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Jim Salicrup: Papercutz Take a Slice Outta the Comics Scene

A comics interview article by: Alex Rodrik
Recently I got the chance to catch up with the legendary Jim Salicrup to discuss his latest venture with Papercutz (as their Editor-in-chief). Jim gives us a look into the world of Papercutz as well as some of their great titles.

Enjoy!

-Alex Rodrik, Editor of Features and Interviews




Alex Rodrik: With the many accomplishments in your career what attracted you to Papercutz?

Jim Salicrup: Let’s see, after spending many years at Marvel Comics, Topps Comics, and the Stan Lee Media, I certainly had learned a lot about making comics -- from writing and editing comics to promoting and marketing comics. I was at a point where the next logical step was start my own comic book company. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to run into Terry Nantier, the main man at NBM Publishing -- the acclaimed publisher of some of the very best original graphic novels, as well as foreign editions of some of the world’s finest graphic novels, not to mention collections of classic comic strips, and all sorts of other comics. I don’t believe any other comics publisher has had the knowledge and experience he’s had of dealing with the bookstore, school, and library markets. Not only is he a brilliant businessman, experienced publisher, but he’s an amazing editor as well. So, together we decided to start a new company that would specialize in graphic novels and comics aimed at markets underserved by the other comics publishers -- mainly kids, especially girls. He would be the publisher, and I’d be the Editor-in-Chief. And, thus, as they say, Papercutz was born.

By the way, it was Terry’s very bright daughter, Sylvia, who came up with the name Papercuts, and insisted that we use a Z instead of an S at the end, and somehow we became Papercutz. I’m not exactly sure how that happened…

AR: Tell us a bit about Papercutz and what kind of material readers can expect from the company.

JS: We approach every series the same way -- we simply want to create the best stories, with the best art, that we possibly can, that will appeal to readers of all ages. Generally, we’ve been sticking with licensed characters because being a new, small publisher it’s incredibly tough to get attention from booksellers. It helps us tremendously if they’re actually familiar with our characters. For example, both Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys have been selling in bookstores for over 80 years now, so booksellers know there’s an audience for these characters, and graphic novels have been the new big thing in publishing for the last few years, so it doesn’t seem all that risky to take a chance on our titles.

Nancy Drew is wonderfully written by Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney. They expertly capture all the special qualities that have kept Nancy and her friends so popular for generations. But to give the book a modern look, so it looks as appealing as possible to today’s younger readers, Sho Murase gave Nancy a “manga makeover” that even appeals to folks that say they don’t like manga. Each graphic novel looks like a print version of a beautifully animated film, and each new book in the series is more stunning than the last.

The Hardy Boys is written by Scott Lobdell, and he’s great at getting Frank and Joe into all sorts of action-packed situations that artist Paulo Henrique can go to town on! We’re really lucky to have such talented writers and artists working away on our premiere titles.

We also publish Bionicle, graphic novels based on the LEGO toys; Geronimo Stilton, featuring the star of 35 best-selling chapter books in an all-new graphic novel series; Classics Illustrated and Classics Illustrated Deluxe, featuring adaptations of stories by the world’s greatest authors by the best writers and artists in comics; Disney Fairies, a new graphic novel series featuring Disney’s Tinker Bell and her fairy friends in Never Land; and Tales from the Crypt, all-new stories for a new generation of readers.

AR: Tales from the Crypt was a major title in the early 50s but with the political climate was “buried alive,” if you will. What was it about the series that made you feel that it merited a revival?

JS: Terry would keep mentioning that kids love horror, which made me think of EC Comics and Tales from the Crypt, which is perhaps the most celebrated horror comic of all time. As an unabashed comics fan, when the opportunity to revive Tales from the Crypt after so many years came along, I just couldn’t resist! Unfortunately, I forgot that most, if not all, of our readers weren’t even alive when Crypt was originally published, so when they saw it in bookstores, it didn’t mean anything to them. Even though we were doing stories that we would enjoy, I wasn’t playing that up on our covers, so they didn’t know. Once we started putting stuff on the cover that was meaningful to our audience -- like a parody of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books called Diary of a Stinky Dead Kid -- sales shot way up.

AR: What sort of strange and frightening tales can readers expect from the reinvention of Tales from the Crypt?

JS: Since our book is shelved in the Kid’s sections of bookstores, don’t expect too much blood and gore! But I do believe we had some really great stories that are both dark and/or fun. The fun thing about editing anthologies is the reactions you’ll get -- the same stories will be loved my one group and despised by another.

I’m glad you called our Tales from the Crypt a “reinvention.” After all, what comic book published today, that was also published back in the 1950s has remained exactly the same? Answer -- there isn’t such a creature! I love the original Crypt comics, but we’re not trying to recreate them. We’re taking the core concept, and adapting it to appeal to today’s young audience. And I’ll tell you, it’s been great fun working with writers such as Fred Van Lente, Stefan Petrucha, Joe R. Lansdale, John L. Lansdale, Rob Vollmar, and the rest, as well as artists such as Rick Parker, Steven Mannion, Mr. Exes, Miran Kim, James Romberger, and so many more!

AR: Tell us a bit about Papercutz’ Classics Illustrated titles.

JS: Another great comics title from the past that we were able to bring back! Actually, I should give First Comics a lot of credit because they had the idea to revive Classics Illustrated back in 1990. The problem was they were just too ahead of their time -- bookstores didn’t know from graphic novels back then! So now we’re able to republish in beautiful hardcover editions the great material First Comics originally put together, written and drawn by such creators as Gahan Wilson, Kyle Baker, Rick Geary, P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, and many others.

We’ve also launched Classics Illustrated Deluxe which features, longer -- over a hundred pages, fuller, more faithful adaptations of those “Stories by the World’s Greatest Authors” by some of the finest comics writers and artists in the world. It’s amazing how so much used to be crammed into 48 comic book pages in the older versions of Classics Illustrated, but now, there’s a little more room for the stories to breathe, and scenes that were usually cut out are now back in. I particularly like Michel Plessix’s adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, as well as Marion Mousse’s version of Frankenstein, and David Chauvel and Fred Simon’s spectacular adaptation of Treasure Island. These are truly some of the very best books that we publish!

AR: Considering that Papercutz has run a graphic collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s work, what are your thoughts on BOOM! Studios original title Poe?

JS: I haven’t seen that particular title, but knowing what a great job they usually do over at BOOM! Studios, I’m sure it must be good.

AR: How is working with Papercutz different than working with Marvel? What are the similarities?

JS: Bet you can’t guess which “character” I edited at both Marvel and Papercutz. Give up? It was Pope John Paul II! I edited the comic book at Marvel, and the graphic novel at Papercutz. The graphic novel always gets a great reaction at our booth at the San Diego Comic-Con -- and it always sells out too!

I started at Marvel back in 1972 when it was still a relatively small company, and left twenty years later, after it grew into a much, much bigger company. Papercutz, even now after our first five years, is still a much smaller company than Marvel was back in ’72 -- and I must say I like that!

But as far as editing comics -- the actual working with writers and artists and colorists and letterers and editors -- that’s still the same! I can’t believe how lucky I am to be working with our talented crew! It’s so great to come to work and have Michael Petranek show me newly drawn pages by a Christian Zanier or Sho Murase or Stuart Sayger or Paulo Henrique or any of our awesome artists! You know, it’s just the best!

AR: What’s your favorite Papercutz title?

JS: I know it sounds corny, but I really do love ‘em all. I’ll admit some individual graphic novels didn’t quite turn out the way we hoped, but that’s just how it goes. Each title has its own challenges and rewards, strengths and weaknesses, and my goal is to help expand the audience for each Papercutz title. I believe there are still literally millions of potential Papercutz readers out there who would love what we’re publishing, but we simply haven’t reached them yet… but someday…!

AR: For those readers who may not be familiar with the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, tell us a bit about the organization and your involvement with it.

JS: If you love comics as much as I do, then you’ll love that New York City finally has a Comic and Cartoon Art museum! MoCCA was Lawrence Klein’s idea, and currently Ellen Abramowitz (Chairman and President) and Karl Erickson (Director) are doing an unbelievable job running the museum. In a nutshell, MoCCA is currently in an art gallery-sized space, usually has two exhibits up at a time, and has events almost every week -- talks, panels, films, signings, you name it! Check the website at www.moccany.org for more info, then either visit MoCCA or become a member. MoCCA needs your support!

AR: What can we look forward to in the future from Papercutz and where can our readers go to get their hands on the great titles being released?

JS: Our big new title for 2010 is Disney Fairies and it’s been a real joy working with the folks at Disney. Without a doubt Tinker Bell will instantly become our biggest, brightest star. And I must say, considering how famous Tink is, she really is ego-free! You’d think she’d be a demanding diva, but she couldn’t be nicer!

We hope to introduce another big title in Fall 2010, but we’re still working on that one!

Otherwise, we hope to keep making each and everyone of our regular titles even more compelling and exciting. We don’t take anything for granted, and we want to make each of our titles the best they can be -- simply because in today’s crowded market, we know comics fans simply expect the very best, and won’t settle -- or waste time or money -- on anything less.

You know, I’ve been around a long time, and it’s really great to hear from fans that read the comics I edited at Marvel when they were kids, and hear the nice things they have to say. I really appreciate that. I hope that the kids reading our Papercutz graphic novels remember them as fondly.

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