Think of the shelves of your local comics store as a crowded room where everybody is shouting for your attention. It’s difficult to rise above that din, and that’s why being unique — in tone and in presentation — makes you stand out quickly in the market. Writer Sam Humphries got his start in comics in summer 2010 with shorts for anthologies like CBGB: The Comic Book, and then self-published his first book Our Love Is Real the following year. Fast forward 14 months, and he’s writing two of Marvel’s top titles in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates and Uncanny X-Force. How does that happen?
As I learned in my interview with Humphries, a lot of it has to do with his background but also his drive and know-how to tell stories. Humphries initially crossed paths with the industry when he oversaw marketing for MySpace’s comic book portal, which lasted for several years. From that, he began participating in the comics community on podcasts and through contributions to anthologies. After being turned down by more than a dozen publishers, Humphries decided to self-publish Our Love Is Real with artist Steve Sanders and found a way to cut through the noise to become a prominent new voice in comics. He followed that with the first issue of Sacrifice, and then was quickly pulled into other publishers like Marvel and BOOM! Studios to tell stories on a larger platform.
The newly announced writer of Uncanny X-Force, Humphries is also at the center of the buzz surrounding the development in Ultimate Comics: The Ultimate‘s making Captain America president of the United States (Comic Book Resources has a preview of Ultimate Comics: The Ultimates #17). CBR spoke with him in-depth about those issues, allowing us to talk about Humphries’ career and his whirlwind of success.
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are the creative team behind the upcoming self-distributed indie comic LP, Curt Pires and Ramon Villalobos. You can read more about the comic in the interview Tim O’Shea did with Curt earlier this week.
And to see what they’ve been reading lately, click below.
Earlier this month as a part of our big birthday bash celebration, Sean T. Collins spoke to the Press Gang–Jason Leivian, Zack Soto and François Vigneault–about their upcoming projects, including a new webcomics portal that we were able to preview some of the artwork from in the interview.
And as of this past week, the portal has gone live, featuring a bunch of new webcomics, including:
- Danger Country by Levon Jihanian
- The Mourning Star: Klive’s Story by Kazimir Strzepek
- The Yankee by Jason Leivian and Ian MacEwan
- The Lone Wolf by Jennifer Parks
- Titan by Francois Vigneault
- It Will All Hurt by Farel Dalrymple
According to a post on their blog, this is just the start–Michael Deforge will contribute complete short stories every six weeks or so, Zack Soto’s Secret Voice starts Feb. 3, and yet-to-be-announced contributions are coming from Malachi Ward, Tom Neely and more.
“And there came a day, a day unlike any other…” Comics is rife with stories of team-ups and alliances formed to solve problems beyond any one member and advance the common good. Such is the story of Press Gang, one of the most intriguing small-press outlets to emerge in the year gone by. Comprising Portland retailer Jason Leivian’s Floating World Comics imprint, cartoonist and editor Zack Soto’s Study Group Comic Books and Elfworld editor François Vigneault’s publishing house Family Style, Press Gang is described on its website simply as “like-minded publishers/packagers banding together.”
Each of its individual members has taken a forward-thinking approach to the work they put out: Leivian’s excellent store has a bold art/comics “house anthology,” the cheekily titled Diamond Comics; Soto teamed with former Comics Journal editor Milo George (with an assist by Bodega Books publisher Randy Chang) to transform his long-running artcomix anthology Studygroup12 into the promising comics/criticism hybrid Study Group Magazine; and Vigneault rescued Elfworld from languishing on original editor Jeffrey Brown’s to-do list, becoming a pioneer of the seemingly ever-widening crossover between alternative comics and fantasy adventures. Any alliance between these three is worth watching very closely.
So to celebrate Robot 6′s third anniversary, I got in touch with each member of the Press Gang triumvirate to ask about the past, present and future of the Gang and their places in it. The big news here is that Soto’s Study Group Comic Books will be absorbing Chang’s Bodega Books now that Chang has officially closed up shop, and will publish Kazimir Strzepek’s highly acclaimed fantasy saga The Mourning Star from now on. And check out oodles of exclusive preview pages from Elfworld #3 and Study Group’s forthcoming sg12.com webcomics portal, launching Jan. 16. But beyond that, there’s Shonen Jump-style phonebook anthologies, the return of old favorites after long hiatuses and, quite literally, magic…
Sean T. Collins: Beyond the fact that Zack works at Jason’s comic shop, Floating World, I know very very little about the origin of Press Gang. How did the three of you hook up?
Zack Soto: I’ve been friends with both Jason and François for several years now. I know François from tabling at APE over the years, and he moved to Portland in the last year or so. Since then, we’ve become pretty good buddies and talk out our projects with each other quite a bit. Jason I’ve known since he opened Floating World, more or less. I went to check out the shop in its first, extremely tiny, space. We’ve been friends ever since, and I guess a year or more ago I started working there a day or two a week. Last year we co-published Studygroup12 #4. I probably talk with these two guys about my crazy ideas and frustrations, and listen to them talk out their ideas, more than any other people besides my wife.
Press Gang came about initially from François and I talking about our various goals as small publishers. We both basically had the same ideas about strength in numbers and what that could mean. Promotionally, it’s as simple as being able to group together some like-minded publisher/packagers at more or less the same level of the industry and bringing all of our small followings to one point. Logistically, one of the obvious strengths is being able to send one or two people to represent the group at a convention and save money. Another benefit is when we have particular skills like silkscreening or risographing or what have you, we give each other sweet deals in our areas of production expertise.
We’re basically modeling ourselves after the Wu-Tang Clan. I like to flatter myself into thinking I’m the GZA but Jason keeps telling me I’m ODB, so oh well.