Congratulations on being selected as EPN entrepreneur of the month. We would like to help our readers understand how you got started in the business and how you came up with the idea to create BeyondComics.TV .
Graig Weich: Thank you. It's an honor to have been selected. The following series of events all led up to this moment... I started teaching my own art classes at age 15. A couple years later, I began college at SVA, I thought everyone would be supportive like I am with others, but I soon learned that everyone there was very hateful and jealous. The better you drew and more outgoing you were, the more they disliked you. That was very discouraging.
I also saw that everyone could draw better than me, I then realized I had a choice to make, either be depressed about it or do something about it, so after school every night I begin redrawing every single page from scratch out of every single art book I could get my hands on, once I mastered that, I then realized I needed to try and create new art that no one else has done before in order to stand out from the rest.
By the following year, I became one of the world's youngest artists to break into drawing comic books at age 19, and I was hired to draw for the number one selling comic book series of all time, Image Comics' Spawn, issue number 30, as their featured poster artist. I was so excited,I actually jumped for joy to get my first job in comics.
I did my first autograph signing at Madison Square Garden for that issue, fans of the comic came up to me there and told me that they saw my artwork featured on TV, I was so surprised to learn that they featured my artwork on the Fox TV show A Current Affair with host Maury Povich, that show was like Extra or E.T.
After creating a lot more art, many bigger companies began stealing my work and removing my name from it, unpaid. That is when I realized if I create my own original characters, then they could not do this anymore or so I thought... then I learned about copyrighting and trademarking and lots of the ins and outs of the trade, then I learned that even that's not enough, that you must have your work known as well, hence my mission to discover the importance of promotion... I did all different types of jobs, including writing stories/scripts, creating latex molded casted costumes, like the Batman suit, as well as storyboards, comic book art, web design, special effects, music, video editing and directing. When you have no budget to start with, you have to teach yourself everything. I realized it was time to umbrella all of this under one company with different divisions, and that is when I created www.BeyondComics.TV .
It was truly a dream come true to be able to start casting celebrities as characters in my comic books, the same way they do for movies, and recently appearing on the Howard Stern Show, 20/20 ABC News, AMC's Comic Book Men and E! Entertainment Television's Ice Loves Coco, starring Ice-T and his model wife Coco, was the best feeling! I cast them as characters in my comic book along with Adrianne Curry, the winner of America's Next Top Model, Donald Faison from NBC's SCRUBS, Grammy Winning Rapper Coolio and David Prowse, Darth Vader from StarWars. The live action short film I directed with them was the first in history to win any film festival, it won the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival and my recent film I directed just screened at the HBO and AMC theaters in Time Square. Here is a clip of my work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scfQrotlwbk&sns=em
EPN: What did it take to get to where you are today?
GW: Turning myself into a human machine, working up to 72 hours without any sleep in order to accomplish what I needed to do, I realized that people work from 9 to 5 but if I could work twice that each day, then I can create the work twice as fast and get it out even quicker in order to stay matched with the competition. My body on the other hand disagreed with this approach and I ended up in the hospital for about 9 hours after doing that. I made a compromise with my body and decided to end my work day after 36 hours of work straight, then sleep a few hours and do it all over again, that has worked pretty well for me, though I am exhausted. What I hadn't planned for was turning myself into a businessman, I work about 60 percent business and 40 percent art now, it's kind of frustrating because I learned that in order to have your work get out there, you need to have the business side running like a well oiled machine, that requires constant networking and promotion, it is the only way that people will know your work exists.
EPN: Do you have a history of business and entrepreneurship in your family?
GW: My great great grandfather invented suspenders and the unicycle and used to be an artist who painted the side of carriages/Taxi cabs by hourse and buggy I heard. My father was the first in his family to graduate college and on my mother Pat's side of the family, her parents Jacque Finke & Gladys Gallant were both writers for CBS television and her mother's book Living Image was published by Double Day. My father is one of the most amazing painters I've ever seen, but he only did it as a hobby, and my mother is a writer for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I guess when you mix that all together, you got me.
EPN: So what keeps you motivated?
GW: Seeing my parents' faces smile when I show them my work or accomplishments, that makes it all worthwhile. Also looking at amazing creative works of art by some of my favorite artists and writers. The novelist Philip Roth is a friend of the family and based many of his characters on my father, Martin, who he grew up with in school.
Staying motivated is probably one of the hardest things to do overall though, fighting through the struggles of everyday life, and trying to stay afloat through all the obstacles and problems is very difficult, to keep your head together is keys. Because this type of work is a long process and there is no finishing of work in a day, projects can take upwards of a couple of years, so it is important to keep looking at what you have done in order to show yourself that you are near finishing the project and can keep going...
One of the biggest wonderful things that this work has allowed me to do is to donate much of the art I've created from the TV shows for charity events in order to help them raise money, including Rosie O'Donnell's charity for children, Beth and Howard Stern's rescue animals charity, the children with AIDS foundation, and the Leukemia blood cancer charity. It's an amazing feeling that fictional characters I've created can actually help people in the real world by raising money for good causes. In a way, it makes my superheroes real.
EPN: What do you love most about your job/business?
GW: I really enjoy being able to distract people from their problems and give them hope through some of the story ideas that I try to bring out for them as a writer and artist, but my favorite is meeting my fans at Comic Con, it is so exciting when they ask me which character would win in a battle and seeing their excitement and enthusiasm from work I created... one girl came up to me in a wheelchair and actually thanked me for creating superheroes that made her smile, it was incredible to see that they had such an impact on her and I thanked her for for being an inspirational hero in real life.
EPN: What are the plans for www.BeyondComics.TV in the next five years? Ten years?
GW: I'm working on a lot of new projects, and hope one day to have live action movies, animated cartoons, action figures and video games based on my creations come to life. Keep an eye out in the near future for Gekido, Code Name: Justice, Ravedactyl: Life Beyond Death, & Humanibotics: Rise of the Cybornauts. I love coming up with these names. (With thanks to written co-creator of Gekido: Brandon Wilson.)
EPN: When you first started, what were some of the obstacles you encountered? how did you overcome those obstacles then lead BeyondComics.TV to where it is now?
GW: Never giving up is the name of the game. Never accepting No. Always pushing forward. Not being scared no matter how scared you really are inside.
The older I get the harder it is to stay focused on these things, because real life hits and one's sense of purpose gets altered by the knowledge that life teaches us, but it is that feeling that you need to quench that drives us to fulfill our destiny. I believe the closer you get to success the more problems and obstacles come your way in order to stop you for whatever reason, its as if we're being tested to see how much crap we can put up with and how many times we can get up after we fall or are knocked down... but as long as we keep getting up, we cannot be stopped!
BIO:Graig Weich is artist/writer/director of: http://www.BeyondComics.TV where you can order the signed comic issue #1 of Gekido staring Ice-T's Wife Coco as Cleo, Adrianne Curry as Tricity and Howard Stern's Gary "Bababooey" Dell'Abate as a ninja, as seen on TV's Ice Loves Coco & The Howard Stern Show..Graig broke into comics at age 19 drawing for Spawn (Image Comics by Todd Mcfarlane) and went on to appear on TV's 20/20 ABC News, Fox, E! Entertainment Television, AMC, VH1 and MTV just to name a few, with over 700,000 views on his channel, follow him for updates at: