Friday, September 27, 2013

Interv.w With Com.x

Since the early 2000s Com.x has been making waves in the comics industry. Releasing high quality and innovative titles like Cla$$war, Seeds, Passion's Requiem and many more. CBNAH did an interview with Eddie Deighton and Benjamin Shahrabani from Com.x to talk about the history of the company, the dark time period, upcoming titles and more!

CBNAH: First of all, Cla$$war was an awesome series you guys did in the early '00.

Benjamin Shahrabani: Thank you for the kind words. You made my day!

CBNAH: For those who are unfamiliar with Com.x, can you give us a brief history of the company?

BMS: Com.x was launched back in 2000. Bazooka Jules, Puncture, Razorjack, Cla$$war, Sky Between Branches, N-Jin and Codename: Babetool were the original launch titles. We took a break mid-2007, until we relaunched again in 2009. We then published Path which was nominated for a Russ Manning Award, along with a hardcover edition of the Cla$$war series and a collected edition of Razorjack. This was followed by [Forty-Five]45 which was released to much acclaim in 2011, followed by Monster Myths which debuted at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, and Babble earlier this year which has gotten some amazing press, and was also nominated for a Russ Manning Award (Most Promising Newcomer Artist award).

CBNAH: From 2003 to 2007 the company went through a dark time period. How was the company able to make a comeback to publishing?

BMS: Eddie is actually the only original member of the team left standing (although I've been there for a long time and was also there during as what Ray Liotta in 'Goodfellas' may have described as 'These are the bad times…'). Perhaps he'd like to answer that one, as without him I don't think we'd be speaking…

Eddie Deighton: Yeah, I guess I'm the best one to answer that! I think the simple answer is faith, confidence and an unwavering passion. We did go through some tough times, both financially and structurally, but in my heart I've always wanted to publish comics so, no matter what we went through, I knew that if my heart was still in it, Com.x would always exist. Independent publishing is an extremely tough market - even more so with the dominance the majors have over the retail sector now - but we meet so many talented people with amazing stories to tell that my enthusiasm is still strong. Fortunately, Ben and Jon both feel the same way, so we're still committed to publishing interesting, unique stories that entertain the comic reader. For me, I still want Com.x to represent all that's interesting about comics and we always strive to do something different.

CBNAH: Is there any new information on the Cla$$war film adaptation?

BMS: The film thing has been a bit frustrating… But then again that's the film business for you. One of the biggest problems has been that, often times, when people in charge think about what property they want to make into a film, one of the things they look at is 'pre-awareness.' If we sold millions of copies, that wouldn't be a problem. Across all issues, Cla$$war sold very well for an independent, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to Marvel and DC superhero titles. Also, it's a superhero title, and even though the characters aren't superheroes (they are genetically engineered super-soldiers), it is close enough to where folks pass on Cla$$war because Marvel and DC do super-hero so well. So, we're thinking about approaching this a TV series now…

ED: If we had a dime for every conversation we've had in Hollywood about translating Cla$$war for the big screen, we probably could have funded our own film by now! Seriously, the project has been through so many media transitions that it's been hard to keep track over the last decade. The Mandeville option expired quite some time ago, so we're in negotiations with other parties at present.

The main issues have always been the budget it would take to realize Rob Williams' vision and the fact that, even though it was a highly-regarded and successful indie superhero book, that the sales (and heritage) you couldn't compare to something like a Marvel or DC title. It's easy with the bigger publishers to be able to look at book sales and readership and gauge expectations but that's harder to do on a smaller book. It needs more faith from the producer and studio, even if the reviews are outstanding. Also, you have to consider that most successful comic film properties have had decades to establish themselves and that's helped to build hype and awareness so I guess, looking at how many years it took to get Watchmen to the big screen, that we're not doing too badly.

Unfortunately we can't say too much about the status of the project but rest assured, we'll certainly be shouting from the rooftops when we can.

CBNAH: Can you give us any insight to the unreleased Silent Hill graphic novel? Did the story follow closely to the game or movie or was it more an original idea? Any chance it will ever be released?

ED: Yes, the graphic novel did follow the storyline closely (or one of storylines, at least). The book release hit a few corporate stumbling blocks when the game was released, hence it never seeing the light of day; it was certainly nothing to do with the quality of the production - it's just the way things go when you're dealing with global companies sometimes. We still have it as a production-ready file, so you never know. We've been discussing releasing it as a piece of fan art, with Konami's permission, some time in the future, so you may get to see it yet.

CBNAH: Is there any title that you would recommend for somebody who isn't familiar Com.X?

BMS: Well, you mentioned Cla$$war, so there's that. Of previous releases, 45 is a great primer to Com.x… If you can find a copy (note – it is available on a few digital formats – but we're big proponents of the print format). Andi Ewington's book is pretty unique because its a hybrid of sorts. Its one continuous story and each page is a splash page drawn by 45 different artists. It's a great, great story about a prospective father looking to find out what he might have in store if his child is born with superpowers.

ED: Hmmm… that's a tough one - I think it depends on the person asking the question. You'll see from the books we've published that there's a range of genres we've dipped into. We never wanted to be pigeon-holed with one particular genre and we've always strived to bring comics to the masses, hence supporting books such as Seeds and Monster Myths. Of course, with Cla$$war, Bazooka Jules and [Forty-Five]45 we've proven that we can do superhero as good as the next publisher, so we do feel we offer something for everyone's taste. I hope that's what makes us interesting.

CBNAH: I very much enjoyed Monster Myths! I can't help but think this would make a great video game series. Have you ever considered it?

ED: Hey, if Rockstar Games or Deep Silver ever wanted to discuss an adaptation, we'd be more than happy to accommodate! Of course, we'd love to see our books adapted for Games, TV or Film. Monster Myths would make a great game!

BMS: Do you have a great idea about how it might be adapted into a game, because it's never crossed our minds about how to do it? Perhaps 'Grand Theft Auto' style?

CBNAH: Can you give us any insight on the creative process you use? Or run us through a day in Com.x?

BMS: Eddie, Jon, and myself are Com.x… So we do everything between us. It's a small team, but we each have our strengths. We all do curating – deciding on submissions. If we can't all unanimously say we'd pay our hard earned dollar (or UK pound) for that book off the shelf, we have to turn the creators down. Besides editing (which we all do), I focus on promotion and marketing. Of course this is cyclical, as we only release 3-4 books a year… But during that time period we are solely focused on that single project… Which is very good from the creator's point of view, I think.

ED: In addition to the generic company chores my main role is the graphic design, lettering and production. Effectively, anything the creative team don't or can't do, I'm there to back them up on. I'll also offer that extra creative support when it comes to story editing or conceptualizing as you may be aware of previously on [Forty-Five]45, where I worked closely with Andi (Ewington) to make sure the book was a really 'tight' package. We worked so well together that we went on to write the BlueSpear one-shot between us. I'm honoured to have been allowed to design and letter most of our books - Cla$$war, Razorjack, Sky Between Branches, N-Jin, Babetool, BlueSpear, Babble and the upcoming Duppy'78.

CBNAH: Can you tell us anything about the upcoming titles Bushido Wasabi and DUPPY'78?

BMS: These titles have been in gestation for a while, but I'm pleased to say 'Duppy' is finally complete and, minus a couple of little tweaks, it should have been solicited by the time this article is published. Because all of our titles are a labor of love, they take quite a long time to come out, much like a baby (actually, much longer than a baby). How to describe? Duppy is 'The Harder They Come' meets 'Akira' meets 'Ju-On.' Got it? It's a supernatural Jamaican gangster tale where children have the power to control the 'duppy' - spirits in the Rastafarian culture known to cause mischief and harm… But I guarantee (no money back sadly) that by the time readers turn the last page they will be tearing up.

ED: It's too early to talk about Bushido, really, but it's kind of like Mad Max meets Samurai Jack - that's all I can say at the moment!

CBNAH: Can you tell us about the title "Seeds"? do you often find inspiration from actual events? And is donating proceeds to charity something you'll do again?

BMS: Awww, man. 'Seeds' blew me away when I read it. When you look at what we publish, at first glance it looks like it doesn't fit in with the rest of our titles, but it does when you think about our ethos. Look a little deeper, and one of the things you'll find is actually the lack of consistency of the subject matter which we publish. All our books are very different from one another.

Seeds felt like a book that should have been picked up by a Fantagraphics or a D&Q… But for whatever reason they didn't… And it came to us. At the time, all three of us at Com.x (Eddie Deighton, Jon Sloan, and myself) had been affected by Cancer indirectly in some way. It felt like it was important to get Ross Mackintosh's story out there. It resonated with us, and with readers. If we publish another book where it makes sense to donate a portion of the proceeds to charity, we would certainly do so.

ED: Yes, it was an interesting turn of events. Ross emailed us inquiring as to what our submissions procedure was. At the time, we weren't actively looking for more titles, but I told him we would consider reviewing samples pages, if he had any. That evening he sent through the entire graphic novel - written, drawn and lettered! I read it the next day and was so profoundly moved by the experience that I sent it straight to Jon and Ben to read. They both came back straight away and agreed that we needed to find a publishing slot for the book. That's the joy of independent-publishing - if it feels right and budget allows, you can find a place in your schedule for something that special.

CBNAH: What comics are you currently reading in your spare time?

ED: I've just finished the Daredevil Ultimate Collection #82-119 written by Brubaker and Rucka and illustrated by Lark, Gaudiano, Aja, etc. Wonderful stuff - Ed Brubaker wrote one of the most moving scenes I've read in comics for a long time. I've also just finished The Nao Of Brown and I'm a sucker for re-reading old Justice League and The Authority.

BMS: Comics wise, I just finished reading 'Unlikely' by Jeffrey Brown, and just picked up 'Dream Thief' by Jai Nitz. Both are really unlike each other…but I guess showcase my diverse taste. I'm also reading a lot of prose right now. I'm hooked on the work of Walter Tevis – he wrote 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' and 'The Color of Money'. I'M reading some of his other work like 'The Steps of the Sun' and 'Queens Gambit'. Sooooo good. I just wish he had written more!

CBNAH: Thank you, for your time.

ED: Thank you!

BMS: Me too!

Also, checkout Com.x official website and on Twitter

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