A new publisher debuts on the indie comics scene this weekend at San Francisco's Alternative Press Expo as Antix Press premieres its first book, “Dr. Grave: The Unholy Twelve” trade paperback by Ed Clayton. As the name might imply, Antix will be largely focused on producing humor comics, though the form that humor takes will cover quite a wide range of tastes. CBR News spoke with Francis Lombard, Editor-in-Chief of Antix, about the company's launch titles and publishing plans.
Lombard brings to the table four years of comics industry experience, having worked for the U.S. division of Humanoids Publishing where he co-edited English-language editions of French titles under a co-publishing agreement with DC Comics. “I had the privilege to work with talented creators like Butch Guice ('Metal'), Chuck Austen ('Flywires') and Guy Davis ('The Zombies Who Ate the World'),” Lombard told CBR. “I already suckered Guy Davis into doing a cover for our 'Dr. Grave' trade paperback, and I hope I can convince the others to also work for Antix.”
The other half of Antix Press is Publisher Shawn Walker, who has most recently worked as an agent in the animation industry and whose clients often crossed over into the comics medium. Describing the culmination of his experience as a producer, public relations maven, former student of film, and MBA graduate, Walker hops to bring “a balanced approach” to Antix and “make sure art and commerce mix like PB&J,” he said.
Lombard said that his company's goal was “simply to publish well-crafted and very entertaining comic books, graphic novels, web comics, etc.” He added that, “yes, we are also making movies, but, to paraphrase Frank Miller, we plan to make really damn good comic books and go from there.”
The editor did say, though, that Antix series would share one thing in common. “For the immediate future, all of our projects will have an element of humor,” Lombard confirmed, also indicating that this humor would be character- rather than gag-driven.
“Looking over the comic book landscape, we realized that we could develop a niche with humor comics,” he continued. “Humor comes in so many different variations -- romantic comedy, action-comedy, dark humor, etc.”
Lombard described Antix's launch title, “Dr. Grave,” as “a dysfunctional buddy-comedy” about an “occult expert, adventurer and womanizing boozehound and his put-upon manservant, Shandar, standing against the Forces of Darkness, bringing with them new hope for mankind.” The series is written and drawn by Ed Clayton, who originally published six issues of “Dr. Grave” through Slave Labor Graphics in 2000. Lombard said that Antix is working with GigaPix Studios on a film version.
“We quickly realized that 'Dr. Grave' was one of the funniest comics out there,” Lombard said. “Grave and his manservant, Shandar, really resonated so we made it a priority to give it a second chance as a comic book.”
Antix will collect the initial “Dr. Grave” arc as “Dr. Grave: The Unholy Twelve,” which will be available at the publisher's booth at APE.
“In April, we’re publishing a new Grave adventure, 'The Carnival of Blood,'” Lombard continued. “Grave and his manservant Shandar are such rich characters that Ed can throw them into anything. In this new series, Ed puts the two in a murder mystery set in the world of circus freaks, demonic dummies and gypsies. It’s going to be a hoot.”
Another project in the works is “Black Market” by Aspen Daily News columnist Jeremy Madden. “'Black Market' plays a more realistic with a hefty dose of dark humor,” Lombard said. “Think of the funny, ironic and bittersweet moments of 'The Wire' or 'Homicide: Life on the Streets.' That’s where 'Black Market' lives.”
The editor explained that “Black Market” will cast a light on “the seedy fringe world of ticket scalpers.” “The first series focuses on the lives of a young punk, a family man, and a Gulf War vet. Every day they go to work they break the law,” Lombard said. “However, scalping provides them with a freedom that most people only dream of. No bosses. No timecards. No taxes. The flipside is that one minute you're laughing and making big bucks; the next you're being beaten, robbed and arrested.”
In addition to “Black Market” and “Dr. Grave,” which Lombard describes as Antix's flagship title, the new publisher is working on a horror-comedy series, a teenage sex romp, a non-traditional Western, and is also “pursuing a few licenses which will take us into the Sci-fi and crime genres,” Lombard said.
“We’re not locked into just doing humor, but it is our focus at the moment as we establish the Antix Press brand,” he explained. Lombard said that he expects Antix to start slowly, publishing four-to-six titles per year. “We want to give the series the marketing push they deserve and deliver a quality product. It’s a tough thing convincing readers to try something new, once we hook them we want to impress them and keep them.”
Antix Press will officially launch this weekend, November 1, at the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, where fans will be able to purchase “Dr. Grave: The Unholy Twelve,” a 128-page trade paperback collecting the first “Dr. Grave” series. The TPB features a new cover by Guy Davis, pinups of Dr. Grave and Shandar, and an introduction by “Scud the Disposable Assassain” creator and “Sarah Silverman Program” producer Rob Schrab. There will also be an “Antix Press Primer” containing short stories from “Dr. Grave” and “Black Market.”
“Dr. Grave’s creator Ed Clayton will be there for sketches and autographs, and Jaeger bombs,” Lombard added.
The new publisher will also be throwing a party to celebrate its birth. “The launch party will be on Saturday, November 1, at the Mars Bar and Restaurant, sponsored by 5th year.com and Stone Brewing Company,” Lombard said. “Stone makes some of the best beer in the world, especially their Arrogant Bastard Ale. It was a great fit as Dr. Grave’s character is the original arrogant bastard.”
For those unable to attend APE, never fear: Antix titles will be available nationwide sooner than you think. “Starting in November, folks will be able to get 'Dr. Grave: The Unholy Twelve' via Amazon.com and at various comic book shops in the Los Angeles area,” Lombard confirmed. “We’ll have a list of stores where it’s available on our Antix web site.
“It will then be available through Diamond Distributors the first week of February 2009.”
Following the initial offering, the next Antix title will be the “Dr. Grave: The Carnival of Blood” miniseries, which begins in April. The first “Black Market” miniseries will come soon after, followed by another wave of miniseries later in the year.
More information on Antix's plans and party schedule will be available at antixpress.com and at APE Booth 507.