At PopCultHQ, we are fortunate to work with many indie publishers and countless creators in the comic book industry. All amazing individuals, but there are some out there who get overlooked or you may not be aware of what they contribute regularly. One thing we desire is to give readers and fans a look at the people behind-the-scenes of the indie publishers out there. You know the comic books which they release. You likely know some, many, or even all of the creators who’ve signed on with the label. But what about the people responsible for finding new talent, who shares the company’s news and review copies with media sites, that is responsible for the publishing company’s social media activity, who are out there many weekends each year attending the cons to share each series they’ve released as well as meet with everyone: the fans, the readers, the collectors. These are the people we want to spotlight and share with you these often unsung heroes keeping the company moving all while remaining grounded.
Today we turn our spotlight onto Action Lab Entertainment’s Nicole D’Andria. A literal jack-of-all-trades, the comic book connoisseur, horror aficionado, gamer, anime enthusiast and aspiring novelist/comic book writer is also the marketing director and editor for scripts and submissions with the publisher. Whether writing or reviewing for Comic Frontline, Entertainment Fuse, Screen Rant, and others, or adapting stories for Action Lab, such as the wildly huge MIRACULOUS from Zag Entertainment, this is one all-around nerdette with her finger on the pulse of the comic book and pop culture industries.
But what is her role with Action Lab Entertainment? What is it like to “adapt” a story into comic form? And with all of her interests and passions, how does she juggle it all? Here’s a look at our interview with Nicole as she breaks it all down being the Comic Maven that she is!
PopCultHQ: I see your name in the credits of the review copies I receive from Action Lab and Danger Zone, but when I looked at three different recent releases each one listed a different title for you. Your Twitter bio lists you as their script editor, marketing director, and submissions editor (which seems like quite the workload in and of itself). What exactly is your role with the publisher?
Nicole D’Andria: I joke that I’ve been collecting titles over the time I’ve been working for Action Lab, but I really have. I’m really interested in trying out just about every job in the comic book industry. I started editing comic book scripts for both Action Lab Entertainment and their mature imprint Danger Zone. Then I started doing adaptation work for MIRACULOUS, and much later did the same for Peter David’s ARTFUL. I also manage a few of Action Lab’s titles, such as ACTION LAB: DOG OF WONDER and RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS. For that I work with the creative team to make sure they meet their deadlines. I also do editing work and find artists when needed.
For a long time I worked really closely with Jamal [Igle] on PR until he left and I became the marketing director, which basically means I help arrange all the press releases we send out to press, retailers and our fans. I’ll occasional write some, but mostly I coordinate with all of our creators to make sure we get very personalized PR from them. I also work as a submissions editor, so if you have a pitch for Action Lab, you can send it to me (email@example.com).
Other than that? I do a little bit of everything else at Action Lab. I’ve coordinated cons, I help with Kickstarters, and I do a variety of other odd tasks that come my way. I like to keep challenging myself!
PCHQ: What does a typical work week look like for you with the company?
D’Andria: I aim to work a certain amount of hours per week, so I vary how much I work each day depending on my workload. I usually do the most work during the daylight hours on Mondays and Tuesdays, but I also enjoy working the night away over the weekend. I love getting everything done ahead of time—I’m biting my lip anxiously otherwise!
I regularly work on the press releases I send out featuring previews of books coming out in the upcoming week. Throughout the rest of the week I work on any other PR we may need as well as peruse submissions to decide which ones should be passed along to our review board.
I’ll also check in a couple times a week with the creative teams for books I’m managing. And usually every other week I get scripts to edit for series like DOLLFACE, ZOMBIE TRAMP, RAVEN: THE PIRATE PRINCESS and others, which I usually nit-pick to death! Then, of course, are the projects that take up the most of my time: adaptations. I try to spend a couple hours a day working on these and work closely with the letterer when I finish scripts.
Other than that, I take the tasks I’m assigned as they come. Plus I have a couple other freelance jobs as well that take up the rest of my work week.
PCHQ: You have edited a variety of things in pop culture with Entertainment Fuse and even psychohistorical articles at Clio’s Psyche. What would you say has been the most helpful thing you learned during your time with these other jobs which carried over into your success in the comic book industry?
D’Andria: Ooh, it’s tough to pick just one since I’ve learned a lot of valuable things! There’s the obvious one, which is honing my editing skills. That has been extremely helpful in the editing work for Action Lab, but I think an important lesson I learned is the significance of networking. I’m not a very outgoing person, and the online world is a great place for me to make a lot of contacts despite this has led to a lot of great opportunities for me that I’m really thankful for.
PCHQ: Let’s move onto you as an editor AND a writer. You’ve written (you write) for Comic Frontline and Screen Rant, but you stated on your website that it was your time at Entertainment Fuse which led to you working for Action Lab. How exactly did that take place? Were you sending submissions to publishers at the time or did they reach out to you?
D’Andria: I started writing for Entertainment Fuse when I was in high school and into my college years. One of my college requirements was I needed to complete an internship. Being the huge comic book nerd I am, I immediately started making inquiries at comic book companies to see if any of them were looking for interns.
At this point on Entertainment Fuse, I had reviewed (thankfully positively!) several of Action Lab’s books, which made me aware the company existed in the first place. A lot of these reviews were for Princeless, which I absolutely gushed about. I was able to interview the writer, Jeremy Whitley, a few times. Nice guy that he is, when I contacted him about who I could talk to at Action Lab, he sent me to Bryan Seaton. He was already familiar with my work and took me on as an intern during my first and only interview with him. And luckily, after I graduated, I was offered a position at the company.
PCHQ: Currently you are writing the adaptation for two comic series with Action Lab – MIRACULOUS and Peter David’s ARTFUL. How did you come to take on these projects? Were you already working for Action Lab and they presented it to you?
D’Andria: I had been interning at Action Lab for about six months when Bryan approached me about MIRACULOUS. My editing skills seemed to make me a good match for helping adapt the series. I was super excited since I was already a big fan of the show. ARTFUL came much later. It was a very similar project to MIRACULOUS, so Bryan felt it would be a good fit for me. I am a big fan of Peter David, so I was happy to accept the job.
One of the best parts of these adaptations was getting to meet some of the people associated with them. I met several voice actors from MIRACULOUS at SDCC 2016, including Christina Vee (the voice of Marinette/Ladybug) and Carrie Keranen (the voice of Alya). Then I got to meet Peter David at NJCE in 2016. Both were really cool experiences that I will always treasure.
PCHQ: What is the biggest obstacle for you in adapting, say MIRACULOUS, into a comic book? It would seem the layout and delivery for each issue, and to remain in that 20-22 page range, could cause some headaches at times.
D’Andria: The good thing about the MIRACULOUS book is it is a direct adaptation of episodes from the show, and we don’t have a stringent page limit. We have 64 pages for the physical book and extra pages included with the digital copies.
The way the process works is I’m sent 64+ pages of art arranged by Cheryl Black and I fill in the dialogue as I see fit, mostly going off of the original episode but occasionally adding a line here or there and having a lot of fun making sound effects… and getting weird looks from my family and friends when I randomly ask them how they would write certain sounds.
I then pick what extra pages should not be included in the print copy. This can be a bit tricky since we want to make sure each page transitions seamlessly in the print copy and the readers don’t feel a chunk is missing. Sometimes we may have to add a line of dialogue to make this work, but usually we can cut out some small scenes to hit our 64 page print limit that readers can then enjoy if they get the digital copy.
However, I did have to restrain myself to 20-22 pages when I wrote the script for the first issue of the original MIRACULOUS series (which you can see a preview for in our FCBD issue). Plus I had to base the plot on a story idea given to me by Bryan. Yet the process was much easier than I thought, I just had to make sure I hit certain points, like having the villain appear 1/3 of the way through the book and the battle between them and our heroes happen no later than 2/3 of the way through. It was a fun challenge and I hope to tackle it again!
D’Andria: I haven’t hit the convention circuit too hard yet, but that’s something I’m planning on changing soon. I would often go to cons for my own enjoyment, and I still do, but I did go to the New Jersey Comic Expo with Action Lab last year.
My only other brief convention appearance with Action Lab was at San Diego Comic Con last year. It was my first time at SDCC and the trip was actually a graduation gift from my parents, so I spent most of my time there for my own pleasure. But I did do an hour long signing at the Action Lab booth since it was also the premiere of the MIRACULOUS comic book adaptation.
~ Rapid Fire Segment w/ Nicole D’Andria ~
A very special thanks to Nicole for taking the time out to speak with us at PopCultHQ.
If you would like to keep up on the Comic Maven’s projects, writing, and other announcements for Action Lab, be sure to follow her online and social media. Links can be found below!