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BAKER'S DOZEN for 01/02/2008
The Perfect Mix
Joe Keatinge on editing the Popgun anthology
Every industry has them. Those generally unwritten "Rules" or "Truths" which are each seen as an unnassailable "Established Fact of Business." And one of the "Truths" of comics is that anthologies don't sell. Aside from the migraines resulting from the seemigly-inevitable scheduling and trafficking problems associated with these collections, there's also the "Given Fact" that the average comics reader today is uninterested in anthologies working against their success.
Still, one of the larger and overriding Truths of Life In General is that every rule, no matter how sacrosanct, was made to be broken.
Which is where the first volume of Popgun, a rather thick anthology recently released by Image, enters the picture. That's because, going against all kinds of accepted wisdom, it proved popular enough that it's already had the happy result of...
Well, actually, that's an announcement best left to today's guest, Joe Keatinge, one of the two editorial mix masterminds responsible for Popgun.
Bill Baker: Let's start with an obvious question: What is Popgun?
Joe Keatinge: Popgun is a graphic mixtape dedicated to spreading the message that comics are evolving.
An artistic revolution is on the horizon due to the incoming generation of artists and writers being raised on and inspired by creator owned work. Each contributor hardly considers house styles and letting corporations control their art, resulting in a new and different medium on the horizon. Popgun premieres a number of these creators alongside their inspirations such as Mike Allred and Erik Larsen.
It's also massive. The final page count came to 450 pages while maintaining the original price of $29.99. It was tough to do so, because we had 256 pages that are now stashed away and waiting to be unleashed for volume two.
BB: Where'd the idea for this anthology come from, how did it develop over time, and who were the people involved with that process?
JK: It started off as Mark Andrew Smith's baby. He was developing an anthology and at one point called me about what he had planned. After a very lengthy discussion covering everything from just how excited we are for comics right now to the theory of comics as graphic music, we determined we would make this more than just a collection of stories. It's artistic ammunition aimed at everyone from long-time fans to people who've never cracked open a comic book.
BB: So, who's contributing to the book?
JK: We have close to one hundred contributors for the first book. Artists, writers, cartoonists, colorists and everyone else in between. Each one coming from all different backgrounds with their own unique approach. There are Eisner-nominated creators and brand new people who just recently put out their first mini-comic. It's an eclectic mix of people I truly feel have been destined to inherit the medium and are taking it somewhere better.
Names are all over the place, but they do include Michael Allred, Corey Lewis, Erik Larsen, Andy Kuhn, James Stokoe, Jim Mahfood, John Reppion, Leah Moore, Sheldon Vella, Paul Maybury, Richard Starkings, Derek McCulloch, Shepherd Hendrix and many, many more.
BB: How did those folks get involved with the project, and what about their work made them a perfect fit?
JK: Everything just came together at the right time. Mark and I wanted to edit an anthology. A lot of friends wanted to create for one. We all teamed up to form Popgun. From there recruiting began for creators everyone wanted to see in the book.
Each person in the book--and I don't just mean the creators--but people like the designers such as Steve Finch and Production Manager Thomas Mauer all want comics to be in a better place and are actively doing their part to make it so.
BB: Were you surprised by the stories they submitted?
JK: Oh, yeah. The established names pulled off styles they've never attempted. Erik Larsen did the furthest thing from a superhero comic imaginable. Rick Remender's story is unlike anything he's done in his career and I love it. Stories along those lines.
BB: Any chance that we might see more Popgun in the future?
JK: There will definitely be more Popgun. Volume two is tentatively scheduled to hit in July 2008. Ideally, I would love to get one of these out every year. Given the creative renaissance the medium is in the process of undergoing there won't be a short supply of cartoonists who need to change the world.
BB: At the risk of making your job as editor all the more difficult, can anyone submit a story for consideration of inclusion in the next edition of Popgun, or is this more a case where you have to be invited to contribute something?
JK: The answer was yes until last week, when we realized between the material we already have in, the pitches we're still reviewing, and the people that are wooing us, we're already way passed maximum capacity. Which is very exciting on our end! Unfortunately, for now, submissions are closed.
BB: In addition to editing this title, you also serve as the PR and Marketing Coordinator for Image Central. Could you give us a quick rundown of what, exactly, that job entails?
JK: It's all about spreading the good word of Image Comics. I truly feel the company's at its creative best so it's easy to get excited for everything we're doing. My gig is to spread this excitement to fans, retailers and press the world over. Every time our big box of advances comes in I flip out with excitement. Just today I was pouring over issue # 2 of Mice Templar and the NYC Mech: Beta Love TPB and being amazed at both. They're too damn good to miss out on.
BB: Before taking over that position, you acted as traffic manager for Image. What's that position's job description cover, and how did that experience prepare you for what you're doing today, be it PR or editing?
JK: I actually started out as Image's Inventory Controller way back in November 2004. Both that position and Traffic Manager had me seeing just about every aspect of comic book publishing. Everything from how distribution works to what it takes to run a convention to... jeez, every single dirty detail you can think of. Working alongside our Executive Director and former Marketing Director, Eric Stephenson, taught me all there is to know about marketing. All those elements helps me each day, no matter what I'm working on.
As if it helped the editing--honestly, I think the element that helped editing Popgun more than anything else was years and years of my life wasted on actually making mixtapes. Seriously, I obsessed about it on a level Rob Gordon would blush at. Choosing the perfect song to give just the right message. Making sure each one is in the correct order. Wondering which version of which song would make a girl fall in love with me. I applied all that to putting together Popgun, hence why it's touted as a graphic mixtape.
BB: Is music still a part of your life?
JK: Yes. My creative partner, Val Nunez, and I just launched Siamese Moog. Moog is more or less our graphic arts rock band where we are free to rock out together anything that has to do with comics, music and art. More info on our endeavors can be found at www.siamesemoog.com.
Between Siamese Moog, Popgun, Image and working a few shifts at San Francisco's Force of Habit Records (20th and Lexington, see you there!) I really just have time to watch a few old cartoons and B-movie trailers.
BB: What do you hope inclusion in Popgun will do for the good folks who contributed to the book?
JK: For the new creators I hope they get the exposure they so well deserve. I hope the veterans continue to experiment they way the have in the book. For instance, the world would certainly benefit from more Andy Kuhn Lucha Libre comics.
BB: How about the readers of the anthology? What do you hope they get from it, aside from a good entertaining read?
JK: I just hope they're inspired to both find more work by the creators therein and, if they have the bug, create their own work knowing it's an industry beginning to lean towards creator owned material.
BB: Anything else you'd like to add before I let you get back to work?
JK: I'd like to thank all of the creators that were involved with the making of Popgun. They are the book. There's also been an immense amount of support from retailers, especially Cliff Biggers of Dr. No's. Cliff gave us a cover feature on CSN [Comic Shop News] and I attribute a huge amount of the book's success to the exposure.
We're very thankful that everyone seems open to the book and really excited to do more.
For more information on the Popgun anthology or any of the other fine books published bearing the Image logo, head on over to www.imagecomics.com.
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