The impact of telecommuting has touched all industries, but comic books might not be the first one that comes to mind.
The ability to collaborate via email and Skype does explain a Saturday signing in Missoula at noon at Muse Comics. Three local comic book writers and artists – Tim Daniel, Anthony Gregori and Leila del Duca – will share work that’s to be released nationally.
Daniel, a longtime Missoula resident, has a host of far-flung new projects at the beginning of this year. The father of two put out his debut as a writer in mid-2012. The one-off, oversized comic “Enormous” (Shadowline Comics) takes place in the near future, after an environmental disaster unleashes gigantic monsters across the globe.
Daniel re-embraced his comics hobby after moving his family from Seattle to Missoula and taking a job at the University of Montana.
When someone dismissed his idea of working in comics from the Garden City, it “inspired me to do whatever I could to break into the comics industry,” he said.
Through some online forums, he eventually worked his way up to logo and book design gigs for Robert Kirkman’s staggeringly popular “Walking Dead” series.
From his home in Missoula, Daniel connected with Morocco artist Mehdi Cheggour and developed “Enormous” via email, hoping the title would get picked up for more issues.
In May, 215ink will begin publishing “Enormous” as an ongoing, regular-sized series, every comic scribe’s goal. Along with a companion title, “Colossal” with art by Colin Lorimer, Daniel wants to keep the momentum going. He’d like to cover “a lot of ground quickly and keep things on the shelves, because that’s kind of the death knell for comic books,” he said.
“Enormous” was also optioned as a pilot for a Web TV series by Machinima, an online video network that produces content for YouTube or Xbox Live. The first draft of the script was written by “Troll Hunter” director André Ovredal, and the final pilot was written and directed by BenDavid Grabinski.
It stars newcomer Ceren Lee as Ellen, a woman helping to rescue children displaced by the environmental disaster; journeyman actor Steve Brand as the antagonist hunting her down; and Erica Gimpel (“True Blood”) as a member of Ellen’s team.
Daniel said Grabinski’s treatment is faithful to his book, but wittier. It also has retro visual sensbility.
“He seems to have an amazing affinity for mid-’80s cinema. He’s very film-oriented, so ‘Enormous’ has adopted that look,” Daniel said.
The pilot will debut in February. Each installment is about 10 minutes, with the idea that a complete series can eventually be stitched into a cohesive film.
Earlier this week, Daniel also released the first issue in a new horror series, “Curse.” The werewolf-themed title was co-written by Mike Moreci with art by Lorimer and Riley Rossmo, and published by Boom! Studios.
“Curse” is set in a small Wisconsin town plagued by a series of murders, possibly committed by something non-human. A bounty proves too tempting for Laney Griffin, a single father struggling to pay for the care of his sick child. His sister-in-law, Nora, happens to be the sheriff and also is drawn into the murders. It develops into a multilayered hunt that escalates over its four-issue run, Daniel said.
From the initial idea about werewolves, he and his collaborators drifted from science-fiction twists (i.e. weaponizing the creatures’ powers) to a more human drama inspired by current events.
“At the time, the health care debate was raging in the papers. It was pretty common to see stories on the brink of financial ruin every day. It was kind of frustrating and it angered me,” he said.
Unlike Daniel, del Duca and Gregori came to Missoula with some established contacts and an eye to develop their careers further while based here.
Del Duca grew up in Missoula and Laurel, and studied illustration at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver. She moved back in late 2012 after looking for a smaller city that was bicycling and hiking friendly.
So it was from a workspace in the Garden City, not Denver, that she’s been drawing “Shutter,” a fantasy adventure title announced last week at the ImageExpo in San Francisco.
It was scripted by Joe Keatinge, who has numerous writing and editing credits with Marvel, D.C. and Image. The ongoing series follows Kate Christopher, a photojournalist sucked back into the world of her father, a famed explorer. “They live in a version of Earth where mythological creatures have always existed,” del Duca said.
And so the humans in “Shutter’s” alternate reality aren’t surprised to share sidewalk space with alligator bellhops, many-tentacled cthulhus, suit-clad minotaurs, ghost assassins and more. The eye-popping visuals include color by Owen Gieni.
For del Duca, whose interests lean toward fantasy and science fiction, it’s provided “unending visual ideas and writing opportunities for us,” she said.
“I didn’t know drawing comics could be this good.”
She’s also illustrated a series called “The Pantheon Project,” which follows high school students grappling with superpowers, and penciled “DeadSkins,” a zombie Western published online by Fried Comics.
She and artist Anthony Gregori are working on a mini-comic for Ice Bridge Brewery, a new business planning to open in downtown Missoula. It will feature Belgian microbrews and a Nordic theme that the two are playing with for their designs.
Gregori has published work all over – including credits on Michael Serraro’s “Unmasked,” which looks at “superheroes with a dark twist”; a miniseries for Viper Comics called “Romeo” (pronounced “Romo”); and a project in the works with local writer Josh Wagner; and much more.
He and Daniel met at a Comic Con in San Diego, and he eventually relocated from Boulder, Colo.
“Tim extolled the virtues of Missoula and convinced me to give it a shot, and when I moved here I fell in love with it,” he said.
While he had an eye on a job at the University of Montana, it didn’t pan out. The move did coincide with an uptick in illustration work, though. Once comic book artists or writers have a career established, they can live anywhere, he said. “Doing this for a living, it’s a luxury.”
He and Daniel are working on a four-issue monthly serial called “Throwback” that satirizes both superhero tropes and the comic book industry as a whole.
The protagonist, the Terror, is part of a crew called the VenGents.
“He is the Wolverine of the crew, but how Wolverine should’ve been,” Gregori said. While the “X-Men” icon drifted from villain to schoolteacher, Terror stays the same, they said.
His other team members don’t trust him because he violates their code and sense of justice – i.e. killing people.
“They try to banish him into prehistoric times and there’s an accident, and that’s where the fun starts,” Gregori said.
Daniel said it comments on the evolution of the superhero from “paragon of truth, justice and the American way” down to the modern antihero.
They’re not trying to mimicAlan Moore’s “Watchmen,” though. It’s very tongue-in-cheek.
Like Moore’s comics, it’s not appropriate for children – Gregori described it as “Wolverine on acid.”
With pitches like that, it’s worth working with people in your area code.