Today we’re talking with Coach Monroe of Essential Comics. His is such an inspirational story, Please check it out!
References and Links:
[00:00:00] Halfling: Thanks for tuning into the third season of the Halfling and Spaceman: Journeys in Active Fandom. We're having great conversations with people who've turned their love of fandom into something creative. We're fans talking to fans, and today we're excited to have Coach Monroe of Essential Comics.
[00:00:17] Halfling: Welcome, Coach.
[00:00:19] Coach Monroe: Hey, how y'all doing today?
[00:00:21] Halfling: We're doing great. How are you?
[00:00:23] Coach Monroe: I'm okay. I'm alright. I'm enjoying this, uh, hot weather, so I'm enjoying my air conditioning, doing the best I can to stay Cool.
[00:00:33] Halfling: I feel you. I feel you. I, I don't handle the heat , as I get older or it gets worse, well, we're gonna go ahead and get started. Uh, why don't you just tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
[00:00:46] Coach Monroe: Well, I'm a ex Navy Marine Corps veteran, uh, disabled vet. I was a medic in the military. Got out, started, uh, working with students. First of course it was coaching, uh, and then it was, Just working with a special education. Always had a love of comic books and back before I went into the military, I was somewhat of a decent artist.
[00:01:13] Coach Monroe: Graduated from North Carolina A&T State University, and right now I'm just a father of Five beautiful children and I'm trying to be the best person I can be.
[00:01:28] Halfling: Ah.
[00:01:30] Spaceman: Those are always great goals.
[00:01:32] Halfling: Amen to that. That's, that's what everybody should strive for. Be. Be the best person that you can be. That's, awesome. And before we go any further, I wanna thank you for your military service. Oh, I never knew what to say to that because it was something that I enjoyed doing anyway, so, but I, I appreciate
[00:01:50] Halfling: Well, no, I mean, you know, I, I think that, well, we won't get on onto that topic. Well, we'll save that for, we'll save that for off the air. But, uh, but anyway, suffices to say, like I said, I, I, you for your service.
[00:02:07] Spaceman: Coach. So let's get started by telling our listeners a little bit about your business, Essential Comics and the content you provide.
[00:02:16] Coach Monroe: Essential Comics is a North Carolina based, publishing company that I started, officially back in, uh, 2018. We work mostly with, uh, superhero genre. We are starting to branch off into a little touch of the horror, science fiction part. But mostly we deal with superheroes.
[00:02:41] Coach Monroe: Uh, right now we have. Uh, seven titles that we are, uh, selling at conventions. And hopefully we're, we're, our goal is to be in stores by January.
[00:02:58] Spaceman: Well, good luck.
[00:03:01] Spaceman: Yeah,
[00:03:01] Halfling: good
[00:03:01] Halfling: luck. Good luck. Yeah, seriously. He's not being sarcastic. He is being serious about that.
[00:03:06] Coach Monroe: Thank you.
[00:03:09] Spaceman: What am I coming across as being sarcastic? You? You can tell when I'm sarcastic. No,
[00:03:13] Halfling: it's just, you know, some, sometimes when somebody says, well, good luck, they
[00:03:17] Spaceman: No, no, no, no. I mean, legitimately, good luck. It. I know breaking into distribution is hard. I've had to do it myself. It's not easy.
[00:03:27] Coach Monroe: Nah, I, I, I'm definitely learning that through, uh, lumps and bumps along the way.
[00:03:32] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:03:35] Spaceman: So what was your inspiration? How did you decide that you've done the military, you've been a medic, you were a special ed teacher for school, you were a coach. What was the thing that sparked you to do comics?
[00:03:50] Coach Monroe: Well, when, let's see, back in around 2014 /15, uh, I found myself unemployed due to the medical issues that I carried with me since departing the military, and they were starting to overcome my life and overcome my, uh, opportunity or ability to be employed. So, I put in for my disability claim, and it took about three years, but it finally came through, and when it came through, I, I stepped back because I had, at that point in time, I was struggling.
[00:04:30] Coach Monroe: Uh, I, you know, I did have my family. I sent my family to go live with, grandma, and I was just trying to make things on my own. And when that disability claim came through, I really had a heart to heart of what would make me happy, and I enjoyed the teaching. I enjoyed working with the special education kids, but, um, my oldest son, he's a movie producer, he was just getting out of college,
[00:04:58] Halfling: Oh wow.
[00:04:59] Coach Monroe: starting some, you know, he was going to, uh, film festivals and so forth.
[00:05:03] Coach Monroe: And he came home and I had written this. Nice story for him. I mean, I, I, it was, I thought it was a real good movie
[00:05:12] Coach Monroe: script and he said, nah, that's, that's not good.
[00:05:16] Halfling: Oh, oh, oh.
[00:05:18] Coach Monroe: he pointed to a character that I had created and from that point on, you know, it was me working on Essential. Now, um, a lot of my roots in the comic books and, and you know, I try to, I try to have, you know, physical things to show you.
[00:05:39] Coach Monroe: This was the very first comic book that, not this issue of course, but, that I had. I remembered the X-Men that, I mean, this is the very first comic book I remember and it just kind of captured me. I was, drawing the characters first doing, using stencil paper and then tracing and everything else.
[00:06:01] Coach Monroe: That's how I developed, my artistic ability. And I went back to that. And when, uh, my son, you know, referred to that character at the time, I I wasn't seriously thinking about doing comic books, but I had a little bit of money and I had a whole lot of, , willpower and I, you know, I decided it was a journey that I wanted to, take on, I guess.
[00:06:31] Coach Monroe: Yeah.
[00:06:31] Spaceman: Yeah. That's all it takes is, a idea, interest, , and a whole, well, a little money and a whole lot of perseverance. You do need the money. You do need the money.
[00:06:42] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:06:43] Spaceman: But the perseverance part is probably the most important part.
[00:06:47] Coach Monroe: Right. Yeah. I mean it's, you know, I, I was, um, before I even started the company, I was a, um, I was a small business pacesetter for the city of Raleigh, based on my work that I was doing with the youth. And, one of the things that I remember from the awards banquet was, you know, You can have everything, physically, whether it's money or opportunity, but, your support system, you know, is extremely important.
[00:07:16] Coach Monroe: And I have to say that I've been blessed with the support system, whether it's family, whether it's friends, um, whether it's fans that encouraged me to keep going forward.
[00:07:29] Halfling: That means so much. It really does because especially when those, you know, those low times when you're feeling like, you know, is this really worth it? Or, you know, I'm just not sure I've got the energy to devote to this. Or, you know, when you're feeling, when you're feeling down and you get that word of encouragement and you know, somebody sends you an email saying, Hey, I love that issue.
[00:07:52] Halfling: That's great. When are we gonna see, you know, or, your wife pats you on the back and says, well honey, you doing great. Keep going. You know, just it's, it is, it, it is so important. So I'm glad to hear you, you've got that support. Well, so was comics your first really fandom love, or were there other things that, that you loved as a kid? He's
[00:08:19] Coach Monroe: Um,
[00:08:20] Coach Monroe: to be honest, I was, um, I mean, I love comic books. I, I did, and that was at an early age. I had to be first to second grade, but I was also into, electric football, the, the little vibrating boys that moved the men across.
[00:08:37] Coach Monroe: And, that is something that has always stayed with me. I, I love to paint, uh, paint miniatures and electric football.
[00:08:48] Coach Monroe: Developed into Blood Bowl and I've been playing Blood Bowl for years.
[00:08:51] Halfling: Oh my goodness.
[00:08:53] Coach Monroe: Yeah. So it, I mean, I'm a big, I'm not gonna say I'm a big creator, but I'm a big, person that, uh, you know, I'm big football fan and, uh, I like the part of being able to paint things and with my design with, well I used to, I, it's kind of hard to do it now, but you know, that's, that's health stuff.
[00:09:17] Coach Monroe: But yeah.
[00:09:18] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:18] Spaceman: You know, coach, you didn't tell us you were independently wealthy, able to afford that. Mad, mad, mad,
[00:09:24] Spaceman: crazy, uh,
[00:09:25] Halfling: Games Workshop,
[00:09:26] Spaceman: money.
[00:09:29] Coach Monroe: Well, I will say this, I will say this. Uh, I did try 40 K at one time and 40 K is insanely expensive.
[00:09:38] Coach Monroe: Uh, blood bowl. Once you buy your team, there's so many other companies that offer your stuff, whether it's custom mats or dice or anything like that. Once you buy your team, you really don't need GW anymore.
[00:09:54] Coach Monroe: I think that's why they, keep having to, suppress blood bowl because once you buy that box, you don't need 'em anymore. Where with, 40 K, you just gotta keep buying and buying and buying, blood bowl is a game that is worldwide. And, I I love it. I do, I do.
[00:10:12] Spaceman: One of the, one of the artists, the, the guy who did the, um, the picture of the Halfling and Spaceman as cartoon characters. He's big into blood bowl. Uh, so yeah, yeah, yeah. So, you know, he's, he and his kids, they love it. Me, I'm just glad that I never was bitten by the war hammer bug because I don't know how people can afford to play that.
[00:10:34] Coach Monroe: Yeah, I was about, four or five hundred dollars In, and I was like, no, I'm not. I'm done. Um, yeah, it, , that is the very expensive hobby. Almost, almost as expensive as comic books, which is insane. So.
[00:10:51] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:10:52] Spaceman: Uh, yeah. Yeah. For, for the collector, maybe even for the publisher.
[00:10:56] Halfling: I was actually just thinking about Magic: The Gathering.
[00:11:00] Coach Monroe: Oh my gosh.
[00:11:01] Halfling: And that, you know, I mean, so, you know, I mean that's, that's, that's, you talk about expensive, and especially when you start looking, when you start looking for those special cards that, I mean, you'll buy deck after deck looking for that one card.
[00:11:16] Halfling: You know, it's,
[00:11:17] Halfling: they
[00:11:17] Spaceman: Halfling. They do that with Pokemon too, so you know, did you mind all of those
[00:11:21] Halfling: It's, I mean, you know, they, they have learned that they can just pull people along and get people to buy all along the way. So, uh, until somebody finally says, this is ridiculous, I've already spent, I've already spent 500 bucks. I'm not, I'm not talking about you personally.
[00:11:45] Spaceman: Well,
[00:11:46] Spaceman: no, no, in, in, in, in, in all fairness and honesty, we actually got bit by a game called Mage Knight, which was a collectible. Yeah. There, there was a, there's, there was the Clicks Games, there was Mage Knight, there was Hero Clicks. We got Bit by Mage Knight and we started collecting more and more Mage Knight figures.
[00:12:05] Spaceman: I don't know how much money we put into it, and then we realized, There's no way we can keep doing this.
[00:12:11] Coach Monroe: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, once you and I, I think that's the thing about comic books that allow me to stay in it. And even with, Blood Bowl, if you want to get rid of your stuff, you're going to get a decent return. And it's not because I was into the hero clicks and when I, when I sold off my hero clicks, it was like a quarter on the dollar and I was like, wow, this isn't worth it, you know?
[00:12:33] Coach Monroe: But, you know, you can get a, a good comic book and you know, the, the price of the book is gonna raise if it's a decent book and, um, with blood bowl. You're spending $40 on a team, but if you, uh, paint it decently, you're talking about 250 bucks, 300 that you can get for it if you sell it. So, um, yeah, I was always, I mean, I did um, I used to collect, 'cause I was born in 1967 and in electric football.
[00:13:07] Coach Monroe: The first time that they painted the actual N F L teams on the figures was 1967, and they're termed 67 big men. So when you buy those teams, you know, because I, because back in the nineties I was going back trying to buy the team. Well, two thousands early two thousands, and each team was like 150 bucks.
[00:13:30] Coach Monroe: Some of the major teams were 300 bucks. And, at the time I was working for, um, bank of America, so it was easy to do. And then in 2008, the housing market kind of crashed and I lost my job because I was in home equity loans and I had to sell my 67 big men.
[00:13:53] Spaceman: Oh,
[00:13:54] Halfling: Oh
[00:13:54] Spaceman: wow.
[00:13:55] Coach Monroe: and a guy on eBay, which.
[00:13:58] Coach Monroe: I'm really, you know, it's kind of hard to trust what happens on
[00:14:01] Spaceman: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:03] Coach Monroe: He sent me $30,000 for my collection of 67 big men and I was like, oh my gosh, I need to keep collecting these afterwards.
[00:14:15] Halfling: Y'all. Y'all can't see my face, but my jaw literally dropped when he said,
[00:14:21] Spaceman: I'm saying forget bitcoins. Let's go into 67 big men.
[00:14:24] Halfling: oh my good
[00:14:27] Coach Monroe: It was, um, it was, it was, it was, it was a, it was definitely a blessing. I won't say it was a surprise, I'll say it was a blessing and, um, because it hit right when I needed it to me and my family did. But, I've always tried to, 'cause I played, Legend of the Five Rings when it first came out.
[00:14:45] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:45] Coach Monroe: And, you know, yeah, the card games hold their value for a certain period of time.
[00:14:52] Coach Monroe: But, you know, I just couldn't see myself keep putting money into something that I, I wasn't assured that it was gonna keep going. You know, since then I've put my money more in the comic books than I really wanted to, but I have a decent collection and I know it's, you know, it's going to rise.
[00:15:11] Halfling: Right.
[00:15:11] Halfling: Mm-hmm. Well, you just mentioned legend of the Five Rings. Did you ever, play the role playing game, the tabletop role playing game? I.
[00:15:20] Coach Monroe: I was out by then. Role playing games. I've done D&D of course, and I was a big Champions guy. That's kind of how some of my characters got created just by playing champions and seeing how they function within the game. But no, I got, out of L5 rings, uh, oh L5R, long before the, um, the role playing game came out.
[00:15:48] Halfling: Yeah, we, we played a couple of, well, probably more than a couple of L five R, um, RPGs. We never, we never did the card game. Uh, never, never got, never got that bug. It was a spaceman
[00:16:01] Spaceman: But we had some friends who did.
[00:16:02] Halfling: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
[00:16:06] Coach Monroe: Yeah,
[00:16:06] Halfling: Uh uh. Well, question for you though. So once you decided that you wanted to start Essential Comics
[00:16:17] Coach Monroe: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:17] Halfling: and you had the idea for the business, how long did it take you to actually get it off the ground?
[00:16:22] Coach Monroe: There again, I was blessed, you know, I'm back in about five or six years before then I had gone to Heroes Con down in Charlotte, and you know, you walk around and you meet the artists and at this time it was pretty big as far as artists. Neil Adams was there and, you know, it it, it was just a lot of the people that at this time I.
[00:16:48] Coach Monroe: I would have, um, I probably would've gone and tried to take pictures too and shake their hand because a lot of them have passed on. You know, uh, George Perez was, I love George Perez, but I met a gentleman, his name was Ken Hunt, and the reason I went to Ken Hunt's table was because Ken's artwork. Was a little bit less than everybody else's just because, you know, you're talking about Neil Adams George Perez and stuff like that, and that, that, you know, that's expensive stuff.
[00:17:23] Coach Monroe: But his stuff was great. And you know, he had the Red Sonya poster that I, I purchased the Red Sonya poster, still have it on my wall. But, Ken and I actually made a connection and we stayed in contact for years and, When I decided to make the step, uh, I reached out to Ken and, you know, the rest is history.
[00:17:47] Coach Monroe: Ken and I have been building essential comics, uh, arm in arm, so to speak. I mean, he's kind of like, my God. And, I told him what I wanted my books to look like, and he's serving as my art editor, and he makes sure that all of the artists understand, you know, what, what my expectations are. And, uh, um, you know, he, he's been in the business for 27, 28 years. He's been inking and drawing Batman covers, uh, Lady Death. So he's been working on a lot of different projects for a lot of different people. And having that insight kind of put me on a fast paced, uh, trajectory.
[00:18:33] Coach Monroe: I would say of success because I, I mean, I think that anytime you can not only publish a book, but you can publish it and people are willing to support you, you're being successful. You may not be rich, but you're successful.
[00:18:49] Spaceman: I certainly agree with you. Uh, we, we get a good chance to look at your books when we were met at Stable Con and SableCon, not Stable Con. Stable Stable Con is a different con, but very well done. You know, look beautiful.
[00:19:05] Coach Monroe: Thank you. Yeah, we, um, we've worked hard at it. We, we've had one artist, uh, he's left and he's actually a drawing for Marvel now. Another artist has left and he's drawing for IDW. It lets us know that we're bringing in the right type of talent, um, you know, and, uh, we just have to keep moving forward.
[00:19:28] Coach Monroe: Yeah,
[00:19:29] Spaceman: So how did you bring this talent together? You know, because that's one of the most difficult things,
[00:19:35] Coach Monroe: yeah.
[00:19:35] Spaceman: finding the right people to surround yourself with.
[00:19:38] Coach Monroe: Yeah. I think one of the things, uh, and this is just being a reader, you have to be able to match artwork with the storyline because anytime you're looking at certain stories, you, you, you have to make sure that the field of the artist properly represents the, uh, field that you want projected in the book.
[00:20:05] Coach Monroe: So we would open the door for artists to submit their work. And it, it is hard because even as a coach, I, I, I hate telling someone, no, you know, you're not good enough to play on this team or, you know, you need more work, you know? Uh, I don't know if there's a good way of saying that. So I had to learn to say no.
[00:20:27] Coach Monroe: And, I mean we've had a couple of artists that may have started on the project and we said, no, it's not exactly what we need. And we had to let them go. And it bruises some feelings, but that match, that match is kind of hard. It is kind of important. Uh, it is kind of hard to overlook. Whereas you are looking at a benchmark five, uh, this is, uh, benchmark five is our, fantastic four, equivalent, I guess you could say. And it's a bright, it's a, not funny, but, you know, very active, very spontaneous type So you need a artist that may have a little more cartoony feel, you know, maybe able to, project. The, the lightness of the light attitude or atmosphere. There we go. Atmosphere of the book itself. Always hope, whereas, you know, rough justice and I, I'm, I'm using props. It, it helps me. I'm sorry.
[00:21:36] Halfling: That's all. That's okay.
[00:21:38] Spaceman: People
[00:21:39] Spaceman: on the podcast can't see him, but
[00:21:40] Halfling: That's alright. That's alright. He's, he's holding up a book with a, with a beautiful cover. I'll just put it.
[00:21:46] Spaceman: Yeah.
[00:21:48] Coach Monroe: Rough justice is, a very dark book. We even print the pages with black borders instead of white borders. And when you have that taught type of darkness, you need to have a more realistic look. If you think of Neil Adams, when Neil Adams started drawing, most of his books were on the darker side. They were more serious focused.
[00:22:14] Coach Monroe: So you need that type of artist. So, Ken and I would match the art with the storyline. And that helped us connect, which artists worked best for us. And of course, you know, you're not gonna be able to meet all the financial needs of certain artists. So that's another thing that lets, uh, lets you make that determination whether you're gonna bring someone on board or not.
[00:22:40] Coach Monroe: But there are enough artists out there that are hungry, that are willing to not only, um, Do the work, but do the work well because they want to get their name out there. And, with the growth of, independence Comics right now, I think it's, uh, it's a good combination for success.
[00:23:01] Halfling: Yeah, we did an online zine, for a while. It's on hiatus right now, but it's called Crimson Streets, and we had short, we had short stories that we put online and we had to, we had several artists that we worked with, and it was exactly the same way you, we learned that we had to sort of match whose style worked best with a particular story.
[00:23:30] Coach Monroe: Right.
[00:23:30] Halfling: And, you know, and then as the editor, as the one who had to, who had to read and decide, is this story, you know, Does this story fit what we're doing? I had to do some noss, you know, and, and, and it's kind of hard, uh, it's, it's easier when you can provide some feedback, some, some genuine feedback and not just a blanket, you know.
[00:23:54] Halfling: No. But if you can tell them what, what it is and what they may need to work on that's the spoonful of sugar, so to
[00:24:02] Spaceman: right. And honestly for the podcast, we are, we are ready to hear feedback as long as it's not. Dude, you suck. You know, if dude, dude, You suck. Doesn't help anybody.
[00:24:12] Halfling: That that's not
[00:24:12] Halfling: helpful.
[00:24:13] Coach Monroe: Right. Yeah, I, I think that's, uh, probably one of the biggest arguments that. I've always had, you know, because I'm never gonna do everything perfect. But you know, that flat, no, without a alternative, without, you know, something that can actually be help or be positive in a sense. You know, it, causes a adverse reaction.
[00:24:40] Coach Monroe: So, um, yeah, I understand.
[00:24:42] Halfling: Yeah, no, I mean, nobody likes to be told. What you're doing is not good enough.
[00:24:47] Coach Monroe: Right.
[00:24:48] Spaceman: But if somebody's turning in like chibi style comics for something that's really dark and gritty, I, you know, I can see that.
[00:24:56] Halfling: yeah,
[00:24:57] Halfling: yeah,
[00:24:57] Halfling: yeah, yeah. Well, coach, we first met at SableCon in KnightDale. Do you attend a lot of different conventions
[00:25:07] Coach Monroe: I have. I mean, you know, pandemic slowed us down
[00:25:11] Halfling: mm-hmm.
[00:25:12] Coach Monroe: but. Like we are regularly at Fayetteville Comic-Con. Uh, we are regularly at Heroes Con, uh, we're regularly at Baltimore Con. We are regularly at, capital City Comic-Con, which is in Lansing, Michigan. Um, we have been regulars at Gen City Con, which is in Dayton, Ohio. This past weekend, we started a very, very positive relationship with Savannah ComicCon. Our whole, our goal is to, you know, is to get out and introduce everyone to what we're doing. So we, we, we do our best. You know, we, we do the local cons, like we did, we've done, uh, Eastgate Comic-Con, which is, uh, in Greensboro. You know, it, it, it's fun to get out and meet people because you actually get a response by shaking hands and kind of making it a little more personable. Our whole goal is to get back to what comic books used to be, and when you can explain the purpose of your book to the fans, it makes it a little more, uh, a deeper connection. Yeah.
[00:26:37] Spaceman: I have to say I really liked your setup at, SableCon the, yeah, the way, the way you had your booth set up.
[00:26:44] Coach Monroe: Oh, well thank you. Yeah. We've, uh, I was one of the, that you, you can do that when you have a little more money. Um, you know, it, it was, I, I, there again, I cheated a little bit because I, I took some of the, um, the, uh, disability, uh, award to uh, make sure, you know, I wanted to do things the right way. And, we may not, be the biggest company out there at this, at this time, but, I will put our books, our quality, our personnel up against anyone.
[00:27:21] Coach Monroe: And I want people when they walk into a building and say, Hey, that that's not, you know, that's a real company there. Yeah.
[00:27:28] Halfling: Mm-hmm.
[00:27:28] Spaceman: Well, what drives you to decide which conventions to go to? Because there are just so many of 'em these days.
[00:27:35] Coach Monroe: Um, it's a respect thing. Because, I mean, heroes con, you gotta do Baltimore, you gotta do, because those are two of the biggest on the East coast, we wanted to connect with the comic cons here in North Carolina. And the reason I say is respect is because the coordinators or organizers, they wanted us there.
[00:28:01] Coach Monroe: And they saw the value in what we were doing, and that made it easier to attend those cons. Even with Savannah Con, um, you know, you send a link to, you know, the Essential Comics page, and then they say, yes, we, we want you here, we want you, um, advertising about, You know, Savannah Comic-Con and that means that, you know, they recognize that, the connection with us and them is important.
[00:28:35] Coach Monroe: So, I'm just getting started in the social media thing of, you know, making weekly videos and so forth. But, it lets me know that, you know, people respect what we're doing. So those are the cons we want to go to.
[00:28:49] Halfling: That's great. I mean, I, and I totally get that because there are some conventions that really you look at 'em and say, I don't really wanna deal with that because the, you know, I mean, we, just as an example, we went to a very large, sci-fi fantasy convention in Richmond, and when I say large, it was huge.
[00:29:13] Spaceman: It was too big for the venue.
[00:29:15] Halfling: It was too, it was too big. It was, just packed, you know, it was nothing but, shoulder to shoulder, the dealer's room, you couldn't even get to one of the dealer's tables. There were just too many people and we're like, nah,
[00:29:30] Spaceman: This
[00:29:31] Spaceman: is
[00:29:31] Halfling: not
[00:29:31] Halfling: for us.
[00:29:31] Spaceman: us. We're we're small
[00:29:32] Spaceman: con people,
[00:29:33] Halfling: Yeah, yeah, yeah. you know, but, but at the same time, I, I'm thinking, you know, who wants to, as, as a vendor or a dealer, Who wants to go to one of these com?
[00:29:46] Halfling: You know, one of these kind of conventions, when you are there's, when there's so much noise, you know, when there's so many other people, are you gonna get recognized?
[00:29:59] Spaceman: Right. That's, that's the hard thing. Mm-hmm.
[00:30:01] Halfling: know, and there's so many others there. And, you know, I mean, just, just as us just going as, general fans, we were like, okay, we're not gonna do this again, because it was just too, it was just too, too much.
[00:30:15] Halfling: It
[00:30:15] Spaceman: was too much for us. Yeah, but then again, we're old, so.
[00:30:20] Halfling: I don't, I, I, I do have a couple of years on him actually.
[00:30:24] Spaceman: You. You do, you do. All right. All right. Well, let's, let's quit talking about our age, and let's get back to talking with coach. Coach is probably thinking, how did I get hooked up with these old dudes?
[00:30:36] Coach Monroe: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. You would be surprised. Uh, we're probably a lot closer than what you think.
[00:30:42] Spaceman: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So, you know, we met you at SableCon. And, you know, we, we saw your booth and we really en uh, en enjoyed what you did and we got your pitch and you did a great job with the pitch. So tell our listeners a little bit about your personal journey into becoming a creative force and fandom. What process did you use? You talked a little bit about your transition as a publisher, how did you take that spark that was inside of you? And then go from just being like an X-Men fan, a blood bowl fan, to saying, this is the thing that I gotta do. This is the thing that I'm gonna get up early for and stay up late for work on weekends.
[00:31:26] Spaceman: I'm gonna, I'm gonna eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because you know I'm not gonna be able to afford to eat anything else.
[00:31:31] Halfling: Ramen
[00:31:32] Spaceman: Ramen noodles. That's right.
[00:31:34] Coach Monroe: You know, every time you go somewhere, especially a convention and you're, you're setting up a booth and like we were in Savannah and we've never been to Savannah before and you don't know, uh, how people are gonna respond to you. And I'm looking and I'm like, oh my God, it's been two hours and we haven't made a sale yet.
[00:31:59] Coach Monroe: And I had this customer finally at my table and even though we were having a good conversation, it wasn't him, it was another customer that was walking behind him, going straight down the aisle and he had his, his child was dragging him along and he said, Hey coach, I'll follow you on Instagram. And that was like, you know, it energized
[00:32:27] Coach Monroe: me for the rest of the weekend, you know, when we were in Michigan, and this is our second year in Lansing, Michigan.
[00:32:35] Coach Monroe: And no less than 10 people come back to our table and said, we loved your books. We're, we're, we're rooting for you. I actually, I had a heart attack back in, uh, December.
[00:32:47] Spaceman: Oh, I'm
[00:32:48] Coach Monroe: Yeah. And, you know, it really slowed down what we were doing, but, just, you know, I. People coming by. How you doing, coach?
[00:32:58] Coach Monroe: Is everything all right? We understand. Just do the best you can to get back on your feet. All of that means a lot because, it lets us know that people are supporting our work. It is very nice to be able to write something that you like and it is just very important that you like it. But when other people jump on board and support you and continuously, uh, say positive things, there have been some negative things said.
[00:33:33] Coach Monroe: I know. I mean, but you know, you can't please everybody, you know, but those that you can, every positive note gives you the, uh, energy to keep moving forward. I know that. One day we, we will have a animated series of one of our kids, you know, one of our comics. I know that, uh, we'll be in stores soon.
[00:33:58] Coach Monroe: I know that. Um, my son who's out there working hard, you know, I've got, I've got another son who's, who's a car expert, you know, so pretty, maybe pretty soon we'll have a comic book about a car. Uh,
[00:34:12] Halfling: Hey.
[00:34:12] Coach Monroe: you know, it just that. You know, it, it, it is that constant being able to receive something when you're at your lowest moment, you know?
[00:34:24] Spaceman: That, that feedback is critical,
[00:34:26] Coach Monroe: Yeah,
[00:34:27] Spaceman: especially when you got people in your, community that will lift you up. You know, your readers, your fans, your friends, your family.
[00:34:35] Coach Monroe: Yeah.
[00:34:37] Halfling: Well, so. I think, you know, you've touched on a little bit of the challenges that you faced. but given the challenges that you have faced along the way, how have you been able to overcome it? Uh, or the, you know, the different challenges, for instance, you know, like, setting up a website, or, you know, just all of the different things.
[00:35:00] Halfling: How are you gonna get to the various conventions? There's, um, um, you know, there's, there's challenges along the way. So speak, speak a little bit to those challenges and, and how you're, how you're overcoming them.
[00:35:12] Coach Monroe: Um, everything is about sacrifice. Whether it's eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, whether it's , not, you know, you get to a convention and you see that white whale of a comic book that you wanted to add to your collection and being able to say no about it. I, I've done my best to stay grounded and understand that, you know, for me to make things work, I've not only got to be able to make inner sacrifices, but I've gotta be able to listen as well.
[00:35:49] Coach Monroe: So if it's asking people who have been doing this before me, whether it is, being, taking the initiative and comparing prices, maybe staying, uh, not in the best hotel when I go to a town, maybe not eating that t-bone steak and eating another burger or something like that. Even though I can't do it now because I'm, I'm focused more on health,
[00:36:15] Coach Monroe: health being on the healthy side.
[00:36:17] Coach Monroe: But it's a constant challenge. I. After the December and the cardiac incident, just energy levels. Um, not being able to carry things like I used to. I could go, two weeks before that event, I was at a comic-con by myself setting up, you know, and, uh, I was in Charleston, South Carolina driving down and, and, You know, I've, I've had some health issues. I, um, lost, what, 2022 was a rough year,
[00:36:53] Halfling: Mm.
[00:36:54] Coach Monroe: uh, February. I lost vision in my left eye and, uh, ended up having to have surgery on that in August, and then ruptured another blood vessel and lost vision again in November.
[00:37:11] Halfling: Oh my goodness.
[00:37:12] Coach Monroe: Had the heart attack. So it's, you know, the physical challenges have been there,
[00:37:17] Coach Monroe: but the support of family, the support of the people that I can talk to, either in or out of the industry, you know, I've had my best friend, uh, he, he drove down from Christianburg, Virginia to help me set up at, uh, Fayetteville Con, you know, you can't put a value on the assistance of support that you get from family or friends, so, yeah.
[00:37:46] Spaceman: Hey.
[00:37:47] Halfling: Absolutely.
[00:37:48] Spaceman: Coach, do you mind if I take a, tell a list, a little bit of a personal story?
[00:37:53] Coach Monroe: Okay.
[00:37:54] Spaceman: Many, many, no, no. Many years ago, I was a publisher of a tabletop gaming magazine and the game man manufacturers associating, had a trade show in New Orleans and I went down to New Orleans and I was the poorest member of the team.
[00:38:12] Spaceman: so I had, new Orleans is an expensive place, but the food is so good. So every, every day, every, every day I would eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And on every other day, every even day, I would eat peanut butter. Every, every, every odd day I would eat a peanut butter jelly sandwich in the morning, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and then go out with my friends and colleagues and other people from the industry for dinner.
[00:38:39] Spaceman: That's how I was able to actually afford that.
[00:38:43] Coach Monroe: Yeah, I, can imagine. I mean, it's, um, 'cause Savannah, I didn't know Savannah was so expensive. Savannah's a little bit expensive
[00:38:53] Coach Monroe: and, You know, just having to buy meals that you will have some leftovers so you can pass off to another meal. You know, I, I, I can see the peanut butter and jelly sandwich thing..
[00:39:08] Spaceman: Yeah.
[00:39:08] Spaceman: Yeah, I just, I just think it's a funny
[00:39:10] Spaceman: story.
[00:39:12] Halfling: Well, You know, coach listening to the, you know, especially the physical challenges and the health issues that you faced. I just wanna point out to our listeners out there that this is, this is something that you can be inspired by because, everybody has challenges, everybody faces challenges.
[00:39:33] Halfling: And it's how you, it's, it's about your attitude. And what you're gonna do with that challenge. You, you have a choice. You can either let it stop you or you can learn to overcome it and grow stronger on the other side. Right.
[00:39:50] Halfling: That's what you've done. So, so that's, that's very inspirational.
[00:39:54] Coach Monroe: Thank you. You. When you're in the middle of it, I don't know how inspirational it is. It's, it's, it's, um, you know, you just gotta get it done
[00:40:06] Coach Monroe: You gotta get it done
[00:40:07] Spaceman: That's, that's right.
[00:40:09] Spaceman: The more you don't think about
[00:40:10] Spaceman: it.
[00:40:12] Coach Monroe: right.
[00:40:13] Halfling: Yeah.
[00:40:13] Halfling: Yeah. Well, that, that's it. You don't, don't think of it as, don't think of it as, as a challenge. Just think of it as, as an opportunity.
[00:40:24] Coach Monroe: Right. Yeah.
[00:40:25] Halfling: That's what my boss at work is constantly saying is, is we don't, we don't have, we don't have challenges.
[00:40:31] Halfling: Yeah, we don't have obstacles. We have opportunities. So,
[00:40:36] Spaceman: Yeah, but sometimes you wish there were a few less opportunities.
[00:40:41] Halfling: but that, that's beside the boy though. Well, what advice would you have for somebody out there listening that may be interested in either starting their own business or publishing their, their own comics. Maybe they've had, had ideas in the back of their heads and maybe, you know, maybe they, they have done their creative writing or maybe they're an artist.
[00:41:04] Halfling: What advice would you have for somebody who's looking to get started?
[00:41:11] Coach Monroe: I think the biggest advice, uh, the best advice that I received was never stopping. I mean, people are going to say positive things and negative things, and, um, you, you, you've gotta be able to take out. From those comments, what's going to work for you and to keep going. If I had stopped every time someone said this wasn't gonna work, even when I told myself this is not gonna work, then I never would have found what I feel is a niche for success for me.
[00:41:55] Coach Monroe: You have to be happy in what you do and the way that you're, the way that you be happy is doing what you love. The passion of being successful is really only achieved when you're, when you're happy with what you're doing. Any failure that I make, uh, I, I own up to it and I use it as a, as a fuel, as a fire to keep on pushing forward and making an adjustment.
[00:42:26] Coach Monroe: Uh, the world doesn't end off of one failure, so, uh, just keep pushing forward. Take what's gonna work for you and, you know, just, just keep moving forward. Yeah.
[00:42:40] Spaceman: Coach, I'm gonna take us off the trail for just a second and I'm gonna, I'm gonna ask you to do something for us and imagine that our listener is at a convention and they just walked up to your table. Give us the pitch for each one of your books that you would give them.
[00:43:01] Coach Monroe: Um, okay.
[00:43:03] Halfling: I did not know he was going to do this. By the way. This is all on him.
[00:43:08] Coach Monroe: Okay. Um, let me see. Uh, you mean the actual pitch? Okay. The actual pitch that I give, we are essential comics. We are a relatively new company based out of Cary, North Carolina. we're doing today is we're selling convention exclusives of each one of our titles, because our titles won't be in stores until a little bit later.
[00:43:30] Coach Monroe: But by selling convention exclusives, we're able to not only build our fan base, but put a collectibles in your hands as well. Each book when it goes in, the stores will have a slightly different cover. We'll change the inside. So the only way you can get these books before final editing is here at the convention.
[00:43:51] Coach Monroe: And then I would, okay, let me see then. And, and I'm, I try to always be prepared. Right. Okay. So the first book we have is Quantum. Quantum is a Jamaican born ex-Navy Seal. She has the ability to store quantum energy in her body and actually use it to help manifest her powers, much like Superman does with the Yellow Sun.
[00:44:12] Coach Monroe: Since Quantum Energy's everywhere, she's one of our most powerful characters. Then the next book we have is Benchmark Five. Now, benchmark five is a group of five young adults that were brought together to be the perfect superhero group. But unfortunately, like Mama told you ain't nothing in life. Perfect. So you find out from the beginning they need a little help to get to where they want to be. The next book we have is, Victory Girl. Now, victory Girl is a relatively new book that just came out. It's a new series that we started. It follows and chronicalize the story of a young lady who appeared as the very first preternatural 'cause instead of superheroes, we used preternatural beings in our universe, and she's one of the first proto naturals that made an appearance.
[00:45:05] Coach Monroe: The next book that we have is Essential Tales, and Now Essential Tales is like our anthology book. It's where we introduce characters, tell their origin story. the covers are a little bit different right now. I don't even, unfortunately I don't have that book with me, but I. It's a book where not only are we introducing the characters given the origin story, but we also show how they fit within the essential universe.
[00:45:32] Coach Monroe: The next book we have is Sizzle and Boom. Now Sizzle and Boom is extremely important to us because, about six years ago when my daughters were nine and 10 years old, They came to me and said, dad, we have some ideas for some characters. So not only did they create the name sizzling Boom, design, the costumes, the powers, but they also helped write that book
[00:45:53] Halfling: Oh wow.
[00:45:56] Halfling: so cool.
[00:45:56] Coach Monroe: that.
[00:45:57] Halfling: it.
[00:45:59] Coach Monroe: We have rough justice Now, rough justice is a little bit darker of our books. All of the characters have had some sort of tragedy to help bring them together as a hero group. There's a lot of twists and turns within the storylines. All of the characters, um, have that little darker side that I spoke about a little bit earlier.
[00:46:20] Coach Monroe: And then finally we have butterfly. Now butterfly is extremely important. Because she actually made her very first appearance in comic books in August of 1971. Well, she appeared in a book called Hell Rider. Hell Rider made their first two issues, and then the creator and writer, uh, got hired by Marvel.
[00:46:42] Coach Monroe: He created Ghost Rider for Marvel, so he went to Marvel. All of his characters went public domain after a certain period of time. Butterfly actually turned 50 years old back in 2021 and not a whole lot of people knew. So we actually redesigned her costume, modernized her storyline, and now we're happy to, you know, bring our version of Butterfly to us.
[00:47:06] Coach Monroe: The reason that butterfly is so important and August of 1971, she predates Storm by four years, predates BumbleBee by five. Butterfly was actually the first African American female ever to be published as a superhero in comic books. That is pretty much the pitch. Um, we do have a couple more titles that are coming into view and we are working to get, uh, every title.
[00:47:38] Coach Monroe: Uh, three issues before we start putting them in the stores. That way we can avoid any distribution, lateness or if we have to change artists or something like that. So, that's pretty much it.
[00:47:51] Spaceman: So
[00:47:52] Spaceman: tell our listeners where they can find you in your comics.
[00:47:56] Coach Monroe: Right now, we have been kind of restricted to selling our stuff at conventions just because we're doing the exclusive issues. There are some final editing, some adjustments that we want to make, and it's hard to make those without that third issue being in pocket. So right now that's where they can get us.
[00:48:17] Coach Monroe: I have been beat over the head by family fans and my editors to, make a online store, so we're in the process of doing that. Our website is www.essentialmedia1.org. And you also can Google and find us. And we're hoping to have that store up and running within the month, or at least by the time we get back from Baltimore Comic Con.
[00:48:46] Spaceman: That's awesome. That's awesome. I will. I will share. And how can people find you on social media?
[00:48:53] Coach Monroe: We do have a Facebook page. We do have Instagram, everything of course, is essential comics. I've started a Facebook fan club where people can join and get, sneak peeks, special artwork, connect with our artists, um, if they choose to do so. And pretty much that's it. Right now, I'm, I'm trying to, I have a couple of people that are specialists with social media, but we're looking to bring someone to do that, uh, full time or at least the majority of the time because unfortunately it's hard for me to do.
[00:49:32] Spaceman: Well, coach, it's been great talking to you. Do you have any additional information you'd like to share with our listeners out there about yourself, about essential comics or any of the characters in your books?
[00:49:43] Coach Monroe: I would say, you know, try to find us at a convention. It's kind of hard to pinpoint a different, character, a special character, because all of them are special to me. It's, I mean, the sizzling boom, uh, we've, I. That, that book is very special because of the family ties that it has.
[00:50:01] Coach Monroe: Um, but, uh, you know, at all of our conventions, we have a free giveaway of artwork that we have, uh, that we, you know, everyone that stops by our desks. I. We actually are trying to bring a number of more, at least one or two more conventions to the, uh, triangle area and just, check out the videos that I place on Facebook, because I'm always trying to, uh, give you a little.
[00:50:28] Coach Monroe: Idea of what's coming, a sneak peek and, we like to hear from our fans. We do, we really do because we want to make that connection of what comic books were meant to
[00:50:40] Coach Monroe: be.
[00:50:41] Spaceman: And we'll make sure we get all that contact information in our show notes
[00:50:45] Halfling: Well, on your website, do you list the conventions that you're gonna be attending?
[00:50:51] Coach Monroe: , I have been, It is surprising how much, a heart attack will, um, knock you off
[00:51:01] Halfling: No, I,
[00:51:02] Coach Monroe: Um, I, I was doing that before and someone, me actually mentioned that to me because even though we put stuff on Facebook, And, you know, with the announcing where we're gonna be, people that go to our website still don't know.
[00:51:18] Coach Monroe: So, we'll start back doing that. We put pictures from our website, I mean, not from our website. We'll put pictures on our website from the conventions so fans get a chance to see themselves and so forth like that.
[00:51:31] Halfling: Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Well
[00:51:32] Spaceman: I, I tend to throw out one, just weird off the wall question and I'm gonna give you one
[00:51:38] Halfling: You already did that.
[00:51:39] Spaceman: No, no, this is even weirder
[00:51:41] Spaceman: and more off the
[00:51:41] Spaceman: wall. So as an X MAN fan, Scott Summers or Logan,
[00:51:46] Coach Monroe: I grew up liking Scott Summers because I, the, the, you know, I, I, I just liked the way the visor was designed. But. Yeah, I like the serious nature and the non quit attitude of Wolverine. So, you know, it, it, you know, not being, you can throw anything at him, so it's gotta be Logan.
[00:52:10] Coach Monroe: Yeah, it's gotta be Logan. I'm surprised you didn't ask about night crawler 'cause he would've taken a little bit.
[00:52:16] Spaceman: Alright. All right. All right, then. Night Crawler versus Beast.
[00:52:21] Coach Monroe: Oh, Nightcrawler easy. Are you kidding? Yeah. easy. That's very
[00:52:29] Spaceman: Alright. Alright, so, uh, we all know that Coach is on Team Night Crawler.
[00:52:34] Coach Monroe: definitely. Definitely.
[00:52:36] Halfling: Well, coach, we have really appreciated you taking time to join us today. We have had a wonderful time talking to you, getting to know you a little better, uh, after we met you at Sablecon, and getting to hear about your, your journey, into becoming a creative force. Uh, we wanna wish you all success.
[00:52:53] Halfling: Uh, you certainly deserve it.
[00:52:55] Coach Monroe: Well, thank you. Thank you. And I'm, I'm glad to be, I'm glad we were, I know we had to reschedule once and I'm just happy that we were able to connect.
[00:53:06] Spaceman: And to our listeners, I wanna remind you to get out to your local conventions. We met Coach at a local convention, and otherwise we wouldn't know about Essential Comics. So get out there, meet the creators, support 'em.
[00:53:20] Coach Monroe: Yeah. Yeah, that's a big thing.
[00:53:23] Spaceman: All right, thank you listeners for tuning in today. We hope that you've enjoyed and perhaps become inspired by today's guest. Coach Monroe of Essential Comics. Thanks so much for taking time with us and thanks for talking with us at Sable Con.
[00:53:42] Coach Monroe: Oh yeah.
[00:53:42] Spaceman: And this is the Spaceman for the Halfling and the Spaceman over and out.
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