VS Comics is a new venture by Mike Garley and James Moran. It’s a creator owned comic, published digitally every month, that will feature four stories from four different creative teams. There’s Facebook page in place which has steadily been adding Likes.
Mike and James have kindly agreed to step up and take part in this Q&A style interview as we get to know VS Comics ahead of its launch.
Why do VS Comics?
MG: Because we can. That’s the beauty of comics, if you want to make comics you can.
The UK’s got an abundance of amazingly talented creators who are always looking to be involved in exciting projects, as long as they believe in what you’re doing and they’ve got the time, then more than likely they’ll want to be involved.
JM: Yeah, why not? We have the skills and the ability to create something ourselves and get it out there, to make something cool that we’d like to exist. It’s also a challenge, to force ourselves to do an ongoing monthly, and tell complete stories of our own that might not otherwise find a home.
Can you walk us through the roles you both have in the project? Who specialises in what?
MG: We do the majority of the tasks together. Like a couple. A really unhappy couple. We both assess stories, give notes, approach creators, moan about creators behind their backs, set deadlines, etc…
Me and James aren’t the only editors though, we actually have an ultra sexy, ultra experienced, ultra helpful, trio of other editors who are involved.
We have Mike Stock who is our Digital Editor, he does the majority of the technical bits, designs, and letters the majority of the comics. As well as David Bishop and Ned Hartley who as Guest Editors edit some of the guest stories, as well as helping out with some of the more delicate comic issues.
It’s a really great mix of people who have a hell of a lot of diverse experience.
JM: I do everything brilliant, and anything that goes wrong or that you don’t like, that was Mike. We’re both the big fancy editors for the whole thing, we go through pitches and decide what will fit – we both have to agree on it, otherwise it doesn’t go in. Obviously Mike has much more comics experience than me, so he handles more of the business end of it, because he’s made comics before, and we both know how to promote it online, etc. We play it by ear, and talk through any decisions. We also have guest editors who will “showrun” certain stories, people with experience so that we can let each team get on with their own stories.
VS Comics is being described as a creator-owned venture. Does that mean the talent behind guest stories have a slice? Why is creator-owned important to you?
MG: Of course! They create their stories, they own them, so it stands to reason that they get paid for them. Obviously we have running costs, but that’s unavoidable.
I don’t want to label ‘creator-owned’ as what’s important – great comics are what’s important and if we can help other people create them then that would be amazing! Who doesn’t love great comics?
JM: Yes. And not just a slice, once we have the net profits then it’ll all be divided up properly, there’s no “80% for us and 20% for the others”, each creative team gets a share according to how many pages they have in that particular issue. I think it’s important to all creative folk, for years we’ve been taken advantage of by unscrupulous types who don’t actually produce the content themselves – and that’s not just in comics, it’s true of all creative media – so we expect to be treated fairly now. And that was the first thing we wanted to do when setting up VS Comics. I think the big question for anyone who doesn’t do that is, why the hell not? Did YOU write or do the art?? Then why should you earn all the money?!
Can you name drop some of the guest artists you have lined up already?
JM: Patrick Walsh, Martin Simmonds, Nich Angell, Joe Ward, and the amazing Nadine Ashworth. We are incredibly fortunate to have so many talented people on board.
MG: Unfortunately that’s all we can give away at the moment. We have lots of stories with great creators involved but we have a process that we need to follow. Hopefully we’ll have most of them at the stage to announce at our launch panel at Thought Bubble.
What sort of audience are you targeting with VS Comics? Digitally savvy comic fans? An initial hub of UK readers? Independent first, grassroots, comic tastemakers?
MG: Everyone we can. We’re digital as it allows us to reach a larger audience for a fraction of the price of physical distribution, however that doesn’t mean we won’t expand later on.
JM: The easy answer is: everyone. From people who buy loads of comics every month, right down to people who have never picked up a comic before in their life. We’ve got a great mix of genres and styles, so hopefully there’s something for most people.
How important is the digital channel to you? Is digital now strong enough to provide a big enough market place?
MG: Yes. In my opinion comics are behind the curve with the changing habits of media consumption, which is bizarre as they’re perfect for what people are looking for.
Comics need to change. Physical and digital distribution need to reflect different needs and cater to what they’re good at and be priced accordingly.
With the rise of episodic content this is the perfect time for new comics, and more importantly for new readers to try new comics out.
Honestly, the things we’d do if we had the budget.
Sorry I seemed to go a bit off point there. Apparently I care about comics. Who knew?
JM: Absolutely, it’s taken huge strides but we’re still figuring out our way through it, there are still plenty of mistakes to make! Not everyone has much space to keep buying everything new, so digital is extremely convenient. It also lets people take a chance on a new title – if the price is reasonable, I think they’re more likely to give it a go. And it’s a very big market place, because it’s online it’s a global market place – there are a lot less comic shops than there used to be, so it’s easier to get comics digitally now.
What do you think of the state of the comic industry right now? Is it a good time to be an artist or writer?
MG: I’m going to ignore the first half of that question – I think I’ve ranted about it enough. It’s definitely a good time to be an artist or writer. It’s easier than it’s ever been to create something and put it online. I don’t even accept it when a wannabe writer bemoans not having the opportunity to do comics, there are a whole host of publishers and small press guys who create anthologies who would happily give a polite, enthusiastic, talented individual a go.
I actually paid for my first 100 pages or so to be illustrated. I wanted to make comics, so I made comics.
JM: I’m fairly new to the industry, so I don’t know if it’s a good time or not. All I know is, I sat down with Mike, we decided to make a monthly anthology comic, and now it’s a real thing with loads of brilliant people involved. So it seems like a good time to me!
If a brand came to you with a product placement idea for a VS Comics story – would it tempt or horrify you? Or would you be indifferent?
MG: We have advertisement space and we have comic pages. They’re on different pages. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to have my characters eat Jaffa Cakes (preferably in exchange for Jaffa cakes) but that’ll ONLY happen if I have a scene where I want my characters to eat Jaffa cakes.
JM: Firstly, it would be nice to think that we were big enough to be considered a viable option for that sort of thing! Secondly, if they just wanted to drop a product into the background, without affecting the story, I wouldn’t be horrified, and it’d help ground the story if there were real products lying around. But if they wanted even the tiniest amount of input into the story, that would be out of the question. If they wanted that, then I’d rather just have adverts in between stories. As soon as you let non-creative advertising people give their opinion on creative stuff, you’re done.
Many of Geek Native readers are gamers; video gamers, traditional tabletop roleplayers and people who do plenty of both – which of the forthcoming VS Comics stories do you think we should look out for? Which will tempt us most?
MG: We’ve got a few. We’ve got zombies, spaceships, monsters, and a story that’s based in a classic fantasy world of elves, trolls and wizards, which I think in particular, could appeal. They’ll love it all as long as they stay away from James Moran’s Day and Night they’ll be happy!
The thing that connects games, comics, films, books and TV is that it should be an experience and not just something that happens.
JM: I’m a video gamer myself, and I write things that I’d like to see. As for what might tempt your readers the most, I think the first issue has a great mix of stuff and it’ll all appeal to them – we’ve got evil, vicious vampires, the last surviving super-powered hero, and a drunken alien fish. I reckon we cover a lot of ground…
Lastly, when can we expect to get our hands on the first issue?
JM: What Mike said.