Brian Donnelly Goes Back to the Once and Future

Brian Donnelly‘s Mythographer’s Workshop began life as a spark in the Creators Workshop. It’s since grown into an indie publishing house dedicated to charity and equality, inspired by Brian’s own life.

His current project, Once and Future: Finest Hour remixes Arthurian legend and sees the mythic king reincarnated as a girl during World War II. It has all the romance, drama, and epic acts of derring-do as the classic and familiar tales of yore, transplanted into a brand new setting. And like all good kings, Brian doesn’t ride alone. He is joined by Jean Pedroso on art, Ed Dukeshire on lettering and assembly, and Livia Prima on cover art.

For the next couple of weeks, you can sponsor this project on Indiegogo! Brian shares more about the project, as well as his history as a comics creator and publisher.

Comics Experience: Can you tell us more about the founding of the Mythographer’s Workshop?

Brian Donnelly: Sure. I first attended one of Comics Experience’s first script writing classes back in 2012. In 2013, when my wife was a few weeks pregnant with our first child, I learned I had a brain tumor, epilepsy, and autoimmune encephalitis, an extremely rare condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells. I underwent brain surgery when my wife was five months pregnant with our first daughter and seven months of immuno-infusion therapy. It was during my recovery that I decided to pursue a passion I had since the 1980s. I formed a comic book publishing company, Mythographer’s Workshop, to create professional creative works.

CE: What led you to want to make comics as a child?

BD: I bought comics like most kids in the early ‘80s from 7-11s and news agencies and then the direct market really came of age in the late 1980s. I hung around a local comic shop and actually got hired by the manager to help stock the shelves, bag the back issues, work the register, etc. I got store credit as part (most!) of my salary, so I used it to buy comics. Again, this was just as Todd McFarlane was coming of age at Marvel, comics as a result of the direct market was becoming an investing ground (bad and good things from that), the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton Batman movie was launching, and comic books as a whole were having this amazing renaissance. I just got swept up in it.

CE: How has the Mythographer’s Workshop changed since its founding?

BD: Haha – well it was a bit of learning from doing. Much like other small publishers, I have tried every avenue to turn a buck and the direct market through Diamond is very formidable. Further, relying on things like comiXology and streaming to make a buck won’t work. Turning a profit in this industry is EXTREMELY difficult. You read about big publishers going out and don’t forget even Marvel was in bankruptcy at one point. So don’t kick yourself. But I think the avenue for small folks is to look to crowdsourcing like Indigogo and Kickstarter (I have been successful on both) as really viable sources to get your work out there.

Also, nothing beats the hard work of building up your audience through cons. Work on building up a base of different books that are attractive to different audiences rather than one sweeping space opera (unless money is not an issue and you just want to get your space opera out of your head). Look for new talent you can pay an affordable rate, but spend a lot on your cover (even if you are the artist) for a professional artist.

Personally, for us, Mythographer’s Workshop has moved to a “comics that wanted to be in Diamond and on the shelves turning a huge profit” to a publishing company with a purpose. All of our work will have a substantial portion of proceeds donated to charity and have a commitment to diversity – drawing on talent from a large pool of humanity. Once and Future was written and produced by a white guy, drawn by a Latin American guy, lettered by an Asian-American guy, and the cover was done by an Indonesian woman.

CE: What can you tell us about Once and Future? What excites you the most about it?

BD: Well, I was able to capture the Arthurian legend against the backdrop of WWII in 120 pages. But I think the thing I am most proud of is adding to the Arthurian cycle (in my own small way). There is a very specific reason Arthur returns as a young girl. Once and Future is not just a throwaway title, and Arthur returning as a girl is not just a gimmicky catch. There is very real meaning to both. If you pick up the book and read the forward and the whole thing, it becomes clear what I am contributing to the Arthurian cycle. The message I am sending is very important and I am proud of it. My hope is it will become part of the Arthurian cycle for future generations. Pick up a copy here.

CE: What did you learn from Comics Experience and the Creators Workshop that helped you grow Mythographer’s Workshop?

BD: Wow. I would not have been able to do any of my graphic novels without Comics Experience. I had no idea how to write a script! I can’t believe it’s been about 7 years since my first course. Learning to lay out scripts, what could and could not happen, rising and falling action, character development. Andy Schmidt was awesome. I also learned that I had talent. That there are a lot of folks who are kind of interested in comics writing, and take up a course, but fail to make the connection between the ease of reading a comic and how hard it is to write a comic (let alone producing one).

It takes a lot of work, and mistakes, and learning from mistakes. You have to take risks and make yourself open to criticism. And having opened yourself up and received criticism you are able to provide criticism – constructively and properly – to help other folks that are out their trying. One way you do that is you can weed out the trolls that have never done either and just forget about them. I went from never writing a comic to winning a national award with Stan Lee and William Shatner and I could not have done it without my course at Comics Experience.

There’s less than two weeks to support Once and Future on Indiegogo! To donate to the campaign, click here.