Frank Gogol on Cancelled Cons, Retailer Support, and His New Punk Horror Book

Independent Creator Award winner and Ringo Award nominee Frank Gogol has a new and exciting comic launching June 14! The Creators Workshop member, course alumnus, and Source Point Press writer dips his toes into punk-flavored horror with No Heroine. Artist Criss Madd, colorist Shawna Madd, letterer Sean Rhinehart, and cover artist Ahmed Raafat all work closely with Frank to bring to life his story of a 90-days sober woman and her fight with heroine-dealing vampires.

Frank’s convention plans for the year, which included appearances on several Comics Experience panels, have obviously been cancelled due to COVID-19. We still wanted to hear his thoughts that he wanted to share with fans… and, of course, details about what we can expect from No Heroine!

Comics Experience: You’ve been offering free copies of Grief to everyone and sending relief bundles to retailers right now. How do you think comics creators can have retailers’ and fans’ backs right now?

Frank Gogol: I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits all answer to how to help people right now. Readers and retailers have different needs. No two retailers necessarily have the same needs either. But my family and I are healthy, comfortable, and still working right now, so I wanted to help as much as I could. So I took a step back and asked myself what were the problems I saw and what solutions could I offer — and there were a few answers.

The easy and obvious one was that I could give people free digital comics. It costs nothing, so it has infinite potential to reach people who need it and Grief is a book that really resonates with people who have been through or who are going through tough times. So that was a bit of a no-brainer.

Lending a hand to retailers was a bit trickier because their needs differ from one shop to the next. But one of the things that’s affecting most retailers right now is the shortage or product because distribution has halted. So I started putting together retailer bundles — which include a physical copy of Grief and the recently released trade for Dead End Kids — and just sending them to shops that I had a contact at. But because of the current situation, I’ve also been able to connect with more retailers and send stuff to them, too. And I believe, to-date, I’ve sent about 100 bundles out.

I haven’t really spoken much about the bundles publicly because I wasn’t doing it to be recognized, but I do think it’s important to help people when you can. Retailers and readers are the lifeblood of comics and we don’t take care of them right now, there is no industry tomorrow.

CE: What would be a possible option to help out for newer creators or exclusively webcomic creators who may not have the physical copies of their books to send out?

FG: This is a good question to which I’m not sure I have a great answer. But if it were me — and your mileage may vary here — but if I had a non-physical book and I wanted to help retailers, I’d get set up on a platform like Gumroad and I’d commit to donating a portion of the profits to LCSs. I know that doesn’t seem like a big dent, and maybe it isn’t, but the thing to realize is that no one person is going to fix the problem. But every drop in the bucket helps fill it.

CE: Since your convention appearances and panels have been cancelled, what were some subjects you were hoping to discuss that you’d like to discuss here?

FG: Coming off the success of Dead End Kids last year, I was really looking forward to talking through that experience with prospective creators. I’ve been making comics for 4 years this month, and I’ve seen a decent amount of success in a short period of time. So, it would have been cool (and will be cool when cons do start up again) to get out there and show new writers that the dream is possible.

CE: Have you considered organizing online panels to talk to aspiring creators?

FG: I personally haven’t worked to organize any online panels or anything like that. I’m a big believer in letting the people who are best suited to a job do that job — and organizing events (of any kind) is a bit outside of my wheelhouse.

That said, I have been, and will continue to be, part of online panels as long as people will have me. I think they’re incredibly valuable and I think we’re sort of in a golden age where we have so much access to content and content that’s specific. Like, four years ago when I started writing comics, these kinds of things didn’t happen very often. Now, especially now, they’re available in spades and anyone who wants to make comics is in a good position to get started as a result.

CE: You’ve already spoken elsewhere about the way growing up around addiction influenced the creation of your new series No Heroine, so I won’t retread that water. However, I was wondering about the influence of punk music and anarchist ideals on this series?

FG: Growing up…troubled, for lack of a better word, led me to punk music. I was definitely an angry youth and punk was a very big outlet for that. It’s loud, fast, sometimes angry music that tends to address social issues and attract people who don’t have the best home lives.

So it was very easy to marry those ideas to the story of No Heroine because the story — while being an homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a lot of ways — is, at its core, a story about interfamily trauma and a broken home.

The aesthetic of punk rock, too, was a great visual tool box to draw on when Criss, Shawna, and I were developing the lead character, Kayla, and the world she inhabits, too.

CE: What’s your working relationship like with your creative team? How do you work together?

FG: Of my collaborations, this one has been one of the best. For one thing, this is the first time that I am working with a team based entirely in the U.S. for the interiors of the book, which certainly makes collaboration a bit easier (closer time zones, easier to call, everyone speaks the same primary language).

On top of that, working with Criss and Shawna, specifically, has been great. They are a father-daughter artist-colorist team, so they’ve got a lot of creative synergy and work really well together. They’re constantly riffing one one another giving and implementing feedback from one another in real-time. That all just makes managing the project on my end so much easier, but it also, I think, makes the book better.

And Sean, who lettered Grief and Dead End Kids before this, just kind of comes in and does his thing and it looks great. We’ve worked together enough that the relationship is strong and there’s a trust there. Which, again, makes everything so much smoother.

Don’t forget to pick up your copy of No Heroine #1 by mail or by curbside delivery from your favorite local comic book shop on June 14!