Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Too Many Saints.


Now that Deadworld: Restoration is finished and just got done with some of the extra pages in the trade compilation coming from IDW (scheduled for June release), I have two other projects that are nearing completion.

The first is one that I mentioned before but I decided to change the name of it.  Originally it was to be called Saint James' Infirmary and dealt with a doctor assisting a police detective with a series of murders.  It takes place in Storyville, the legal red light district in New Orleans in the early 1900s.  I had designed it as a comic series but instead will release it as a complete graphic novel and it will go up on kickstarter in a few weeks.  The artist is Wayne Reid and he's about 80% finished with it and moving along quickly on the last part.

As I was delving into the storyline, I found myself becoming more immersed in Storyville itself and realized that the district was becoming a centralized focus of the story.  Sure, a lot still takes place in the asylum but the crime scenes were in Storyville proper and as what often happens when embarking on a new project, I began to find certain characters were coming alive.  And as I was wrapping up the first storyline to be a self contained story, I was already formulating the next story arc which is planted more so in Storyville itself.  Since I had only mentioned the title in a few advance blurbs, I had to decide to either change it now or live with Saint James' Infirmary.

So, the new name is "Murder in Storyville".  Simple and to the point.  The title alone pretty much says what the storyline is about.  Of course, I have to extend an apology to Paul Storrie who uses Storyville as his website and studio name, but since Storyville is a fairly well known (in some circles) historical district and has quite a legacy about it, I think he'll be forgiving about it.

I plan to start promoting it soon but I want to make sure of the schedule before I put it into play on kickstarter.

Another reason for the change was the continual question about whether Saint James' Infirmary was tied somehow into Saint Germaine, a series I did at Caliber and then later collected at Image and Transfuzion.  Obviously, I didn't see them as similar but I guess the use of "Saint" threw some people off.  I also think that if someone liked Saint Germaine, they would also like Saint, er, Murder in Storyville.

The reason that I want to avoid that conflict is because the next project that I'm doing is a collection of ALL the Saint Germaines into one massive collection.  Something like an Omnibus although I'm not sure what I'm going to call it yet.  Doing a quick count, it will exceed over 530 pages and will include every Saint Germaine story including the Magus story arc and the new story of Quasimodo that appeared in the Magus and Other Tales collection from Transfuzion.

Saint Germaine is probably my favorite work overall.  I have a strong desire to tell new stories in his world but as usual, time is the biggest factor, but somehow I will find the time to do it.

For the summer months, I have a few other collections to put out but most of my writing will be centered around the Deadworld novel.  I really have to get immersed into that and am trying to clear my docket on all of these other projects so I can do just that.

I realize now that I'll never catch up on things but I'll keep trying.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Return of Caliber




Last week, I announced that Caliber Comics was returning.  The idea of the announcement wasn't to issue some proclamation of big plans or how we planned a massive relaunch.  It was to clarify a number of situations because one of the aspects of relaunching Caliber was the ending of Transfuzion Publishing and I wanted it clear that Transfuzion didn’t collapse or anything, it just rolled into Caliber. 

Bringing back Caliber was not a spur of the moment decision.  It actually grew out of a number of varied conversations (different people, different times) about bringing the company back.  Caliber Comics is more than just an imprint, it is sort of a holding company for a number of projects and titles with some of them being owned by me.  

Over the last few years, I have been approached by a number of people regarding Caliber.  Some wanted to buy just the name (go figure), some wanted to invest to re-launch, one wanted to use the name for a new comics company with no resemblance to Caliber, and a couple wanted it as an intellectual properties library, and so on.  The discussions ranged from serious to wishful thinking but I did notice that it was a bit obtuse to those unfamiliar with Caliber.  This lack of familiarity grows as the publishing time of Caliber is now quite a bit in the distant past.

The publishing in the 90s was clear cut but many still do not understand the idea of creator owned.  For example, Caliber published “The Songbook of Alan Moore” with contributions from many creators besides Alan, including Neil Gaiman.  It had to be explained numerous times that no, Caliber did not own those stories as they were creator owned…the creators owned them.  Then there was the situation with Transfuzion as that company released about 70 graphic novels, many of them originally from Caliber but nearly half were not.  Some were to be represented by me as “Caliber” but some would not. I understood the confusion of the different names and associations.

I also entered the digital market and brought in a company to handle that.  I soon discovered that the relationship was not going to work.  The accounting was not accurate and not timely.  The quality of some of the digital was lacking and there were other obligations that I expected that were not met.  Although that relationship is contractually over, there are still problems.  I don’t want to mention the name of the company or details as I want to give them time to make things right but if it isn’t, the name will become known because of necessary although reluctant lawsuits.

So, I figured that I should bring in everything under one name, one “holding” company and I decided to use the Caliber name.  After all, if any of these situations went any further, I would have to solidify the relationship of the different companies, the various titles, the creators, etc. and one entity would serve best.

The timing was good because I was in discussions with Eric Reichert of Eagle One Media about some related issues and we continued the talks to eventually him joining me in the relaunch of Caliber.  Eric brings a lot to the table as he handles distribution of independent films, provided motion comics, and was expanding into areas outside of my expertise.  Having talked to him over the years, I feel comfortable with him and have found over those years that we share a lot of the same sensibilities about the comics market.  So, it seemed like a good fit as partners and so far, it has been.

So, what will the “new” Caliber be like? I don’t know.  I know what it will start out as, but I have no idea of what it might end up as. The original Caliber was a company that printed comics with 8-12 releases a month.  Our titles were offered monthly from all the various distributors and we took lots of chances on doing comics, many of which sold less than enough to cover the cost of printing. We also had, especially towards the later stages, company owned titles where we hired talent.

The new Caliber won’t be that.  It can’t.  

At its heyday, Caliber had a staff of 8 people and there are no plans to do that again.  Eric and I plan to keep the focus on creator owned projects, of course.  We will be offering a publishing opportunity for both print and digital.  We are also involved in some licensing deals that may (always “may”) happen and so we can include creators in that aspect.  We will be launching some web comics and hope to build up a web portal for many of the webisodes. We’re also looking to do novels with or without illustrations. 

We will not be launching a series of comics and hiring writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers, etc.  In fact, we do not plan to do any kind of monthly comics unless we are partnered up with another company that already does that.  The “Caliber” owned properties have had dozens of comics and books released from other publishers.  We will consider doing some comics, as I won’t eliminate any possibility, but frankly, I think it will be too difficult to make an impact in the “floppy” world.  I don’t think many fans realize what a tight margin and limited market the comics world is.  Doing the monthlies puts you in complete reliance on the direct market.  The print portion of the comics market has rebounded but it is still small. Doing the floppies is something I’d rather align with someone that has awareness in that market.  Just look at how many small companies throw out some titles and sales are abysmal.  I don’t want to be doing that.

We will look to fund some projects with crowd-funding but not planning to do our entire line that way.  The crowd-funding will primarily be up to the creators involved on their projects.

I would love to be able to run a company supported by the direct comics market like the old days.  But I just don’t think we would have the ability to make a go of it.  I know some companies do well enough but I don’t want to be chasing down licensees to put out a bevy of licensed titles.  I have nothing against licensed titles but that isn’t something I want to do.  I want to see talent create new ideas. 

In talks with some potential investors, the idea of assembling some great books with big names attached has some appeal.  But with those big names and big budgets, you have big obligations and big risks.  I think of publicly traded companies…you can have a big year, even big profits…but then what do you have next?  And after that?  I don’t want to be a manager for egos or a trafficker of pages, I find the most appealing part of comics is the creative side.

So, Caliber won’t be the company that a lot of people want.  But it will be what I want.  It will be what Eric wants.

We will release graphic novels for print and digital.  Digital is a component of publishing now although I don’t see it as the great rescuer of the market that has been touted in recent years…but it does have a value to contribute.  We will look for licensing opportunities and that includes exploitation in film and TV.  I know that is a long shot, I mean, I’ve optioned well over a dozen properties and nothing concrete has come forth, but we will explore that.  We will look to tap into different markets.  With the books we’ve done centered on war and military themes, we’ve had some success in branching out to the military market and will continue that.  Same with some of the literary adaptations.

We can’t promise a lot and don’t intend to.  We can’t say that Diamond Distributors will pick up all the books, even the original graphic novels.  That’s not up to us.  That’s up to Diamond and even if they do so, the sales are dependent on their retailers.  With Transfuzion, Diamond carried some of the books, some they declined to do so.  Outside of Diamond, some of the Transfuzion titles sold very well and continue to do so whereas others are fairly dormant.  I think with expansion into all the digital formats, we can break the dormancy a bit more but who knows how much?

We will guarantee that anything we sign up will be physically printed…that they will be available in digital in most if not all the formats…that the creators will own the property…that we’ll do the best we can on any rights that are assigned for a specified term will be pushed…and that creators will always have copies available to them at cost. 

It may not sound very ambitious and it lacks the dynamic hyperbole that so many companies launch with but we think it’s realistic and something that we can guarantee.  When I started up the original Caliber, it was essentially the same goals.  I think it worked out well for quite a few people, but of course, not everyone.  Nothing does. 

One blogger said the relaunch of Caliber seemed to be one of leverage which I assume it was to put the company out there for its intellectual properties.  And I freely admit, that could be the result.  But that would be a consequence, not the intent.  We are approaching things as a publisher of graphic novels, first and foremost because that’s the only thing we can control.  Anything that develops out of it is not something I can emphatically state will happen. 

So, the easiest summation I can say is that Caliber is back and hopefully, we’ll be providing some titles that might interest readers.  I think we’ll have titles with strong visions and something to say.

Ultimately,  we just want to do good stories and hopefully make it financially worthwhile.  It’s pretty straight forward.





Sunday, December 29, 2013

Plans for 2014


Well, it's the end of 2013 and when I look at the output this year, it doesn't seem like a real productive year, but actually it was.  I had my anthology, NIGHT PIECES, come out, but that was a collection of reprint material albeit one of the stories, "A Mother's Beauty",  first appeared in Chillers vol. 2 which was a 2013 release as well. I was happy to see the response to it and Decapitated Dan, the noted horror enthusiast and reviewer, tabbed it as the Best Archival/Collection of 2013. I had planned on releasing another collection, Street Shadows, but figured I'd space them out a bit more.

I also did two books which featured a multitude of artists contributing and those are always much more work than it might seem.  ZELDA'S ZOMBIE ZOO was a kid's book about Zelda who is a caretaker of a zoo full of zombiefied animals.  Each animal is drawn by a different artist, about 30 in all.  Originally, it was just to be a gallery of the zoo animals but as it was developing, I decided to do it as a kid's book and wrote scenes of Zelda interspersed and those featured the continuity art of Terry Pavlet who also did the cover.  It was a fun little book and seemed to get a pretty good response.  I also did a new edition of the BOOK OF TAROT, based on a comic I did with Caliber a lot of years ago.  I had 22 different artists draw a Major Arcana card and I supplied a bit of information and history about the cards.  Definitely, a primer on the cards and not anything in great detail.  Both of these books will be available soon but I held off so the creators that contributed had a chance to sell their limited editions first.

Of course, towards the end of the year, the first issue of DEADWORLD: RESTORATION shipped with the subsequent issues shipping in 2014....but I did write all 5 issues in 2013.  I also wrote some issues of two other series set to debut in 2014.  SAINT JAMES INFIRMARY already has the first three issues drawn and the next two issues are pretty much written.  Another series, THE RAIN PEOPLE, has the first issue complete and the next four issues are a bit rough but nearly ready.  So, even though I had three books come out but only 1 comic, I essentially wrote 15 comics in 2013 so it was a much busier year than it seems.

In addition to the comic series coming in 2014, I have two other books that I will be releasing and of course, as the year progresses, more things may pop up.  I have to determine what to do with the next storyline of Deadworld and a lot will depend on the reaction to the current series.

Outside of writing, Transfuzion released a few books and Binary Publications, which I am co-publisher, had about 6 titles released and it looks like Binary will step up production for 2014.  There's another company I'm involved with that is only peripherally aligned with comics that I think will be moving along this upcoming year as well.   Of course, I still teach my college biology courses full time.  My main areas in those classes are evolution and genetics and both of those areas are changing so rapidly that I have to redo my lectures almost every semester.  There is a lot of work to set up each 1-hour lecture...a lot more than most people think.

One of the key aspects that I'm constantly evaluating is how fast the dynamics of the comics market is changing...not just the direct market but all phases of distribution and retail.  There are a lot of things going on "behind the scenes" attempting to deal and anticipate those changes.

That's the crux of what my 2014 will be, I think.  I plan to be making an announcement soon that will coincide with my next blog post (so you know, it doesn't really have a time frame then...) and that will likely be what most of my time will be spent on in 2014.  Most of the activities in that area have been set in place but I don't like to talk much until its ready.

One last thing...this last year, I have been asked a lot about attending conventions and doing store appearances...seems like the requests have quadrupled.  I do realize that I should be out there supporting things more and even though I never like doing cons, I usually enjoy them when I get there...but the crucial factor for me is the time involved.  Doing a 3 day show sucks up a lot of time so I have to balance out the number of shows I do.  I'd like to do more shows in areas where I haven't been too much previously as I think I'm stale material in the Detroit and Chicago area.

Until next time, I hope everyone has a great New Year's and it capped off a great holiday season.

 
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