Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to [email protected] and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s Panel is a little different than usual. This week I have changed the format to one, give our regulars a little break because of the crazy convention season and two highlight an upcoming company that quite frankly deserves sometime in the spot light simply because they are producing some of the best stuff out there on the market that you should be reading – trust me…
This week I have picked some of the best questions from the history of SBC’s The Panel and asked a selection of creators all working at the same company. So in order to welcome you to this special edition of the panel is Harry Markos of Markosia Comics. I asked Harry to tell us a little about what’s happening at Markosia;
Markosia has come a long way since its introduction into the Direct market back in October 2005. Back then we had three books, little experience, bundles of ideas, and plenty of enthusiasm. It’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way since then!
In the past year we have published some fantastic titles, such as Shadowmancer, The Lexian Chronicles, Starship Troopers, Abiding Perdition, Midnight Kiss, and Dark Mists.
It’s safe to say though that a significant change in our plans started in December 2005, when we entered into discussions with a private investor.
At the time of agreeing terms with the new investor, I went shopping for properties!
I began talking to Chuck Satterlee and quickly realised that we had very similar ideas as to where we thought the Direct market was going, and what a new company should be attempting to do to succeed in what is an incredibly tough market. After many hoursand days of discussions I offered him a job with Markosia. I told him to go and prove to me that his theories were right! I also told him the direction I wanted us as a company to go in.
We had a major setback in February with the investor, but after a few very tough and worrying months I managed to secure another investor. As a result of this we are now very much back on track, albeit with some restructuring and adjustments to schedules etc.
Chuck has done a great job for us in the US, and we’re very glad and fortunate to have him on board running things for us as Director of Operations. Coupled with Rich Emms’ valiant efforts in the UK, and the hard work of all the creators involved with Markosia, I believe we are very close to making a very big impact on a number of very important markets.
It is safe to say that the Direct Market has been tough for us, being a small publisher based in the UK, but we will not give up on it. We have some exceptional properties which I would put next to anything else out there and happily say that they, at the very least, compare very well indeed. I am very confident that we have the right blend of titles and people to make the company a great success. You will have started to see some of our titles appearing in Barnes and Noble stores throughout the US, and you will soon see more in other main book retailers and libraries. We are working very hard to make this work and believe that this is where we will succeed sooner rather than later as a publisher, as opposed to the Direct Market which I believe will take another year or so.
You will also see, in November this year, the publication of a book which could propel the company to new heights. The Tizzle Sisters, by G.P Taylor (author of the worldwide bestseller Shadowmancer) will be a unique graphic novel unlike anything else out there at the moment. It will comprise of some 90 pages of sequential artwork by the very talented Dan Boultwood, and some 100 or so pages of prose adapted by the equally talented Tony Lee. Dan has also drawn some 40 black and white sketches which will be interspersed amongst the prose. It looks absolutely stunning!
We have had some fantastic new titles out recently, such as Andrew Foley’s ‘Done to Death’, which is a fully painted book by the ‘soon-to-be rich and famous’ Fiona Staples, and George Singley’s ‘Silent Ghost’, which also has fully painted art by Brett Weldele. These books are a fantastic addition to our company and I am very proud of them and everything else we have done so far.
You will also be seeing some amazing new titles coming toward the end of 2006 and early 2007, such as Phil Hester’s incredible ‘Golly!’ and Brian Augustyn’s ‘The Witness’. We also have an adaptation of Joe Nassise’s ‘The Templar Chronicles – Heretic’, which has been adapted by Chuck and drawn by talented Loren Meyer. These are just a few of the new titles we have planned for the next year. Watch this space!
We are also looking at other markets to see where we can make an impact, as I want us to feature in as many of those markets and as many countries as possible. We are already selling our titles to European publishers and that will be something I want to continue doing for a very long time. Every day brings something new and exciting, and there are lots of things I can’t even mention to you!
The bottom line is that we are a very ambitious company with bright and inventive ideas about where we want to be in many years from now. We are confident that we will succeed and will work tirelessly to do so. I for one cannot wait to see what the next few months brings, never mind the next few years!
“What do you think the pros and cons are of creators signing exclusive deals with one publisher? Do you believe that it is in anyway beneficial to comic book fans?”
Well, I assume that you are referring to exclusive contracts at the major publishers. As a relatively small company, Markosia could offer almost no benefits to a creator for being exclusive…nor would we even try to offer that. Basically, creators at the small press should try to get their work out with as many publishers as they can. Spread the wealth…or the risk as some may say. That way, if one title is lost through one problem or another, the creator has other options available to them. The Speakeasy debacle taught me that. There is really no upside at all to a cretor for being exclusive with a Markosia or an Ape or Silent Devil. We simply do not have the resources for something like that.
Now to be exclusive at the big two…that is a different story.
The upside right off the bat is a guarantee of pages for each year. That means that a writer or artist can actually plan and budget! That is an amazing idea and something I am sure makes the creators’ families sleep better at night. I believe there is also insurance involved. In the States…you can’t beat that.
The downside is that you are exclusive, so if you are at Marvel, there is no Batman in your future and vice-versa. But that is small compared to the benefits.
As far as being beneficial to comic fans…
Honestly, families come first. I know I would be more inclined to make a decision on how this would effect my family than how it effected readers. That said, I do not see how it would be such a bad thing for readers. I mean, if one is exclusive to one company, odds are that means they will be delving deep into the mythos of that one publisher and consequently doing better stories about that publishers characters. So, I see it as win/win.
I think it’s more beneficial to the comic creator, to be honest. Let’s face it – we live in a world where banks and mortgage lenders like to see consistent money coming in. Sure, you could be bringing in thousands every week in wages, but as a freelancer it could alter from month to month. I know people bringing in three times as much a month as others, yet unable to get the home loans, car loans etc that the latter can because they don’t have a ‘full time’ job.
An exclusive deal allows the creator the stability of a contract that guarantees for, say, two years. This makes it far easier to get a mortgage, a loan, the things that being a fly-by-night can sometimes cause issues with.
Also, with the added concern of ‘what am I going to pitch next? I need something to pay my rent in December’ is now gone, they can relax, and do what they do best – producing good strong stories. So yes, I think there are a lot of pros to signing an exclusive. Of course, the con is that if creator A leaves to go to another company, the books he might be best known for won’t be able to be continued for a while, as he won’t be able to do them. I’d love to see Andy Diggle do more PUNISHER. but it won’t happen for a while. Likewise Brubaker on, say, Batman.
But you still get quality from them, so you can’t complain!
The pros are entirely the creators’ and the companies’. Creators get a certain amount of guaranteed work, some job security, and ideally health and dental coverage–all very tempting to someone who’s been working freelance for several years. The companies get to lock down a known quantity–someone they know they can work with, who probably has some sort of established audience, and they can make long-term plans with the knowledge that a given creator won’t be lured away by a better offer.
A lot of the potential cons would depend on the deal that’s negotiated. Creators might be contractually obligated to work on projects they aren’t passionate about, for instance. A worst-case scenario could see a creator’s work simply not published for the length of a contract. The CrossGen debacle is a good example of how bad things can get.
I’m trying to find the upside for fans, and I really can’t. These contracts are, by their nature, inhibiting–a creator is putting their efforts at the mercy of a corporate entity, which potentially involves all sorts of censorship, and they’re prevented from working on projects the company doesn’t have an interest in publishing. I don’t know when I’ll get to see Morrison’s MARVEL BOY sequel or Bendis’ BATMAN, but I know it won’t be anytime soon, and as a fan, that sucks.
Don’t see how it could benefit fans, unless it makes the creators happier and they therefore do better work. However, it does make it impossible to see such creators’ versions of characters owned by other competing companies.
George T Singley:
Well the pros would be guaranteed work and stability for the creator which then turns into definitive product and projects for the fans. The fans know exactly where to find their favorite creator and can enjoy their work on a regular basis…instead of the creator hunting around between publishers for a gig. The obvious con would be that it severely limits what characters a creator can play with and work on…if said creator has a DC exclusive deal…don’t look for your favorite exclusive writer to be doing Captain America anytime soon. I do feel it’s somewhat beneficial for the fans…refer to my pros on the subject…and definitely the creator’s stability wise.
Well, i think it can be good for the creators, but it might not be so good for the fans. If a Writer and Artist team are on say, a DC title, then go to Marvel to work on something for a few years in the middle of a story arc they didn’t finish…fans won’t hold back, as we’ve all seen many times, the angry posts on comic sites.
“How did you break into comics and do you have any advice for new creators? What’s the best way for new creators to get noticed and break into comics?”
Man, I still feel like I am breaking in. I sure do not want o ound like a smartass, but I am not where I would like to be. As the boss at a small publisher, I am certainly further ahead than others, but I have a long way to go in my opinion. I am asked that by many people and I feel completely unqualified to answer it. That is a question for Mike Oeming or Brian Bendis or Mark Waid.
If you want my opinions on how to get as far as I have…which isn’t that far, I’ll give them to ya…
“In the war between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins…not through strength, but through persistence.”
That is my advice.
If you are good, and one knows if one is good or not, then do not let anyone or anything stop you from trying. If you are good, there is a place for you in the industry…somewhere. Just keep looking until you find it. I can only speak as a writer, but I think the biggest thing for a writer is to find a kick-ass artist and start creating with them. (I say them because you should find as many artists as possible and work with them all.) Get published even if it is on your own. Have something to show people. These days, if you are not a best selling author or a Hollywood screenwriter or director, your prospects of breaking into the top publishers is remote, so have some comics that will make people say, WOW!
Tenacity is above all supreme at this level.
There’s a running joke that I’m one of the biggest pimps in comics as I seem to be everywhere – and to be honest, it’s true. I’m a net-whore, but I can guarantee that 80% of the editors out there know my name. And that’s the first step.
How did I get into comics? Well, I had an advantage – and that was I came from outside media. I’ve written for TV and radio in the UK, and that helped me get a foot in the door. But as for how I did it, I was ballsy and went straight for the jugular. I found out that I was going to New York for Easter in 2003, and that on the Thursday I’d be touching down at JFK at about 12pm. I knew both DC and Marvel were open on the Thursday before Easter, so I contacted them both by email and then phone, explained that I was a British writer, I was in the Big Apple for one afternoon only, would most probably be going to see the rivals, was there a chance of coming by? At the worst, I’d get to see the fabled Marvel Bullpen – or the DC mural.
As it was, I aimed for the top. I phoned Mike Carlin and I emailed Joe Quesada. I will be honest, I may have hinted that I was seeing the rival either beforehand or after, so they kinda had a curiosity involved.
As it was, I was invited by Teresa Focarile, a Marvel editor who was (then) not only in charge of out-of-comics talent, but also involved in Epic. I went to see her an hour after touching down, we spoke about some ideas for Epic, also what areas I wanted to work in. I then went back to the hotel, freshened up and went to DC where I met with Mike Carlin and Bob Schreck who had a more grass roots chat – DC weren’t hiring, but Mike gave me a lot of good advice that day, and I’ve remembered it ever since. I actually saw him at San Diego and was able to thank him – I really don’t think he realised how much of an impact he made.
Of course Bob Schreck’s sick of my face now. I sent him a Christmas carol once that was re-written into a ‘hire Tony’ subliminal message.
So I had the meetings, I had photos taken – I still have them on my desk in front of me – and over the following months I worked more with Marvel’s X-Office for the upcoming Unlimited series. I came up with a pitch, then a script, and then finally when X-Men Unlimited #1 came out, I had my story in it.
Funnily enough, it’s a lot easier to get your foot in the door when you have a Marvel X-men credit. And although Trailer Park of Terror snuck in with a later story and got out first, there’s a lot of kudos in having your first contracted comic work to be the first story of an X-Men #1 comic.
But at all times I was polite and courteous. I didn’t get into their faces, and I asked if I could keep in touch. Several editors who have never given me work are now friends, for example. So, advice? Make sure you have something to show. When I went to DC/Marvel, I took radio scripts and scripts of upcoming short stories. When Mongoose saw me for Starship Troopers, I sent them the X-Men comic. Give them something that they can see, hold in their own hands.
Also – this is a job interview. Don’t just send in any old shite. Make sure that it’s the best that you can do.
But make sure people know who you are. It’s a fine line and I myself am backing away a little now so I don’t get TOO saturated – but you need to make sure your name is out there.
I still don’t feel like I’ve broken into comics (it’s more like I’ve broken out of reality), so whatever advice I’ve got has to be suspect and has likely been stolen from someone who actually has established themselves in the medium. The two things I would emphasize are 1) always be courteous, and 2) never give up. You haven’t failed until you stop trying, you just haven’t succeeded yet.
The best way for creators to break in (other than having a buddy who’s an editor) is to have a finished product. Ideally, that finished product will be a New York Times best-selling novel or a cult television series, but failing that, a small press, self-published, or even mini comic will get you farther than a bunch of loose papers.
I assume things are still pretty much the same as when I broke into comics. I went to conventions, entered their art shows / contests, met editors and showed them my portfolio, and sent copies of my work to editors c/o their respective companies. The only real difference is the role that email can now play instead of snail mail.
George T Singley:
Hard work…that’s how I broke in and that’s my advice. Always give your best with everything you do, go to cons, network, make deadlines, and never give up. For one of my first projects…I had been talking to Erik Larsen about publishing a series at Image for awhile. I sent a completed first issue his way so he could take a look at it and he immediately told me Image would publish it and to send my pitch and completed first issue to Jim Valentino. Jim reviewed the pitch and was in agreement with Erik. I was offered an Image contract and that was that. Since then, over the years, I’ve created and worked on a number of books at various publishers.
I broke in back in ’99, I had done a cover for Robin # 73 for DC. I was really excited about it, but the one thing that has always stuck with me is, don’t always bet on getting consistent work after just one cover. It’s best to work hard on learning everything you can first! From storytelling to backgrounds, learn it all, learn from the masters! It takes a lot of time and effort and unless your willing to hear ” No, sorry, your stuff isn’t “there” yet” then well, you should know the answer to that.
There are many ways you can go about breaking into comics, starting out as an assistant for an artist doing background work or finishes is a good way. You can learn as you go and get tips and lessons from the artists while you work.
Another way is working on an “indy” book with a writer, co-creating something or just doing a work for hire on the book. That way you can get your stuff out there, and keep building on your skills and library of work.
Right… that’s Part One over with… bloody good so far eh?
I’ve decided to chop this week’s panel into two parts, so log in next week for part two of this Markosia special edition of SBC’s The Panel.
You can check out more information on Markosia at http://www.markosia.com
The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great, isn’t it?
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