With their first year as publishers of Monkeybrain Comics in the rear-view mirror, Chris Roberson and Allison Baker aren't slowing down. The first day of Comic-Con International in San Diego not only brings their first panel at the show, but also sees the release of five new titles on comiXology.
Monkeybrain Comics' first year saw the small digital publisher release around two dozen titles, including the Eisner-nominated "Bandette" and Roberson's own "Edison Rex." Their output has crossed several genres, from Westerns to science fiction to fantasy to superheroes, and everything in between. The debuting five titles continue to add diversity to Monkeybrain's line, bringing in an all-ages superhero story and a detective robot, among others. Despite the differences in all their books, Roberson said two things unify their line.
"The main thing that all of our titles have in common is the passion that the creators have for them," Roberson said. "These are the comics that the creators want to make, exactly like they want to make them. Also, they are uniformly awesome."
The new titles include:
- "Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective" #1, by Jen Vaughn, $.99, ages 15+
- "Captain Ultimate" #1, by Benjamin Baily, Joey Esposito, and Boykoesh, $.99, ages 9+
- "Detectobot" #0, by Peter Timony and Bobby Timony, FREE, ages 12+
- "Dropout" #1, by Phil Hester and Tyler Walpole, $.99, ages 12+
- "Heartbreakers" #1, by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan, $.99, ages 15+
All five titles debut today on comiXology, and each has a unique story behind how they ended up at Monkeybrain. Roberson said most of the titles they end up publishing come about because of the relationships they have with certain creators.
"Officially we're closed to submissions, and we've got enough projects already in the pipeline that we could never take on another new title and still have new stuff debuting on a regular basis for ages," Roberson said. "In the beginning, we reached out to creators who we already knew and were friends with, and as time has gone on, relationships still play a pretty big role. In a perfect world, we'd love to have the time and resources to have a more open door, but this isn't that world, at least not yet. Monkeybrain is run by two people who have very busy day jobs, and we just don't have the bandwidth to deal with a deluge of submissions."
Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective
"Avery Fatbottom: Renaissance Fair Detective" creator Jen Vaughn, who also works for Fantagraphics, caught the couple's eye at a Comics Underground function in Portland, Ore.
"We met Jen Vaughn a few years ago, and she very quickly became one of our favorite people on the planet," Roberson said. "A few months ago she was in Portland performing at one of the Comics Underground functions, where creators do live readings of their comics in front of an audience. And Jen did a long, hilarious sequence from a work in progress, 'Avery Fatbottom.' And Allison knew that she must have it the Monkeybrain lineup."
Vaughn said the inspiration for the comic came from years of performing in dinner theaters, Renaissance fairs and Mardi Gras.
"The comic is about the Renaissance Fair, a summer long affair," Vaughn said. "It's a living, breathing organism with multiple parts. Avery Fatbottom is the organizer; a king is what it's called. They are usually a bit self-absorbed and self-important. After being the fair's accountant for years, she's taken over after the death of her parents. But someone doesn't like that and people (and animals) are gonna get hurt. She's got a best friend in the fair and a little love interest, but the fair's the thing."
"Captain Ultimate," an all-ages superhero title, grew from conversations between Baker and series co-writer Joey Esposito.
"Allison had been talking with Joey Esposito for a while about doing something with Monkeybrain, and this spring he and Benjamain Baily sent over their pitch for 'Captain Ultimate,'" Roberson said.
Roberson said he took one look and immediately wanted to read the whole issue. "And when we saw the finished art by Boykoesh, we wanted to read the next issue, and the one after that. Which is usually a good sign," he said.
Esposito's co-writer, Benjamin Bailey, said the duo knew they wanted the title to be digital, which made them think of Monkeybrain.
"We love print, but we felt that digital would reach the widest audience for a book like 'Captain Ultimate.' Thinking digital obviously made us think Monkeybrain, who we had immense amounts of respect for them not only because of their quality titles, but because of their pricing," Bailey said. "So, once we had a chunk of the book done, we asked them if they'd want to take look at it and they said sure. Almost immediately, they said they'd publish it. It just happened incredibly fast. We are beyond excited to be a part of the Monkeybrain family."
"Detectobot," meanwhile, came about after Roberson and Baker met Bobby Timony in San Diego last year. Roberson had been a big fan of 'The Night Owls' that came out from Zuda a few years back, and so invited Bobby and his brother to join the Monkeybrain lineup on the spot.
"And now we're releasing Detectobot exactly a year later, to the day," Roberson said.
The twin brothers wanted to make sure the first issue of their new series was available for free after their experiences with "The Night Owls."
"I think it's really valuable to have a free sample out there," said Bobby Timony. "The first 20 pages of 'The Night Owls' is free on comiXology, and we had a lot of people discover it based on that. So when we were discussing 'Detectobot,' we knew we wanted to offer something like that this time as well."
Phil Hester, writer of "Dropout, was one of the first people Baker and Roberson approached about creating a comic for Monkeybrain.
"We've been big admirers of Phil Hester's work forever, but then we met him in person a few years back and discovered we were even bigger fans of Phil as a person," Roberson said. "We love that guy. He was one of the very first creators we approached about working with Monkeybrain at the beginning of 2012. He had a lot of ideas, but we're delighted that 'Dropout' was the frontrunner, because Tyler Walpole's art for this book is amazing."
Roberson said he has loved 'Heartbreakers' by Anina Bennett and Paul Guinan since it first appeared in 'Dark Horse Presents' more than two decades ago, and he was lucky enough to meet the creators at a party in San Diego a few years ago and tell them how much he enjoyed their work.
"After moving to Portland last year, we finally got to attend one of their famous Halloween parties, and would bump into them from time to time at other get-togethers," Roberson said. "And now we're getting to introduce their groundbreaking series to a whole new audience. Comics! Portland! Yay!"
Fans who remember the original "Heartbreakers" stories can expect a few tweaks as it is re-released by Monkeybrain.
"We're not changing the plots or the dialogue, because then they wouldn't be the same stories, but I'm making minor touchups to the art," Guinan said. "It's impossible for us not to see the flaws in our own work-that's part of how a creator evolves. Looking back at my art from 25 years ago, there are a few things I couldn't live with. Mainly I'm getting rid of extraneous linework. Less is more, y'know?"
If you are attending Comic-Con, you can attend Monkeybrain's first-year celebration Thursday, July 18, at 8 p.m. in Room 28DE.