Looking forward, looking back: Chris Pitzer on AdHouse in 2010 and 2011

If you're looking for a company that started and ended strong 2010, look no further than AdHouse Books, the independent company that's published books by Joshua Cotter, Paul Pope and James Jean, among others. Although they aren't the kind of company that puts out a huge amount of books, they are one you can always count on to put out something interesting.

As for those bookends for the year, AdHouse kicked off 2010 with the release of Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg, and ended it with Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines, which landed at the top of some folks' best comics of the year lists. (Including my own; it came in at No. 16 on CBR's list for 2010).

I spoke with AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer about the previous year, the above two books, their new AdDistro initiative and what they have coming up for 2011. My thanks to Chris for sending over a lot of cool art to show you as well.

JK: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us today, Chris. I thought we could start off talking about 2010, and in particular some the bigger projects you put out.Let’s start with something that seems like it came out a long time ago, Afrodisiac. It seemed to garner a lot of attention when it came out in January.

Chris: Thanks for the interest in AdHouse, JKP! I dig what the Robot 6 blog does, so I appreciate the opportunity to chat about this stuff. In regards to Afrodisiac, it was an HONOR to work with Jim and Brian on that. We've been "dancing" around the topic of publishing it for years, and it was nice to finally have it happen. Yeah, it feels like so long ago, doesn't it?

JK: Time flies when you're having fun! So I know you guys did some grassroots promotion around the book when it came out, from tours to art contests. Ultimately how do those kinds of things help the book?

Chris: I think they help. I have to admit that the marketing for Afrodisiac was like no other book I've worked on. Jim and Brian went so far as to create a Google doc that listed all aspects of getting the word out. We tried a few avenues that didn't pan out, but overall, I think our marketing was a success. Heck, we had to go back for a second printing. I think I've said it other places, but Jim Rugg is aces in my book.

You mentioned the tour, and honestly, I think that was more of my wanting to have finally participated in something like that. I grew up seeing mentions of tours in the back of comics like Mage, or Bone… and it just seemed like a magical thing. So, we undertook it during a snowstorm, and I personally had a great time. The second stop of the tour was Chapel Hill Comics, and I just recently saw Andrew Neal publish the list of his best-selling books for 2010. The No. 3 book was Afrodisiac. It held the No. 1 spot for a long while until a little book called Scott Pilgrim came out.

So yeah, it's ALL good.

JK: This past summer you kicked off AdDistro, where you’ve started to distribute stuff that you didn’t publish. How does that work exactly?

Chris: I guess it started by my wanting "hard-to-find books" (that I really liked) to be easily accessible. It's funny, because the "distro" part isn't anything new. Other publishers have been doing it for years, but I dropped a press release about it, and it seemed to gain steam. But back to how it started… I saw Nobrow Press mentioned on the drawn.ca site in regards to their Birchfield Close book. I was intrigued, so I ordered that and a few other things to see what they were like. They were BEAUTIFUL. So I approached them about possibly helping them distribute in the U.S. and Canada. Around the same time, I had discovered Koyama Press at TCAF and I fell in love with their stuff as well. So, it seemed like the work was out there to start a "room" of the "house" devoted to other publisher's work. We added Malachi Ward on that first wave, and we've slowly been adding more (Ben Marra & Reliable House Press) work ever since. So, basically it works by my purchasing from the publishers or creators, and then making the work available to select stores and online on our website.

JK: How have these books been doing?

Chris: The books have been doing really well. We've gone back for reorders on many occasions. We took the latest Nobrow batch up to the Brooklyn Comic and Graphics Fest, and we came back with only ONE of their books. Their latest output is insane. I can't believe bringing FIVE new titles out within two weeks, but that's what they did. The icing on that latest batch has to be A Graphic Cosmogony. That type of book is right up my alley.

JK: If someone was interested in being distributed by AdDistro, what would they need to do?

Chris: Pretty much show me the finished product, and be willing to discount so that i can resell to retailers. From there it gets tricky, since I kind of keep AdDistro along the lines of AdHouse. I only really distribute things I "love". It really is a lot of work and money to run it, and I can see it going crazy if I let it. The other aspect is I really only want to take on things that "need" help. So, if a work is already pretty available, it doesn't really make sense for me to try and help get it out there as well. Does that make sense?

JK: Yeah, it does. Moving back to AdHouse’s projects, you published a book that I really loved this year -- Adam Hines’ Duncan the Wonder Dog. How did Duncan end up at AdHouse, and what was it that drew you to this project?

Chris: Duncan the Wonder Dog came in as a blind submission. When I asked Adam why he chose AdHouse to pitch, he mentioned that he thought AdHouse was small enough to actually garner a response. The scope of the project as well as the execution is what drew me to it. Adam is a really interesting person, and I think that transfers to his work as well. Lots of thought going on there. I'm glad you dug it.

JK: The book has gotten a lot of well-deserved critical praise. How many top ten lists has it been on now? And how is the book doing?

Chris: Yeah, it's always hard to tell if a book will be loved by the critics and public. I mean, I loved it, but that doesn't always translate to sales. I think I've seen Duncan on a handful of the top ten lists. What really caused a take off was the PW Comics Week mention. Then Time and the Techland had reviews that dropped pretty much on the same day… right before BCGF. So, with those, and my solicitation plea for people to order this book in advance, the first printing has just recently gone out of print. We JUST decided to do a second printing. It's not like we can automatically do a second printing. A lot of stars have to align, due to the book's size/scope. Luckily, the book is being solicited again in the January Previews. so people who are just hearing about the work can re-order through their preferred retailer. Order code: JAN11 0895. ;)

JK: From what I think I’ve heard, this is just the first of nine graphic novels that Hines has planned that will be set in this world. Are you guys already thinking about when the next one will come out?

Chris: Yeah, Adam has a plan already in place. Don't quote me, but I think the next "show" should happen in a few years. And yes, he has nine shows planned, but they won't all take on the size/scope of show one. He's going to "mix it up" with a few volumes.

JK: Looking ahead now to 2011, I was hoping you could give us the details on the releases you’ve got planned. Let’s start with The Downsized by Matt Howarth. What’s this project about and what drew you to it?

Chris: The Downsized is funny because what drew me to it was the fact that I'm still a fanboy at heart. A few years back I created a shelf of library bound comics. Things I loved that I figured may never be collected, or things I wanted to collect in a bound comic book format (to keep things like letter pages, ads, covers, etc. with the work). So, as I've been going to shows, or if I have the time, I try and get an autograph of the creator related to each book. I hit Matt Howarth up for an autograph. He checked out the AdHouse site. We started talking about projects, and eventually came to an agreement to work on The Downsized. I don't consider it your typical Howarth type of work, so I'm really fascinated to get the work out there. In regards to what the book is about, as I mention in the solicit copy… "Think Big Chill for the new millennium."

JK: It looks like Lamar Abrams will be back with more Remake. What can we expect from this volume?

Chris: The Remake Special is pretty neat in that it's one long adventure book. Where as the first book was a collection of short stories… this volume follows three characters on a quest of REVENGENCE! It's awesome.

JK: And you’re publishing new work by Jay Stephens, Welcome to Oddville! How did this one end up at AdHouse?

Chris: It's weird, but a LOT of projects just happen because you're in the right place at the right time. Jay gave me a "pitch" at the 2010 TCAF, and I almost cried when he said he was actually considering AdHouse as a publisher for it. I mean, I have LOVED Jay's work since forever. So, yeah, this is a big one for us.

JK: What can you tell us about it?

Chris: Well, it's the size of a Bandes Dessinees (at least in my mind) and collects Jay's full color newspaper strips that ran a few years ago. There is some really quirky stuff in there, but I guess that's stating the obvious, if Jay Stephens is involved. It's nice in that it's one of those "all ages" type of books that everyone should enjoy. And I'm not saying "it's for kids"… I'm saying that it has kicks for everyone!

JK: And finally, What’s Even the Giants?

Chris: Even the Giants is a bizarre collection from the talented pen of Jesse Jacobs. There's a loose narrative that pans in and out of the book, while single page strips of ONE MILLION MOUTHS is presented. It's really kind of tough to explain. I LOVE Jesse's drawings, and I like the fact that we're printing it with three spot colors. I haven't done a book with 3 spots, so I find that interesting. Jesse does fantastic work. I think he has a project planned with Koyama as well.

JK: Awesome, thanks Chris. As a part of our anniversary, we’ve been asking creators a series of questions, and I thought we could just include your answers here. What were your favorite comics in 2010?

Chris: If I could only pick one comic for 2010, it would be Lose by Michael DeForge. I love that guy’s stuff. Otherwise, as weird as it may seem, anything I’m carrying in the AdDistro I love. I was excited to find Mike Bertino making comics again. My first partners in the Distro, Koyama Press and Nobrow, are both still kicking out BEAUTIFUL stuff.

JK: What works or creators got overlooked in 2010 that warrant more attention/praise?

Chris: I don’t know how many people tracked down Dan Zettwoch’s Tel-Tales #1, but it became one of my top three minis of all time. I waxed about it here.

JK: What was the biggest news story of 2010, in terms of the comics industry?

Chris: Jeez. I’m terrible at this stuff. Probably Scott Pilgrim? I thought it was a pretty good movie, and I love the exposure it brought comics.

JK: What do you hope to see from the industry in 2011?

Chris: I hope the industry stays strong. Specifically, the direct market. Times are tough, and I saw a forecast of sorts that predicts stores will close. Well, that affects us all, in a way. I’d love to see more stores that embrace the indie in a smart way.

JK: Where do you see the shift to more digital distribution impacting your work in 2011?

Chris: Digital isn’t a big biz for us. We like it, and hope we grow into it, but I can’t say anything might impact us.

JK: Is there anything I missed, or anything else you have coming up you want to talk about? I imagine you’re working on the back half of 2011 now, correct?

Chris: Yep. We still have a number of projects planned for the second half of 2011! One really nice art book. One possible sequel. One possible new project from a guy we've known forever. How's that for being secretive? We're celebrating 2011 as our NINTH year of making funny books, so we're trying to do it up nice. And if people are looking for a swell calendar, don't forget that Joseph Lambert helped us create a great serigraph version.

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