Earlier this fall, Dynamite Entertainment surprised readers at New York Comic Con with wave after wave of new project announcements. From revisions of standing properties like Mark Waid writing “The Green Hornet” and Matt Wagner launching “The Shadow: Year One” to brand new franchises like Rick Remender’s “Devolution” to Garth Ennis’ “Red Team,” the company split over a dozen announcements between big name creators and recognizable properties.
Recruiting first time Dynamite creators like Waid, Fred Van Lente, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, Andy Diggle and Joshua Hale Fialkov put out notice that 2013 was going to be a growth year for the publisher known for its mix of licensed properties and creator-owned titles like Ennis and Darick Robertson’s recently concluded “The Boys.” And as their title count and creative roster grew, Dynamite was also welcomed into Diamond Comic Distributor’s Final Order Cutoff system which streamlines retailers ability to order their books in a timely manner.
To help gauge the impact of all this news and to help set a path for Dynamite’s plans to grow as a company over the next year, CBR News spoke to Publisher Nick Barrucci about the company’s 2013 lineup. Below, he explains how the massive amount of announcements hitting during the fall show was part planning, part luck, addresses the successes and failures Dynamite has had in the past which made them the company they are today, discusses incoming changes for their operation including new offices and incoming staff and reveals being the scenes stories on titles ranging from the pulp crossover “Masks” to “Green Hornet” to “Battlestar Galactica” and beyond.
CBR News: Nick, Dynamite is looking to have a lot of new stuff coming out in 2013, and a lot of the initiatives you’re gearing up go back to New York Comic Con where you announced, I don’t know, maybe 15 projects? How did that whole rollout come together? Did all those deals line up at the same time, or were you planning to add a lot to the line in 2013?
Nick Barrucci: It was a mix. I wish I could say it was all planned and wring my hands maniacally to say, “Wahahaha…my plan came together!” But mostly, we just wanted to make sure we had at least a solid five announcements for New York Comic Con. And when we got the five that we wanted lined up, things started coming in that we never could have predicted.
For example, we had been talking to Mark Waid about working together on something for about six years – at least since before he became Editor-in-Chief of BOOM! And after he took that job, this just wasn’t going to happen. He still was doing some writing at Marvel, and he was also writing and editing at BOOM! where they had some great campaigns that really kept him going. When you think about it, he was E-i-C there from 2006 to 2010. And when he left that job, he still had work at BOOM! and Marvel including a fantastic run on “Daredevil” that’s one of my favorite storylines for the character ever. But we started talking again seriously about a year ago about making something come together, and for one reason or another at Baltimore Comic-Con, we finally were able to sit down. I said, “Mark, what’s your dream project?” He said, “Green Hornet.” I said, “It’s yours.” And that was it.
When it comes to Andy Diggle, I’m a huge fan of his work. I think he’s one of the best writers in comics from the way he was able to revamp “The Losers” at DC and then “Green Arrow: Year One.” But then Marvel signed him up for an exclusive after he’d been exclusive at DC for a little while. There was a little window in between those two exclusives where we tried to sign Andy, but we just couldn’t find the right project. Still, he and I always stayed in touch. We’d get together at shows, talk about what was possible, and it finally got to where we were able to put something together in August. Because of that, it seemed like we should wait until New York Comic Con. We were already announcing Garth Ennis’ new series there. We wanted to make a crime line. It was just something that came together and had me so excited that I had a hard time keeping my mouth shut.
The Rick Remender “Devolution” project was something that we’d been talking about since back when Rick wrote the “Red Sonja: Vacant Shell” one-shot for us. When he did that, he worked with Paul Renaud, and they hit it off. If you look at that one-shot, it was so beautiful and such a well-structured story. Paul’s art flowed there and was so unbelievably beautiful that Rick and I talked about him doing this series with us ever since then, and it was always the plan that Rick would write it for Paul. Paul had stopped doing interior work after drawing a select sequence of art for issue #4 of the “Athena” series we did, and then he spent maybe eight months doing one issue for us while also doing covers for Marvel and Dynamite. When Paul got to the point where he said, “Okay, I’ve been doing too much cover work. I need to get back to my first love. I’m going to do ‘Devolution.'” So the book he was working on for those eight months, we’ve shelved until he’s done with “Devolution.” This is such an important project to us that we wanted to put everything together as soon as possible, and the details weren’t finalized until the Wednesday before New York Comic Con. And you’ve known me for a long time, so you know that when I get something I’m excited about, I want to tell everyone right away. [Laughter]
Obviously, projects anchored by big name talents like these have the chance to go a long way for expanding Dynamite’s market reach. As you’re planning where you go, what’s your primary goal for the company’s growth?
Growing the readership is absolutely most important. Without the readers, there are no sales and no market share discussions. There are no comics to publish! Working with the right creative teams, artists and writers, the goal is to always strive for more. No matter what we’ve done in the past, we’re always looking to do more and get better. Otherwise, the company will never grow. What we were able to pull together and announce in New York showed the full rainbow of projects we’re capable of doing.
We were always planning on launching Garth’s “Red Team” in February. We wanted “The Boys” to end in November, have everyone enjoy that great ending and then the same month allow the retailers to order “Red Team.” It gave us a little bit of time to build some excitement. This is a passion project for Garth. “Green Hornet” is a passion of Mark’s. A new crime series for Andy is one of his passions. When you go through the whole line, you see that kind of stuff. Tom Sniegoski went from being a comics writer to being a New York Times best-selling novelist to having a TV show based on one of his novel series, as well as having written video games. Coming back to “Vampirella” – a character he loves – is his first comics project in years, and it’s the writer who’s probably done more issues of “Vampirella” — at the very least more consecutive issues — than any other writer. You can’t buy that kind of passion.
When you think about the amount of announcements, we could NEVER have planned to run them all at the same time for NYCC, it just happened to all come together. We’ve been talking to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning for three years about doing another series for us. These guys did ground-breaking work they did on “Guardians of the Galaxy” and on “Legion of Super-Heroes.” But when they got a chance to work on “Battlestar Galactica,” they jumped at it because they loved that series. What’s funny is that out of everything they could have done with that property, they read through every “Battlestar” comic Dynamite ever published and then pointed to the Marc Guggenheim “1980” series and said, “We’re going to build on this. Is that okay?” I was like, “You guys know space opera better than anybody else…of course you can work with that.”
I think part of the balance we were able to strike at New York Comic Con came because we realized how many announcements we had. And we pulled back on a few because some stuff we have won’t be shipping until around San Diego. But I figured we had so much stuff that we should start rolling it out ahead of the con and all the noise that surrounds it. Marvel and DC would rule the show itself, but we could get some attention across the week into Sunday. And the key message we wanted to get across to the readers was that we’re working with writers we’ve never worked with before: Joshua Hale Fialkov who’s won multiple awards, Brian Buccellato who’s coming off “The Flash” with great reviews to do “Black Bat” and Rick Remender to do his first original series in years for us. Every announcement built on itself, and we never expected the amount of attention we got for it.
And not one of these projects is a paycheck project for these guys. Mark Waid does not need to work for us. Garth Ennis does not need to work for us. Neither does Andy Diggle or Rick or DnA or Fred Van Lente doing his first project with us. Jim Butcher writing an original story is big for comics as periodical and as collections because that book will sell forever and ever. They’re all coming at it with a passion for the material, and for us it rocks the world and expands out what we can do for readers in a bigger, better way than I hoped for.
How does this change the size of Dynamite as a company moving forward? Are there ways in which the staff of what’s always been a lean operation need to grow to meet all these new titles?
Yes. The next phase of the company has been an organic one, just like how we’ve grown from the start. If you look at where we started years ago with “Army of Darkness,” that led us to “Red Sonja” which led us to “Battlestar Galactica,” “Xena” and “Darkman.” All of those led us to “The Lone Ranger.” And many of the titles we’ve had were commercially successful, but when we did “Lone Ranger” it was a book that brought us critical acclaim. That book sold very well but also has people giving us critical acclaim on a Western! It was a character whose Golden Age was back in the days of radio and then classic TV. His longest run in publishing was at Dell Comics, and we had the most successful run since then. Westerns and Western comics through the ’50s, but this has actually been the longest comics run the Lone Ranger has had anywhere. So that book really got the attention of creators. It led to things like “The Boys” which gave us some more acclaim and a larger pool of creators, to be honest.
Everything has been organic, and we’ve grown in a way that I hope we haven’t gone out of our way to talk about. But we’ve continued to add people all that time in Sales, in Production, in Marketing. Now that we have so many new projects starting -Â and more to announce -Â it’s time for Sales & Marketing and Editorial to grow even more. We moved into new offices a few months ago, and it’s mostly because we expected some growth. But this all builds on each other. Strong Editorial has gotten us here and allowed us to hire on more great creators.
As an example, one of our big announcements at the show was Matt Wagner on “The Shadow: Year One.” Matt is one of the most respected creators in comics. He’s also a creator who picks and choses his projects. He’s got the cachet to be able to look at a project and say, “I want to do this” and then he gets it. If he has a bad experience somewhere, he can walk away from the relationship. He’s not a paycheck player. He only works with companies that work well with him, and I’m happy that we can join companies like DC, Image and Dark Horse in that. We worked with him on “Zorro” and “Green Hornet: Year One.” And now we’re moving on with him on “The Shadow.” None of that would have continued if we didn’t work well with Matt, but because we’re continuing, we need to keep adding personnel to gets things together.
And we’ll continue to grow and find people to help runs things that smoothly. The next big job is more Editorial. We have a strong team, but it’s going to help to build an even stronger one.
Another, quieter piece of news from New York was that Dynamite and a number of other publishers would join Diamond’s Final Order Cutoff system for new comics. I get the feeling this is something that you’ve been working towards for a while. Do you think that will have a big impact on how Dynamite books do in the market?
Absolutely. I’ve wanted to be on FOC for years. I’ve been a strong advocate of FOC. When Diamond told us in January that they were going to work with Oni Press first before coming to us, I was hurt. I was disappointed. I really thought that as the #6 publisher we should have been next up after the five publishers in the front of “Previews.” And I understand why they went with Oni, but it didn’t take away from that disappointment, and it didn’t take away from the feeling that we let retailers down because we wouldn’t have FOC for them to take advantage of.
What people need to remember is that FOC is like the internet. It’s instant information and real time data. You can be rewarded or punished by FOC as a publisher. If you’re doing a good job, within a few weeks after retailers put in orders on a #1 issue they can order more for when #2 comes out. But if you’re doing a crap job, they can order less on a #2. I like that system. It’s a system that rewards you for doing a good job or punishes you for doing a bad job or if you’re just putting out something that doesn’t connect with readers. Long term, that’s the best thing that can happen even when we’re punished when we make a misstep or do something wrong.
Like when we put out five “Green Hornet” titles in three months, that was wrong. And we paid for that six months later as did retailers who found out three months in that we’d put out too many titles. They supported us, but there were just too many Green Hornet comics. We got punished for it, but it was six months later. With FOC, retailers will realize what’s working at least by the third month, and we will realize right away that we were overshooting it, and we’ll have to cut orders. We’re very excited about what we put out, but sometimes a projects performance turns out disappointing. Nobody bats 1000. Some projects don’t get executed right or don’t connect, but we just move on. And the quicker we can move on and react, it’s better for the whole industry -Â not just us.
Let’s wrap by looking forward and widespread. What do you think are going to be the big things for people to watch for from Dynamite over the first quarter of 2013?
That we continue that organic growth. Honestly, I think it’s going to surprise people what we do. It’s kind of funny because without saying who, two years ago another publisher was going around and saying to quite a few people that once “The Boys” was over, we’d go out of business. [Laughs] It was a funny statement for me because “The Boys” has obviously been one of our longest-running successes, biggest sales successes and biggest critical successes. But when you look at Dynamite, “Army of Darkness” has been going strong from day one whether it be as its own series or in crossovers with “Darkman,” “Marvel Zombies” or multiple other characters. But it’s been here since the beginning. “Red Sonja” has been going for 77 issues, and we’ve added so many titles since then.
So when you hear someone saying things like that, it just makes you want to get even stronger. It makes you put out projects that you really want to get out there. So I want to continue to grow and continue to surprise people. We’re going to continue to bring in new creators who can be new voices for the company.
For example when you look at “Masks,” it’s a project that we started talking with Alex Ross about four years ago when we got the rights to Green Hornet. It was just a matter of finding the right mix of characters. It was about Green Hornet and Kato meeting the Spider and Black Bat and Miss Fury. And the lynchpin for the whole thing was The Shadow. You needed all the original masked characters to be there from the start. And it took patience and time to get all those pieces together. Bringing Chris Roberson on board was unbelievable luck. They say luck is being prepared when opportunity knocks, and when Chris knocked on our door, we were ready. That’s another unbelievable writer who we’d been wanting to work with for a while, but we needed the right project. We’d discussed “Masks” with a few other guys -Â all great guys and great writers -Â but it was Chris who really came up with the concept that made this work. He went back to the Spider novels to find characters like the Black Police to build a storyline that happened in the ’30s. AND he found a way to make Zorro a generational character much like Geoff Johns did with the Justice Society. It was such a great story. We’re really optimistic by the book and for Dennis Calero’s work from #2 in a style that really compliments Alex’s art.
But Chris was the voice that brought that together, and when you read his story and the back matter in those issues, you’re going to go, “Holy shit! I can’t believe they put it together this well.” I feel the same way about “Prophey” with what Ron Marz was able to do. It’s just getting down into the thick of these characters to surprise everybody. That’s what we’re looking for in every series, and it will lead to more growth for the company: continuing to find new surprises while keeping things ongoing for the long term.