Shawn Pryor on Action Labs' digital FCBD comic

Free Comic Book Day is May 5, and most of the lineup was announced earlier this year. So I was intrigued when Action Lab Comics revealed this week that it's releasing a digital FCBD comic. While it's not unusual for artists to jump on the FCBD bandwagon by releasing digital comics on that day, this is the first time I have seen a publisher do it (readers: I know you will feel free to correct me if I'm wrong), and the first time I have seen a digital comic with the FCBD logo on the front. So I went straight to the source and asked Action Lab President Shawn Pryor just what was up with this. Here's what he had to say.

Robot 6: Why did you decide to go with a digital format rather than print?

Shawn Pryor: Well, we’ve been in the direct market for a year or so, and by the time we noticed that Free Comic Book Day was approaching we completely missed the deadline to submit a book to Diamond for the event. It was then that we decided to do our own thing and make a massive 200-page Free Comic Book Day digital comic (Action Lab Confidential). In doing this, we can get this book into the hands of new readers or readers who have been wanting to check out the diverse line of books that we have to offer and/or coming out to brick-and-mortar stores soon.

Is this an officially sanctioned FCBD comic? I notice it has the logo on the cover, but I don't see it on the FCBD website.

We put the FCBD logo on the front cover for press release purposes as a way to grab people’s attention and to also remind people that Action Lab Confidential is coming and that you should download it. It’s FREE!

There are a number of indie and smaller publishers trying to get the attention of comic book readers, comic news sites, bloggers and such every single day to generate buzz for their books, and we felt that throwing the logo on the cover for press release purposes would definitely make people want to delve into this a little further. Even though we are a direct market publisher, if Diamond Distribution wanted us to remove the logo for this year, we will. The last thing we want to do is ruffle feathers.

How do you think a digital comic fits with the mission of FCBD of getting people into brick-and-mortar stores? Is there a contradiction there?

From our standpoint, we look at it differently. We’re a smaller publisher fighting for shelf-space in brick-and-mortar stores with every month. There are still stores (and readers) who are unfamiliar with us and not even know of our books. After reading the amount of the material in Action Lab Confidential and checking out titles such as the five-time 2012 Glyph-nominated and two-time 2012 Eisner-nominated Princeless, the superhero dark comedy Fracture, or the soon-to-be-released and critically well-received Double Jumpers, we specify what titles are, have been or will be available in brick-and-mortar stores and tell them that they can call 1-888-COMIC-BOOK to find a store close to them to buy or order our books.

We also stated in our press release that after readers head to their LCS and celebrate FCBD, then they should hop on their computer or tablet device and download Action Lab Confidential. For FCBD, the stores come first and we understand that.

If we were a bigger publisher with a strong market share, I could see the contradiction. But we’re in the process of seeing our audience/readership grow in all ways possible, and Free Comic Book Day gives us the opportunity to continue to grow our market.

What will happen to the comic after FCBD--will it still be available?

Yes, after FCBD the book will be available for anyone to download. And it will be FREE.

Does the comic contain new material or reprints?

It contains extended previews of every single title Action Lab has published in its year of existence as well as soon to be released titles, including never before seen extended looks of the collected editions of Jack Hammer: Political Science (now available for pre-order!), and Jetta – Tales of the Toshigawa: Beginnings (currently in treatment to be a major motion picture).

It will also contain Back in the Day, Monsters Are Just Like Us, Space-Time Condominium, Double Jumpers, Fracture, Snowed In, Exo-1 & The Rock Solid Steelbots, and the multi-award-nominated Princeless.

For readers not familiar to what Action Lab Entertainment publishes, this will be all new material to them, and for fans of Action Lab they’ll get additional insight and interviews with some of our talented creators. There’s something for everyone.

Any chance that it would be available in PDF or CBZ format, or is it strictly available through third-party comics distributors?

It will be available on our site as a PDF & CBZ in our relaunched web store (coming soon). It will also be available on Comics+/iVerse, the Graphicly webstore and Facebook page, Drive Thru Comics, and later for the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, iPhone, iPad, and Android tablets and phones. And it’s FREE!

OK, give me the pitch—what makes this comic awesome?

Action Lab Confidential is awesome because you’ll be able to take a plunge into one of the most diverse publishers in the business. In 200 pages you’ll get everything from great all-ages books, art book-style story books, action, adventure, comedy, horror and more.

There’s no way you read this book and not want to pick up some Action Lab titles afterwards.

You’re going to love the way we make comics.

I guarantee it.

Gary Larson's The Far Side Returning For New Online Era

More in Comics