More than halfway into the year and things really aren’t improving. I don’t think we can expect to see many cosplay conventions this year, but we can look back on some events of the past and enjoy the cosplay.
Emerald City Comicon
Declan Shalvey Variant Cover for Ed Brisson’s The Ballad of Sang Revealed!
Oni Press Announces its First Emerald City Exclusive Cover
Ed Brisson’s The Ballad of Sang issue #1 will feature an Emerald City Comic Con (ECCC) variant by Declan Shalvey (Savage Town, Moon Knight). ECCC is in Seattle, WA, from March 1-4 at the Washington State Convention Center. Both Ed Brisson and Declan Shalvey will be signing at the Oni Press booth #216, Friday, March 2 from 11am-12pm, and Saturday, March 3 from 1-2pm.
Kidnapped off the streets of the Philippines as an infant and trained as a child assassin, Sang has never had a childhood. All he’s ever known is killing and the kindness of his master, Chen, the closest thing Sang has to a father. When Sang’s enthusiasm botches a job, it brings the wrath of Don Minchella down on the pair, resulting in Chen’s murder. Barely escaping with his own life—and with Minchella’s severed arm in tow—Sang swears revenge, while every gang in the city mobilizes to return him to Minchella, dead or alive.
A propulsive blend of mature audience violence, humor, and pathos, The Ballad of Sang is for fans of cult Asian cinema such as the films of Takashi Miike and Park Chan-wook, and of comics such as Deadly Class, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Hit-Girl.
Ed Brisson is a famed creator whose career began with his self-published crime series, Murder Book, which led him to publish Comeback with Image Comics in 2012 and subsequent success with four more Image series: Sheltered, The Field, The Mantle, and The Violent. The Ballad of Sang is Ed Brisson’s first Oni Press publication.
In The Ballad of Sang, Brisson joins Italian artist Alessandro Micelli and colorist Shari Chankhamma (Ghost Station Zero, The Fuse) for the new action/adventure series. The Ballad of Sang is Micelli’s debut the in American comics market.
“The Ballad of Sang is a story I’ve been wanting to do for YEARS. Back in 2010, I’d be telling my writer friends about it while acting out scenes,” said Ed Brisson. “It’s something that sat for years, percolating until I could find the PERFECT artist for it, which I eventually found in Alessandro Micelli. It’s a project I’m very excited about that touches on my love of cult cinema and the trashy VHS treasures of my youth. So strap in and prepare for a high-octane, balls-to-the-wall story of revenge, love, gangsters, missing arms and all-out violence!”
Cover artist Declan Shalvey is best known for Hero Killers, the Eagle Award-winning superhero comic, his graphic novel adaptations of horror tales like Frankenstein and Sweeney Todd, and Marvel’s Moon Knight with Warren Ellis.
“I’ve been a big fan of Ed’s for many years, so The Ballad of Sang was a no-brainer for me,” said Declan Shalvey. “I really liked Alessandro’s design, too, so with the cover, I wanted to concentrate on the red bird on Sang’s jacket because it’s a symbol that cuts through—just like his character.”
The Ballad of Sang is slated for release March 7, 2018.
Publisher – Oni Press
PopCultHQ has had a very productive 2017. Even though the year isn’t (officially) over, we are looking at our Top 10’s on everything over the last twelve months. Yesterday, we looked at the Top 10 Comic Book Coverage Articles, and today we are looking at our Top 10 Convention Coverage Articles.
Of course, our top convention related article, and actually our top article overall, is the Convention List but we are going to exclude that from the actual count.
In response to so many failed conventions, we try to give you a few tips to look for so you can avoid working at, vending, or possibly even attending, the “con job” conventions.
Every year there is more than one convention that falls flat on its face and PopCultHQ covers a few of them. Some of these cons are truly con jobs, just as the Cosplay Con & Anime Experience turned out to be.
#1 – Michael Rooker Looks For an “Absolute, Most Gorgeous Jiggly Butt” at Wizard World Sacramento 2017
Michael Rooker had a great time playing with the sign language interpreter during his panel at Wizard World in Sacramento and our writer May was there to catch it.
Be sure to stay tuned the rest of the week as we continue to cover our Top 10’s!
While covering Emerald City Comicon 2017 (ECCC), PopCultHQ had the fortunate opportunity to meet up with Team AfterShock. Representing the two-year old publishing company at this year’s event was Lee Kramer, Joe Pruett, Mike Marts, Lisa Wu, and Stephan Nilson. One thing I mentioned to everyone on hand was my desire to give readers, fans, and future AfterShock Army members, a look at the people behind the scenes of indie publishers. You already 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 AfterShock’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. The crew at AfterShock Comics was more than willing and happy to oblige, so that’s pretty sweet in itself. 😉
Our “Get to Know AfterShock Comics” Spotlight continues as we share with you the people behind the publisher. Next up is President Lee Kramer. The AfterShock website describes Lee as follows,
Lee Kramer, President and Co-Founder of AfterShock Comics, is a film production and development executive who has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Lee was the head Story Analyst at Endeavor, and worked with producer Cathy Schulman, who produced the Academy Award winning film Crash and The Illusionist.. Lee has also served as a development and production executive at Mandalay Pictures, and has produced several television shows for HBO.
Had a fantastic phone interview with Lee and am excited to share with you our conversation about the co-founder and his role with the company. Hear the humble president as he talks about his fellow co-workers, the company’s pursuit of original and unique ideas, and the relationships built with the creators at AfterShock Comics.
*** Sincere apology to Lee and AfterShock Comics for not getting this interview out earlier.
Better late than never, maybe?
PopCultHQ: Lee, you’re the President at AfterShock Comics. What exactly is your role and what does that job entail? What are your day-to-day operations? Basically, what is it that you do?
Lee Kramer: I don’t know if many people know but the way it works as president, I was the one who introduced everybody. I knew Joe for years, we tried to build a company before and came very close two different times. I come from film and television and somebody not from film/tv but with money was interested in coming up with an idea on how to on develop ideas. So I said, “Great! You want to lose a lot of money?” Developing ideas in film and tv, maybe 3-5 get made, so I said, “Why don’t we create comics?” because it’s a good intellectual property and comics are how I actually learned to read as a child. I was like, “If the stories are good, they’ll transfer effortlessly to different mediums like film, television, or video games. but it’s a great incubator for comics and I know the right people to actually create a comic book company.
What I do on the day-to-day is there are three of us on the creative side: me, Mike Marts (Editor-in-Chief) and Joe Pruett (Chief Creative Officer). The three of us go through all the pitches, decide which ones we’re doing, then we talk with the creators and give them notes on the pitches, ask for outlines, do [story] arcs with them, we develop entirely with them. Then Mike is the editor for all the books. For other IP rights, I sell them for film and television and so forth.
But most of it is doing notes and reading. And finding new writers. We bring in writers from all walks of life. A current book, PESTILENCE which Frank Tieri wrote for us…that was an interesting thing. That came from an idea of a colleague of mine in film/tv and we do some things called “reverse engineering,” so that was an idea, and Frank liked the idea enough that we got him to develop it for a comic book. It’s slightly different then what we have typically done. I also have option properties, which we’ll develop into a comic book first, be it short stories or articles. So I basically talk to writers all day, do notes, and read a lot. So that’s most of the day-to-day. And then I have to sell our ideas.
PopCultHQ: And you’re very active in appearing at conventions and showing up at different events, aren’t you?
Lee: Yeah, well look…we don’t really talk about film and television. There’ll be stuff announced soon because to be honest, it’s all about telling good stories. Nobody cares who I am in the comic book world.
PopCultHQ: Oh, come on now, Lee. I highly doubt that.
Lee: The fans, they care about Joe and Mike and Zagari and Lisa. And they should. They’re the face…I’m in the background. I may be the President. I may be attached to everything but those are the people comic fans can relate to.
I actually don’t like talking much about film and television. When things get made, that’s fine. Options and stuff are very easy to do, but they’re not real. You need something to get made because we’re creators and where we would make money is when something gets made and there’s a purchase price and a producer fee…Something gets optioned, that’s great! That’s fantastic! But to be honest, unless it’s getting made, it doesn’t really matter. It’s great for publicity, but we won’t publicize something unless it’s bigger.
PopCultHQ: So do you find you like being that person behind-the-scenes, don’t really need your face on everything, just making moves and things happen?
Lee: Yeah. You know, I’m not on any social media whatsoever. AfterShock is, and I believe in social media. I think it’s a great way to get information quickly. Me, personally, I’m not that kind of person. I kinda talk to who I want to talk to. I have my friends…Everybody doesn’t need to see your life. So for me, I’m more than happy to [work in the background]. I like that people know I’m a part of the creative process. That’s great. But the most important thing is the stories. As long as people are happy, and I think people have been, once they read the book and take the chance and buy the book…That makes me proud. That we’re putting our good art. That would putting out good stories overall. Look, I’m President of the company, it’s a great title, but they need to know who Mike Marts and Joe Pruett, Mike Zagari and Lisa Wu are…
PopCultHQ: Well, we’re working on it. I’m definitely making the rounds. So speaking about all those people, and the people that you work with…you guys have such a great chemistry. There’s this great atmosphere around you all, especially at live events…It was almost contagious how it got fans excited and was a fun experience. Would you say that atmosphere is important to who AfterShock is?
Lee: We have a great crew of people and that usually happens when the people hiring people are pretty well-spoken, and polite, and like each other. But the thing is, creatively, marketing, and all things, we really are all comic fans. And we kinda like similar things and so forth. By the way, it’s good and it will happen in the future where we have different ideas coming around and so forth. But right now we seem to be really dark except SUPERZERO which is our most playful title, by Amanda [Conner] and Jimmy [Palmiotti]…We’re actually open to any kind of great story. We’re actually going to do like a teen romance series. But so far, from the pitches and ideas we’ve received, they have bit darker. I think we have a little bit of inclination of the more adult stuff, but we’re definitely open.
Getting back to your question. You know, me and Jon [Kramer] may be the film and television guys, but we really are comic fans. I really did learn to read from Spider-Man. I went to my same comic book store every Wednesday for years…So we may not come from the comic business rather film and tv, but we’re fans just like everybody else. And I think all of us understand the fans and the retailers are everything. They’re the ones. We all need to support each other. It’s kind of like a comic family. Until recently, I think reading comic books was kinda looked at as nerdy, which is not a problem. I’m more than happy to be a nerd. With other mediums, it’s made it cooler for new readers, new people exploring new ideas, and join in. I think it’s great that AfterShock came in and joined at that time. But I think that we’re able to relate to everybody because, I know that I’ve gotten books obsessively month after month for years.
PopCultHQ: But you and I came from a time when you could go to the local mini-mart and they’d have spinner racks, where they just don’t have those now.
Lee: Yeah. And you remember even 7-11’s used to have them. Newsstands, yeah!
PopCultHQ: Even some of the larger grocery stores would have them with their magazines.
Lee: With Mad Magazine and everything. Yeah. Everything was in there. The publishing world, unfortunately, has died quite a bit. The thing that’s strong is that people want to collect and to hold. Look, digital is fantastic. I love digital. But to be honest, I like to have a nice book on my coffee table. Storage is a different thing.
PopCultHQ: I’m right there with you. I love digital, but I still buy them in print. There’s something about holding it, experiencing the page-turning, the art on the pages.
Lee: You know what I like digital for? When somebody says, “Oh there’s a cool writer…” There are two things I like about it: One, it’s instant access for me to read. And two, I get to give back. I’m buying from somebody else. I really believe that’s necessary. I think it’s exciting when there’s more companies, more books out. Obviously it’s competition but that’s how this business will grow. People have to remember that. You can’t have fewer and fewer companies. Everybody should be supportive. Everyone’s doing something different, that’s the other cool thing, I think.
PopCultHQ: Yeah a lot of publishers have carved out their own niche. But with AfterShock, it’s not so easily defined.
Lee: Jason, I can define something for you…we’re about original ideas. Right now it’s currently all creator-owned, it’s original ideas. And it’s ideas we think others will enjoy that we enjoy. But you’re totally right, There are some niches. Our niche is finding unique stories that should be told.
PopCultHQ: And showcasing talent.
Lee: Yeah, of course. That’s part of it, but we’re hoping we will start showcasing up-and-coming and newer talent, or talent-known but never having doing much creator-owned before.
PopCultHQ: You guys have had a lot of success in not only attracting great creators but getting them to come back and returning, like Adam Glass with the second arc in ROUGH RIDERS…
Lee: And THE NORMALS.
PopCultHQ: Yes! THE NORMALS, right. And Phil Hester has a couple of titles, Marguerite Bennett with INSEXTS, ANIMOSITY, and ANIMOSITY: THE RISE upping to a three-issue. Do you have any plans of revisiting or bringing back any series that has ended? Could we see another story arc from REPLICA or THE REVISIONIST, of course I’d love to see JACKPOT! continue, though I don’t know if Ray Fawkes is up for it.
Lee: Yeah, well first, all of those stories are open to be revisited…There’s definitely possibilities in the future. Some of this was we needed to figure out what the retailers wanted and what the fans wanted. We love all those books, like JACKPOT! for example. There are several arcs planned out. I don’t know when that will happen but Ray definitely loves the book. And REPLICA, the original idea was for Paul [Jenkins], he could do up to fifty books for each clone. And SUPERZERO, luckily Amanda and Jimmy are still so wanted, I believe Amanda signed an exclusive with DC Comics, but we’re allowed to revisit in the future. Those are books we really love.
PopCultHQ: Do you have any current, or soon-to-be, plans to partner with anyone in the comic book industry like you have with CBCS?
Lee: Well CBCS, they’re our grading choice for as far as I can see. Stephan Nilson, he’s a great, great contributor. I’ve known Stephan and Joe the longest, I’d say going on about eight years now, maybe almost ten years now that I think about it. Stephan has a really great relationship with CBCS, that’s why AfterShock has a relationship with them. They’ve been nothing but fantastic with us. It’s just really nice to work with reliable people. I’m sure the other grading companies are great. We’ve dealt with them for years. But I know every book we’ve sold, the way they handle the books and place it in there, there’s no additional damage. And they’re very high quality. They’ve just been great.
I’m sure we’ll find other partnerships, but it has to be…I know this is going to sound cliché but we really believe in putting out quality product for the retailers and fans. With CBCS, we know for sure that’s happening….
PopCultHQ: And you guys have killer prices on your eStore on your website for these slabs! I mean some 9.8s for $40 or $50 (even signed!) is a drop in the hat, really.
Lee: Jason, you should tell everybody that we’re a new company and we’re too low so they should buy now! (laughs)
PopCultHQ: Oh I definitely will. I’ve looked at the eStore a few times, but I really noticed it at ECCC when you had the slabs for sale at your booth. I was just shocked by the prices on them all.
Lee: Yeah, and the PESTILENCE and WORLD READER variants are blowing up so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. It’s kind of been shocking with that stuff . The speculation market has definitely started to creep in. The company that’s really known for that is Image.
PopCultHQ: Uh yeah. I mean, how many of their number ones were big sellers but issue two numbers dropped off? Which actually is sad to hear.
Lee: We’re definitely starting to see that and feel that, be it WORLD READER or PESTILENCE. ANIMOSITY was probably the first book where we felt that. And JIMMY’S BASTARDS are getting in that. When you have two weeks left of FOC (Final Order Cutoff), you just know that people want to collect them. There’s a lot of great variants that we’re doing with multiple retailers. It’s tons of fun!
PopCultHQ: Oh sure, I know of some I’ve really enjoyed like the variants with Blindbox.
Lee: Yeah, now those are cool! Blindbox is a cool company.
PopCultHQ: Loved the Charlotte’s Web variant.
Lee: And an Animal Farm-looking one. Blindbox has done some cool variants with us.
PopCultHQ: If there’s one thing that you hope that any new reader, new fan, or collector/soon-to-be collector of AfterShock Comics titles take away from the overall product you present, what would that be?
Lee: That whenever they pick up a book…there’s something for everybody. Universally, the quality of the stories and the quality of the art is top-notch. There’s really something for everybody. When you look at our line, you’d be hard-pressed to say there isn’t at least one book…for a new company, we kind of have every genre or melding of genres. When you look at one of our earliest books, INSEXTS by Marguerite Bennett, which is one of our favorite books…
PopCultHQ: And longest running, isn’t it?
Lee: Yeah, I think it’s about to do issue twelve. Speaking of genres, it’s a supernatural, erotic horror set in the Victorian period. I’d be hard-pressed to find another one [like it]. And it’s a love story. That’s what’s great is there’s something for everybody and the art is beautiful. It’s really about the unique stories and the quality of the books. If you’re looking for something new to read, I bet there’s at least one, if not multiple books of our current line that people would enjoy. People just have to take the risk , and luckily it’s a risk with a lot of comic creators that everybody’s read before. We do have plenty of up-and-comings. Like when we got Donny [Cates]…
PopCultHQ: The timing of his launch with you couldn’t be any better. He’s a hot writer right now.
Lee: It’s so funny with Donny. Donny had been pitching us for about a year. There were three or four ideas we liked. We were reading some of his Dark Horse books to see what his scripts are like and so forth. We were like, “These are almost there. You need to keep going.” And then he found us at New York (NYCC) and we sat down with him in New York…
PopCultHQ: So just this last year? Last October’s NYCC?
Lee: Yeah, last October. Just before GOD COUNTRY came out. He was telling us about GOD COUNTRY. I pitched him an idea and he really dug the idea. He then sent Mike and I, I think it was the first three issues in December, before it came out. We read them and we said, “If you want to do this one we’re talking about, we’d love for you to come on.” The day he was signing that contract, he sent us a one-page pitch for BABYTEETH and we bought it on-the-spot because we thought it was so good. You have to remember that no numbers were out, nothing was going on, it was just based off his passion, his writing ability to be honest. We were shocked at how unique his ideas were. In reading these scripts, it was evident to us. We had no idea what was going to happen. But when GOD COUNTRY came out, it blew up and we were like, “Well, we thought it was amazing.” We thought a lot of these ideas were beyond unique. It was really lucky timing. Hopefully that happens again, but there aren’t many writers like Donny or Marguerite.
PopCultHQ: From what I’ve seen with writers like Donny or Marguerite is that they come onto AfterShock and have that freedom of creator-owned, they can get a little wild with their ideas that perhaps with other publishers they’re a little more restrictive with what they can put out.
Lee: We bought ANIMOSITY at the dinner table. ANIMOSITY is much deeper, I believe, than most people give it credit for, in turns of the ethical, social, cultural, inter-species implications. It’s very, very deep on multiple levels. It’s just the concept is so high-concept, people latch onto it quickly. So you have to be able to execute, and with Donny he’s proven just that. In his own way, but kind of in a Garth Ennis way. I mean, they’re totally different writers, but I think that sometimes Garth gets away with things. With JIMMY’S BASTARDS, he’s going to get away with a lot because he’s Garth. Donny is going to be able to do that as well. They are totally different writers in some ways, besides they’re willing to tell a story and show gore and mayhem and so forth, but that’s not really what they’re talking about. There are greater implications…It’s interesting to find these writers and they kind of found us too.
A very special thanks to Lee Kramer for taking the time out to speak with us.
Great conversationalist and a great guy overall!
If you would like to keep up on what Lee and AfterShock are up to,
be sure to follow online and social media. Links can be found below…
And be sure to check out our previous “Get to Know AfterShock Comics” interviews:
T H E ~ C R E A T I V E ~ R E V O L U T I O N ~ S T A R T S ~ H E R E !
While covering Emerald City Comicon 2017 (ECCC), PopCultHQ had the fortunate opportunity to meet up with Team AfterShock. Representing the near two-year old publishing company at this year’s event was Lee Kramer, Joe Pruett, Mike Marts, Lisa Wu, and Stephan Nilson. One thing I mentioned to everyone on hand was my desire to give readers, fans, and future AfterShock Army members, a look at the people behind the scenes of indie publishers. You already 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 AfterShock’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. The crew at AfterShock Comics was more than willing and happy to oblige, so that’s pretty dope in itself.
One of our interviews was with the man himself Mike Marts. As Editor-in-Chief of this fast-rising publishing company, I was determined to meet and interview Mike and pick his brain a bit. With over 20 years in the industry, and having worked as Editor for both Marvel Comics and DC Comics, Marts brought a lot of experience and know-how to AfterShock Comics and their focus on creator-owned series over licensed ones. To quote from AfterShock’s website regarding Marts, “…is a seasoned insider with over twenty years of experience in the comic book and entertainment business. He has edited some of the most critically acclaimed and highest-selling series of the last two decades, and has spearheaded several of the industry’s most popular franchises including Batman, the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy. With long tenures at both Marvel Entertainment and DC Comics, Mike brings along an extensive history of dynamic storytelling and universe building.”
Here is PopCultHQ’s interview with a man I admire greatly and respect for his contributions to the comic book industry over the last couple of decades, as well as the big things he’s been doing the last two years with the indie publisher. Plus he gets to hang out with some pretty sweet people at AfterShock and in the business, so there’s that. 😉
PopCultHQ: You’ve had quite the career in the comic book industry. What was it that made you want to be a part of AfterShock Comics?
Mike Marts: I’ve always preferred to surround myself with like-minded individuals. People who shared a vision, who shared a common way of telling a story, just people that I could really relate to. I did that throughout my career and you end up with a creative family of sorts. When I came to AfterShock, I certainly wanted to continue that trend of working with that same great group of people. Joe Pruett, our Publisher, employed that same strategy so together the two of us brought our creative families to this one new, single company and merged them. I think that what you have is a great combination of different types of talent; different types of writers, artists, and creators all working together. Of course, once one project cycles out, why wouldn’t you want to keep working with the same type of people? That’s why we have encore projects from Marguerite Bennett, Garth Ennis, Justin Jordan will have another one…so we like to grow our family, but we also like to keep it in the family.
PCHQ: Like also with Phil Hester with BLOOD BLISTER and SHIPWRECK…
Marts: Yes. Exactly.
PCHQ: So it’s an almost combined agreement as to the atmosphere [at AfterShock]? You sort of established the kind of environment you want to work in. Every one on the same page and confidence in your team. Is that right?
Marts: Yeah, a lot of it is that. You know, we have certain guidelines and foundations that AfterShock is built on. Once we had those as the foundations, we could really let the different creators spread their wings and we can allow them to really do their own thing, and to tell their story the way they want to tell their story.
PCHQ: So as the Editor at AfterShock, you essentially work with every creator. Am I correct in assuming that?
Marts: Yep! Correct.
PCHQ: Do you ever run into situations where, and you may have prior to Aftershock I’m sure, do you ever run into language barriers with creators? You work with creators all across the country, you want to put a great package together, great talent together, but sometimes that has obstacles, such as translating or even sending something back for edits because they didn’t quite grasp maybe what the writer was trying to convey. Has that ever happened with you or is it something you encounter?
Marts: I think it’s happened a bit in the past but as years have gone on, and the global reach of comic books has expanded, you come across that problem less and less. A lot of it has to do with the fact that “comics” is its own language. Everyone who works in this medium, speaks that language. We’re able to communicate that way. Like you said, we have artists all over the country but we also have creators all over the world. There’s no travel ban at AfterShock Comics. We’re looking to…wherever the best artist is; sometimes we find that in the States, other times it’s in Brazil, Poland, Turkey. There’s a lot of different places where we find our artists.
PCHQ: You’re one of the co-founder at AfterShock. There were five of you who came together, is that right?
Marts: Yeah. We refer to ourselves as partners. There are five of us: Myself, Publisher Joe Pruett, who is also our Chief Creative Officer, our President Lee Kramer, our Chief Executive Officer Jon Kramer, and our Vice President in charge of investment relations Jawad Qureshi. Some of the best guys to work with in the world.
PCHQ: How did you guys come together? What made you all just up and say, “Let’s do it!”
Marts: The connection was with Lee Kramer and Joe Pruett. Some years ago, they had become friendly because Lee was interested in optioning one of Joe’s comics that he had written. So the two of them started talking and they found out that they were like-minded individuals and shared some creative visions. Back then, they had talked about forming a company. This was a few years ago. And that version of the company never came to be but flash-forward a few years later, they got back together and talking about it and they assembled the team.
PCHQ: And here you are! Two years and you’re a hot publisher fast on the rise. Thank you for your time Mike. Excited about all you’re doing with AfterShock!
Marts: You bet. Thank you.
A very special thanks to Mike Marts for taking the time out to speak with us at ECCC 2017. I’ll certainly be looking forward to connecting with him again for a follow-up interview. There’s a lot more I want to ask, but to be honest I think while I was at ECCC, I was fanboying out a little internally and spaced on a few things I wanted to ask. Another day, another time perhaps.
Mad respect for Marts!
If you would like to keep up on what Mike and AfterShock are up to,
be sure to follow online and social media. Links can be found below…
Editor-in-Chief/Co-Founder – Mike Marts
T H E ~ C R E A T I V E ~ R E V O L U T I O N ~ S T A R T S ~ H E R E !
While covering Emerald City Comicon 2017 (ECCC), PopCultHQ had the fortunate opportunity to meet up with Team AfterShock. Representing the near two-year old publishing company at this year’s event was Lee Kramer, Joe Pruett, Mike Marts, Lisa Wu, and Stephan Nilson. One thing I mentioned to everyone on hand was my desire to give readers, fans, and future AfterShock Army members, a look at the people behind the scenes of indie publishers. 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 AfterShock’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. The crew at AfterShock Comics was more than willing and happy to oblige, so that’s pretty dope in itself.
One of our interviews was with Lisa Y. Wu, who had been promoted to Retailer/Fan Relations Manager just a few days prior to the event. Her role involves promoting through the publisher’s various social media outlets. Her role also involves engaging with the creators, the retailers, and the fans. From organizing in-store events and signings, to working with retailers to ensure their needs are net, even interacting with fans online or in person, Lisa has shown (and proven) herself to be the epitome of what it means to be an outgoing people-person and a model of customer service excellence.
Upon transcribing my audio interview with Lisa, I realized how much of a moron I sounded so if that comes across in the interview, just shake your head and think to yourself, “Dumbass,” and just keep reading. Lisa’s stuff is good. I promise.
Lisa Wu: Thank you! I am the Retailer/Fan Relations Manager.
PCHQ: Awesome. So what exactly does that role with the company entail?
Wu: I work with the creators and talk to the retailers about their books. I get to read their scripts, talk to the creators, how they want to market it, how they want to present the book to the retailers and the fans. I work on almost like customer service. On social media…I still run the social media, so Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram. When people message me, I message them back right away. We want to make sure to always be accessible to the fans and the retailers. Whatever they need, we’re here for them. We don’t want them to have to wait a day or to be confused or wait. We want to respond as soon as we can. Usually I’m on social media, which is probably the best way to contact me because I’m on there 24/7 and I’ve got the alert on. So the only time I not on social media is probably when I sleep. <laughs> I’m on there all the time.
PCHQ: I completely understand, I get up at 2am every morning myself. And you’re out on the east coast, correct?
Wu: Yeah, if I wake up, I check my Twitter.
PCHQ: Yeah I’ve noticed often on social media you “Like” or “Share” something online and then almost immediately AfterShock does, so I kinda made that connection.
Wu: Oh yeah <chuckles>. I [also] do retailer calls. I make sure that they understand what’s coming out, if they need anything, store variants or whatever, forward them over to the team.
PCHQ: Sort of the middle person between AfterShock and the retailers and fans. You’re forming that partnership or relationship?
Wu: Yes! Absolutely.
PCHQ: Wonderful. So what’s it been like, how has it been working with AfterShock? In about two years time, you’ve just blown up with such amazing creators, books that have taken off in such a short amount of time. There are publishers [who have been around longer] that don’t seem to have the recognition that your name has already brought.
Wu: Well, we have great people on our team. We’re all comic book fans and most have worked in the industry over 20 years. Not me, I wasn’t lucky enough to do that. Joe Pruett, the guy who actually found me on Facebook, he offered me a job. He’s been in comics for over 25 years, which is the same for Mike Marts, so they know a lot of people that they’ve worked with. Everybody we work with are friends with us. We’re friends with these guys first, so we already have that working relationship and that they trust us. That’s the main thing with creator-owned comics is they need to have a publisher that they trust. For example, David Hine. He did Second Sight for us and he was holding on to that story for over 20 years. He brought it to other publishers and stuff like that, but he [ultimately] brought it to us to finally, actually publish it. That’s a great honor, I think. We have these amazing creators that want to bring their most precious ideas to us.
PCHQ: Even multiple ones.
Wu: Yes, multiple ones!
Wu: …like Garth Ennis. Yeah.
PCHQ: Yes. And Adam [Glass]…it’s like everyone is feeling the AfterShock!
Wu: Yeah, definitely. The team is just amazing. We’re all family and we treat our creators like family.
PCHQ: So that’s very important to you guys is to have that personal connection?
Wu: Yeah, absolutely. Whatever they need, we’re here for them. We really take care of our creators like family, without dysfunction. <laughs>
Wu: And it’s amazing because like immediately with these guys, I feel like they’re my second family. The fact that I feel this week makes me pretty sure everyone else feels as well.
PCHQ: That’s what I have noticed so far too.
Wu: And I think that’s why we’ve taken off so much. Because we take care of each other, we all work very hard. I mean, these are stories that we all love. Love, love, love. So we won’t publish anything that we wouldn’t, as fans, enjoy.
PCHQ: That’s great! Backing up just a bit. So when Joe found you on Facebook, was it your activity on there or across social media?
Wu: Yeah! Somehow we became Facebook friends through mutual Facebook friends, I guess. Apparently I kept popping up on his feed. And he was like, “This girl knows her social media stuff!” So he messaged me, we started talking, and within less than a month I was flying to Atlanta to meet him, see the offices there, meet Paul Jenkins, Brian Stelfreeze, things like that. All of these greats that…a lot of people are like die-hard fans of them and I was lucky enough to meet in person. These are rock stars, gods, that people in my town would never imagine to meet let alone have their phone numbers to talk to and joke around with, so it was a big deal.
PCHQ: So do you still have moments…where you fangirl out?
Wu: I don’t usually fangirl out when I meet them initially because I don’t know who they are. What I mean is that with the creators, you never see their face. That’s why I’m so happy that all of our comics have the faces of the creators [inside] so that people can recognize them. This way they’re not just names on a page, they’re actual people. So I don’t fangirl so much because I might have already talked with them on Twitter of Facebook. They’re just like regular people.
PCHQ: Totally get that.
Wu: Yeah. You know I have passed by Stan Lee. But if I ever met him or got to talk to him, or sit around and have a beer with him? Yeah. Sometimes I’m almost shocked that I can go to the hotel room and hang out with Garth Ennis and some other people and just drink a beer. It’s just amazing.
PCHQ: It’s a little surreal.
Wu: It is. It really is.
PCHQ: That’s wonderful. Let me ask, what is it that you love about Emerald City Comicon?
Wu: The fans. I love fangoers that recognize AfterShock. But I also get excited by the people who just walk by our booth, just looking around, and I just say “Hello” to them. I start talking with them and they get excited about our books, you know because I’m so excited about it. I tell them about our amazing series and then they’re like, “Ooh, I want to get it!”
PCHQ: So people who weren’t aware, or familiar with AfterShock?
Wu: Yeah, they had never heard of AfterShock before and they were just walking by. I think that’s what I’m most excited about all the cons I go to. When people just walk by, they glance, I say hello, they come to the table and give us a chance. Then they go off excited about AfterShock. Like today, because I run social media, these two people came by and I talked to them about the books and they immediately liked AfterShock on Facebook and also on Twitter, and I’m like, “Yes!” Then they bought two of our books, Black Eyed Kids and Animosity, so that was pretty cool!
PCHQ: I would imagine you’ve invested the time to understand the dynamics and intricacies of social media, different platforms, and how to optimize each. Do you find you have different strategies when using different social media networks in how you promote?
Wu: Yeah, absolutely. Every type of social media is a little different, the audience is different. Facebook is more business-like. I love to get people engaged as much as possible, so I love it when people comment on our page and I’ll ‘Like’ it or comment back. I love talking to our fans. Twitter is a great place where we can let our humor, the fun side of AfterShock kind of shine a little bit more, become more engaged with our audience, joke around.
PCHQ: So there, it’s not so much “business”?
Wu: Yeah, it’s letting people know who we are, which I think is very important. Yesterday I tweeted out or posted on Facebook a picture of us just goofing around at the booth. I want people to know that, yeah we know all of these famous creators and we do all this stuff like make books, but we still have fun, goof around, we’re still fanboy/fangirl.
A very special thanks to Lisa for taking the time out to speak with us at ECCC 2017.
If you would like to keep up on Lisa’s announcements for AfterShock and all things The Wu Report, be sure to follow her online and social media. Links can be found below.
Be sure to watch for PopCultHQ’s next “Get to Know AfterShock Comics” interview conducted at ECCC 2017 with Editor-in-Chief Mike Marts!
AfterShock Comics’ Retailer/Fan Relations Manager – Lisa Y. Wu
T H E ~ C R E A T I V E ~ R E V O L U T I O N ~ S T A R T S ~ H E R E !
PopCultHQ was fortunate to be on hand to cover the 15th Annual Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, WA. One of the highlights for us was the number of remarkable individuals in the comic book industry who were willing to take time out to speak with us. On Friday, we made our way up to the sixth floor of the Washington State Convention Center, where ECCC held their Artist Alley, to interview a writer/artist who seems almost omnipresent in the comic book world today with titles out by multiple publishers…Matt Kindt.
Kindt had a number of signing appearances during his time at ECCC at Valiant Entertainment‘s booth on the fourth floor, given the much-anticipated release of the new X-O Manowar series which he’s writing. But when I discovered I would be meeting him for an interview up in Artist Alley, I thought I’d take a step back from what I’m sure had been a flurry of questions regarding the new volume of X-O and discuss other areas pertaining to him and the comic book industry. What I accidentally stumbled upon was nothing short of remarkable. I met, spoke with, and listened to such a genuine individual, humble and gracious, and a man who is incredibly altruistic. His thoughts and concerns for others, including his wife, seemed to supersede anything else. It was extremely admirable to see someone of Kindt’s caliber to remain so grounded and see everyone as equals. Definitely shed some important light for me pertaining to his character. I’ll certainly be reading, or rereading, his work keeping that humility in mind.
So let us begin! Hear the New York Times Best-Selling writer and artist talk about collaborating with his wife Sharlene, listen as we briefly touch on the new X-O Manowar series he’s involved with at Valiant, and get a more in-depth look at his compassion and caring for those in the comic book industry!
PopCultHQ: Thanks for meeting with us. Welcome to Seattle. This isn’t your first time here, is it?
Matt Kindt: I’ve been here maybe five times. I love it.
PCHQ: Cool. What do you think of ECCC so far this year, being their 15th anniversary?
It’s great. The way they did Artist Alley and the way the put us all up here is a nice layout. Yeah, it’s fun.
PCHQ: I’ve heard that from other people here, as well. Let’s talk X-O Manowar. I know that’s been in production for a while. There’s been a huge promotional push by Valiant. How far along are you in this project? Or how long are you committed to this project?
MK: About a year. A year is pretty much done. There’s probably another half year after that, we have a good idea of what’s going to happen. Still mapping it out in getting there. I like to work ahead, you know and plant seeds. There’s something in issue one of X-O Manowar that’s going to pay off probably in issue twelve.
MK: Yeah. The only way to really do that is to plan ahead for a year.
PCHQ: Sure, so what you’re saying is anything now which we’re about to see in X-O Manowar #1…what happens early on can definitely have an impact later on in the series?
MK: Yeah, definitely. I mean, it works as you’re reading it, but then there’ll be things later on and you’ll go, “Oh!” and hopefully make you want to go back and reread something.
PCHQ: Like with the continuity and how earlier moments now make more sense?
MK: Yes, exactly.
PCHQ: Something I find interesting is that you also work with your wife. You two collaborate, right?
MK: Yeah, my wife is the colorist on Dept. H. So I do the writing and the art and she paints it.
PCHQ: I’m really curious about that dynamic in working together. You don’t meet a lot of couples in this industry who collaborate. So I was intrigued and wondered how that works exactly, the work environment or situation? Do you have to turn off the personal component and switch on the business side? Or how does that work for you?
MK: The weird thing about comics is it’s such a hard industry to do for a living, for a long period of time. We’ve been working together, maybe not publicly, but supporting each other. She’s been helping me with comics since I’ve been doing it, you know. She’s finally creatively involved, which I’m glad because it puts her name on the cover and people can she what she really contributes. I always tell people that we have a 13-year old daughter and we collaborated on that and she turned out great. So this is easy. If you can raise a kid, comics is not a problem.
PCHQ: Totally agree! That’s wonderful. Now something I’ve been asking around I’d like to ask. Is there something in the comic book industry right now that you struggle with, whether there’s some dynamic or a movement…something that rubs you the wrong way you wish was different? Or is there something you wished would be improved? Not necessarily, “I hate this” but rather “This is something I wish was better”?
MK: Hmm. That’s a good question. I don’t know. Honestly, I’m pretty insulated…I kind of do my own thing and I contribute to the [Comic Book] Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) to help anybody who needs it. I hope I never need it. But honestly, to me, the Hero Initiative is a big deal so I always have a bin out and collect for them. I think, just as a general rule, that comics is a hard industry. To do it for a lifetime, then to see these guys you grow up loving and you’re huge fans of and then they get older and they don’t have health insurance or they [encounter] a problem. That, to me, is important. I mean, I don’t want to be…I want to help those guys who inspired me when I was a kid and I also want…to hope to God that I’m never one of those people.
PCHQ: But at the same time, this is set up where they can help in case something did happen, something traumatic or unexpected.
MK: And yeah, that’s what I really love about the comic industry. It’s kind of small, everybody knows everybody. I feel, for the most part, we’re all kind of looking out for each other. When someone needs help, they’re going to have help.
PCHQ: So true. So for someone breaking into the indie comic book scene, it can be tough; trying to sign on with a publisher, Kickstarter campaigns, really anything to get going. What advice can you give? You’ve established yourself as such a recognizable name and brand from what you bring to your material. You’ve spent enough time working the processes [of creating and publishing] and worked with numerous publishers. There’s a lot of indie creators who are newcomers or trying to figure it all out.
MK: Sure, for sure.
PCHQ: What advice or tips can you give that may help them initially?
MK: The only advice I ever give is make your book. Finish it. Do it, get it produced first. Don’t worry about getting a publisher. You don’t need a publisher to start. You need a finished book to start, you know? If the book is good, it’ll find a market. You’ll find a publisher, you’ll find an audience. But if you only have 10 pages of script or a few pages of art, it’s not really going to do it. You need to learn by doing and actually finish a project. If you do that, you’ve proved that you can make comics, you taught yourself how to do it.
PCHQ: Those obstacles, you just have to work through them and grow from them.
MK: Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry about getting a publisher, worry about getting your book done. Then worry about a publisher.
PCHQ: So who are you currently reading, or who are you watching or think is a writer or artist to keep an eye on right now?
MK: (chuckling) Boy, I hate it when people ask me that, it’s just…
PCHQ: Yeah I know. there’s a lot of great talent out there.
MK: Yeah, I’m super excited about Brian Hurtt. Brian’s got a new series coming out called The Damned, so I’m excited about that. They did The Damned years ago and it was black and white, so they’re releasing it in color and there’s a whole new series coming out so I’m super excited about that.
PCHQ: In March here? End of this month?
PCHQ: Wonderful. Anything you’d like to close with or share with our readers?
MK: Just keep supporting the books. I appreciate it.
A very special thanks to Matt for taking his time out to speak with us at ECCC 2017.
If you would like to keep up on where Matt will be appearing this year,
be sure to follow him online and social media. Links can be found below…
Writer/Artist – Matt Kindt
Matt Kindt is the New York Times Best-Selling writer and artist of the comics and graphic novels Dept. H, Mind MGMT, Revolver, 3 Story, Super Spy, 2 Sisters, and Pistolwhip, as well as Justice League of America (DC), Spider-Man (Marvel), Unity, Ninjak, Rai, and Divinity (Valiant). He has been nominated for 4 Eisner and 6 Harvey Awards (and won once). His work has been published in French, Spanish, Italian, German and Korean.
Matt has been making comics all his life and has been doing it full-time as a “real” job since 2003. Seriously…he has the best job ever.
PopCultHQ was fortunate to be on hand to cover the 15th Annual Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, WA. One of the highlights for us was the number of remarkable individuals in the comic book industry who were willing to take time out to speak with us. On Friday, we returned to the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center for a series of interviews and found ourselves back at Valiant Comics‘ booth.
Prior to the show, we were fortunate to confirm interviews with some people at Valiant that are the backbone of the indie publisher. The second interview with the indie publishing company this time was with Valiant’s CEO and CCO Dinesh Shamdasani. One thing that you will find, if you haven’t already, is that Dinesh is very active on social media, not only tweeting about announcements but retweeting fans’ tweets. He’s also a member of some Valiant comic book groups on Facebook and regularly interacts and engages with the fans within. It’s quite admirable seeing someone in Dinesh’s position to make the time to stay connected with the readers, followers, and fans. And in case you were wondering, or happen to meet Dinesh at an upcoming con, before our interview he explained his surname is pronounced like “fake water”: sham-Dasani, coincidentally right after he offered and brought me a bottle of, yup, you guessed it, Dasani water. Thought that might be useful to someone out there.
So grab a refreshing beverage and sit back and hear what the Dinesh had to share regarding the return of titles not seen from Valiant in a while, listen as he discusses characters and titles from the Valiant Universe new and old, and find out what he loves about Emerald City Comicon!
PopCultHQ: I was talking with Warren [Simons] yesterday and we talked about the fact that 2016 was a huge year for you guys.
Dinesh Shamdasani: We had a good year.
PCHQ: Beside all the titles released, “The Future of Valiant,” as well as your new characters entering the Valiant Universe, you stepped outside and are doing things other publishers aren’t doing. Archer & Armstrong beer, Valiant emojis, I believe there was something early in the year with Midtown Comics…
DS: Yes, we did the Valiant Summit from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theatre in New York. We partnered with Midtown Comics and did a bunch of live events with them. We love doing those kinds of things.
PCHQ: Definitely. And that’s what’s great is seeing you guys break down the walls of what it means to be an indie publisher. It’s not just publishing comics, you’re stepping outside of that with things like the upcoming webseries NINJAK vs. THE VALIANT UNIVERSE. Is that already complete, as to filming?
DS: We’re halfway through shooting it. We just wrapped three. It’s going to be six episodes so we’ve got about halfway to go. Lot’s of good stuff though. We haven’t announced everything. That’s a fun part about my job. There are big stars in that show that don’t know what is going to be in the show.
PCHQ: What I do know, from last year’s New York Comic Con (NYCC) last year, is we met with Kevin Porter and Ciera Foster, so we knew they’re on board. Jason David Frank has been a follower of ours [our late founder interviewed JDF numerous times], so we’ve known that for a bit.
DS: Yeah, and he’s going to be here at the show!
PCHQ: I know! I’m definitely going to hit him up [during his signing appearances Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at Valiant’s booth].
DS: So yeah, we’re definitely looking forward to that.
PCHQ: So now with the webseries [in-production], do you have plans for more digital series, or are you waiting to see how that one goes and how fans respond?
DS: No, no, we’re being very aggressive about this. The impetus for us was, first we wanted to make sure we launched publishing correctly, we made sure that our brand was quality storytelling. We were just really focused on that. At the same time, television something we have been working on for a long time. We don’t want to rush that. We want to make sure it’s quality as well. Those are the two ends of the spectrum. In the middle, we wanted to make sure we were bringing in a larger audience, a more diverse demographic, and we took a look at where other publishers or other properties like Marvel, DC, Simpsons, Star Wars, et cetera, how they had evolved. What we found was that Saturday morning cartoons was a huge component to that. And Saturday morning cartoons don’t really exist anymore in the same way today. We found that audience all moved to digital. YouTube was where Saturday morning cartoons essentially exist today so we built the Valiant Universe to feed that crowd, to get them excited about our characters. That’s the first one that we’ve announced. We have a number of really exciting projects on that scale and larger that we’ll be announcing. They’re all being worked on at the moment. It is a division as busy as [any] division is at this point. So you’ll see it evolve to another leg…with them.
PCHQ: And I know that you’ve been planning 2018 for a while.
PCHQ: We had HARBINGER WARS 2 announced last year.
DS: On the publishing side? Absolutely. I’m trying to think of what I can even tease you with. Secret Weapons coming up this year. Psi-Lords. We have long-term plans with Ninjak. For Shadowman. We know what’s coming out of Harbinger Wars 2, where we’re going from there. We have long-tern plans for Secret Weapons. Warren and I are always nudging each other like, “Oh man, Eric’s idea for that other thing right after that, aww it’s going to be great!”
PCHQ: Is this your first time working with Eric [Heisserer]?
DS: No, Eric and I have been working together for a couple years now, can’t remember exactly how long. How we met Eric was that we brought him on board for the Bloodshot film. Eric’s a sweetheart, an incredibly talented writer. He wrote a script which we loved titled, “Story of Your Life,” which became Arrival. which one an Oscar this year. So we loved that script, we met him as we were developing Bloodshot. We had a script from the very talented Jeff Wadlow and we wanted to do more work on it and Jeff was directing at that point so we had a meeting with all the writers, and Eric came in and he was amazing, super collaborative, incredibly smart, and such a great writer and so we started working with him on that and we fell in love with him. We were developing Harbinger so we talked to him about that and he was amazing in Harbinger too. He’s written this incredible Harbinger story, my favorite Harbinger story of all time is actually the movie that we built for Eric, that Eric wrote for us. I’m very excited about that.
So the way movie development works is that you do rewrite after rewrite after rewrite because it’s a different kind of format than comic books because you have to get every single thing right the first time out in ninety minutes. There’s no room for error, there’s no catch it in the next issue, there’s no continuity gaps that you fix in the trade. It all has to be perfect, so there so much to get into that and very luckily for us is Eric fell in love with the characters. He had an idea for Livewire that we studied in the Harbinger film but we had to cut vast portions of it for space. My guess is that it sat like an itch in his brain and festered until he felt he had to come to us and say, “Hey, I want to write…for you. He pitched his story for Secret Weapons and I was blown away. He went to Warren, Warren was blown away. That’s how Eric has become involved.
PCHQ: Wonderful. And you guys are taking on a lot of new talent, such as B. Clay Moore with Savage.
PCHQ: Jody has been great with Faith. Speaking of Rafer Roberts, tell me we’re going to see Archer & Armstrong sometime in the foreseeable future.
DS: Absolutely! 100%, you’re going to see them in the Immortal Brothers: The Tale of the Green Knight, so they’re in that. They’re also in another love letter we’re doing. We’re doing a love letter to Rai #0 where we’re essentially telling…it’s a love letter to Rai #0 but it isn’t Rai #0. In that Rai #0 was everything that was happening today all the way to 4001 including all these new pieces the retro Bloodshot, H.A.R.D. Corps, we’re not doing that. We’re doing, “Here’s the Valiant Universe starting at the earliest period, the three brothers and the Boon, and working all the way up to 4001.” It’s the story of Rai in 4001 looking back and learning everything that’s gone on. We look at it as our love letter to Rai #0 but also hopefully an entry-point for new readers to come and in 22 pages learn what our Universe is like, why it’s so cool, and why we love it so much. Why it’s different.
PCHQ: Some of your new titles actually added almost like new new dynamics to the storylines and characters in the Valiant Universe. You look at Savage and think how is this going to tie-in or connect with, say, X-O [Manowar]. Or like Britannia for another one. I mean, we know Valiant is very methodical and strategic to what what they do so we know that there is more.
DS: There’s definitely plans. One of the perks, really one of the joys of the job that I have and Warren has and the rest of the team has, is not only do we get to build stories with these characters, but we get to build the Universe. Part of that is this big macro storytelling where we get to look at the Universe and say, “Hey, you know what we’re missing? We’re missing a character that is a Godlike character. Someone like Odin is to the Greek Pantheon Superman is to the DC books. If you’ve read Kingdom Come…
PCHQ: I’m a huge Alex Ross fan so I know Kingdom Come. 😉
DS: Yeah, he’s fantastic. So I’m sure you’ll remember the third act, the turn, comes when everyone’s fighting, everyone’s battling, so from a storytelling standpoint, the only organic way to shift that story into the third act without a character portraying, the characterization of them being out of character, is for a big force like Superman who can turn all these guys around, who can convince them to change. We didn’t have that kind of force in our Universe. When you think about it, beyond Divinity, there really isn’t a character who can do that. X-O is very powerful but he can’t turn up and shift the course of a story in that way. Bloodshot can’t. Ninjak can’t. So we set out to build that character for ourselves. In the same way, there’s certain structural designs we had that led us to building Savage, into building Britannia. I won’t tell you what they are yet because it’ll ruin the plans we have going forward but rest assured, much like Divinity, there are very specific plans that we have and goals that we have for those characters.
PCHQ: Plans for Gub Gub?
DS: I love Gub Gub.
PCHQ: Do you? I’m a big fan. When he and Archer had the body-swap was hilarious.
DS: Gub Gub’s a great character. We all love him. We don’t have any specific plans for him right now, but we will. We just wrapped A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong, we’ve got Armstrong being in a couple of different places including the Rai zero book, he’ll be in there. We do have plans for some of the other characters. We will get to Archer & Armstrong very soon but at the moment, no concrete plans.
PCHQ: That’s great. Let me ask…Emerald City Comicon in Seattle…
DS: Yes. Great show.
PCHQ: What is it about Emerald City Comicon that you like, or perhaps Valiant as a whole likes about ECCC?
DS: First of all, Reed [ReedPOP] is fantastic. They’re complete professionals and they run a fantastic show. They are so meticulous in building a show and curating it. That’s the first thing. Second thing is the crowd that comes to Emerald City is such a great crowd. I mean, the city has a great vibe, great personality, and we see that in the people that attend this convention. They’re huge comic fans and we’ve built a huge comic fan base here. It’s the start of the convention year, so we kickoff at Emerald City.
PCHQ: Anything you’d like to share or pass along to the readers?
DS: Free Comic Book Day is coming up and I’m really excited to see the reaction from fans because we put so many because we put so many teases in there. You’re going to get your first look at a major component, a new character, a major character.
PCHQ: We’ll be at Joe Field’s store [Flying Colors Comics & Other Cool Stuff] in Concord, CA so we’ll certainly be looking forward to that on Free Comic Book Day. Final question: Who are you reading right now?
DS: Outside of Valiant? Stained [from 451 Media]. I just read Stained last night which is David Baron‘s new book. Very excited about what he’s doing with that book. That’s the first thing that comes to mind.
PCHQ: Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time, Dinesh.
DS: Thank you, man. That was awesome, lot of fun.
If you would like to keep up on where Valiant will be appearing this year,
take a look at their 2017 Convention Schedule
to see if they are coming to your hometown.
Be sure to check out our interview with Editor-in-Chief Warren Simons too!
And be sure to stay up on all the latest with Valiant Entertainment
by following them online and social media. Links can be found below…
PopCultHQ spent last week up in the Pacific Northwest for the 15th Annual Emerald City Comicon in Seattle, WA. One of the highlights for us was the number of remarkable individuals in the comic book industry who were willing to take time out to speak with us. On Thursday, which was a shortened opening day running from 2-7pm, the first stop we made was one of the most visible booths on the fourth floor of the Washington State Convention Center, Valiant Comics.
Prior to the show, we were fortunate to confirm interviews with some people at Valiant that are the backbone of the indie publisher. Our first was with a man whose name may not be as familiar with the average Valiant reader as most of the creators, but Warren Simons plays an integral, and extremely important, role with Valiant as their Editor-in-Chief.
So grab a refreshing beverage and sit back and hear what the day-to-day operations look like for him, listen as he discusses characters and titles from the Valiant Universe new and old, and find out what he loves about Emerald City Comicon!
PopCultHQ: Valiant has done so much, last year was amazing. You guys really broke down the walls of what it means to be an indie publisher. From Archer & Armstrong beer to Valiant emojis, and partnerships and relationships that you just really don’t expect from a publisher. So I really wanted to get to know the people behind the publishers. Most people when they think Valiant, they might think Matt Kindt, Darick Robertson, and think about all of these creators but when someone like me thinks of Valiant, I think of Hunter Gorinson …
Simons: We all do.
Gorinson: (informing Simons about our relationship)…I send him emails every day.
PopCultHQ: Right! So that’s who I speak with and it makes me wonder what’s going on behind-the-scenes with the publisher? The people making these relationships and connections. What can you tell us about your role as Editor at Valiant and what that looks like with people presenting new projects to you or how you incorporate that into the massive Valiant Universe, as it is?
Warren Simons: As you noted, we’re a company that has an extraordinarily talented, dedicated freelance pool but also have incredible people upstairs who we work with, like Hunter who is our Marketing…
Simons: Genius. There you go.
PopCultHQ: Yes, capital “G”.
Simons: Russ (Russell Brown) who is our licensing genius…
Simons: …guru. Fred [Pierce] who is our Publisher, Dinesh [Shamdasani] is our Chief Executive Officer, so we have a really good crew upstairs. Full of talented people who really strive to make Valiant the best comics in the industry, which is, of course, a challenge because we’re a smaller company. We only publish somewhere between probably 6-15 books per month, depending on the month. We try to do everything with a high level of precision so that every time someone is forking over four bucks, or three bucks, or nine dollars for a comic book or a trade, they’re getting a reading experience which wasn’t rushed out. That someone really put their hearts in to build and make great. My job as Editor-in-Chief is basically to manage the day-to-day operations of the editorial department and to help build and oversee the long-term operations of the editorial department, in conjunction with the rest of the team. Because as the great John Donne once said, “No man is an island,” so it’s a good team of iron men up there. My job, for example, Matt Kindt is over there signing so my job is to identify Matt as a talent in the marketplace that I think would be a benefit to Valiant then recruit him, bring him in, have him start working with us, and then edit the work that he’s doing. So I do a lot of stuff like that. I was just up in Artist Alley and had the opportunity to talk to a lot of different artists up there. Part of my job among the editorial staff is to recruit them and then to work with them when they’re in-door. That’s really the day-to-day stuff and part of it is also to make sure the books ship on time. Make sure that schedules are being kept, that the artists are giving us their best work. If anyone is running into deadline problems, try to help out and not be an impediment. Be part of helping to get the solution and then really, to a certain extent, helping build and craft a narrative that’s in the books that you read every day. That’s probably the general rough description of what an Editor-in-Chief does.
PopCultHQ: Awesome. How far ahead are you already looking? I know you were talking Harbinger Wars 2 next year but you guys were talking about 2018 in 2016. So how far along are you right now? Are you working on projects for next year? The year after?
Simons: Where we are now is we’re looking one to two years down the road and figuring out where we’re headed, and then what the publishing line will look like and sometimes that will be a year out, like we are with X-O. We’re launching a book in September that I think it was announced today.
PopCultHQ: Yes, the Bloodshot Salvation news.
Simons: Yeah, with Jeff Lemire. Jeff’s got a bunch of issues in hand and an artist already working on that and we’re not going to be soliciting that for two more months. So we’re very far ahead in some regards, and we also try to be nimble and flexible so that we’re able to audible and add stuff as needed without becoming too large, too robust.
PopCultHQ: That was exactly something I was thinking about while you were talking. What happens if you’re thinking a year ahead, what happens if you find three or four months into a title, there’s some sort of reaction or response from fans? Do you then take time and make adjustments due to critical response?
Simons: In an ideal world, we’d be able to but I think we’ve done a really good job of just trusting our gut, going with what we believe in, working very hard to make it great, and then trying to execute. There are certain books that take us by surprise that we’re very happy with. Divinity had, I think, ten printings of the first issue or something like fifteen printings of the first three trades, overall per individual issue, which is something very healthy, so we love to see that. When we see that, we know that it’s touching a nerve in the marketplace and it’s important for us to be cognizant of that. If a book is not hitting the creative like we’d want it to then we might adjust but we try to trust our guts upstairs and execute and thankful we have a lot of talented people who help try to make sure that the vision gets executed.
PopCultHQ: That’s wonderful. Speaking of that, talking on some surprise ones. Has there been any that have surprised you that the creators produced that blew you away or weren’t expecting?
Simons: Yeah sure, that happens all the time. Secret Weapons…
Simons: Eric [Heisserer] is doing…the scripts are wonderful. I re-read them on the plane ride over today. There’s just moments in all of them that are beautiful, characterizations that are wonderful, he’s got such a feel for these characters and they’re brand-new but I feel like I’ve known him for years already. He’s a talented writer. Britannia. I think Peter Milligan did an exceptional job with that. The reaction we saw with that was wonderful. Faith, Jody Houser‘s gem, just a wonderful job on Faith. We have something coming up with that which I’m very excited about. Divinity. The list goes on and on for me where it’s like talking about my children. I love all of them. I’m constantly surprised and that’s why I think I love the job so much is because I like to see the writing and the art, at what comes in
And that’s just the writing side that I’m talking about. You know, getting in a cover from Jelena Kevic-Djurdjevic or Lewis LaRosa. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to create so much under Valiant with these characters which were created by guys like Joe Quesada and Barry Windsor-Smith, Jim Shooter, Bob Layton…
PopCultHQ: Just such history.
Simons: Great history.
PopCultHQ: I even brought with me my Archer & Armstrong #0, all my stuff from ’92 and ’93, but I also have Savage with me.
Simons: That’s wonderful. Yeah, we stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s great.
PopCultHQ: With the Valiant Universe continuing to expand. Last year was big with “The Future of Valiant” ushering in Generation Zero, Harbinger Renegade, and all. How’s the response or reception been for integrating those with these long-lasting characters like X-O Manowar or Colin King?
Simons: Just great. Couldn’t be happier with it.
PopCultHQ: Because that’s not an easy thing to pull off.
Simons: It’s not. It’s really not.
PopCultHQ: You have such storied characters and then saying that these will be the new ones.
Simons: Valiant fans [aren’t] your average fans, they’re…a little nicer…more open-minded…
PopCultHQ: More receptive to what you’re doing.
Simons: Exactly. Because you also have to understand that these are guys who came to Valiant in the first place, as opposed to going to Marvel or DC. So I think their appetite for something new is a little different.
PopCultHQ: Real quick, one last thing. I know we’re short on time.
Simons: (looks to Hunter) What do you think, Hunter?
Gorinson: (signals thumbs up)
Simons: Thumbs up from Hunter.
PopCultHQ: Nice. A++ from The Genius himself. So, this isn’t your first time in Seattle, is it?
Simons: No, it’s not. I love Seattle. One of my favorite American cities, actually.
PopCultHQ: No kidding?
Simons: Yeah, I love Seattle.
PopCultHQ: What is it about Emerald City Comicon that you love? I know ReedPOP puts on several cons across the country…
Simons: I think this might be the best Artist Alley in the industry.
Simons: Every year I come back to Seattle, the Artist Alley is exceptional. I love the Artist Alley here, I love the city itself, it’s one of my favorite shows of the year. In fact, if I had to go to only one show a year, it would be probably be this one. It’s not insane like San Diego or New York, where you can’t walk around. There’s plenty of space to walk around. Like today, people aren’t mobbing you.
PopCultHQ: But even for a Thursday afternoon, it’s a pretty decent turnout.
Simons: No, it’s packed. It’s packed, it’s just not…it tends not to get claustrophobic.
Simons: There’s a lot of space here. I just like the layout. I love Seattle, it’s one of my favorite cities, as I noted. I try not to travel too much, but I love this show.
PopCultHQ: Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.
Simons: Thank you. I appreciate it Jason.
Gorinson: Thanks man, great seeing you. And thank you for all the coverage you do.
Simons: Yes, thank you! We appreciate it!
Special thanks to Warren, Hunter, and all the incredible people at Valiant for their time and making us feel welcome. Be sure to check out our interview with CEO Dinesh Shamdasani! And be sure to stay up on all the latest with Valiant Entertainment by following them online and social media. Links can be found below.
Valiant Unveils 2017 Convention Tour Schedule –
Continuing at SC Comicon in March!
This year, the hardest touring company in comics is upping the stakes with more dates,
more conventions, and more opportunities to meet your favorite creators than ever before!
Valiant is proud to unveil its first round of dates and destinations for the VALIANT 2017 CONVENTION TOUR – a months-long, cross-country comics roadshow coming soon to a town near you! Kicking off this March with multiple exciting events, Valiant’s touring convention crew is charging through from west to east throughout the spring and summer with stops in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and many more along the way:
Washington State Convention Center
TD Convention Center
Anaheim Convention Center
Los Angeles, CA
Dallas Convention Center
Fried Pie Con
2nd & Charles
L.A. Times Festival of Books
University of Southern California Campus
Los Angeles, CA
Kansas City, MO
Friday, May 12th – Sunday, May 14th
George R. Brown Convention Center
Virginia Beach Convention Center
Virginia Beach, VA
Saturday, May 20th – Sunday, May 21st
Five Points Festival
New York, NY
Thursday, May 25th – Sunday, May 28th
Phoenix Convention Center
Saturday, June 24th – Sunday, June 25th
ID10T Music Festival and Comic Conival
San Francisco, CA
Denver Comic Con
Colorado Convention Center
Next stop: The entire Valiant team is heading to Greenville, SC for SC Comicon 2017! From Saturday, March 25th to Sunday, March 26th, get up close and personal with Valiant’s brightest stars at the TD Convention Center, SC for an action-packed weekend bursting with exclusive releases, special guests, panels, and more!Swing by the Valiant booth all weekend long, and dive into the most acclaimed superhero universe in comics with a complete collection of trade paperbacks and hardcovers featuring Valiant’s critically acclaimed line of titles, including BLOODSHOT REBORN, BRITANNIA, DIVINITY, FAITH, NINJAK, X-O MANOWAR, and more!
Then, prepare for war as Valiant teams up with Greenville’s own Borderlands Comics & Games for the X-O MANOWAR #1 BORDERLANDS EXCLUSIVE VARIANT, featuring the raw pencil artwork of explosive artist and SC Comicon special guest Lewis LaRosa (Bloodshot Reborn)! The year’s biggest superhero sci-fi epic begins here with the FIRST ISSUE of the EPIC NEW ONGOING SERIES from New York Times best-selling writer Matt Kindt (Divinity, Mind MGMT) and Valiant-exclusive rising star Tomas Giorello (Bloodshot Reborn, Batman and Robin) that will push Aric of Dacia beyond the farthest limits of our galaxy…and into the brutal opening salvo of the ultimate X-O Manowar tale ever told! Available only at the Borderlands Comics & Games booth!Plus: Be sure to visit the legion of extraordinary Valiant talent that’s storming into SC Comicon all weekend long, including:
Lewis LaRosa (Artist, Bloodshot Reborn, Savage)
Brian Reber (Colorist, Bloodshot U.S.A., Savage)
Rafer Roberts (Writer, A&A: The Adventures of Archer & Armstrong, Harbinger Renegade)
Robert Venditti (Writer, Wrath of the Eternal Warrior, X-O Manowar)
Plus: Valiant is offering portfolio reviews for aspiring artists all weekend long! Have Valiant’s acclaimed editorial team review your work and give you the inside track on what it takes to make it in comics. Individual portfolios reviewed on a first-come, first-serve basis.Then: Celebrate the silver anniversary of Valiant’s number-one hero at the VALIANT: 25 YEARS OF X-O MANOWAR panel presentation on Saturday, March 25th! This March, Valiant celebrates 25 years of its most enduring comic book icon as best-selling writer Matt Kindt and a rotating cast of powerhouse interior artists launch a stunning new beginning in the all-new X-O MANOWAR #1! Now, right here at SCCC, join a blockbuster roundtable of Valiant’s greatest talents for an in-depth discussion of X-O Manowar’s landmark place in comics history…and a special look forward at the must-read new series of 2017!Finally: Witness the future that lies ahead for your favorite heroes and antagonists with VALIANT: THE ROAD TO HARBINGER WARS 2 panel presentation on Sunday, March 26th! The road to Valiant’s biggest, most ambitious and most impactful comic book event of all time starts right here at SCCC with a superstar cast of Valiant creators and staff! Jump on board here to find out what the future holds for HARBINGER RENEGADE, X-O MANOWAR, BLOODSHOT, FAITH, DIVINITY, NINJAK, and the rest of Valiant’s most powerful heroes…and how the coming of HARBINGER WARS 2 will soon be felt across the entire Valiant Universe with all-new news and artwork!
We’ll see you in the Palmetto State!