Well this last week marked the debut of our long awaited graphic novel, INDEH, and with it the first leg of our book tour. Which doesn’t begin to come close to capturing the insane level of what unfurled this week. From its appearance on The Tonight show, to nearly fifteen others, DJing an hour of Springsteen radio songs, appearances in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Chicago and Naperville and signings at Book Court and Barnes and Noble… it has been glorious and weird. By no reckoning what I would call a normal rollout… or maybe it was? What do I know? But the result has been powerful.
The troublemakers at the Hachette offices
Both Ethan and I knew his celebrity cache would bring both a lot of attention and consequence to this project, but as intimate creative partner’s for the last 6 years, our experience has happily been largely devoid of that… until now. The book could not be what it is had we not followed Bradbury’s Rules of disengaging from what you imagine the book will be while making it come together. Never has that wise wisdom been proven so true as this for me personally. When we first pitched it during that whirlwind tour of ten different publishing houses in a mere two days, we met mostly skeptical to outright suspicion for what we proposed to do: Tell a true story from the Apache point of view at the moment where they were forced to turn and scream NO at the tsunami of change that was washing over the country. To be be bold and unflinching in the violence it brought and how that brutality changed them forever and gave rise to one of the most famous and feared Native American warriors of all time.
Team INDEH: Jimmy, Greg, Ethan, Gretchen, and Katherine with a K
But it was Gretchen Young, then at Hyperion who got it from the start and gave us the ground we needed to grow from. Despite the collapse and selling of Hyperion’s entire adult book division out from under our feet, we found Gretchen again at Hachette as she took helm at its imprint, Grand Central Publishing, and we were forced to resell the whole tricky idea all over again. And of all of this we had years of writing and research to do, and years more to draw it, panel by panel, page by page, design the entire book in every last detail and bring the best possible expression of our dreams to paper without exceeding a baseline $20 asking price. We wanted the book to be in as many hands as possible, so that the story and history of these magnificent, Shakespearian people can bring the lives of living Apaches today into a level of focus and attention most have shied from for too long already. And here we are.
Ethan and INDEH on The Tonight Show
At Book Court
The initial rollout was structured to play heavily on Ethan’s celebrity clout and our ridiculous banter when we’re in a room together. Out first week was meant to come has a hammer blow, filling nearly every moment with consecutive press, panel discussions, interviews and signings. We kicked off the week with a historic appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon- a true diehard graphic novel superfan. Jimmy was so in love with the book he couldn’t stop holding it up on air and going on about it in the Green Room before, during and after. He just confirmed that INDEH is the first ever be featured in the entire history of The Tonight Show. Comics have come to us at last. One of the common criticisms of this and the following appearance on the Kelly Rippa show was that Ethan was sent out on those stages alone creating an image that he had alone, created this book- when neither he nor I ever had any illusions to this fact. Nevertheless, what I came to find in being there for both was that these sorts of appearances aren’t strictly speaking, interviews at all. They are rehearsed performances. The casual loose chit chat, the goofy skits and even the couch planted conversations are rehearsed and practiced before the show is taped. It is not a realm I am either trained for or eager to dance in. My wall eyed untrained self would have been a distraction from the point of our being there- which was to get the book in front of literally millions of eyes. And it worked.
One of the SO many back to back radio interviews at Sirius XM
Calvin telling us we’re wearing the wrong undies
We were swiftly shuttled about by drivers to a long string of interviews at Sirius XM radio, hopping and sometimes running from control room to control room without a breath to take in, nor even a bite to eat to keep us alive. From Up with Pete! to Entertainment Weekly, Sandra Bernhardt and Jenny McCarthy’s radio spots to even hosting a devoted Bruce Springsteen radio hour mixing in and DJing 11 of our personal favorite songs, ending with a hapless encounter and conversation with Calvin Klein and a two hour Reddit AMA from the Hachette home base. It was simply NUTS. I’ve gone on tour before and never had one like this. This is where Ethan’s presence and publicity arm came into play. This was neither my element nor my world, but we together seemed to navigate it perfectly somehow. Lack of sleep and even less time to prepare or fret over what was next surely made it possible.
Doug Miles of Apache Skateboards
We concluded our NY tour with a stop at Homage to showcase our friend and forward-writer, Douglas Miles, of the San Carlos rez and Apache Skateboards followed by an incredible discussion where we sort of self-interviewed each other at our favorite Brooklyn book shop, Book Court, where we filled the massive room and sold out the entire stock of books before repeating this and toasting the week with our INDEH team after our appearance at the incredible Barnes and Noble store in Union Square.
After NYC we deliriously hopped on a 5 am flight to Chicago where we were captained by our
Poor stalwart Paul B protected us from much, but could not shield himself from the sleep deprived snark and ridiculousness of us.
driver/bodyman/sidekick/familiar, Paul Buchbinder, through the real Chicago starting off with breakfast at Lou Mitchell’s and meeting up with our fellow panelists for the press conference, RL Stine and Terry McMillan… which was HILARIOUSLY absent of press. This then afforded us about three precious hours to collapse in ahotel room before taking off our suits for an early cocktail and snacks atop the John Hancock building overlooking Chicago and apparently all of the Midwest before heading to a hugely attended discussion and Q&A hosted by Michael Phillips for the Printer’s Row Book Festival. Giant humongous gargantuan images from the book show behind us! We then raced to our final stop in Naperville, a wonderful black box theater discussion and signing sponsored by Anderson’s Books.
Bob Stine, Terry McMillan and me, photo by Ethan.
At Printer’s Row with Michael Philips
When we came back to Ethan’s Late saturday night we were still dizzy from it all, the entire of Sunday. It was nearly too much to absorb- in fact I’m still processing. Pitching a book, negotiating the contract for that book, writing it, drawing it and then selling it is a monstrously huge undertaking. and we’re hardly done yet. We have a number of coming interviews and events leading up to San Diego Comicon through the Fall and Texas bound for the Book Festival in Austin where we are to be keynote speakers following directly in the heels of Margaret Attwood and Gore Vidal among others. The end result is so far, something I have been working towards my entire professional life in comics: to push the medium outside of the dysfunctional minority of the direct market comics world into the broader book world where so many readers and publishers still see it as only a medium for children and superheroes. (which for the record are awesome genres and groups of readers, but simply not the only available to those us who are insane enough to make this field our own). My work with Scholastic is changing that and this is the next brick in this new foundation. Comics is coming into the American conscience in a way unprecedented and has only the vast skies above as limits to what it can do and will do in the years and decades to follow. Ethan and I are beyond honored to be a small step in that direction, and eager to see what follows. We’re already at work on more INDEH stories and even a new original crime drama, so keep your eyes out for what’s to come. We’re not even near finished yet.
We could not have come to this place alone without the aid, guidance and support of so many of you over these last six years. No true work of art is created alone and in a vacuum by my reckoning and INDEH has been complete proof of that. I can never thank you enough for your support and encouragement, and especially for picking up our book and making it land so high upon the venerable NYTimes list. This will kick us forward in a way we absolutely needed it to do. Despite it all neither of us are sudden millionaires nor even a penny wealthier than we were a week ago. And by no means would I say this has been any kind of a normal opening for a book I’ve been involved in. In any case we all return back to our lives and this will roll into the past like everything does. It was super exhausting and ridiculously fun. We hope you pick up the book or get a chance just to read it, we like
it a lot. For all the crazy of the past week it was easy because we like this book so much. Never a better testament to following your instincts and passions has there been for me than this. I hope this weird time births more weird times. That we begin to see graphic novel storytelling really stitch itself into our culture more broadly than it ever has been before. There’s too many stories to tell not to do this, and I can’t wait to read them.
In the meantime, to pick up a copy of the book at your local independent bookshop which can be found with a simply entry of your zip code, HERE.
To get a hold of Douglas’ AMAZING and extremely limited edition of INDEH X APACHE skate decks, please go HERE
Greg Ruth has been working in comics since 1993 and has published work for The New York Times, DC Comics, Fantagraphics Books, Dark Horse Comics, Harper Collins, Hyperion, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster amongst many others.
He has shown his paintings in New York, Houston, and Baltimore, and exhibited a series of murals at New York's Grand Central Terminal.
He has also helped craft music videos for Rob Thomas, and Prince, and has illustrated children's pictures books including; Our Enduring Spirit (with President Barack Obama), A Pirate's Guide to First Grade (with James Preller) and Red Kite, Blue Kite (with Ji Li Jiang), as well as many illustrated novels.
Greg currently lives and works in Western Massachusetts.