CBNAH: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Action Lab Comics?
Jim: Action Lab began as, and still is, an amalgamation of writers, artists and other creatives who have banded together to, quite simply, help each other put out the best print and digital comics money can buy. Part mad science, part indie comics makers: that’s the best way to sum up what we do.
Shawn: Jim is correct; the core of Action Lab had spent years self publishing comics, and even collaborating with each other on various projects. It was after a convention in 2010 we all decided to combine our talents instead of struggling to do things on our own. We started a Kickstarter in late 2010 to create FRACTURE, a mini-series about a super hero, a super villain and an average man named Jeff who is the same guy intent on killing each other. In 2011 we began our journey in the Direct Market publishing comics and never looked back.
CBNAH: How was this year at SDCC for Action Lab Comics?
Shawn: It was the best year we've had to date. We were able to introduce a slew of new and upcoming series from both the Action Lab proper line as well as our mature readers imprint known as Action Lab: Danger Zone.
Jim: Not only were many of our talented writers and artists front and center to sign their works, but we also hosted a panel about the future of the company and debuted several SDCC variants and exclusives at the show, including some showcasing our newer titles like Jamal Igle’s MOLLY DANGER, Gayle Middleton’s VAMPLETS and Jeremy Dale’s runaway hit SKYWARD.
Shawn: The amount of people that demanded VAMPLETS & MOLLY DANGER was astounding. Danger Zone books were constantly in demand all weekend and we were able to introduce new readers to books such as GHOST TOWN, EHMM THEORY, FINAL PLAGUE, NIGHT OF THE 80's UNDEAD, and many others. In fact the amount of requests from our fan base and new readers of Action Lab books for both our labels was strong. The team and the creators at the show were busy all weekend and seldom had time to breathe. That's a good thing. We also showcased a SDCC exclusive of the upcoming BO: PLUSHY GANGSTA from Action Lab: Danger Zone as well as THE GARLICKS, which I'm sure we'll be talking more about in our upcoming questions.
Jim: There were a ton of announcements at our panel, including the Encore Edition of Jeremy Whitley’s Eisner-nominated PRINCELESS priced at $1(!), the debut of Lea Hernandez’s “new all-ages vampire yarn” book THE GARLICKS and the October launch of Gayle Middleton’s VAMPLETS based on her very successful toy line of baby vampyres, monsters and mayhem!
But above and beyond all of those announcements, Action Lab announced the “Return of the Hero”, a launch of several titles that all take refreshing looks at the story convention of the “superhero”, kicking off with Jamal Igle’s critically-praised MOLLY DANGER, continuing through JACK HAMMER, about a former superhero turned PI who specializes in cases involving superpowers (think POWERS meets THE ROCKFORD FILES), the action-packed and powerful THE FIRST HERO and culminating in a new volume of stories from Action Lab’s very first direct market comic mini-series, FRACTURE.
Shawn: Also, for those that were not able to attend the panel at SDCC, you can now watch it on our YouTube page.
Here's the link to Part One: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhkhgEsc2tM
And here's the link to Part Two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmI2V_Ci9h0
This will give you the complete rundown on everything that Jim just talked to you about. Kevin Freeman (President of Action Lab), Jason Martin (President of Action Lab: Danger Zone) and Dave Dwonch (Creative Director of Action Lab) did a great job running the panel, and our creators were very open to talk about their projects.
Shawn: Action Lab will have a presence at Baltimore Comic Con and Pittsburgh Comic Con in September, and we'll be running strong at New York Comic Con as well.
Jim: Don't forget that during the weekend of New York Comic Con that there are plans are in the works for a MOLLY DANGER launch party, and that there will be a party the weekend of Pittsburgh Comic Con spotlighting the return of FRACTURE, and we will be making more convention announcements on our social media feeds and on our website as plans become more concrete.
Shawn: There's always something going on in the lab.
Shawn: I can say that SKYWARD is one of our most adventurous books to date. Jeremy Dale is a talent, and it shows on every single page of that comic. It's one of the better blends of Sci-Fi fantasy that I've seen in awhile, and I'm proud that Action Lab is publishing this book.
Jim: Indeed, SKYWARD has been a both a popular and critically-acclaimed book, so much so that we recently announced it as Action Lab’s first ongoing monthly title. In fact, the earlier issues of the series are becoming very scarce. The demand for this book is very high.
Starting with issue 3 of SKYWARD, we will be featuring alternate covers by some of the best artists in the business, including Stephanie Roux on issue 3, Mike Norton on issue 4 and Khary Randolph on issue 5, and future issues with artists such as Randy Green, and other talents such as Phil Noto, Todd Nauck and others in the future.
CBNAH: How has the Danger Zone imprint been doing and what are some of the stand out titles?
Shawn: It's doing quite well. Copies of THE FINAL PLAGUE, GHOST TOWN, and EHMM THEORY have sold out at the distribution level, and THE FINAL PLAGUE from JD Arnold and Tony Guaraldi-Brown continues to be a best seller for the Danger Zone label. EHMM THEORY from Brockton McKinney and Larkin Ford is possibly one of the best (and only) meta-mystery-journey comics out there, and GHOST TOWN by Dave Dwonch, Ryan Lindsay and Daniel J Logan, which deals with terrorists who weaponize a time machine is also a great read. THE FINAL PLAGUE turns the conventional virus/zombie comic on its ear, and is the best selling comic in the history of Danger Zone.
Jim: NIGHT OF THE 80’s UNDEAD from Jason Martin and Bill McKay is like watching a movie co-directed by John Hughes and George Romero, and I should mention a couple of upcoming digital-first releases I’d like to spotlight: SCUM OF THE EARTH, a grindhouse style Southern-fried ultra-violent romp and Mike Hunau's CRIMSON SOCIETY, the story of one of the last humans in a world ruled by supernatural beings.
Shawn: You can't talk about the Danger Zone without mentioning DOUBLE JUMPERS. Combine "Freaky Friday" with RPG gaming and raunchy humor in Las Vegas during a computer gaming expo/convention and you'll be laughing for days. Dave Dwonch is the ace of writing inappropriate humor for this comic and Bill Blankenship's art is astounding.
CBNAH: Are there any other titles that people should check out?
Jim: We have so much stuff going on and in the planning stages right now, but I guess the book I am most excited for people to read is Jamal Igle’s MOLLY DANGER. Jamal is single-handedly bringing fun back to comics with this book which has the free spirited anything-can-happen appeal of the best adventure stories mixed with a fresh take on the superhero story. And his art is just stunning. I think a lot of people are going to be impressed with what he has created. I know I am.
Shawn: Something I would recommend that people check out is ACTION LAB CONFIDENTIAL, which is a FREE digital sampler of some of our great works which we've published over the years. You can get it for FREE at ComiXology and other digital vendors. Also, take a look at the art book/storybook MONSTERS ARE JUST LIKE US by SuperUgly, Martheus Wade's action-packed ninja thriller JETTA: TALES OF THE TOSHIGAWA, Shawn Gabborin's horror-filled SNOWED IN and the pirate-noir filled PIRATE EYE by Joe Grahn and Carl Yonder.
CBNAH: Where do you see digital comics in the next few years?
Shawn: I see it as a continuing way to get readers the access they need to all forms of comics if they don't have a comic book retailer close to them. I also see digital changing the conventional forms and methods of storytelling as well. Another thing I see it doing now for readers, and hopefully even more in the future is pique interest in print versions at their local retailer. I've already seen in happen at my local shop, so both markets will end up supporting each other and not cutting one another off.
Jim: Digital is a huge focus for us at Action Lab. For example we not only have offered some of our biggest titles as digital-first exclusives we also have several new and exciting titles that will be making their debut in a digital format. We are very aware of how big a part of the future of the medium digital comics has the potential to be and we are always looking at new ways to use the advantages of the digital marketplace to our advantage.
CBNAH: What does the future holds for Action Lab Comics?
Jim: A lot more of what we have always been known for: a wide spectrum of comics that celebrate everything we love about the medium without being tied to the conventions of it. Our only real litmus test is quality, as a quick look through our catalog will show you. All of our books are very different but the one thing they all have in common is a standard of quality. We want people to know when they pick up any Action Lab or Action Lab: Danger Zone book that they will enjoy the experience and that they are getting some of the best comics out there. That’s the goal.
CBNAH: Is there anything you would like to say the fans who supported the company throughout the years?
Shawn: The entire team is thankful and humbled by all the support that Action Lab has had over the years in all of its endeavors. We take pride in being the Small Company with Big Ideas, and we pride ourselves in the diverse line of comics and original graphic novels that we publish every single month. We have some of the best readers and fans out there and in turn they spread the word of what we do every single day, and we continue to grow our readership every single month because of each and every one of them. Without them, there is no us, and we are forever thankful for that. I'm thankful.
Jim: We have nothing but the highest admiration and gratitude for our longtime fans and we are glad to have them along for what has been a wild ride that is only going to get wilder. Action Lab would be nothing more than an idea without the heartfelt and massive support of our fans. All I have to say to them and everyone else who is just discovering Action lab for the very first time, is that while things have been awesome so far, they are only going to get even better.