Last year comic creator Azad introduced fans to Samuel Little, better known as Sammy, in "Sammy: Tourist Trap" from Image Comics. He's a talented thief who finds himself in way over his head more often than not. Nothing comes easy for Sammy, not even the mundane activities of a typical day, so you can imagine that doesn't bode well for a professional thief. But where did he come from? What's his story?
Azad will answer those questions this May with a 48-page one-shot called "A Very Sammy Day." CBR News spoke with Azad to learn more about Sammy, as well as this bookm and to see if maybe there's a little bit of the thief in the creator as well.
"The story is pretty straightforward," Azad told CBR News when asked about the story in "A Very Sammy Day." "Sammy is a snitch, and everyone knows it. He's ratted out his old crew and has been sleeping with one eye open for the past 6 months, hiding out in his local church rectory. But every baby bird needs to leave the nest eventually, so the Pastor of the church sets Sammy up with an apartment in an attempt to restore some sense or normalcy to Sammy's life. From there, things take a turn for the worse when associates of his aforementioned track him down."
With "A Very Sammy Day" spotlighting the origin of Sammy, it's a perfect jumping on point for new fans of the series with a good bit of back-story for fans of the first series. Azad points out that those familiar with Sammy will experience a number of those "Ahhhhh, yeah" style moments one gets when reading an origin story, but that's not what it's all about. Azad notes that first and foremost "A Very Sammy Day" is a revenge story and an origin issue second. But why go with a prequel story versus telling the next chapter in Samuel Little's life?
"The scripts for both this story and the actual follow-up series (titled 'Hollywood Hell,' another four issues) were completed around the same time. After having just finished a four issue mini series, it was creatively more interesting to me at this time do this 48 page one shot. Plus, an origin issue is always a great jumping on point for new readers. Looks like my muse and the business side of things were in cahoots on this one. I'm pleading the fifth."
In many ways Sammy is an extension of Azad himself. Well, in an extreme sort of way.
"Much of the misery I put Sammy through is inspired from personal experiences. A lot of it is kind of ordinary stuff that I embellish or exaggerated.
"For example, in the first mini series, Sammy has to deal with a phone operator in Acapulco who doesn't speak English, and she keeps transferring him around until he blows his stack. That incident, down to me trashing my room in my underwear out of frustration (yes more info than you need to know) happened almost verbatim. In my case, tough, I think I knocked over a chair or two, but Sammy trashes the room like a rock star.
"Otherwise, I'm pretty clumsy and about as unlucky as anyone else I suppose. "
With the first series now completed and with trends being as they are in the industry today, you might expect a trade paperback collection of the series to follow, but not yet says Azad and there's a lesson to be learned.
"Like a lot of the small press guys, I'm suffering from 'Waiting for the Trade' syndrome. I don't blame people for doing that. Hell, I dig trades, too. Problem is, when it's a small press title or Image Comics, you only get a TPB if the single issues nearly sell-out. The single issues are used to gauge public interest, and if they're not selling out of single issues because they're waiting for the trade, the publisher isn't confident that a TPB of that same material will sell. 'Tourist Trap' actually gained steam a few months after the series was out because of word of mouth, so it was a late bloomer with no presence on the shelf
"I've had to over and over tell people that just because the issues aren't in the previews in X month, doesn't mean the stores can't order them. Not just for my book, any book. I ordered the single issues of 'Pounded' from Oni Press five months after they were solicited. The books don't vanish just because they aren't featured that month. That's why there's an offered again in the corner of the solicitation in this month's previews for the 'Tourist Trap' Mini series. The sad truth is, If everyone waits for the trade, the trade wont come out."
For those looking for more Sammy tales and can't wait until the May release of "A Very Sammy Day," you can check out the debut of "Subway Stories" on Azad's Web site, www.guerrilla-comics as well as the Image Comics Web site. It's an original Sammy story developed specifically for the Web.
"Sammy needs to get a package to downtown Montreal within 45 minutes, or else he can't join the local thieves guild," Azad replied when describing the story in "Subway Stories." "It's a test, and if he doesn't pass, he can't apply again, ever. So for 17 subways stops, I get to put him through hell, which is a running theme in my Sammy books. The stories are mostly self-contained, but tie in to this larger story of him being set to this task as a delivery schlep.
"Why Montreal? I live there, and I know the place best. It's known for having the world's coolest and cleanest subway system in the world. No urine smell, very little graphitti, and great design. However, just like anywhere else in the world, it has just as many crazy, annoying, evil, strange, and wacky people… and they all take the subway. After having commuted with them for 10 years (because of school then work), I have more than enough stories to tell.
"A new story for every station on the subway map, with a new story starting on the first of the month… unless I croak in the next 2 years."
Azad won't be making any money off "Subway Stories" directly as he publishes it on his Web site for free, but it's the kind of loss leader that will help sell the real world comics.
"The traffic to my site alone is worth the work. I went from having 200 hits a day to 2500. I think of it as grass roots advertising. If even 100 of those people become regular readers, it's 100 potential new fans plus all their friends.
"I'm confident I put out an enjoyable product. The more opportunities I give people get to read my work, the better the odds are that they'll pick it up when it hits the shelf. "
For now "Subway Stories" is Web only, but he hopes one day to collect them all into a single volume.
"I designed the frame size so that 3 strips fit on a page neatly, so if and when it gets collected, it'll work out nicely. Right now, I'm trying to make it the best I can for the web first. My webmaster (Haig Bedrossian) and myself are trying to put together a really interesting reading experience for everyone with the format. We've been inspired by Scott McCloud and my good friend Derek Kirk Kim's approach to making Web comics a unique and interesting format on its own."
As regular visitors to CBR already know, Image Comics recently went under an editorial shake-up when Jim Valentino was replaced as Publisher of Image Comics by Erik Larsen. For many creators this came as a shock followed by wonder if their book would be kept under the new administration.
"I have been, and still pretty much am, out of the loop as far as the administrative part of Image. Yeah, you hear things once in a while, about so-and-so aren't getting along in Rich Johnston's column, or whatever, but you can never tell what's real and what's just hearsay. It was as much of a surprise to me as anyone when I read about Jim from one of the posters on the Bendis board. I did a double take!
"At first I wasn't sure what it meant for me. After all, Jim was the one who signed my contract for 'A Very Sammy Day,' and I was already halfway through. I didn't know if it was dead in the water or what. After a quick call to Eric (Stephenson), my worries were put to rest. Both Eric and Jim have been very supportive of Sammy since the beginning, and I appreciate that. I wish Jim the best. He's been a good friend.
"As for Image, I'm certain it'll be just fine if not better with Erik at the helm. Considering he's successfully self-published a full color comic book in this marketplace for over a hundred issues, he must be doing something right."
So now you know that Sammy is one very unlucky thief, what about Azad? Does he have any of "the thief" in him.
"The only interesting instance that comes to mind right now involves Lego.
"I loved Lego. You could make anything with that stuff! I'd spend hours with the stuff. I also used to collect all the unique items in the Lego universe. There were the light-grey swords for the knights, flip down visor helmets, and even a Lego treasure chest. I had 'em all.
"One day I spotted a set I knew my mom wouldn't buy for me (cuz it was too expensive), and inside was ...*gasp* a brown horse. You must understand, up until this point, the chromatic range for Lego horses consisted of only 2 colors: Black and White. I had no choice. Game on!
"Having mastered the art of ripping open Christmas wrapping early without being detected, I deftly jimmied open the side of the box, maneuvered my small hand through the blister packaging until I got my prize... rushed to my mom's side immediately and left, successfully avoiding capture.
"It's been two weeks since then, and no one's the wiser. :)"
The 48-page one-shot "A Very Sammy Day" carries a cover price of $5.95 and is due in stores May 26th from Image Comics.