Is the ship sinking? A short chat with Ted May

I'm not sure when I first came across Ted May's work -- it was probably with It Lives -- but I remember being delighted with his sly blend of rock and roll, monster mania, superheroics, and adolescent smartassery, all delivered with a wink and a nod. I was excited, then, when May recently began a new comic book series, Injury, published by Buenaventura Press. What other alt-cartoonist would dare to imagine a Slade pinball machine or unabashedly quote Nazareth lyrics?

Alas, it seems Injury and May have fallen victim to Diamond's recent policy changes, as the third issue apparently won't make the cut-0ff criteria, making distribution of the pamphlet a tricky issue at best.

I spoke with May over email last week about these issues and the future of the series. I'd like to take this moment to thank him profusely for taking the time to answer the list of poorly worded questions I threw at him.

How well or poorly did the first two issues of Injury sell?

They sold pretty well as far as I know. The first issue did a bit better - probably since it had that first issue cachet. We figured the book would start catching on a little better as it progressed.

Given the problems indie pamphlets (for want of a better word) face currently, what made you decide to go with a serial comic book series rather than say a graphic novel or Webcomic or other publishing option?

I think the pamphlet is the best way to put out comics. Books like Eightball and Dirty Plotte were very inspiring to me early on. I've always wanted to do a regulation comic book. Even when I was doing minis, it didn't feel quite like the real thing. I guess Alvin [Buenaventura] and I were aware that a book like Injury was sort of a dicey proposition, but we both believe in the format. I've been hoping that more people would do 'em actually. Get a critical mass going. I never entirely understood why the format should have to fail. I guess it's because the whole system of distribution and sales is built on the back of the established superhero market and ... most of that crowd just absolutely will not tolerate a book that isn't in color. I'm not saying that's the ONLY thing Injury lacks, mind you.

I do stuff online but it's just not as rewarding as Injury. Same with anthology stuff. I don't mind doing it, but to me, doing a published comic book is the best way to go.

Are you definitely still planning on releasing the third issue of Injury at some future date or is that simply not feasible now?

Yeah, it'll get put out. It's just a matter of getting it printed and all. This is really more of Alvin's concern at the moment. [Note: I did contact Alvin Buenaventura but as of this moment he has not yet responded to my email salvo.]

Should someone manage to get their hands on that third issue, what wonders would they find inside?

Well, there's another chapter in the ongoing semi-autobiographical tales of Jeff Wilson. I really like the story - I think it turned out very nice. Jeff gave me all kinds of red meat to work with: high school bullying, detention, heavy metal and a healthy dose of Carl Sagan. The other story is a collaboration I did with a cartoonist I've long admired called Mike Reddy. It's about a skywriting werewolf adventurer called Beast Biplane. He runs afoul of an aggressive gang of cross dressers and - as one would imagine - mayhem ensues. Beyond that, Jason Robards and I did a two-page infographic detailing Manleau's cyborg arm. This book is SICK from stem to stern.

What's your perspective on Diamond's new policies? Do you view them as overly harsh? A necessary step that unfortunately cuts you out of the picture?

It seems like they have decided to strictly adhere to their core competency which is selling superhero books to fans of that genre. I mean, selling a book like Injury is very different from selling a book like Ultimate X-Men. They have very different audiences with very different shopping habits. Your Ultimate X-Men fan will likely be showing up every Wednesday for new comics day and buying his regular stack of books. A fan of any of the indie pamphlets is more likely to shop sporadically and follow specific artists. So to expect an indie book to sell X amount of books within the first 60 days or whatever is to essentially say that you don't want to sell that sort of stuff. And that's totally valid. It doesn't really make sense to me but I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about it either.

What do you think this will mean for other indie comics artists like yourself? Do you expect to see others fall by the wayside as well?

Well - I don't think you'll be seeing publishers putting out any new indie pamphlets, which is a shame. But we'll all keep doing comics. Anybody who's able to clock in the amount of blood, sweat and tears it takes to crank out multiple issues of a series isn't going to let something like this slow them down. It's weird - on one hand I keep thinking that nothing's really changed. Artists will just resort to self publishing (print or web) and working toward eventual collected volumes or graphic novels. But then - I dunno - I think it really sucks to be losing that published pamphlet format. Oh well. It's a shame, but it's also a really fun time to be reading and making comics, so unfortunately I'm not able to feel a lot of righteous indignation.

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