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Narbonic Retrospective Commentary Podcast # 2

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 6:00 pm

The pulse-pounding self-indulgent retrospective commentary action continues! This time, we look at the second week of Narbonic dailies and the first Sunday “Letters” strip. Also, Shaenon talks about her evil college job (and, yes, it was truly evil, not just “fun” evil), the reasons she doesn’t quite consider herself a failure (but almost), and her Secret Enemies List.

Download the MP3 or subscribe to the iTunes-compatible feed!


Narbonic Retrospective Commentary Podcast # 1

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 4:06 pm

This is it! Narbonic has ended, but, as promised, you can look forward to six more years’ worth of Narbonic: The Director’s Cut, with commentary and other DVD-like extras. This podcast is one of them — a weekly conversation between Narbonic creator Shaenon K. Garrity and myself, hopefully with some special guests along the way.

In this week’s edition, Shaenon talks about how she feels about finishing Narbonic; remembers things she forgot to put in the text-based commentary for the first week’s worth of expanded strips, and attempts to pursue and intensify her pathetic little feud with myself. Also, we discuss my fatness.

Download the MP3 or subscribe to the iTunes-compatible feed!


Globe-Trotting with Steve Bryant

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 2:11 pm

John Siuntres of the WordBalloon podcast has just posted an interview with Steve Bryant, creator of Athena Voltaire. Steve’s a consummate pro — a former member and longtime friend of the Modern Tales family, and always has interesting things to say.

Go, listen!


TAC Podcast: Jay Carvajal

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:51 am

Today’s interview is with Jay Carvajal, proprietor of Cinema Comics, and creator of fine WCN features like Zero Hunters, The Last Warring Angel, ONE and The Misadventures of Clark & Jefferson. Check it out!

Download the MP3 or Subscribe to the feed!


The DivaLea Show #2: Part Two with Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade

Filed under: — Lea @ 4:35 pm

In the second of a two-part interview, Tycho of Penny Arcade talks about the Penny Arcade charity Child’s Play, business manager Robert Khoo’s feet, and reveals how he and Gabe almost lost Penny Arcade forever.
Considering Jerry/Tycho had PAX just two days after we recorded this, and gave me so much of his time, I want to say, as he says to the PAX crowds, “I don’t know how to thank [him] with sufficient intensity.”

Click on the picture for the show!

iTunes Feed for The DivaLea Show HERE!

Want to hear outtakes from this show? DONATE! For every $100. (whether individual or cumulative) donated, I will add a link to a special outtake or blooper! (I’m still raising money for that much-needed relieve-the-carpal tunnel make-more-comics Cintiq.)


Will Eisner: A Spirited Life Interview Series: Gary Chaloner podcast

Bob Andelman, the author of Will Eisner, A Spirited Life gave me a call via Skype and taped the results.


DivaLea Show: Tycho of Penny-Arcade

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 11:13 am

Lea Hernandez and sidekick Lisa Jonte interview Jerry Holkins (”Tycho” of Penny-Arcade).

Download Now

[edit: forgot to mention the iTunes-compatible podcast feed:]


TAC Podcast: John Roberson

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 5:36 pm

In today’s podcast, I talk with John Roberson, creator of This Sickness on Adult Webcomics.

Download the MP3 or Subscribe to the iTunes-compatible feed!


TAC Podcast: Chris Shadoian

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:33 am

In today’s TAC podcast, I talk with Chris Shadoian, creator of Popcorn Picnic.

Download the MP3 or Subscribe to the feed (now iTunes compatible!)


TAC Podcast: Shaenon K. Garrity

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 11:17 am

In today’s podcast, I talk with Shaenon K. Garrity, Empress of All Comics, creator of Narbonic, Li’l Mell and Smithson (and new editor of Modern Tales) about all kinds of stuff. Also, she calls me a troublemaker, and makes her case. Also, she’s right.

Download or Subscribe to the feed (now iTunes-compatible!)


TAC Podcast: James V. West

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:52 am

Today I spoke with James V. West, creator of the Pan-Gea series cluster, which are some of the finest — and most underappreciated — comics on WCN, or, for that matter, on the web. Also, he’s from Kentucky. Also, so am I!

Download or Subscribe to the feed!


TAC Podcast: Spike

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:14 am

In this podcast, Spike and I talk about the huge response to her WCN series Templar, Arizona and other stuff. I nag her about Sparkneedle. And Lucas and Odessa. That sort of thing.

Also, I’ve solved the audio lag problem.

Download or Subscribe to the feed.


Kurtz/Rosenberg/Manley — Transcription Part Three

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 8:42 pm

This is the final part of the transcription of the Manley/Kurtz/Rosenberg podcast. It is also where the questions got a little, um, slightly fiercer.

JM = Joey Manley
SK = Scott Kurtz
SR = Scott Rosenberg


JM: One of the things that I’ve seen you say, and you’re very proud of this, apparantly, is that you’re one of the few places that is open for any submission from any creator at any time. Is that correct?

SR: Yeah, it could be the strongest bestselling creator and it can be an aspiring creator, as long as generally speaking we’d like to see that they can write something. But, yeah.

JM: So what’s the difference in your everyday ongoing over the transom submission handling and this contest. Why would a creator be more …. Is this purely for promotional … are you not getting enough submissions, Scott? Why have the contest at all if you’re always seeking these kinds of things. Is this deal different if you win this contest than if you’re just Joe Blow creator who submits something?

SR: We get plenty of submissions. Our publicist came up with the idea. I’d like to say I was the brilliant one who came up with the idea, but I didn’t. Our publicist came up with the idea. I saw it in one of the memos that goes by, but I didn’t really think it would happen, wasn’t paying much attention. They talked to NBC San Diego and it started happening, seemed like a fun thing to do. We would end up seeing things probably from a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise submit, because maybe their ideas are you know not baked enough. So we thought it would be fun from that standpoint, and just fun to do this kind of comic challenge. This is actually the first comic contest to hit broadcast TV. It was interesting. NBC San Diego wanted a nice marketing thing around the comic-con; they’re willing to do the contest. We think it’s really cool to offer creators a chance to join something like this and we guarantee the winner certain things.

SK: That is nice. So, the question was, how is the prize for this contest any different from what you get if you just submit and Platinum likes it?

SR: Well, if someone is voted number one by the public, whether or not we like the comic, whether or not we would have otherwise accepted it as a submission and acquired it, we are guaranteeing to publish it and to develop it for other media. When someone submits to us on a regular basis, which by the way are all the same forms, same contracts, we evaluate it based on whether we want it, whether or not we want to do something with it, and if we like it then we offer them the appropriate contracts.

SK: So even if you, Scott, hate it, but it wins the contest, then you guys are going to publish it anyway.

SR: That’s our guarantee in the contest.

SK: Okay, so that’s the part of the prize that’s different.

SR: Yeah.

SK: And when you say you’re going to publish it as a comic, is that as a graphic novel, or an ongoing series, or I mean …

SR: That’s totally going to depend on the kind of property that’s pitched. I mean, to give you some examples, if someone were pitching Road to Perdition to us, it feels more like a graphic novel. If someone were pitching something that really feels episodic, it should be a comic series. If it’s something that really is told in one issue, it can be a one-shot. I mean we really have to make that decision based on looking at the property, talking to the creator, because we don’t want to, we don’t want to force the wrong thing on the market.

JM: Here’s a question, then, relating to that. It’s very, very easy now for individual creators to get their work in print. You can go to, you can go to comixpress …

SR: Yeah, and I’m sure that there will be more and more of those popping up.

JM: Right. So what’s the difference in doing that, and having you publish it? Are there guarantees of a print run, what kind of distribution deal is in place to make sure this gets out to the public? How much marketing and promotion are you going to be doing for the work? You know, those kinds of things are the things that a publisher really brings to the table, and it seems to me that those are the most beneficial reasons to sign with a company like Platinum, if they are going to happen.

SR: Are you talking about in general, or the winner?

JM: The winner.

SR: Okay. So I just wanted to be very specific, since you’re asking specific questions. The comic book will be distributed through Diamond. Our relationship is such that we don’t need to worry about the minimum orders. It will be marketed substantially online at lots of sites. It will be publicized by our retained PR agency, which means it costs some number of thousands of dollars to do that. We would basically highlight, wherever we can, hey this is the contest winner, this is the comic. It’s you know it will be publicity at the time, and we will play that up. And what am I missing from your list of questions there? We got distribution, marketing, PR …

SK: So yeah, you’re going through Diamond, and you don’t have to worry about minimum orders like a self-publisher would have to.

SR: Right. And by the way, the reason we don’t have to worry about that, aside from the fact that I’m personal friends with Geppi and all that, but let’s just say that for whatever reason they could never waive a policy. We’ll just guarantee orders so that it makes it over the minimum. I mean that’s just that’s part of our whole guarantee on this thing.

JM: Let me ask you this, then. If the property is good enough to win this contest, wouldn’t it also be good enough to take to Dark Horse or Image, and what is the advantage that Platinum offers over those two, just for example.

SR: Sure. If somebody knows they’re going to win, maybe it’s fine to go to Image or Dark Horse or somebody else. Probably what they’re getting paid from us is about what they’d get paid from them. Well Image, I mean they’d have to pay money, too, to put it out. But Image is fantastic. So if someone knew they were going to win, no reason not to pitch it to them. In fact, there’s no reason for anybody not to pitch whatever they’re going to put into this contest to any number of other publishers if they want. We never care about being first, it’s not an issue to us. So they can get passed on by everybody, realize, okay, they have nothing to lose, and put it in the contest. Not a problem for us at all. Does that answer the question?

JM: It does and it doesn’t. I mean, one of the concerns I have, as a writer. I don’t write comics but I am a writer. Is ownership of what I do. I mean, my book was published by St. Martin’s Press, a considerably larger company than any of the publishers we have mentioned in this entire conversation, and they have no ongoing rights to my work, and they have no interest in acquiring those. They also didn’t publicize it very well, they didn’t market it very well, and it didn’t do very well, but that’s neither here nor there.

SR: That actually is here nor there. I mean that helps.

JM: My concern is that, in an era when someone like Scott Kurtz, or Gabe and Tycho, the creators of Penny-Arcade, or the guy who does MegaTokyo, Fred Gallagher, in an era when they can build their own business, make their own living, without giving any of their ownership of their work to anybody — why sell your rights at such an early stage, because this contest is clearly marketed at quote unknown unquote creators who don’t really have the kind of leverage that say a Scott Kurtz …

SK: Frank Cho …

SR: Well every creator has certain choices and we actually are always happy to step them through it. If somebody is in talks with us and they want to know how they can make more money doing it themselves, we’re happy to tell them exactly how they can go to the studios and the whole bit and make more money because we’re not involved. The truth is that it’s not an easy procedure for them, but we’re very happy to explain it. In terms of a creator who’s starting out, a lot of people need help moving things along, they may have faith, and they may be able to have the resources to build it up on their own, and if that’s the case then they end up being Scott Kurtz. But the fact is that with thousands and thousands of webcomics, they’re not all going to be in the top ten. There’s a lot of creators who have sidejobs and can’t really spend the time to start self publishing, and don’t want to take the risk. And it is a risk, even if you go to Lulu. I mean, if you don’t market it, no one’s going to hear about it, there’s, I mean, there’s stuff. So you have to market it, you may want to go to a convention and take a table, that’s going to infringe upon your job. Some people may not want to do what Scott Kurtz has done. They may not want to spend the time to do it. They may want to have help, which is something that we provide, and we very clearly explain our deal, and how it works, and you know, maybe the second time around they don’t want to work with and they want to go do something differently.

SK: Right.

SR: Does that, did that specifically hit on the head what you were asking?

SK: I think what Joey’s getting at is, I mean I understand where you’re coming from, Scott, I really do. And I think that that’s why the contest says you couldn’t have been in print before, because you’re looking for unknowns that you’re going to be able to bring to the table who can accomplish something that they wouldn’t be able to on their own. I’m not, I mean, that, there’s a reason why the PvP comic, you know when I was self-publishing the PvP comic I was lucky to sell 1500 copies of it, and the same comic sold through Image, because of their market penetration I can sell 7 or 8 thousand copies of it.

SR: Yeah, that’s why I was saying Image is fantastic.

SK: So it makes sense to hook up with somebody that can provide or bring something to the table that you can’t do on your own. So there is a difference. But when the two biggest creators in the market that do allow creator-owned properties to come through them don’t acquire the rights to the property, you know, like Image does not acquire your rights, Dark Horse — I think Dark Horse does –

SR: Dark Horse does except if it’s a licensed item. Image, though, the creator is responsible for to pay Image fees and to cover losses of the book.

SK: Well.

JM: Yeah and the TokyoPop deal if I understand it correctly it’s that TP acquires 50% of the copyright of your work and even that deal was causing a lot of squawking among some fairly known people in the webcomics industry — no, comics industry.

SR: The TokyoPop deal is 60/40. Yeah, basically, TokyoPop controls.

JM: Oh really? I was under the impression that it was 50/50. I guess what I’m getting at is, I understand the need for help, in a world where there’s all the other options what is special about Platinum that makes it worth giving away 100% of the rights, when even TokyoPop …

SR: Well it’s not 100%, there is participation …

SK: Hold on, hold on, you do acquire 100% of the rights.

SR: Yeah, we, yes. Correct.

SK: Okay.

JM: But you own the rights. They participate in the deal, but you own the rights. Which is what I was saying, I mean that’s all I meant. So TokyoPop 60/40, okay, but I see TokyoPop comics at the Walgreen’s two blocks from my house. I’ve never seen a Platinum Studios comic at the Walgreen’s; I’ve never seen a Platinum comic anywhere. So what is it about Platinum that’s particularly special, and that’s all ..

SK: You know, lots of people acquire rights, I mean even Dark Horse … but Dark Horse has a history in the last decade of publishing comics … so there is a, you know, there’s a benefit … and they do pay an advance. I mean, I, look, I did work for Dark Horse, I did a 8-page story for Star Wars Tales, and they paid me an advance and a page rate, and I used some of it to pay the colorist, and that’s the last of it I’ll ever see. I mean, they’ll print that in trades from now until eternity and I’ll never see another dime. But I knew going into it what the deal was.

SR: See, but that’s actually a great point. Walking in with eyes wide open. We like spelling everything out to a creator. When we start talking contracts to a creator, we strongly suggest that they talk to a lawyer, other creators, we actually will circle the clauses that generally speaking they’ll be the most interested in looking at, we tell them the clauses that form a boilerpoint perspective with studios that we just can’t change. We believe in eyes wide open is absolutely the right way. You were dealing with Dark Horse, you knew you weren’t getting anything else.

SK: But that’s fine because it was the opportunity to do a Star Wars story in an officially licensed Star Wars book.

SR: Absolutely. It’s passion.

SK: But with PvP I’m not going to sign that kind of a deal because it’s my –

SR: You don’t need to.

SK: Right.

SR: You’ve already, you’ve reached the level where you don’t need to do that.

SK: Correct.

JM: But that’s the point, Scott. You’re talking about working for Dark Horse, you’re talking about working on Star Wars, you’re not talking about working on Captain Amazing. You’re not talking about PvP.

SK: No, right right. I would never take any of my properties anywhere but Image. The deal at Image is too good. They are happy with PvP and that’s why I’m able to do Justin, and why they’re willing to print the trade of Captain Amazing because the way the deal works at Image is very different from other publishers. Just like Dark Horse they pay upfront for the publishing and production of the comic and then after the money comes in from the profits of the book they take back that printing cost they take away the fee, and then you get the rest. So there’s no money up front like a Dark Horse deal, but, you know, all the back end is yours.

SR: We give money up front. We. There’s some other. First of all, we love Image, we suggest that people go there all the time. We suggest people go to Dark Horse. Truth is, we may like something they don’t like. That is one end of it that makes a difference. Also, whenever we exploit, so to speak, the properties in different areas there’s always a back-end that goes to the creators, there’s always royalties, standard industry royalties on the books, we have mobile distribution deals so that we can attach to the creator’s website a mobile store where they can attach whatever kind of moving images or wallpaper or slide images that they want, or video as long as it’s short enough that it actually fits on a phone. We have a lot of services and things to offer that not everybody else has. We have tastes that not everybody else has. Not that ours are better than someone else, we just we have different kind of tastes. It’s likely that what we like, Dark Horse won’t like. We’ve actually never gotten into a bidding war with Dark Horse or Image. We always seem to like different things. And again, we don’t care if someone wants to shop it around to every publisher on the planet before we see it. That’s completely irrelevant to us. So some may want to come to us as a last pitch. Others may like it because we have professional editors that will give them help on the book that way and because we have publicists that will help publicize the book. I mean, we were in the New York Times a few days ago. So there’s a lot of services that we offer. We’re not a few-man operation. We have people at the studios, at the agencies, all the time, we have a mobile division, we have a new media division. There’s really a lot of things that we offer.

JM: Let me ask you this, then, Scott, and I don’t mean to be rude, I really I swear I’m not just trying to be a jerk …

SR: I believe you.

JM: I look at the Platinum Studios website, and Scott Kurtz and I as part of the research for this show, we went back to the, it’s called the Wayback Machine …

SR: I like that machine.

JM: It’s on and you can look at a website … so there were projects on there that you announced in 2002 as coming soon that, four years later, are exactly the same web page. And these aren’t movie deals. These are webcomics. Electronic comics for Dylan Dog, for

SK: Or Slackerman or Barry Ween …

JM: It’s not hard to put up a webcomic … why is it taking so long, four years, just to put up a webcomic?

SR: You mean the electronic comics, is that what you’re talking about?… the ones with audio/video and moving images? I’m happy to send you guys a backdoor link … we actually have made them, and are in production. We’re going to launch them at the appropriate time. The comics, we’ve made some strong decisions about how we want to launch them. So we’re going to do that when we’re ready. We’ve never solicited with Diamond saying we’re going to be shipping something on x date so there’s been no letting down the stores, or taking money out of other publisher’s pockets. We’ve been pretty deliberate in our actions. And in 2000, when we first thought that the web would go to where the web is now, we were planning certain things, and a couple of years later, now that it is where it is now, we are waiting for where it needs to be, and all those numbers are real, we know exactly what we need to do. So we.

JM: I want to just emphasize the reason I’m asking that question is in the context of what you are bringing to the table to the winners of this contest, because if you’re telling me you’re going to publish my comic, and you have those mobile deals, and I don’t see any evidence of that actually happening on your website, and I see that you have these long-term things hanging out there …

SR: We haven’t made the announcement about the mobile deals yet. We haven’t made that official.

JM: But you just publicly stated it in the podcast, right? You give it as an example of why someone would want to win this contest, and the reality of it is … how real can a prospective ..

SK: You can understand our trepidation, is what we’re saying … Comic Book Resources had that contest recently, and the prizes for Comic Book Idol were tangible, specific things from companies with a history in the past decade of publishing … you know, one was a pin-up in an upcoming IDW book. Completely and 100% possible and tangible, it’s not difficult to believe that IDW could provide a pin-up page. One of the prizes was that Eric Stephenson would write a story that would appear in an upcoming anthology, and I look at that, I see that anthology came out. You know. And that story was in there. Image has a ten year history of publishing comics. So these are tangible things that we can go and see. So like I said at the beginning of the podcast, and I’m starting to feel like we’re beating up, or ganging up on you, but the whole purpose of this podcast, and I think the reason why some of my questions have been pointed, is that I want to illustrate that, you know, a creator that is in webcomics, who maybe does not have an established property, or established success, they can ask these questions, and not be afraid that someone like Platinum — like, look. You’re answering all these questions, and you’re not upset, and it doesn’t make you any less interested in the properties. I think a lot of creators feel that this is their one chance, and if they ask a question, or they say I don’t like this, or I would rather discuss this more, that, you know, someone like Platinum’s going to say, well, screw you, it’s off the table now. And that’s not the case. They can ask questions. They can get representation. They can discuss things. Even if things get a little heated because everyone has different opinions, it’s not going to destroy the opportunity.

SR: Right. We have a track record of talking things totally out and explaining things to creators, and other than a contest where we have no choice we don’t throw deadlines like sign by Monday or else. We just don’t do that.

SK: Right.

JM: I totally don’t mean to be confrontational. I spent a lot of time before this podcast scolding and lecturing Mr. Scott Kurtz about how we needed to be calm and to not get all heated up … and here I am, I’m the bad guy. I’m sorry, Scott Rosenberg.

SR: You know, Scott Kurtz, I’ve heard all these things about you [laughs]

SK: You know why? That’s because you heard things from unpopular webcomics creators probably that are happier to consider me an asshole because it makes them feel better than if they know what I’m really about. But yeah, it makes me feel great to know that my first impression that you had of me was that I was some kind of nutbag. It’s going around. I understand it’s going around.

SR: I know it from a source that was there was a blog and they said that …

JM: Who could that have been, I wonder, hmm……. [laughs]

SK: Right. Exactly.

JM: You don’t know the history of me and Kurtz, Scott Rosenberg, but …

SR: Hey I know that it’s quite possible that I brought you two together …

SK: You did. But we’re going to fight again. I’ll hate him next week.

[everybody laughing]

SR: Let me answer those questions head on. When we hire creators, to do comics, we contract with them, we pay them, all the different creators you see on the site have been and are being paid as they turn in work. We have certain deals in Hollywood, a lot of them have been announced, where studios want us to hold up releasing a comic pending marketing situations. Which, you know, is not a big deal. Looking at the people on the panel, who all know us, and who know what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, things that we may not want to publicly announce, we have People Magazine, we have Gale Ann Hurd, Marc Silvestri who I’ve known since 1992, he knows that I’ve never gone back on my word, handshake or contract, in all of that time, you know, one of the Image guys. They all know what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and, I mean if you just, if you look at it crassly, I would put the book out through Top Cow, I mean it’s really not, it’s really not an issue — no pun intended on issue, of course –

SK: meh

SR: But when we make a promise, we make a promise. And our first print comic that has Platinum Studios on the label, which most of ours aren’t, because we really don’t care, is going to be coming out in December. And in about a month, I could be a month off, we are going to be making announcements about our other titles, specifically what we’re doing. Some things that I think you guys would be happy about, but who knows? You could yell at me, too.

SK: Ha! We’ll be watching.

JM: And that’s December of 2006?


SR: Yes, and there I’m stating a date. It’s not an editor stating a date, it’s the chairman of the company.

JM: Okay.

SK: We need to wrap this one up, though because I’m going to have to go. I think it’s interesting all the way through, though..

JM: Okay well we’ll schedule our next podcast with you for December of 2006.

SR: Hey Scott, are you interested — I’d have to run it by NBC San Diego but would you be interested in being on our panel?

SK: No. But thanks.

Kurtz/Rosenberg/Manley — Transcription Part Two

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 3:54 pm

This is part two of the transcription of this week’s TAC podcast, where Scott Kurtz and I interviewed Scott Rosenberg — in this part, we get into the meat of the matter — Platinum Studio’s recently-announced contest for unknown comic book creators.

JM = Joey Manley
SK = Scott Kurtz
SR = Scott Rosenberg


JM: So you left Marvel, you maybe did some other stuff, but eventually you formed a company called Platinum Studios. Why don’t you tell us about Platinum?

SR: Okay, my focus at Platinum has been to build up a library of comics to give us more influence with studios, with game companies, with licenscees, internationally, because we have more heft, to be able to make deals with them to get materials developed into other media. Now it’s kind of counter-intuitive that the more we have, the more we can actually use each different one, but it works well. We’ll have a writer come into our office, and, you know, he’ll look through a hundred different things and find something that we would have never thought of showing him. So anyway, our goal has been — I mean, I’m a geek for comics. I’ll just admit it. So we want everything to be from comics to whatever. Comics to film. Comics to something on the web. Comics to TV. I mean that’s, that’s the thing that we like. So we have a whole group here that figures out how to develop it for that, and talks to writers and directors. We have deals with most of the studios. And we’re really, we’re producers, and a rights house. Some people ask sometimes if we’re an agency, but we’re not at all. I mean, basically, Platinum Studios is a studio. We fund some of our own movies. And that’s actually going to continue growing. And we’re going to be doing — we’re going to be funding a lot of animated comics on the web. We have mobile distribution deals everywhere. So we’re kind of a studio that uses rights in a bunch of different areas. And that’s what we care about. We care about taking a property and the creator, of course, participates, and trying to figure out all the different things that we can do with it. It’s business, and actually, it’s fun.

JM: Let me ask you this. I mean, you talk about taking comics to film.

SR: Uh huh.

JM: In an article in, I think it was in the Comics Journal # 265 you were interviewed and …

SR: You mean that ten-page article you mean?

JM: Well I’m only looking at the excerpt they have on the web, which I will link in the show notes. It’s a very brief excerpt. One of the things that is brought up in this excerpt is that many of these comics have not actually been … published. They’re talking about a property named “Seen,” a property named “Casting Shadows,” a property named, “In-Law and Order,” and the quote from the Comics Journal is, “If you don’t remember seeing any of these comic books, it’s because they’re all in different stages of completion. They’re identified on Platinum’s website as upcoming comics, though according to Rosenberg, none are expected to ship before the Summer of 2005.” It’s now the summer of 2006. Have those comics shipped?

SR: We made a very strategic decision, that we’re going to be announcing over the next couple of months, that we made quite some time ago, and when that announcement is made, it’ll be quite clear and obvious why we have not released those yet. I mean, it’s good stuff, not bad stuff, but that happened, that’s the case, we wanted a lot of them ready for some particular purposes, and I just have to be evasive until we make that announcement, so …

JM: Has Platinum published any comic books to this date?

SR: No. We have provided overhead financing to other publishers, for instance Top Cow, and we released several comics per month. There are many comics that we financed the publication of. So the definition of “put out a comic” is kind of interesting. If we pay for somebody else’s comic, and it’s released through their imprint, is that considered us publishing or not publishing? There’s comics in Italy … we have two of the top five comics there. One of them sells a few hundred thousand copies a month. Actually sells more than any US comic sells in the US …

SK: Wait a minute. Hold on a second. You provide … you provide funding for Top Cow?

SR: I’m not going to talk specifically about Top Cow. We’ll I’ll talk a little specifically, yeah, we did provide, we provided some overhead for our overall deal with them, just like a studio would provide overhead for someone coming onto a studio deal, where there’s going to be some exclusive developing for that studio. So we, we acted like a studio, and they acted like a normal group making a deal with a studio.

SK: But that was to publish a comic book? Or to ..?

SR: Well, we, I mean, they’re publishing their own comics. I mean we wanted them to have more money so they could market, so they could publish. I mean, we’re not going to take credit for their publishing. They’re publishing their own thing. But we gave them an overhead deal to enable them to do their own things. And we’re developing their material for a bunch of different markets. And they’re developing it for videogames, which is kind of cool, they have a big one coming out. But we’ll do those kinds of, we can’t announce some of the others because we have, some don’t want us to. But Top Cow, it was publicly released. So. But that’s fine. But, again, we act like a studio, and we will make overhead deals with companies if we, if we feel it works for us.

JM: So by overhead deals, you mean you provide funding, specifically. It’s not a tit-for-tat, you can use our office space, you can use our copier, this is actual cash money …

SR: Yes. We provide funding. We don’t quite want to call it funding, we call it overhead — I mean, you can call it whatever you want. It’s writing a check, they get the check, and you know it’s still their company to run.

JM: And the Italian comics you’re talking about it’s a similar deal, I assume?

SR: We actually … we gave them some money, but they didn’t need it for overhead. We just did it for properties. They don’t need anything, their sales are so strong.

SK: Joey, let’s get into the details of the contest before we run out of time.

JM: Well, we don’t necessarily have a time-limit. If Scott Rosenberg’s okay with it, we can go over thirty minutes, it’s not like … it’s radio, you know, the next show has to come on after us. We’re at twenty-nine minutes now, so there’ s no way we could …

SR: I’m fine. I’m kind of curious what it’s like to be grilled.

SK: We’re getting there, Scott! The grilling is coming!

JM: Yeah. Laughs. So recently, the way you came to our attention, and the way you came to sort of the webcomics world’s attention, was the announcement of a contest. Um. Why don’t you describe the contest to us, and that way I won’t feel like I have to try to represent what your contest is, because I’m not sure I understand it.

SR: Sure. The Comic Book Challenge that we’re doing with NBC in San Diego.

SK: An NBC affiliate in San Diego. Not NBC proper.

SR: Yes, an NBC affiliate in San Diego. It was always designed to be a local event that has taken on a life of its own to become more than a local event.

SK: Right.

SR: Which kind of surprised us. The Comic Book Challenge is aspiring creators who have not been in print, so web is fine, can submit, can submit their story proposals for, you know, if they’re an artist, it’ll be a nice little page of art, and probably a not so perfectly worded couple of paragraphs about how the story works in writing, and if it’s a writer it’s probably a wonderfully-worded page describing the story and stick figures on the art. Totally fine. Doesn’t make a difference to us because we’re used to producing and finding, you know, whoever else needs to be on the project. So they submit it to us. A committee goes through them and determines which are the — oh, and by the way, if they submit, they sign a submission release form, which does not grant us any rights whatsoever. It’s basically just a legal — makes insurance and everybody else happy. Says that we can review it. Says in there that we cannot steal their copyright rights, which, of course, federal law dictates as well. And so they sign that. They enter the contest. The committee picks the top 50. The top 50 keep in mind is subjective, it’s however the committee determines that. And on the morning of the first Thursday of the show we start with a panel that’ll last all day. The panel is me, Marc Silvestri from Top Cow, we’ve known each other since the Image days in 1992. Gale Ann Hurd who has produced Stargate, Terminator, lots of projects, in fact, we’re working with her on some as well. People Magazine is bringing a person there. And there’s one more that we cannot announce right there that is pretty awesomely cool, but we’re in the midst of it, and until its signed and done and announced we can’t say anything. That panel will listen individually to each idea, you know, in front of the whole panel, make comments, ask questions. And until the next one comes up. And I don’t know if there’s going to be “Simon moments” or there’s not. Unfortunately, most of the people on the panel are nice. So I don’t know how much bashing we’re going to end up doing.

SK: You mean like in an American sense?

SR: Yeah.

SK: Are the people making like — so they’re getting up on stage and pitching their ideas almost like it’s American Idol?

SR: Pretty much.

SK: Okay.

JM: Now that’s an interesting sort of comparison. If I win American Idol — like I’m going to win American Idol. Let’s say I won American Idol, I would have the assurance that there was going to be millions of dollars invested in me …

SK: So hold on. Let’s. The committee is going to watch everyone give their pitch and then decide, right?

SR: The panel. The committee is just going to select the submissions. No one on the panel will know anything about the submissions.

SK: So in San Diego, there’s like. I meant a panel as in like there’s a room, and it’s public, and people can watch, and then there’s judges, and people pitch their idea to the judges.

SR: Mm-hm. Right.

SK: Live, okay?

SR: Right. And it looks like we’re also going to be able to stream it. NBC gave us a 90% go-ahead today, so it could be streamed live on the web, but we’re not 100% sure yet.

SK: Alright.

SR: Okay, so each one does their presentation. Which, by the way, may be somewhat different than what they pitched us. We’re not going to know that on the panel. And they’ll describe through it and after all of that’s done, the panelists, the judges, go into our secret chambers and deliberate. You know. We’ll probably argue and scream and say, nah, that’s not good, no this one. And we’re basically looking for — those were the semi-finalists, we’re looking for the three finalists. And once we finally come to that conclusion, and hopefully none of us are too bruised at that point, since we’re all independent folks with different views and visions. We then at that point call up those three, or contact those three people, we say, okay, you guys are the three finalists, when you entered the contest we had told you that — you would need to sign — when you entered the contest, and became a semi-finalist, entered into the top 50, we told you that if you became a finalist you would need to sign this contract. It’s the one we gave you a week ago for hopefully now you’ve had time to review. If you, now that you’re in the top three, if you don’t want to sign it, no problem, we’ll then pick the fourth one, the fourth one becomes the top three …

SK: No wait, wait a minute. You’re forcing them to make that decision the day of the contest?

SR: No, they received the contract. First of all, when they sign up, when they become the top 50, they are at that time told they’re in the top 50, if they become in the top three, we give them a copy of the contract and we say, “This is what you would need to sign then.”

JM: And what is the contract? Generally a contract is an exchange of something. I mean there’s a deal being made. What is the deal that they’re signing? I mean … are they signing a representation contract? What are they signing?

SR: No, we’re not an agency. We have a typical studio contract, with some better comic language in it than a studio would have. For us to develop their property, it spells out all of their compensation, for instance if the movie is a certain budget they get $100,000, which is not based on profit, but it’s not. I mean, it just depends on how that goes. If it’s TV it spells out how much per episode they get, and that sort of thing. It spells out how much contingent compensation they would get, let’s say for merchandising. It spells out profit participation, which we tell everyone to ignore that paragraph.

SK: Why?

SR: You know, according to the studios, no movie makes money. So we try to put things in separate buckets, separate pots, so merchandising becomes real, all those other things become real.

SK: Okay, hold on a second. You’ve got to back up a second, because I’m confused. We’re at the panel, we’re in San Diego. We’re live in San Diego. You guys have deliberated from 50 down to 4 finalists. Now you’re telling these guys that the contracts they received last week, now is the time that they have to sign them if they want to move forward. So if those people wanted to have those contracts reviewed by a lawyer or an agent, that should have been done ahead of time.

SR: Correct.

SK: And this is a contract to sign with Platinum Studios, there’s no previous agreement already with a major studio. This is with Platinum the production company, the contract is with.

SR: I actually because of discussions underway that I can’t discuss right now don’t want to answer that question. But so let’s. The thing I can answer specifically is that it is with Platinum Studios and they’re signing a couple of agreements, all of which they’ll see. They’re signing an option acquisition agreement, and a work-for-hire. Let’s see. They’re signing an acquisition deal, which spells out the credits, you know, created or based on that they get in movies or whatever, and all the compensation that they get, everything, and they additionally sign a work for hire deal for a comic to be published, and, you know, there are standard industry royalty rates, it spells all that out in the contract, that they also would have received in advance.

SK: And this is — so you’re acquiring the rights, this is not an option.

SR: Yeah. In this case — if we publish, if we are publishing something from scratch, we acquire the rights. Which, to quote some of the things I’ve seen on the web, yes, that means we own it. However. But we put a big however in there. If seven years go by and we do nothing, the rights can go back to the creator.

JM: The rights can go back, or the rights do go back?

SR: If — we have a possibility of paying money to keep them. Barring, you know, we don’t love it, we’re not going to pay money to keep it going, we’re not going into production on anything, contractually, they get the rights back.

SK: And you want’em you keep’em.

JM: But if they decide they don’t want you to have the rights, yet you pay the money anyway, you still keep the rights, is that correct?

SR: Just like any studio, that is absolutely correct.

SK: But you’re not a studio, Scott, you’re a production company. See, that’s where I need to make sure that everybody in webcomics understands the differences. There’s representatives, which are agents or managers who represent a client, there’s production companies like Platinum Studios, or Michael Bay, or Joel Silver, that match creators with writers and other producers and put together a package, and there’s studios like Universal/Sony that finance, distribute, market, you know, market films and television shows. I’m sure there’s hybrids in between, like you said, Platinum has financed their own movies, but so in this case you’re acting as also a studio? You’re going to be producing and financing the film?

SR: Correct. We’re going to be. No, I don’t know ahead of time which films we’re going to produce and finance. This particular one, with the studio that we’re working with, we’ll probably finance half and they’ll finance half. In general, well not in general, specifically, we have mobile deals everywhere, we’re acquiring a company that’ll be interesting that we can’t quite announce yet, we make lots of things. I mean, we, you can consider us more of a rights house and a studio. We’re not really a production company.

SK: Why acquire rather than option, just out of curiosity? Are all of the Platinum properties acquired?

SR: No, it depends. If we are going to publish it from scratch, meaning it’s not already out there, and pay for all the costs to do that, including paying all of the creators who are involved with it, we acquire it subject to, you know, if we don’t do anything with it it goes back to them. If it’s a comic that’s already out there, we give them an option/acquisition agreement, meaning we can acquire it, but usually they can notice us any time within 180 days’ notice that they want to terminate the agreement or we have to pay them a fee that we pre-negotiated. They may do that because they think we don’t love the property. That may cause us to get off our ass. We may think, this year isn’t a good one for that property, next year is, we’ll pay the fee. Or. And that’s pretty unusual for contracts to allow that out clause. So we allow that. So. I mean, for instance, if we find something on the web that we like, we call the creator, and we say we’d like to option your property to develop it. I don’t know if it’s going to be into an animated comic on the web, or film, or TV. We’d go over that with them at the time. It just kind of depends on the property. We spell out the option terms, how the option contract can be terminated, what they get paid if we exercise. Typically exercise doesn’t really happen until some production is going. That’s kind of the norm.

SK: Right.

SR: And so we do option those, not acquire. In cases of acquiring, we acquired the Awesome Comics library. So there are some that we own.

JM: In the case of the contest, this is an acquisition.

SR: For the three, for the three finalists that we are going to be publishing their comics from scratch, those are acquisitions. For everybody else …

SK: Oh, so the top three finalists get published into comics.

SR: Yes.

SK: Not just the winner.

SR: Well the winner gets a bunch more things. I mean, we’re not publicizing that the next two get published — that is just something that we’re going to do. Actually, somebody just waved their hands at me, “No, no, no, don’t promise that. Just promise the winner. So let’s go back to what we stated on the contract, on the contest. The winner gets published …

JM: Okay. Okay. Well let me ask you this. I mean, all three have to sign the contract. But I’m assuming that you’re not executing that contract except for the winner.

SR: Yeah, I mean, if we like the other two and want to do something with it, and they want to do something with us, that’s awesome. Otherwise we tear it up.

SK: Why have them sign the contract if you’re not going to produce the movie or honor the contract? What’s the point of signing it?

SR: When we announce the top three …

SK: Yeah.

SR: We have stated in the contest rules to the world that the winner is going to get published, developed into other entertainment, etc., etc. If we do not have a signed contract, we cannot make that promise.

SK: Okay. I understand that for the winner, but what about — why the two runner-ups?

SR: If the two runner-ups would like out of it, because they don’t want to be published, or they don’t want or maybe we don’t want to publish them, who knows. They certainly, we’re more than happy to tear up their agreements.

SK: Okay, but you understand what I’m asking Scott?

SR: Uh huh?

SK: If they’re the second runner-up, you must think highly of their work because they’re the second runners-up. So if you are having them sign the contract, then you must be interested in publishing it, otherwise, why have them sign the contract?

SR: Well, what people are yelling at me here about is that what we promised in the contest is that the grand winner gets all of that. I’m telling you that it’s likely that not only are we going to like the other two, or one of the other two, who knows, but we’re probably going to go back to some of the other forty-seven, none of which have signed contracts, and we may even go back to some of the ones that weren’t even selected, because a committee is going through those, and they may have different tastes than we have.

SK: So you still haven’t answered my question. Why are the two runner-ups signing contracts if it’s just a possiblity, because a contract states out an agreement in specifics. It’s not vague or a possibility. A possibility is that, for example, there is no contract but you might offer them a contract later. And why would the other fifty possibly get contracts, too? What’s the point of being the grand prize winner if you have as much of a chance of being given the same contract if you’re just one of the fifty? Do you see where my confusion is?

SR: Yeah, if I don’t answer specifically, point me in the direction. The anyone who is not. The forty-seven who do not make the top three receive a copy of the contract that they’re going to be asked to sign if they make the top three. The top three, we need an absolute guarantee from them that, if they win, they need a guarantee from us, we need a guarantee from them, that this stuff is going to happen. The two runner-ups, you know, there will be some piece of paper saying if you guys don’t win and you want to walk away, that’s fine. But the two runner-ups, if we want to go forward and they want to go forward, we’ll go forward. On the other forty-seven who’ve already reviewed our contracts, and we’re in no rush, they would be in no rush, they could spend six months more reviewing them if they want, it’s likely we’ll go back to some or many of them and say, “Hey! We like you’re stuff!” So, you know, because I could have been outvoted by everybody on the panel, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. I mean, look at Men in Black, I mean, seventy publishers turned it down. I was certainly outvoted. I liked it.

JM: In the spirit of not being in a rush to look at those contracts, is there any chance that you could make those contracts available to us to put in the shownotes for this show?

SK: Those are probably confidential.

SR: Yeah, they are. I mean, I asked our attorney that, and she spit on me.

JM: Okay, I hate it when mine does that to me so I totally understand. Just asking, you know.

SK: My problem with the whole thing Scott is, it seems backwards to the way things work normally. Because contracts are an agreement between two parties that are beneficial to both parties, that spell out the nature of your relationship. That is the whole point of a contract. So if someone is offering you a contract, you’re establishing a relationship between two partners, whether that’s an option or an acquirement, or, like I have a contract with Image to publish PvP as a comic book. It establishes a relationship. The point of a contract is to be specific. You know, you don’t want to sign a contract that’s vague. So if if if you’re going to be in the top 3, and that’s going to be determined in the next ten minutes, not the next ten months, I don’t see why two people who aren’t going to be guaranteed a publishing contract and a movie contract are being asked to sign something specific, that defines a relationship, if you’re saying up front that Platinum has the option to, or not, honor that contract. It just makes more sense to me only to offer contracts to the people that you want to form a relationship with, 100%.

SR: Well, okay, there’s several parts to that answer, which I think you will like and understand. First of all, we have to have all three sign initially before we have the public vote, because if the public voted for one person, and that person didn’t sign the contract, then we can’t honor our obligation. There will one of two things will happen. It’ll either be a piece of paper giving them the right that if they do not win that the contract becomes null and void, or they’ll be notified that hey we like it anyway, and you’re not the winner, so we may not announce that, but hey we like it anyway and we want to publish, we do want to develop.

SK: So now it’s their choice to rip it up or not.

SR: Yeah. I mean we are very pro-creator. I mean from my whole history with Malibu, that’s pretty obvious. We do not like forcing people into things.


Manley/Kurtz/Rosenberg Interview: Transcription Part One

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 12:12 pm

This is the first third of a transcription of the TAC Podcast I posted last night, which had serious audio quality problems. The content of the podcast was/is very important, so I’ve taken the time to transcribe it.

I hope to have the remaining two-thirds of the transcription posted later today.

JM = Joey Manley
SK = Scott Kurtz
SR = Scott Rosenberg


JM: Hi, this is Joey Manley, and this is the Talk About Comics podcast, the first one in several months. Sorry about that guys. But this is a good one! On the line today are two Scotts. Scott Kurtz, who I think all of you know. How are you doing, Scott Kurtz?

SK: I’m doing good. Getting ready for San Diego, a little bit busy, but other than that, A-OK.

JM: Great. And also on the line, Scott Rosenberg, whom you may not know, and we’ll learn a little bit more about him as the show goes on. How are you doing today, Scott Rosenberg?

SR: Pretty good. Little bit hectic for San Diego with our Comic Book Challenge, but having fun.

JM: Well I am skipping San Diego this year, so after the show, I’m going to take a nap. So bleh.

SR: I have not missed a San Diego since I was thirteen.

JM: Oh yeah?

SR: Yeah.

JM: Well good for you. I find it depressing.

SR: I’m a geek, what can I tell you.

JM: It wears me out, man. It just wears me out.

SK: It’s a lot of work.

JM: I get dehydrated, you know, I keep bumping into the Klingon in the wheelchair … it wears me out.

SR: I live for it.

JM: So why don’t you tell us about yourself, Scott Rosenberg. Just give us sort of a quick origin story about who you are, and then we’ll move on into some of the more specific details about why you’re on the show today.

SR: Alright. Would you like for me to talk about where I am today, or about how I started into all of this when I was a little tyke, or what. Up to you.

JM: I would say start with Malibu.

SR: Alright. I started Malibu Comics right out of college and had no idea whatsoever how to publish, saw some interesting properties. I started getting involved with publishers because I made my way through college by selling comics, and for the most part, since I couldn’t bring my collection with me to Denver where school was I pretty much specc’d on comics. And ..

JM: So Malibu was … when you say you started Malibu right out of college, this was when? This was the nineties?

SR: This is ‘86. So in college a couple of years before that, this will kind of give you a lead-in to how I think, I was speculating on comics, with the goal really being having a service to comic retail stores of providing to them comics at a, for an increased price, of course, for what they were running out of. And at the time there weren’t really very many people doing it. And we used to go for really interesting things. We didn’t really go for — or I, I mean, it was just me in college and some kids, but I, I usually, instead of going for a number one, would go for something that was on the creative side. I would pick up the phone, call the creator of a comic, which I don’t know why anyone else wasn’t doing, and I’d say, hey, what are you doing interesting in the future, is there going to be an art team change, are you killing anyone, bringing anyone in, changing a costume … and from that, I was able to kind of figure out what stores weren’t going to pay attention to, and I kind of guessed what parts of the country it might do well in, and I bought those, and I just ended up selling them. I took ads out, and sold them to stores. So after college, I made a couple of bad deals with comics, and finding out that not everyone pays their bills. But we all go through one of those. And then started up and broke Malibu Comics. Essentially, I had a creative team approach me, saying, “Will you publish my comic?” My answer was, “I have no idea how to publish a comic, I have no money — no.” And they asked me a couple of more times. And I said, “Guys. How desperate are you if you go to someone who doesn’t publish comics, to publish? Is there anyone who has not turned you down? So they were like, “No, but just read it.” So I read the proposal. I went, alright, I like it. So I said, “Guys, I cannot lose money on this. Please hear me. Not that I don’t want to. Not that I shouldn’t. I can’t. My credit card limit is only so much, and we’re going to have to have about the highest-priced comic ever released, which was at the time, I forgot what it was, but it was double Marvel and higher than any independent. And it’s going to be in black and white. And I’ll market it the best I can, but I have about $200 for marketing. And we’ll see how it goes. Well, it turned out selling 130,000 copies with a break-even of about 8000, so it kind of turned into a wonderful thing.

SK: What comic was that?

SR: The Ex-Mutants.

SK: Oh! Great! Well, I used to read that!

SR: Yeah. And then we branded the solo Ex-Mutants, we spun it off into like four or five different titles. To me, I’m a sucker for spin-offs. I love them. I don’t care if they’re mine, or someone else’s, or a TV show. I love them. And we started building the company title by title. There were some successes, there were some failures. We’re always open to new talent and veteran talent. For instance, right now, we have lots of comics by Alan Moore, heck of a lot that are ideas of his that haven’t even come out yet, and we have some brand new creators that, you know, have never been published before. So through Malibu, started building it up, one day, we were publishing about twenty comics a month. Which, we had a very limited staff, but basically that’s what we had to do to keep the doors open, and …

SK: Now is this up to the Ultraverse titles at this point?

SR: No, this was still before that.


SR: You know the first few years, they’re difficult.

SK: Right.

SR: Credit card bills come due, I was working weekends selling my collection at comic book conventions and through the mail. And during the week … you know, the kind of crap we all do. I was kind of you know building it up. So then I saw actually Men in Black. And it had been passed on by like seventy publishers, but I’m just — I don’t give a shit if somebody else has passed on something, it’s completely irrelevant to me. If anything, I want to look at it more to see if they’re being dumb. And my marketing guys said, “Hey, it’s not going to sell well. It’ll bring down our average. And I’m like, you know, I like it, I think it would be a really cool movie — by the way, I was not a producer at the time, I just bought a lot of popcorn. And …

SK: Laughs.

SR: No, it’s true. And so — why tell you I have a talent that I didn’t have? And so I developed it out, I started shopping it out to the studios. I was kicked out of each studio two to three times each. I mean, there’d never been an action/sci-fi comedy before, so there wasn’t really a point of reference except that some idiot’s pitching it. And then I got together with a writer who was becoming a producer, a guy named Walter Parks and his wife Laura McDonald. I liked the script that they were writing. I didn’t actually know that they were producers at the time. And they said, “We’d like to produce this with you.” And them being real, me not being real, and them getting it, I said, “Okay, let’s go give this a try.” And we went back to the studios who had previously said no. Sony said yes. Actually, two said yes, it was kind of a fun little thing. But we ended up going with Sony. Columbia at the time. Set it up. Spent a whole heck of a lot of years pushing it along. And not to take all the credit for it. Sony did a hell of a lot of pushing. Being worried about it all the way through, because it was from such a low-selling comic that they didn’t know what to expect. Well, what they didn’t count on was that comic fandom gets behind things. So do sci-fi and fantasy. If something comes from the comic world, people tend to get behind it, even if they’ve never heard of the comic and even if they have no intention of reading it. It’s just kind of cool that it comes from there. They ended up with more free publicity than they’d ever had with anything like this, to the extent that they were worried, a couple of days before the movie opened, that they couldn’t live up to expectations. So anyway, that happened, then a couple of years later we made a deal with all of the Image guys, they weren’t Image at the time, to defect from Marvel en masse. So it was Todd McFarlane and Rob Liefeld and Marc Silvestri and Jim Lee and the others. It was kind of phenomenal at the time, because these were Marvel’s top-selling creators and Marvel, nor DC, would give them what they wanted.

SK: Right.

SR: They wanted credit. They wanted their names on the covers, even if it wasn’t their creation, but you know they’re writing it or drawing it for that stint. And you know, who cares? Credit’s free. And they wanted that if they created a brand new series, a brand new character, they wanted to be able to participate in that. And Marvel and DC at the time said no. I mean, not to say anything bad about Marvel, I later sold my company to them. But we started that. And we broke literally every sales record for independents. It was, we had the first independent ever to hit number one on the sales charts, which was Youngblood, and we followed that up with them time and again. And during that same time we were producing the Ultraverse, but per our arrangement with Image, because we didn’t want to compete with ourselves, so to speak, we were holding it back until Image, until we knew Image was going to decide to go publish on their own, because we knew, it was all going to be a learning experience for them, we were all up front together and once they felt that they could handle all the reins themselves, we had an arrangement of how much notice and all that, and if you ever look at the press, the announcement of the birth of the Ultraverse, and of Image forming their own entity, was on the same day. So it was a nice coordinated effort. So we kept … we were one of the pioneers of using Photoshop in coloring comics, in fact Adobe to this day thanks us. At that time, everyone was using different kinds of colorings and specific to comics, and we liked Photoshop, because even though it was incredibly more difficult than any of the others to use, we always think about what other media we use it for. In this case, it was that we wanted to sell our comics internationally, makes us more money, makes the creators more money, just helps in a lot of things. And doing it in Photoshop helps. So we were kind of innovative about that, and it was a pain in the ass, but …

SK: Is it true that Marvel’s interest in buying Malibu was largely in part due to your whole coloring division?

SR: You know, that is actually really funny, because we’ve seen that a million times in print. And I don’t tend to correct anybody. As I said the other day, I’ve posted very few times in my life, in fact, this is my second podcast ever, so I’m almost a virgin. So I don’t know totally what to expect.

SK: Laughs.

SR: So, no, they liked our coloring, because we had the very best coloring in the industry. But frankly it was just a bunch of people with computers. So it mattered. In fact, when Ronald Perlman, who is the one who we made the with, came into our office, he said, “What’s the big deal? Why does everyone say your comics look better than our comics?” And I said, “Well, have you read ours?” And he said, “I don’t read comics.” So I said, “Alright. Here’s a stack of Marvel’s comics from last month. Here’s a stack of our comics from last month. Just open them up.” He said, “I don’t have to read them?” I said, “Just open them up and look at them.” And he opened them up, and you know, ours were vibrant colors and the whole bit, splashier pages, and theirs were kind of muddy. And he said, “Alright, I get it.” But the real thing is, we had a nice market share. We were one of the top independent publishers. They were trying to build their market share at the time. And they had a couple of particular interests in us. One of them was that we were able to launch brand new characters that no one had ever heard of, and have them successful, and distribute them the same ways as Marvel and DC. We were the only publisher to be on the newsstands, in the airports, in the bookstores with them. So we went to all the same points. Believe me, it was difficult financially to figure out how to do all that, but we made sure that our distribution was the same. We also were known for spending ten cents on the dollar for marketing that they spent. And being able to be out there as much as them. We did the first TV commercial ever for comics, the first bus bench and bus side advertising, some fun things like that.

SK: Hm.

SR: So we did all that so we start one day Warner and DC Comics called us wanting to acquire us, and we started conversations with them. And another day Terry Stewart called and said, “I heard you’re for sale,” and, you know, I said, “nnnyeah,” and he said, “Can we meet, tomorrow?” And I said, “Sure!” And basically made a deal with Perlman’s right hand, Bill Bevins, over breakfast, for the company, which, you know, at the time, I honestly was more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan. But we had investors who really wanted us to go with Marvel because of a pre-existing relationship. And, well, I didn’t really have much fun after selling the company. Now keep in mind, this is not a slam against current Marvel. There’s no one there who was there then. But it was unpleasant. And I just. I saw the writing on the wall.

SK: So you were still involved in the day-to-day operations after you sold it, for a while?

SR: Yeah, for a year. And that was about as much as I could take. And believe me, when you have your own characters, Scott, as you know. To leave them. To do that sitcom moment where you’re turning the light out in the office for the very last time.

SK: Right.

SR: It was incredibly painful, but they were hell on our staff. They were making us lay off people — which they were doing to their own staff — every couple of weeks, saying each time that this is the last time. And I’m not going to lie for someone. You know, the first time, maybe they were wrong. But the seventh time? I just … I told my staff what was happening, and that I couldn’t imagine it lasting. I sent memos to Marvel, saying, you know, if you guys do the things you’re saying. They were talking about shipping January books in December, which is silly, because then as soon as a store gets five Spider-man books instead of three, because of the way they order, then all the sales will go down. I said, if you do the things you say you’re going to do, then your sales will fall 18% in April, and I just gave the whole year out. And they’re like, “You’re full of shit.” But someone called me during the bankruptcy, from Marvel, and said, “We just found these memos. How could you know all these numbers?” So it turns out that that’s what they were!


SR: But I didn’t know they were going to go bankrupt. Frankly, they were not in financial trouble at all. They just got themselves into odd circumstances. They went into bankruptcy because Perlman played a game, went to war with Carl Icahn …

SK: There’s a great book about all that called Comic Wars.

SR: Comic Book Wars. Yeah. I was actually, I formed the bankruptcy committee to protect the creators from their contracts being nullified and the creditors. The Court denied us being able to create a Creditor’s Committee, because it was supposed to go in and out of bankruptcy in thirty days. That was the original plan that Perlman had but you know, life isn’t that easy. So no one had formed the Board, and the Court said, “No, it’s too late now.” So we hired a bunch of attorneys, and went in, and were like, “Look, there’s going to be thousands of people screwed if we can’t form this committee. So as part of it, I wanted to make sure that all of the contracts for all of the creators were not — you know, in bankruptcy, you can toss out contracts. A lot of them have interests in the characters, and the whole bit. We got them to make a deal so that those were all just going to ride on through. And we got some of the people who were owed money some of their money back. But that’s very difficult in a bankruptcy. Basically, lawyers get half. So I mean that wasn’t the main goal. The main goal was just, let’s handle this the right way. Marvel of course wasn’t happy that I formed the committee, because it was at odds with them.

SK: So now who owns all those characters now? Who owns NightMan and Prime and the Ultraverse characters?

SR: I say this with great sadness. Marvel. I have an economic interest in them, but I have no control over them.

JM: And Marvel owns Men in Black as well?

SR: Yeah. Men in Black is an interesting case because we set that up, and developed it, you know, funded all the development and everything, before Marvel. Which is why you’ll never see Men in Black listed in any Marvel press. I mean, think about it. They talk about all their other movies. They never talk about Men in Black.

SK: Well, right before, we were. When I was doing research for the podcast, Joey was insisting to me that Marvel owned Men in Black, and I said, “No, that’s not right. They don’t own Men in Black.” And Joey said, “No, I’ve got the DVD. If you watch Men in Black 2, it’s got the Marvel logo at the beginning.

SR: Actually Men in Black 1 had the Marvel logo, and there are several of us that are participants in it, including Lowell Cunningham, who basically got Sony to change it in the second movie to Malibu Comics. Because it is not based on a Marvel Comic, it is based on a Malibu one. But yes, Marvel owns it, but the truth is there’s really a divvying up of participations. There’s Lowell. There’s me. The lawyer gets a couple of percent. The agent gets a couple of percent. And Marvel. Basically, they may own it in name, but it’s really, how money flows from Sony, and the number of checks they cut, and …

SK: So if somebody wanted to make a Men in Black comic, who would have the rights to do that?

SR: That was actually my next comment. Because I was talking to Lowell today trying to figure that same thing out. Because there are a couple of complications. If somebody wanted to do a comic that’s not at all based on the movie, then it’s Marvel, although Lowell’s checking to see if there’s a first negotiation so … we’d be happy to publish it again if it were with him. And if we wanted to use the Sony characters, we then need to go to Sony and make a deal with them, which is certainly do-able also. So we’re actually exploring that, because we all want to see Men in Black keep on, and we want to push hard for there to be a number three.

JM: I actually asked Bill Jemas why there was no Men in Black comic one time, when he was still –

SR: President? Uh-huh.

JM: President of Marvel, yeah, and he was kind of evasive, yeah.

SK: Dodged it?

SR: I’ll tell you why. Basically, all the Marvel stuff, I mean all the Malibu stuff, they simply decided to not care about. I mean, if you look on the web, about people’s comments, even recently, on the Ultraverse, there’s all these ten years later articles, there’s fan fiction, there’s lots of stuff. Everyone calls it “pre-Marvel Ultraverse” that they like. And post-Marvel that they don’t like.

SK: There wasn’t much post-Marvel Ultraverse was there? I mean, I know they tried to bring some of the Marvel characters over into it. Wasn’t Juggernaut involved in a … in one of the …

SR: Yeah, Juggernaut, and, I mean, here’s what happened. We sold the company in November of ‘94. Marvel made us change our prices starting in February, which was a little difficult, because the February solicitation had already gone out. They didn’t like our $1.95 so they just unilaterally said change everything to $2.50. We of course said, “Why don’t we start that with miniseries and with new number ones and give a couple of extra pages the first time,” and, you know. And they said, “Nah.” So with that, and they said, you know, “Start using these characters.” And it was really pretty early into ‘95, so it was all of ‘95, and all of ‘96, I was gone then. Some of them were still published a little bit into ‘97, there was one Men in Black special that came out that Lowell wrote for them. And then it kind of faded away. And then recently Marvel has said — it’s all over the web — “we’ve been told by management not to use any Malibu characters.” And then off the record, they said, “Or we’ll be fired.”

JM: Let me jump in here as the host. We’re at 29 minutes, these shows usually only last thirty, and we haven’t even gotten to the reason that we’re all talking here today.

SK: All right.

JM: This is really interesting stuff, though, and maybe we can have you on another time, Scott, to really go into that historical stuff, because, um …

SR: Sure.

JM: I know as a comic book fan myself — actually, to be honest, I quit reading comics shortly before you came onto the scene, and didn’t start reading them again until shortly after …

SR: Laughs.

JM: I kind of missed you. Um. But as a comic book fan, and especially as a fan of comic book history, that’s really interesting stuff. But let’s talk about what you’re doing now.

SR: Sure.

[[ To be Continued ]]


TAC Podcast: Joey Manley and Scott Kurtz interview Scott Rosenberg

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:57 pm

In the latest podcast, Scott Rosenberg of Platinum Studios, Scott Kurtz of PvP, and Joey Manley (that’s me) talk for almost an hour and a half about Hollywood and webcomics.

There is just a teensy bit of yelling. But mostly it’s civil, and very (I think) informative.

My own audio track gets out of sync as the show progresses, so that I sound like I’m overtalking the two Scotts, and laughing in all the wrong places, and so on. It’s very embarrassing. I’m going to try to figure out why that happened and fix it before recording another podcast. Meanwhile, this is one of the most important TAC shows we’ve done yet, so I’m posting it anyway, even with the horrible audio problems.

Download the MP3 or subscribe to the feed

[[EDIT: because of the audio problems, I am making transcriptions of the interview available here — just finished transcribing the first 1/3 and hope to have the remaining 2/3 available shortly. I transcribed the entire podcast.

Part One:
Part Two:
Part Three:


Indie Spinner Rack Podcast

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:52 am

I haven’t listened to it yet (just found out about it this morning, and am downloading all the episodes now), but Indie Spinner Rack looks like a great idea — a podcast featuring only non-corporate comics and their creators. Recent guests include Matt “Pistolwhip” Kindt and R. Kikuo Johnson (whose debut graphic novel, “Night Fisher,” I reviewed last week over at GNR). I enjoy the more established comics podcasts as much as anybody else, and I don’t necessarily believe that “non-corporate” always means “better” — but there’s only so many times you can listen to Joe Quesada and Brian Michael Bendis going on about their latest megacrossover event … surely?


TAC Podcast # 4: Joey Manley and Joe Zabel

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 10:14 pm

In this week’s (month’s?) podcast, I speak with Webcomics Examiner editor and Modern Tales creator Joe Zabel, on topics elitist, introverted, extroverted, serialized, and micropaid.

Download this installment or subscribe to the feed.


TAC Podcast # 4: Joey Manley and Alexander Danner

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 5:41 pm

In this week’s podcast, I interview Alexander Danner. Topics include the differences (and similarities) between comic book scripting and writing for the stage; his upcoming book with Steven Withrow on character design for graphic novels, and what it feels like to be wanged by Penny-Arcade — and survive!

As you’ve noticed, my talk show skills have gotten rusty since the heyday of the DivaLea Show. The podcasts are improving every week, though, I think. I’ve decided to drop the theme music altogether. Trying to sound like a professional talk radio show is not a good way to spend my energies (for one thing, that’s not something I’m particularly talented at doing). So this is just presented straight-on, a one-on-one conversation between two people who share some interests in, and who have some ideas about, webcomics. Long boring pauses and all. Toward the end, the audio got out of sync (you’ll hear Alexander responding to my questions before I’ve actually asked them), but it’s still the most listenable of my podcast productions in quite some time.

Download this installment, or subscribe to the feed via
RSS (iTunes link)


TAC Podcast # 3: Australian Shoptalk with Chaloner and Grace

Filed under: — Joey Manley @ 7:32 pm

Gary Chaloner talks with veteran Aussie gag cartoonist Kim Grace in this first of what we hope will be many antipodeal TAC podcasts.

Download this installment, or subscribe to the feed via
RSS (iTunes link)

The TalkAboutComics podcast theme song © 2006 cayetano garza jr.

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