Azad Interview

Azad at HobbyStar Toronto Fan Expo 2004Originally posted in August of 2004. Comic books were starting to enter a golden age around 2004, not only was there a lot of good stuff coming out from major publishers, a lot of great stuff from the past was being reprinted. Suddenly the standard of “average” went way up and what was better than average even 5 years prior had a difficult time finding an audience. Azad’s Sammy was one of those books.

 

Azad Interview

Azad is an Image creator, one of many that is doing a great book that you probably never heard of. It’s called Sammy, about a cat burglar and his cat Lucky. With this interview we talk about Azad’s background, his book, using computers to make comics, Marvel Comics, Image Comics and more.

 

Jamie: Okay lets start getting some background info from you. Where are you from?

Azad: I’m a born and milk-fed Montrealer. After doodling and taking art classes for years, I resigned to taking Illustration and design at Dawson College. I worked for a world renowned animation company, then apparently, went nuts and decided to draw funny books.

 

Jamie: What jobs did you have before you finally decided to do comic books?

Azad: I wish I had an interesting string of crummy jobs to complain about, but all my jobs prior to comics were drawing or print related. Graphic design, desktop publishing, and pre-press film outputing. Most notably, I was a storyboard artist for 4 years at CINAR animation working on such artistic paragons as Caillou and Arthur.

 

Jamie: You do everything for your book and it all looks very nice and professional. Did you have a mentor that taught you the ropes?

Azad: For drawing, I have a cousin named Haig Bedrossian (co-plotter on Sammy: Tourist Trap) who turned me on to the arts and encouraged me from a very early age to draw comic books. He’s now teaching animation at Max the Mutt animation school in Toronto and living a far more lucrative life than that of a comic artist.

As far as the technical side of things go, my sister (a desktop publisher) was my digital guru. She taught me how to use Photoshop, Illustrator, QuarkXpress, and all other computer related aspects of art.

But mostly, I was left to my own devices to figure Everything else out on my own. I’m not a “gifted” artist by any means. I’m a studied, learned artist. I work really hard trying not to make a fool of myself.

 

Jamie: So why did you want to do stories about a cat burglar named Sammy and his pet cat Lucky?

Azad: I deliberately wanted to make a book that was both FLEXIBLE and FUN. I have dozens of crazy adventures I want to tell, and the only binding factor between them are these two characters. And it works. I wanted to be able to stick Sammy into any situation and any genre. With that said, there IS a balance, and I know where to draw the line. I can’t really verbalize it, but I know it when I see it. For example, I could have sci-fi elements in a story, but not so far as having Sammy go into an inter-dimensional portal. He could encounter a superhero, but not gain powers of his own.

 

Jamie: Okay, Sammy is a cat burglar with a pet Cat. Why is he not dressed up as Halle Berry?

Azad: Hey, great idea!! I could do stories about Sammy being involved in Hit and Runs, and doing bad movies! A goldmine, I tells ya! Thanksabunch!

 

Jamie: Do you even own a cat? Cause there is no way a cat would do the shit you have “Lucky” do in the comic.

Azad: Funny you should ask. I think of Lucky as a cat with a dog’s personality. He’s still aloof, but actually useful.

I used to think I was a cat person. I never owned one, but my best friend has three. I would go over, pet them, scratch them under the chin. They were okay… kind of cold, kept to themselves and meowed when they wanted food and swiped at me once in a while… “Hey, its a dumb animal” I told myself… these things happen, right?

Wrong!

Then, my buddy goes and buys a DOG. Holy cow! Big difference! Dog’s are playful, they can take orders, and are genuinely happy to see you when you come home. By comparison, the dog makes the cats look like strutting turds that do nothing but sleep, shit and turn their nose up at the food you bought them. You could feed a dog its own crap, and it’ll still look at you with love in its eyes.

Fuck cats!

 

Jamie: A significant part of the Sammy: Tourist Trap mini series is done in Spanish with no English translation. Why?

Azad: Sammy is a fish out of water… he’s in a country where he doesn’t understand what is being said around him. If HE can’t understand Spanish, and we the audience are supposed to be in his shoes, then logically WE shouldn’t be able to understand, either. It’s that way to heighten the tension. Putting the translations at the bottom of the panel would have defeated the purpose.

With that said, I fully realize that there are readers out there who just skip past the balloons, or groan at the plot device… but it’s MEANT TO BE READ! Perhaps I’m asking too much of the reader, but to me it was important to do it that way.

 

Jamie: Do you think you can keep doing Sammy forever or do you have an overall plan for the character?

Azad: As long as I can continue to keep publishing the character, yes. I do have other ideas I’m working on, but I’ve got dozens of stories already written for Sammy. Literally! I have the scripts on my computer as I write this.

Keep in mind, much of the Sammy stories (even Tourist Trap) aren’t so much about the character.. it’s about the situation. He’s just the excuse (or the vehicle) to tell the story.

 

Jamie: Y’know, in the late 90’s comic books sucked so bad that Sammy would have been considered a GREAT book. Today it’s considered very good for a non- Marvel/DC comic. As such, the bar has been raised. You are now competing against Bendis, Millar, Ellis and Morrison on big name books and they’re selling like mad. How does that affect you?

Azad: If anything, I’m going head to head with indy books and smaller press. Sammy is in B&W, so immediately it’s ordered more conservatively by retailers because B&W tends to sell less than color. Plus the content is hardly spandex friendly.

As for the Big Two, I don’t see Sammy in direct competition with Marvel and DC. Different readers for different types of books. I don’t suspect I share the same readership as Hawkman lovers or Ultimate X-Men, so I don’t really worry about that.

The way I AM affected by Marvel is some of their crummy business practices. Namely trying to gobble up market share by dumping piles of unreadable books they know wont succeed into the marketplace, knowing retailers have to buy it for the rabid Marvel Zombies, all the while stretching the retailers’ purse strings until they order fewer copies of smaller press titles (including my own). THAT affects me. That affects everyone, and from the retailers I’ve spoken to, they’ve reached their boiling point.

Shit! I just killed my potential for freelance Marvel work didn’t I…Dang!

 

Jamie: Sammy is one of many Image books that is suffering the same problem of being good, but not getting any major promotion. What do you think has to be done to fix that?

Azad: Well, the responsibility is on US, the creators, to do our own promotion. Image Comics does what it can. We are treated as equal separate companies publishing under the banner of Image, thus, it’s up to us to take care of ourselves. For its part, Image gives us ad space, does our press releases and gives us a forum on their site to help gain a footing online. That’s about as much they can do for the fee they take.

The rest is up to us. I personally, did everything in my power to get the word out on “A VERY SAMMY DAY” this past May. I had a Press Release, Did 10 interviews on the net, started an ongoing online original Sammy serial called Subway Stories, and flooded internet forums with announcements and promos.

In the end, it didn’t amount to much. I’ve learned that online buzz doesn’t always translate into real world buzz. Sometimes, it’s having good word of mouth, sometimes it’s luck. You just have to keep going to cons, and plugging away until someone notices. It’s a lot of hard work.

I’m not sure what ELSE to do. Buying ads in trade papers? Calling retailers ahead of time? Emailing and mailing retailers previews ahead of time? It all costs more and more money. You can buy your way into Wizard with ads, but I don’t know if that makes a difference. I’m guessing it depends on your material. In my case, I doubt it.

 

Jamie: On your website, Guerrilla-Comics.com you use some online comics to promote your comics. Has that helped?

Azad: Marginally. In fairness, I haven’t used the site to its potential. I could have brought in other online cartoonists, maybe had some contests and promotions to go along with the website…Part of the original intent of the site was to have some activism. To get people pumped about doing comics. But life has gotten in the way of myself and my webmaster. We’d like to change that. We’re having a major Pow-Wow for a week this August. Hopefully, we’ll get things up there that should have been up last year. 3D animation, web docs, more comics, more features… hopefully, it’ll build some interest in Sammy and other future projects.

 

Jamie: I’m surprised I haven’t seen you offering Sammy: Tourist Trap as a TPB yet. Are you planning on doing this?

Azad: SALES! Sales dictate everything. The book is still a bit in the red. With that said, I’ve got a great TPB planned for it with TONS of extras. I just hope I get the green light. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: You mentioned in the back of Sammy: Tourist Trap #4 that using computers does not speed up the process of making comic books, instead it slows it down. If that’s the case, why do you use computers?

Azad: In all honesty, it’s become a bit of a crutch for me. I like the way my stuff looks better with it than without it. But it has afforded me the ability to make my artwork look as good as it is. It would NOT have been so otherwise. I’d like to change that though. J.Bone has challenged me to do a computer-less comic one day. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: How has Image changed for you since Erik Larsen took over as head honcho?

Azad: Not in any obvious way, so far. All my contracts and such were signed under Jim Valentino, so they had to honor them. Hell, I have no idea if Erik even likes my work or would have signed me at all, for that matter. I guess we’ll see how this affects me when I ask for a TPB or a sequel.

 

Jamie: When you get a fan following and respectable Sales, will you drop everything and work for Marvel or DC when they offer you lots of money and a title?

Azad: A title with the Big Two would not change my plans for world domination. Especially considering the fact that I’d want to WRITE, not draw for the Big Two. I can write fast. Real fast! Drawing takes forever and I’d never be able to maintain a monthly schedule. But then again, who wants to write pajama-boys when I get to find new ways to abuse kitties on my own book?!

Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Milton Griepp at the 2010 C2E2

Originally published in May of 2004. This is another one of my comic business type interviews. One of the most significant events to happen in the comics industry was Marvel buying Heroes World and exclusively distributing their comics through them. That started a chain reaction leading to Diamond having a virtual monopoly on comic book distribution to the direct market. Milton Griepp had a unique view of those events that I don’t think anybody else had asked him about.

 

Milton Griepp Interview

Milton Griepp has been in the comics industry for 30 years as a publisher, distributor, retailer and consultant. He once ran the largest direct distribution comic book company Capital City Distribution. He was involved with the Internet retail company NextPlanetOver.com and is currently running ICv2.com, a pop culture industry news Website. Along the way he has also done lots of consulting on the comic book industry. In this interview we go through his career and he gives us his analysis of the comic book industry. He also examines the effect other media are having on comics and whether manga’s popularity will last.

 

Jamie: Let’s take it from the beginning. I’m sure that like most in this industry you started as a reader. What kind of comic books got you hooked?

Milton Griepp: The first comic I remember reading was a Carl Barks Disney comic and I continued to read those. I also read a lot of DCs. Superboy, The Legion and Superman were probably the three things I read the most. I inherited a collection from my cousin that was mostly 50’s comics, including a lot of DC’s, and I continued buying those until the 60’s. In his collection were things like the Fox and Crow and other funny animal stuff that I read. When I got to college, I started reading Marvels and I also read a lot of undergrounds which were coming out in great numbers at that time.

 

Jamie: When about did you get involved in the business end of comics?

Milton Griepp: From a friend in high school. When we were in college he started a business advertising in shopper papers in northern Wisconsin, buying collections, and taking them to conventions and selling them there or selling them though the Comic Buyers Guide. I started going to shows with him in the early 70s, about 72 and 73, and working behind the table with him was my first exposure to comics as a retailer.

 

Jamie: When did you move into distribution?

Milton Griepp: That experience in the comics business got me a job in 1976 with a company called Wisconsin Independent News Distributors which carried some magazines and books and had a comic department. I was hired for the comic department. So that was my first distribution experience. The territory was fairly limited: mostly Wisconsin, a little of Illinois, a little bit of Minnesota. Then they went out of business and their business got absorbed by a company called Big Rapids Distribution Company, which at one time became the largest direct distributor in the late 70s. I worked for them, also out of Wisconsin.

 

Jamie: I understand you and John Davis teamed up to form Capital City (Distribution). When about did that happen?

Milton Griepp: I hired John at WIND and we also worked together at Big Rapids. When Big Rapids went out of business, John talked me into starting a business that would handle just comics. Both Big Rapids and Wisconsin Independent News Distributors had comics as a small part of the company, along with book and magazine distribution. So the idea that was different was to do something that specialized in comics. That was in the early 1980s.

 

Jamie: I understand at one point a group of smaller distributors all combined to take Capital to a national distributor?

Milton Griepp: I don’t know where you got that impression.

 

Jamie: That never happened?

Milton Griepp: That never happened, but we did do some small acquisitions. Our first location outside of Wisconsin was–we bought a little company called North Eastern Ohio News, which was primarily a comics distributor, based in the Cleveland area. We did some other small acquisitions over the years but most of our growth was by sales efforts one store at a time.

 

Jamie: I understand Capital was #2 going up to #1 competing against Diamond most of the way . . . Were you surprised when Marvel decided to pull out, buy Heroes World and distribute exclusively through them?

Milton Griepp: Just to set the stage, Capital was #1 until Diamond bought Bud Plant. Diamond was #2 and Bud Plant was #3 and the combination of those two companies made them larger than we were. So we were #2 at the time Marvel did their deal with Heroes World.

I guess in one sense it wasn’t a surprise, as Marvel had been making noises about being dissatisfied with the direct distribution system for a couple of years, primarily because they didn’t think they were getting their due as the largest publisher. But primarily I was surprised, because I didn’t think anybody would do anything that stupid.

 

Jamie: At that time, what did you think would happen to the comic industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it was a very dynamic situation. We really didn’t know what to expect, so we ran the business on several tracks trying to prepare for different contingencies. There was a lot of damage done to the business during that period. Heroes World was really incapable of distributing Marvels nationally, so that was happening. Also, at the same time, the market was declining rapidly after a period of explosive growth during the early 90’s. And other publishers were maneuvering, deciding what they were going to do in the wake of Marvel’s decision. So it was an unpredictable situation, and it required a number of contingency plans for different eventualities.

 

Jamie: Looking back, do you wish you had tried harder to get DC to go exclusive with Capital instead of Diamond, with some other deal you could have made them?

Milton Griepp: Well, DC came to us and other companies and said they were thinking about going with a single company for their distributor as Marvel had. And we did pitch them hard to go with Capital; we couldn’t have tried any harder to do that. We were also trying to convince them not to go with a single distributor, and we felt they could have taken a leadership position with the retailers and distributors and united the rest of the industry against the model that Marvel was developing with the single distributor model. It would have gotten a lot of good will and a lot of support and I believe that would have been a very viable and successful action for them.

In the end I see DC’s choice as the most conservative option, which is not surprising as DC is part of a large company and that creates a tendency towards conservatism. The first instance of conservatism was that they followed what Marvel had done (Marvel was #1, DC was #2) and they followed to a single distributor. The second conservative choice was picking Diamond, as they were larger than we were, and so it represented less risk of losing business to choose Diamond than it did to choose Capital. So they took the two low-risk decisions and that led them to Diamond.

 

Jamie: How do you think the exclusive agreements between publishers and distributors have affected the industry?

Milton Griepp: Well, it’s brought stability and I think that’s had both positive and negative affects. On the positive side, considering the circumstances (this is very important), publishers had a reliable way to reach the market and through a very profitable company that always pays its bills. Given the volatility in what was happening to the smaller distributors at the time, that was a good thing for publishers and ultimately the industry.

It was also good for retailers because they were experiencing the same upheaval in terms of where and how they got their products. So after the transition period when Diamond took over the Capital stores after they bought Capital City, that led to a very reliable system of distribution for retailers. That was a good thing.

On the negative side, the fact that there were fewer viewpoints at the distribution level slowed innovation to some degree. I don’t know how much of that effect there was, but you have to assume that a number of companies all working in that field with a variety of viewpoints would have led to faster change and more innovation.

 

Jamie: After Diamond bought out Capital, did they offer you a position there?

Milton Griepp: They didn’t and I really didn’t expect one. I was a CEO and they didn’t need a CEO and they didn’t need a COO. They had Steve Geppi as the CEO and a very capable COO with Chuck Parker. They didn’t really have a position that fit my skills so I didn’t expect an offer and didn’t receive one.

 

Jamie: After that you started working with NextPlanetOver.com. What was that experience like?

Milton Griepp: Actually that was a while after the Capital sale, and both before and after that I did some consulting in the field.

Well, the NextPlanetOver experience was a unique time and place. It was in San Francisco, and at a venture-funded Internet company at the peak of the dot com boom. That was a really interesting time and place to be geographically, from a business history point of view, and from a technological innovation point of view. It was a really interesting thing to see.

I’d seen a lot of bubbles before in the pop culture products business, you know especially when there is a resale market involved. Like the black and white comics–there was a bubble and then everybody produces them, then there’s too many and then the market collapses. I hadn’t seen a capital bubble of this type, which was that the cost of capital was very low and the money was flowing into all kinds of Internet businesses. So that was new to see, and although there were some negative outcomes, the experience was very positive. I learned a lot about private equity, learned a lot about technology and the Internet.

Capital was a very technologically progressive company; even in the early 90s we were doing order uploads and using electronic communication with our customers. But this was on a different level, because we were on the real cutting edge, at that time, of the development of e-commerce technology. So we sold off the company at the end and that was a negative, but the experience of being there at that time and place and how much I learned was very positive, on balance.

 

Jamie: There was controversy at that time, particularly when they were being located at the same warehouse Diamond was shipping comics from. What did you think about that at the time?

Milton Griepp: Well, it wasn’t really located at the same place. Diamond was doing order fulfillment for NextPlanetOver. NextPlanetOver bought merchandise from Diamond and rather than Diamond doing one big shipment to NextPlanetOver they shipped it directly to NextPlanetOver’s customers. That was a very efficient system in that it gave NextPlanetOver access to a large inventory and allowed the company to offer that to its customers without being in possession before it was being purchased.

It was on the original model that Amazon was built on–an inventory-less model where the product was offered, then acquired from a wholesaler at the time of sale. So from a business point of view I think it made a lot of sense. There was some controversy from the reaction from retailers thinking NextPlanetOver had a special deal that was going to hurt them. But ultimately there was very little threat to brick and mortar retailers from that arrangement. The controversy boomed and then tailed off. It wasn’t unexpected and ultimately didn’t affect our business.

 

Jamie: Out of the whole ordeal what did you learn about trying to sell comic books online?

Milton Griepp: I wouldn’t really call it an ordeal. There were certainly parts of it that were an ordeal, but over-all there were also some positive things about it.

From my first involvement in the company, I wanted it focused not on selling comic books online (periodicals), but on selling graphic novels, toys, apparel–selling the things that customers bought other than comics. Comics are really too cheap to sell through a traditional shopping cart model where you are selling, at that time, a two dollar product one at a time. It just wasn’t an efficient model and ultimately we did change the orientation of the product mix to emphasize the other product lines that Diamond also offered.

The subscription service model that’s been around for many years works well for selling periodical comics via mail order or via the Internet. Selling one at a time is just not a terribly efficient model, which was what I thought going in and that was proven by the results. We did re-orient the mix to focus on some of the higher-priced items and I’d say that was the upshot of the learning experience there–that selling comics like backlist in an “off-the-rack” situation was not a viable business model, but I do think, as other businesses have proven since, selling graphic novels, toys, and the higher-priced stuff works fine.

 

Jamie: During that time you were also doing some consulting work. Were there any clients in particular you could name that you worked with?

Milton Griepp: Well, I’ll talk a bit about the categories I’ve worked with. I worked with publishers, I worked with retailers, toy companies, international consulting firms, educational firms, educational institutions, investment firms. My clients generally prefer that I advise them without revealing their identities.

 

Jamie: When coming up with ICv2.com, why did you decide to go as a Website instead of as a printed magazine?

Milton Griepp: I had just come out of a Web business, and I learned a lot about it, so I had this knowledge base on how to do it. It seemed inexpensive to start a Website as a result of improving technology at the time. When we started NextPlanetOver, for example, the code for the content area had to be all written from scratch. By the time I started ICv2, things like the search function could be acquired relatively inexpensively instead of writing it from scratch. That learning experience of how to develop the Website relatively inexpensively allowed saving a non- trivial amount of money.

The reason I wanted to do it on the Web was to use that knowledge, and I felt the Web was a superior way of delivering news. Obviously it’s faster and more accessible; also it involves the ability to interact with the user, which does not exist in print. I also believed I could develop an audience at a lower cost on the Web than in print so it was a classic business model-driven decision.

 

Jamie: Last year ICv2.com did a printed magazine called the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels. How successful was that?

Milton Griepp: Actually we’ve done a number of magazines; I think the number is over 10, in three categories. We do the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Anime and Manga, the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Graphic Novels, and the ICv2 Retailers Guide to Games.

I started pitching the first magazine at San Diego a year and a half ago and was really surprised at the response, which was that advertisers that were resistant to the idea of advertising online were receptive to the idea of advertising in a magazine. I think it’s just a matter of preference that people have established over the years with certain types of media. So that was a big response on the advertisers’ side.

On the content side, the magazine was also a good fit with our online content. The online content is very fast; we publish daily, with shorter articles, primarily news. The print medium allowed us to take a longer view of things, do more analysis, more features, more in-depth reporting. I think the two media, online and print, are complementary and we really like the way they fit together. I think both are important to how ICv2 serves its audience and advertisers. So online was a good place to start and print was a good place to expand to.

 

Jamie: Despite doing well in bookstores, many comic book retailers are having a hard time selling manga. What do you think retailers have to do to move manga like the bookstores do?

Milton Griepp: Well, I want to push back on the idea that comic stores are having a lot of difficulty selling manga. Obviously they are selling a lot more manga than they were a few years ago and I think that’s going to continue. The thing is, some comic stores are a lot better than others at manga, and I think it’s a matter of how they merchandise the manga line, also what their clientele base is like, and how they retail to their clientele.

The reason bookstores have grown much faster than comic book stores have over the last few years is that bookstores have a larger female audience and a lot of the manga content is directed at female consumers. So a comic store that focuses on superheroes or action adventure material that has a primarily male audience is going to miss out on a lot of manga sales because there is a lot of material that doesn’t appeal to that action adventure audience.

On the other hand, I have seen some comic stores do a very good job with manga. In fact, the best manga stores I’ve seen are comic stores that carry far greater variety than the best bookstores. They also have better product knowledge at the counter than the best bookstores. So I think that comic stores can be extremely successful with manga, it’s just a matter of how they merchandise it, who their clientele is and how they reach out to their clientele–a store that is friendly for consumers of both sexes and all ages (as the manga audience in bookstores is a little bit younger than the typical comic book store audience). So comic stores can reach that audience, but historically comic stores have been a male-supported distribution channel and that presents barriers in some stores.

 

Jamie: ICv2.com has been tracking sales numbers for quite some time. Are there any particular tends you’ve noticed that others in the industry should know?

Milton Griepp: Well, first of all there has been a change a little over a year ago in how Diamond puts out their numbers, how they calculate indexes, and that has affected our ability to do year-to-year comparisons. Between 2000 and 2002, we were able to do year-to-year comparisons which were extremely useful, because it tracked what was happening in comic stores in that period, which was the first growth that had happened in about a decade. That was really a good thing to track.

Now we’re just getting to the end of the first year with Diamond and its new numbers. Once again, the first month we did comparisons for, the market was up and that was a good thing. In the long run, Diamond using actual numbers instead of pre-orders for their index is going to be very positive because it’s a much more accurate snapshot of the market.

In terms of overall trend analysis, by looking at the comic stores and other channels, the biggest growth is graphic novel sales in bookstores. The biggest thing happening there is that bookstores are replacing newsstand distribution, which collapsed for comics in the last five to ten years, as a feeder system into comic book stores. In other words, consumers are exposed to comics in book stores and if they want to find a broader range of titles they’ll end up in a comic store. Before, it used to be that happened from magazine-type outlets and newsstands, convenience stores, those kinds of outlets, where people pick up a comic book and then find their way to a comic store later. I think that’s a huge, huge shift in the comic business.

I mentioned earlier the fact that younger readers and female readers are finding comics in bookstores and that’s a hugely positive trend for the entire industry. Opening up the market to female readers to a greater degree doubles the available pool of consumers.

Getting younger kids reading comics is positive because it will hopefully build lifetime consumers. The comic market has been aging dramatically for the last 10 to 12 years, and this can reverse that trend. Those are really positive things happening in the comics business, the fact that the business in comic stores is also growing, those are positive things.

I think we’re seeing a greater impact of other media on comic sales, specifically movies and television. Obviously the Batman movie had a huge impact on Batman product sales in the late 80s and early 90s, but now there’s a whole plethora of media influences on comic sales just in the last few years. Smaller movies like Ghost World and American Splendor, something like Road to Perdition or From Hell and the mega-blockbusters like Spider-Man, Hulk, and X-men, those have all been really positive events for comic sales.

On television now, not only are there a number of cartoons being done based on American comics but the anime, which is tied to manga, are also popularizing those properties to a great degree. So movies and television are having a much greater impact than they had in the past, which is obviously a very positive thing for the comics business.

There is a bunch of positive trends sort of coalescing in the industry and it’s a good time for the comic business.

 

Jamie: I noticed that movies don’t seem to help the superhero comics quite as much as do the independent comics.

Milton Griepp: Spider-Man and Hulk moved a lot of product through all channels and it lifted Spider-Man graphic novels to the top of the charts. The bookstores moved a lot of Spider-Man product, as did the comic stores, so I think there is a connection. Recent Marvel movies have shown that. I think it doesn’t always work that way, The Punisher, for example. The early indication is it’s not moving product quite as well as Hellboy is. So I think it depends on the combination of the movie and the material.

 

Jamie: How do you see the comic book industry changing in the next 5 years?

Milton Griepp: I see the comic audience growing in a number of demographic groups, including adults that are interested in comics as literature. Certainly there is a pop culture aspect to them, but comics are being taken more seriously as real literature. This has been going on for a while, but for the last couple of years we’ve really accelerated that trend. And at the same time, we see the market for comics growing among younger readers, girls, and women. Comics being reviewed by book reviewers in the literary establishment also opens up an even larger, more serious reading audience of adults. So again we see multiple audiences in which the comics medium is growing. So I think those are very positive trends.

Another aspect that is unlike some previous growth trends of the comic business: none of this is being based on the after-market value, so the risk of collapse in the business due to a collapse of after-market values or overproduction or whatever just isn’t there in the same way as was there in earlier growth periods. That again is a very, very positive trend.

 

Jamie: So you don’t think manga is just a fad then? (laughs)

Milton Griepp: It’s been going on too long to be a fad. The Japanese stuff has been growing since the early 80s, so you can’t take a 25-year trend and say “It’s a fad.”

 

Jamie: yes . . .

Milton Griepp: Certainly there are times where it gets super-hot and then cools off. Pokemon was a huge phenomenon and it exploded, then there was space for a while and shrinks back a little bit, but I don’t think it’s a fad. I wrote something in 2000-2001 that said something to the effect that we’re witnessing a change in world culture, in the sense that more and more pop culture is coming from Asia. You can almost say that as American culture took over from British as the ruling popular culture, now we’re seeing a move towards Asian pop culture.

Hollywood is not going anywhere, American television is not going anywhere, American comics is not going anywhere; but there is a growing influence in all markets from Asian pop culture. Something like Kill Bill is ostensibly an American movie, but it’s got elements of Hong Kong action movies, little pieces of old American movies, there is anime in the first volume.

You can see the Asian influence growing in American pop culture in so many ways. So that’s another reason that I don’t think manga is just a fad.

Warren Ellis Interview

Warren Ellis at 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Warren Ellis at 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con

Originally published in January of 2004. I once tried to interview Warren Ellis at a 2005 convention in Toronto but that fell through. Previous to this Warren sent out a message saying he would do 4 question interviews to anybody that e-mailed him questions. Prior to that Rich Johnston posted the rumor that Warren Ellis was going to be doing a book at TOYKOPOP, who were then hiring creators to come up with their “OEL (Original English Language) Manga” line. I decided to take a gamble use the interview to ask him about it in hopes of breaking some news.

 

Interview with Warren Ellis

Warren Ellis is a writer and sometimes comic book activist. He is best known for his books Transmetropolitian, Planetary and The Authority. He also spent quite some time writing about the comic book industry and it’s need to change and improve, which along with his comic work has gained him a very large following in the industry. The following is a mini interview he allowed via his DiePunyHumans list.

 

Jamie: What are you doing for TOKYOPOP?

Warren Ellis: Um . . . nothing, yet. You seem to be playing off a rumour that I think Rich Johnston ran the other week. I’ve had a conversation with Tokyopop, but nothing else.

 

Jamie: Are you writing stuff for their young female readers or your typical audience?

Warren Ellis: See above. Sorry, but you’re way ahead of reality here…

 

Jamie: TOKYOPOP is only starting to do original material and much of that is from their fans via their Rising Stars contest winners. One might assume the company is closer to Archie or Marvel when it comes to respecting and fairly paying their creators. Are you having to guide them towards DC or better standards or have they figured that out on their own?

Warren Ellis: I haven’t even seen their standard contract and have no idea what they pay.

 

Jamie: Just off the top of your head, what do you think the better GN’s of 2003 were?

Warren Ellis: I really didn’t read many graphic novels in 2003. I certainly couldn’t name any off the top of my head. I think I went into a comics store once in that year, and that was just to say hello to someone while I was passing.

 


 

While this interview isn’t all that exciting I do have a treat for you. Warren did a nearly 2 hour hilarious, story filled Q&A panel at the 2005 Paradise Comics Toronto Comic Con. I uploaded clips of this panel roughly around 12 years ago and since then I’ve found the full audio file and I’m making it available here for the first time. Enjoy!

 

Jeremy Ross Interview

Originally published in December of 2003. I had contacted TokyoPop with a request to interview Stu Levy, but was subtly told I and CollectorTimes.com wasn’t big enough to warrant an interview with him. I was instead given access to Jeremy Ross though a PR person, which was a new experience for me. I had always interacted directly with an interviewee, this time all my questions went though a middle PR person. Still the interview came out okay and it happened at a interesting point in time. TokyoPop had recently started their cost saving, unflipped, “Authentic” Manga line. I had read some unverified comments online that they were selling well, but this interview revealed they were selling much more than well. Every North America Manga publisher would soon adopt the format and continue to use it today.

 

Interview with Jeremy Ross of TOKYOPOP

I’m sure everybody has noticed a whole lot of Manga in their comic books shops and at bookstores. The biggest US publisher of manga is TOKYOPOP Inc., but very little is known about the company and the people behind it. This month’s interview is with Jeremy Ross, TOKYOPOP’s Editorial Director – their rough equivalent to the Editor in Chief. We cover his background, TOKYOPOP’s growth in bookstores and their relationship to the direct market. I should let you know a few of the business questions were answered by Kristien Brada-Thompson, TOKYOPOP’s Marcom Manager.

 

Jamie: Give us some of your background. When were you born and where?

Jeremy Ross: I was born in Norwalk, Connecticut in 1953 but I spent my early years in London, England.

 

Jamie: What was the first comic book you read?

Jeremy Ross: Some realistic comics about WW II in England. When I moved back to the States in Second grade I started to get hold of comics like MAD Magazine, the Fantastic Four and Archie.

 

Jamie: What did you do prior to working at TOKYOPOP Inc.?

Jeremy Ross: I was Executive Producer at Kleiser-Walczak, the company that made the 3-D CGI Spider-Man ride film for Universal in Orlando, FL.

 

Jamie: How long have you been working at TOKYOPOP?

Jeremy Ross: Since January 2003.

 

Jamie: It’s been noticed that TOKYOPOP have been hiring a number people in key positions. Has there been turnover or is the company expanding?

Jeremy Ross: It’s almost all growth. We have doubled our office space and dramatically increased the number of titles we are releasing for 2004. We are also expanding our business in many areas.

 

Jamie: TOKYOPOP already does a lot more than just publish comics, what other areas will they be expanding too?

Jeremy Ross: Our revenue (and our business overall) has doubled every year since TOKYOPOP’s inception. In order to meet the demands of a steady growth like this, we need to supplement our staff. While manga is obviously our biggest area of growth, we are also greatly expanding our Cine-Manga line and delving more into television properties and licensing. TOKYOPOP will announce more exciting developments officially in the future.

 

Jamie: Since TOKYOPOP is dealing with reprinting material, I imagine your job is somewhat different than editors at original publishers. What is your workday like?

Jeremy Ross: In fact, TOKYOPOP produces both licensed, localized books and –increasingly–original books of many kinds. Each are their own challenges. All of the editors are working long hours to fill the demand for manga in America. The energy and enthusiasm as well as the pace are unusual for publishing…but then again, we’re an entrepreneurial entertainment company that happens to release a lot of books as well as animation, soundtracks and other products. In a way, it feels like working for a dot com with one significant difference: We’re making old-media products that people want and doing it profitably!

 

Jamie: Does TOKYOPOP have plans to hire American creators to do original work?

Jeremy Ross: We already do. See our web site for titles such as Shutterbox, @Large and World of Hartz. In the future, we plan to hire manga artists from all over the world to create many original works.

 

Jamie: Does TOKYOPOP plan to reprint comics from countries other than from Japan?

Jeremy Ross: We were the first company to successfully introduce Korean manga (they call it manwha) to America and now Korean books make up a significant portion of our lineup. Our Digimon manga comes from Hong Kong. And we are planning to publish manga by European creators.

 

Jamie: How has the switch to right to left format affected the sales of your books?

Jeremy Ross: The switch to the Authentic format coincided with a dramatic rise in sales. Readers prefer to see the art as it was originally designed, not flipped. There’s something particularly appealing to our audience about books that read in the opposite direction from Western publications.

 

Jamie: How big was the jump in sales between left to right and right to left?

Jeremy Ross: Without giving any numbers–since we do not release sales information as a rule–I can tell you that our business doubled . . . and has doubled every year since inception. Of course, you may have heard this before, so I’ll give you another tidbit that should provide better perspective: In the same month we launched our first line of 100% Authentic Manga, our largest distributor at the time–LPC Group–also happened to declare bankruptcy. This was a tremendous blow to our business financially, and we truly didn’t know what would happen. The Authentic Manga launch did so well, however, that we still ended the year with a profit! These books blew away everyone’s expectations. The line was a bonafide success story!

 

Jamie: How did you go about courting the bookstores and major chains into carrying TOKYOPOP books?

Jeremy Ross: We have a fantastic sales team, a proven track record, and a market climate that is ripe for our form of entertainment.

 

Jamie: Recently many traditional comic book companies have signed on with distributors to sell to the bookstore market, but large print runs and slow sell throughs have hurt them financially. How does TOKYOPOP manage to do it so well?

Jeremy Ross: Selling manga graphic novels in bookstores is a cornerstone of TOKYOPOP’s success. It has allowed us to attract a very different demographic than the traditional comic collector who buys at comic shops. Teen and tween girls and boys love our format and like finding their favorite series in bookstore chains. We have dedicated displays in stores such as Barnes and Noble. The buyers there love our series-based books because they attract dedicated customers who buy several series a month and come to the store regularly. Our manga is also found at Suncoast, Frye’s, Best Buy and other places where we can reach a mass audience.

 

Jamie: Within the “traditional” comic industry there was talk for a lot of years about reaching out to women and children readers, but nothing they did seemed to work. How did TOYKOPOP successfully market their books those demographics?

Jeremy Ross: Even the traditional comics industry used to appeal to a broader demographic. They became more focused on superhero stories over the years and were quite successful with them for a long time. Manga, on the other hand, exists for every conceivable age group including young kids and adults. Our success was largely the result of bringing compelling and unique content to an audience that was ready for it and making the books available in retail channels that attract the broadest possible demographic.

 

Jamie: Was there any specific advertising done that reached those readers or did you get sales because the TV anime shows were popular and spin off from that?

Jeremy Ross: Our success in reaching girls and children may be attributed to a number of marketing tactics, but a big part of it is supply and demand. Typical American superhero style comics do not have as much appeal to these audiences as manga does with its multiple genres. We are providing girls and children with an entertainment form that largely wasn’t there for them in the past. The tie-ins with related anime TV shows (for some properties) certainly help as well, but that’s only one part of a very large equation figuring into the growth of manga sales to girls and children.

 

Jamie: How important is the direct market to TOKYOPOP?

Jeremy Ross: The direct market is important to us because it allows us to reach more customers, but it represents only a portion of our sales.

 

Jamie: What is the percentage of TOKYOPOP sales between the Direct Market and Bookstores?

Jeremy Ross: We’re a private company and we do not release sales figures, but it’s fair to say that the majority of our sales are through bookstores.

 

Jamie: When TOKYOPOP releases books to the Direct Market, a lot of books are shipped on the same week. Why do it that way?

Jeremy Ross: Considering that we are releasing on average 40 books per month and that our business is way up, we ship once or twice a month, usually in the first two weeks of the month. Our distributors then determine when and how the books land in the direct market. With so many titles, this is simply the best way we’ve found to do it.

 

Jamie: Shonen Jump has been selling Manga through the newsstands, do you see TOKYOPOP doing something similar?

Jeremy Ross: Shonen Jump is an anthology magazine with serialized stories. TOKYOPOP has a history of selling manga anthology magazines on newsstands in the past (Mixxzine, Smile) but we have found the economics of the magazine business for manga to be challenging. We have had such runaway success with the industry-standard graphic novel size that we pioneered, sold through bookstores, that we have so far chosen not to re-enter the magazine business. We do sell manga anthologies (The Rising Stars of Manga) and give away samplers (TOKYOPOP sneaks) in our standard graphic novel size.

 

Jamie: Many traditional large comic book companies make the bulk of their money off licensing their characters. Yet TOKYOPOP is the one licensing characters for comics. How does this affect the company?

Jeremy Ross: We are a licensee of many Manga series, but also a sub-licensor of those same properties. For example, we licensed Radio Shack the Initial D property for their micro machine RC cars. At Comic-Con 2003 we announced that we have acquired the rights to the Korean series Priest to make a major motion picture. When we acquire or develop a property, we are more often obtaining the rights to multiple licensing categories. Rave Master is the most recent example of a property for which we have the master license, with the exception of Asia.

You can expect to see more announcements of TOPYOPOP as a licensor rather than a licensee in the future.

 

Jamie: Are your licensed books still your strongest sellers?

Jeremy Ross: For the time being, yes, especially when you figure in the Cine-Manga deals with Disney, Nickelodeon, Sony and other heavy-hitters. Those books do extremely well. However, since we’ve only really just started working on original material, we have no true basis of comparison. Ask us in another year, and you may be surprised.

Russ Anderson Interview

Originally published in November of 2003. Sequential Swap was a nifty idea that I very much liked when it first came out. It was a website where people would post the Graphic Novels they had that they were willing to trade for another book. People would only need to pay for shipping. I utilized it myself and was happy with the results so I wanted to promote it. Eventually I had read everybody’s trade list and didn’t see anything I wanted and I suspect the same was true for others too. The site required a steady stream of new people with new interesting books they were willing to trade and that didn’t happen. The site is now dead.

 

Interview with Russ Anderson

Ever buy a TPB and didn’t like it? Are there books you want but can’t afford them right now?

Then you may want to head over to http://www.sequentialswap.com/. It’s a new website that’s getting peoples attention. Among the members are writer Andy Diggle (Writer – The Losers from DC/Vertigo), Johanna Draper Carlson (ComicsWorthReading reviewer), Alan David Doane (former webzine owner), and many more. The website is set up and run by Russ Anderson. This month I pick his brain about his contribution to comic fandom and his opinions on the comic industry.

 

Jamie: So, tell us about yourself. Where were you born, where did you grow up?

Russ Anderson: Born in Davenport, Iowa . . . but please don’t hold that against me. I consider my hometown to be Phoenix, Arizona, where I went to high school, but I’m currently living in Baltimore, Maryland. I’m very well-rounded, geographically.

 

Jamie: What’s your day job?

Russ Anderson: I’m a technical writer for the government. This means, if you’ve ever read anything that was even remotely interesting, chances are it wasn’t me that wrote it.

 

Jamie: How did you get your start in reading comics?

Russ Anderson: Might as well ask me how I got my start blinking, because I sure don’t remember that far back. I’ve been reading comics since *before* I could read. Comics are the reason, in fact, that I was reading on a third grade level before I ever set foot in kindergarten.

 

Jamie: What convinced you to switch to trades?

Russ Anderson: Mostly practical considerations… namely, space. Like I said, I’ve been reading these things since I was a sparkle in daddy’s eyes, so my personal collection includes thousands and thousands of comics. They’ve pretty much taken over my basement.

Also, with the rise in popularity of decompressed storytelling, trades are just more practical for some titles. There are titles that I love — like DAREDEVIL or 100 BULLETS — that I simply can’t follow on a month-to-month basis, because so little happens in a given issue. Better to wait and get the stories in a chunk.

(Actually, now that I think about it, the problem with 100 BULLETS isn’t so much that it’s decompressed but that the story is so complex and there are so many characters running around. I literally didn’t understand large portions of that book until I went back and read it in trade. Same with Jason Lutes’ BERLIN.)

All of this isn’t to say, of course, that I’ve forsaken the monthlies altogether. I’ve bought AMAZING SPIDER-MAN every single month since 1984, and I’m not going to stop now. And there are some books that I either want to support or just don’t want to wait for. Still, I probably only buy 10 or 11 monthlies these days, and that includes mini-series.

 

Jamie: Do you have any particular favorite writers or artists?

Russ Anderson: Not one favorite, no. Currently I’m following Brian Azzarrello around wherever he may lead me, and I’ll at least check out anything Brian Michael Bendis or George Perez do. I’m really impressed with Steve Epting, Butch Guice, and Bart Sears’ work on their various and former books at Crossgen. As for indies, I adore Jason Lutes, Rob G and Rick Spears of TEENAGERS FROM MARS, Jay Hosler of THE SANDWALK ADVENTURES, and I wish to god Alex Robinson would hurry up and give us his follow-up to BOX OFFICE POISON.

There’s lots of good stuff out there. I like to think I’m too widely read to settle on just one guy or gal. Or maybe I just have a problem with commitment…

 

Jamie: How many unique vistors does the site get?

Russ Anderson: Somewhere between 60 and 90 a day, with individual page hits numbering in the 200’s to 300’s. Generally 3 to 5 of those visitors are first-timers.

 

Jamie: You very quickly got yourself a domain name. Why did you move so quickly on that?

Russ Anderson: Mostly because Adrian Watts — who saved us from the evil, evil clutches of Geocities and graciously gave us a home on his Particlesurge server — was having problems with his provider and I didn’t want the site to be dead for too long. I always intended to move the site to its own domain eventually, Adrian’s problems just accelerated things.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, Adrian, by the way. He really went out of his way to provide the site with a home back at the beginning. He gets a big thumbs-up in my book… even though he’s Australian. 🙂

 

Jamie: Your website really goes against the collector mentality of the comic fanbase. Are you surprised it’s taken off as well as it has?

Russ Anderson: Nah, not at all. I think things like the Small Press Expo and the takeoff of the trade and GN market in general are pretty strong indicators that there are plenty of people out there that are more interested in reading than in hermetically sealing the first appearance of the latest big Batman foe. If nothing else, comics — and by extension, trades and OGNs — are so expensive now, that most people simply can’t afford everything they’d like to read. Sequential Swap is a great opportunity for those people.

And understand . . . I’m not against the collector mentality. I consider myself a collector, and I have lots and lots of long boxes filled with bagged and boarded comics to back that up. I like to pull open a box and admire my copy of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #32 or some old, worthless DEFENDERS comic that I’ve been hanging onto since I was 10 years old solely for its nostalgia value. In excess, that mindset can be damaging to the industry, as played out in the early 90’s, but the collector market was a strong part of the comic book business for many, many years before it got out of hand. As long as it’s not the only reason you’re here, we can all — readers, collectors, and everyone in-between — get along just fine, I think.

 

Jamie: You do all the updating by hand, how much time a week does it take to keep it running?

Russ Anderson: Five to seven hours, depending on how many new people sign up that week. Basic swapping traffic is easy to keep up with, and doesn’t take long at all, but adding a new name and a new collection to the site takes more time. Obviously I need to automate the system a little, but my web-fu isn’t currently up to par. Hopefully by the end of the year…

 

Jamie: Roughly how many of the swaps going on are between members versus members and vistors to the site?

Russ Anderson: With the exception of Andy Diggle (public service announcement: READ LOSERS!), who’s got a well-trafficked Delphi Forum to peddle his swaps on, probably 98% of the swaps are between members. I think people feel safer that way. We don’t have any way to punish someone who doesn’t live up to their side of the swap, but there is still some level of answerability, being part of a community like that. Fortunately we haven’t had any problems yet.

 

Jamie: Has there been any infighting about how books are being shipped or anything?

Russ Anderson: Nah, none at all that I know of. Everybody’s pretty laid back at Sequential Swap, and so far, entirely reliable. Some people like to ship media rate and some like to ship Priority, but if they can’t agree for some reason, they just wouldn’t swap.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on getting banner ads on Sequential Swap?

Russ Anderson: Eventually. Probably. But it’s nothing like a priority right now. First of all I need to stay on top of the day-to-day swaps. Second, I need to get the site automated. Once all that’s taken care of, THEN I can worry about advertising.

Carla Speed McNeil Interview

Carla Speed McNeil at 2010 San Diego Comic Con

Carla Speed McNeil at 2010 San Diego Comic Con

Originally published in May of 2003. The Toronto Comics Arts Festival may have been the first ‘convention’ I ever attended. I had been reading online that Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder was a great series, so I checked out her books at her table and liked what I saw. I bought the 4 Finder TPBs she was selling and have remained a fan of Carla since. I believe this is the first of many interviews I did after meeting the creator at a convention.

 

Carla Speed McNeil

Carla Speed McNeil has been self-publishing Finder since 1996. Over the years she has gained critical and commercial acclaim. The dramatic book takes place in a future world that is uniquely Carla’s making. I met Carla at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in March of 2003. We agreed to do an interview via e-mail.

 

Jamie: Where did your middle name Speed come from?

Carla Speed McNeil: Bestowed upon the family by James II, for services to the Crown. The first James Speed was a surveyor. Back then the word ‘speed’ denoted ‘success’, as in “Good luck and godspeed.”

In other words, it’s my maiden name.

 

Jamie: I understand you went to University prior to doing comic books. Where did you go and what did you take?

Carla Speed McNeil: I attended my state university, LSU, majored in Fine Art/Painting, and obtained my BFA in 1991.

College was well worth pursuing; I got a lot of figure drawing and composition out of it, aside from the basic get-off-your-butt-and-work college stuff. But my degree didn’t give me even half of the skills I needed to do what I do now. I never touched an ink bottle until years after school was over.

 

Jamie: Did you grow up reading comic books?

Carla Speed McNeil: Sort of. There was no comic shop in my town, and I didn’t care for the stuff on the newsstand.

 

Jamie: If so, which ones?

Carla Speed McNeil: What I DID have was a huge box of tattered old EC horror comics that were given to me by a cousin. Scared the poo out of me. I loved them.
When I was about fourteen I went through my brief fling with X-MEN. That was when Paul Smith was drawing the book, and after he left, I just wasn’t interested anymore. Right about then I dug CEREBUS #53 and ELFQUEST #13 out of a waterlogged box at a flea market, and just couldn’t believe how absorbing they were… when I went back, I found a Pacific Comics catalogue, and from there, there was no turning back. I ordered black-and-whites by the pound. Best of all was Bill Messner-Loebs’ JOURNEY, with CEREBUS a close second.

 

Jamie: In Finder, your main character is named Jaeger Ayers. Is he based on anybody real?

Carla Speed McNeil: He’s based on quite a lot of real people. Not the least of these is an uncle of mine who, at the age of seventy-six, caught a live hummingbird in his bare hand, and let it go unharmed. You can’t not write about people like these.

 

Jamie: I can’t help but notice that Jeager heals quicker than ‘normal’ people and is a loner/rebel. While I feel like a geek for asking this, would Wolverine be one of the influences behind him?

Carla Speed McNeil: Can’t help but be in there, can he? That poor blown-out sock-puppet character does cast a long shadow.

It’s not really hard to understand his continued popularity. For many a long year, he was really the only GUY in comics. Plenty of males, some good, some bad, but only one GUY. Strange.

 

Jamie: Where did you get the last name Ayers from?

Carla Speed McNeil: Sort of randomly. One of my instructors had that name, and I liked the sound of it. A very minor character in a book had that name, spelled differently. When I remembered that Uluru, that enormous sacred rock in Australia is called Ayers Rock by the non-natives, it really seemed to fit.

Names, for a guy raised the way Jaeger was, are fairly fluid. He barely HAS a last name, and knows nothing about his family.

 

Jamie: With Finder you won some awards, particularly in 1998 from the Ignatz and Friends of Lulu organizations. Did these awards help your sales?

Carla Speed McNeil: They certainly help with visibility, which boosts sales to an amazing degree.

 

Jamie: By the way, Congrats on your recent Eisner nomination for Best Writer/Artist.

Carla Speed McNeil: Thank you.

 

Jamie: When did you get interested in making comic books?

Carla Speed McNeil: All through college, once I realized I didn’t really want to be an animator.

 

Jamie: Was there one particular book that made you say “I want to do comics too.”

Carla Speed McNeil: No. It was the obvious course of action. I wanted to draw and I wanted to write. One of my art instructors described his gallery show as being ‘narrative art’. ‘Narrative’? He took the class downstairs to have a look at it. His show consisted of many large canvases full of (to my eye) extremely murky abstract imagery with titles drawn from world mythology. He stood over each painting and explained in detail the myth figure he meant to depict.

Botticelli it wasn’t. I’ve seen many, many single images that did indeed tell a story for anybody to see if they put two and two together. Whatever this artist’s intention, those images did not. I wanted to tell stories in a visual medium, and that afternoon cemented for me the fact that a single image can’t do that, even with the perfect title/caption. It can evoke a complex story, sum it up in a brilliantly clever way, but not really tell one.

 

Jamie: How did you learn the details of self-publishing?

Carla Speed McNeil: First and foremost, from Dave Sim’s rants in the inside front cover of CEREBUS.

 

Jamie: Did you have any help in getting started? People you talked with that walked you through the steps?

Carla Speed McNeil: My first friend in the business was Michael Cohen, who wrote/drew/published STRANGE ATTRACTORS, MYTHOGRAPHY, and THE FORBIDDEN BOOK. I met him at my first SPX back in… yee. Must have been ’93, ’94. I had half the boards for my first ashcan to wave around. At San Diego the following year, he introduced me to a lot of the distribution folks.

I talked their ears off. I apologized in advance for the frighteningly long list of questions I had to ask.

 

Jamie: I understand your family has a strong entrepreneurial background. What did you pick up from them that is not found in most ‘how to self publish’ texts?

Carla Speed McNeil: Hm… I haven’t read most ‘hts-p’ texts. Sim’s was great for clearing out mental wool. That two-week page-a-day boot camp idea was and remains an eye-opener.

My folks were there to give me more of the same practical, hardheaded it’s-a-job save-the-artistic-meandering-for-the-story stuff, and a lot of advice on taxes, pricing, and keeping receipts. They helped me learn to look ahead two years, three years, five. I might’ve tripped over a lot of dollars trying to pick up pennies if they hadn’t intervened from time to time.

Tax returns financed the first three TPBs. Sound advice.

 

Jamie: One of the more financially dangerous things about self publishing are returns on bookstore sales. How have they been?

Carla Speed McNeil: I’m still working on getting into the returnable market. I can’t say the returns process has cut into my sales thus far.

 

Jamie: I understand, even ardent self publishers like Dave Sim have a Gerhard helping him, allowing for a monthly schedule. Does doing Finder bi-monthly allow you to do everything without burning out?

Carla Speed McNeil: More or less. Putting a little extra pressure on– as I’m doing with the Oni project now– forces me to streamline. Every work method acquires craft over time. A little blind panic over deadlines scrapes off unnecessary steps and laziness admirably.

 

Jamie: If you could afford to publish Finder in color would you?

Carla Speed McNeil: Would all my readers be happy with getting half the number of issues per year? It’d slow down production quite a lot.

 

Jamie: With all the comic book stuff in the theaters these days have you had any Hollywood types sniffing around for the rights to do Finder?

Carla Speed McNeil: Not so far.
Well, not Hollywood, anyway. Cinar did come calling. At the time, they were working on a cartoon version of AKIKO ON THE PLANET SMOO. I’ve no idea what’s going on with that one. At any rate, they asked for samples of FINDER to look at. I was bemused– this is a company that makes shows aimed at rather young children, after all. RICHARD SCARRY and things like that. AKIKO itself would have been aimed at an audience older than their usual, but nowhere near as old as the audience for FINDER. The more I talked with them about the possibilities, the less interested I was.

FINDER’s not a kid’s show. Sure, it could be made into one; you could make THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE into a kid’s show if you really wanted it to be one. Just take out all the chainsaws.

I’m picturing THE TEXAS CHAINSAW JAMBOREE.

 

Jamie: Would you want some sort of creative control over other media versions of Finder?

Carla Speed McNeil: Depends on who’s doing them. If Peter Weir came to me and said he wanted to do a FINDER film, I’d kiss his feet and let him do whatever he liked.

 

Jamie: Regarding your trip to Canada, did you have any problem getting back to the states without a passport?

Carla Speed McNeil: Actually, no, thanks to the miracle of the fax machine. I had my mother send me a copy of my birth certificate, and breezed on through.
Anybody who had a Chinese passport was in for it, though.

 

Jamie: How did you make out at the convention? Hopefully our low Canadian Dollar didn’t hurt too much.

Carla Speed McNeil: Pretty well, for a one-day show, I think. Can’t say for sure, ’cause I still haven’t gotten it all converted. Everybody told me not to do it on the Canadian side or in the airport, and frankly, I haven’t figured out what bank to try first. Dope-de-doe…

 

Jamie: Do you like our multi colored monopoly money and funky coins? 🙂

Carla Speed McNeil: LOVE the coins. I heard some people complaining about how heavy their pockets/purses can get, but I loved having change in my pocket that was actually worth something– reaching for a coin FIRST instead of a bill was great!

I’d far rather have a roll of two-dollar coins in my briefcase than that huge jersey-roll of ones I’m sadly resigned to carrying.

As for the multi-colored monopoly money, I can tell you, you’ve got nothing on Argentina. Blinding bills they have. The Powerpuff Girls aren’t as brightly colored.

 

Jamie: You said you used a Canadian Cartoon called Sawing For Teens in your note in the back of Finder: Sin Eater Vol. 1. While in Canada, did you get a chance to check out more Canadian Cartoons?

Carla Speed McNeil: No, but I did get a lead on where to find a copy of another Richard Condie film, called THE PIG BIRD. Been looking for that one for years. Condie’s the KING.

Carla’s website is http://www.LightSpeedPress.com, where she has several issues of Finder online to read for free.

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Ty Templeton at 2014 Joe Shuster Awards

Originally published in November of 2002. At this point I had dropped all monthly comics and was only reading Graphic Novels. When I made that switch I found I didn’t like reading superhero graphic novels all that much, with the exception of Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Ty’s Bigg Time had recently came out and I enjoyed it and I thought it was neat that he was relatively local to me.

 

Ty Templeton Interview

Ty Templeton has done a mix of big name superhero, independent and licensed cartoon comics during his career. His latest work is something different: it’s an original, black and white graphic novel published by DC/Vertigo. The book is called Bigg Time and is about something Ty is very familiar with, show business and fame. Ty comes from a very famous family. His mother was a singer with a few hits and his father was heavily involved in show business and politics. In this interview, we talk about graphic novels in general, Bigg Time, politics, his future and more.

 

Jamie: How did you like doing an original graphic novel compared to a monthly comic book?

Ty Templeton: First and foremost, it’s wonderful to have the time to stretch out and really TELL a story, rather than racing through everything in twenty two pages. I get to indulge the characters more, and indulge the pace . . .

This particular graphic novel was originally conceived as a six issue mini-series however, so many of the monthly comic book joys and headaches were all packed into the experience anyway. I wrote it in eighteen page chunks, for instance so I could get a paycheck every couple of weeks. The chapters tend to run to the same breaks that were written into the script when it was intended to be a miniseries . . .

 

Jamie: Did you find yourself trying to put in a cliffhanger every 24 pages or so like a normal comic series?

Ty Templeton: WHOOPS! See answer above! Since it was conceived that way, yup, I did . . . But we knew it was a graphic novel before I’d gotten much farther than the first dozen or so pages anyway . . . so I wasn’t a slave to that format in the end. But there are elements of that, that remained in the finished thing, because they’re in the original plot structure.

 

Jamie: I noticed with Bigg Time, you did *everything* on the comic, some things your not known for like lettering, colouring and separations. Why did you take on all aspects of doing the book?

Ty Templeton: Well, I’m not known for them cause I haven’t done them in a while. But I used to letter everything I drew, and when I worked in the independent comics industry in the Eighties, I had no choice but to do everything, including boxing issues up to be shipped. I even drove comics home from a printer once . . . I also used to colour my own covers on Batman, so I’m used to working with a computer to colour things. I’m very big on the idea that comics should be created by as few hands as possible. That’s one of the joys of the medium . . . I can conceive, write, draw, colour and (should I suddenly wish to lose money) print and publish my own comic iffen I want to. Vive la Artiste Solo! You can’t do that in Movies or TV!

 

Jamie: Did you do lettering, colouring and separations by hand or by computer?

Ty Templeton: Most of the word balloon lettering is done on a computer. All my sound effects letters are done as line art on the boards. I always feel sound effects are part of the art, and ALWAYS do those myself when I pencil.

 

Jamie: Do you think graphic novels are the future of the comic industry?

Ty Templeton: Gosh, I hope so and I hope not. I’d like to see more of them, but only good ones, of which there haven’t been that many over the years. Road to Perdition is a wonderful graphic novel, as is Stuck Rubber Baby, and Maus, and everything Will Eisner ever did with the form . . . but some of the best of the “Graphic Novels”, such as Watchmen, or Sandman, were originally serialized stories anyway. They just happen to collect up nicely. GON, and Asterix, arguably my favorite graphic novel characters, are both in ongoing series, ALSO originally printed in a serialized form . . . But, I still get a kick out of reading Batman or Wolverine’s adventures every month. Guilty pleasure, the ongoing series, who’d like to see that go? And I don’t much agree with the graphic novels that are essentially just long, long superhero stories. There’s been a few Batman or Green Lantern stories that came out as hundred page hardcover books that would have worked far better as four issue mini-series, both in terms of pace, and price. From a marketing standpoint, I’m all for my publisher making money, but the stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format. More stuff by Eisner and Kyle Baker and folks like that, hell yeah. Superheroes belong in the monthlies, though.

 

Jamie: I’m no longer a huge superhero lover myself but it’s surprising that you would “write off” a whole sub-genre as not being worthy of a different format. How would you react if someone were to say oh.. Westerns should be off limits to a different format like free digest sized weekly books?

Ty Templeton: I don’t think I “wrote off” a whole sub-genre with the phrase “the (superhero) stories that make it as graphic novels don’t always deserve the format”. That’s more of a judgment about what’s BEEN done with the format, rather than a rule of conduct for future projects. An awful lot of the stuff that gets turned directly into a graphic novel, (rather than a series that gets collected up, such as Dark Knight, etc . . . ) just hasn’t met my particular critical standards. In my experience, the Punisher, Spider-Man, JLA, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Avengers, X-Men “direct to graphic novel” format projects that I’ve read haven’t particularly deserved the high price or high page count. I could mention specific titles, but that’s just needlessly mean to the creators involved, most of whom are fine writers and artists, and often friends of mine. Can you name an original superhero graphic novel published in the last ten years that was particularly good?
Examples of Superhero graphic novels that WERE to my liking include The Death of Captain Marvel by Starlin, Batman: Birth of the Demon, by O’Neil and Breyfogle, Superman vs. Mohammad Ali by O’Neil and Adams. Those were all a while ago, I’ll admit . . . but I haven’t found many that blew me away of late. I haven’t read Catwoman’s Big Score, by Cooke, which I’m told is pretty good, so I may change my mind any day now.
But think through your favorite superhero stories or moments over the years . . . I’ll be surprised if many, or if ANY of those moments come in an original graphic novel format. My favorite moments sure don’t. But some of my favorite moments in comics DO come in graphic novels. Cowboy Wally, Maus, The Building . . . all manage sublime moments of wonder, without a cape in sight. I think pop songs, sit-coms, poetry, candy, liquor, comedy sketches, and superheroes all work best is short doses. I’m certainly willing to watch a four hour Fawlty Towers marathon, or read Dante’s epic poems, because no rule of art and creativity is written in stone. But I don’t think a four hour Just Shoot Me marathon would keep my attention, and consider all the SNL sketch characters who get expanded out to star in HORRIFIC two hour films. But I LOVE the idea of free digest sized Westerns. Who can we contact to get started on that?

 

Jamie: Do you want to do more original graphic novels?

Ty Templeton: I might enjoy writing one. I don’t think the art side attracts me quite so much, unless I get around to actually learning to draw. I have no natural talent for art . . . I’m self taught, and hardly taught at that . . . I’m too much the perfectionist, and I sweat out each line sometimes, continuously dissatisfied with what goes onto the paper. I’m getting less angry at my hands, but I still don’t much enjoy the constant fight that illustrating is to me. I’m much better in short bursts, like single issues, or covers. Writing makes me giggle and smile though.

 

Jamie: Are not artists supposed to be this way? Perfectionists, always unsatisfied with their work, etc . . . ?

Ty Templeton: Not for their own sanity, they’re not supposed to be. I’d rather not spend my days frustrated. I get more of a hoot out of laughing and tickling my children than fighting with my lack of ability to draw. I’m a good writer, and a good inker, and I never seem to sweat that stuff, but penciling is something I’m not basically very good at, and I find it frustrating. I’ve read that Jerry Ordway and Al Williamson are like that too, and they are two of my FAVORITE pencilers in the biz . . . so there!

 

Jamie: With a monthly series, you can get some feedback along the way to what readers do and don’t like about your work. Was it any easier or more difficult to do a whole story without audience feedback along the way?

Ty Templeton: I had feedback working on the book. My wife and a number of my friends read the chapters as I was doing them, and of course, both my editors, Joan Hilty and Heidi MacDonald were good to bounce off of. I may not have had much feedback directly from fans for the story, but the story was fairly personal anyway, and wouldn’t have benefited from too many hands on the tiller.

 

Jamie: I can’t but notice that the book takes place in a very similar Toronto town, even a few blocks from here (the Toronto Expo) is the Bay Street Station. “The Bums Rush” has a familiar looking background. Why did you base this Hollywood story so close to home?

Ty Templeton: As I said, it’s a more or less personal story. If you read the “About the Author” in the back of the book, you’ll find out I’ve been in and around show biz and the famousness business my whole life, which I happened to have spent in Toronto. I didn’t see a need to put it in L.A. or New York, since I haven’t really lived in either city. I actually don’t name the city any of this takes place in, but you’re right, it’s Toronto. Besides, more movies are made in Toronto, and more albums recorded up here, than in any city in North America BUT New York and LA. Why NOT put it up here? We’re Hollywood North, ain’t we?

 

Jamie: Yes, but American entertainment companies often like to Americanize things in order to make them more commercial. Did you choose to not name Toronto so the story would be more universal?

Ty Templeton: Well, I more or less did name Toronto, by not particularly hiding that it was Toronto. T.O. Subway stations, street signs, and the Canadian Prime Minister run about the novel unmolested . . . well, the PM gets molested a LITTLE bit. The name of the town simply never came up in the script, but it was a Canadian town, since I’m a Canadian writer.

 

Jamie: How did the idea of you doing Bigg Time come about? Did you have to aggressively pitch that to DC/Vertigo or did they come to you?

Ty Templeton: While at a convention in Chicago, I pitched Joan Hilty about a science fiction project I wanted to do (and still do, btw). She told me she wasn’t buying anything SF at the time, but did I have something with a magical angle to it . . . ? I mentioned an old screenplay idea that I’d started and never finished a year or so before, and she asked to hear about it . . . liked it, and we went from there. It mutated through a mini-series, to a graphic novel, back to a mini and back to a graphic novel along the way, and the plot underwent a couple of major and a few minor changes from the pitch, but that was about it. There wasn’t much aggressive pitching on my part. Right place at the right time. Plus, the pitch made her laugh . . .

 

Jamie: How Americans do you think will get the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Crouton joke?

Ty Templeton: Believe it or not, the name was actually Chrétien RIGHT up until about a week before the whole thing went to the printer. Literally on the last proofread through, the editor called me up and asked me if Chrétien was the P.M’s real name. “Yeah,” I said . . . “Oh we can’t have that,” said the editor . . . “For legal reasons, you can’t use the Prime Minister’s real name.” So we relettered the balloon so it read Crouton . . . but here’s the best part: No one caught the fact that it was the real PM’s name, because both the editor and the proofreader thought I made the name “Chrétien” up. They thought it was a French spoof on the word cretin.

 

Jamie: Of course you noticed he resigns as Prime Minister the day after your book hits the stands. So that’s obviously your fault.

Ty Templeton: All according to plan. Now if only the Bush people get the secret hypnotic message that’s intended for them, then my work here is done.

 

Jamie: And who would you replace Chrétien and Bush with?

Ty Templeton: I have nothing particularly against Chrétien. I’ve voted for him, and might have even done it again. I’m basically a Liberal or NDP kind of vote, pretty well every election. Paul Martin seems like a fine replacement for Jean . . . I’m fairly sure he’s who we’ll get anyway. As for replacing Bush? Pretty well any creature, vertebrate or invertebrate could do a better job than that smirking frat boy clown. Don’t even get me started on the ruinous car wreck that I find his Fraudulent and embarrassing administration to be. Imagine someone actually usurping the position of “Worst American President of my Lifetime” from Nixon . . .

 

Jamie: Was this book a nice change of pace from doing all those cartoon comics for the last few years?

Ty Templeton: My whole career is a change of pace. Cartoon comics (including Ren and Stimpy, Batman Adventures, Bugs Bunny, the Simpsons) have been a mainstay of my work for the last little while, by my own choice, and as a change of pace from the mainstream superhero comics I did for a while, (Superman, Avengers, Justice League) which were a change of pace from the funky independent stuff (Stig’s Inferno, National Lampoon, Mr. X, etc . . . much like this graphic novel, in fact) that I did for most of the Eighties and early Nineties.

 

Jamie: Are there any particular genre’s and/or formats you want to explore in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m getting a tickle to work on some more Looney Toons stuff in the future. I may or may not get to . . . but I did a little bit for the 100th anniversary issue of Looney Toons from DC, and enjoyed it greatly, and wouldn’t mind doing more. I’ve got a nibble from a friend of mine to help art direct yet another TV pilot, (making it about a dozen I’ve worked on over the years) which I hope I get to do. Beyond that, I’m focusing on Batman, the Simpsons and the other projects I have actually ON my desk. I don’t get too far ahead of the present . . . I’m a live in the moment kind of guy.

 

Jamie: According to ICV2.com Bigg Time placed #18 in the top 50 Graphic Novels, selling approximately 6,400 pre orders through Diamond. Is that better or worse than you expected?

Ty Templeton: We had a re-order a couple of weeks later that took us up to about eight thousand, I believe. That’s about what my editor and I guessed it was going to do . . . about eight thou . . . It would be nice if it could sneak up to ten thousand over the next year . . . it would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath. So it did about what we expected.

 

Jamie: What are you doing in the future?

Ty Templeton: I’m writing a mini series for DC, that’s not yet scheduled, so it’s hush hush time. More or that later. I’m doing a little more Batman work again . . . I just inked an issue, and might be writing and/or drawing a few more. I always loved Batman to work on, so it’s nice to be home with him again. Gotham City is familiar and fun territory. I did a couple of Simpsons/Bongo comics stories . . . a Simpson’s Hallowe’en special that’s just come out, and a Radioactive Man story that’s due out in a few months, I think.
I did a page in the Looney Toons 100th issue special, and had so much fun on it, I promised myself to do more with the Warner Bros characters in the future. Joan Hilty is editing the Warner Bros. comics at DC, and since we worked together on the BIGG TIME novel . . . well, we’re happy to work together again . . . so maybe a Duck Dodgers giant, or something. Who knows?

Max Allen Collins Interview

Originally published in October of 2001. I bought Road to Perdition at a going out of business bookstore sale and really enjoyed the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I heard it was being made into a movie (and became really happy when it was a really good one). Shockingly, DC and parent company Warner Brothers did not realize what they had and let the movie rights slip away. I am really surprised that during this time of ‘republish anything that was good’ era of comics that Ms. Tree remains unpublished, especially with the demographics of today’s comic readers.

 

An Interview With Max Allen Collins

Max Allen Collins is probably the best writer you never heard of. His works stretch from comics to novels to screenplays. He has won a number of awards for his work outside of comics, but inside the industry he’s largely ignored. Among his better remembered works is Ms. Tree done through Eclipse and DC. He recently wrote a graphic novel called Road to Perdition that is extremely good and is going to be coming out in early 2001 as a movie. The movie will star Tom Hanks and be directed by American Beauty’s Sam Mendes and is expected to be a major hit at the box office. In this interview we ask about Road to Perdition, Ms. Tree and numerous other topics regarding his future.

 

Jamie: How long did it take you to research and write Road to Perdition?

Max Allen Collins: The research and writing was spread out over at least a four year period; this was because of the time it took the artist, Richard Piers Rayner, to turn out his precise, detailed artwork (often working from research materials I sent to him) (he’s in England).

 

Jamie: How much of Road to Perdition is true? Which parts did you have to fill in with your own assumptions?

Max Allen Collins: It’s mostly fiction. John and Connor Looney are real, and much of the material involving them has some basis in reality, including the Gabel shooting and Connor’s eventual death…and several lieutenants who felt betrayed by Looney. So the setting and historical underpinnings are fairly real — though Looney’s reign was more in the teens and ’20s — but the story of Michael O’Sullivan and his son is my invention.

 

Jamie: Did you at all contact Michael O’Sullivan while researching his father?

Max Allen Collins: He did not exist; I created him.

 

Jamie: Road to Perdition has a number of nifty lines like “God made Irishmen pale, but not as pale as those priests who came out after papa had unburdened his soul to them.” Where you thinking about a possible movie adaptation when writing?

Max Allen Collins: Thanks — a sort of quiet poetry emerged from the narrator’s distance from the story. As for thinking about the movies, no more than usual — but comics, as a visual medium, has ties to film. As Will Eisner has aptly pointed out, however, there are many differences between them.

 

Jamie: What is the current status of Road to Perdition? Does it have a publisher?

Max Allen Collins: ROAD TO PERDITION will be reprinted by DC in time for the movie’s release. The movie will probably have a limited late ’01 release to qualify for Oscars, then a wide one early in ’02.

 

Jamie: Did DC give you a reason when they didn’t resign the rights to the book back when they had the chance?

Max Allen Collins: They still have reprint rights. It’s just the other rights — movie, sequels, prequels, etc. — that I own. (Actually, Richard and I own the movie rights to ROAD.)

 

Jamie: What was your reaction when you learned that Sam Mendes and Tom Hanks wanted to do Road to Perdition as a movie?

Max Allen Collins: I said I would believe it when I saw it. Having been on the set, and met and talked to both Mendes and Hanks, I believe it now! And I’m thrilled.

 

Jamie: Were you at all involved in the making of the film?

Max Allen Collins: Not really. Visited the set, spoke frequently to Producer Dean Zanuck, and have written a novelization. The script is good — very faithful, though it compresses the material and it’s somewhat less action-driven.

 

Jamie: Does the success of the film concern you at all?

Max Allen Collins: I don’t quite know how to answer that. The bigger it is, the better my future — so, sure, it concerns me! If you mean, artistically, I am convinced this will be a quality picture.

 

Jamie: Do you lie awake at nights thinking about the possibilities of your future if the movie is a smash hit?

Max Allen Collins: Sleep?

 

Jamie: You’ve said in other interviews that you consider Road to Perdition your comic writing swan song. Has that changed?

Max Allen Collins: Possibly. DC has spoken to me about doing a major BATMAN project. I have been working solely on novels and screenplays, however; the moribund status of the industry — and my own disconnection from it, for several years — hasn’t sent me scurrying to comics publishers…or, frankly, vice versa. I thought I would get some calls from comics editors/publishers, after ROAD got this major movie deal…what could be bigger? The only editor who has called is Andy Helfer, who edited ROAD, God bless him.

 

Jamie: There has been a lot of talk lately about how the comic industry should move towards Graphic Novels and movie deals, although not exactly hand in hand. Road to Perdition is a success in both areas but it doesn’t get the praise it should within the comic industry. Does that disappoint you?

Max Allen Collins: That was largely why I walked away from comics. ROAD got almost no reviews, and did not receive an Eisner nomination. If I could do my best work, and get no notice whatsoever…well, it was a bitter pill. Many people followed the lead that Terry Beatty and I took with MS. TREE, and we’ve had zero recognition while lesser, trendier crap gets raves. My attitude was, “Screw them.” To some degree, frankly, it still is.

 

Jamie: Do you think Road to Perdition would have gotten more reviews/praise/nominations if DC promoted it better? I tend to wonder if the lack of response is directly related to the lack of marketing on DC’s part.

Max Allen Collins: DC did some limited promotion, but ROAD was the last of the Paradox Press slate of crime novels, and the others had not done well. So we were lucky to be published at all, and DC can’t be faulted much. Where they can be faulted is that some key high people at DC did not recognize the quality of the work; if they had, they would not only have promoted it, but would have matched the DreamWorks offer for movie rights (which they could have done).

What is truly annoying to me is how DC has ignored Richard and myself, and our work, when this is arguably the biggest comics movie ever…because they are apparently embarrassed to have let ROAD “get away.” If they promoted us, and bragged about a DC project being this big Hollywood deal, the people at Warner above them would ask embarrassing questions…like, why isn’t this a Warner Bros. movie?

 

Jamie: Do you think DC would have promoted it more if they had owned the work, lock, stock, and barrel like they do Batman?

Max Allen Collins: Undoubtedly. But I don’t think they knew what they had — at least one of the top people simply didn’t “get” it. (Let me say that Paul Levitz has been great to me and did in fact publish the book when others in his position might not have.)

 

Jamie: What’s the current situation with the rights to Ms. Tree. I know for a while it was published through DC. Do they still own the character?

Max Allen Collins: Terry Beatty and I own MS. TREE, and we would love to do something with her, after a several year lay-off (preferably a graphic novel). A TV option is about to run out. We’ll see.

 

Jamie: Any chance of putting out a TPB collecting your Ms. Tree work?

Max Allen Collins: Possible. We’re available if anybody’s interested. But I’m not sure where the negatives are. The early stuff we don’t have, and DC controls the rest. I would love to see the DC stuff gathered, as I feel it’s our best work.

 

Jamie: You work in a lot of different storytelling arenas, mainly prose novels, but also in film making and music. What can you do in comics that can’t be done in other forms of storytelling?

Max Allen Collins: That would require a book-length response that neither of us has time for. I would say, however, that one aspect is the manner in which comics fall between film and prose: film is an exterior medium — shows us the story from the outside — and prose is an interior medium — tells us the story from inside. Comics is the only form that can gracefully give us both the interior and exterior of a story (ROAD is a case in point). Words and music, in other words…or rather, music and words. As Eisner has pointed out, the manner in which images can be frozen, in effect…the emphasis and rhythm that is possible, a manipulation of image that is quite beyond film…makes comics a storytelling medium without peer. Unfortunately, for cultural reasons, Americans will never understand that.

We just lost Johnny Craig. Did any newspaper in America cover that?

 

Jamie: You’re best known for writing in the Crime genre, both novels and comics. Do you have any desire to work in other genres?

Max Allen Collins: I have always been attracted to suspense and crime — because of the inherent conflict. (All good stories have a conflict at their heart.) Most genres have these elements — I wrote the novelizations of WATERWORLD, a science-fiction story, and MAVERICK, a western, without even thinking much about the fact that they weren’t “mysteries.” I’ve written quite a bit of horror, for instance, because those same elements are there to attract me: suspense, conflict, crime. There are more mainstream subjects that interest me, too, but I would guess whatever tale I tell, suspenseful conflict…some kind of tension, fear, crime element…is going to be in there.

 

Jamie: Jim Steranko recently called right now the “Kervorkian Age of Comics” saying there is too much violence in comics, linking them to the recent terrorist attacks in NYC. He went as far as to call an upcoming comic called PRO a “Terrorist Comic.” As a writer who writes scenes of violence, what is your response to this?

Max Allen Collins: Well, it’s obviously hyperbole, and Steranko is if anything the master of the grand gesture. My view is a little different. What I don’t like about comics and much of popular culture in recent years is a sort of phony darkness — a juvenile, arch darkness. “Darkness” isn’t tattoos and piercings and discordant music — “darkness” is flying a fucking plane into a building…that’s true darkness, and it’s not terribly entertaining. I feel my work — ANGEL IN BLACK, the latest Heller for example — is more legitimately dark, or anyway noir, than most of this stuff. James Ellroy is the best example, of course…it’s so childishly dark; everybody’s a dog-raping child molester or something. Laughable.
What’s going to be interesting is seeing where popular culture goes. Hollywood is re-releasing fluff like LEGALLY BLONDE and shelving the new Arnold-kicks-terrorist-butt movie…but maybe Americans would like to see Arnold kick some terrorist butt. About now a Mike Hammer novel with a great over-the-top revenge ending might feel pretty good. But I’m relieved to be a historical novelist at the moment — the 20th Century seems like a much safer canvas right now.

 

Jamie: What are you working on now?

Max Allen Collins: I just finished the novelization of ROAD, but I’m having trouble with DreamWorks because the licensing person feels I’ve put in too much material not in the script. The fact that I created this story and these characters does not seem to sway this person. So that’s a small nightmare I’m wrestling with.

And I’m working on THE LUSITANIA MURDERS, another of my “disaster” novels. Then I do the movie tie-in for THE SCORPION KING. Before the end of the year you’ll see two other recent works: WINDTALKERS, a John Woo novelization, and the first CSI novel, DOUBLE DEALER.

Brian Hibbs Interview

Originally published September of 2001. The follow up part was published a month later. What was interesting about this interview is that not too long after it Brian Hibbs would sue Marvel Comics for their refusal to accept returns on late or significantly altered books, as per Marvel’s own legally binding Terms of Service said they would do. Marvel settled the case out of court by giving comic shops credit for those books, which retailers were very thankful of. Shortly after that Brian was one of the founding members of ComicsPro, a trade organization for direct market comic shops.

 

An Interview With Brian Hibbs

Brian Hibbs is a very active comic retailer who owns a comic store called Comix Experience in San Francisco. Lately, he has been responding to public comments by both Editor in Chief Joe Quesada and President of Marvel Publishing Bill Jemas. Recently, Bill Jemas had an interview with GrayHavenMagazine.com in which he gave a number of surprising answers to questions concerning how stores should display comics, the price of Marvel vs. DC books, how quickly Marvel books sell and the very controversial no-overprint policy. In this interview, Brian responds to some of those statements by Bill Jemas and also talks about other topics concerning the industry.

 

Jamie: Tell us about your experience in comics. How long have you been a retailer, what’s your store like and what else you do in the industry?

Brian Hibbs: Comix Experience has been around for 12 years now. Opened April Fools day in 1989, but I’ve worked in comic retail for 16 years, something like that. I worked in another store before I opened my own. I’ve also done a little work in distribution, the only thing I haven’t done is publishing, actually. What’s the store like? We’re primarily a bookstore oriented comic shop. Trade paperbacks and Graphic Novels are our focus. We’ve been nominated and won national and local awards for excellence, that kind of thing.

 

Jamie: What’s different from your store than typical comic stores, I understand you are different in how you rack things?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, we do genre racking and things like that, but I don’t know what a “typical” comic shop really is. Even among the stores that I would consider my peers and who run excellent comic shops, I don’t think any of us do things the same ways or stock things the same ways. It’s one of the things I like about the comics business, actually.

 

Jamie: Variety eh?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, exactly. We’re really focused on reading. I guess the biggest difference I can say between us and the “average” store, we simply don’t allow speculation of any kind. You’re not allowed to buy more than two copies of any comic from us unless you tell us in advance that you want it. We’re completely focused on reading. That’s why we’re trade paperback and graphic novel oriented because I tend to think that’s a superior format for the reader, rather than a collector.

 

Jamie: I understand you also have a column?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I write a… well, it’s not a monthly column anymore. It was monthly for many years there, about 8 years, in Comics and Games Retailer Magazine published by Krause Publications (the people that do Comics Buyers Guide). And yeah, I’ve written a hundred and six of them so far, about a third of them are up on our website if your readers want to check them out.

 

Jamie: That’s at ComixExperience.com right?

Brian Hibbs: Right.

 

Jamie: Are you in touch with a lot of retailers around North America?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah I like to think so, at least (laughter). Most of them are my friends and then there’s also things like some Robert Scott’s Forum on Delphi, which is a message board just for comic retailers, every day. There’s lots of threads going on back and forth there.

 

Jamie: Okay, we’re going to come up to Bill Jemas here. One of the things he mentioned in that Grayhaven interview was that he never read a comic book prior to becoming President of Marvel Publishing. Do you think that is a good or a bad thing?

Brian Hibbs: I tend to think it’s probably a bad thing. Comics is a very idiosyncratic business. We’re not like virtually any other business you can name. The things that work well in the comics field wouldn’t work well in other fields. I talk to a lot of other retailers who aren’t comic retailers and I tell them some of the ways our business works and they go “WhuuuHuh?” (laughter). They don’t get it, you know? But on the other side, I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with having an outsider’s perspective as long as you’re perceptive to the way the business actually works. Jemas, I understand, comes from Sports Cards and my perception has been that he is doing any number of steps that are appropriate for the sports card business but I don’t believe are very appropriate at all for the comic book business.

 

Jamie: One other comment that Jemas made was, “The simple fact is that the vast majority of retailers are doing very well with Marvel and are pleased with our current policies.” Do you agree with this?

Brian Hibbs: I would agree with the former part of the statement, I would very strongly disagree with the latter part. Certainly the retailers I speak to, I’d say only a third or less of them are “pleased” with the policies. Yeah sure, we’re selling more Marvel Comics but that’s a function of the fact that Marvel Comics are good and readable right now, not lack of stock availability. There was a long, long, long period…10 years…when they were just horrible tripe that nobody wanted (laughter). And now they’ve got really good creative teams on them, strong editorial directions. Of course the sales are going to be up in that context, but that doesn’t mean the policies to sell those comics to the retailers are necessarily wise or smart ones.

 

Jamie: Something else Jemas pointed out was that he thought the industry’s problems mainly stemmed from bad books. Do you think it was just bad books that hurt the industry for all those years?

Brian Hibbs: No, not at all. There’s bad books, bad stores, escalating price points, late shipping, inconsistent creators — all of these things play into it equally, I think. I don’t think you really can go, “Oh, it’s just bad comics.” Certainly looking at the sales charts, quality is not always a one-to-one relationship to sales. I’m sure you and I can both name any number of books that are excellent, superb comic books that just don’t sell very well in the average comic shop. I think that a lot of the problem is that most of the retailers do not appear to be stocking the wide range of material that would appeal to a wide range of people. They tend to focus primarily on the collectors and superhero completists. That’s certainly how this business, the direct market, evolved. I would tend to think bad stores are just as equal in the equation as bad content.

The real problem with the comics industry, as it stands at this moment, is there are simply not enough venues for you to buy comics in. There’s what? Three and a half thousand comic shops across this whole country? That’s really not very many at all, and more than that, the majority of them are concentrated in the big cities. There’s whole stretches of the country where you can go a hundred miles and there’s not a comic shop anywhere. Certainly there would be people interested in reading comics in those markets that aren’t being properly served. Even worse though, and this is going to sound a little arrogant and one thing I don’t like about interviews is you can’t see that I’m smiling when I say this, but about a year ago I did a tour of all the stores in San Francisco and went around looking at each one. I was looking for ideas mostly cause good retailers always learn from each other. But I realized that I don’t really have any “competition” in comic shops around San Francisco. Most of the stores here sell DC, Marvel and Image and that’s that, and that’s all they sell. They are much more focused on collectors only, and the stores remain small I believe because of that. Nobody in San Francisco has anywhere near the trade paperback selection that we do, except for Virgin. They’re the only ones that I would call my “competition” and they’re a media store or whatever. You don’t think of them as a place to go buy comic books, necessarily.

So I think the largest part of the problem is that there’s not enough good quality retailers out there. If someone does have an interest in comics that’s spurred by a movie or something else outside of comics, they’re probably not going to find what they want, in an environment that they want to shop in, because the direct market simply doesn’t have enough stores to give that to them. Outside of the direct market, you’re getting more and more venues that are beginning to carry graphic novels and trades, presented in a way that will appeal to people who aren’t interested in walking into a comic book shop every seven days to see what’s new that week. But again, I still think that it’s difficult if you’re a potential new consumer to just find a place to buy comics. When I was a kid growing up in New York, every little corner store had a rack of comics. That’s how I got into comics and everybody I know got into comics. We’ve lost the feeder mechanism to bring people into the marketplace, which is just a terrible shame.

 

Jamie: What sort of feeder mechanism should replace the one that we lost?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I think one of the problems is there is not enough of an incentive for new people to be opening comic shops. We also need the newsstands, there’s no doubt about it. In fact, I would be happy if newsstands went back to being 80-90% of comic sales, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing at all. I don’t know that’s going to happen because the amount of money a non-comics store can make off comics, seems to be generally limited in terms of periodicals. In terms of the perennial, the paperback, I mean obviously every bookstore in America should be carrying comics, some have done very, very well with them. In terms of the direct market, the main thing is to provide more incentives and a better business climate to which to show new entrepreneurs that it is possible to actually make money, to be successful selling comic books. I easily think we could double the number of comic book shops in this country and we wouldn’t even come close to meeting the demand that’s out there. And I think unfortunately, a lot of mechanisms in this business are really not geared towards making retailers any money. I do pretty well running a comic book shop, I’m not rich or anything. I don’t think there is a rich comic book retailer in this country (laughter). But certainly, if people are willing to work hard and really have a passion and desire for the form, it’s a business I would absolutely encourage people to jump into.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas thinks that the most successful comic shops are the ones that carry the most Marvel Comics. Do you agree?

Brian Hibbs: Well, pretty clearly not (laughter).

 

Jamie: No?

Brian Hibbs: As far as I am aware, as of my last conversation with Diamond on the subject, I am the largest single comic account in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the largest markets for comics in the country, and Marvel is a fairly low proportion of my business. Marvel is certainly an important publisher, is certainly a publisher that you shouldn’t go, “Agghh… I don’t want this,” but to say that you can not be successful, which is certainly the implication there, without Marvel Comics, is an utter fallacy.

 

Jamie: What do you think the most successful comic shops carry, then?

Brian Hibbs: The most successful comic shops carry a wide and diverse range of material that appeals to both their regular ongoing customers, and to civilians as well. Regardless of who publishes that material.

 

Jamie: Okay. Here is another quote from Bill Jemas from the same interview. It says, “On average, Marvel Comics sell more than twice as fast as a DC book and nearly 3 times as fast as an Image book and – are you ready – Over 10 times faster than the average indy book.” Has this been true in your experience?

Brian Hibbs: No, and I don’t even know where those numbers come from. I saw that and tried to figure out exactly what he was talking about. I think he was talking about average print runs. The problem is, when you’re looking at average print runs in the direct market, what is reported is initial orders only. For example, he said “twice a DC book.” Yeah, that’s probably true if you count all the newsstand-oriented comics DC does. Like the children books, which sell you know, ten thousand or less copies in the direct market because they’re not really geared to the direct market, they’re geared outside the direct market. So you’re really comparing apples and oranges in that case. Certainly in my experience if you believe in a book as a retailer and you are honest and straightforward with your customers, the customers could not care less who publishes that comic book. It makes no difference whatsoever, you know? Do they say, “I want to see a movie tonight and I’m going to see a Warner Brothers movie?” No, they go see a movie they want to see, with stars they want to see in it, by directors they enjoy or possibly even the screen writer that they think is a good one. That… it’s just a silly statement on so many levels I don’t even know exactly how to address it (laughter). I can say that yeah, it doesn’t come out very often, but a book like Eightball we sell probably 2:1, 3:1 on our average Marvel Comic sale. But again, that’s not really comparing apples to apples which is the problem of doing comparative analysis in such a flippant manner.

 

Jamie: Regarding Marvels no-overprinting policy. They say it saves them money and helps the comic industry in a number of ways. I take it you disagree with this?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know if I disagree with whether it saves them money or not because I don’t have access to their accounting, but I don’t think it serves the comic industry in any particular way at all, no. The direct market was primarily based originally around back issues. The average comic shop had a difficult time getting new comics and it was primarily selling old back issue comics. Most retailers would stock specifically for back issues. In the store I worked at before opening Comix Experience, we would order another case for the warehouse on certain books. Because we knew over time we’d sell them, that just made financial sense. Now of course, comics were only 75 cents then so our unit costs were, oh 35 cents, something like that. So you can stock a whole lot more in that case when the unit costs were so low and the majority of your business is based around the back stock. But that changed. The market completely changed as prices went higher, people stopped buying back issues by-and- large. Or at least they stopped casually buying back issues. It used to be that someone would come into my store with 5 dollars and they spent 3 dollars on new comics, getting a few new comics or whatever, then they’d have 2 bucks left and they’d spend that on back issues, just to fill out a run. As prices escalated, that same 5 dollars only bought you one or two new comic books and people could no longer afford to keep up on all the new books that they wanted, let alone buying any back issues.

So, the tenor of ordering properly meant that the retailer had to become much more conservative in their ordering because there isn’t an automatic pipeline anymore to sell those comics that come off the stands. What I found over the last 6 or 7 years, lets say, if I do not sell the average comic book in the first 30 to 90 days, it does not sell. If I order 20 copies of something and I only sell 18 of them, I will probably not sell the remaining two copies any time in the near future. It may take 3 or 4 or 5 years. So when you look at the business from that point of view, from a historical here-is-where-we-came-from-and-why-are-circulation- numbers-dropping-so-much POV it suddenly doesn’t make any sense for a comic book retailer buying non-returnably to over-stock their store. Certainly an awful lot of stores went out of business in the 90’s because they were drowning in overstock. Some of the best stores in the country nearly went out of the business during the 90’s because their inventory went out of control. Thankfully, these guys figured it out and have reduced their extreme exposure. A no-overprint situation means all the burden is put on ordering and selling that book up-front the first time, even if you don’t have any appropriate information to do so.

I’ll give you an example. Prior to the relaunch with Grant Morrison on X-Men we hadn’t sold, um… lets say 70 copies, max, of any issue of X-Men in like the 5 year period proceeding that. On a Grant Morrison book, I’m pretty sure we never sold more than a 100 copies at any point. Same thing with a Frank Quietly book. So I looked at that, thought, “This book is going to be big and I’m going to order… what the hell, I’m going to order 125 copies, let’s do it.” That, I think, is showing confidence in it. And I sold out of those in two days. Now, I probably could have sold 200, I could have sold 250, I could have sold 300 copies. Who knows? But because there weren’t any re-orders available, I wasn’t able to find out and customers went without that comic book. Now I more than doubled what the previous month of X-Men was and I sold out in two days. I couldn’t get any more. I don’t see how that can be a good policy, by any means.

I suppose Jemas would argue the reason that I sold out so fast was because people thought it would be short printed or something, but I certainly don’t think so. This is certainly not information that we’ve been making a big push of in our store. I think it was just the right book at the right time. But it under-performed to what it could do. You look at something like Green Arrow where we again ordered very strong, we sold out instantly, we called up and DC had some more for us. And when they ran out of those they went and printed up some more…and they printed some more…and they printed some more a fourth time. Green Arrow is my best selling DC comic right now, at least superhero-wise. And that’s precisely because I could keep going back and getting more copies, and more copies, and more copies each time. And of course I learned to increase my order the next time. Going back to X-Men, I saw how fast the first one sold out and I put in an advance re-order for the second one and took it up to 200 copies. The book finally comes in, it’s 5 weeks late, which doesn’t help anything and I sold 125 copies. I got 75 copies sitting there that I’m not going to sell anytime soon. I just took a bath on that book. I just lost money on the second issue of X-Men because I couldn’t get any more of the first one! When you look at it in those terms, I don’t see how I’m not doing everything exactly as I’m supposed to. I’m showing, in fact, statistically more support for a publisher, Marvel Comics, than the average quote, unquote comic shop. The average comic shop went up by about 40% and I went up a 100%. I think that gives me a bit of justification in saying that no, this is not a good policy. You cost yourself sales, you cost me sales, you cost Grant Morrison, you cost the distributors money, I don’t see how anybody is going to be happy with that situation.
The thing is, overprinting isn’t as expensive as Bill would like people to believe.

 

Jamie: Or Joe Quesada?

Brian Hibbs: Well, with him too, I guess.

 

Jamie: I know you had a public back and forth with him on Newsarama about this as well.

Brian Hibbs: Absolutely. The thing is, that when you do an analysis of what it costs you to print a comic book, your initial costs are amortized against your initial print run. So if it costs you X dollars to print, X dollars for talent, and X dollars to ship it out, X dollars for the retailers, then your profit or loss comes out of your initial orders. To flip the switch and have the printers run off another 5,000 copies is costing virtually nothing, it’s costing them 10 or 15 cents a book. You don’t amortize the entire cost back against the increased print run, you see what I’m saying? In other words, instead of costing me $3,000 to print 10,000 copies, if I print 11,000 it’s costing me $3,100. There is a hundred dollar difference there, for the “extra” 1000 copies. It costs you far less to print the “extras” than it does to print the initial run.

So, from any point of view, running an overprint is a very economical and profitable thing. The last statistic I saw from several different publishers was that they only had to sell 1 out of 5 of those overprinted copies to make a profit. As long as you sell 20% of it that’s okay, you can throw the other 80% of it away and you still made more money than you would have made otherwise. So, I definitely don’t think it’s a good plan at all.

 

Jamie: I noticed in the memo that Marvel sent to retailers regarding the no-overprint policy, they mentioned that some of the books found their way into the black market. Did you ever have a problem with that?

Brian Hibbs: No, I haven’t. I seem to think that is much more of an east coast thing because they print them up there, right in Montreal. Right close to the border. And that’s where copies are going through. I know there is… I don’t want to say which retailer it is… but there is one retailer in Montreal who says it was and sometimes continues to be, a massive problem for them. Boxes falling off the truck, or whatever. But I don’t see that as an issue with overprinting per se, certainly the same thing can happen even if you’re not overprinting.

 

Jamie: More of a security issue.

Brian Hibbs: Exactly.

 

Jamie: There are several other things they said in that memo that I know you disagreed with in the past, I guess I’ll get you to comment on them publicly. They say they kept their prices at $2.25 while DC raised them to $2.50.

Brian Hibbs: Well, that’s demonstrably not so. At the time when they made that statement, if you went in and compared Marvel’s list of comics vs. DC’s list of comics, most of DC’s books were still $2.25. DC has any number of $1.99 books to try and act as feeder books. I mean mathematically, at the time, it was not so. But still Marvel prices a lot of books at $2.99 and $2.50 constantly. So I don’t know… I mean… statements like that makes me wonder about the press sometimes, that they just run a statement like that without even going and checking if it was true or not (laughter). When someone makes a statement you should go and fact- check it, before you print it as fact y’know? But that’s just me, I suppose.

 

Jamie: Marvel says as a result of their no overprint policy, they’ve been able to build an inventory of trade paper backs and keep them in print. But I’ve heard Marvel has been having some troubles keeping trade paper backs in print.

Brian Hibbs: Yes, Marvel has been pretty damn bad about keeping trade paperbacks in print. But again, you have to look at the right way of doing the business model on this. You don’t just print for your initial orders and plus an overage to cover for the next couple of months. It doesn’t make any sense to do that. It makes a lot more sense to print a 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 year supply of the books because your unit costs are going to be that much lower. If you go back to press on another 3 to 5 thousand copies or whatever those numbers they are printing on, it costs you so much more than if you increase your print run to 10 to 15 thousand, if you see what I mean. It doesn’t make any mathematical sense. Now, if the argument is by not overprinting single comics then we can afford to print more trade paperbacks, that seems to me to be a fallacious argument on the face of it. Look at the disparity of the cover prices on those. As I say, when it costs oh.. lets say 15 cents to print off an extra copy of a periodical comic book on a 15 dollar paperback you’re looking more at a 2 to 3 dollar cost, lets say. My numbers may be a little off there but you would have to be overprinting by a really, really, really enormous margin to even come close to the math on that working out. Again, the problem is that Marvel has been doing a pretty bad job of keeping trade paperbacks in print, in stock and available. I mean, right now you can’t buy Marvels, the Kurt Busiek-Alex Ross book. That, if anything, is a perfect thing to hand to someone that hasn’t read comics in a long time, and to get them excited about superheroes and Marvel superheroes, in particular. It’s the namesake book of the line and it hasn’t been in print for something like 4 or 5 months! That, to me, is just absurd (laughter).

 

Jamie: A number of people think the no-overprint policy is mainly designed to enhance the collectability of a sold out comic. Does this help you at all?

Brian Hibbs: I don’t think it helps anyone, really. Look, comics are collectible because of supply and demand. Placing an artificial ceiling on the supply is… well, I think it is manipulative to the marketplace. I was always taught that the market itself should decide what is collectible and what is not.

Why would a publisher be in the business of trying to manufacture collectibles? They don’t see any money from that. Marvel doesn’t get a piece of E-Bay action. If the logic is, “This makes the initial orders higher”, well, I really challenge that. Morrison’s first issue of X- Men took a 40% leap (though the numbers went back down by the third one to only 20% above pre-Morrison numbers). I see that more of a function of the talent involved, rather than any false limitation of the print run. Besides, if it really was working then why are the Ultimates all down, across the board, from April to August? Spidey dropped 4%, X- Men 6% and Team-Up a staggering 22%. That wouldn’t be happening if they were truly collectible.

One other thing to take into account, is that Marvel’s plan seems to be to TPB their best-selling books as soon as humanly possible. Often before 30 days has passed since the last single issue. Now historically, TPB release of material deflates and softens the collectible value of the original issues.

 

Jamie: They also mention posting sold out comics on their webpage as a positive thing, do you think that’s good?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, why not? I don’t know that I believe that the experience of reading a comic on the web, especially one with the kind of pop- up pages the Marvels have, is even remotely the same as reading a printed comic, but anything that exposes our material to potential new customers is probably a good thing.

What I’m curious about is whether or not it actually helps drive sales. Like how many hits they get, and if they can point to any information that it is actually moving more units. Reading the sales charts, no, I don’t think it does. At least in no measurable way.

 

Jamie: Marvel has also been focusing on movies, hoping that they’ll increase the sales of their comics. In your experience, does comic movies help the sales of comic books?

Brian Hibbs: Virtually never, outside of a quick aberrational blip. What it can possibly do is translate to a greater awareness of a character or a concept in general… but it doesn’t appear to sell any more comic books. A quick look at the historical sales charts will confirm that.

There are certain exceptions, of course: Ghost World has had a significant impact on sales of that TPB. Our unit sales in that case have increased tenfold over what they were before the film. But that’s a rare exception.

 

Jamie: Bill Jemas seems real big on promoting the Ultimate, especially Ultimate Spider-Man as a good starting on point for new comic readers.

Brian Hibbs: It is a reasonable one. The story is well crafted, clear and easy to follow, and gives a good starting point for someone interested in super-hero comics. The thing is, the average non-comics reader isn’t particularly interested in reading super-hero comics. You’re much better off handing them a Ghost World, or a Maus, something that more accurately speaks to real experiences in their lives. Having said that, sure, I could think of far worse “entry points.”

 

Jamie: Including female readers?

Brian Hibbs: People are people, regardless of their sex. All things considered though, I’d hand a new female reader Ghost World, I think, over Spider-Man. The only real female roles in Spidey are “wife” and “girlfriend.”

 

Jamie: Jemas recommends Marvel-hating indy fans to read Elektra as a date comic. Think that’ll work?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure that Elektra is even remotely “indy flavored” (whatever that might mean). It is a decent enough comic, but within the Marvel line, I think I’d give an “indy fan” Morrison’s X-Men, or maybe X-Force by Milligan and Allred. Those seem to me, to be closer to that sensibility.

One thing though, and this is coming from a store where we sell as many “indy” comics as we do “mainstream”… the customers aren’t really that separate. It is very, very, very common for the cat who buys JLA or X-Men to also pick up a copy of Peepshow or Eightball or whatever.

 

Jamie: What books would you recommend as beginner books for males and females?

Brian Hibbs: More things than I could cover in an interview! I’d say it depends on who exactly that customer is. One of the tricks you learn in retail is finding out what a person’s interests are, and then matching a book to that. Comics are wide and diverse enough that I’m pretty confident I have something for anyone who walks in the door. Our massive and continued growth, strikingly above industry norms, should justify that statement.

 

Jamie: Marvel has recently announced an incentive for their TPB line. Saying, if retailers order 14 of their 16 TPB, you’ll get an additional discount going by the amount of books you order. An example being if you order two of each, you get an extra 2% discount. Is this an incentive that most retailers can actually use?

Brian Hibbs: Sure, I think so. The nice thing about this plan is they’ve set their quantities fairly low. That extra 2% comes with only 2 copies bought, and that is, I think, a good tool to use to get the average store to actually stock TPBs in the first place. The only problem with the plan is that they’re mixing in reprints of OP titles into that mix… a few of which had a low enough sales velocity in the first place to go Out of Print.

But anything that encourages more retailers to get into the book side of things is, I think, a very fine idea. TPB sales are the engine that is driving my business, and are a much better business model than non-returnable periodical comics. The reason for this is Just-In- Time ordering. Rather than investing real heavily on untested “floppy” comics, you can stock and restock the periodical. Well, assuming the publisher actually has them available, that is.

When you’re establishing yourself and sell two copies of Watchmen every month, when you sell one of those copies you can order another one. You’re only out of anything for a week, at maximum, at any time and your constantly turning over your cash flow in a real respectful way. This is a good business model.

 

Jamie: Now there were some things that Jemas said that seem to be positive, progressive things like he thinks comics stores should be racking by content rather than alphabetically.

Brian Hibbs: Oh absolutely. We’ve done that for years. Now having said that, some of the smartest retailers in the business vehemently disagree with that. I know Jim Hanley really strongly believes he gets much, much, much more great sales out of racking alphabetically. And I believe that’s true for Jim. As I was saying earlier in the interview, no two stores are really alike. I believe that genre racking is getting me increased sales over what alphabetical racking would. Jim feels differently, more power to him. But yeah, I’m definitely with Jemas on that one. I think that’s a good and smart way to rack material.
[Note: Jim Hanley owns Jim Hanley’s Universe at 4 West 33rd Street, New York, NY]

[Jim Hanley’s store is now called JHU Comic Books and has since moved to 32 East 32nd Street, New York, NY]

Jamie: Bill mentioned Marvel is trying to get new readers by giving away free online comics and giving away free samples. Examples given are the 500,000 Spider-Man comics within a game magazine, free Wolverine and X-Men Comics when the X-Men Movie came out, and in the future the 1 million Spider-Man comics going out through the Buster Brown Shoe Stores.

Brian Hibbs: Well, it’s been in the future for over a year now, so I don’t know (laughter) how much I trust that last one there. I think giving out comics is probably the smartest thing you could possibly do. Having said that, I have never, not once ever, seen anyone come into my store because of the giveaways that Marvel has done. I don’t know if… this is entirely possible that it’s just a regional thing. I do not believe that they gave out any X-Men comics at any San Francisco showing of the X-Men. I mean, I was there opening day and I didn’t see any comics being given away. I’m sure it’s happening somewhere, and I think it’s a great plan, again I think it’s a really intelligent and smart thing to do. The best way is, you know, “The first one’s free, kid,” particularly if the content of what you’re giving away is good quality content. That’s why I think giving away Ultimate Spider-Man would be a really smart thing to do. Giving away some bad X-Men comics could actually hurt you at that point. If someone comes out and says, “That was a great movie, what’s this free comic? Ewww… it’s not very good at all.” I don’t know if you remember the TV Guide X-Men insert?

 

Jamie: Yeah, I don’t think I got it, but I heard about it.

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, it was really, really, really bad. It was everything that was wrong with the Chris Claremont X-Men. Just page after page of people coming in and saying, “My name is this and here is my power!” and you know it wasn’t interesting at all. I’m sure that turned more people off from comics than it could ever have gotten them to come into a store and say, “Hey, this is interesting, lets check this out.” So you have to be very careful when giving stuff away for free (laughter). To make sure it’s good, quality, appropriate material.

Here’s the thing though: if you’re doing these sort of giveaways… shouldn’t you be informing the local retailers so they can capitalize upon it? If they did giveaway X-Men comics at the X-Men movie, I sure didn’t know about it.

 

Jamie: Marvel says their goal over the next 5 years is to double their sales. Do you think they can do that?

Brian Hibbs: Yeah, sure. Sure. I mean, I don’t think they can do it as long as they have a policy in place that’s says once we sell out that’s it, period. You know? (laughter). I don’t think that’s going to happen until they remove the no overprint program. I don’t think it can happen. But otherwise? It’s completely doable, completely doable. It’s just a matter of putting out good comics, supporting the stores, letting people know that the comics exist, getting people excited about the content of the material. Yeah, Marvel’s got no where to go but up right now and I think that’s a good thing. What’s interesting particularly in my exchanges with Joe Quesada, we had a bunch of e-mails back and forth and I was really struck with the impression that they seem to think I’m like anti-Marvel or something. And nothing could be further than the truth, I want Marvel to succeed, you know? I want as many good quality publishers producing good, quality material out there doing as many strong things as they possibly can, in my store. But, I don’t like being called an idiot. I don’t like being told I’m full of self-loathing. I don’t like a policy that is very demonstrably costing me sales. All those things are very negative and horrible things and when I stand up and go, “Hey this is wrong” it’s from that point of view. Not because I hate Marvel or I’m anti-Marvel or something like that. That would be silly, I’m a comic book retailer, it’s my job to sell comic books. When the publisher gets in my way of selling those comic books, then we’re going to have a problem.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, what’s your IQ score?

Brian Hibbs: What’s my IQ score?

 

Jamie: (laughter)

Brian Hibbs: I don’t remember. When I took the IQ test I was like 13, or something like that? But I qualified for Mensa, if that counts? But I don’t know, I don’t care. IQ numbers?

 

Jamie: Sorry, that was just a question I had to ask (laughter).

Brian Hibbs: That was a very ill considered statement on Bill’s part. And I think he made it much worse by issuing the second press release saying, “Yeah, I’m fooling around but oh, by the way, you’re still idiots.” You know, that’s how I read it. I didn’t want to read it that way but that’s… you know, here we are… comic shop retailers work really, really, really, really hard and we don’t make very much money. Not that we’re poor or anything like that, but then to have a some guy go, “Well if you don’t agree with me, than you’re a dope.” You know? Pfft. That doesn’t help anything. That doesn’t help morale. And particularly coming out after getting through the 90’s, morale is an issue that… if I were a publisher, morale would be an issue I would be very, very concerned with. I wouldn’t want you retailers going, “I don’t know if this guy is someone I want to do business with.” It’s just dumb.

 

Jamie: I understand that Marvel recently had another retailer press conference, one that you suggested to Joe Quesada at San Diego. Within this, they openly admitted that they only invited retailers that had the strongest growth of Marvel sales and they left you out of it. How does that color your view of them?

Brian Hibbs: Well, I don’t know the specifics of the statements that Bill or Joe or whoever made at the conference call, so I don’t know what their standard was. I will say though, that their most vocal critics like me, like Joe Field, like Matt Lehman, who were invited to the first retailer conference, were not invited to this one. How does that color my perception? I don’t know, I think it makes them cowardly, is what I think it does. I think that if you can’t have an intelligent conversation about a policy, particularly now that we’ve had some time behind us and we can start to judge if that policy has or has not worked.
I would point out that the SCC filings that Marvel just made as of last Tuesday (from when we are doing this interview) show that from quarter to quarter, from 2000 to 2001 that Marvel Publishing sales have gone down. They haven’t gone up, they’ve gone down.
I would point to the very sales charts from April to August, that every single one of those months, the vast majority of Marvel Comics have dropped in sales from month to month. Nineteen of the twenty-five books that are on all four month’s worth of sales charts have dropped. To me, this says, “Well, this policy isn’t really working is it?” Yeah, absolutely, X-Men has gone up 25%, or whatever and that is a great thing, that is a wonderful thing for them. But Avengers has dropped by 6% and Daredevil dropped by 15% and Tangled Web dropped by 32%. So, I think at this point you should be willing, as a publisher, to look at what the actual impact is. As opposed to what you believe, or what you want to have happen. I think it’s really important to look at those things critically. The smart publishers and the smart distributors (well, which is pretty much Diamond at this point but…) have come to realize that critical thought is a good thing and something that should be embraced. That if we go to them, me and any number of retailers go, “We don’t think it’s a good idea,” they’ll go, “Okay. We’re going to think about it again. We’re going to actually look at this carefully and ask ourselves, “does our plan make sense or does our plan not make sense?” If we still think it makes sense as a publisher than let us go back to the retailers and go “Here’s really why we think it’s making sense and here’s some tangible, provable things that we can point to.” Marvel doesn’t have any of that right now as far as I can tell, besides just blind rah-rah. “No-No, it’s working. Look, X-Mens up!” (laughter)

To me that doesn’t tell the whole story, that tells a very small part of the story. How much would X-Men be up if we could keep going back to the well and keep getting more copies? Frankly, I think X-Men could have done 200,000 copies rather than the 150,000 or so that it did. I really do, I really believe strongly that it could have done 200,000 copies. But we’ll never know now. And if I were a creator, I’d be really upset about that. you know? “Wait a minute, what do you mean? There’s people who want my comic and you won’t sell it to them?” (laughter). That’s silly. So, to sorta back up there, I think it is extremely short sighted to only invite people to a conference call that are there to, let us say, be “positive.” Unflinchingly so. I think it’s always a good thing to have dissenting voices and to listen to them carefully and pay attention to what they have to say. I would love it, I would adore it in fact, if Joe or Bill came into my store, walked around and went “Y’know, we think if you did this, your store would be a better place.” And I would listen to that. I listen every time anybody comes into my store and says, “You know, I don’t think this is right, I think you should do this.” I look at it, I evaluate it, I think about it and most of the time I actually end up trying people’s suggestions. You know, that’s how you get better. You don’t get better by going “Oh, you can’t come because you’re a big meany.”

 

Jamie: At the same conference call with a number of your peers, Bill Jemas referred to you as “Hairy Neck” and kept calling Joe Field’s Flying Colors store “Failing Colors.” How do you respond to something like that?

Brian Hibbs: I’m not sure, honestly. I think it is incredibly juvenile to resort to name-calling, particularly in front of a group of peers. Several of the people involved as participants called me to tell me how ashamed they felt hearing that. I don’t think it is good business to insult your customers.

 

Jamie: Switching topics a bit here, I understand there is a weekly War Machine Comic that’s coming out, part of the experimentation that Marvel is doing. And because of it being weekly it’s very hard for retailers to order it in proper numbers. Can you explain to the readers why that is?

Brian Hibbs: Okay, because we’re basically ordering sight unseen and we’ll probably end up ordering all 12 issues before the first issue even ships. Now this is assuming it ships on time. I’d like to believe that if they’re doing weekly comics they can do them on time. But Marvel has been very, very, very bad on timely shipping recently. When you order a comic you’re… if you’re a good retailer, you keep up to date on what you sell of your comics. So, let’s say for War Machine, I’m going to look at it and go this is going to sell relatively in some sort of proportion, be it up or down or in the middle of, lets say, Iron Man. That gives me a good benchmark to work from. But War Machine is black and white. But it’s weekly, it doesn’t have any of the same creators that Iron Man has, it is a character that has failed in his own series in the past and that people didn’t appear to like very much. So, you look at that and you’re going, “Well, do I order 50% of Iron Man? Do I order 70%? or do I order 110%?” There is no way to know. We’re guessing. Every time a comic book retailer places an order they are basically guessing. They’re educated guesses to be sure, we have data we can look back at. I can show you in cycle sheets where books just take sudden shifts whether it’s up or whether it’s down for no reason. It’s the exact same creator team from month to month, there is nothing that changed about the book, not a character has changed or anything like that, and all of a sudden a third of the customers go, “I don’t want this anymore,” all at once (laughter). And there is just no way to predict these things. Ordering comics is not a science, it’s an art. It’s like trying to see the future. What are my customers going to want 3 months from now? And it’s much, much worse in the case of a weekly book because there are so many issues you have to order in advance. Now, a normal comic book, if we’re lucky, we only have to order maybe two, maybe three issues in advance before the first one comes and we can actually see whether it sold or not. In this case, we’re basically going to have to order all of them. If not, it’s all but 3 and even then you can’t really tell from issue #1 what a series is going to sell for issue #12. You can sorta tell, but not really. I don’t know, is that making sense? I never know how to answer these questions, because for me, comics retailing is so ingrained that do it without thinking.

 

Jamie: I think you explained it as best you could, I understand it.

Brian Hibbs: Okay. Well, if you understand it, hopefully your readers will.

 

Jamie: I know some retailers have been little squeamish on selling some of Marvels non-code approved books to kids. An example being the eyeless Wolverine issue. What are your feelings on that?

Brian Hibbs: I think in an awful lot of communities, retailers really, really, really, really need to be squeamish about doing those kinds of things. Because community standards are the important issue when it comes to the acceptability of selling a book. I am blessed, well not blessed because I’ve very specifically opened my store here, but I’m blessed by being in San Francisco. Not only in San Francisco, but in an extremely liberal part of San Francisco. So those are not particular concerns that I have. But yeah, I would be very concerned if I was in a more conservative area with having that comic or any number of things that have been announced or have come out. Because if just one wrong person sees it, you can lose your store. It’s entirely possible. Just look at the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and look at all the retailers that have gone to jail, or who have lost their store or lost thousands of dollars fighting conservative forces. In something that is especially perceived as children’s entertainment by the vast majority of America, IE. Superhero comics, I think that becomes an even bigger issue to be aware of. I would not consciously sell that issue of X-Force or that issue of Wolverine with the eyeball to a child. I wouldn’t do it and I’m in San Francisco. How much worse it must be if your in, I don’t know, Iowa or something like that? Something else of note is that I used to be on the board of directors for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. And at no point was Marvel ever interested in supporting the CBLDF or what it stood for. At the time their reasoning was something very close to, “Well you know, we just don’t produce comics like that.” And now they are producing comics like that and I will be very curious to see if a store does get arrested for selling some of this material, what Marvel will do. I’ll be very curious indeed.

 

Jamie: I wonder if some of this comes from our own ideas of what kids should and shouldn’t be seeing vs. what Network TV keeps showing. Some think we should just follow their lead and just think if they’re doing it, we can do it too.

Brian Hibbs: Well, yeah, maybe. I don’t know I really want to wade into the censorship issue or the appropriateness issue because frankly, I think that’s a decision the parents have to make. The parents need to decide what they are comfortable with their children viewing. In something like that first issue of X-Force, which was an excellent comic by the way, I really liked that comic a lot… but you know, it’s got a character that’s ripped apart by a machine gun and his guts are leaking out of his body. I mean, it’s shown and it’s very visual and I don’t think you’d even see that on Network Television. I think it was really irresponsible, particularly in a comic which had been completely and utterly safe for children for 115, or whatever, previous issues, to sudden have massive eviscerations (laughter). But I really think it’s… I don’t really have a problem with Marvel having their own rating system as long as it’s consistently and consciously applied. I don’t know that it is and that’s my big concern. As far as I understand from reading their press release on it, if I recall correctly the Ultimate Marvel line was supposed to be G rated comics, as it were. And I think there are things in there that are probably not G rated and aren’t being thought about. Things like the Kingpin crushing some guy’s head. Yeah okay, it happens off panel but if I recall correctly there’s a spurt of blood. You know, you feel it and I personally wouldn’t go, “Well, that’s a G rated thing”. Again I’m in liberal San Francisco, so I don’t have to worry about these kinds of things, thank God (laughter).

Hibbs Interview Responses:
Last months interview with Brian Hibbs got a lot of traffic and reactions around the web. We decided to follow up on it by asking for responses by those involved. First we made the offer to Bill Jemas as he was the most talked about person in the interview.

Bill Jemas responded with:
By the way Brian Hibbs is just Paul Levitz spokesmodel – so you could go ahead and attribute his opinions directly to the Sultan.

We talked to Paul Levitz and he replied with No Comment.

Brian Hibbs replied with:
Why do I have this horrible thought of me wearing pearls and high heels, and doing that Vanna White hand-gesture thing?
Geez, I could have lived without that image in my brain!
‘Spokesmodel’? Can’t the man even insult correctly? First ‘hairy neck’ (huh?), now this!
Anyway I have to assume that it is only since Mr Jemas took over Marvel Comics, that he started reading Comics and Games Retailer, where my opinion column Tilting at Windmills runs.

If he had read the column prior to that, he would see that I have strongly criticized the policies of all and any companies (including, yah, DC Comics) that work against the best interest of comic book retailers. And, of course, when DC does dumb things in the future (and they will, such is the nature of things), I’ll be there to discuss their mistakes with my readers.

And, of course, as the older columns continue to go up on www.comixexperience.com your readers (and Mr. Jemas!) will be able to see that for yourself.
I’d like to think better of my fellow man, but it seems to me the reason that Mr. Jemas dismisses cogent and specific criticism with random insults is that he can’t defend his own position in any other manner.

It frustrates me as a comics retailer that the COO of Marvel Comics is determined to follow policies that are pretty demonstrably costing both them, and myself, sales.
It frustrates me as a person that he has to resort to name-calling when faced with rational debate on the subject.

 

Scott McCloud Interview

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Scott McCloud at TCAF 2015

Originally published August of 2001. I think this might have been the first interview I did over the phone. I did attempt to do this interview by e-mail but Scott wasn’t fast at typing, which was funny as he was really championing the internet and digital comics as the way of the future. Doing it over the phone did make for a better (and longer) interview. I probably should have done more interviews that way, but I really dislike transcribing.

 

An Interview With Scott McCloud

Over the last few months, Scott McCloud’s name has been all over the place. Mainly because of his book Reinventing Comics and the criticism that it has drawn. Within The Comics Journal issues #232 and #234 Gary Groth wrote a scathing editorial against McCloud and his views. Scott gave a reply in issue #235, but did not address all of the criticisms. In this interview he replies to those criticisms still remaining from Gary Groth editorials and to others in the industry.

 

Jamie: Over the weekend I read your response to TCJ’s Cuckoo-Land thing, so this interview will be a little bit shorter since you already discussed that.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Right, yeah.

 

Jamie: I’ll start off with Understand Comics, one of the things you mentioned was Sequential Art. Obviously we know what that is, one after the other. But you didn’t talk too much about political cartoons or single panel cartoons, as if they are not comics. Any comment on that?

Scott McCloud: I think it’s misunderstood that I don’t see them as comics doesn’t mean that they’re some lesser form of art. I think cartooning has every bit as rich a history as comics does: I just see one of them as being a way of drawing and a way of seeing and the other a way of arranging what we create. So they are two different things. Now they intersect all the time, of course. There is a rich joint tradition of cartooning in comics. I just don’t think it’s the same thing. So Keith Haring was a cartoonist for example, but he wasn’t making comics. He did his cartoons on walls and whatnot. If he was doing, you know, the comics in the newspaper then it would be easier to think of him as a cartoonist but he still wouldn’t be a comic book artist. Or excuse me, he would be a *comics* artist. Of course, comic *books* that is a whole nother can of worms. So by making that separation, making a very small subtraction, from my general lumpy conception of what comics are, I was able to draw that boundary much, much larger for many other things, many historical precedence’s and many potential future forms. So even though I cut loose that one single panel exception, I was able to draw my map larger and able to include a whole lot of other things. Seemed worth it. But I think many people misunderstood that exception is somehow a demotion of single panel cartoons like The Far Side or political cartoons or caricature. And it’s not. Some of my favorite artists are single panel cartoonists. People like Steinberg or some of the great political cartoonists, they’re terrific. It’s just not comics, that’s all.

 

Jamie: Moving on to Reinventing Comics. There is a DC Disclaimer that you mentioned before about particular ideas giving some people problems. What particular ideas do you know that set some people off?

Scott McCloud: I think it was pretty clear. Towards the discussion at the end of the product of the book, was the chapter that was most objectionable to some people at DC was the business chapter. The 2nd Chapter of the book, I think, that some people up at DC and Time Warner found my projections for the future of comics distasteful on some levels. But it was really my view of the history of the business of comics that upset some people. To DC’s credit, they honoured the contract that I had with them and did not enforce any corrections for editorial reasons. And I appreciate that, I think they behaved honourably, but it’s not the history of comics as DC would necessarily like to see it.

 

Jamie: There are two versions of Reinventing Comics, one Perennial/Harper Collins and one that DC was publishing.

Scott McCloud: That was true for Understanding as well.

 

Jamie: Understanding, as well?

Scott McCloud: Yeah. It’s a bit of a long history, but in brief Understanding Comics was first published by Tundra. By the time it hit the stands Tundra no longer existed and had been swallowed up by Kitchen Sink Press. Kitchen Sink Press was the company that I first signed up with to produce Reinventing Comics. In fact. I did most of the work on that book while still at Kitchen Sink Press. And when Kitchen Sink Press underwent a great deal of turmoil and it floundered, Dennis Kitchen was forced out. I needed to find an escape route quickly. I didn’t trust the people that were running the company. I didn’t want anything to do with it. DC looked like the safest port in the storm and we needed to make a decision extremely fast. And DC was that decision (laughter). And when we did it, Understanding Comics came with us. As far as the book market, Dennis Kitchen had tried to market Understanding Comics in the book trade and in other comics, obviously. We found it was just not practical so we had partnered with Harper Collins and since 1994 both Understanding Comics and later Reinventing Comics appeared in bookstores under the Harper Collins imprint, specifically Harper/Perennial. So it’s a bit complicated, but basically one company handles it for comic book stores, another company handles it for the general market, the book stores and airports and everything else. And that’s worked out all right. Harper also licenses it to other countries and Understanding Comics is in about 14 languages.

 

Jamie: Wow!

Scott McCloud: I like what Harpers is doing.

 

Jamie: Still, with Reinventing Comics, you mentioned one of the drawbacks to self publishing, specifically mentioning Dave Sim, is doing all the business related stuff. Is that not similar to publishing your own web comics because you have to learn HTML and make sure everything works in both browsers and all the server-related stuff and so forth?

Scott McCloud: Those certainly are challenges for publishing on line but they are radically different in one respect, which is those are creative challenges; challenges in producing the work. The challenge of making that work available to the public is trivial in comparison to making it available in print. It takes enormous, constant, backbreaking work and a huge amount of money to get your work printed, or to print it yourself, to get it shipped, to deal with the distribution system, the retail system, and to get your work hauled all over the country just to make it available to what may potentially be a very small number of customers. If you have 3 people nationwide who want to buy your book, you’re going to have to ship 100,000 copies to make it available to those 3 people because you don’t know where they are. So self publishing is constant, extremely hard and expensive work; whereas the work of publishing on the net is primarily the work of learning how to produce the work. Once you have the business of uploading it to the website, it’s trivial. It’s one of the easiest parts of making a web comic. It’s simply uploading it. And at that point, your work is available to anyone who wants to see it… if they can find you, which is whole nother whole can of worms. Then the expense is 70 dollars to register a website domain for 2 years and on average, probably somewhere between 20 to 40 dollars to have that domain hosted somewhere, a month. And while I don’t want to downgrade the importance of that, obviously for some people that can be a hardship, but compared to self publishing (mutual laugher) those that can’t afford that I don’t see self publishing as viable alternative, either.

 

Jamie: Just out of curiosity, I know you were interviewed in the same Internet comic that Groth did . . . his first Cuckoo-Land piece. I was wondering when that happened, the interview?

Scott McCloud: Are you referring to the Internet issue of Comics Journal?

 

Jamie: Yes.

Scott McCloud: And the question was?

 

Jamie: How long prior to the issue did that interview take place?

Scott McCloud: That was done for that issue. Charles Hatfield and I had been kicking around the idea of an interview for a while. That one was set up with the implication that it would run in the same issue. As to Groth’s review, I should say to Gary’s credit he gave me fair warning that the review was coming and we had a perfectly polite exchange prior to it and although I haven’t spoken to him since, I expect to have a perfectly polite exchange after the fact. We live in a civil society (laughter), Gary’s opinions are as strong as anything you can find in the comics press. I consider him the loyal opposition and it’s all part of the debate and thanks to Gary that debate has become much more pronounced, much more public, and frankly much more interesting. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t consider some of what he wrote to be unfair, but I was given ample opportunity to call him on it and I did.

 

Jamie: My next question was: What was your general reaction to it when you finally read it?

Scott McCloud: It was a Gary Groth Review (laughter). I began reading the comics press about 25 years ago. The Comics Journal was on the scene about that time, maybe a little before. And every time Gary writes just about anything, he just about excoriates it (laughter).

 

Jamie: Scorched Earth is the term I hear (laughter).

Scott McCloud: Yeah a scorched earth review, and even jokingly said in the subject line of his original e-mail that there was a hatchet job on the way. Which ironically, he considered a serious review, but yeah, he’s always been like this. We would expect no less of him (laughter). I think maybe some younger fans that don’t know the history, might be a little appalled at it because Gary has been fairly quiet lately. He hasn’t really been on the rampage much but there is ample history of that sort of thing.

 

Jamie: Okay, I’m going to go through the nuts and bolts of stuff that I didn’t think you address very well or address very much.

Scott McCloud: Go for it.

 

Jamie: I know you went back and forth with Gary over this, but do you think you have been hyping the Internet and web comics a bit too much?

Scott McCloud: Hmm.. It’s problematic, because I think Gary is right, that I haven’t spent enough time addressing the potential for corporate abuse and some of the darker aspects of the Internet. So I think it’s correct that I haven’t done enough on the negative. I don’t think that necessarily means that I’ve done too much hyping of the positive. Because I think the potential of positive change is enormous. In our community, there are still a great number of people who dismiss the Internet out of hand. There are still many that think the Internet is about to destroy everything they love about comics and I can raise my voice to a thousand decibels and could barely rise above the barrier of cynicism or even of apathy. So I keep my voice raised to a high pitch on the issue, because I still think there is a great deal of work to be done on the issue. I still think that to this day, that I’m not done yet. The hyping is one of the unfortunate little coincidences of comics history, in that, since I became obsessed with the potential of comics on the Internet, at the same time, popular culture became obsessed. Well, actually a few years before that, there was a real frenzy of popular culture for all things with a dot in the name . . . probably began in 97 or 98. And it was pretty thoroughly entranced before that. But I would like to believe that my enthusiasm for the potential for the web has very little in common with what was actually being hyped on billboards and TV commercials and talk shows. I wasn’t telling anybody to invest in the stock market and I wasn’t telling anybody that AOL and Microsoft were going to save the world. I wasn’t telling anybody that if they just get a website, they would become a millionaire overnight. The message that I was trying to express and still am, is that there is enormous potential for direct communication between artist and the readers online and there still is enormous potential for creative exploration of comics out of boundaries online. I was writing about the future and I still am. I never promoted the idea that the future is now, the revolution has come, that this is the web today. What I’m promoting in fact, I am very explicit in Reinventing Comics, is that we can be misled by some of the drawbacks in the technology that exists today. I don’t have a product basically. The future I’m talking about is not shrink wrapped, you can’t go and buy it today. That’s not what I’m trying to say at all. One of the statements that I make in Reinventing Comics that Gary misunderstand is this idea: ‘If it’s about the present it’d probably hype, if it’s about the future, no amount of hype can do it justice’. Anyone who has something to sell you now, it’s probably hype (laughter) but the magnitude of the excitement is about the potential of the Internet itself. I don’t think it is at all misplaced and I still think the web is in it’s infancy and we have only seen the tiniest hint of it’s potential. So I’m still as excited as I was in the beginning. It just had nothing to do with the stock market, IPO’s or this week’s product.

 

Jamie: Moving on, Groth thinks you hate beautiful print drawing. True or False?

Scott McCloud: (laughter) False. Okay, one of the interesting fallouts of web comics and digital distribution is the fact that print is becoming visible for the first time. People are able to choose print in a way that my generation wasn’t. We inherited print. If we loved comics, print was the only way to express that. We now have to consciously choose print or the web and in either case, choose it for the properties that plays to their strengths. Now print has enormous strengths . . . it’s just that now we can appreciate it for what it is. It’s no longer invisible because it’s no longer ubiquitous.

 

Jamie: Your Adventures of Abraham Lincoln, you and Groth both admit that it wasn’t very good.

Scott McCloud: (laughter) Yeah. I believe Groth called it a widely derided train wreck.

 

Jamie: Did that give you a pause in using computer technology and comics?

Scott McCloud: No it didn’t, not in the least. How do I explain Lincoln? The best explanation I came up with for that at the time, when people said they didn’t like it: If you can guarantee the results in advance, it’s not an experiment. The notion that I should put it all on the shelf and forget about computers because I have this one disastrous failure in using computers, the only translation I can come up with for that is: if you first don’t succeed, then quit. And that’s not my philosophy. I assume when I fail at something that the failure is mine. That I failed to use those tools to their best advantage. You have to remember that Lincoln really began almost as soon as I had tools in hand and it’s the very first ever thing I did, using just computers to generate. And I choked (laughter).

 

Jamie: Some people think that Reinventing Comics was done just to capitalize on Understanding Comics and that it should have been told in an essay form.

Scott McCloud: That would be Gary.

 

Jamie: Yeah, Gary. So why did you think that Reinventing Comics needed to be told in a comic book form?

Scott McCloud: Well, just about everything I wanted to say could best be said visually, especially when it’s about a visual medium. I’m a comics loyalist. I’m interested in the things can be expressed through comics. I think Gary is right in that there are parts of the book that don’t use comics particularly well. Maybe the parts should have been told in prose. But it’s not a comic because I wanted to capitalize on anything, it’s a comic because . . . because I’m me (laughter). Because I love comics. Because it’s the whole point for me, seeing what comics can do. In Understanding Comics it’s clear that it was the right medium for the book.

 

Jamie: For sure.

Scott McCloud: In Reinventing, it sometimes is and sometimes it isn’t. But I’m exploring the boundaries of non-fiction comics and the only way to find those boundaries is to stretch it. And some cases, to stretch it to the breaking point. I think in some places it broke and in some places it’s solid. But anyone that knows me know why I made Reinventing Comics as a comic (laughter). Because that’s what I’m about. That’s everything that I am, as a comic book artist, seeing where comics can go. I said at the end of Understanding Comics that I wouldn’t do a sequel right away. Understanding Comics was about 7 years of thinking about comics and 7 years worth of ideas. And so it just collected to a point where I needed to put them somewhere, so I put them into a book (laughter). I predicted that it would be another 7 years of ideas before I would want to write another, and that’s what happened. I think it’s clear that starting in ’94, I was heavily obsessed with computers. Anyone on the convention circuit knew that. Well, I had another books worth of ideas so I had to put them somewhere.

 

Jamie: You mentioned that the line work in Reinventing Comics wasn’t quite up to your own standards. Why was that? Was it because of the technology or . . . ?

Scott McCloud: It was my use the technology. It still not quite organic enough. I still think I have a ways to go. I’m still learning how to use a sable brush, too. I think it looks better than Lincoln (laughter). But again, are we going to project the message that I should just quit? Because it’s not up to standards? Because others are using digital technology in a very organic and convincing way? Between Kyle Baker, Demian 5 from Switzerland, all those people have used it to great effect. In fact, I think my work has a warmer organic quality compared to some of the online work that I did, which was done after Reinventing Comics. I never claimed to be a particularly exciting draftsman (laughter) and I really don’t know that anyone else has, either. That was never my strength to begin with, but I want to continue exploring and this is where my passions take me right now. I’d be an idiot just to stop right now just because of a few failures.

 

Jamie: Groth notes your bibliography didn’t include books that criticize the Internet and the possible future it brings. Why didn’t you?

Scott McCloud: Well, what can I say? Groth’s general criticism that I don’t spend enough time discussing potential for corporate abuse is valid. I think, well you know pretty much what I think (laughter). I think some of the objections to the bibliography are a bit silly, especially when he lectures me for not responding to books that were written 9 months after Reinventing Comics.

 

Jamie: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust.

Scott McCloud: Yeah, IBM and the Holocaust. What can I say? I think he could have made a valid point about that, but he stretches it to ridiculous extremes. Whatever.

 

Jamie: Do you think computer created artwork will one day aesthetically surpass traditionally made artwork?

Scott McCloud: No, I don’t think so. I don’t see a world that would exclude one or the other. I don’t see aesthetics as some demolition derby where there is only one car left at the end (laughter). I would hope that there would be artists making significant and exciting work in all these mediums. I don’t see it as one or the other. For me personally, digital is the most exciting. But that’s just me, this is what I want to work on right now and I assume others will make that choice also. You know, I assume others will make that choice for now.

 

Jamie: One of the problems with your theories is that people will do what you want them to, in terms of either going out and looking for great non-corporate entertainment on the web and by paying micro payments instead of pirating entertainment. Why do you have such high amounts of faith in the masses?

Scott McCloud: I would turn that question around and I don’t know why Gary and some other people have such of an incredibly bleak view of people. In my experience, most people like to think of themselves as being reasonably honest people, reasonably honourable . . . when they’re faced with a very easy way to get something for free, that would cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars, otherwise . . . That temptation is pretty strong, they usually go for it. I don’t see any system eliminating piracy entirely. One of the reasons I advocate micro payments should it ever become practical, is that I think that if the price is sufficiently low and it’s very easy to get something legitimately for that low a price, I think most people will go for it. Because, well, for a few different reasons. This is such a huge issue. Sorry. I’ve written whole essays about this and it’s hard for me to condense it down to one or two sentences. There are a couple of factors: one of them is the fact that if it’s just a little bit more convenient to get it legitimately, if it’s a little more difficult to steal it, and if it’s just a few cents more, it’s just simpler, it’s just easier and also because piracy to some extent, has a philanthropic character online. People that are uploading songs and making their computers available for others to get those songs, they’re devoting a certain amount of time and resources and they’re not getting rich off it, either. This isn’t like selling pirated CD’s in Times Square. This is something where you’re not making a cent, you’re actually devoting your time and computational resources to giving away this work. Well, if it’s work just available for a few cents and that few cents is actually going to the musician or cartoonist or writer you’re stealing from, then that whole enterprise just seems a little less interesting, a little less worth it for the pirate. Again, nothing will eliminate piracy completely but I think that there are some systems that could make the influences of piracy lower and allow people to look at themselves in the mirror and feel good about themselves and not go bankrupt illegally.

 

Jamie: Your history of the Internet stops just at the time it gets privatized. Why did you stop it there?

Scott McCloud: For one thing, it was pretty recent history when I began writing the book (laughter). It got privatized in ’93, late ’93, and the world wide web hit the mainstream, which would have been ’94, and I started writing the book in ’97. I was talking about the origin of the Internet, I hadn’t expanded from that since the last really big event. Now Gary is right that the Telecommunications Act of ’96 should have been mentioned at that point. I think it was ’96, pretty sure.

 

Jamie: Yes it was ’96.

Scott McCloud: I think he’s right. I think he’s right. That should have been included and I should have gone into a discussion of that. But . . . I think he’s right. Perhaps I should go into a discussion of that now? Maybe I’m a little tired (laughter) of talking about . . . I’d rather make comics for a change. You know, I never see myself as the only voice in this debate. That is one objection that’s subjected repeatedly, by Gary in particular. There is this notion that it is my responsibility to cover *everything*, I mean even Understanding Comics was criticized because it refused to indulge in value judgments.

 

Jamie: You mentioned specifically about not including a chapter on bad drivers.
[Note: This refers to Scott’s reply to Greg Cwiklik and Gary Groth TCJ #211. Saying “If I wrote a book about how cars work would I be criticized for not including a chapter on bad drivers?”]

Scott McCloud: Yeah, (laughter) and I think this is silly because I’m not the only voice and I never claimed to be the only voice and talking about the inner workings of comics is a voice all unto itself. Now, if you want a broad balanced education, you also seek out writers who are discussing aesthetic values of comics or discussing the political context of comics or the cultural context of comics. In the comics industry, all those things are important too. But I don’t think it’s my responsibility to put everything and the kitchen sink in that one book. In fact, I actually visited many of the issues that he felt were missing in Understanding Comics and of course he hated that even more, because they weren’t his (laughter). It’s little hard to win with that standard being applied.

 

Jamie: You also mention the limitations of print comics by having to turn the page and the square size. But how much is that because the industry tends to stick to the same format? Could the limitations be not be so limiting if they played around with different formats?

Scott McCloud: I think they are beginning to do that now, they are beginning to experiment with shapes but they tend to be low run, you know silk screen, fort thunder, things like that. The industry makes it very difficult to experiment with different sizes. I did a large comic called Destroy back in ’85 . . . ’86, excuse me, and most retailers just didn’t know where to put it. It wasn’t even that dramatic of a difference, it might have been 80% larger than your average comic, but this was deeply aggravating to the average retailer because they didn’t have a shelf that size. So it’s systemic, it’s not just a lack of imagination. If you’re a retailer, you’re going to have to build shelves that you can fit your product on . . . (laughter) and I think that’s reasonable and it’s a problem when somebody comes up with one that simply doesn’t fit on the shelves. Of course, that’s not an issue online.

 

Jamie: You also mentioned the infinite canvas and doing web comics, a crazy example given, a comic the size of Europe.

Scott McCloud: That was just a . . .

 

Jamie: Yeah, that’s why I called it a crazy example (laughter). But if you did do a really large web comic, there is a good chance both IE and Netscape would crash, you know. I wonder how infinite is the canvas if you’re stuck to the limitations of the browser?

Scott McCloud: Well no, I talk about that in the book. What I’m proposing is not something that we can accommodate with today’s technology, with today’s browsers. Even with HTML itself, it has all sorts of limitations. I talk about a comic which you can zoom through, where each panel is embedded within the previous panel, you couldn’t do that in straight HTML either, you’d need something like Flash to pull it off. But we have an enormous canvas, so to speak, just as in the average computer game. If you have a comic the size of the landscape you roam through in Tomb Raider (laughter), you’d have a pretty enormous comic. So there might be other programming environments that are more appropriate for comics in the long run. The book about the future. I never claimed for an instant that you can do all these things in IE 5, in the year 2001. That would be absurd. Now there are some people working along those lines, who are doing beautiful concepts, shorter works that still point to the potential of that expanding canvas. And I think it’s on the strengths of those works, those creative explorations going on in even this limited environment, that speaks of potential of that expanded craft. The book is about the future, if it wasn’t about the future, it wouldn’t have been in the book.

 

Jamie: Do you think in the future Microsoft or someone will create a browser that can handle such a large webcomic?

Scott McCloud: I doubt it.

 

Jamie: You doubt it?

Scott McCloud: I doubt that Microsoft will (laughter). I don’t see them charging up the hill in particular. It could be some third party creation. It’s hard to predict. Some very important software has come out of just college kids. Or just working out of the garage, you never know.

 

Jamie: I know you discussed about bandwidth increasing and how that would help with the comics in terms of loading time and so forth. But won’t it eventually get to the point where it’s too powerful, where comics will be not so great in compared to how quickly movies and animation can load?

Scott McCloud: I don’t think I understand, if movies and animation are loading quickly then comics will load instantaneously.

 

Jamie: Yeah, but what happens when movies and animation load instantaneously as well? Won’t most people pass over the comics and go straight to those?

Scott McCloud: No, well I think that’s the great challenge isn’t it? It will take more convincing, personally compelling, especially unique to comics, so that there won’t be a reason to not read comics. And if we have all these movies and videos and animation, not to mention game and virtual reality environments. But that’s what all this is about, that’s what the entire book is about. I see comics as having unique aesthetic ideas to plant and if you allow that idea to grow in a digital environment, you can see something that’s uniquely comics: that is very exciting, something very new that’s very deeply tied to comics, to the original idea and not like movies, not like prose, not like any other visual art. Something that is completely new. I don’t know how to describe it exactly. It’s hard, words fail. It’s an idea comics that can scale. If you see comics as this temporal map, as this idea in equal, equal in time. It’s an idea of scale. The more bandwidth you throw on it, the more wonderful the new forms that can grow out of that idea. They don’t look anything like any other medium. When we begin to mix motion and sound with comics, I think we begin to hit that slippery slope and when we get enough bandwidth where it can all becomes a movie war. I hope it doesn’t turn into that.

 

Jamie: I read your Cuckoo Reply that is coming out in issue #235 of the Comics Journal. Is there anything in there that you now wish you said differently?

Scott McCloud: No, I’m pretty happy with it.

 

Jamie: Pretty happy with that?

Scott McCloud: Yeah.

 

Jamie: Your reply seemed like giving him a taste of his own medicine.

Scott McCloud: Although, well now, I hope it didn’t come across as giving him a taste of his own medicine because . . . I don’t . . . use the same medicine (laughter). I’ve tried to respond on point. I try not to make any ad hominem attacks. I’ve tried to be polite and reasonable and . . . y’know, I hope it doesn’t come across as just more of the same, but that’s up to the readers to decide.

 

Jamie: As of late you have been battling a lot of backlash, not just from the Journal but from Penny Arcade, Bill Griffith and more. Did you think your ideas would cause this much of a reaction?

Scott McCloud: There were some surprises. I didn’t think certain ideas would get people as angry as they did. I misjudged which ones were the hot spots (laughter). Who knew that my little essay about micro payments would set off this scorching brush fire in the online comic strip community? Although really, there was a lot of different issues under the surface, that one wasn’t just about micro payments. That whole period was just over a one week period, most notably by Tycho at Penny Arcade and which was pretty personal and nasty. But I talked to Tycho, I talked to John Rosenberg who does Goats. I talked to Glitch who had written something on her strip, no stereotypes. And in all cases, we had a polite reasonable conversation. Tycho posted his thoughts on the conversation that he thought he misjudged me and it’s done. We’re done now, the flame war is out. Basically, there are no parts of the landscape still on fire, as far as I know. I think it ended pretty amicably. There were a lot of misunderstandings that went into that one, and we dealt with them as well as we could.

 

Jamie: Are you sick of defending micro payments yet?

Scott McCloud: No.

 

Jamie: No?

Scott McCloud: I will continue, but I am tired. I’m a little tired because the debate has strayed a lot from the central issues and much of the time I spend defending it, it is not really so much defending my ideas as it is trying to explain what people think I was saying and it is not what I was saying at all.

 

Jamie: Yeah.

Scott McCloud: That can get a little tiring because that is wasted time. If I have to defend against things like ‘Well, McCloud thinks we should pay 25 cents every time we visit a webpage’ that’s . . . that’s . . . I never said that (laughter). And yet I’ve heard that parroted back to me a dozen times. So that part of it is tiring. But the actual discussion is worth it because there are people out there trying to make it happen, and keeping the public debate alive is one of the ways which that process can be facilitated.

 

Jamie: Yeah one of the people trying to make it happen is Javien?

Scott McCloud: Javien is a Canadian company that’s one of many that is trying to put together a workable micro payments system. I mentioned them recently because they had one or two good ideas that I liked. I can’t predict whether or not they’re the ones who are going to pull it off. I’ve always been careful not to back any one company because I have yet to see any one company that has all the answers. Believe me, I would (laughter,) I would if I thought one company had figured out all of the answers and I was very confident in them. I would back them and I would use their service.

 

Jamie: One of the practical problems I have today is whenever I go to the bank machine, I get dinged with a one dollar service charge. I’m thinking how anyone would make money charging 25 cents, even in the future, when the services charges are so high among the banking industry?

Scott McCloud: Well Amazon and Paypal charge a service fee in that realm and that’s why they are not micro payments (laughter). You can’t charge somebody 2 pennies if it’s going to cost you 25 cents for the privilege. But all along, that’s been the challenge of micro payments. If those transaction fees weren’t so high there wouldn’t have been a problem to begin with. That’s what the whole discussion is about.

 

Jamie: Do you think some company will come in and save the day for you? You know, making micro payments available for a very low amount of money?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know when it will happen and I don’t know who will pull it off. I think the ability to charge small amounts of money directly over the Internet is not an unsolvable problem. I think there are those who believe it will never happen. I think, having just finished the century which we landed on the moon, cured polio and sent our voices and ideas around the earth at the speed of thought, I think this idea that we will *never* solve the technical problems of charging small amounts of money over the Internet is just absurd. It’s not that hard, it’s not rocket science. We’ve done harder things than this. It just may take a little more time and I’ve never been good with deadlines, so (laughter) things never happen as fast as I want them too, but they happen.

 

Jamie: So when micro payments do happen, do you see yourself using them?

Scott McCloud: Sure, sure. Yeah, absolutely. But again, I want to make sure I don’t inadvertently wind up endorsing some particular company that doesn’t get it all right. I’m very cautious about that, because at this point who ever. I even mentioned Javien to Tycho in a phone conversation and now everyone thinks I’m endorsing them. You know (laughter) and that’s a good example of why I’m so cautious.

 

Jamie: In your second episode of ‘I Can’t Stop Thinking’ you mentioned a wide variety of things you can do on the Internet because shelf space is not as limited as it is in the normal store. At the same time, the Internet lets us go directly to what we want and we don’t get exposed quite so often to different things that we are not interested in. Is this a good thing?

Scott McCloud: No, I think we do get exposed, we get exposed by others letting us know about things. We want to dwell on one particular area of interest, we can. But the Internet is such a riot of other options of links, to links, to links, to links. And the opportunity for dozens or even hundreds of acquaintances over time to send you links to interesting works, that I think there is a counter-active trend to that tunnel vision tendency. That doesn’t mean there won’t be a certain vulcanization on the web, I think there will be, but I think within any given community, let’s say the comics community, I think that diversity has the upper hand in the long run. I think that right now, diversity is so thoroughly discouraged by economic systems that we have and by the dynamics of shelf space, that the web has already shown it’s ability to show its direction. The best web comics today are remarkably diverse, compared to what’s on the average comic store shelf.

 

Jamie: In Reinventing Comics, you use that one symbol, the eye open and the eye shut a lot. It’s even on your main webpage. Why are you so fond of that symbol?

Scott McCloud: I just had to pick something (laughter.) Having finished Understanding Comics, I realized I didn’t really have a symbol for comics itself and the little guy with the hat, you know that fellow raising his hat seemed a little bit overly specific. In the end, I decided that, to me, would be the essences of comics; two images of comics first of all, any two images in sequence but in particular the eye open, eye closed because I thought the balance between the visible and the invisible and I don’t know, it just seemed like the best single image I could pick to represent the form because I was going to be using it. I had to use something (laughter) when I was putting together all those diagrams there . . . there needed to be a symbol for comics itself and the tubed hat seemed a little specific to Understanding Comics.

 

Jamie: Are you planning on doing a 3rd ‘Something’ Comics book?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, not right away.

 

Jamie: Not right away?

Scott McCloud: Probably in another 7 to 10 years.

 

Jamie: Do you know what that will be about?

Scott McCloud: Yeah, I pretty much do, but I’m not telling anyone. Or at least not right now (laughter). Because the 3rd book is different from the first two just as the 2nd one was different from the first.

 

Jamie: Is that going to be done through print or is that going to be on-line?

Scott McCloud: I don’t know.

 

Jamie: Have to see what it’s like 7 to 10 years from now.

Scott McCloud: Yeah exactly. I don’t want to predict.

 

Jamie: Are you still open to doing any print comics in the future?

Scott McCloud: Sure, I think there are all sorts of things that are interesting to do in print. But generally speaking, I like to do it for one or the other. If I’m working for the web I want to do something that’s designed for the web. Perhaps I could only work on the web, but I don’t like this idea of repurposing, I don’t like this idea of holding yourself back because you might reuse it in some other form. Only working in black and white, for example on the web because you’re hoping that King Features will pick up your strip. That’s just sad. You’re on the web, use the web. Or if your in print, use print (laughter) to speak to those aspects of print that are most exciting, use that dative quality. You know, use that high resolution and the ability to produce fine line work, use it. Do something that print can do best. I just hate repurposing, I hate castrating your work so that it would be suitable for a variety of platforms.

 

Jamie: Do you have any print projects in the near future?

Scott McCloud: A couple of magazine pieces. I’m doing a 6 page original comic in Wired Magazine, for example. But they’re piecemeal, I don’t have a graphic novel in the works at the moment but I may at some point. If I could just work online for the next two years I would. But I can’t. I have many things I’d like to do online but not because I hate print or anything, but because I’ve been working in print for how long is it now? 17 years? And I’m ready to do some . . . well I have a long list of online projects. I could easily go two years with it, but unfortunately I don’t have that option because the economy that works online is just not mature yet. Maybe someday.

 

Jamie: Do you think because of Reinventing you’re constantly talking about online comics, this hurts your ability to get print books?

Scott McCloud: Mmmmm… No, I don’t think other things have to do with it (laughter). I never really tested the waters that way, couldn’t say. But no, I don’t think a publisher would particularly care one way or another. I mean, if I expressed an interest in doing a book in print then I obviously have nothing against print as far as that book goes. I’ve never told people to stop making printed books. That’s just another weird, distorted version of me that people are trying to sell.

You can get more news and updates on Scott McCloud at ScottMcCloud.com

1 2 3 7