After seven years of hard work, University of Kansas alumni sees his comic book dream come true

To connect with CW Cooke, find him on Facebook.
CW Cooke and I were classmates at the University of Kansas, and since graduation, he has gone on to write comics, work the independent comic book scene, and create worlds for various companies. After years of hard work and effort, his first series, Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story, is going to be distributed to the public, thanks mostly to a successful Kickstarter campaign. CW's campaign not only surpassed his original goal by several thousand dollars, but it was also named a Kickstarter Staff Pick.

CW was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share how he successfully crowdsourced his project and how other comic writers can get their foot in the door like he did.

TL: What inspired you to create Solitary: A Superhero Prison Story?
CWC: Inspiration started at a very young age for this one, honestly, and kept coming in different ways. I've wanted to make comic books my whole entire life, and started out creating crappy X-men and Superman ripoff comics. Over the years, I had great teachers and professors and friends who inspired me or gave me the push that I needed to make comics. And as I couldn't draw well at all, I took a chance at writing. And I've always wanted to tell my own stories and I've always wanted to have this ongoing piece of me out there for the world to digest.

TL: You have worked with such publishers as Big Dog Ink, Devil's Due, Action Lab, Arcana, Viper, and Bluewater. How did you form those relationships? What works did you publish with them?
CWC: A lot of the relationships were built over time. Most started by emails or letters or mail that I sent, submissions that I sent out, and just meeting various publishers and editors at comic book conventions. Big Dog Ink was a company that I met at a local comic book convention and lucked into handing them some of my work. Bluewater was the first company I worked for and they gave me a chance based on an email submission I had sent. That opened a number of doors and then blind submissions and request emails or interest emails were sent to the various other companies (and honestly, I probably sent emails and letters to every single comic book publisher out there, some more than once).

Check out Solitary's FB page
TL: Why did you decide to do a Kickstarter?
CWC: Kickstarter was chosen out of necessity. Putting together the book as I have been, I spent a bit of my own money and funds were becoming tight due to bills and various other issues coming up. Kickstarter was essentially a last option, to ensure that the people I'm working with get paid and get compensated for their time, their effort, and their hard work.  I had a lot of help and suggestions from Devil's Due in determining what amount would be necessary to get certain goal levels and how to ensure people got paid what they deserve. Exceeding the goal and continuing to do so has been a wonderful, amazing, and far less stressful aspect of the whole thing. Getting to the goal was tough and terrifying. Surpassing and getting higher and higher makes me think people are excited for the book and excited to see the story unfold (now I just hope I don't screw that up). Everything above and beyond will go back into the book and will take care of the rewards and shipping. The additional amounts will ensure that the book keeps running for as long as possible. Now I just hope people KEEP picking it up!

TL: Now that crowdfunding has become trendy, it seems to be harder to stand out in the crowd and get people to open their wallets. Why do you think your Kickstarter succeeded? What advice would you give to other writers/comic book creators when it comes to fundraising?
Artwork from Solitary
CWC: I think mine succeeded because it's a story that hasn't really been told (I hope). I'm a big fan of the mash-up and throwing two ideas as disparate as Superman and Death Row just seemed too incredible to pass up and too bizarre not to try (and like I said, I hadn't really seen anything like it where the hero was behind bars and that's how the story starts). I think the other lucky bit has been that Orange Is the New Black is a huge thing right now and I lucked into that being around when my Kickstarter started. Not to mention the countless other just strange and lucky coincidences that happened and helped get this thing out there. I also think the cover seals the deal with a lot of people and the image of the electrocution. I have had preview copies of the book for a little while and those two images are what catch people's eyes first. Beyond that, I think my honesty and my truth helped a lot. That's the first and best advice I can give to people. Be honest. Be open. Giving the people what they want is nice and having a brilliant and strange new idea is wonderful. But if people don't trust you or think you're a used car salesman, it might not work out. To say I'm lucky is one thing, but you have to build on the luck and you have to do the work and you have to show people that you are willing to do the work and put in the time to build the audience. It's been a long time coming, and I still owe a great deal of it to luck.

TL: Publishing a comic book requires multiple components such as hiring an illustrator and editor. How did you put Solitary together?
CWC: I've been putting it together in one fashion or another since I was 8 years old, but since 2007, it has been the major focus of what I've been doing. I've found and started with a number of different artists on interiors and put together a large number of pitch documents. I've pitched it to various different comic companies since 2007 and I've changed the title, the artist, and large portions of the story at least 3 or 4 times each (if not more). This final iteration, this final version, took the time to get here. Carl Yonder, the cover artist, has been with me for a long time and has helped struggle and fight with me to make this better. I found him and the interior artist, Nando Souzamotta, on websites like Digital Webbing and then built a friendship/relationship/working relationship from there. Carl & Fake Petre, the colorist team, were found for me via Devil's Due and I have zero issue with that as they do incredible work. And I can't, for one second, do anything but say how great Devil's Due has been. Josh and his team have been a blessing, have helped with heavy lifting like marketing and getting the word out and spreading the news everywhere they can. Getting them to pick the book up was a wonder and just luck, like I mentioned before. It was from a blind submission to them via email, and Josh got back to me, told me how much he loved it, and that's where we are now. And I can't forget Alex for his logo and design assistance, Kit for her amazing help in getting stuff done, Johnnie for the lettering, and Shawn for his editing. I know I've been the voice and face, but there are so many amazing people behind the scenes (and I'm probably forgetting somebody).

TL: Now that your passion project is finalizing, what are you working on next?
CWC: I have SO many things going on right now. I have at least 4 active pitches out there at any given moment, two that I'm currently working on getting out there and hopefully both will be out there as creator-owned ongoing series as well. We shall see. Beyond that, I have a number of different stories I have to tell. I have science fiction, horror, romance, action, everything. I love comics and want to create for the rest of my life.

TL: Thank you for the great insight into how to break into comic book writing. You really provided some valuable resources. Is there anything you would like to add before you go?
CWC: It's been a hell of a ride so far and I'm just so happy for my friends, family, and fans for helping get me there. I'm especially happy to chat with you again as it's been FAR too long! But yeah, it's been a strange, wonderful trip, and I have one last thing to add for all the creative types and people who want to create or want to work in a creative field: Never give up. You might hear a million people telling you no and a million people telling you that you can't do it, but if you keep trying and keep working and keep growing as a writer or artist, you just might have a shot. Giving up means you won't do it. Trying means you just might. It took me 7 years of hard work, edits, changes, rewrites, and absolute luck to get where I am.

If you'd like to donate to Cooke's Kickstarter, click here. There's still one day left to contribute! You can also connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.