Interview With Drew Ford, It’s Alive! Publisher
Drew Ford runs It’s Alive!, a publishing imprint dedicated to collections of out-of-print comic books. His releases (funded via Kickstarter and distributed through IDW) so far include Red Range, by Joe R. Lansdale and Sam Glanzman, and Trina Robbins’ adaptation of Sax Rohmer’s Dope.
At the time of this writing, you have a day to pledge for the latest release, The Silver Metal Lover. This never-before-reprinted graphic novel, an adaptation by Trina Robbins of a book by Tanith Lee, is a science fiction romance where a young woman finds her life changed after falling in love with a robot. This new edition has several upgrades, including
- a hardcover binding
- an afterword and a new variant cover by Colleen Doran
- a new foreword by Gail Simone
- a special essay about the late Tanith Lee’s life and work by her husband, artist/writer John Kaiine
- and a new introduction by Trina Robbins herself.
The Kickstarter has funded and is now working toward its fifth stretch goal. To commemorate, Drew took some time to answer a few of my questions about the book and publisher.
1. How do you find these “forgotten classics”? What determines what you will release?
I grew up in upstate New York, and we had what we called at that time a ‘junk shop’ in my town. They never had new comics, but they always had slightly used older comics, graphic novels, and magazines like Heavy Metal and Epic Illustrated. The material I found there always seemed more grown up than what I was picking up in my local comic shop from Marvel and DC at that time. Anyway, one person’s junk is another person’s treasure, and that place was filled with treasure, as far as I was concerned!
As for what gets released…that depends on a number of things. Most important, do the creators want to do a reprint? Next, do they have the rights? If not, how hard will it be to acquire the rights? And once they have the rights, can I even afford to work with them? Next, is their enough quality material to reprint from? If not, how hard will it be to restore the original work? Those are some of the more important questions when deciding what will be released.
2. Why bring back Silver Metal Lover in particular? What does this book have to say to today’s audience?
By writing about the history of comics from her unique perspective, Trina has shown us how shamefully unaware we have been about the incredible impact women have made on the history of comics. At the same time, Trina herself (as a writer and illustrator) has produced an impressive body of work for the last four decades. And while she has brought to the public’s attention so many forgotten female creators, most of her own work has tragically fallen out of print. It was because of this that I wanted to reprint her work, first with Dope, and now with The Silver Metal Lover.
Beyond that, I think people should take a look at this graphic novel, because it was published in 1985, and if you know your comics history there weren’t a lot of graphic novels in 1985. Of course it came after Will Eisner’s A Contract With God in 1978, and Marvel’s line of Graphic Novels they started started publishing in 1982, but it was before Art Spiegelman’s Maus in 1986 and the collected editions of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen in 1987. It’s absolutely an important piece of comics history.
3. This is your second Trina Robbins work “rescued”. Are there more on tap from her?
Nothing specific, but anything is possible!
4. What else is up next for It’s Alive?
Earlier this year, I had a bunch of money stolen from me by an overseas bank, while dealing with a printer outside the US. It’s not the printer’s fault, and my bank is running an official investigation to get my funds back, but they told me it probably won’t happen for at least a year, if ever. I lost thousands, and for a moment I thought I was finished. But some friends in the industry told me I shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help, so I went public with what happened and was able to recoup almost half the funds that I lost through a GoFundMe campaign.
Around that time, I made a promise to myself that no matter what it took, I wouldn’t give up. Right now I am fighting my way back, and things are better every day. I am a little behind in my publishing, but I hope to have the two books which are late out very soon, and I have been pushing ahead with future publishing plans with this current Kickstarter to publish The Silver Metal Lover and a handful of classic Combat comic reprints by Sam Glanzman, with new covers by artists such as Walter Simonson and Russ Heath. Another Kickstarter to publish the next issue of Combat will be launching soon with new cover by Russ Braun.
5. Will you continue funding every release through Kickstarter? Do you anticipate a time when you’ll need a different approach, or do you think Kickstarter is a viable long-term business model for you?
It’s interesting to think about a time in the future when a publisher will front me enough money to do whatever I want with my reprints. Or perhaps a time when the books I have already published will make enough money to fund the publication of future books. Until something like that happens, however, I will gratefully continue publishing my books through support from the awesome people who have backed my Kickstarter campaigns.
6. There’s been some chatter lately about Kickstarters being picked up by existing publishers after they’ve demonstrated viability. When the books are reoffered at lower prices, that may make early supporters feel disgruntled. With your continuing partnership with IDW for distribution through the comic market, do you take that into account?
Absolutely. Right now, seeing my current struggles with theft, I think my backers will just be happy to see my company survive, so they can get the books they already backed. But as my financial situation improves, and I get better at this publishing stuff, I hope to make the books work well for both early backers, and fans who pick them up later from their local comic shops.
My thanks to Drew for his time!