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Baker's Dozen
Original short interviews with notable, rising or overlooked
figures from comics or the larger entertainment field by Bill Baker.

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BAKER'S DOZEN for 10/22/2003
More Fun, More Fund ... and More Freedom of Expression
John Gallagher on the More Fund benefit anthology

More Fund Cover While there's been a lot of talk about preserving our rights as citizens of these United States of late, the sad fact is that our individual right to freedom of expression has been coming under increasing attack over the past few years. Even more alarming, the insistence by a minority of "moral minded" citizens has challenged the right of artists to express their personal views through their art -- or even to make art, in one particularly troubling case [i.e. Mike Diana versus the State of Florida].

As the infamous case noted above demonstrates, whether we like it or not, comics are often at the center of this controversy. And, no, it's not "just" mature minded or sexually explicit [and, yes, there is a difference] titles that are under increasing attack, but comics as whole. Which is why the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is so necessary, and why the release of the More Fund trade paperback, which directly benefits the CBLDF, is so very important.

Recently, one of the driving forces behind the More Fund collection, John Gallagher, the creator of the all ages Buzzboy series [which is an utter blast, incidentally], and co-creator of Roboy Red, took a few moments from his packed schedule to talk about how the benefit book came about, explain why someone like himself, who works almost exclusively in the all ages, category cares so deeply about an organization which many perceive as existing primarily to protect pornographic and other adult publications, and define why you should not only buy this exciting benefit book, but also should care a great deal about the health and future of the CBLDF, too.

Bill Baker: OK, for those who came in late, what is More Fund and what purpose does it serve?

John Gallagher: More Fund is a star-studded, all-ages benefit book for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, featuring 39 stories, and over 30 pages of pin-ups, by over 70 superstar and up-and-coming creators in the comics industry.

BB: Why is this an important book, and why do it now?

JG: Usually, the CBLDF lends legal aid to a retailer who is attacked for selling adult material comics, in a town where comics are perceived as being for kids. Therefore, "He must be selling smut to kids!" -- this is often not the case. As an all-ages creator, with my Buzzboy books, one might wonder, why should I care?

The reason is, every time a comic shop is shut down by some district attorney, or overzealous city council member, it isn't just that one comic that is cut off from the public, it's my comic. It's Archie, it's Batman, it's Strangers in Paradise, it's Spider-Man. Everyone in this field has a vested interest in protecting freedom of expression, not just the creators aiming their work at an adults-only audience.

BB: How'd the project get initiated, who was involved at the beginning, and who's been instrumental in seeing it through to fruition?

JG: I was having dinner with Frank Cho and Marc Nathan, organizer of the Baltimore Comic-Con, after a small comics show, and I was pitching the idea of doing a newspaper insert to promote Marc's show for 2003, using comics stories by all the local creators, like Mark Wheatley, Steve Conley, Frank, and myself. As a designer and comics guy, I currently do custom comics for corporations and educational associations, and I thought a customized BaltiCon book might be a good way to promote the show. But Marc immediately suggested we make the book a benefit for the CBLDF, and Frank was the one who said we should go after as many big comics creators as possible, make this a superstar book. And it grew from there...

More Fund Frank Cho Cover BB: So who are some of the worthies contributing to the book, both creatively and behind the scenes, and how difficult has it be to get them to participate?

JG: On the surface you see the big names immediately -- Erik Larsen, Mike Oeming, Geoff Johns, Scott Kolins, Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Perez doing the Hulk on the cover -- we have unsung heroes in comics, who are finally getting the recognition they deserve, like Neil Vokes, Mark Wheatley, Batton Lash, Mark McKenna.

Behind the scenes, people like Jim Valentino helped pull in a slew of creators, Frank Cho had the gumption to invite Romita, and Romita Jr. to be in the book. K.C. Carlson, a former DC editor, was also a big help -- at Diamond, Marty Grosser, Steve Leaf, Mark Herr all helped -- the list goes on. Everybody saw the power of this project, and stood up and gave 100% support. Through it all Marc Nathan and Frank have been helping in every way possible -- these guys really care.

BB: What are some of the cool surprises and unexpected highlights of the collection?

JG: As far as I know, it's all unseen work! We have several big names premiering their properties in More Fund, doing something different in an industry that sometimes to pigeon holes creators. Mike Oeming has "Mice Templar," Neil Vokes is premiering "Marc of the Vampires," -- other More Fund premiers include "Jeopardy Jones" by Stuart Immonen, "Where is Roboy Red," created by me and Rich Faber, and best of all, is the 10 page debut of Frank Cho and Scott Kurtz' "Summer Days."

BB: I understand that the book's actually grown quite a bit, even since it was solicited, yet the price has remained the same. Why the expansion, and why not raise the price?

JG: More Fund was solicited at 128 pages for 10 dollars. A great price, even at that page count, but I had prepped the printer that it might -- might -- bump up to 144 pages. Since it was a charity book, they agreed to not raise the price on printing. Then it happened. Everyone asked agreed to do a story, or a pin-up for the book. We were soon at 180 pages, then finally, 192.

I had a choice -- up the price, and, since this would alter the solicitation through Diamond, make the book returnable -- or cut pages. Neither idea would help the CBLDF, so neither was acceptable. My print-broker friend, Harold Buchholz, got on the phone, and searched for a printer that could cut our costs, so we saved some money there. As the publisher, I've forgone some of the percentage I would make on the book to cover my expenses in design and marketing. Ultimately, the CBLDF makes exactly what they would if the book were still 128 pages -- but, hopefully, everyone will see what a stunning package More Fund is, and it will sell even better.

BB: What's been the best thing about working on this project? How about the most frustrating aspect of doing it?

JG: The best thing was seeing the awesome generosity, from the biggest creators, to those less well-known. Everyone wanted to help, from Stan Sakai, to Mark Schultz, to Al Nickerson, and Art Baltazar. Some of these names you know. Some, you will, soon.

The most frustrating thing? Retailers have been burned by benefit books before -- too many pin-ups, too many reprints. So the challenge was in getting retailers aware of the fact that this is not a pin-up book, it's chock full of stories, and pin-ups and sketches, but that's less than 20% of the book. However, those pin-ups and sketches are fantastic, by Mike Wieringo, Howard Porter, a double page spread by Art Adams, of Monkeyman and O'Brien ...

Mark Schultz

Hopefully, when the book hits stands, retailers will realize that this is a book they want to keep in stock. I really believe any retailer that has ordered less than 10 copies of this book, has ordered too few.

BB: What do you hope to accomplish with More Fund immediately?

JG: Short-term, raise money for, and increase awareness of the CBLDF. And give people who shied away from their other benefit books to give this one a try. This book is all ages, not out of any moral standpoint, but from a business approach. It fills a void for the CBLDF, one that will hopefully increase membership and support.

BB: How about in the future? What do you hope the book does in those terms?

JG: Long-term, keep support of the CBLDF growing, and introduce people to creators they might have missed before.

BB: What have you gotten, personally and professionally, from taking on a project of this kind and size?

JG: Besides an ulcer, in dealing with all these creators? [Laughter] I'm kidding!

I've grown to love the people in this industry more each day, as I've worked on More Fund, due to everyone's unwavering dedication to getting me top-notch material for this, and any possible future versions of this book. Much of the cynicism one can feel as a small publisher in this field is diminished by the gratitude and support I received as More Fund debuted at the Baltimore Comic-Con last weekend. It was inspiring for me, and the 40 contributors attending the show.

Royboy Red and Dara

BB: What do you hope the readers get from this book, both now and in the future?

JG: Comics can be fun, and the CBLDF helps protect all comics, regardless of content-- and that's a good thing.

BB: Let's say there's still a couple skeptics in the crowd out there. What do you have to say that might help sway them to spend their hard earned money on this book?

JG: It's 192 pages, 39 stories, 30 pages of pin-ups, over 70 creators -- just ten bucks. As George Perez said to me, upon receiving a copy, "It's a phone book, it's so thick! Who wouldn't want a copy?"

Thanks George!

Savage Dragon

BB: Any closing thoughts?

JG: With More Fund, Buzzboy, and Sky-Dog Press, I want to raise awareness in the industry that all-ages books are a valid form, can be successful, and need to be supported. We, as an industry, are ignoring a generation of consumers, and it's time to make a concerted effort to bring kids, teens, tweens, and everyone into comics.

I have said this elsewhere, but now you've got me going: There was a time it was considered good business in comics to ignore a certain segment of the public, so now 90 percent of comics read like Dark Knight and Ultimates -- And now 99 percent of the world doesn't read comics. As I said before, this isn't a moral issue, it's just good business.

But this ties in with the goals of the CBLDF very closely: Do you think a DA would try to shut down a newspaper for printing an objectionable photo? No, because papers are a mass medium. If comics are pulled back into the minds off America as a mass medium, then comics will be given 1st amendment protection and respect by everyone.

*****

To learn more about the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund's efforts to preserve the freedoms and rights of comic creators and retailers, or to make a donation to this worthy cause, head on over to www.cbldf.org, or call 800-99-CBLDF.

Previews of More Fund can be accessed via www.skydogcomics.com, where you'll also find examples of John Gallagher's Buzzboy and other projects. In addition, here at World Famous Comics you can view the daily Buzzboy Online Comic!

John Gallagher biography

John Gallagher entered the comics field in 1998, writing and drawing Buzzboy and other comics for such companies as Image Comics, Peregrine Entertainment, and his own Sky Dog Press. He currently writes, illustrates, and animates a daily online Buzzboy comic strip at buzzboy.com, with over 50,000 viewers each month.

When not working on comics, John runs an award-winning design and custom comics company, having worked for such clients as AOL/Time Warner, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus, Mobil Oil, Apple Computer, and UPS.

John lives in the Washington, DC area with his wife, Beth, and daughter Katie, who knew how to say "Buzzboy," before she could say "Mama." Beth finds that much less amusing than John does.

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