Mark Andrew Smith on "Sullivan's Sluggers" & Super-Villain Schools

Mark Andrew Smith is subtle and clever; you don't see him coming, not at all, not for a second. When no one was looking, his and artist "Sullivan's Sluggers," a once-canceled Image Comics miniseries, was fully funded many times over and is now on the cusp of seeing light as an oversized hardcover OGN.

So, what's next? CBR News spoke with Smith about his post-"Sluggers" plans -- once the book is finally in the hands of the thousands of Kickstarters -- which include more Kickstarting, an addendum to his creator-owned "A to B Manifesto" and a return to the world of his ongoing series of miniseries,"Gladstone's School for World Conquerors" with original collaborator Armand Villavert and new artist Matthew Weldon.

CBR News: "Sullivan's Sluggers" did insanely well on Kickstarter, and I people are wondering what's next for this guy? Now that the book is set to be published, what's the next step? What do you follow it up with?

Mark Andrew Smith: It was great to have such an outpouring of support for "Sullivan's Sluggers," and everyone got behind the project. The next step is filling orders and shipping.  Next up is "Gladstone's School for World Conquerors: The Battle of the Superhero Archives."

You're right -- the support has been phenomenal. Besides yours and James Stokoe's combined talent, what other factors do you attribute to "Sullivan's" success? There had to've been, at the very least, a marketing plan when SS was in pre-production.

An incredible amount of thought went into "Sullivan's Sluggers" on Kickstarter. I was setting it up months before it launched, coming up with as many ideas as I could and then following through and making those ideas reality. There was a plan all along for it, and it's important to have a plan to get the best results.

With the methodology now having been proven, you've become this do-it-yourself poster child for comics, giving a lot of creators hope that they can follow suit. Then you doubled-down with your manifesto, where you kicked the microphone over, declaring creators should come first. Now that the manifesto has made its rounds over the last few months, is there anything you wanted to add to it?

I feel very happy with the "A to B Manifesto." I think I spoke honestly, and said what a lot of people were feeling. Many people wrote to me, telling me they were inspired by the Kickstarter campaign for "Sullivan's Sluggers." There's the saying, "Show people what you're going to do, don't tell them what you're going to do."

The success of "Sullivan's Sluggers" set an example that could become something very routine and normal for creators to achieve in this industry. There are some huge creators out there that can blow what SS did out of the water easily, should they be up for it. Everyone should do what works for them and what they feel comfortable with. It wasn't my point to be right, or to be a Pied Piper figure for my own benefit, but just to get people thinking about the potential of Kickstarter and the different ways it could be used. I had been thinking about it for a while, and I wanted a game changer.    

Now that you've swung the doors open and broken through to the other side, do you plan to use Kickstarter again?

Absolutely. I think it's a great way for creators to mobilize their readership and for them to sell direct to the readers. Retention and being in direct contact with your readers is huge and I'm going to bring my best to the table each and every time. 

What are some of the ways you've built -- and retained -- a readership? Does working in the indie realm dictate a certain level of creativity that pros working in the Big Two don't necessarily have to worry about.

Doing creator-made comics, you've got to be very hands-on, and be willing to get out there and talk about your books. Pros at the Big Two have an easier time of it because the company sets it all up for them, but when you make your own comics that's all up to you to promote them and reach new readers. 

How do you pitch your future-collaborators into going the Kickstarter route? I bet it goes something like, "Hey, did you see that one book, 'Sullivan's Sluggers?' It kinda did well."

I think it makes a lot more sense to go the Kickstarter route and the direct sales route. It's a lot better to show people instead of telling people. I think most collaborators are open to it because it means that they'll make money, instead of breaking even or taking a loss on a book. The perception of Kickstarter has changed now, from being something like a charity -- which it's not -- to being a direct sales and distribution platform to pay for print and costs of creating a project. I'm pleased that people are now understanding the potential of it. I think it's not hard to pitch people on Kickstarter.

Keeping all that in mind, what's next for you, creatively speaking?

Right now I'm working on "Gladstone's School for World Conquerors" for the second and third series, side by side.

I love the universe of Gladstone's. I want to get back to that world and have our book out as often as possible. I've got a few projects that I'm wrapping this year for release next year; this is a year of finishing projects for me and getting closure with things, so that I can dig into what's next for me, big time.

More Gladstone's will definitely make fans of the original series happy. Are you keeping the same cast of characters? And what's the story's focus this time around.

Right now, we're working on "Gladstone's" Series 2 and Series 3 at the same time.  [Artist] Matthew Weldon is stepping in for Series 2, titled "The Battle of the Superhero Archives."

For Series 3, Armand Villavert, my co-creator is back. Series 3 is very Martian Jones-centered. It's Marty, separated from everyone and having to take on a major opponent without any backup. There are going to be two new characters joining the Gladstone's cast in Book 3, but it's going to stay with the core group. 

Series 2 focuses on the aftermath of their battle with Shakurankai. They've really opened up a huge can of worms. There's something dangerous headed for Earth, and Shakurankai was the only person alive that could stop it. They have two weeks to go on a quest for pieces of an ancient-cosmic-battle-suit that can defeat this thing, but the pieces are scattered on different planets because it's too powerful to be in one place. It's really a ticking clock as they set off on a huge Cosmic Adventure. The second series is them infiltrating the Superhero Archives. We get a glimpse of the Superhero world and how it operates, and we'll come back to that in due time.

[It] gets a few levels richer for story with the second series, where we get a glimpse of the superhero side of things. I love the characters and the world of Gladstone's.  I'm going to keep building the book and the world for years to come. 

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