Jason Hughes isn’t done with you yet.
For those just joining in, last week saw former SBC columnist/senior editor Jason Hughes giving you the inside skinny on his new position as the Sales & Marketing Manager of Future Comics. In this concluding chapter, Hughes comments on self-distribution, making an impact at this summer’s conventions, and why he means success for Future Comics.
Thomas: How did the initial experiment of shopping the product directly to the retailers go? Do you think this limited the potential audience for these books at a crucial point in their development?
Hughes: Not at all. This was actually tremendously successful and helped get us some much needed notice when we were first starting out. One of the reasons we chose to sign on board with Diamond, other than them agreeing to our terms, was so we could reach those retailers who were completely offline and thus harder to reach with our self-distribution program. We are still committed to this precedent-setting program and in fact starting in July we are offering our books with 100% returnability to all of our retail partners who order directly from us.
One of the biggest complaints in the direct market is that the burden of ordering is always placed on the retailer but with our returnability program we are taking that burden onto ourselves. Retailers can order with abandon and simply return any books that they can’t sell and don’t want to keep in stock. This means the retailer can have more confidence in giving our line a try.
Thomas: There are going to be readers that won’t have a chance to get a good look at Future Comics until nearly six months after they’ve been in publication. What steps are you guys taking to ensure that even a reader picking up a, let’s say, seventh issue of a title will find enough to bring them back, and possibly even seek out the rest of the line?
Hughes: Well Dick Giordano, who writes most of our line, is a firm believer that every issue should be written as if it is someone’s first issue, because hopefully it is. That said, we are committed to giving enough information in each issue that even new readers can follow what’s going on and get into the storyline.
As for bringing them back, all we can do is create the most dynamic and interesting stories we can concoct, slap on a few patented hooks or cliffhanger endings for the comics junkies and give them characters they can relate to and care about.
Also, in response to fan requests and concerns we are updating our inside front cover to include some basic character information for each book as well.
Thomas: When you hit the road this summer for the main conventions, what kind of presence do you want Future to have, as it stands to reason that this may be the first time some readers are introduced to your books and characters?
Hughes: The number one thing that I’m concerned about is approachability. Flashy colors and big signs are nice, but if the fans feel like they can’t come up and talk to you then you’ve failed. The colors and signs are good for getting their attention, but as I consider us one of the most recognized companies in the industry at this time, due to our talent roster and our self-distribution policy generating a great deal of news interest, I’m more concerned in letting them know why we’re so recognized.
Our creators are personable, friendly and truly enjoy interacting with the fans. We’ve made ourselves very accessible from the very beginning. Our toll-free phone number on the website for retailers and really anyone to call is 1-877-2COMICS. That phone rings all throughout the office where anyone and everyone picks it up. Thus rather than dealing with a faceless operator or a ‘representative’ there’s a good chance that you’ll be talking to Pat Broderick or Bob Layton or whomever else may be in the office. We’re not as concerned about a corporate hierarchy as we are about being in touch with our fans. It’s a company commitment and something that I want to see translated and presented at the conventions as well.
Thomas: The one aspect of Future that stands out (at least to me) is that their roster is encompassed by several of the industry’s most respected creators. Are there any disadvantages to this in that comics’ fans (and fans of most entertainment industries) are always looking for the bigger, better deal, which often means the newer, flashier deal? Where youth is often seen as an asset (whether that’s even right or wrong) how does Future tackle this initial misconception?
Hughes: I’m going to have to disagree strongly with you on that one. The comics industry is, I believe, more reluctant than most other mediums to accept and embrace those who are new and untested. With comics being as expensive as they are, there’s a sense of comfort when picking up a book written or drawn by a name that you know and feel confident you’ll get the bang for all that buck you’re looking for. I would say it’s been more helpful that we’re overflowing with established and near-legendary talents because it’s helped us in talking to retailers about carrying our line and fans about giving us a try. What’s new and flashy about us is our titles and that’s good enough for me!
Thomas: Will Future release trade collections this year, as they seem to be very popular with retailers and readers?
Hughes: We are currently developing our trade program. We are committed to this growing segment of the comics market and therefore are putting extra time in making sure that our first steps in will be with confidence. Our trade line will be unique and offer something different than what fans might be expecting, but we’ll reveal more of that down the road a bit. I can’t say for sure if they’ll make it out by the end of this year, but it will happen. And sooner rather than later.
Thomas: When are we going to see the first Future property translated to other media?
Hughes: I wish I could give you a set date, but I can’t. I can tell you that virtually all of our properties are in some stage of development for television, film, video games and more! It’s really been astounding how well these properties have been received by other entertainment mediums. Of course, I’d be lying if I said that those considerations weren’t a part of their initial development.
Our goal in creating this universe was to have characters that would translate well to any variety of mediums. Personally, I think a Metallix game would be fantastic and hopefully we can make that a reality. I’m sorry I don’t have any definitive answers to this question, but we must work on the schedules of the developers in these other fields. Once I do know something definitive, you can rest assured I will send the word out loud and strong.
Thomas: Finally…why does J Hues mean success for Future Comics?
Hughes: It’s really quite simple. I’m a freaking genius.
In all reality, I think it’s my experiences with this industry, my passions for it, my enthusiasm, intelligence and individuality. Let’s face it, I’m never going to do anything quietly. I’ve seen virtually every possible angle of this industry.
I’ve been a fan for years. I’ve spent time as a retailer, managing one of the oldest and most successful comics shops in the Midwest for five years. I spent time reviewing books, reporting on comics news, conducting interviews, and even making fun of the industry and its fans in my column. All of these things give me a very rounded and thorough perspective of this industry from nearly every side. Now you can add to that list working on the inside for a comics company, and I can really say I’ve done just about everything you can do related to comics except create them… and on that one I say stay tuned. I have a great instinct and understanding of this medium and its fans and put that together with a warped sense of humor and a strong creative influence and there isn’t much that I won’t do to help show the world how great comics are and how much they’re missing out on by not checking them out.
Thomas: I’d like to thank Mr. Hughes for guest starring these last two weeks, and direct those with a further interest in Future Comics and their wares to check out www.futurecomicsonline.com. Thank you and on to the New Hotness…
Automatic Kafka #9 (Joe Casey/Ashley Wood)
$trange Comics come to an end. It appears that the persisting rumors regarding Kafka’s demise are in fact true, and this is the final issue of an impressive, and all too brief run. For the swan song, android superhero Automatic Kafka is visited by his two creators, Joe Casey and Ashley Wood, and the three discuss the conditions triggering his creative birth and ultimate death. Along the way, we learn the fates of Kafka’s supporting cast, and settle any incredibly loose ends. The most refreshing aspect of the proceeding is Joe Casey’s candid and honest accounting of the comic industry, and possible explanations for why it didn’t take a strong liking to this title. Instead of resorting to angry finger-pointing and cynical posturing, Casey simply tells the truth, and along the way you’ll begin to feel disappointed that a book like this one no longer exists, save for a bit of intelligent stuffing for your LCS’ back issue bins. But it’s all good. Casey and Wood accomplished what they set out to do, and for nine months there was truly something different on our shelves.
The Crew #1 (Priest/Joe Bennett/Danny Miki)
Priest begins laying the foundation for his next hit series. Being a “continuation” of sorts from Black Panther, the tone and street-level feel is preserved, though not at the expense of delivering something new. James Rhodes, formerly known as War Machine, has found that nothing truly lasts forever, as the former CEO of Stark Enterprises is now flat broke, and attempting to pawn off his War Machine helmet for enough money to eat. Then he gets a phone call from the police. Someone murdered his sister. Though estranged, Rhodey takes it upon himself to bring down the killers, and in doing so, The Crew will likely be born. Priest wraps the intelligent dialogue and tight characterization he’s known for around a premise that promises to become even more interesting down the road, and that’s a good sign. Joe Bennett’s art has also taken on a harsher, grittier element that should make this his “breakout project.” Impressive start.