The Impossible Dream
The year began with fevered anticipation, impatience and anxiety.
"Will the book have high enough orders to print?"
"Will retailers respond to the advertising of the character?"
"What will become of all this work and struggle if the numbers aren't there?"
These were the questions that jumbled through my head in the early months of 1994, as I had just solicited under my fledgling company, Empire Publications.
But there was much more to worry about than just orders. I soon found out that my financial "backers" at Empire were anything but. Their penthouse office was nothing more than a house of cards. Their main goal was to make Empire and Shi a division of their own company. In other words - steal my creation and all my work, making her their own. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire" the old expression goes, and I dove in with bare feet.
It got worse. One inker demanded advance payment or he wouldn't hand over the pages that he'd worked on. He knew of our agreement to work on spec, as was the agreement with everyone on the "Shi Team", but that didn't matter now.
He wanted his cash, period. Also looming overhead was the fact that the advertising debts had to be collected or the distributors would not release the purchase orders. One distribution manager even suggested that I re-solicit the book in six months.
I was desperate, broke and six months behind in my rent. "What would become of all this work?" I spent many an hour sitting alone in any church I could find, hoping, praying, and finding the faith in myself and Shi.
Everyone meets an adversary and only those who stand up to it have a chance of victory, so to me the answer was simple. "Re-solicitation is out of the question. Now is the time to strike- not in six months -Now." Through the wonderful generosity of some friends, I was able to pay off the inker and the distributors and incorporate Crusade Entertainment Ltd.
In order for the book to ship on time, Barry Orkin and I spent an entire weekend coloring the final 10 pages of the 32 page comic book. Another two days were spent cutting and pasting word balloons onto the plastic overlays.
Wizard The Guide to Comics President and C.O.O. Fred Pierce, formally of Valiant Comics, convinced Touch of Class Printing to produce the final film output for printing. Rushing to New York City from Haupauge, L.I. in a fierce snow storm, the car I was driving (my mother's old Jeep Wagoneer) broke down. The battery had died, and I thought I had too. My grumbling brother came to jump start the car and off into the blizzard I went.
On March 23, 1994, the first 37,000 copies of Shi ~ The Way of the Warrior #1 were shipped to comic book retailers across North America and the United Kingdom. "It had to sell, it just had to." After all, I had confidently (or foolishly) printed an extra 13,000 copies. The question now was, "Would it sell?"
The Strike Zone, Astoria, NY was the scene of my first book signing, April 7th, 1994. I couldn't believe that people actually wanted my autograph. They were waiting in lines and asking me if I wanted a soda! This was going to be fun.
By the time Shi ~ The Way of the Warrior #2 hit the stands on July 6th, reorders for Shi #1 had surpassed 140,000 copies. Initial orders for Shi #2 jumped to 80,000 copies. Shi's numbers and popularity continued with the third installment of The Way of the Warrior. People were reading the books, and our heroine Ana Ishikawa was on her way...