I HAZ NEW JOB
Something a little different for this week's column. Some big news got announced last week about an impending career change, and my husband Chris Roberson suggested that he might interview me in the hopes of providing some context. So without further ado...
Chris Roberson: Hey, lady. What's up?
Allison Baker: The sky. And Superman.
Roberson: I see what you did there. We've known each other a while, haven't we?
Baker: Feels like an eternity but I guess in reality it's only been a mere 17 years.
Roberson: Feels like at least 18. The night that we met, at that Ben Folds Five show at the late lamented Liberty Lunch in 1997, I quickly developed a very firm impression of you. Here was this incredibly attractive, incredibly funny woman with a great smile and an amazing laugh...â€¨â€¨
Baker: I'm rolling my eyes. The readers can't see that, so I had to say it out loud.â€¨â€¨
Roberson: Don't interrupt when I'm flattering you. So, this beautiful woman who, (she's rolling her eyes again, FYI) who... wonder of wonders, was talking to me about comics. Even before we met, you knew comics creators and retailers, right?
Baker: Well, I knew and was friends with Shannon Wheeler, Chip Mosher, Martin Thomas and had met Mark Finn who at the time worked at Austin Books, but I didn't know anything about comics. I hadn't really been exposed to them.
Roberson: But almost immediately you started borrowing comics from my shelves. You devoured "Astro City" and "Strangers In Paradise" and "Starman" and "Mage" in a matter of weeks. Am I remembering right?
Baker: Yes. All true. How come you can remember all that but not where you put the extra toilet paper?
Roberson: Ironic, since I do most of my comics reading on the toilet...
Roberson: I know. Now, when we met you were working in commercial film production, then started working in feature film, starting out as a Production Assistant and ending up as Director of Operations at Robert Rodriguez' Troublemaker Studios. And along the way we launched a small press publishing company, Monkeybrain Books. And made a person. Hey, have you heard of this crazy thing they have now, "free time?"
Baker: Dude. You know me. I'm always more productive when I have too much to do. Fortunately, I hear someone is developing an app for that called MicroForced Vacation. I can hardly wait.
Roberson: I don't think it will install on my phone. I've got to wait for an upgrade.
After seven years at Troublemaker, you started working in political media. Just remind me, how many U.S. presidents have you met?
Baker: Technically I've met four presidents but also countless governors, senators and members of Congress, but not all while working in political media. Two presidents I met when I was Lt. Governor Bob Bullock's aide on the floor of the Texas Senate in 1995.
Roberson: Well, I once sat in hotel bar just a few feet away from Peter "Chewbacca" Mayhew and Richard "Jaws" Kiel, so... Pretty much the same thing.
Baker: Totally the same.
Roberson: Let's just say that we've both had impressive encounters with powerful people. And speaking of encounters with people, when did you first meet Ted Adams, the CEO of IDW?
Baker: I first met Ted in the BOOM! Studios RV at ComicsPro in 2011 where we talked about all kinds of stuff, but the thing that stood out and that I remember the most was that he was upset and concerned that I was only one of two women in the room. He thought more women should be working in comics. Clearly I think he's right.
Roberson: I can't disagree. That was one of the things we discussed a lot when we were starting up Monkeybrain Comics. The need to publish comics by as many different kinds of creators as we could manage, for as many different kinds of readers as possible. Because not everyone likes the same flavor ice cream, right? Speaking metaphorically, of course. But also, mmm, ice cream...
Baker: Absolutely. And I think that's why Ted and I got along so well. We both think comics should be in as many places as possible, making it easier for the consumer to find them but also appeal to all kinds of different readers because we are all different and like different things. Offering diversity is a strength. Somebody might just want plain chocolate, but then you have the people who want some crazy artisanal thing with pear and blue cheese or edible flowers.
Okay, now I want ice cream.
Roberson: I know a place. Though I think I'll be sticking with vanilla. I'm a delicate flower.
Baker: So true.
Roberson: So it's safe to say that you think that what Ted and IDW are doing is serving to push comics in the right direction? Between their All-Ages line and their creator-owned stuff and their licensed material and the Artist Editions and so forth, they certainly offer something for just about everybody.
Baker: A resounding YES! You've seen the My Little Pony funpacks. What a full on out-of-the-box genius idea that is. Delivering comics to the main target audience, taking the burden of finding them off the consumer. Kids are always looking at the stuff at the check-out counter and kids are in the toy aisles. I know. I have one named Georgia. It's smart thinking like that I really appreciate.
Roberson: Oh, man. After we had lunch with Ted at this year's Emerald City Comic Con, he sent us a huge care package of those MLP funpacks and comics. You were a chaperone on a field trip when our daughter took a bunch of those to her friends. How did they respond?
Baker: Georgia became the My Little Pony funpack dealer. They were all reading them, passing them around, boys and girls. It was a beautiful thing.
Roberson: When I was a kid, I and a lot of my friends were turned onto comics by things like the "Whitman samplers" that hung in mylar bags in the toy aisles, or digests in the checkout line at the grocery store, things like that. And here I am, more than thirty years later, still reading comics. It's a good approach.
Baker: I totally agree.
Roberson: Anyway, what's this I hear about a new job?
Baker: Oh right. I'll be starting as Director of Operations at IDW on July 1st.
Roberson: Well, hey! Is there one thing you'd like to accomplish in comics? That is, what kind of comics do you want to help get out into the world? What kind of impression do you want to leave with readers?
Baker: Good comics. Comics people enjoy and comics that entertain. Bob Weinstein asked me a similar question once when I was 23. He asked, "If you became a feature producer, what type of movies would you want to produce?" I told him, "Good ones. You know the feeling you have when you walk out of the theater feeling great? Almost, fulfilled? I want to make that happen."
He then told me I already knew more than most of the producers in Hollywood. Which, I thought, was a very nice thing for him to say.
Roberson: He was also impressed that you knew that the substance in which Han Solo was frozen was "carbonite," as I recall.
Baker: Yes. While discussing my favorite movies, I brought up "Empire." And I got so excited about it, I kind of forgot myself and where I was and who I was talking to. I exclaimed, "Oh oh oh, in Empire, when Han is about to be frozen in carbonite, and Leia says 'I love you' and Han says 'I know...'"
He started laughing halfway through my sentence and said, "You know carbonite!" It went a little something like that.
Roberson: And now maybe people understand why I fell for you immediately, that night in 1997.
Baker: The eyes. They roll so smoothly.
Roberson: As a reader, a creator and the guy who is married to you, I can't wait to see what IDW does next with you on the team. But don't forget to remind me where I put the toilet paper. That stuff is crazy hard to find.
Baker: No worries. We eventually find it anyway. And the important thing to remember is that there is always hidden toilet paper in case of an emergency. I know I feel better knowing that.
Roberson: Planning FTW!
Baker: It takes a village.