Published Mar 12, 2013
Guest Blog: Anthony Montgomery's Graphic Novel Trek
Guest Blog: Anthony Montgomery's Graphic Novel Trek
By Anthony Montgomery
A few months ago I was contacted by StarTrek.com and invited to write a first-person blog about my graphic novel and sci-fi franchise, Miles Away. Honestly, I was initially intimidated because I’ve never done a blog and the idea seemed a little daunting. The editor told me that Star Trek fans around the world would love to know about this journey I’m on and they would love to hear about it in my own words. That insight gave me the confidence to tell my tale.
In 2007, I contacted my friend Eric Vale about writing the pilot episode for my animated series. Eric was (and is) an animation voice actor who had worked on numerous projects for FUNimation Entertainment, including “Trunks” from Dragon Ball Z. In addition to being an accomplished voice actor, Eric had also been head writer for several dozen anime programs. Eric wrote the M5 Spec script (meaning a “speculative” screenplay to get the feel of the show) that I was able to use to help convey what my show would look like.After getting all my artwork, designs, treatments and scripts registered with the US Copyrights Office and Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) in 2007, I put together a pitch book and began scheduling meetings with animation houses to see my dream come to life. With no representation, based on my affiliation with Star Trek: Enterprise, I was able to meet with Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network. Both companies thought I had a great idea and they liked my presentation, but neither moved forward with a development deal. WB was concentrating on the in-house properties they already owned and the exec at CN told me my story was too similar to their existing hit show Ben 10 (about a kid who finds an alien watch and can change into superhero alien characters). He said even the name of my show was too parallel, M5. I explained that granted, the title of my show was derived from my main character’s name, Max, and an aspect of his super-ability (it takes 5 minutes for his power to manifest), hence, M5, my premise was nothing like their show and that it was just coincidental that there were similarities. My series was about a kid who develops a super power and along with two aliens with super abilities, unlocks keys to his family’s dark and mysterious past while repeatedly saving the world as the top agent for a shadowy organization. My hero owned a watch, of course, but he can’t turn into aliens. My rebuttals didn’t matter. He still passed, but left the door open for me to pitch in the future if I created a show I thought would work for their network.
The Disney meeting finally came. Ralph and I went (our agent was unavailable) and I gave an even better pitch. However, although they agreed that I had a solid project, I was informed that Disney had just spent more than four billion dollars acquiring the Marvel Universe catalogue. Even though my story may be different, there was certainly some similar character, with similar abilities, within the 5000+ characters in their new database. I had to agree. I didn’t meet with an exec, but the exec assistant we met gave me a couple notes to help me target my pitch even more: 1) Play up the “impending invasion” I mentioned during my presentation because it would enhance the sense of urgency for the hero to have to go to the alien world to stop the invasion before it got to his home world and 2) Specifically target 9-12 year old boys, because all of the networks were trying to reach that demographic with minimal success. His suggestions were things that were already part of my overall package, so his notes were easy to implement. I didn’t have to change what I had already created; I just had to highlight particular elements differently in my pitch. I told Brandon about my meeting with Disney and said we were going to make some adjustments to Miles Away. To reach the 9-12 year old male demographic, we would play up the invasion more and instead of Max going on his quest with only the two alien refugees (which the representative thought was a fun element for sci-fi fans, in general), we would add his best friend (who was already part of the original story) to the mix, and make it more of a “superhero buddy adventure.” These adjustments were easy to make and the writing continued.
I told Brandon that I wanted to put together a “preview book” before my next pitch meeting. This book would also serve as an introduction to publishing houses to see if I could get them to publish my full graphic novel. I tasked my agent with getting me into the publishing companies. I really wanted Image Comics to publish Miles Away and their requirement when a project changes artists is there needs to be at least 5 pages of artwork from the new artists included with the submission. Brandon and I gave Jonathan the next round of pages to draw and had him concentrate on pages 23-28 of the book so I could have my preview book generated. While the pencils, inks and colors were being done, Brandon told me about a website to find a person to letter the book. After receiving proposals from several prospects, I was fortunate to find a letterer named Adam Pruett, who had already worked professionally for many companies including Image Comics.
After several more months, feeling certain I had all the elements for my series to be embraced, and with my preview book in hand I had my agent schedule another meeting with CN. It had been more than four years since I pitched to their network and I believed I would be able to get them to take on Miles Away. I learned that the exec I met with originally was still at the company, but a new person was in charge of securing properties. My agent and I met with the Manager in charge of Action/Adventure Original Series and his associate. The meeting went great. The CN exec confirmed that the big animation houses were trying to tap the 9-12 year old male audience and Miles Away could be a great fit. There was one hitch though. CN had already done an adventure series called Generator Rex that didn’t do as well as they had hoped, so they were looking for shows that were more like Phineas and Ferb or Danny Phantom, shows that began with a scenario that sends the heroes (and audience) on an adventure that concludes by the end of the show. Miles Away is more of an epic adventure that will play out over a long period of time, more like Star Wars: The Clone Wars. After keeping the preview book for two weeks and talking to the various decision makers at CN, the CN exec got back to me and said they would pass, but (since the animation industry is cyclical) wanted to revisit the idea in nine months to a year.
Eternally optimistic yet discouraged that CN had passed again and frustrated that my agent wasn’t able to secure some sort of distribution deal for my graphic novel, I decided to take Miles Away out on my own and find a literary agent who specialized in my form of book. I thanked James for all his efforts and took my material to continue the journey by myself.
I continued to promote the Miles Away graphic novel and franchise by attending WonderCon in Anaheim, where I did a “soft launch” to introduce the general public to Miles Away. I also attended SDCC 2012, where I met Madison Jones, Co-Chairman of de Passe Jones Entertainment Group. After seeing the potential for Miles Away, Madison offered to help me see my vision to completion. The last convention I attended was Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek Las Vegas event in 2012. I got fantastic feedback from the fans, who loved the preview book and were all amazingly supportive and eager for the full book to be released.
Shortly after leaving my agency, with no representation, I prayed that the right opportunities for Miles Away would continue to present themselves. I wasn’t getting any responses from the major distributors I had solicited, so I reached out to people I knew in the comic industry. My prayer was soon answered. Brian revealed to me that he worked for Antarctic Press and would present my preview book to his publisher. He also reached out to one of his contacts at IDW on my behalf and the response was that they couldn’t even take a look at Miles Away for more than a year because they were overbooked with projects for a couple years. Brian then told me that his publisher at Antarctic Press liked Miles Away and agreed to distribute it for me. Brian wrote me that Antarctic Press was a rarity in comics because they could get a project on the stands within months of thinking of it. That kind of flexibility allowed them the opportunity to navigate to the impulses of the comic audiences. The only catch was that they didn’t have any money for marketing or promotion, so that would be left up to me. I knew getting the word out would be a challenge, but I wanted to take advantage of the blessing I had received, so I accepted the offer from Antarctic Press.
The Antarctic Press publisher suggested doing a Limited Edition cover for the book. I agreed that doing 100 Limited Edition, numbered and signed covers would be a wonderful collector’s item for any enthusiasts out there. And for all collectors out there, the Miles Away Previews ad can be seen in PREVIEWS issue 293, Page 241. Miles Away will debut this April, and is available for pre-order directly through Antarctic Press: http://www.antarctic-press.com/html/version_01/store.php?id=Miles+Away.Fans can also order Miles Away from their local comic stores by using the Diamond code: FEB130698 J to order the Signed Limited Edition or Diamond code: FEB130697 E to order the Regular Edition Cover. I’d like to thank all the readers of StarTrek.com for their unending devotion while I helmed the ship as Starfleet’s resident “space boomer.” And I thank you for your continued support of my career and endeavors. Anthony Montgomery