The team behind the pro-police graphic novel "Thin Blue Line" earned some polite rejections from several comic book companies.
The project, focused on a single Latina mom and a fellow cop holding off violent protesters, "isn't what we're currently looking for," one company demurred.
Others weren't so polite.
"Abolish the police," said one response.
"F*** off with this copaganda," another replied.
So the creators took their message directly to the public. Mike Baron, a veteran comic book scribe and author well versed in crowdfunding tactics, turned to Indiegogo.com to fund "Thin Blue Line."
The project met its $8,000 fundraising goal in just five days, and as of Nov. 12 has more than $14,000 in its coffers with 9 days to go.
"We set the goal low, because the quicker you reach your goal, the higher the algorithms bump your project," said Baron, who previously generated $35,000 for his farcical "Florida Man" graphic novel.
"Thin Blue Line" follows two officers trying to quell roiling protests after a fellow cop shoots a suspect. The incident goes national, well-meaning protesters and provocateurs alike flood the scene, and the officers must survive the maelstrom while protecting innocents.
The police came under extended scrutiny in the wake of George Floyd's May 25, 2020 death following an altercation with Minneapolis law enforcement. Many demanded major police reforms. Others promoted a "defund the police" narrative, suggesting social workers would better serve the public in volatile situations. Major U.S. cities like Minneapolis and New York reduced the number of police working the beat. Crime levels spiked as a result, and several cities introduced measures to hire more officers.
Baron is blunt about why he wrote "Thin Blue Line" in the first place.
"Watching the cities burn throughout the summer of 2020," Baron says. "Two billion dollars' worth of damage. "Thousands of small businesses destroyed, [owned by] those who could least afford to lose them. Dozens of deaths. You're either for the rule of law, or you're not."
Baron says his goal as a writer is to "entertain, not to preach." That doesn't mean "Thin Blue Line," which will be shipped to backers this spring, lacks a message.
"My decision to cast police in a sympathetic light has earned scorn and derision from the usual suspects," he says.
Several cops reached out to Baron on Twitter once they heard about "Thin Blue Line," and he incorporated some of their talents into the project. Penciler and layout artist Joseph Arnold, a veteran of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division who works as a Colorado police officer, was already on board with "Line."
Adam Miller served as a Tulsa, Okla. police officer for seven years, including a stint in the Gang Unit alongside "Live PD" personality Sean "Sticks" Larkin.
Miller suffered a serious back injury chasing a burglary suspect in 2012, forcing him to accept medical retirement. He had been freelancing as an artist while serving on the force, but the injury made him focus more on his artistic side.
The self-taught artist says he resonated with the goals of "Thin Blue Line" given the fallout from Floyd's death, which is why he contacted Baron on social media after hearing about "Line."
"You expect criminals to not like the police," says Miller, who created a pin-up artwork included in "Thin Blue Line" of the novel's heroes in action. "You don't really care because they're the bad guys. The good guys are starting to say stuff like that, that the police are bad. It's just not true."
Miller says he worked with roughly a thousand officers in Tulsa, and he met plenty of his peers.
"I didn't know a single bad cop," he says. "Obviously bad people go into the profession. And they need to be punished for the crimes they commit."
Miller is happy to contribute to a graphic novel that counters the growing anti-cop sentiment, and he thinks "Thin Blue Line" can make a difference.
"Pop culture does influence people's everyday lives," he says. "The more projects like ["Thin Blue Line"], the better the impact."
Miller understands the graphic novel is swimming against the cultural tide, though.
"All those major entertainment industries are typically very anti-police," he says, adding he never mentioned his police work when pitching his art skills to various clients.
Hollywood responded to Floyd's death by canceling the long-running syndicated series "Cops" as well as "Live PD." NBC's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," a popular cop comedy, reworked its eighth and final season to incorporate Black Lives Matter narratives into the stories.
A portion of all funds from "Thin Blue Line" will go to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the National Fallen Officer Foundation, and the Adopt a Cop BJJ program. The latter trains police in martial arts techniques.
Miller still deals with chronic pain from his 2012 injury, which makes sitting or standing too long a chore. He's dedicated his post-police career to his art, which includes work for various video game publishers.
His next project will lean on his police expertise to tell an original comic book-style story, finding inspiration from Baron and his previous work penning DC Comics' "The Punisher."
"I liked the realistic way he approached telling the story, using actual weapons and tactics," Miller says.