This week I was fortunate enough to be able to question Andrew Goletz, the President and Editor in Chief of GrayHaven comics, about their aggressive expansion further into the industry via their ‘Phase Two’ efforts. This is one you definitely want to check out!
1) Andrew, since you are moving forward with, what you and the rest of the team at GrayHaven call ‘Phase Two’, can you give us a quick recap of what brought you guys here a mere three years after establishment? What originally inspired the creation of this publishing company and it’s openness to new creators?
I was a member of Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld forums and I posed the question, ‘who’d be interested in writing and drawing a comic’ to members of the DC board on the forums. Response was overwhelming and we were lucky to have so much talent right there on the board. Midway through the production of that first issue I knew we had enough material to start working on a second issue shoudl the first one prove to be a success. Thankfully, it was. After we were well underway with the second issue I started to think of ideas for future volumes and I also wanted to start opening submissions up to people outside the Jinxworld forums and people that I knew.
The goal of the book aside from telling the best stories we possibly can, is to provide new creators a place to get their work published (often for the very first time). I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to feature close to 200 creators over the past three years and one of the cooler perks for them is the fact they’ve also been able to make those debuts alongside some more established pros. One of the many comic pros who visit those boards, Gail Simone, took a huge interest in the project doing a very very in depth review of the entire book and even graciously volunteered to do a story for the second issue. That started a tradition where we were able to get other comic pros like Sterling Gates, Glenn Greenberg and John Jackson Miller to participate in other issues.
So having the pros come on board is a great perk and it obviously helps draw attention to the book but the focus of The Gathering anthology has been to bring out new creators.
2) Now, through the rest of 2012 and into 2013, ‘Phase Two’ will commence. What can the readers expect of this expansion? Are there any special creators or series’ that will come of it, beyond those that have already made their mark on GrayHaven?
Erica Heflin is responsible for a couple of the books coming out. ARCHIVES is a one shot anthology…a historical anthology which is actually my first published work in years as I keep bumping myself off Gathering issues. MOTHER AND SON is a five issue mini, the first issue of which is out now and OF WOLF AND WOMAN is a four issue mini set to debut by the end of the year. We kick into high gear in 2013. In January we launch an ongoing written by me and illustrated by Nick Francis. February will see the debut of a new mini series which is actually an adaptation of RUN LIKE HELL a YA Thriller that launched in early February to rave reviews. It will be written by the novel’s creator, Elena Andrews and illustrated by a recurring Gathering talent, George Amaru. I loved comic adaptations of my favourite movies and books as a kid so I get a kick out of producing one myself. Already it’s an entirely different and exciting process to use an existing story and adapting it to this medium. In March a Gathering artist pairs up with a big name pro recently coming off a team book for the Big Two and they’ll be doing a series of mini series in this wonderful little universe that they’ve created. Those creators will be revealed soon but the concept blows me away. And one of the cool things with this line now is that creators working for other companies hopefully feel a bit more comfortable about approaching us with longer form ideas.
3) Having been known for The Gathering and it’s allowance for new comers to be published under a respected publisher, is this an aspect of GrayHaven, we as readers and those who aim to create, can expect to continue through ‘Phase Two’?
If all goes according to plan this will follow a similar pattern as what happened with The Gathering. When we first started the anthology, it was easiest for me to stick with people I knew and could rely on to come through. Once we got the hang of it with several issues I expanded our reach to the point now where there’s more new people coming in each issue than returning writers. With Phase Two the initial line up of books is being done by creators that have proven themselves time and time again with us or though other companies. The plan is definitely to open that up to other creators who come to us with longer self contained works.
4)In this past week, ‘Phase Two’ of GrayHaven‘s publishing efforts has officially begun with the release of Mother and Son. What was it about this comic that made it the perfect start to this new chapter?
It’s a 5 issue mini series with a unique concept by one of our editors and longtime writers. Erica had the book already in production and was thinking of self publishing but we figured why not just make it part of our line. The high concept hook, great writing and fantastic art made it an easy choice. It’s stands well enough on its own but as part of the entire Phase Two it’s also a great showcase for the types of stories we want to put out there. We’re not going to be launching 10 capes and powers books. Not that we’d automatically say no to super hero comics but we want to do something different now and other companies are doing that much better anyway.
5) How have your current fans responded to the news of ‘Phase Two’ and the goodies it will expel? How has the reaction been elsewhere with potential new fans, the blog-o-sphere and, of course, forums?
Response has been spectacular so far, from our own site to Twitter feedback to the sites like yours curious about just what we’re trying to do. I’ve been known to tease a lot when it comes to our projects and I think I’ve made the announcements like up to the hype. This is one of the biggest things we’ve ever done. Folks thought we were crazy when we decided to publish ten issues this year and we were able to do that nearly flawlessly. But this is an expansion beyond anything we were initially focused on.
6) I know you guys support and publish a lot of web-comics. What is it to you that is appealing about these shorter burst stories compared to the complete issues released in paper?
How do you think your current running web-comics that are being pushed onto paper will change in terms of fan base and content?
The webcomics started about a year and a half ago for a couple of reasons. I wanted to really make GrayHavenComics.com a place where people wanted to check out on daily basis not just to get information about our company but to have fun and get some entertainment value as well. And at the point we began the webcomics, The Gathering was still a quarterly publication and I can’t stand the void in putting out books. I figured ongoing webcomics updated weekly would allow us to put out more content faster than we could with print and again it afforded people a new opportunity.
7) Which of the web-comic series’ are you guys planning on releasing first? Is there any that will remain as web-series exclusives permanently?
KID ROBO by Marc Dechamps and Chris Chamberlain is likely coming out first in early 2013, followed shortly after by THE BID which collects both the Gathering stories and the webcomic of the main character from THE BID/FURTHER ADVENTURES OF AN ANNUATED ADVENTURER by Gary Hogan and Blake Sims. KID ROBO will continue on the site with new updates every Monday. Depending on Gary and Blake’s schedule and the character’s fate in the One Shot I’d also love to have THE BID return. THE LEGEND OF TANIN by Donal DeLay is a series I can’t speak highly enough. I look forward to each installment with the same sort of wonder and anticipation as I did when Jeff Smith’s BONE was being published but we haven’t decided on whether to print that yet or not. Currently just KID ROBO and THE BID are getting the one shot treatment and most of the others will remain online exclusive.
8) What is your stance on digital comics? Is this a territory you guys plan on scoping out as a potential platform for upcoming releases?
I was born and raised on print and although I’ve read a few comics on a digital platform I prefer to hold a physical copy of the book in my hands. Nothing beats that experience for me, even if digital would be cheaper or faster to get my hands on a book. That said, I think it’d be shooting ourselves in the foot to not be able to offer our books to fans who prefer to read their books digitally. Let the people who want the books decide which format they want to read it on and we’ll do our best to offer it in as many ways as possible. In fact you’ll likely see most of our Phase Two books offered digitally shortly after the print debuts and we’ll work backwards towards doing the same for The Gathering.
9) With ‘Phase Two’ you guys seem to be pushing out many different styles and genres of comics, ranging from novel adaptions, to anthologies, to what looks to be a futuristic and perhaps hero-esque comic. How important is it to GrayHaven to involve such a wide array of material for the fans? Is this a pattern we can expect to see continue through and past ‘Phase Two’?
I think it’s crucial. The fun of The Gathering was getting a chance to tell a wide variety of stories since each issue covered a different theme and the unpredictable nature of what the readers may want. Horror has proven to be a great seller for us so it’s no secret as to why we did 3 Horror issues and are launching a seperate Horror anthology TALES FROM THE ABYSS in December. Romance was a popular one. Sci Fi and Western were a lot of fun to do as well. We go into each issue thinking that a certain theme will be fun to work on and resonate with readers. Sometimes that isn’t the case haha, but it’s still fun in the planning stages. As we expand the line to offer longer sequential self contained stories I think it’s important to keep that diversity out there. The initial Phase Two line features thrillers, horror, sci fi and westerns and our one shots SPARKS and MY GEEK FAMILY are a detective adventure and slice of life respectively.
10) What advice would you give to up and coming comic creators on how to survive the industry and get in contact with the right people?
You have to keep doing what you love. Everyone says it and they say it because it’s true. If you’re a writer, you write. If you’re an artist, you draw. Every day you need to hone your skills whether you have a project that’s due or you’re just creating for yourself practice every day. If you need a collaborator of some sort check out sites like Digital Webbing or Pencil Jack or become a member of
comic book forums. A lot of talent posts on these places and you can find a partner to make your own books. Make a comic. Complete a comic. And show that comic off either on the web or in person at comic conventions or at your local comic shop. And heck, if you haven’t had any luck so far with any of that and still have a passion for creating, I know a company that loves to work with new talent. Also (and this can never be said enough) don’t be a jerk. Do your best to treat other creators like you would want to be treated. Take criticism well but don’t let it define you. It’s a small industry and if you show yourself to be ‘unpleasant’ you’ll have a very tough road.
11) What are some of the hardest obstacles and challenges GrayHaven has encountered and survived? What are some of the lessons you are glad to have learned before moving into ‘Phase Two’ and beyond?
You never know as much as you think you know. I did freelance work for Marvel on their Official Handbooks, Eaglemoss’ DC Super Hero Magazine and some Star Wars stuff for Del Rey as well as being a life long comic book fan. I figured I had a certain amount of expertise that would make things easier and in some cases that may be but in reality we wouldn’t be where we are without the help of a lot of other people behind the scenes who helped let me know if we were on the right track and to offer their opinions even if it was something I didn’t want to hear. I also figured since I was in love with the comics we were doing every comic site and retailer would be flooding my email asking how to find out more about The Gathering and GrayHaven but it’s taken about this long for our labor to start bearing fruit. We’re competing with limited retailer dollars, limited space on comic sites and a lot of great comic books out there so it’s been a lot more work doing marketing than I thought there would be. But then when sites like yours do these types of features with us it makes all the hard work worth it. The positive reviews from those who’ve read the books and the interviews with our team have done so much to help the overall success of our comics.
12) Will your team be visiting any expo’s or con’s this year? If so, which?
Editor/Writer Erica Heflin will be at Geek Girl Con August 11 and 12 at Booth 204. Writers Travis Holyfield and Len Wallace and artist George Amaru will be at ComiConn on August 18, then Erica Helfin joins Amanda Rachels for Baltimore Comic Con in September and the big one is New York Comic Con where all of our editors and some special guests will be on hand.
13)Thank you for your time Andrew, I am looking forward to seeing GrayHaven progress further in the industry while still helping newbies get noticed. You guys have something really great going here! Is there any last words you wish to add?
Just thank you for giving a spotlight to small press creators. It’s a tough market out there and it means so much for all of us to get some press. We have had a fun few years but it’s nothing compared to what we have coming up in 2013 and beyond. Readers can follow all our latest news (and webcomics) at www.grayhavencomics.com and via Twitter at @gatheringcomic. And if anyone wants to try some great comics from some of the best new talent in the business they can order direct through us at http://www.grayhavencomics.com/comics/ Also be on the lookout in the 2nd week of August for a brand new Open Submission period (always a favorite) and our latest Kickstart project which will feature some of the most exciting rewards we’ve ever done.