This is exactly what I’m talking about.
One of my common threads, especially recently, centers on the lack of diversity in the comics marketplace, and what can be done to correct it. Considering that the “majors” have a very limited roster of characters to even work with, this “correction” will likely be sparked from a creator-owned stance. Enter Gettosake Entertainment, a collective formed by three brothers with experience in the fields of comics, television, animation, and film, committed to changing the way things work, combining proven elements with a sensibility that makes their projects completely accessible and wholly unique at the same time. And this year, they’re coming at you from a few different angles.
Whether it’s with the action thriller FIERCE, the fantasy adventure Shadow Rock, the blaxploitation epic Chocolate Thunder, or the pulp hero Credence Walker, Gettosake is confident they can release a project that will appeal to any audience. I tracked down co-founder Jeremy Love to ask a few questions about the company, and changing the game one book at a time.
Brandon Thomas: Who makes up Gettosake Entertainment, and what ultimately sparked the creation of the company?
Jeremy Love: Gettosake is me (Jeremy Love) and my two brothers, Maurice and Robert. We started Gettosake to create the stories we’ve always wanted to see featuring multi-cultural characters.
Thomas: Was there any one incident or situation that told you, “We have to go ahead and do this.” When did creating Gettosake just become a matter of time?
Love: There was no big incident that I remember. We wanted to break into the industry, but didn’t want to bother with the hassle of submitting and portfolio reviews. I had worked with a start up comic company that never got off the ground, so I knew a little bit about how Diamond Distributors worked. It was literally a thing where we just said, “Let’s do it!”
Thomas: Based on your website, you guys are actively working in several different fields. What ultimately attracts you to comics?
Love: In comics, you’re in total control of all aspects. Film, television and animation is a collaborative process and an idea can easily become diluted. The selfish artist in me loves having total control, and that is what makes comics attractive.
Thomas: The first 2004 Gettosake project is FIERCE from Dark Horse, officially hitting the stands in June. What is the series about and how’d it come together?
Love: FIERCE is a four issue action thriller about a psychic profiler out for revenge. His squad was murdered and he somehow acquires their personalities and abilities. Basically it’s a big summer action flick in the tradition of The Bourne Identity and Three Days of the Condor, with the visual style of Bad Boys.
We met Mike Richardson at the 2002 San Diego Con, and later pitched him a few projects, and he was drawn to FIERCE and SHADOW ROCK first. We anticipate doing many more books through Dark Horse.
Love: The official tagline is: After his mother’s death, young TIMOTHY LONDON moves from the big city to the small New England fishing town of SHADOW ROCK to live with his father. His new home is up the hill from a legendary haunted lighthouse where Timothy discovers the ghost of KENDAHL FOG, a little boy who calls the place home. Ostracized from his peers and neighbors, Timothy befriends his new ghostly companion and sets out to explore the dark underbelly of Shadow Rock and the mystery of Kendahl’s death.
The personal aspects come mainly from my childhood experience of being the only black family in an all white neighborhood. We had a rough time and the sense of alienation was incredible. So I drew from that and tried to craft a positive story about friendship and sacrifice.
Love: It’s more or less the same. VERY BAD. We’ve been lucky enough to break through on both ends, but it wasn’t easy. A lot of companies seem to believe that there is only room for “X” amount of minority properties. Marketing departments for the film and animation industry don’t believe ethnic toys will sell, so in turn you see very few kids’ shows with multi-racial leads. In the comics industry, companies believe black characters don’t sell.
In comics, I see an opportunity. If the fans would only support quality product featuring black characters, you would see more of it. It doesn’t take much either. 10,000 extra copies can make all the difference. In film and TV reaching a million more viewers is far more daunting.
Thomas: What do you think needs to happen to fix this?
Love: It will take a comic book by black creators or featuring a black lead becoming a huge hit. Money talks. But how can you prove that such a book can make money? You can’t go by the success or failure of Black Panther and Luke Cage. They’ve launched and relaunched those books countless times. Maybe audiences will respond to a different type of black comic. Unfortunately there isn’t a huge backlog of old black characters to bring out of the woodwork, so new projects will have to be created.
We have a great opportunity. With all the top notch projects coming from the BLOKHEDZ crew, Kyle Baker, Lesean Thomas, and Gettosake, we have a chance to prove that there is a market for diverse, creator owned books. It’s up to the fans to buy the stuff!
Thomas: With a market that seems allergic to new characters and concepts of any kind, what are you guys doing to insure that the market will “take” to things like Shadow Rock and FIERCE?
Love: We’ll be beating the pavement and making noise, but it all rests in the hands of the consumer. Comics is the only industry where the top 10 most popular franchises are 40 years old or more. It is depressing but you have to remain hopeful.
What we’re doing at Gettosake for the next couple of years is building a diverse catalog of published work. Once you have a backlog of material, you can exploit it in many ways. And when the market does call for more diversity, we’ll have a plethora of completed work to accommodate.
Thomas: The projects you’ve got coming are touching several different genres. What influences form the Gettosake mentality?
Love: We’re children of Saturday morning cartoons, Blaxploitation, kung fu flicks, and Soul Train. That’s where I get my nostalgia. We’re also life long hip-hop fans, so that energy is infused into everything we do. I guess you could call it an “Urban Geek Sensibility”.
Thomas: Your very first project, Chocolate Thunder has experienced some evolution over the years. What’s been the biggest change to the character since you’ve first introduced him, and leading up to the upcoming OGN from Oni Press?
Love: The CHOCOLATE THUNDER storyline was completely overhauled. It is more of a straight up tribute to Blaxploitation films. We changed the time frame from the present day to a quasi 70’s world. He’s less “superhero” and more “Yojimbo” or “The Man With No Name”. All of the changes reflect our artistic maturity over the years, and now the world, the fashion, the dialogue, everything is more fully realized and developed.
Thomas: Closing things out, give the readers a few last words on why the industry needs to pay attention to Gettosake in 2004…
Love: We are looking to help redefine MAINSTREAM. So if you’re in the mood for exciting, intelligent and unpretentious comic book entertainment featuring diverse characters, give us a try.