Back around 1999 (cue Prince song) I came up with an idea for a book. Not a comic book but and actual illustrated book. It would be a humorous book about creatures that I would create and it would be full color with painted images of these critters. I even had a name for it, “STRANGE CREATURES that very few people know anything about”. A title that I felt properly reflected the irreverent nature of the book. But who would publish it? More specifically, who would publish a book by me? At the time, I was struggling to find work. I was still battling the career destruction that Takion had caused. Well, the idea got filed away as one of those great ideas that would never see the light of day.
Shortly thereafter my career path swept me down to Florida and CrossGen Comics. There I met a variety of great people but one new friend of mine, Andy Smith, was a published author. He had written the very successful book, Drawing Dynamic Comics for Watson-Guptil Publishing. It just so happened that his editor was in Florida trying to convince him to do a companion book and also looking for anyone else who might have an idea for a another “How To” book. I spoke briefly to her about possibly doing a “How To Draw Dinosaurs” book but the more I thought about it, the more I realized this could be my chance to do the book I really wanted to do! So I pitched the editor my idea for “Strange Creatures”.
Luckily I had a piece of art that I had painted a couple of years prior that I could show her and she loved it. Even though my idea was not the type of book that Watson- Guptil normally published, she said if I put together a proposal that she would pitch it for me.
Here is the painting that I originally showed her. It was a concept for a children’s book but it fit perfectly into my new book idea.
And here is the sample page I put together for her to pitch the book to her publisher. I decided to combine the color art with pencil sketches as if I were making a field guide. Each creature would have it’s own one page write up and there would be hand-written text with further “scientific” notation under each pencil sketch. I originally imagined the layout looking like one of those Eyewitness Books.
So my potential new editor took the sample page and some sample art back with her to New York. Several weeks later ( in fact it was such a long time I thought the project had no chance and was dead and buried) I got a call from the editor. She started the conversation by saying, “You understand this is not the type of book Watson-Guptil does…..however, they love your artwork and they want to go ahead with it!” Unbelievable, I was about to get my first real book published! Little did I know what lay ahead….