Proofs wrapped, I’s dotted, T’s crossed, this sucker is done and off to the printer and will be in your hands in early July in the form of a $20 hardcover from Dark Horse Comics.
2010 to 2015. Even earlier if you want to get technical. That’s how long this book has been in the works. It was definitely sometime in 2009 or so, in the midst of my annual Everest obsession, when I first got the idea of having a gunfight in the Khumbu Icefall. Then it sat on my mental shelf, because I didn’t know what to do with it. Then in 2010 I moved to Portland and decided to pursue comics full-steam. And what was known as “The Everest Book” was there, lurking, waiting to be made sense of.
There’s lots of previous iterations that got built up and torn apart. My first draft outline involved teams from the US, Russia and China up on the mountain racing Zan for the body of Sullivan Mars. It was huge, bloated, unwieldy. Luckily I was roommates with a comics editor who pointed me at some comics that might lead me to the story I wanted to tell. And he was right.
One of my most vivid memories of working on High crimes before it was even called that (I think the working title at this point was DARK SUMMIT) was sitting at my 24 hour coffeeshop in the late spring/early summer of 2011. I was at one of the outdoor tables, laptop braced on my knee, listening to Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over” over and over and over as I furiously typed out the complete beat sheet of the story, from the opening scenes of issue 1 to what will be the closing scenes of issue 12 and having this feeling that I was actually doing something good. Maybe something great. And feeling giddy about it, but having no idea what would become of it.
After that, High Crimes got rejected by the publisher I pitched it to, and then it got set aside, but it was always a thing I wanted to do. I tried to go it on my own, talked to at least one artist about working on it, but he was intimidated by the scope and scale of Everest and trying to make a book set in and around it work. When it seemed like it wouldn’t happen as a comic, I tried to write it as a novel. Got a couple chapters in and it just wasn’t right. Then I met Chris Roberson and Allison Baker when they moved to Portland and at a screamingly loud birthday party for Joe Keatinge, Allison yelled in my ear “We want you to pitch us something for Monkeybrain.”
I dusted it off. Changed the name. It still looked good, read good, it was still the story I wanted to tell. I sent it off to them and within a day or so, they said yes. We wanna do this. That publisher who rejected it? They wanted to look at it again. They rejected it. Again.
Joe Keatinge shows up again a month or three later, this time on my birthday, after a round of Slappy Cakes, we’re driving around and I’m mentioning how I need to find an artist for my Monkeybrain book and Joe says, “There’s a guy in my studio who is looking for someone to collaborate with.” We drive to Joe’s studio and I’m introduced to Ibrahim. I describe the story to him right here as he’s sitting at his drafting table. It’s the first time I’m pitching an artist I don’t know on a book and, weirdly, he’s into it. I promise to send him everything as soon as I get home. I leave and I feel amazing. I feel like this will work. I send him all my stuff and a day later he’s into it, he wants to do it. We start talking about it.
By December, we had a first issue. We sent it to Monkeybrain, we started in on issue 2. We waited. A week or two later, I threw up in Brian Churilla’s front yard from sheer nervousness.
Then it’s January 29th, 2013 and I’m pulling an all-nighter in that same 24 hour coffeeshop, I’m lettering issue 2 of High Crimes as it becomes the 30th, and my twitter starts lighting up with people who’ve read it. Real people I don’t know (yet). People who will become peers and friends, they’re reading our book. They seem to like it. I’m trying to finish the letters and trying to pay attention to all the feedback. It’s 4-5am, I finish issue 2 and send it off to Monkeybrain. I drive home listening to Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob as loud as it will go. We made a comic. This feels fucking amazing.
Now it’s almost 3 years later from when we officially started and we’re done. High Crimes dragged us out of comics obscurity, it took us to the Eisners, it dominated our lives sometimes for weeks non-stop. It’s made us friends, gotten us readers we never expected, gotten us a foothold in the job we wanted the most in the world and it never stopped being the most important book I was working on, even when other books appeared on my radar, it was always High Crimes, first and foremost. And it’s done. Written in stone, printed on paper. It’s over. This part anyhow. Now people get to read it, lots of people. This little thing we sweated and died over, that was a like a cool little secret for all this time, it’s getting a chance to be read by everyone.
As heartbroken as I am to be done with it, I’m proud as hell that we did the book we always wanted to do, we never had to compromise an inch and we were never less than 100% devoted to making sure every bit of it was as good as every other bit, that we’d be happy to look over at our bookshelves and see it sitting there alongside other, really real books for the rest of our lives and feel proud.
Right on, Chris. Congratulations and I can’t wait to see it in print. It’s a beautiful piece of work.