Mark Andrew Smith and Matthew Weldon are putting the first volume of The New Brighton Archeological Society, The Castle of Galomar, online. A fantasy story that neatly spans the territory between straightforward (and clean!) enough for tweens and elegant (and clever!) enough for adults, The Castle of Galomar came out in 2009 and was nominated for two Harvey awards.
This is just the start—Smith, who is also known for his work on The Amazing Joy Buzzards, plans to put some of his other work on the site, including a new graphic novel, Gladstone's School for World Conquerors, which will launch in a few weeks. I grabbed the opportunity to ask him a couple of quick questions, the foremost being why anyone in their right mind would put a Harvey-nominated book online for free. Read on for all the answers, plus a second sample of art from book two.
Robot 6: What is the book about, and why is it interesting?
Mark Andrew Smith: The New Brighton Archeological Society is an all-ages graphic novel series about a group of children from two different families whose parents are close friends and colleagues. After their parents are lost on an archeological expedition, the children find themselves picking up their parents’ work and setting out to defeat their parents’ nemesis.
They soon find themselves in a race against time to collect a series of books that are part of a great library of magic that has kept two kingdoms at war for centuries. The children unlock the secrets of their parents’ mysterious lives, discovering a hidden world of mystical artifacts, mythical creatures, and arcane knowledge.
It's a perfect read for a huge general audience and fans of YA Lit and Fantasy. It's also very funny and charming.
Robot 6: You just got nominated for a Major Comics Award. Why are you putting your comic online for free?
MAS: The New Brighton Archeological Society was nominated for two Harvey Awards this year. I think online is a great opportunity to develop a new readership over the course of a year while we work on the second volume in the series. I've been reading a lot of online comics and I've been very impressed with how they're doing and the audiences and subscribers that they're able to reach and retain daily. In comics we don't have that direct line of communication with our audience and it's something that I wanted to build. It's also great for sales for when the second volume comes out to have that built in audience and the communication with them. In the future I think this will be more of a standard model by which comics are created.
Robot 6: Connecting kids with kid-friendly webcomics is always a challenge. How do you plan to build an audience?
MAS: We've gotten very great press and I've been promoting the book heavily. I want to do a blog tour on YA Lit blogs and I have another secret project that's going to start online, so with that I'll push the two hand in hand. There are a lot of ways to build an audience and it's about getting creative and thinking outside of the box. I have some very big things planned. A lot of people think the market is tapped and are doom and gloom, but webcomics are at the frontlines, and we just have to get creative. We're living in the most exciting time for comics and soon the dam is going to burst and they will be a mainstream part of daily American culture. I strongly believe this to be true.