Grunt work pays off

The pen proved to be mightier than the guitar for Chad Cavanaugh.
  • The pen proved to be mightier than the guitar for Chad Cavanaugh.

“I haven’t picked up my guitar since November of 2012.” Chad Cavanaugh, at least for a while, was a steady presence in the local singer/songwriter circuit. He wrote some songs, he cut a CD, and he performed at venues such as Lestat’s, Brick by Brick, and Hennessey’s. He came on strong and then he disappeared from the scene. These days, he’s found another creative pursuit: Cavanaugh has reinvented himself as a comic-book artist. His first such publication is called The Map, and he says sales are way better than any CD he ever recorded.

“I’d written a crime noir story about a year ago,” he tells the Reader, “and I realized that it would make a great graphic novel,” which he started but never finished because the idea for The Map came to him midway through the project. “I knew I had to work on it first,” he says. “It’s a comic-book series, not a graphic novel.” The plot is a post-apocalyptic tale of horror and survival. “It’s happening now. The world ended five months ago in this story.”

The actual world almost ended for Cavanaugh and his wife and kids a few years ago after his real estate business crashed along with the rest of the market. Days away from a sheriff’s eviction, he moved his family to a flat in North Park. His wife went to work, Cavanaugh became a stay-at-home dad, and in his spare time he wrote songs. “I eventually got radio play and I got good gigs, but it wasn’t enough. My wife and I agreed that whatever I was doing wasn’t enough to take it to the next level.”

In the days that followed, cartooning didn’t seem like such a bad idea — he’d won some awards back in high school. “And when I got out of the Army, I used my G.I. Bill to go to the Art institute of Atlanta.” Cavanaugh has since written three installments of The Map. “I just got issue number one back from the printer’s. Number two is complete. Number three is halfway done.” Speculative, yes, but the sudden income spike, he says, is telling him he made good when he traded songwriting for sketching.

“Sales are through the roof. I wasn’t prepared for that. I ran out of packing and shipping materials. I’m, like, this is an awesome problem to have.”

Southern California Comics on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard invited Cavanaugh (his imprint is Grunt 1B Comics) to set up a table as part of Free Comics Day this past May.

“I’m having 500 copies printed at a time, but I’m also looking at setting up digital distribution.”

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