After I stopped self publishing my personal comicbook anthology 'Tales of Unsurpassed Vanity' and the 'Subart' team had informally disbanded, I also found myself without any comicbook commissions from '9' magazine. So it was a rough period in terms of getting used to the new status quo, which was either go back to self-publishing or quit. Luckily, from 2005 until the end of 2006 I got to do a lot of autobio comics for the Greek weekly newspaper 'Paraskevi + 13' and that kept me going in order to begin two new ventures for the latter half of the '00s. One would be to write the music and lyrics and illustrate a full concept album which I'd perform with my then band, Autodivine, which I hoped to record and self-publish later on, and the other would be a weird tribute to '60s Marvel Comics albeit with whacked out fascist characters instead of the X-Men, Spider-Man etc.
This led to my beginning to flesh out the characters and they eventually became the 'Giant-Size Fascists', essentially the X-Men gone Greek rednecks. I was thinking of self-publishing them, in the form of small press photocopied comics, like my Tales of Unsurpassed Vanity, albeit spread out into various issues, like Alan Moore's '1963' series in order to expand the universe a bit more, and generally have fun and play around with it, and then close the 'series' with an end-book that culminated in a camp wedding (with superheroes attending it and all).
I obviously spread the news about this project to my then mates and Vasilis Mpimpas, who had joined the Subart group in its twilight, agreed to do an issue too. Ilias Kyriazis, a mate from that period, also jumped on the bandwagon and then the shit hit the fan. Ilias took a great initiative in inviting several Greek and international artists to participate in the project and where once this was supposed to be a small DIY venture in Silver Age parody just to get our kicks, it eventually became a huge project that got out of control, especially my own. In my opinion, Ilias tried and managed to take over the venture and even though I contributed vast amounts of energy for the project (creating landscapes, monuments etc for the common city that the heroes would hang out in) I was constantly being outvoted in regards to the direction the project was taking.
(above left) Con talking about his comic and the scene at a Jemma Books conference at the Greek Comics Club (above right) Holding the Giant-Size Fascists #1 reprint at a book signing at the 2010 Comicdom Con in Athens.
The project essentially turned into a mainstream superhero anthology, without any hint of parody or even tributes in the long run, and what I thought was my greatest work till then, 'Giant-Size Fascists'. was going to be buried within the planned 200-page tome that was being prepared (entitled 'Blast'). The final straw was the decision to have it published by Giganto comics, which hadn't paid us a dime for the 'Subart Comics' that we'd done, even though they had all sold out.
I opted to leave the group and this created a drift between me and Ilias, as he thought I'd left the group in the middle of a project. The truth is that had I not shown a brave face and not done this, my 'Giant-Size Fascists' would have solely been a small slice in that huge tome, a story that a few would remember these days, instead of the success that it was. So my insticts worked well. I tried keeping in touch with the group, but eventually lost touch with all of them and was villified for not agreeing on a mass scale with everyone.
Anyhow, to cut a long story short I managed to show my 'Giant-Size Fascists' story to a friendly publisher, named 'Haramada Press', just for kicks, while visiting my girlfriend in Patra, Greece, and he dug it so much that we agreed to split the costs 50-50 and self publish it ourselves through his company and share the profits. We did so and the comic was a huge success at the 2007 Athens Comicdom Convention, managing to win, by popular vote, the next year's Best Comicbook of the Year Award at the 2008 Comicdom Awards!
(above from left to right) Con's Autodivine years. Performing at the Underworld Club in 2006, a photoshoot for the official EP release in 2009 and getting the facepaint on backstage for the Radio Arvila TV appearance in 2010.
The critical success of 'Giant-Size Fascists' led to my working for 'Big Fish' magazine, doing gonzo journalistic comics, as well as 'Galera' magazine, in which I drew the sequel to 'Giant-Size Fascists' in monthly self-contained episodes/instalments. By 2008, the comicbook scene in Greece started becoming more and more miserable, as most magazines stopped hiring freelancers and the only paid artistic work I was able to find was the random illustration that I would do for 'Big Fish' magazine.
So I worked my ass off doing various day jobs to pay the rent, like working for two years as a graphic designer at an automobile software development company and another two years as a secretary for a nutritionist, while at the same time attending film editing school, which I graduated in 2010!
That everyday hell of going to work and operating under a moronic management on a daily basis for 8 hours or more, just to pay the bills, and not being able to get any Christmas or holiday leave without a huge row, is a reality that unfortunately I will never be able to pass on adequately into my autobio or anti-capitalist comics. I worked under such conditions since going to Athens in late '99 and until I left Greece, my dayjob life was an unimaginable hell. Sadly, my brief UK experience in similar office environments is similar. So, yes, being working-class is in 2012 is still hell.
nyhow, to get back to that period, I ended up falling out with the original publisher of 'Giant-Size Fascists', as the 50-50 expenses/profits agreement wasn't kept and I insisted on getting paid for the comic two years after it had gone on sale; after a lot of friction, once I got paid and released from the original contract, I managed to make a deal with Jemma Press, who collected my sequel episodes in the 'Giant-Size Fascists ConMix Extravaganza' tome and has been my publisher in Greece ever since. Jemma Press even published a reprint of the first sold out comic and, later on, my band's eponymous debut EP, Autodivine, which featured part of the concept album that I had written music and lyrics to and illustrated. In 2010 the Jemma Press collected edition of the 'Giant-Size Fascists' sequels won the Comicdom Fan Award and the decade ended with my participation in two group projects, The Last Drive's 'At the Drive Ink' and the 'Night of the Living Dead Reanimated' project. Not bad after all; I even think I had a personal life in there somewhere.