Pulsar Entertainment, a webcomics company “focused on offering collaboration, monetization, and digital distribution tools for independent creators,” recently held its inaugural competition for comic creators, with pretty substantial prizes for the top three finishers. This week, after comics celebrity judges finished poring over dozens of submissions, the winners were crowned. The top prize went to Daniel Cooney’s The Tommy Gun Dolls: The Big Knockover, an original, 112-page graphic novel that takes place in Prohibition-era San Francisco about “a crossdressing, gin-soaked grifter,” who “leads a gang of bawdy burlesque girls to avenge their friend’s murder.”
Industry vet Jon Bogdonove (former artist on Power Pack & Superman: The Man of Steel) lauded the book by saying,”Dolls is the only entrant that left me literally craving to read more” (for his full statement, see here). Other judges included Louise Simonson, Ken Lashley, Dennis Calero, and Todd Stashwick.
For his victory, Cooney takes home cash, coaching with Bogdonove, and is featured for a year on Pulsar-Entertainment.com. We spoke with Cooney about his book, his victory, and what comes next for this talented independent creator.
GEEK: How did you first find out about the contest and what was your thinking when entering?
DANIEL COONEY: I found out about through a follower on my Facebook art page in a post with a link to enter my latest book, The Tommy Gun Dolls. I first inquired to learn the specifics of the contest and to confirm if my book was eligible for the comic creator competition and was cleared to enter.
So, prize money is awesome of course – how else do you see the award helping to chart what’s next for you, if anything?
At the very least, more folks would learn about (the book). The Tommy Gun Dolls, Vol. 1 The Big Knockover is essentially Act One of the story, with two more books in development. I was finishing up the lettering and editing of the story just as the competition was underway. I think it’s great what Pulsar is doing and I learned I’ll have one-on-one coaching time with Jon Bognodove – I’m thrilled about discussing my book and what areas to improve as a writer and visual storyteller. Yes, the prize money is great, but being acknowledged by your peers in the comics industry is validation for the years of hard work I’ve dedicated myself to various creator owned comics and some work for hire. [Here are some of Cooney’s past works, including the stylish Valentine]
I’ve plotted out the next two books for The Tommy Gun Dolls as well as finishing up a story arc for my first creator owned book, Valentine. I have a few shows planned to appear in the fall: The Brooklyn Book Festival, New York Comic Con, London and some regional book signings are in the works. This was planned before I learned of winning Pulsar’s Comic Creator contest, but a little windfall goes a long way in the house of Cooney.
When did you publish your first book? And where do you find yourself in terms of comics creation today?
My first published work as a comics creator was Valentine, back in the summer of 1997. Valentine was a semester-long comics project while I was an undergrad at The School of Visual Arts. I had some great teachers/mentors at SVA like Walt Simonson, Klaus Janson, Joe Orlando, Sal Amendola, Andrew Helfer, and Gene Colan. I debuted Valentine at Comic-Con International that summer and been on the hook creating comics since then.
Funny story, when I arrived to set up at Comic-Con, they oversold tables so upgraded me to a 10’ x 10’ booth. I barely had anything to fill my booth but the book, a cardstock banner from Kinkos and a couple of art prints. So my good friend John Benton and I created a mural of the Valentine books with every other one flipped to display the back of the comic. I was surprised how eye-catching it turned out to be. I still had one more year before graduating but managed to crank out two more Valentine books by the spring of 1998.
I chose a tough profession and there’s nothing glamorous about making ends meet; fast-forward twenty years later with a family to support, it’s not about you anymore. I have them to think about and having steady work that pays well outside of comics is a constant challenge to balance with creating comics, truly a labor of love. I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder, though I could use a few more hours in the day to relax.
Images: Daniel Cooney