Fabian Nicieza Interview

Fabian Nicieza at NYCC 2013

Originally published in May of 2001. Ouch, I was hard on Fabian here. In short Thunderbolts went from one of my favorite titles to one I dropped during his run as writer. I had a few friends that felt the same way and we’d gather in chat rooms and complain about the book getting worse. Neither of these were Jason Borgeois or Sheryl Roberts who helped provide questions for the interview. Jason was a fellow writer (and sometimes interviewer) for CollectorTimes and Sheryl was our editor. Jason likely provided the Gambit, Cable and Sinister related questions and I’m not sure which questions are Sheryl’s or mine. Fabian was a champ though, answering a lot of questions and being professional about it.

An Interview With Fabian Nicieza

Fabian Nicieza is a name many of you are familiar with, especially if you’ve been reading Marvel Comics over the last 10 years. He has written many different comics and even worked as an EIC of Acclaim Comics at one point. Currently he is working on Thunderbolts and with this interview I ask him all about that, about some previous X-men related work and where the comic industry is going.
* Special Thanks to Jason Bourgeois and Sheryl Roberts for providing some questions *

 

Jamie: I can’t help but notice a few people on usenet keep calling Thunderbolts #50 a ‘good jumping off point’. Does that worry you at all?

Fabian Nicieza: If 5 people say they’re leaving, I shrug my shoulders. If 5,000 people say they’re leaving, THEN I’m worried! So no, I’m not surprised if a reader chose Mark’s leaving the title and a temporary status quo shake-up as a reason for stopping. Just like I wouldn’t be surprised if an equal number use it as an opportunity to jump ON the book. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the vast majority of people who might not buy the book anymore don’t peek at the coming issues and – based on all the fun stuff we have planned — slowly start to come back into the fold.

 

Jamie: Between your start on T-Bolts and issue #50 there have been a whole lot of changes to several characters. Jolt died and came back with different powers, Atlas has died after his powers went into overdrive, Techno died but but the Fixer is back, The Beatle (Abe Jenkins) became black. What is it with you and making major changes to characters?

Fabian Nicieza: A better question to ask is why WOULDN’T I do these things? The lifeblood of monthly superhero comics are good characters and good soap opera. In TBOLTS, I feel we have both.

 

Jamie: Do you feel there is an area where too much change can be a bad thing?

Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but the writer is usually the last to know! Hopefully, you have an editor who can see the bump in the road before the readers do!

 

Jamie: With Thunderbolts #51 you added a number of members and the remaining (alive) original criminal members are out of costume. You also replaced Hawkeye with Captain America as the teams trainer. What made you believe the title needed this much of a drastic change?

Fabian Nicieza: If you read the issue, you’ll know it’s not a drastic change at all. The core characters needed a chance to breathe and reflect on having attained a pardon for their crimes without the need for involving them in superhero action. I felt the best way to do that was to smack them in the face with unexpected freedom and the illusion of redemption and let them all start seeing if the grass is really greener on the other side. Between subplots in the monthly title and the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, I feel we get a look into their minds in ways that we haven’t had a chance to do since I took over the book. The book still remains about THEM, not about the Redeemers. But it’s a superhero comic, so we still need some slapping and kicking, and we can show that for a few months through the Redeemers. And, with Cap leading them, through those characters, we can also show other sides of the thematic coin in regards to what the book is all about.
Of course the TBOLTS will be back together again and back in action. The question is not if, but WHEN, WHY and HOW?

 

Jamie: I assume your writing the LIFE SENTENCES TBOLTS special, who is doing the art and when will it come out?

Fabian Nicieza: I have written it. Charlie Adlard is doing the art. I have no clue when it comes out. I think between issues #52 and #53.

 

Jamie: Why are Meteorite, Mach-1 and Songbird out of costume? I think most fans know it’s only a matter of time they’ll be back in them.

Fabian Nicieza: Asked and answered. We can learn just as much if not more about them by seeing them trying to maintain 9-5 jobs as we can watching them fight bad-guy of the month.

 

Jamie: Do you think the new Thunderbolts characters will be published after their time in Thunderbolts is done?

Fabian Nicieza: I don’t understand the question. The Thunderbolts characters ARE the Thunderbolts comic. 😉
If you mean the Redeemer characters, I can unequivocably say NO, they will not be published after their appearance in TBOLTS is over.

 

Jamie: Do you know how Patrick Zircher got the job to take over T-Bolts after Mark Bagley left? I know he took over the art cores on New Warriors when you left that title.

Fabian Nicieza: We ran through a list of potential artists and Pat was at the top of that list. Being able to get him is a privilege. His art gets better on the book each and every month!

 

Jamie: Have you had to change your writing any to compensate for Zircher’s strengths and weaknesses? If so, how?

Fabian Nicieza: In very little ways. No more or less so than with any creative team change. You feel your way out slowly over the course of a few issues and develop a rapport where you know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. Pat is an excellent storyteller and draws elegant figure work, so I have to do more character interaction. He hasn’t worked on a group book in a long time, so he needs to get the hang of choreographing multiple characters in movement through a scene, so I have to pay attention that my plots are clear in regards to action. But like I said, Pat’s doing great work. I’m sitting here scripting #54 and I think it looks like dynamite!

 

Jamie: How do you feel about the event like “Silent” month on all Marvel Books and do you have any ideas on how your going to do your silent TBolts issue?

Fabian Nicieza: Well, part of me thinks it’s a bit forced, like any editorially enforced crossover tends to be, but the other part of me likes the creative challenge. I am more than half way through plotting and doing rough 8-1/2 x 11 breakdowns for the pages and it has been fun.
It helps that the timing fit perfectly for a Songbird story I had intended to do all along, so the “stunt” fits in smoothly to the normal flow of the TBOLTS storyline. In fact, the silent pages make the surprise ending work even better!

 

Jamie: I noticed in both Gambit and in Thunderbolts you played around with character power levels. Why?

Fabian Nicieza: I find it to be an entertaining way of putting a character through a physical and emotional ringer.

 

Jamie: You seem to have a penchant for using past works of your own in your latest projects, like Nomad in Thunderbolts recently. Why?

Fabian Nicieza: It’s easy to use what I know and apply it in the right ways. The two main reasons for using NOMAD supporting characters was to A) point out obviously the clues needed to guess Scourge was Jack Monroe and B) to get Andie Sterman into the V-Battalion because I wanted her POV in that organization. Why create a new superhuman psychotherapist, reporter, FBI agent. etc. when there are pre-existing characters that are begging to be used? And why not use characters I’m comfortable and familiar with since it makes their application into a crowded story easier?

 

Jamie: What are your feelings on leaving Gambit and then having the book promptly canceled so soon after?

Fabian Nicieza: Better to have been canned and then see the book canceled than to have it canceled while I was writing it! For those who liked my work on the Gambit character, there may be an interesting non-comic Gambit announcement soon.

 

Jamie: Can you give us any hints?

Fabian Nicieza: Not yet. It’s not real until it’s real.

 

Jamie: Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do with Cable and if you were offered the chance, would you go back to writing him?

Fabian Nicieza: No and No.

 

Jamie: What didn’t you accomplish with Cable that your really wanted to?

Fabian Nicieza: Pass. Not worth getting into.

 

Jamie: Is there any chance the Sinister miniseries, which was cancelled/put on hold may still have a chance of seeing the light of day?

Fabian Nicieza: Highly doubtful.

 

Jamie: Why was it stopped?

Fabian Nicieza: I think the core editor and core writer simply preferred I not play in that particular sandbox.

 

Jamie: Can you give us a hint of the premise?

Fabian Nicieza: 4 self-contained stories set in different time periods all linked together by an underlying story thread, all pretty harrowing stories of Sinister’s emotional devolution. And all a moot point.

 

Jamie: Acclaim Comics is dead, they just recently removed all mention of comics from their website. Was your book Troublemakers owned completely by Acclaim or was there any creator owned deal like Priest had with Quantum and Woody?

Fabian Nicieza: I had the same deal as Priest, but having been a co-author of that deal, I know how the lawyers got involved in it to the point where it is too much of a hassle for me to bother with.

 

Jamie: Are Acclaim lawyers fighting the contracts on creative owned deals?

Fabian Nicieza: In order for lawyers to fight, someone usually has to throw the first punch. I am not aware of that having been done by anyone.

 

Jamie: After your experience being EIC of Acclaim Comics, would you be up for another EIC job at another publisher?

Fabian Nicieza: Sure, but it would depend on the circumstance and the place. I loved my time with Acclaim – the EiC job moreso than the President/Publisher job, which was too much responsibility regarding details I lacked experience, or interest, in attending to.
I am a social creature, but I’m also very happy working out of home and trying my hand at a variety of different things. If a company were to call with an interesting 9-5 opportunity – and not just a comic company – I would certainly listen.

 

Jamie: Over the last few years you have been bouncing between Marvel, Acclaim and DC. Have you ever thought of self publishing?

Fabian Nicieza: I’ve thought about it. Then I look at the finances involved and realize it would be just as easy to throw my money off a bridge.

 

Jamie: So the success of Dave Sim, Jeff Smith, Terry Moore & others doesn’t convince you to take a gamble?

Fabian Nicieza: Define success? Creative fulfillment? Financial fulfillment? If the gentlemen above have been successful enough that they can pay the mortgage and their kid’s college educations without concern, then more power to them. I would prefer not to jeopardize my family’s financial comfort for the sake of my own ego. There are plenty of other, more enriching ways, for me to flex my creative muscles than self-publishing comics.

 

Jamie: It seems the comic book industry is moving away from monthly titles and into TPB’s or Original Graphic Novels. Do you see this as a good or bad thing for comics?

Fabian Nicieza: I see that as good if it expands the horizons for distribution and content. I think it’s bad if it forces the continued whittling away of the comic book specialty shops and the regular weekly customer visits.

 

Jamie: Some think the market is moving towards comic specialty shops that rack only or mainly TPB’s and customers come in and buy on an somewhat infrequent basis, very much like the typical bookstore. Is that good for the industry?

Fabian Nicieza: I don’t particularly think that would be a successful financial business model, but I’m not informed enough to be certain. Whatever floats their boat.

 

Jamie: Marvel’s no reprints policy have caused a stir among retailers. Do you think this will be to Marvels benefit?

Fabian Nicieza: As I’m not privy to enough information from either side of the issue, I have no comment.

 

Jamie: Speaking of reprints, I tried to buy your new Citizen V mini at my comic shop today so I could ask you about it. But it was sold out and they can’t get anymore. So tell me about it, what are you trying to do with the Citizen V character?

Fabian Nicieza: CVB is about old soldiers facing the end of their fight and new soldiers who don’t think they want to ever become old ones! It is about a sleek paramilitary organization that has been “fighting the good fight” for so long, that they might be willing to compromise their methods and ethics in order to finally win that never-ending battle. Citizen V is their point man, a covert op. He’s the kind of character you hate to love and love to hate. He has style, panache, wit and intelligence, but he is also very arrogant, very selfish and very indifferent to the obstacles he has to walk over on his way to accomplishing a given assignment.
It’s a fun adventure book that explores aspects of the Marvel Universe rarely visited — namely older characters and the mantle of responsibility borne on the generations that followed the soldiers of WWII.

 

Jamie: Do you have any other work coming out soon?

Fabian Nicieza: None that I know of. That could always change tomorrow.

Michael Brennan Interview

Michael Brennan was a sad example of how you can do everything right in comics and still not see success. Michael created a great comic that was well drawn, had likable characters and heart. He marketed it well, published it in affordable collections, created merchandise etc.. Eventually a Graphic Novel publisher AiT/PlanetLar took a crack at selling it and I don’t believe they did any better.

Unfortunately there wasn’t much of a market for comics aimed at young female readers at the time. I think if Electric Girl came out today though an established bookstore publisher it would do very well. There are 3 volumes out there that you can buy for cheap on Amazon now. I think Michael does a mix of fine art and design work now.

 

An Interview With Michael Brennan

If you have been visiting Comiccon.com or Sequential Tarts website you might have noticed an Electric Girl banner. I recently got an Electric Girl TPB collecting the first 4 issues of the series plus some new stories. I loved it and decided to interview the creator Michael Brennan about Electric Girl and self publishing in general.

 

Jamie: I understand you tried to become a comic strip cartoonist before turning to comic books. Can you tell us about your strip attempts?

Michael Brennan: It was back in 1990. I had just reached that point where I realized that if I wanted to be a cartoonist, I’d actually have to do something about it.

I had read Marvel & DC comic books since I was a kid, but had fallen away from them after college. I had decided that the only alternative was to do a comic strip. Bill Watterson’s work in “Calvin and Hobbes” was a big influence on me to try this. I felt that he pushed the comic strip back to a higher ground in terms of art and writing that hadn’t been around for some time. That was my inspiration to try and do a strip.

The strip contained the main characters of the Electric Girl book, Virginia, Oogleeoog the gremlin and Blammo the dog. The main difference was that Virginia didn’t have any of the electricity that she has in the book. The premise was based on Oogleeoog coming in and making trouble in her family’s life.

I did about one month’s worth of strips. But, I didn’t like them when I sat down and reviewed them, so I redid them. I then sent them out to the syndicates. Months later, I received rejection letters from all of them!

 

Jamie: Ever think about following Chris Eliopoulos (Desperate Times) and doing a comic strip but in a comic book format?

Michael Brennan: No. I was never happy about my ability to do the “gag a day” that humor-based comic strips require. And trying to lay a continuing story line over that seemed even harder.

When I decided to do a comic book, I wanted to have the freedom of using the full page to tell the story and not be limited to the strip format. Not that I’m big into experimental page layouts, but since I wasn’t satisfied with my strip attempt I wanted to try something different.

My decision was also based on new influences at that time. I was reading a lot of alternative comic books and European comic books. I was attracted to how these cartoonists created their own distinct worlds for their characters to live in and interact. These worlds might have been very different from the real world or just slightly askew, but the individual nature of their work just stood out to me like nothing I’d ever considered before.

 

Jamie: Which titles were you reading? And how would you say they influenced Electric Girl?

Michael Brennan: I had started reading the Drawn & Quarterly anthology books, as well as Palookaville by Seth. What captured my eye was the distinct visual styles that these works were done in. It was the idea that you could actually draw a book in a manner that was so different from the standard stuff that really got me thinking. Because of the D&Q books I began to look for stuff by cartoonists like Maurice Vellekoop and Dupuy & Berberian.

I find that works done by cartoonists like these have been thought out in a way that mainstream stuff isn’t. Their individual style plays so much into the stories that you wouldn’t expect anyone else to be drawing the characters that they’ve created.

 

Jamie: Electric Girl doesn’t look like the normal superhero comic, I have a hard time saying it is one. But your stories seem to veer off towards the supernatural. Are you trying to get superhero fans to read it by doing this?

Michael Brennan: Personally, I consider Electric Girl to be a humor based book. When I decided to add the “Electric Girl” aspect over my original concept, it was to include something that I could play with beyond the “gremlin” angle. In hindsight, I think that part of my attraction to the idea was that it wasn’t too far from what I had read for many years – superhero comics. It was a sort of a case of doing what you know… or at least using it as a starting point.

Most people who have read the book get that Virginia isn’t a superhero, but I did create a bit of a paradox with the book’s name. I guess that I saw myself creating a style to the book that would be visually self-explanatory to anyone who picked it up. But I can understand how anyone who’s never picked the book up might be confused at first!

 

Jamie: You write the main character Virginia very well. Is she inspired by a real life person?

Michael Brennan: Virginia is an amalgam of aspects of myself and several women I know. I’ve built all my main characters this way.

 

Jamie: I wonder, are Gremlins responsible for all the bad things that happen in the whole world in Electric Girl Comics?

Michael Brennan: No, but gremlins are more than happy to take credit for problems that humans create entirely on their own.

 

Jamie: You do *everything* in Electric Girl even lettering and making your commercial, javascript filled webpage. Are there any areas you had a hard time mastering and how did you overcome them?

Michael Brennan: I do most everything in the book. I’ve gotten help designing things like the inside cover in some issues because of time constraints. I do everything within the stories myself because I don’t break the different tasks up in a neat order. For example, while I might write a complete script before I start drawing, the odds are that I will change the story halfway through the pencils. I’ll also finesse the dialogue as I’m lettering the book.

I gave up on the web site and had a programmer execute my page designs. As much as I wanted to dive into full web page programming, it wasn’t an efficient use of my time. I can manipulate things enough to do some of the updates to the site, but I let the programmer handle the major things. It keeps things running smoothly.

 

Jamie: How long do you plan on keeping Electric Girl running?

Michael Brennan: As you might be able to tell from my previous answers, as long as I can afford the time to do it. This year, I want to get two issues out, at least. That will put me in line to do a second trade paperback (encompassing EG #5 – #8) early next year.

 

Jamie: How has Electric Girl done for you sale wise?

Michael Brennan: Considering that I was a non-entity within this industry when I started publishing, sales have been good. My biggest problem is finding the time to MARKET the book. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re out there selling the thing.

 

Jamie: If you could afford to do Electric Girl in color would you?

Michael Brennan: Yes, but not all the time. I would want to color the book myself and that would take up a lot of time. I’m hoping to include at least several color pages in a future issue of the book.

 

Jamie: You have also been advertising with a banner on at least a couple of comic book websites. Has Internet advertising brought in enough customers to justify it?

Michael Brennan: It has increased the site’s visibility and brought in additional sales, which is the immediate goal. So in that sense, it has justified itself. Ultimately, I need to produce new books and sustain a consistent marketing plan in order for any advertising to truly pay off. That’s quite a trick to do when you’re also publishing your own book.

 

Jamie: I noticed Electric Girl was in the Expo 2000 anthology. How did that all happen and did anything come from it?

Michael Brennan: I emailed the coordinators of the book a request to include a story in their anthology and they accepted. I believe that I’ve picked up a few readers as a result of being in the 2000 book.

 

Jamie: I notice your selling Electric Girl Merchandise on your website, how does that help with the publishing?

Michael Brennan: It helps by raising money to help pay for the publishing operations. Some people who’ve worn Blammo t-shirts have told me that they get a lot of favorable comments about them, even from strangers on the street. It also helps to fill out a table at a convention.

 

Jamie: How important are conventions to a self publisher?

Michael Brennan: Very important. I still sell as many of the first issue of EG as anything else. There are a lot of people who’ve never seen the book and there are others who can’t find the book except at conventions that I attend. I’m trying to do at least one convention in a different part of the country each year to expose more people to my work.

 

Jamie: Have you sold any of your original art?

Michael Brennan: No. I’ve got it all stuffed away in boxes in my studio. No one’s approached me about buying it and I’ve never gotten around trying to sell it.

 

Jamie: Was there anyone in particular that inspired or helped you out when you began self publishing?

Michael Brennan: I read through Dave Sim’s “Guide to Self Publishing”. It answered a lot of the questions that I couldn’t find answers for elsewhere. That reinforced the idea, in my mind, that this could be done by a one person shop. I had also recently discovered Jeff Smith’s “Bone” comic book and was amazed at the great looking art in the book, as well as the tight storytelling that was running over multiple issues and not losing its pacing.

 

Jamie: Did self publishing go the way Dave Sim’s book said it would?

Michael Brennan: Not completely. And that is primarily because I chose not to do a book with a continuing storyline. That was a point that Dave had hammered home in the book – if you’re going to do a multi-part story, be ready to make it happen in a timely manner. What reading that book made me do is really think if I want to get involved with self-publishing and was if I was willing to stick around for a while and see it through.

 

Jamie: What kind of conflicts do you come up against because of self publishing?

Michael Brennan: Schedule conflicts. Big time. That’s the number one problem I’m always facing. Because I can’t afford to do it full time, so I’m constantly juggling projects to make time for the book.

 

Jamie: Some small publishers complain about Diamond Distribution when it comes to giving their book some promotion. How have your dealings with Diamond gone?

Michael Brennan: I’ve had a good relationship with Diamond. They’ve been supportive of my book and I’ve done everything within my means to promote the book when it’s in the Previews catalog. With all of the books that get listed every month, it’s important to try to stand out as much as possible.

 

Jamie: Has it been difficult to get comic retailers to gamble on your book and give it some shelf space?

Michael Brennan: The shops that carry my books tend to be the ones that make an effort to carry independent comics, as far as I can tell. It’s a tough challenge to get a shop that doesn’t cater to tastes beyond the mainstream to take a chance on an independent book.

 

Jamie: Have you branched outside of the comics industry to find readers?

Michael Brennan: I’m just starting to experiment with that now that I’ve published a trade paperback. I’ve signed up with a book promotion firm to generate sales of the TPB in bookstore chains. I’m hoping that this will lead to significant results.

 

Jamie: If Marvel or DC offered you one of their superhero books to draw would you take it?

Michael Brennan: The only character that I’d have any interest in drawing, or could imagine myself drawing, is the original Captain Marvel (Shazam). Mainly because I started enjoying comics when I was reading the DC reprints of the old CC Beck stories when I was a kid. I thought those were the greatest things on earth.
Readers can find out more about Electric Girl at:
http://www.ElectricGirl.com [this is now a dead link]

Marc Fleury Interview

Originally published in June 1999. Most of my interviews had been with well known creators and editors. I learned of a local creator self publishing a comic and thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective. Marc provided that with hard numbers and harsh reality. To my knowledge, only 2 issues of his comic came out and nothing else after it.

 

An Interview With Marc Fleury
Marc Fleury is a familiar name for those of you who read the rec.arts.comics newsgroups. He recently started self-publish an all ages comic series called John & Cori. Marc was kind enough to tell us the nitty gritty details about both his comic book and self publishing.

 

Jamie: For those that don’t know, explain what your book John & Cori to us.

Marc Fleury: Well, let’s see. It’s a humor / adventure comic along the lines of classic Warner Brothers animation. It’s suitable for all ages, but a lot of the gags will go right over a kid’s head. It’s a little like Tintin meets Calvin and Hobbes. Or maybe the Monty Python version of Muppet Babies.

 

Jamie: I noticed in John & Cori #1, you added a prose story, and games for kids (colouring page and spot the difference panels). Why?

Marc Fleury: The target audience for the comic, really, is me. And I enjoy stuff like that. I think that there are a few people out there who have roughly the same interests and senses of humor as I do, so producing a book that *I* would enjoy seems like a reasonable idea.

The prose stories add a little more substance to the book, and the games are just for fun. I tried to make the games a little more interesting than those you see in, say, Archie, because those are pretty boring for us older “kids.” So John & Cori #1 has a game for kids, and a game for experienced puzzle solvers as well. (Nobody has solved the hard one, which is pretty much what I expected.)

 

Jamie: When did you meet up with artist Giorgio Giunta and what propelled the both of you to do your own comic book?

Marc Fleury: The series existed in my mind first. I was interested in publishing a comic, and this one seemed like a fun book to do, so I started looking around for artists. Giorgio was one of the people to send in samples. He had a style that worked well with the ideas I had for the book, and he is very dependable, so I signed him up for it.

 

Jamie: Will you be making John & Cori TPB’s?

Marc Fleury: The short answer is yes. The long answer is . . . I’m not sure that it’s possible to produce John & Cori at a profitable level in the direct market. I have a number of ideas for the future of the series, but most of them involve spreading outside of comic book stores. Right now, it looks like I’m going to repackage it as a children’s book. It will still be a comic, but squarebound, and distributed through stores instead of comic shops. The market is much bigger, and the interest in this kind of material, I think, is much higher.

So, yes, I’ll be doing trade paperbacks, but they won’t be collected editions (they’ll be originals) and they will mostly sell outside of the Direct Market.

 

Jamie: John & Cori is a very kid friendly comic, why did you opt to this instead of more mainstream type comics.

Marc Fleury: It’s just one of my interests. At any moment, I have a number of projects in development. At the time that I decided to take the plunge into publishing, John & Cori was the series I was most deeply into developing.

It seemed like a good idea, because the book was different than everything else out there I figured that I could fit into a niche that nobody else was taking. Unfortunately, it seems like the current comic book market is too small for such a strategy. The reason that those niches are unfilled is that the people who are interested in that material simply don’t read comics.

It’s a bit of a vicious circle. There aren’t enough all-ages comics being published. Those that do start up don’t sell very well, because not many kids buy comics anymore. And those kids don’t buy comics because there’s nothing being published that interests them.

 

Jamie: Will Abdo Entertainment be doing other titles? If so can you tell us about them?

Marc Fleury: Yep. One advantage is that I have many interests, so if something doesn’t work out, I have tons of stuff to fall back on. There’s a comic called On The Lamb that will be coming out through Abdo next year. It’s another odd little book, this time aimed at a slightly older audience — teens and up. It’s about Jesus. If Jesus was a teenager today. It’s a comedy.

 

Jamie: Do you plan on getting another artist for your other titles or will Giorgio be able to do them?

Marc Fleury: I’ll be working with others. I enjoy seeing my writing transformed by various artists, and I’d like to work with as many artists as possible. On The Lamb, though, will be illustrated by me. I used to write and draw a comic strip for a local entertainment magazine, and I’ve really missed that. So I decided it’s time to go back and draw my own stuff. I was just waiting for the right project — I can’t draw very well, so it has to be something where the humor carries the comic. I figure that I can draw as well as Sam Henderson or Matt Groening.

 

Jamie: What are your long term plans for Abdo Entertainment? Do you plan to build it up into a full fledged publishing company or are you hoping to make a reputation as a writer and get work in corporate comics.

Marc Fleury: Both. I’m still working and developing stuff for other publishers. And I also plan (in the long term) to publish the work of others through Abdo. If James Kochalka told me he had a comic for me, I’d publish it.

The company is more than just for publishing comics, though. That’s why it’s Abdo Entertainment and not Abdo Comics. I’m developing a store on the web, I have my Writing for Comics column, my brother and I are making short films (we won some dinky award at some dinky film festival last year), and there’s a bunch of other stuff that it’s too early to talk about. Basically, Abdo Entertainment is the company I set up to deal with all the entertainment-related, hopefully-profit-making stuff that I do. Right now, the main business it publishing John & Cori, but it’s growing.

 

Jamie: Where did you go to find out how to self publish a comic book?

Marc Fleury: Dave Sim’s columns started me off. I asked a few questions on the comics-pro mailing list. I got a book called How To Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo.

Actually, it’s pretty easy stuff. There’s not enough to fill a whole book, which is why Caputo’s book has a lot of information that most self-publishers will never use. Everything you need to know is on the web, and anything that’s not clear can be cleared up by asking about it in a relevant forum (the comicon.com boards, the rec.arts.comics.misc newsgroup, or one of the mailing lists for comics creators).

 

Jamie: With the comic market is the shape that it is, why did you decide to do a comic book at all?

Marc Fleury: I’m insane.

Actually, I think this is a very exciting time for comics. I’m glad to be working in the industry right now, because the *real* mainstream is on the rise — comics designed to appeal to the general population. It’s going to take a lot of work, and even more sweat, but I think that the medium will come out of its funk in a few years. I’m thrilled to be a part of the transformation of the industry.

 

Jamie: I understand you had some difficulty getting Diamond Comics to distribute it. Can you tell us about that?

Marc Fleury: Oy. Way back in July of 1998, I printed up thousands of copies of John & Cori #0 — an 8-page promo comic — and mailed them out to hundreds of retailers. In big letters on the back cover, it says “Issue 1 comes out in OCTOBER from ABDO Entertainment”. At the same time, I sent out the solicitations to Diamond.

A little while later, I hear back from Diamond. They aren’t interested in carrying the book. I was stunned, and rather crushed. Not only were they saying that my work wasn’t good enough, but I had just wasted a couple of grand promoting a book that would, essentially, be unavailable to most retailers.

I then recontacted all the retailers that I had originally mailed out the promos to, and told them they could order from Abdo directly.

A few months go by, and then I get a call back from Diamond. It seems that they passed the book on to their retailer review board, and the retailers said they *did* want to carry the book. So Diamond was calling back to change their mind — they’d carry John & Cori after all. They ran it as a February release. Four months after I had announced it would come out. I have no doubt that the low orders on #1 are related to that delay. The retailers that I had contacted were told that the book was coming out in October, but Diamond forced me to ship the book 4 months later.

 

Jamie: I know you are using FM International to distribute John & Cori, how much does smaller distributors help overall sales?

Marc Fleury: For me, a lot. I did an informal survey of some other publishers, and sales through FMI are about 5-8% of those through Diamond. For John & Cori #1, FMI’s order was 35% of the size of Diamond’s. I’m selling seven times more comics than I should be through FMI. It doesn’t make sense. Until you take into account the screw-up with the initial release date through Diamond. It’s not that I’m selling seven times more than I should be through FMI, it’s that I’m selling seven times LESS than I should be through Diamond. I’m certain that, had Diamond been able to see the quality in John & Cori that their retailer review board obviously did, then they would have carried the book when it was first solicited, and the sales would have been seven times what they are now.

Now I have to scramble to bring up the sales before Diamond drops the book for selling poorly.

 

Jamie: You have made a webpage that gives previews and ordering info for your comic. I’ve always wondered how much does that help?

Marc Fleury: Although I have information posted on how to order direct, the real hope for the site is to give people a taste of the book, and then they can order it through their store. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real way to measure the site’s success on that level.

 

Jamie: Promotion and buzz is very important to getting retailers and readers to try your comic. What did you do to try and get the word out about your book?

Marc Fleury: I sent out those promo copies, which turned out to be a disaster. Although, I still think it’s a good way to get the word out (and I got a lot of positive feedback from that issue. I know that some people ordered #1 on the strength of the promo issue). I wish I had made sure that Diamond was carrying the book before printing up all those promotional copies.

Other than that, I try to mention it in relevant discussions on the internet. I would have liked to get out to some conventions, but it’ll have to wait until next year.

 

Jamie: Can you give us an idea of how much it costs to self publish a comic book and where those costs come in?

Marc Fleury: Printing is the big thing. You can shop around, but the best deal I found was Preney, in Windsor Ontario. The paper isn’t great, but I’ve never much cared about that. And they printed my #1 for 50 cents a copy, which includes shipping and taxes. (Those are Canadian cents for you Americans. About 35 cents US at the current exchange rate.)

Setting up your business is pretty cheap. Hiring the talent can be expensive, but if you want to avoid that cost, either draw it all yourself or agree that people only get paid if the book turns a profit. (Put it in writing, so that everyone is clear about what is being agreed to.)

 

Jamie: Can you also give us an idea of how much money one could expect to make by self publishing, and how that money comes in through distribution?

Marc Fleury: You sell the book to Diamond for 40% of the cover price. A $2.95 cover price pulls in $1.18 when you sell it to the distributor. If you figure that it costs a bare minimum of $1000 for 2000 copies after you add in all the incidentals, you see you need to sell 850 copies to make back your investment. Unfortunately, in this market, that’s not necessarily easy.

 

Jamie: What do you think is the biggest barrier in the comic industry for selling indy comics?

Marc Fleury: Retailers are afraid to try new products because they’re non-returnable.

 

Jamie: If you had to do this all over again what would you do differently?

Marc Fleury: A bunch of stuff. Luckily, I *am* doing it all over again, with my next series. I’ll be fixing the problems that have plagued my first attempt.

1) I’ll build the audience for the book before it gets released, by running a strip on the web for a few months.

2) I’ll make sure my distribution deals are in place before sending promo material and

3) I’ll cut down on my costs by drawing it myself.

 

Jamie: Has publishing your own comic changed your opinions about the comic industry?

Marc Fleury: It’s easier to publish a book than I thought it was, but it’s harder to make money at it than I thought it was.

 

Jamie: What advice can you give to people thinking about self publishing?

Marc Fleury: Ask yourself this: Is the publishing part as important to you as the creating part? If designing letters pages and indices, dealing with distributors and retailers, promoting your work and yourself, and handling orders and balancing the books doesn’t give you as much pleasure as writing and drawing comics, then self-publishing probably isn’t for you. You have to be both a creator and an entrepreneur.

That, and make sure you have at least $10,000 to risk.

Click here to learn more about JOHN & CORI [link disabled as it’s no longer active]