Dreamwave was the little Canadian comic book company that could… until they just couldn’t anymore. With ambitious new owners, the company is looking to redefine its image and today they announced the hiring new Editor In Chief Pierre-Andre Dery and Editor Mark Powers. CBR News spoke exclusively with the two, who answered some of the questions being asked by everyone and explained why this new Dreamwave isn’t the same old company.
“Our mission is very simple: to produce great comic books,” Dery told CBR News. “We want to put together teams on each of our titles that can create amazing, commercial stories. If we’re successful in that, everything else will fall into place. We’re also very interested in doing material that looks and ‘feels’ different than what other mainstream publishers are doing. In that regard, we’ll follow in the footsteps of the previous incarnation of Dreamwave, which was really the first publisher to bring manga/anime sensibilities to original work made for the American comic book market. Something a lot of people tend to forget.”
Powers is in agreement, adding, “That’s pretty much got to be any new publisher’s starting point. Create compelling stories that are distinct and can’t be found amid the all the offerings of other publishers– and to do it on time.”
Many fans have wondered why new management has decided to hold onto the Dreamwave name, as many of those same fans, and some retailers, feel betrayed by the previous ownership of Pat and Roger Lee. “Obviously there is a small minority of fans and retailers who have negative feelings toward Dreamwave and won’t realize (or won’t care) that the company is under new management,” contends Dery. “At the same time, we know based on some studies we’ve done, that the Dreamwave brand still has a great deal of name recognition among the general comic buying public, which is extremely valuable. The hardest part of launching a new company, particularly in comics, is creating brand identity, and with the Dreamwave name we already have that. In the end, we feel the pros outweigh the cons. And, to be honest, we’re going to live and die based on what’s in our books, not the logo on their upper left hand corner.”
Similarly, Powers accepts the feeling of some fans and retailers, but says that there’s something being forgotten in all this debate. “No matter how the original Dreamwave evolved– or devolved, if you want to be harsh– they did create a look and feel for their books that you couldn’t find elsewhere. I’d bet that even for some of the people out there who do not have positive feelings for the company, the name ‘Dreamwave’ does conjure up a distinct flavor. I mean, purely as a fan, one of the reasons that watching the original company’s collapse was so frustrating is that it was a case of squandered opportunity. They did have something going– had the company been better run, if maybe those guys had been more realistic, the potential was there for greatness.”
Still, Dreamwave’s biggest seller was their “Transformers” series of books, based on the seminal 1980s cartoon, and with the property now at IDW Publishing, one has to wonder where the potential is for Dreamwave’s original properties. “It’s something of a misperception that ‘Transformers’ was Dreamwave,” explains Dery. “In fact, both ‘Darkminds’ and ‘Warlands’ were Top 100 sellers at various times, and other titles like ‘Shidima,’ ‘Fate of the Blade,’ and ‘Necrowar’ had very respectable sales. It was largely the success of those original titles that allowed Dreamwave to land the Transformers license. Of course, once they had it, Transformers did become the company’s focus, for better or worse. As far as the new Dreamwave goes, we’re keeping our expectations pretty realistic. We’re not expecting overnight success, but we’re confident the quality of our books will shine through, bringing back old readers, and attracting some new ones.”
“I agree 100%– if you recall, what initially put Pat and Co. on the map wasn’t Transformers at all,” adds Powers. “That came later, and you could argue that the license overwhelmed what they’d already built. Once their main talent was tied up in ‘Transformers,’ their original properties pretty much died on the vine. It’s not like ‘Dark Minds’ or ‘Warlands’ were beaten into the ground– those were interesting concepts that sorta just faded away because their creators were sucked in by the gravitational pull of ‘Transformers.'”
With the majority of the pre-existing Dreamwave library owned by the new management, and the focus on brand new concepts, it stands to reason that the company might move ahead with new properties immediately, though Dery says the plan isn’t that simple. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us. Our first priority is re-launching the existing titles, and at this time it looks like we’ll be putting out three series next year, with more following over time depending on how fast the company grows. Eventually we will be looking to do creator-owned material and possibly licensing work. We want some diversity.”
For Powers, an industry veteran, he’s seen too many companies rise and fall, so he favors the more pragmatic road to success. “Nowadays, you have to be conservative. In fact, we could do the best comics since Watchmen and it’d be no guarantee anything would sell. There’s just enough name recognition to the original Dreamwave titles that we’ve got a bit of rope– do something cool, and there’s a good chance people will pick them up. The three books we’re starting with have had so little of their potential explored, it’s almost like they’re brand new anyway. They’re different from each other in tone, look, setting, and genre. That’s a good start. If our initial launches are as successful as we believe they can be, well – we’ve had an incredible amount of interest from prospective creators. There are a lot of people out there with something to say, stories to tell. We’ve received over a thousand submissions and inquiries already, from new and established talent alike.”
With this new direction for Dreamwaves, the possibilities seem endless, and there exists an opportunity to expand beyond the cyber-punk feel of many of the previous series. While “Dreamwave” and “romance” don’t seem to go hand in hand, Dery’s quick to say that Dreamwave isn’t going to limit their horizons, even if there is a distinct focus. “Most of our titles will be science fiction, with a splash of fantasy here and there,” said Dery. “That said, if a great idea comes along that is in the superhero or, really, any other genre, we’ll be interested.”
Powers, however, cautions, “I’d think we’d be extremely careful about any super hero concept. Marvel and DC have that ground so well covered that it’s an almost impossible sell even if you’ve got a great idea. The genres we’ll be working in are pretty diverse. That’s part of what will give Dreamwave its own identity.”
In the last year, it seems as though comic companies are coming out from every corner of the continent, with Speakeasy, Alias and numerous out companies rolling out a plethora of new series in a short time. Some fans have said that there might be too many companies out there, a notion that Powers rejects. “I don’t think there are too many publishers at all. You’d never say that about book publishing…why should anyone worry about that in comics? Now more than ever, there’s a chance for success if a company delivers the right product to the right audience. That’s the real trick.”
Dery subscribes to a philosophy of comic book Darwinism, where he believes that the market will find it’s own level. “Ultimately the market will decide when we have enough publishers and/or comics on the shelves. As far as how Dreamwave is different than some of the new publishers who have launched in the last year, I would say primarily it’s because we actually are a publisher, rather than a printing broker.”
Dery won’t be ignoring the book market, which has played a large role in increasing the visibility of the comic book industry in recent years. “We are exploring various distribution opportunities in the book market, and are even talking about making our comics available on newsstands in certain areas. We’re also very proactive in getting our material into international markets. However, with all that said, the direct market is and will be our main focus for the foreseeable future.”
Most fans will recall Powers name in tandem with the X-Men comics of the 1990s, where he was an editor, and his recent tenure at Devil’s Due. “I’ve been around long enough that I’ve been part of some good things, and I’ve made my share of dumb mistakes,” smiles Powers. “So I try to apply those lessons. But what it really all boils down to, for me, is you have to make readers care about the characters they’re reading about. That’s Stan 101, and it’s true no matter what company you’re talking about, no matter what genre. If people aren’t getting lumps in their throats at the right times, if they’re not getting angry at the appropriate points in the story, if they don’t share the characters’ emotions, nothing else matters. Readers want to be emotionally involved in the story– probably more so in comics than in any other medium.”
Dery also has experience with larger companies and previously working for Dreamwave, experience that he feels will aid him in his new job. “It has been something of a weird road, I started out as a freelancer inking and coloring projects for just about every company out there, then took a position as Art Director over a large staff of artists at Grafiksismik, and now I’m running a publisher. Which just goes to show you never know where you’ll end up. As far as how those experiences have shaped me, having been talent for so long I tend have a lot of sympathy for freelancers. It’s very important to me that the new Dreamwave be creator friendly. I also have been around long enough, and heard enough inside stories, to know that the biggest name does not always equal the best work. And I’d far rather have a brilliant, passionate unknown than an established pro who will phone something in just for the paycheck.”
Some fans may still not feel compelled to check out the all-new, all-different Dreamwave, but Dery says it’s something all fans should do, “Because we’ll have the best books,” said Dery. “There is no doubt in my mind that the week our first issue debuts it will be the best thing on the shelves. I know I’m going to take a huge amount of flak for saying that, but if I didn’t believe it I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been in this industry a long time, and I’ve had my name on a lot of books. I’m not interested in just putting out any comics; I want Dreamwave to put out great comics. And when we do, the readers will come.”
Powers echoes Dery’s enthusiasm and says that Dreamwave will do all they can to bring top-notch books to the shelves each week. “At this point, I’d almost feel silly making any big pronouncements– everyone does it, and even if, as I said earlier, we produce the best books since ‘Watchmen,’ you never know how many people will notice,” said Powers. “What I will say is that when Pierre gave me his initial list of creators he had lined up, I genuinely felt excited. All of them approach their work with the sort of passion that makes being an editor rewarding. I know Pierre from our work together at Devil’s Due, and I always got the sense from him that he was killing himself trying to deliver something cool. All of the creators we’re working with now fit that mold. When I find myself walking down the street thinking about something one of them mentioned to me in an email or story outline, or better yet thinking about the characters they’re writing, that’s a good sign. And I’m confident that’s going to translate to the finished product. After that, the chips have to fall where they may.”
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