Written by Jason Green Wednesday, 03 October 2007 05:35
In the second part of our two-part look at Jim Valentino's branch of Image Comics, Shadowline editor Kris Simon gives us a peek behind the scenes and reveals some of the hot new projects to come in the next year.
Shadowline may not post a photo of Kris Simon in every issue they publish, but the line's editor was still an instantly recognizable presence to any and all who spied Simon hawking Shadowline books at Wizard World Chicago this summer, when this interview took place. That's thanks to Editor Girl, Simon's red-haired, red Sharpie-wielding alter ego -- created by Image Comics co-founder and Shadowline grand poobah Jim Valentino -- whose portrait graces her "Kris' Korner" column in the back of each Shadowline title. Editor Girl is such a hit with fans, in fact, that she's making her debut as an honest-to-goodness superhero in the pages of Jimmie Robinson's Bomb Queen.
In the first part of our look at Shadowline (see related links below), Valentino reviewed the line's overall publishing philosophy and discussed his own new title, Drawing From Life. In our second part, Simon gives us a view of the day-to-day grind of running a small comics company and the realities of the publishing industry, gives us the scoop on the intended ending to Shadowline's over-before-its- time series Emissary, and offers a sneak peek at the titles the publisher has in store for 2008. | Jason Green
Since you're credited as the editor and Jim as the publisher of the line, what exactly are your jobs? What aspects of the publishing do each of you handle?
Kris Simon: I...do it all. [both laugh] We go through submissions together...that's the first step of it. After that, I take over. I fit it into the schedule, set the deadlines, then I make sure that the team stays on the deadlines. [For each issue,] I go through the pacing, the dialogue, the art...pretty much the beginning-to-end process, everything.
Even though we only put out five books at a time, our schedule goes out so far in advance that we're actually working on about twelve books because they're all miniseries. Since the lineup changes, and series are ending and series are beginning and you're in the middle of some, it really turns out to be quite a bit of work.
Why does Shadowline only publish miniseries?
Since we only publish five books a month, we want to keep the lineup rotating. Of course, if a series does good, we're not going to shoot ourselves in the foot and cancel it and say, "Sorry, we're going to do something else." Like Bomb Queen, for example. If a series is selling really well, we'll keep it going as long as the creator wants it to.
But also, it's because the market is really pretty weak right now, and we're finding that it's not supporting ongoing series as much as it used to. So by doing a miniseries, it allows new creators to put out an arc of a story and see how it does, and if it doesn't do well, they don't leave readers hanging in the middle of an ongoing story. They can finish it up and say, "Okay, well, this one didn't work out, but now we can move on and do something else" and try that. Whereas with an ongoing, sometimes you're left with the angry readers [saying,] "Where's the rest of the story? Why isn't it coming out? Why did it get cancelled?"
There was just a post on the [Shadowline] board the other day about Emissary and "What's the end of it?" and...
Yeah, see, it's like that. And, you know, Emissary was pretty ambitious, because we had high hopes for it. It was what we call a "maxi-series," and it was supposed to be 12 issues total with a beginning, middle, and an end -- four, four, and four. Unfortunately, we had a problem with the writer. He wasn't going in the direction that we wanted him to go, so when we tried to bring it back around to where we wanted it to go with a new writer, people had fallen off the title already and [didn't join in with the new writer]. It really kind of killed the book, and I don't think it had anything to do with the concept or anything like that, just the whole writing aspect of it pooped out.
It was kind of a shame because we really liked that book, and we thought that [new writer] Chris Long was really doing a good job on it, but people just didn't give it a chance. But the ending of that...well, I mean, I can tell you the ending... [both laugh] but I don't know if it'll make anybody any happier.
Well, if you want it to end up on the internet, all you have to do is talk into this microphone and it'll get transcribed in a few days. [both laugh]
Or we could just not get into it.
Emissary's the Antichrist and he ends up wiping out the world, and, uh... [laughs]
That's a hell of an ending!
Well, Tara, the semi-love interest of the story, her main function was to teach him about love and humanity. When the Antichrist arrives, he is first mistaken as a Savior. He goes about helping humanity, becoming a power in Western Civilization...then halfway through, he turns and destroys the world. This was Emissary. The big question was whether Tara could change that paradigm. That's why we had the sex scene, that's why she had the young son. In the end, after he comes to the conclusion that humanity isn't worth being saved, and begins to destroy everything...she succeeds. She becomes the one example of humanity that signifies to him that perhaps we are worth saving after all.
Yeah, it would have been good. [laughs]
Going back to how everything you publish is so story arc-based, with the increased presence of traditional bookstores in the comics industry, why not go straight to graphic novels instead of traditional comics?
Because graphic novels are very expensive to produce, and they don't pay out for at least a year to the creator. It takes that long to break even on your book and make a profit if it's a graphic novel because it costs so much to produce. With a floppy, you get paid monthly. The book gets out there, it sells, and you make a profit if it does well. If your book fails, you can stop it. You don't have 190 pages already drawn that you've invested in that have failed completely, you only have 22. That's why we put it out there first: you live and die by the sales of the floppies because you can gauge interest. You can say, "Hey, if this book is a hit, okay, we know there's reader interest, we know that they like it. Let's give ‘em something more!" Then you can put out the trade and then you have [that] gauge to go by. You can say, "Okay, we can now get deeper sales on the trade, and we can hit that trade mark because we know that there's going to be sales." That's why we only put out single issues first in small amounts, so we can kind of...not have creators going broke [laughs]
And that's important when you're at Image because it's all back end pay. You're talking with one single issue of a comic, they're waiting 4 to 6 months to get paid on it, and when that book doesn't sell, that's a lot of hard work down the drain. And with a graphic novel, it's even worse.
We can do it with creators that have pull, like the Pander Brothers, and we can do it with [Bomb Queen creator] Jimmie [Robinson] -- Jimmie can sell a book, everybody knows Jimmie. But some of the other ones, it's kind of a risk. Edgar Allan Poo, we took kind of a risk on that but we felt it was strong enough that we could hit people, along with PX!, because Manny [Trembley] and Eric [Anderson] had already put out Sam Noir, which was a relative success.
Since there's just two of you, there's no way for majority rule in any decisions. Have there ever been any times where you and Jim have disagreed when it comes to choosing a book, where one of you really, really wants it and the other one really, really doesn't?
[Jim] really didn't want to do it, and I really pushed hard for it. It's just a matter of different tastes, but see, I argue tooth and nail, and I get more angry. [both laugh] And I don't speak to him for a couple of days, and he'll call and talk to me, and he gets all pissed off at me, and then I cave in and say "Forget it, I don't want to talk about it anymore!" [both laugh]
But overall, it's not like it's a bad thing, you know. It works because [we have] two different tastes: if you have the same tastes, then there's not as much diversity in your lineup. It works out.
Could you give us an idea of what Shadowline has coming up?
Well, we have a huge lineup coming, 2008 is a really, really good year for us. Here's what I can give you...
We're pretty much set for the entire first quarter of 2008 with books. I think with the lineup that we have now, people are starting to notice the quality of the books that are coming out and approaching us. We're really not having to look that hard for things to put out, which is a pretty good thing. | Jason Green
If you want to learn more about Shadowline's upcoming releases, be sure to visit the Shadowline ComicSpace page and take a gander at 5 pages of preview art from over a dozen of the company's recent and upcoming releases.
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