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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Chris Wisnia, creator of the Doris Danger books.
To see what Chris and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
In a recent interview, filmmaker Rian Johnson was asked about the potential for a sequel to Looper. He said he was grateful that people thought the world could sustain more exploration, but ultimately it’s not something he’s interested in. Among other reasons, he’d rather let the unseen parts of the movie remain unseen. “Even if you do feel like you want to see more of it,” he said, “do you really want to see more of it?” He continues, “I think there’s something powerful about it being mythology as opposed to it actually being narrative.”
We seem to have an innate desire to want The Whole Story. We want to see the Clone Wars. We want to know about the giant pilot from Alien. We want the history of the Bourne project. And all this got me thinking about comics as well as movies. When I was a kid, we didn’t have comics stores. I got my comics at the local drug store or supermarket, and my choices were limited to whatever what was on the spinner rack. There were no back-issue bins or eBay, so if I missed an issue – and I always missed issues – I was hosed. Every issue of Batman seemed to be continuing some story I didn’t have the beginning of. Every issue of Spider-Man ended on a cliffhanger that I’d never see resolved.
Before Reed Richards ever convinced his friends to join him on a rocket trip to outer space, and before the Avengers ever assembled, their co-creator Jack Kirby had spent years at Marvel working on a different kind of mutated comic: monsters. And although Kirby may be gone, others have proudly pushed on in his stead, and now an upcoming graphic novel by Chris Wisnia is lofting the freak flag one more time in a Kirby-infused panorama of man versus monster.
Released by the fine folks at SLG Publishing, the graphic novel Monstrosis: The Giant Russian Monster Conspiracy has Wisnia taking his intrepid photojournalist character Doris Danger into the belly of the beast — literally — when she goes out to uncover the truth about monsters. Along the way she’s bound to meet “the world’s greatest actor” Dirk Doole, Army Commander Luke Luggash and a librarian-turned-behemonth known as … Pootwah.
Although Wisnia might be a veritable unknown in comics circles, his pop Kirby art homage recalls the King himself … and Wisnia has enlisted a few modern greats of his own in the form of guest inkers like Mike Allred, Herb Trimple and Bill Sienkiewicz, and pin-ups from everyone from Neal Adams to Simon Bisley.
This seems like a unique weekend read, celebrating Kirby’s epic style in the hands of someone new and reveling in insane monster wackiness.
Indy publisher SLG, the home of Halo and Sprocket, Pinocchio Vampire Slayer, and Gerry Alanguilan’s Elmer: A Story About Chickens, will begin publishing all its serialized comics in digital format rather than print. President and publisher Dan Vado summed up the situation rather neatly in the company’s press release: On the one hand, the market for print comics is dwindling; on the other hand, serialized comics allow creators to build up a fanbase before releasing a completed graphic novel. Digital allows the company to bypass Diamond’s quotas and avoid some of the costs of print comics while ensuring as wide a distribution as possible. The first two comics to be distributed this way are Stephen Coughlin’s Sanctuary and Chris Wisnia’s Monstrosis. In both cases, the first issue is available as a free download from the SLG site or through the iTunes store, and subsequent issues are priced at 99 cents each.
SLG got into the digital game early, offering downloads of its comics from its website, and their strategy now seems to be to make the comics available in as many channels as possible: By direct download from their site as well as through iTunes (for the iBooks app), Nook, and the comiXology and iVerse services.
While this is an unusual step, there is a certain logic to it. Phil and Kaja Foglio did it years ago, switching Girl Genius from serialized comics to a free webcomic, and they found that sales of their graphic novels increased, while they were able to avoid the cost of laying out and printing the monthly comics. The Foglios already had a large fan base when they made the move, however. SLG has a diverse set of offerings, so it’s less of a slam dunk, but it’s worth watching to see if they can make digital-first distribution work.
After self-publishing his work for a few years, this past November, SLG Publishing released Chris Wisnia’s 96-page Doris Danger: Giant Monster Stories. As we quoted Wisnia when the book was first announced: “I made this book for people like me — people who love Jack Kirby, robots, low-budget 1950’s sci-fi films; realistic, somewhat non-stop army, secret society, AND spaceship action, absurd conspiracy theories, romance, bad dialogue, ridiculous plot lines, seventh grade humor, kitsch, and of course…GIANT MONSTERS!” I email interviewed Wisnia back in November about the project. Before jumping into the interview itself, Wisnia wanted me to mention: “My website is www.tabloia.com, where you can find plenty of tidbits and bonus features. OH! And SLG is sending out free audio commentary CD’s, narrated by myself, to readers.”
Tim O’Shea: After years of self-publishing, how did Doris Danger land at SLG?
Chris Wisnia: I self-published about a dozen books from 2004-2007, but it was very expensive. Around 2006 or so, I began taking my books around at conventions, and showing my work to publishers, with the hopes of getting picked up by someone. I’d left a few things with Dan Vado at SLG, for maybe a year or so. For some reason, I didn’t get the impression he was interested in anything.
Then in 2008, at Wondercon in San Francisco, I went and re-introduced myself, and he remembered me (or my work). I told him I’d emailed a few times and not heard back. And he said he never got any of those emails. And he gave me his card. It was then I realized I’d been emailing the generic SLG “info” site administrator or whatever. When I wrote his actual address, he wrote me back within the day.