I’ve had some fantastic reviews come back to me and they have all made me so happy. It’s a scary thing putting yourself on display the way I have. The funny thing is that while it is autobiographical, it’s not 100% all true. It is, at the end of the day, a fictional story. I keep getting asked how much of it is true.
I’m gonna quote my response to this question as it was asked in a recent Bleeding Cool article by journalist Marco Lopez.
Marco: Having read the first issue and some of our previous conversations before this interview. I got to know how much of what I read is true in the first issue?
Martin: I’d say like 80% is true in some form or fashion. Trey’s Dad is based on my ex in-laws, Joey is an amalgam of some of my best friends in high school, Allison is based on my ex-wife when I met her and another girl I dated in high school. Madison is based on my ex-wife and some ex-girlfriends, etc. etc. etc.
The truth is there though. Something some of the reviews I’ve gotten back are talking about is the realism within the dialog. The trip to Trey’s parents is almost verbatim a conversation I had with an ex-girlfriend. The dinner table discussion, is based on something I witnessed at a friend’s holiday party in which his father just completely ragged on him the entire time. The first encounter with Allison in Trey’s flashback is 100% the way my ex-wife and I met. “There will be so much Smoke and Pussy” is also legit a thing my childhood best friend used to say to me all the time in high school.
So, I’d say the 20% that is false is easy to pick out. I never ran off to join Occupy Wall Street because I saw a girl I knew in the paper there.
And that’s that!
Thanks for reading my ramblings and letting me vent my nervousness and excitement to you. I’m so grateful of anyone who reads this book. If you love it, please send me a note, an email, or whatever. I’d love to do a letters column.
The book is planned to be a 6-issue mini-series, but Cori and myself are firmly in agreement that we’d like to, and totally could do more. So, please, support the book and tell your friends.
This book is really personal, it is autobiographical and my life used to suck pretty badly, so I wrote it. I wanna thank everyone for the support, for buying the book, and for helping us to continue to make more.
Written by: Martin Dunn
Pencils: Cori Walters
Inks: Cori Walters
Lettered by: Martin Dunn
Colored by: Martin Dunn with
Cover by: Cori Walters and Martin Dunn
Smoke and P#$$%! part 1
We all make bad decisions…
Having been a rebellious teenager, Trey Miller was once part of a nation-wide manhunt when he and his high school girlfriend, Allison, went on a cross-country crime spree together. Now, in his mid-thirties, Trey’s mundane life as a struggling cartoonist leaves him feeling lost and overwhelmed, partly due to the consistent berating he suffers from his wife Madison and his overbearing father.
However, several events transpire that lead to Trey making the decision to hit the road in search of Allison and any other adventure he can find. These choices will forever change his life whether they are inspired or misguided.