Alex Rodrik: Tell us a bit about Blackline. What are its origins?
Michael De Lepine: Blackline started in late summer of 2008 when Jay Savage and Michael De Lepine (that’s me) began talking about putting together a company to publish the types of comics we both enjoyed reading. We both had a brief involvement with the Comicbook Artists Guild (CAG), a national organization of comic creators looking to share their knowledge, talent and experiences with each other. Let’s just say that things didn’t work out between either of us and CAG, and after comparing notes, we discovered that our ideas and expectations about what we wanted to do in the comics industry were identical, and so our partnership, which became Blackline Comics, was born.
Rodrik: What sets Blackline apart from all other Publishers?
De Lepine: One of the main things, and to me the most remarkable, is that Blackline has no centralized office. Each of our homes are our offices, so we are significantly spread out: Jay is our Publisher and CFO, and he lives in Las Vegas; I am the Director of Operations and Production Manager, and I live just outside of Honolulu, Hawaii; our Distribution Manager, Art Gould, and our Editor-In-Chief, Anthony Zicari, both live in the upstate New York area. We currently have production and marketing interns that live in Nevada and Oregon, and we’re taking on more as we speak. So the fact that we can put everything we’re working on together and not all be under one roof is something I at least think is truly amazing. Normally you would expect such a publisher’s freelance talent to be scattered all across the country, if not all over the world.
De Lepine: Resulting from our open call to creators, we were contacted by Vassilis Gogtzilas, the MISERY CITY creator, who was searching for a publisher for the series. He and his scripter, K.I. Zachopoulos, who both live in the Greek Isles, were working towards producing a 15-issue run for the book and were already complete with about 5 issues of it at that time. Blackline requires that interested creators have their concepts either complete or close to completion, and Vassilis works so fast it’s almost ridiculous. His art is truly phenomenal, and if I could categorize it at all, his style reminds me of a cross between MAD Magazine’s Mort Drucker and comics favorite Bill Sienkiewicz, if you can imagine that. Sam Keith (THE MAXX) has been quotes as saying that Vassillis is one of the few artists that blows Keith’s own work right out of the water. High praise indeed, don’t you think?
MISERY CITY is the tale of a degenerate private eye named Max Murray tormented by demons and other bizarre creatures whose sole purpose is to drag Max into Hell with them kicking and screaming. Max has other ideas on the subject, but between wanting to dive into a bottle of booze to cope with the problem, and having the lust of his life, a beautiful bartender named Pakita, spurning his advances, it would seem MISERY CITY is aptly named…
Rodrik: What sets Blackline apart from all other Publishers? What made you lead with MISERY CITY as opposed to any of the other titles you’ve announced?
De Lepine: MISERY CITY was the most ready at the time we decided to go with it, but more importantly, it is a solid series in every sense of the word. It’s dark, it’s foreboding, it’s thrilling, and you never quite know what twists and turns it will take next. Max Murray is a character that is definitely much more than meets the eye, as readers will soon find out for themselves.
De Lepine: The other titles we’re developing are just as exciting. One of which is COLONEL, a one-shot original graphic novel by Manoel Magahães and Osmarco Valladão, who both hail from Brazil. COLONEL is a story set in the far-flung future on a desolate planet, with a lone soldier lost in enemy territory, searching for his unit. The high-powered rifle he carries possesses artificial intelligence, the power of speech and the rank of Colonel, and gives the soldier his orders. COLONEL is a compelling, cautionary tale that takes a hard look at what would happen if orders coming from the weapon you’re carrying can or should ever be questioned, let alone disobeyed; or worse, what would happen if the weapon should ever fall into the wrong hands.
Another title under development is EMPYREAL (pronounced imperial), a centuries-spanning epic grounded in ancient Chinese martials arts and mysticism, following a brash but skilled young warrior monk seeking to make his way in the world despite the fact that his path is tainted by bearing an unholy link to a malefic conquering demon that could use their tie to lay the entire world waste. EMPYREAL is an original graphic novel created by Carlton Hickman, with story by our own Anthony Zicari, art by the fabulous Edu Francisco and colors by Sunny Gho. Many may remember Edu Francisco as the breakout artist of Michael Turner’s Aspen Comics title Executive Assistant Iris.
Yet another graphic novel series Blackline is developing is ASSASSIN & SON. Planned as three consecutive trade paperbacks, ASSASSIN & SON is the contemporary story of a team of ruthlessly efficient contract killers known as the Horsemen, and specifically of one within their ranks who plans on retiring to acquaint himself with the young son he never got to know. However, the only retirement plan the Horsemen will honor comes complete with closed caskets for both father and son. ASSASSIN & SON is created and written by professional wrestling superstars Shad Gaspard and Marc Copani, with art by Brazil’s Rascunho Studio’s Eder Messiah (Witch Hunter) and colors by Paul Little (Bomb Queen).
De Lepine: Both by print and digitally, with a heavy emphasis on print for right now. We’ve been testing the waters with digital comics for a little while, and unfortunately, we feel digital comics for the independent comics market is not a viable business model for publishers or creators, at least not at this time. That’s not to say that that particular market won’t ever come around, but right now, the money’s just not there yet for digital comics like it is for print comics. Did you know that digital comics grossed approximately about $2 million last year as opposed to the print comics market grossing approx. $80 million? Besides that, the majority of comic book readers still like the feel of a physical, tangible comic held between their hands. Digital comics, as exciting as the whole concept is, is still in its infancy, and we feel it could be as much as a decade or more before digital downloadable comics become viable for a comics publisher to create income from.
Rodrik: Who are some of the talent Blackline is bringing to readers in the future?
De Lepine: Negotiations are pending with several of the creators Blackline is communicating with right now, so we aren’t at liberty to divulge who they are and what they’re working on just yet, but as such negotiations are finalized, you’ll be the first to know!
Rodrik: When does MISERY CITY drop and where can readers go to get their copy?
De Lepine: Diamond Comics Distributors will be featuring MISERY CITY#1 in the March issue of their monthly catalog PREVIEWS, available in comic shops on February 23rd, which means comic shops and their customers can place their orders for release sometime in May. The Diamond Order Code for MISERY CITY #1 is MAR110928 F MISERY CITY #1 (MR).
Let all your readers know to go to the comic stores they shop at and order MISERY CITY #1! We at Blackline have a goal to get every comic store to order a minimum of ten (10) copies of MISERY CITY #1, AND we have a retailer incentive going in that for every five (5) copies a store orders, they’ll get a sixth copy free! You might want to check back with us after the release date and see if we hit or surpassed our goal!
And by the way, when we receive the actual May release date, we’ll be sure to get that information to you!
Rodrik: Time to sell your books, fellas! In 10 words, tell us why Blackline books are a must buy.
How about this:
BLACKLINE COMICS – VIVID IMAGINATION AT BRUTE FORCE.