Persia Blues special preview book

The fine folks at NBM were at the MoCCA Arts Fest (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) last week…

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…and printed up a bunch of these “special preview” copies of Persia Blues, containing the first 26 pages of the book, to hand out to the attendees:

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They were kind enough to send me a box of them to do the same at this weekend’s S.P.A.C.E. (Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo), so if you’re attending the show, be sure to drop by my table and ask for a copy.

I have to say, it’s such a thrill to see the story in print form, even if it’s only a portion of it. I can’t wait to see the final book, which should be out in about a month or so.

Persia Blues: Sequential Underground podcast

In this 22 minute podcast, Sequential Underground’s Nick Marino talks to NMB’s founder/publisher Terry Nantier about the digital/print release strategy for Persia Blues, the library market, challenges faced by artists, and more.

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“This formula here, with the e-comic books, gives the artist the capacity for some input, some availability of the work as it’s coming out…and a revenue flow. It’s a means of helping the artist to get through a very long process.” –Terry Nantier

Pre-order Persia Blues from your local comic book store

My graphic novel from NBM Publishing is currently being solicited in the Previews catalog for distribution to comic book shops in May. The listing is on page 331, and earned the “Spotlight On” designation.

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Please consider supporting your local comic book shop by having them pre-order a copy for you, and a few for their shelves. The Diamond item code is MAR13 1230.

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It’s hard to stand out when you’re one of the thousands of products offered in the massive 500-page catalog, but I’m hoping the spotlight designation will help. Already, we’ve caught the eye of Greg Burgas, who had these kind words to say in his monthly “Flippin’ through Previews” column at Comic Book Resources:

I haven’t read a lot of Dara Naraghi’s work, but what I have read is pretty good, so I’m intrigued by Persia Blues from NBM. It’s about an Iranian woman who lives in both the real world and a fantasy world, but is either of them the real woman? You’ll have to read it to find out! I’m always a little wary of “volume 1″s, but I’m still interested in this.

To find a comic shop near you, drop on by the Comic Shop Locator site.

Of course, you can also order the book through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, any indie bookstore, or even through NBM itself. Whatever floats your boat, as the kids say*. For links and options to buy the book – and support me and Brent Bowman in the process – drop on by the official Persia Blues website.

*The kids don’t actually say that.

NBM Blog: Persia Blues: Fun with Kickstarter

Short excerpt from my latest post on the NBM Blog:

Next up is page 3 of the book, beautifully rendered by series artist Brent Bowman. This page is the start of a four-page sequence wherein our protagonists are confronted by some rather unsavory brigands. But what makes this especially fun is that the likeness of the lead brigand is based on Yiri, the husband of fellow NBM creator Margreet de Heer (Philosophy: a Discovery in Comics, Science: a Discovery in Comics)

Persia Blues debuts digitally on comiXology

My publisher NBM, is doing something they’ve never done before: they’re serializing my graphic novel Persia Blues as 4 digital “issues” before the print edition comes out. And right now, you can pick up the first part (28 pages of story) for a mere 99 cents through the comiXology app for your tablet or smart phone.

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Here’s the official announce ment, from the NBM blog:

Persia Blues, the upcoming graphic novel from NBM publishing and New York Times best-selling writer Dara Naraghi and artist Brent Bowman will debut as a four part series of single issues with issue #1 premiering today for just 99 cents, exclusively on comiXology, — the world’s largest digital comics platform with over 100 million downloads to date. Subsequent issues will be released every two weeks and will retail for $1.99.

The first volume in a three volume series coming from NBM, Persia Blues was both the first title from the publisher that utilized a Kickstarter campaign and the first time they’ve serialized a pending title digitally before it reaches print. The e-comic books will be taken down upon publication of the book when a simultaneous e-book version of the GN will appear.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about this, and very curious to see what the response will be. Everyone knows that digital is where comics are heading, but even as a creator with a vested interest in the medium, I’m having a hard time making the transition from print to digital. I’m hoping that this new venue will expose my work to a whole new (global) audience.

If you do decide to give the first issue a try for just 99 cents, I’d love to get your feedback on it here. Not just the story, but the whole digital experience. What did you like/dislike about the viewer? Would you see yourself purchasing more comics digitally?

NBM blog: From Iran to Indie Comics

Here’s an excerpt from my first blog entry on my publisher’s official blog, sharing a bit about my background and the inception of Persia Blues:

During college, I began dabbling in writing on the side, and even got involved with a fly-by-night indie comics publisher operating out of the west coast. Well, more like the publisher’s spare bedroom, which happened to be in an apartment in a city on the West coast. That experience soured me on the business side of comics for a while, and I lost interest in creating comics, though I still remained a fan of the medium. It wasn’t until about a dozen years ago that I met some similar minded creators in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, that I started to become serious about writing again. We ended up calling ourselves the PANEL Collective, and have been creating and self-publishing small press comix for over 10 years now.

But that’s a story for another post.

However, I will mention that it was through PANEL that I met and befriended the artist that would eventually team up with me on Persia Blues…

Read the full entry here.

Persia Blues – Anatomy of a cover, part 3 (of 3)

(go here for part 1, and part 2)

Sorry, I know this last part was a long time in the making. What can I say, busy, busy, busy. But let’s get to it…

When we sent in our last set of cover concepts, I thought we were pretty close to finalizing the design. However, our publisher had some misgivings about the emphasis on the architectural elements of the story, and our protagonist only appearing in headshots. He astutely pointed out that:

We need to have something more personal and focused on the heroine…don’t get tangled in story elements…

This made sense, especially given that with the book’s print dimensions of 6×9, we really did need a larger image of Minoo to catch the reader’s eye. But he did like the “tri-head” concept, so Brent and I discussed some more ideas and submitted another set of designs, this time featuring our protagonist front and center:

Terry liked this new design, so the finish line was finally in sight. Brent pencilled the final cover illustration, and before the painting stage we had a few more discussions with Terry about the final details. At this point, he wanted Brent to pay special attention to Minoo’s expressions:

A sense of urgency and the expressions on the faces are important…Danger/fear/resolve especially in her ancient incarnation, defiance in her present day incarnation…

Brent and I discussed some simple color schemes, and my better half (Wendy) provided us with a Pinterest board full of fashion looks for Minoo, and after months of hard work, we had an approved painted cover for Persia Blues:

I must admit, at times the process was frustrating and slow, but in the end I’m quite happy with the final design. And I can certainly understand the importance of getting the cover right, from our publisher’s point of view. Unlike a monthly comic book, Persia Blues will be primarily distributed through the book store market, and even with my limited knowledge of that trade, I know how much importance is placed on a cover image. This is a venue in which the corporate buyers for chains like Barnes & Noble have so much clout over the publishers, they can actually dictate cover designs right down to the colors used. As prestigious as NBM Publishing may be, they’re still a smaller publisher competing against the juggernauts for shelf space and recognition in book stores, which made this process all the more important.

Epilogue: so now that we had our cover, we needed a masthead/logo for the book. NBM’s art director, Martin, solicited some ideas from me before starting the task of designing the logo. I forwarded the working logos Brent and I had been using on the cover sketches, adding that ideally I wanted something modern looking, but with a Middle eastern vibe to the typography. An English font that borrowed stylistic elements from Farsi, if you will. Here’s Martin’s logo, which I totally dig:

So there you have it, an abridged account of how we came about with our book’s cover illustration. Believe it or not, the entire process took about 8 months, with the first batch of cover sketching going out on December 11, 2011, and the approved cover uploaded to NBM’s FTP site on August 28, 2012.

Next, I’ll share a few more pages of interior art…

Showing off a Persia Blues page

Brent’s been hard at work on our project, and I’ve got some inked pages coming in. I thought it would be fun to pick a page and show off his process, from thumbnail:

…to pencils:

…to inks:

I’ll be posting a few more pages in the months to come, including one where I’ll start with the page of script and show the process all the way through to the final lettered page.

Persia Blues – Anatomy of a cover, part 2 (of 3)

(go here for part 1)

OK, so last time I mentioned how our initial set of cover concepts was narrowed down to one that our publisher, NBM, liked: the “split” design, which visually mimicked the two main settings of the story. However, a question posed by our editor regarding Minoo’s headscarf made me realize that there really are 3 distinct settings for the story, not 2. So I suggested a slight variation of the split design to Brent, one I called the “tri-head.” I asked for a simple head shot of our protagonist, Minoo, plus two profile shots of her in her other looks. Here’s a snippet from my email:

“I’m thinking maybe the tri-head can be center top of the cover, and show either a collage of the various setting elements below her, or divide the space into 3 and depict each setting in one sliver.”

Brent ran with the idea, working up a few more sketches:

As you can see in the first design, he tried for more of a collage design below the head shots. This was a step back, as our editor reminded us to not “get tangled in story elements,” and to keep it simple.

That lead to the remaining concepts you see above. I suggested to Brent that he use elements from the architecture of Persepolis as a simple graphic to fill in the rest of the cover. I like that he also included a Zoroastrian motif in a couple.

OK, so this latest batch went off to Terry for review. When the reply came back, we knew we were on the right track, but still needed some tweaks before a final design would emerge.

Next: it gets personal (the cover image, that is)

(go here for part 3)

Persia Blues – Anatomy of a cover, part 1 (of 3)

We’re hopefully on the cusp of finalizing the cover design for Persia Blues, vol. 1, so I thought it would be fun to share some of the process behind the effort. My publisher, NBM, gave us complete freedom in suggesting cover treatments. That’s great in some respects, because we have total creative freedom, but it’s also a bit of a daunting situation to be in…because we have total creative freedom. Where to start? What kind of cover would best get across the essence of the book?

I had some initial ideas that I ran past my partner on the project, artist Brent Bowman:

“Show Minoo [our protagonist] in the center of the cover. The image is “cut” somewhat diagonally across her body, with the top part in the modern day Iran and the bottom in the other reality. Since her head and upper torso are in our world, show her wearing modern clothes, and maybe she has her hand up to her ear, holding in her iPod earphones while listening to music. Her other hand/arm at the bottom is holding a sword. If there’s room, you can also depict the city and ruins as backgrounds for each reality, or maybe even show Ahriman draped over top of the cover. Feel free to further juxtapose the two different settings with different art styles.

A variation of the above idea: a vertical split between the two realities, showing Minoo in the center, leaning back against herself (like a mirror image). The Minoo on the left is modern, holding an iPod, the Minoo on the right is in her Persian clothes, holding a sword.

I’d also suggest a couple of “ensemble cast” sketches…”

Granted, those maybe aren’t the most original ideas, but hey, I’m a writer, not a graphic designer! Luckily, that’s why Brent’s here. Taking those into consideration, as well as his own ideas, Brent came up with this initial set of roughs that we shared with our editor:

The masthead obviously isn’t the final one, it’s just a placeholder to give a sense of what the illustration would look like as a full-fledged cover. Personally, I really liked the last one, the wrap-around cover design, but I had a feeling it was a bit too busy for our editor’s taste, and I was right. He liked the “split closeup” designs the most (the 2 middle ones), pointing out that with the final trim size of the book being 6 x 9, the more elaborate illustrations just wouldn’t have the same impact as a simpler, bolder design. That made sense, so we embarked on a second set of roughs, variations on the theme of the design he liked.

Next: round 2 of designs, and my “tri-head” idea.

(go here for part 2)

Creator Owned Day: Empress Purandokht

Belfast-based artist Stephen Downey came up with the idea of designating March 1st “Creator Owned Day”

As he explains on his blog:

“A lot of reader and creator focus is on characters owned by larger corporations. Let’s bring a little spotlight on creating brand new, creator owned concepts.”

So in that spirit, here’s another look at a character from my upcoming graphic novel series Persia Blues, created in partnership with my friend, artist Brent Bowman:

Empress Purandokht and bodyguards

Empress Purandokht was one of only 2 female rulers of the Persian empire, and she will play a prominent role in the series.

More to come…

Announcing my newest project: PERSIA BLUES

I’m very excited to finally be able to take this news public: on the last day of the month that I turned 40 (i.e. this past November) I signed a contract with NBM Publishing to bring my creator-owned series Persia Blues to the market. Based in New York and founded by Terry Nantier in 1976, NBM is one of the oldest independent graphic novel publishers in the US, with a slew of critically acclaimed original and European reprint albums.

Yep, it's official

I’m extremely excited to be working with Terry and the fine folks at NBM on what will be a trilogy of original graphic novels, telling an epic tale centered around Minoo Shirazi, a young Iranian grad student living in the US. Here’s the tagline I used in the pitch:

“Persia Blues chronicles a young Iranian woman’s life in two different worlds, both of which are a lie.”

Without giving too much away just yet, Persia Blues will explore Minoo’s life, love, struggles, and triumphs in two separate worlds. The series will draw heavily from modern Iranian culture, ancient Persian history and mythology, as well as elements from the Zoroastrian religion.

Character designs for Minoo and Tyler

Joining me on this project is super talented artist, fellow Columbusite, and fellow PANEL Collective member Brent Bowman. Brent’s been doing an amazing job designing the look and feel of the series, which with its half a dozen different settings and over a dozen main characters is no small task.

Character design for Ahura Mazda

The first volume in the series, tentatively titled “Columbus to Persepolis” is slated for release in early 2013. I know that seems like a long time away, but we’ve got you covered. I’ll be using my blog here to post regular updates, art previews, and a ton of cool behind-the-scenes material for your enjoyment. So please bookmark this site (or better yet, subscribe to the blog’s RSS feed by clicking the orange icon at the bottom of this page) and check in on our progress.

Character design for...well, it's a secret for now

My goal is to make this graphic novel series a very unique reading experience, both in terms of subject matter and presentation. Brent and I can’t wait to share more with you.