My Next Book: Four Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat

Book Announcement 

With the cat now officially out of the bag, here’s the full scoop on my next comics project: It’s called Four Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat and it’s forthcoming (probably in two-ish years or so) from Dead Reckoning, the new graphic novel imprint of  The Naval Institute Press. Here’s a description of the book, straight out of my pitch/proposal:

From hauling munitions to finding mines, and even being captured by the enemy and traded in a PoW exchange, animals have fought—and often died—alongside their human counterparts in virtually every military conflict in recorded history. There are plenty of graphic novels telling the stories of the men and women who’ve fought in the trenches, jungles, and deserts of the world’s battlefields; Four Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat tells the stories of the animals who fought alongside them.

The comics/publishing news site ICv2 did a short write-up about two of Dead Reckoning’s recent acquisitions, including Four Fisted Tales. You can read it here.

The book comprises fifteen short stories about various animals used in combat–dogs, a bear, dolphins, rats, and more. In this respect, it’s a bit of a flashback for me to my very first book, Farewell, Georgia, which was also a collection of short stories. Four Fisted Tales a return to an earlier form visually as well; it’ll be done not in full color, but in the “line art plus spot color” style that I’ve used previously in books like Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and Midnight Sun. Here’re some completed sample pages:

Drawing Digitally 

I don’t like the guy’s face in the inset panel of that second page and I’ll probably redraw it… but that gives you a general idea of what the look of the book will be.

It’s also going to be the first book I’ve done fully digitally. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably surmised that it’s drawn in Clip Studio Paint, as that’s my preferred drawing software. I’d love be able to use CSP for the entire process, but I’ll have to do the spot color in Photoshop since CSP doesn’t have a true CMYK mode that’s viable for professional offset printing purposes. That’s unfortunate because I much prefer working in CSP generally, and also because I like the Frenden charcoal and conté brushes in CSP (you can see them used in some of the olive tone in the sample pages) to the stock Photoshop equivalents. Oh well… 

Just for fun, here’s an in-progress page from the story about military dolphins. And, yes, that is a hallway from the lab in The Shape of Water in the first panel there. 

As you can see, my in-progress pages are about halfway between being thumbnails and finished pencils. That, combined with the fact that I’m writing the stories as I go, is contributing to these taking a while to knock out, but I’ve done three of the longer stories already and moving from this state to finished inks/tones will be relatively quick.

For what it’s worth, I’m still trying to work intermittently on In the Weeds, but I’m treating Four Fisted Tales as my “day job” and In the Weeds as a weekend project.  If deadlines start getting tight though, I’ll put In the Weeds completely on hiatus until Four Fisted Tales is complete.


 A final note: it’s easy to get the idea–especially with the ubiquity of social media–that everyone but you is an instant success. And, yeah, there are some people who wind up with fame and fortune right out of the gate. But the more common story is that of repeated rejection, perseverance, then gradual movement toward success. I recently saw a talk by cartoonist Dav Pilkey in which he discussed exactly this–noting that his first book proposal was rejected twenty-three times before being finally accepted by a publisher. 

As you can see from this Tweet of mine, the seeds of Four Fisted Tales were in place as far back as five years ago:

In between then and now it’d been filed away in my “idea file” and but I’d been collecting and bookmarking stories about animals in combat. I’d come pretty close to trying to do the book as a Kickstarter project. I’d pitched it to a publisher as an anthology book but didn’t move forward because I couldn’t secure enough money to pay contributors a good page rate. I’m pretty sure I’d sent it to at least an agent or two somewhere in between as well. And, of course, I’d started work on an entirely different book, In the Weeds, and had fully scripted that book and roughed about two-thirds of it. 

BUT when I saw a Publishers Weekly article about a new comics imprint specializing in military and historical subjects, I tracked down the editor’s email and contacted him–then dusted off all those Four Fisted Tales bookmarks, did some sample pages, put together and proposal, eventually wound up here with In the Weeds well on its way to being my next major comic. Don’t give up, folks!


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  1. Marla Lesage says:

    Looks fantastic! I know my son will love it. Thank you for sharing about how long your journey to publication was for this. It’s inspiring. :)

  2. Gino Fernandez says:

    Great post, especially talking about maybe not finding fame and fortune right out of the gate and to keep going even if it’s more then 23 rejections. Hey, there are records for most times rejected.?.?.at least there should be lol and we can be proud of perseverance. I’ve always had the problem with no matter what idea I start out with and even if I’m super excited over the idea, by the time I start developing the guts of the story I lose interest. Maybe it’s A.D.D, but I think it has more to do with fighting through those down times or fill parts of the story and finding new inspiration in it.

  1. Towle Drawing Combat Animals for the Naval Institute – Comics Worth Reading says:

    […] Ben Towle (Oyster War, Midnight Sun) has just announced that his next book will come out through that imprint. It’s called Four Fisted Tales: Animals […]

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