• Bad Idea Teaser - Featured Interviews 

    The Bad Idea Crew – Dinesh Shamdasani, Warren Simons, and Hunter Gorinson – Dish On Their Bold New Company

    By | February 6th, 2020
    Posted in Interviews | % Comments

    OK, so you’ve read the news. Bad Idea, a new publisher from Valiant alums Dinesh Shamdasani, Warren Simons, and Hunter Gorinson is debuting later this year. The new enterprise is taking a bunch of risks, including only selling books through a select number of stores and eschewing digital copies and collected editions.

    I must say, initially, I thought the name was going to be an indicator of the business plan. But the more I thought about it, and especially by the time I ended my conversation with Shamdasani, Simons, and Gorinson, I was a believer in this plan. Hopefully, after reading this conversation, you’ll be a believer, too.

    Check back next week for a (much shorter) part 2 of this chat, all about the first title, “Eniac” by Matt Kindt and Doug Braithwaite.

    Note: The conversation was slightly edited for clarity and ease of reading.

    The hardest part of starting something new is the jump into the unknown. But for you guys, this isn’t as much a jump into the unknown as it might be for somebody who’s never done this before. So when you guys decided, “We’re getting back.” And I know you’ve said the day after you left Valiant, you were back in the comics game, but when you started to really think about what it meant to be a part of this again, what was sort of the big overarching change that you wanted to see for Bad Idea versus for Valiant?

    Dinesh Shamdasani: I can say, Brian, that it’s an overarching change, but it’s also, I don’t think we would’ve had this idea and the confidence to do what we’re doing if we hadn’t done what we’d done at Valiant. Valiant was a very powerful space for us because we made comic books at a high level, in the biggest way possible, every store, Diamond, comiXology, big trade program, book market. And because of that, we really got to go under the hood of all the mechanisms of comics. And there’s a lot of people, a lot of publishers that will say, “Comics are broken, the direct market’s broken, [schedules] are broken, stores are broken, we’ve got to fix that.”

    Cover to 'The Valiant' #1 by Paolo Rivera

    I don’t think we ever took that approach at Valiant. I think we made it work immensely well to the point where most new publishers are now copying huge portions of our plan. But having said all that, I think we also learned that there is a … I don’t want to give too much away here, but there is a slight tweak to the mechanism we installed at Valiant that could make it twice or more effective. And that’s what we’re trying to do here, is just focus on the elements that give the most bang for your buck, if that makes sense.

    Warren Simons: I began working on this project in earnest about 13 months ago, and that’s when I began reaching out to the creators who I’ve worked with in the past and new creators. And my great love is making great comics. I love comic books. I worked at Marvel for seven years. I got to work on a bunch of great books over there, “Iron Man,” “Daredevil,” “Iron Fist.” Got to launch a bunch of them. Worked with some incredible guys. Valiant for me was a great continuation of that. Not only did I get to work with a ton of great colleagues, but we got to revitalize some great icons, and have a ton of fun in the process. And for me, this is really what I love doing, and having the opportunity to just create these great new, powerful stories with exceptional creators, I mean, for me, this is a continuation of that broader journey and stuff that I love doing.

    Dinesh Shamdasani: I think the other thing as well is, we’ve tried to build a company that allows us to … If at Valiant we were trying to make the top 10% of comic books, here, we’re trying to make the top 1% of what we did at Valiant. And so we distill the best elements.

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    WS: Yes, we’re building slowly and we’re building great stories with great creators. And our goal is simply to make the best books in the industry or some of the best books in the industry. Greatest hits.

    DS: And Matt Kindt, he’s the asterisk.

    WS: We brought Matt along for the journey, yes.

    DS: Because we feel bad for him. I mean, everyone does. I believe that’s the number one reason people buy our books, they feel bad for Matt.

    We will talk more about Matt and the books in general in a little while, but I want to address the part of the press release and the conversation that we had at New York Comic-Con that struck me as the boldest part. And that is the purposeful scarcity of these books. At least initially, from what I understand, there’s going to be 20 to 50 comic shops selling these books, limited to one per customer at each shop. No collections, no digital, at least, again, to start off. And so I want to just ask the question that first popped into my head, and that’s this: Multiversity is a site made up of people on five continents. We have readers from literally all over the world, and there’s going to be a lot of people who are going to want to read these comics. And when desire is bigger than availability, things can get a little bit tricky there.

    Things like piracy, things like inflated costs on the secondary market, these things tend to happen. And so what is your answer to the 19-year-old kid who lives in the middle of fucking nowhere who wants to read one of these books? How is he supposed to get one without going to nefarious means or emptying his bank account to get one?

    DS: I would say, Brian, that it’s not a purposeful scarcity, it’s a consequence. We’re very aware that there’s probably going to be some scarcity if we’re lucky. Who knows? Maybe no one will like the books. But new publishing is hard. But there’s likely to be scarcity, but it’s not purposeful. It’s a consequence of us trying to build a system that allows us to focus purely on how to make the best comic books, and every element that you attach, you attach with a compromise. You do international distribution, which means you need international distribution partners. Which means you have to push your dates for locking the books and printing the books earlier, which means less time to make the books better. It also means raising more money in order to build that kind of distribution, which means more compromise. It’s all a compromise.

    And so we tried to build the most streamlined system we could, and I think we’ve done a good job of spending 95% of our day, now that we’ve been in this for just over a year. 95% of our day is spent making the books great. And traditionally, in comics, making comics at this level, it’s less than 50% of the day you’re worrying about all sorts of other things. It’s just you running a business. We’ve tried to strip away these business elements, and an unfortunate side effect of that is, they won’t be readily available internationally, digitally, in collections.

    But we live in a modern world, anyone that wants to get a hold of an entertainment product can get a hold of it in some fashion. This isn’t the days of “Bone” and “TMNT,” or even “The Walking Dead.” When those books launched, geographic scarcity was a massive issue. It meant you couldn’t read the books. I think that people will be able to read the books, no problem. We may not see any money from that. Where they may run into a problem is if they want to collect the books, if they want the physical copies. There’s a long history of back issue marketplace for those kinds of people. We’re most concerned about people reading the book. We think they’ll be able to get them.

    Hunter Gorinson: And it is an idea that we kind of backed into when we were conceptualizing about, what does a perfect place for us to make comics with the creators that we love, whose books we want to see, find an audience look like? And for us, I think I speak for all of us, but I’ll speak for myself first, which is to say that, we all grew up reading comics and having a love affair with the medium. And part and parcel with that, you come to appreciate comic shops as kind of these repositories of splendor. Go into a comic book store and you’d never know what you were going to find. And as the direct market has matured and as we’ve all gotten to become more mature, we’ve all kind of become a little bit jaded and lost touch with that. And we thought there would be something really, really special about going into one of those kinds of stores that we all identify with as a great comic book store.

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    And we’re fortunate enough having worked at Valiant and having made connections with some of the best retailers in the country to have a shortlist of folks who we were friendly with who might be crazy enough to help us out with this, “Bad Idea,” but to try and recapture some of that wonder and make the kind of books that would feel special. Dinesh brought up “TMNT” and “Bone.” Stuff like you know, you’d find a copy of 2000 AD that found its way over from England somehow and you’d never find the next one. And just how to approximate that feeling, that’s something that we were trying to approximate with this model.

    And it’s going to be, as Warren said, slow and steady. We’re going to slowly platform out. But we want to make the stores who are on that initial list of 20 our fully-fledged partners in doing this. Starting a new business is always about having partners, and we certainly have enough experience to know that comic shops have to be our partners. Something that we really, really felt strongly about when we were restarting Valiant. And so I think we’re going to slowly platform out from there. But just like when a new indie movie opens in New York or Los Angeles, it doesn’t mean you’re never going to see it, but we’re going to slowly platform out. As Bad Idea grows, so too will our footprint.

    WS: But slow is the keyword there. It will be very slow. I hope people don’t get the sense that it’s going to come soon, because they’ll be disappointed. And maybe we’re looking for a silver lining here, but I do think Hunter’s right, there is a old school idea maybe, but it is, I think, effective that if you seek something out and you have to really work for it, that there is a portion of the experience that is the search and then the portion of the experience that is that the consumption is made better by that hunt, by that adventure and experience.

    HG: When I walk into a comic shop and I still see a third printing “TMNT” #3 or #4, it sparks that moment that I felt when I was a kid looking for those things. They were just incredibly difficult to find. It was super great to see. But yeah, we’re just trying to build slowly, make sure that everything is special.

    DS: As I said, but the flip side, Brian, is this, is we’re very aware of it. We know people are going to be upset in all sectors. The one thing that will wash away all sins is if the books are really, really, really, really good. And so we’re making sure that they are, because then when you do the hunt and you finally get it and it’s phenomenal, it’s worth it. And we have shed away a lot of the things that get in the way of that. I remember books from when we all worked together at Valiant, that sometimes we ran out of time, and they’d come out and sometimes you get away with it and sometimes people point it out.

    And it’s always heartbreaking because you just think about, “I wish I didn’t spend three days in that week renegotiating digital contracts, doing licensing approvals, having to be with investors. I wish we could’ve spent the time on the books.” And you do it on the ones that work and you know it’s not going to work on the ones where you don’t have time to do it. Here, all that stuff’s going away. Focus on the books.

    HG: Yeah. And I would just add as a final thought on that, we live in a period of instant gratification in all forms of media, from streaming TV and movies to downloading the latest video game on Steam to buying a new trade paperback on Amazon and it’s there the next day. And no, that’s wonderful, and it’s definitely created a lot of opportunities for creators in all segments of entertainment, but it is not always the best from a process standpoint.

    As Dinesh really pointed out, we’re trying to create a new kind of model that allows us to make the comics that we think can be the best possible. And we think there’s definitely something to this.

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    So I’m 37 years old. I’m not sure exactly how old you guys are, but we seem to have grown up in relatively similar media times. My daughter is obsessed with The Beatles right now, as I think most seven-year-olds go through that Beatles phase, and generally getting obsessed with music like her old man is. And I was saying, when I was a kid, I used to read music magazines and I would read a review of an album, and then I would have to go to the one record store that was near my house, pay the guy ahead of time to have an album special-ordered for me. It would take two weeks, I would get it, and sometimes it would suck. But there was this sort of this really formative and important, like hunting and gathering aspect of being a consumer of media. You couldn’t just put in your Amazon Fire Stick and have access to 500 TV shows. It just wasn’t the reality.

    And so there is definitely a part of me that is nostalgic for that timeframe. My concern just listening to this is that, I think that there are 37-year-old guys out there who have both the patience and the disposable income and the high speed internet connection to do all the things you guys are talking about. Do you have any fear about younger audiences who, like you guys said, are used to this instant gratification model? No matter how good the book is, just sort of being like, “No, it’s not for me.” Does that enter into your mind at all?

    DS: Beatles is a great analogy. We’re not building books that need to be played at Wembley Stadium. The Cavern Club is just fine for us, and if that means that the way that we’re building these and putting these out, it’s not for a lot of people, it’s fine. I think that for everyone that’s on this phone call, as long as we build the best books we can and we put them out in some fashion, we’ll be very happy. Hopefully, people find them and fall in love with them and if it isn’t 100,000 people, that’s okay.

    HG: Yeah. I don’t think we’re building an idea that’s necessarily nostalgia-facing, but I do think you’re onto something, in that it is little bit of an analog idea, and it does ask that you participate with your local comic shop, with the comic community as a whole just to understand the way that these books are getting out there. But I definitely think that it’s … Yeah, that’s it.

    DS: But you’re right, there is more of a hump to get over. And again, it comes back to, and we’re going to say it a lot here, if we can make the books worth this extra mile, people will go there, and so it’s on us. The books that we have in the can right now I think are some of the best books I’ve ever seen. Certainly the top echelon of books that this group has put together and I would say the top echelon of books for the creators that are working with us put together. We have a mean list of creatives. That’s a big statement. I’m aware of how big this thing is.

    My last question on this particular thread is just, for the kid who doesn’t have a comic shop within a hundred miles of their house, what would you say to them when they say to you, “I want to find a way to support this book or these books?”

    DS: We’re going to make the stores that are Bad Idea stores very publicly known. You can call them, if you find the right ones, if you’re nice enough, maybe they’ll ship them to you. Find a friend in the local neighborhood, eBay, and the Internet are always available. And if not, it’s an impossibility for us to prevent these books from being available in some format that is not, let’s say above board. They’ll find them.

    HG: Yeah. And just to Dinesh’s point, that thing that we said previously about comic shops being our partners in this, that is not lip service. We are going to make sure that that list of stores where these are available is widely, widely known, is touted every single time that we wind up talking about these books over the coming months.

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    And all of those stores have telephone numbers and email addresses and it’ll be very easy to get in touch with them if you’re interested in these books. Just because you don’t live near them doesn’t necessarily preclude you from getting one of them from those stores.

    'The Black Dossier' Cover by Kevin O'Neill

    DS: Yeah, I’ll give you an example, there’s [League of Extraordinary Gentlemen] “The Black Dossier” that comes with the vinyl, right? You guys know that?

    Of course, yeah.

    DS: The two songs, Alan Moore recorded. Not available anywhere except from Gosh Comics in London. I’ve been after this book for years. I’ve been so excited about this. Just happened to be in London last week, I managed to go to the store, they had one copy. I mean, I don’t think I’ve been happier about a purchase in years. I hope that people have that experience. It doesn’t mean waiting, but I’d heard the tracks before, they weren’t mine, and now I own it. And it’s another level of experience that I think people will appreciate.

    Now, you spoke a lot about finding a model that works for your company, and right now, this is the model that works. And you have said that things will be slow and all of that. Is that somewhat a clue to maybe instead of seeing digital comics sold through one of the standard online retailers, that maybe you guys will be pulling out your own sort of source for that sort of stuff? Same question with things like collections, are we just going to be seeing the Bad Idea versions of these things instead of the traditional market version of these things?

    DS: No, I think that’s quite the opposite of what we’re thinking. What you’re hearing from us is that we want to focus on the core elements of making comic books, which is making comic books. So you’re not going to see us launch a digital app and say, “Here’s a better mouse trap for how to do comics,” or, “Here’s a new way to do collections and trades.” It’s really not what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to build a whole new system. We like the system that’s in place. We’re trying to plug into only the elements that are the most effective so we can spend our time making comic books.

    HG: Yeah. In many ways, this is a simplification of what we … I know it perhaps sounds complicated the first time you hear it, but it actually is a simplification of what we have done previously in all of our respective careers at Marvel, Valiant, and elsewhere. Each of us used to pull 60 plus hour work weeks all the time, because running a comic book company means getting books to the printer on time, making sure that the books are coming in from the letterers, the artists, the writers, every single schedule has to line up. This is part of why Warren is so brilliant at his job. He ships hundreds of comics without ever missing a beat, without ever missing a ship date.

    But all of that takes a toll. And what Bad Idea means is that stepping one step outside of the system, working directly with not just retailers, but retailers that we have a very close relationship with and creators who we have exceptional relationships with as well which means that it’s all a lot easier. We don’t have to worry about distributors, we don’t have to worry about other aspects of publishing. What it does mean is that guys like Dinesh and myself, we are literally going to be sending these books to retailers ourselves and packing boxes. It is a little bit of a DIY thing and I’m certainly excited to do that. It’s going to be a big change from the way that we worked at a very mainstream publisher before.

    DS: I love the fact that Warren doesn’t spend his time building 15 Variant covers for a book. Instead, he can spend the time focusing on the guts of the book and the one amazing cover.

    WS: I appreciate the kind of words Hunter, I will continue to pay you as you compliment me in the press. Thank you sir. [laughing] No, one of the real joys of these processes is when we first started working on this stuff over a year ago, it was a real relief to just get back to the brass tacks of working with the creators and the crew, Dinesh and Hunter, and building the stories, casting the books. Comics is a very manual process still. There’s all these technological innovations, but at the end of the day, it’s still a guy or girl with a script and it’s still someone sitting at a board cranking out a page. Whether that takes a day, or two days, or three days. And the process of building the comic, it’s not that dissimilar from how it was done probably in 1945.

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    So to be able to return to that, the guys are emphasizing it over and over again, I think, and just focus on building stories that are among the best medium, that’s our ambition and that’s our goal, and that’s what we want to strive to do. And stripping away all of the stuff that interferes with that is really part of where the genesis of Bad Idea begins.

    HG: And I would just add lastly is that, this is not about trying to fix the direct market or skirt around Diamond. If anything, the success of everywhere we’ve worked previously is the direct market. We could not have had any success in comic book publishing between any of us without the support of retail stores and without the support of Diamond. They’re both absolutely essential to a healthy, thriving industry with a diversity of different creators and titles. This is more about just us trying to do something very, very small scale that we hope will be very special to hopefully at least a tiny segment of people who are reading comics right now. So yeah, just a thought on that point.

    So this question, I suppose it’s for all three of you, but it’s more for Warren in general, which is that, when Valiant came back, while there was a certain amount of what they call a blue sky approach, where there was nothing beholden to these characters in terms of continuity, creators could come in and be really creative. With an entirely new company, there’s no real skeleton upon which to build. Everything is being built from the ground up. And so when you were looking at this totally blank page for what this line could be, what were some of the things that you really wanted to focus on? And these are questions that I don’t know the answer to. I don’t know if there’s a shared universe, I don’t know if we’re going to see interconnected titles. So I’m most interested to see sort of what you felt was the best place to start building up these titles.

    WS: Oh, it’s so much fun. It’s so much fun. It’s calling Matt Kindt and kicking around ideas, or we’re going out to L.A and hanging out with Dinesh and Matt for a weekend and Hunter and just talking, or calling up any of the crew that I’ve worked with in the past. There’s some guys and girls here who I haven’t worked with in over a decade since my Marvel days, and they’re going to come and do work with us. There are people I’ve never worked with that I wanted to get over to in some of the places I’ve worked at that I couldn’t get to, but now they’re able to work with me or they have time. Building books is just the most fun thing in the world to do. I just love it so much. And whether it’s a limited series or one shot, you don’t really delve too far into the weeds here or an ongoing, something like that, what we’re doing is just …

    The Valiant characters are fantastic. We obviously all have great love for them. And when we got in there, one of the ideas was to drill down on the core concepts of those characters and honor them. But with that came a certain set of expectations, and we don’t have that here. We’re in a position where we can build just fresh and new across the board. No matter how good a story might’ve been with a pre-existing character, whether that character is Iron Fist or Iron Man or X-O Manowar or Bloodshot, there’s an expectation that arrives with that book. And obviously, sometimes those expectations are met and they’re great and sometimes they’re missed, and they’re not. Whether it’s something that I edited or that was done 20 years before I got there.

    But here, it’s just all fresh and it’s all new and we can do everything and anything. And I must’ve had half a dozen calls with Dinesh or Hunter where I started with, “This might be insane.” We have great partners here who are just so ambitious with the storytelling, and we’re not bogged down in needing five variant covers every month for each book or managing schedules and chopping books and stuff like that. We’re just able to build slowly across the board, through sci-fi, through fantasy, horror, through a surrealism. There’s just no limit to what we can do here, which is really one of the wonderful strengths of the medium. There’s just any story that we can tell here across the board, and I think we’re going to try to tell all them, touch everything. So to me, that’s really one of the pure joys here.

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    You talked about The Beatles earlier. I love The Beatles. My kids are going through The Beatles now. And we listen to a lot of The Beatles and one of the things that we love about them is that those albums, many of them are just so completely and totally different, and you just walk into that studio space and anything is possible. All the limitations of the direct market just shift away. All limitations of the trade market, the bookstore market, they’re all stripped away. It’s just pure comics for comic sake, and I think there’s something very unique and special about that at this time.

    DS: Yeah, I want to talk about that, because, Brian, you’ve got to realize, we’re not unaware of the system that we’re building. And what we like about it is it gives us the opportunity to do things that everyone else honestly cannot do because they’re plugged into the system. So we don’t necessarily have to build stories that fit into a trade. We don’t have to build stories that fit into a certain size of book or a certain page count or certain genre convention or a certain rating, we can do things that are traditionally death in terms of sales, because frankly, we’re only selling to 20 odd stores. Anthologies, which everyone talks about as kind of a disaster. “Stay away from anthologies, they don’t sell great.” That might be something we’re running into. We’re going to be very, very experimental because we have the ability to be experimental because we’re playing a smaller venue.

    HG: Yeah. And I mean, that’s part of the reason why we’re intentionally focusing on producing a limited number of books. So no more than one or two comics. We’re not out there trying to sell a new slate of number ones every month. And for us, monthly comics are something that just are really, really special. It’s not so much about not doing digital and not doing collections as it is about highlighting the monthly comic book as a perfect piece of entertainment, like a three-minute pop song. Just a perfect measurement of content for a reader to digest at one time. And I think that’s something that anyone who’s spent any time in comics will tell you, everyone makes a special connection with that format at some time or another in their journey as a fan and a reader.

    Dinesh mentioned earlier the idea of occasionally at Valiant or at literally any publisher you could think of, there would be a time when an issue had to get rushed out because there were deadlines, and it didn’t matter if the book was really done or not, you just had to put it out there. And sometimes that worked out and sometimes it didn’t. And the direct market is notorious for hating books that are late and, again, insert problems with the direct market here. And so when you are approaching a new project where you don’t have to fall into the same page count, the same schedule, all of that, and you are limiting it to one or two books a month, are you thinking about things like, for instance, will everything be done before a book is solicited? Are we going to get books on a more steady schedule?

    Will the schedule be just whenever things are done? Just in terms of nuts and bolts of getting books out there, how strict are the parameters going to be, at least to begin?

    DS: They won’t be strict. We’re going to play with a lot of these things. I mean, you’re going to see us try and distill and simplify everything that we touch. So it’s not just digital and trades, but also our conventions, our press cycle, our release schedules and we’re going to try and have some fun with bringing a little spontaneity to releases because we don’t have to plug into Diamond. So there isn’t a system in which the solicitations go out, orders have to come in, we can do a lot of that internally, and because of that, we can do things people haven’t seen before. In terms of the books being done, at Valiant, we always had the books done before this. Perhaps the publishing work was done ahead. The issues that we ran into some times were, Warren is I think the best editor in comics, and the people that we worked with at Valiant are some of the best creators in comics. You do owe me money, Warren. I can hear you thinking it.

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    WS: We got to do these calls more often guys.

    HG: Brian, you should hear them when they’re not with you, bro. It’s not like this man.

    DS: It is not. I can attest to that, it’s not.

    But we would get to places … I remember getting to places when we were building books where you would look at a book and you’re like, “This is a solid B. It might be a B plus. We’re going to get it out tonight and it’s got to go to the printer tonight.” But I wish that we’d had the extra week to take pieces of it apart. I know the creators want to see that. Build new pages, we don’t put these five away. Let’s build two new sequences here, make this an A. Here, we’re going to do that.

    Sometimes we didn’t have any ability to do that at Valiant. I think we had a very high hit ratio. We were the best publisher in the business I think every year that the three of us were together, but I think we can do better, and we’re going to do better here.

    WS: Yeah, and at Valiant or Marvel, human beings are making these products. So people get sick, people break their arm. There are lots of variables that enter into how a book ships on time or it doesn’t, and part of that is working with our retail partners who we have enormous amount of respect and appreciation for and making sure that the product hits the shelves when we told them it would hit the shelves. So those were things that were paramount at that point, especially if you go back to 2010 or 2011 when we were just starting out and there was no sort of footprint to what this thing could become. So we’ll play with everything that Dinesh mentioned.

    What I think is so exciting about this from a … I mean, look, Multiversity is not my full-time job, it is my nights and weekends and lunch breaks, I’m sitting in front of a laptop just making sure that this stuff happens. But even within that time, I get hundreds of PR emails a week. I’m used to getting the sales pitch from the same 10 people on the same 10 types of books, and everything that you guys are showing really looks outside of that. And so for someone like me who is a comics lifer, I’ve been reading comics for 30 plus years, I think about comics more than any functional human being should, seeing things like this is really exciting to me, and it really excites me to be able to talk to you guys about this. How much of that do you think trickles down to the average person walking into a comic shop or who will be reading this interview on a website?

    HG: We’re just getting started, Brian. You wait to see when we pick it up. It’s going to trickle down. More than trickle down. We’re going to ram it down their throats.

    DS: Hunter, I know you have strong opinions on this. You just see the things Hunter invokes here with … I mean, at Valiant, we talked about comics as … We invokes some other things, comics, movies, literature, things like that. But here, it’s like political press, punk movement, designer-con, sneaker and street culture. It’s like we pull off a lot of things here that I think are very nearly so complex and so it should be a little strange and hopefully eye-opening to consumers.

    SST Records logo

    HG: Yeah, and I think one thing me and you talked about previously, Brian, was the idea of SST records or Dischord, where they’d be directed with various record labels where like on SST for instance, you had to Meat Puppets, you had Sonic Youth, you had The Descendants, you had Black Flag, you had bands that sounded completely different from one another, but were all united under one banner and were very far outside of what the norm was at the time. But eventually, pop culture bent in their direction and they wound up shaping and that little record label and wound up having an enormous influence on the direction of pop culture over the next 25 and 30 years. And it would be very, very sanctimonious to claim that we’re going to do the same thing, but I do think that there’s a lot of inspiration to be drawn from that. And so much of comics culture has become homogenized to some extent.

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    It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just a consequence of how mainstream comics have become the pop culture over the past decade that of course it’s going to become more like every other facet of entertainment. But if we can bring just a 10th of that renegade energy back to what it means to be a comic book publisher, I think there’ll be a lot of people that that idea will find resonance with.

    DS: Do you know who we really are? I’m thinking about it as I’m hearing Hunter talk, we’re really like … maybe two examples, we’re a little bit like Mondo, in the sense that it’s not that we’re smarter or better at making posters. They love the posters as much as studios do. They’ve just stripped away all the things that students have to worry about when building posters. They’re not necessarily dealing with actors’ likenesses and approvals and every territory in the world, they’re saying, “We’re going to do this specific group of customers,” and they make these amazing posters for them.” Same with this craft beer movement. We’ve got these local craft beers all over America, all over the world, and they’re phenomenal. And they’re not trying to be Heineken, sell to everybody. And so it’s same thing we’re doing with the comics. We’re not trying to build comic books that everybody likes. We’re trying to build comic books that some people absolutely love.

    WS: Yeah, very well said.

    And I think that unfortunately, in the comics sphere, we don’t see enough of that. Where we tend to see that is ironically enough in sort of the two areas that you guys are purposely putting aside for now, which is in something like web comics or digital comics and in graphic novels. But in terms of the monthly comics grind … And there are people out there innovating. I am not trying to say that there’s not, there are some … I mean, we’re living in the best time of comics of all time. I think it’s indisputable that this is the golden age of comics.

    WS: I am constantly agog at the level of creativity out there right now. I have 50 comics on my desk and just seeing what these writers and artists do, it’s extraordinary. Go ahead. Sorry, I interrupted you.

    No, but because of that, there seems to be greater homogeneity and less chances being taken. And so, again, this is all very exciting to me as a reader, as well as somebody who is more tuned into sort of the business side of comics. This is all very intriguing to me and I’m very excited to see where all of this leads. But I would be remiss if I went any longer without talking about some of the creators and some of the books that you guys have coming out. So we’re going to talk about the first series in a minute. But when you look at the list of people who are on your press release here, and I’m not going to name everybody, I’m just going to pull out some folks. Joshua Dysart, Jody Houser, Jeff Lemire, Peter Milligan, Adam Pollina, Lewis LaRosa. There are so many names here that-

    DS: Beasts. Every one of them, beast.

    Exactly. And not only that, they’re folks that I think are … when they do get put into the, I don’t want to say meat grinder, that’s a terrible analogy. When they’re put into the more rigid world of mainstream comics publishing, their work still stands out. You can walk into a comic shop, and even if it was penciled by House Style Jones, you can tell a Lemire book or a Dysart book on the shelves, because they just bring so much of themselves to it. And so, talk to me a little bit about, what were some of the things you were looking for in collaborators besides just being motherfuckers at what they do?

    HG: That’s our new tagline Brian.

    WS: I think one of the great joys as an editor is being able to work with people for many years, because we’re so hellbent on making sure that the books are as good as they could possibly be, which is I think what trickles down into the ethos of the company. As Dinesh was stating earlier, that these guys know that we’re not rushing, that the works that we’re going to do with these guys and girls is going to hopefully stand out as some of the best works on the shelves. And that we’re going to … and Matt Kindt, we’re going to really go out there and try to do the best books possible with creators who have very unique voices. And some of them, you’re right, some of them would not be … Some of the artists especially who move at a slower pace may not be suitable to operate in a system where there’s a rush on the books.

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    The creators that we’ve been able to work with over the years, Lewis LaRosa, Adam Pollina, and the pages that these guys are sending in right now is the work of their careers. It is extraordinary what they’re doing, both of them. It’s something where we’re able to work-

    HG:Because those guys are all artists and they want to do the best books as well. They don’t want to rush to get to a paycheck, and that’s what we’re looking for here, is just people who are trying to make sure that the works that come out represent who they are as artists and writers and that it’s going to be the best on the shelves. And that’s really what our goal is.

    DS: I would also add that there’s certain things that we’re not looking for. I think when you look at that list, what you don’t see is, you don’t see a purposeful grab for brand names, because it really is about the work. The question on our minds all the time is, who’s going to do the best work? Whether that’s a writer or an artist or letterer or a columnist or a production person, or even sales and social media, et cetera. Atom Freeman is with us from Valiant and he’s phenomenal to us. Even the interns. We’ve got Bobby, who’s killing it. Did you see that voicemail he put out there, Warren? You got to talk to him about that.

    WS: Did he release that?

    DS: He put that out there, yeah. He got excited.

    WS: Kids got to show up for meetings, dude. He’s an intern. You know what I mean?

    DS: Yeah, I know. But he’s doing good work. Sorry Brian. We got this kid Bobby, he’s pretty phenomenal, but he’s a little too excitable.

    All right, so we are winding down our time together right now, but the thing that I really want to get across to the readers of this are, so I’ve interviewed the three of you guys in various combinations and a number of times when you were at Valiant, and I took somebody with me to, gosh, it might’ve been New York Comic-Con 2013 or 2014 when I spoke with with Warren, I believe it was. I’m getting my years confused here. But my friend that was with me had never read a Valiant book before. And as we were leaving, he was like, “Man, I’m going to buy five trades right now.” You guys were always the best salesmen in the business.You always made people believe in what you were doing.

    DS: Oh, that’s so sweet.

    And I think that when you look at this idea, I mean, it’s kind of a bat shit crazy idea in some ways, but I think that you guys sell it and you guys believe it, and it’s more important to me that you guys believe it, because that’ll make me believe it, it will make our readers believe it. And so if there’s anybody out there who read this interview and is excited but is still unsure, what would you like to leave them with to assure them that this is going to be as special as advertised?

    DS:I would say that this is going to be an exciting journey. And by that, I mean, I think if we look 10 years from now back at this, there’s two ways this could go. There’s no middle ground here. This is either going to be something where you’re like, “I was there on the ground floor of this incredible thing and it’s become such a big part of my life and I love it,” or, “I was there on the ground floor of the thing that no one will remember, but let me tell you about it because you’re not going to believe how crazy stupid this thing was. But man, was it fun to watch that thing go down in flames.” Either way, you’re going to win. So I would say jump on, enjoy the ride. It’ll be a special one.

    WS: I love that. I think that that’s great. Hunter, go ahead. Anything buddy?

    HG: No, I think that’s very well said. But I do think there’s something to the notion that, it’s really hard to be … One thing that we’ve talked about a lot, if you walk into a comic book store and you’re not a daily, weekly consumer of what’s going on in comics and you’re not flipping through the previews catalog every month, you walk into the stores and it’s just an ocean of stuff. And every publisher out there, God bless them, some of my best friends in the world work in comics, and they’re all working their asses off and we all know that. But there’s a constant drum beat that just says more, more, more, number one, number one, number one, new arch, new arch, new arch, shiny new thing every month.

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    And what we’re trying to do here is just pull back from all of that and say less can be more. And let’s put one or two special things out into the world every month and let them stand on their own. And so hopefully zigging when other people are zagging will be enough to have at least a few people turn their heads and pick up “Eniac” and some of the other Bad Idea books we put out in the coming weeks.

    WS: Yeah, and Brian, you said you’ve been reading comics for 30 years. I’m a little bit older than you, even though I look incredibly young. I know it’s crazy, but I’m 45, I’ve been reading comics for 40 years or whatever. We’re all very deep into this medium, we have a great love for it, and I think the thing that we constantly return to and really what’s at the core of the company is that we’re going to try to make the greatest books out there and you can try to make excellent books. And that’s the thing that I’ve constantly returned to in my career to strive for, which really helps set us apart, I think, or will help set the books apart.

    HG: Brian, if anyone asks, I’m 22, okay, man?

    Okay, I’ll cover for you. You had kids very young.

    DS::[laughing] Very young.

    HG: Very mature 22 as well. Very mature.


    Brian Salvatore

    Brian Salvatore is an editor, podcaster, reviewer, writer at large, and general task master at Multiversity. When not writing, he can be found playing music, hanging out with his kids, or playing music with his kids. He also has a dog named Lola, a rowboat, and once met Jimmy Carter. Feel free to email him about good beer, the New York Mets, or the best way to make Chicken Parmagiana (add a thin slice of prosciutto under the cheese).

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