This is an interview with Ed Catto who is working with Joe Ahern on Captain Action and was also kind enough to give us an e-mail interview. I love learning more about the people who are creating, marketing, and helping promote independent comics. I think we should listen to people like Ed because they bring an interesting perspective to independent comics that we really should pay attention to. Ed is a very good speaker, and a lot of fun to interact with. It gives me a lot of pleasure to bring Ed into the forefront and having him agree to do an interview with us.
How did you get started in comics?
I’ve been a life-long comics fan, complete with the overflowing collection and the tattered cape I wore around my neck oh-those-many years ago. But professionally, as an advertising and marketing guy, I dipped my toe in the water of the comics industry when I working for Nabisco and partners like Marvel and Valiant. Since then, I worked at Reed Expo to help build the New York Comic Con. Jumping into the world of Captain Action was a natural outgrowth.
What would you say are the challenges to being an independent comic book person?
There are so many challenges, but one of the advantages is that I find the key folks in this industry can be very supportive of one another. Oh, it’s competitive and each person or company has to be competitive in order to survive, don’t get me wrong. But within the industry, on the convention circuit and amongst the retailers, I find there to be a real spirit of camaraderie. It’s refreshing.
The challenges, however, are numerous. There’s a steep learning curve and you’ve got to get up it fast if you’re going to survive. I remember so many folks would, during our second year, greet us with surprise. There was a “You guys are still around? Good for you!“ vibe. That’s because it’s so easy to jump in with both feet and burn through your budget and get exhausted. Developing the properties or the IP is one thing, but beyond that, you’ve got to develop your marketing plan, your retailer plan, your convention plan, your PR plan ..etc. There’s a LOT to do.
There is a big frustration that a certain segment of fans are only focused on the big two. I always remember the time I was talking to one particular fan. He was in my local comic shop and lived nearby me. He had his normal weekly stack of comics that must’ve cost him $40 or $50 bucks. He talked about how he loved-loved-loved comics soooo-so-so much. He even said how he liked some of the creators who work with us. (Gulacy, I think it was.) Then I suggested he try one of our comics. I told him I’d buy the first issue for him. He had no interest in trying any comics that weren’t Marvel or DC. That’s frustrating, but a reality.
On the other hand, there great fans who love the industry, and eschew the mainstream. That’s probably many of your readers. Bless them for their courage in trying new things!
What advice would you give to people just starting out in comics?
Look into Nursing! No, seriously, it’s a lot of fun, but so many folks could benefit from a higher level of professionalism. It’s hard to differentiate your passion from your career, but it’s mandatory. And the casualness of a hobby just doesn’t translate to a situation where you want someone to pay you for your services or products. And I mean everything from establishing a professional look to ensuring that your emails don’t have typos.
What would you like to see different about the comic book industry?
It seems to be changing so quickly. What an exciting time. The digital revolution is exciting, and the impact of comics (Walking Dead, superhero movies, etc.) has a stronger influence on mainstream America than ever before. There’s so many great comics being published, and so many wonderful classics being republished.
Where do you think the comic book industry can improve on getting new readers?
Much has been written about digital and I think that’s the next great frontier. The digital readers were such a big gifting item this past yuletide season. I am encouraged by the publishers how are working hard to welcome those new digital readers into the fold. I just love the efforts of publishers like Archie, Ape, Boom! Studios and IDW to provide all-ages content that’s high quality, fresh and creative. One colleague recently noted that Boom! Studios’ new Peanuts comic might be the most important introduction of 2012.
We’re doing our part too. Starting with our toy launch in April, every Captain Action and Dr. Evil toy we sell at Toys R Us includes a free comic. And our deluxe toy packaging has Diamond’s Comic Shop Locator icon and info right on the packaging.
Digital comics, the best thing ever for independents or a disaster waiting in the wings?
As stated above, I’m very optimistic.
How could comics appeal to women better?
Beats me. I’ve always been confused and perplexed by that species. (Fascinated too.) I’d guess great stories and great art.
Prior to the Watchman movie, commuting into to NYC on the train, I sat next to a middle-aged African American woman reading the Watchman graphic novel. I wouldn’t have thought she was in that demographic, but she told me she loved it!
And at NYCC, I was surprised by the amount of women who bought our issues of Savage Beauty. Although many were drawn to our booth by the copies of “Chicks in Capes” we were selling. (That’s an anthology title written, illustrated and edited by women.)
If you could draw the perfect comic what would it be?
Ha ha, I know this sounds corny, but that’d be the ones we’re working on: Captain Action, Zeroids, Lady Action and Savage Beauty.
Of all the comics you have drawn which one is your favorite one?
My art has appeared in Captain Action on a Lady Action story, but I think that Savage Beauty is going to be the most fun to draw. Great locations, engaging characters and this book will walk in the footsteps of all our favorites: Joe Kubert, Burne Hogarth, Thomas Yeates, Gray Morrow the list goes on and on.
Do you use Tumblr or other sites to promote your comic work? What are the links and what can people expect to find there?
We push our stuff on through our site, our facebook sites, the forever fun blog, our online stores, tweet way too much and post stuff on Deviant art. It keeps us busy but gives us so many touch points for fans.
What is your favorite studio?
Tough to narrow it down. Here’s a few off the top of my head, but after I finish this I’m kick myself for the ones I left off the list.
I gotta say I’m always so impressed by the BLVD guys. Talents like Tommy Lee Edwards and Jon Paul Leon seem to get better and better ever time I feast my eyes on their new stuff. Mark Wheately and Insight Studios are producing stunning digital paintings. I need more wallspace so I can buy more from them! And Continuity Studios is always working on something very cool.
What is your convention calendar looking like this year? Where are you going and why are you going to that convention?
We’ve got a busy year ahead. We’ll be at ComicsPRO meeting all the great retailers, and from there it’s right back up to NYC for Toy Fair at the Javits Center. Then we might go to Emerald City. I really want to and have heard such great things about it.
WonderCon is in LA this year, and that will be fun. At C2E2 our toy partner, Round 2, will have a booth so that will be really fun. Can’t wait to start selling our comics to the fans.
Last year I missed SDCC (#burstappendix , #ouch!), but I’m really excited to be back in ‘12. Baltimore has become a favorite and I look forward to that show and the Harvey Awards. NYCC is really our home base, and we are looking forward to exhibiting there for our 5th year. Has it really been that long?
I’d also like to get to one of the Ithaca conventions this year. They’re a great group and I used to help organize them when I was in college. I was a Guest of Honor in 2010 (along with Mark Waid-how crazy it that?) and really need to return.
This past weekend, I was at Dare2Draw in NYC, and I know they are planning more. What a fun event that was- can’t wait for the next one.
And in northern Jersey, we also have some excellent local conventions that we always visit and exhibit at too.
So, yes, you can tell we love conventions and can’t wait to get on the road and mix it up with fans, pros and friends. Hope to see you and a bunch’a Comics Forge guys in 2012!
Thanks Ed for the awesome interview, if you are Emerald City Comic Con stop by Booth 520!
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