- Posted by Johanna on December 23, 2008 at 7:36 am
- Category: Graphic Novel News
Q: It seems like you used to be everywhere online, promoting the works of AIT/Planet Lar, but I see you around much less frequently these days. Has your online participation changed over the past several years? In the bigger picture, how do you see online comic discussion areas as having changed?
As technology and social networks have developed and expanded, there are many more communities open and opportunities for folks to gather. Just by the nature of the communities themselves, they’re going to be smaller and more specifically focussed, in terms of subject matter and interest. It’s a logical progression of the dynamic; the thing that links comics fans together isn’t just a general interest in the form like it was ten or even five years ago… now there are sites and forums and message boards and podcasts for every interest and taste. Not to mention MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and all the various blogs.
So while you may not be seeing me around that much lately, commenting on various matters and writing articles and issuing press releases and whatnot, I suppose that just means that you’re not going to the same places I am. I write two thousand messages a year on Your Mom’s Basement, for example, and I don’t think I’ve seen you there. I wrote a general pop culture column for three months on Rescued by Nerds, and I was all over the place this summer when THE BLACK DIAMOND collection came out, with interviews and PR and whatnot. So my participation isn’t all that different than when we started ten years ago, but there certainly are more places for an enthusiast to explore.
Q: What else are you doing besides running AIT/Planet Lar, if anything?
Naw, a firm hand on the tiller of the vast entertainment empire is all I do. How I ran the company was a little more public in the past, but with all the changes in the industry in the decade we’ve been publishing, I suppose there’s a little more behind-the-scenes stuff now than the obvious puppet-mastery of the early days. And of course I continue my creative works, with the comic scripts and screenplays and novels and all the various other writing that I do. Eight am to six pm Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday I wear the suit for the company, and all day Thursday I’ve got my Writer’s Jacket on.
Q: You’ve put out an average of three graphic novels a year for the past three years. Is that a level you’re comfortable with?
Well, I’ve gottta correct you a bit there; the last three years we’ve published four new graphic novels plus a seven-issue full color miniseries with thirteen different creators working on that project, in addition to tending our evergreen backlist. So, yes, I’m absolutely comfortable with that level of entertainment; you know we’ve always been a “quality-not-quantity” publishing house since the outset, anyway. Some companies just put stuff out to have a constant presence in the PREVIEWS catalog of new stuff just for the sake of having something “new.”
Your readers know that Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image account for 92% of the comic book marketplace, so every other publisher in the back of PREVIEWS is carving up a mere 8% amongst themselves. I haven’t looked lately, but it’s what? 300 other companies fighting for attention? We figure it’s just a waste of everyone’s time to just publish something so there’s a “new” entry in the AiT, especially when there are so many interested comics fans who haven’t read WHITE DEATH, say, or ELECTRIC GIRL, or COLONIA, or SHATTER, or SMOKE AND GUNS, or ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, even. There was a huge run on the AiT collection when ASTRONAUTS was selected as one of the sixty best graphic novels and I was given a “legend” nod in THE ROUGH GUIDE TO GRAPHIC NOVELS a couple months ago. Obviously, it was real flattering for the astronauts to be in with AKIRA and FROM HELL and JIMMY CORRIGAN and MAUS and SANDMAN and for me to be in with Will Eisner and Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore and all, but, honestly, the most gratifying thing to me about the deal was that we were still crisply selling books in 2008 from an idea I had had ten years before.
And it’s the same for all the books we publish. We’re creator-focused, so we’re not killing trees to put out the next adventure of COPYRIGHT RETENTION MONTHLY, or something. We’re bringing you the next Adam Beechen OGN, or unveiling the Next Big Talent, or whatever. When we put out a book, we’re offering up an entertainment event.
Q: What determines which books you choose to publish?
There’s no magic formula, if that’s what you mean. There are a lot of quality books that come to us that we don’t publish for whatever reason, but there’re also a lot of quality books that come to us that we do. Maybe it’s a story I like, or that Mimi likes, or creators we want to work with, or good folks we think we can give a leg up in the same way pros helped me in the early days. Timing is everything. I dunno; there are a million factors. Actually, I usually just make a joke when I’m asked this question in interviews because the answer is always different, and it all changes tomorrow, anyway.
Q: Rumor has it that AIT/Planet Lar has been trying to get more movie interest in their books. Any luck in that area?
With THE COURIERS shooting this spring, and Disney picking up MONSTER ATTACK NETWORK, and LAW AND ORDER’s Dick Wolf working on JOHNNY DYNAMITE, and all of our other books in development with Kickstart, other-media exploitation is certainly a part of the scene now.
But it always has been for us, so it’s not exactly a secret; the astronauts have been optioned three times in ten years. Probably one out of every five of our books is in some level of option or development or production; we just like to stay under the radar about this stuff until you can set the TiVo or go by a ticket, because there’s so much that can go wrong with a project.
I’m sure you can think of a million creators who announce some handshake deal for a multi-million dollar extravaganza based on their comic of which nothing is ever heard about again. Me, I think that’s just silly. I mean, I think it’s cool Harrison Ford flipped through LAST OF THE INDEPENDENTS with an eye towards working with Richard Donner on it because it was presented landscape and he thought that they were really elaborate storyboards, but you’d never see me writing a press release about it, because what does that mean? Nothing. Now if that movie got made, well, then, sure; I’d crow to the rooftops. But otherwise I just think talking about options is counting chickens before they’ve hatched.
Q: What does the company have planned for 2009?
I’m looking forward to putting out Dennis Hopeless and Kevin Mellon’s CUPID book, and working with Tony Lee on his two books: DODGE AND TWIST with Paul Peart-Smith on art and JOURNAL with Bevis Musson. And of course I have a couple books on tap as well which will probably end up scheduled for the fall and winter.