Inside Fangoria Graphix
The announcement that Fangoria was returning to comic books came as a bit of a surprise so we decided to go right to the source. Associate Editor Troy Brownfield chatted with us this week on the whys and wherefores.
ComicMix: Hey Troy, welcome to ComicMix.
Troy Brownfield: Thanks, Bob. It’s great of you to have us.
CMix: Fangoria Graphix failed last year and Scott blamed the lack of support from the magazine and website. Since it was all owned by Tom DeFeo, how’d that happen?
TB: Love the easy questions first, Bob. Let me first clarify a few things for everyone. Fangoria Comics never failed; Fangoria Comics was ended. How is that different? Well, Fangoria Comics was performing at a sustainable level in the Direct Market, at a terrific level in mass market bookstore chains, and very well at conventions. However, as anyone in comics knows, there is a certain cost associated with paying talent, printing, producing books, etc. While we would have been doing fine as our own entity, by the end of summer 2007, it was apparent to all that the larger Fangoria Entertaiment was in financial trouble.
Tom DeFeo, who was merely a co-owner at the time (via Creative Group), tried his best to keep us going. In fact, it was Tom, with our Executive Editor Scott Licina, who put together the comics line in the first place. It essentially came down to a vote, and Fangoria Comics, along with other facets of the group’s operations, was simply shut down. By March 2008, the entire conglomerate of interests (Creative Group, etc.) entered bankruptcy proceedings. What came from that is that Tom DeFeo’s new company, The Brooklyn Company, emerged as the sole owner of Fangoria Entertainment. Creative Group is no longer involved.
One of Tom’s first orders of business was to call Scott and get things back on track. Since we’ll be doing more than just straight comics, it was decided to rename the segment Fangoria Graphix.
As to Scott’s remarks citing lack of support, that goes back to things that existed in the previous configuration. The important thing now is that there is direct, daily communication between Scott, Tom, and Fangoria Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Tony Timpone. Managing Editor Mike Gingold, myself, and James Zahn from our New Media Development segment are involved with things as needed. Scott, James and I talk frequently about what needs to be done with the comics, etc., and we’re all working on various ends of that.
CMix: It sounds like the two ends of the operation weren’t talking to one another. Is that how the Vampirella fubar occurred?
TB: That bit of ancient history was very much a cart-before-the-horse situation. We knew that there was an attempt at a deal in the works. As for the announcement, well, Scott was on stage at one of the Fangoria Weekend of Horrors conventions. He had Michael Madsen, Amber Benson, Dee Snider . . . a number of people up there with him. One of the executives pulled Scott aside as he was emceeing and said, basically, “Hey, don’t forget to tell ‘em we got Vampirella!” Scott basically did a “Really? Cool”, turned around and announced it.
A couple of days later, that’s all over the internet, and Harris is saying, “Hey, wait!” On Scott’s side, he’d been told it was good. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite a done deal. Fortunately, Harris Comics and Vampirella editor Bon and Scott (hey, Bon Scott!) talked way back in February of ‘07 and the air between them is totally clear. It’s not dissimilar, in some respects, to the controversy surrounding The Phantom this year. In point of fact, the situation went on much longer in the blogosphere than it actually did in practical, realistic terms. Which, as they say, is showbiz.
CMix: The Scream Factory may be the best thing that happened to Fangoria Graphix so why return? What happens to The Scream Factory?
TB: Well, again, when Fangoria Comics shut down, the significant thing is that there had already been a solid group of talent put together. The creators owned their own material, we all liked each other (amazing, I know), and wanted to keep the team intact. Scott essentially rounded up as many of us as were available into The Scream Factory, which is basically a studio situation. The best thing out of this was the addition of James Zahn and his people to the group.
The thing is, honestly, we still believe that there’s a lot that we can do with Fangoria. When Tom called, we all agreed to do this. The Scream Factory still exists; we’re essentially equivalent to the way that an Image studio works under that banner.
CMix: With the revamped website will the comix get better display? What about in the magazine and on the weekly radio broadcast?
TB: Indeed. First off, the new website is already running, and looks great. You can see that the Graphix name is up top. In terms of radio, Scott was just on the Halloween Night edition to promote both the line and the new Fangoria store. With the magazine, you’ll certainly see more of a presence going forward.
CMix: Scott has been very vocal about the future being digital. How will that play out for the Graphix line?
TB: We will be doing both digital and print versions of projects. The first two big questions are: will there be a Bump trade, and will readers be able to buy a print copy of Beneath the Valley of the Rage #4? The answer to both questions is a big “Yes”. We’re not looking to ignore print at all; we’re looking to do what is best for the company, the creators, and the stories in the long run. Sometimes that will mean digital first, followed by print. Sometimes that will mean digital original. Pieces of that will be determined by the individual projects. As to the couple of series that were left unfinished, we understand that readers would like to see those issues. We’re listening.
CMix: The original published and unpublished titles lived on as digital downloads. Was that a successful venture?
TB: Very much so. The books did very well on Wowio, particularly Bump. Bump appeared to big numbers, and charted extremely well there. When the ownership change began to come into focus, and the return to Fangoria availed itself, we simply stepped back from that for the moment. And yes, that means what it sounds like: you’ll be able to get our downloads directly from Fangoria.com.
CMix: Will online comics be in the tradition page format for eventual print compilations or do you feel freed by the bytes?
TB: I think that there’s an argument to be made for both approaches depending on the end-goal of the project. If you’re doing something with the intention of later print, then it makes sense to lay it out like a print book. If you’re looking to do an online original, then that opens a few doors creatively.
CMix: What about content? Can you be even more graphic online?
TB: I’m not sure that there’s much of a difference between what we’d produce for either medium in terms of story and artistic content. There were some heavy moments in the original books, but I’ve seen stuff that’s just as strong or stronger in the content offerings from other publishers. If we were to do an extremely graphic book online, we’d probably consider the implementation of tiered age-protections.
CMix: If you go entirely digital, how will the line pay for itself?
TB: Like the Cylons, we have a plan.
CMix: How do you see Fangoria Graphix fitting in the webcomics field? What about the print field?
TB: Honestly, we don’t really fit anywhere. We’re kind of our own animal. We’re the Goth kid in the back of class, Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club. It’s kind of funny; when the brand was announced at San Diego in 2006, there was some outright hostility from some online sources. We were called “villains” by one blogger for having Hollywood associations. We were called bandwagon jumpers by Heidi MacDonald at The Beat for starting a comic company when it was announced that very weekend that she was going to be doing some editing for another line of film-related horror comics under the auspices of a studio. The fact of the matter is that Fangoria has been around since 1979, and there are a lot of people who love what the magazine represents. They’ve had some good times with the magazine, and so have we. We look at our projects as just another facet of the Fangoria lifestyle, which is a true and pure love of horror in novels, films, magazines, collections, attitude, and yes, comics. So while we continue to read and enjoy comics and webcomics from other publishers, we’re just looking to offer our readers the same thrill that they got when they picked up our magazine for the first time.
CMix: Okay, so what’s the schedule go to be like? 22 pages a month per title or weekly delivery or even daily?
TB: Right now, we’ve been putting a huge amount of effort into getting the website exactly where we want it to be, and to getting the word out that the band is back together. Priorities will be the Bump trade, the Bump prose novel, and the addressing of some of those other lingering questions. We have a variety of new projects in the pipeline, including Ellium, which will definitely have online components. Keep watching the site and Previews for dates!
CMix: What titles and creators can we expect in the first wave of new releases?
TB: The Bump trade will of course be from writer/artist Mark Kidwell. Kid has also written a Bump novel, and it’s going to blow your minds. Kid comes from the Ketchum/Garton school, and he’s no longer a student; he’s a master.
We will finish Beneath the Valley of the Rage, the tie-in to Robert Kurtzman’s film The Rage. Expect the fourth issue to be released, followed by a trade.
You will see a Death Walks the Streets miniseries, building off of the zero issue that we did at conventions this past summer. The format of the four issues is yet to be determined, although they will definitely be available digitally and there will be a print trade.
Ellium itself is a long running series by our production manager Jason Moser. It’s about a futuristic world of espionage, secret societies, and the occult. The true powers behind the puppet governments of the world are factions vying for control of humanity. The only thing that can save the world are the members of Ellium, but maybe the world doesn’t want to be saved.
And yes, we will be finishing Strangeland: Seven Sins.
Keep your eyes out for other books we talked about last year. Going forward, there are also several new projects in the offing. Some of them include some very famous names in horror. Some of them include the guy answering questions right now. 2009 is going to be a fun year.
CMix: Marvel has introduced online-only comics and is keeping with the traditional Wednesday to match new comic book releases. Will you do something similar?
TB: That’s very considerate of Marvel to provide a template for the rest of the industry to crib from. Thanks, guys! (laughs)
CMix: Traditional horror – monsters, the occult, things that go bump in the night – seems to be ignored by many in favor of the slasher/torture fare seen in the Saw franchise. What makes for good horror today (other than our 401(k) statements)? What sort of horror will we find in Fangoria Graphix?
TB: Speaking for myself, I’m a monster fan. In stuff that I write, you’ll see monsters. Bump combines the slasher/ghost story with a new monster in the Treehuggers. Other books vary by degree. So, in response to your first note, we like to keep it varied.
As for today’s horror, I think that in many regards, fear of death has been replaced by fear of torture. People don’t want to suffer from lingering illness or injury; the prospect of quick death over a protracted struggle with, say, cancer is probably more appealing. I think that’s the engine that powers Saw and Hostel, this notion that there really are some things worse than a quick death.
However, I don’t think that those are the only fears in this culture, nor are they the only stories worth exploring. Fear of loss, fear of isolation . . . there are a lot of things that take a toll. Kidwell’s Recluse project is about as stunning an evocation of the fear of loss as you’ll see in a horror piece. My own fears regarding the raising, care, and protection of my children have figured heavily into one of my projects. I think that there are many ways in which people can connect to these themes.
CMix: Bump is clearly your best known property. There’s even been a prose novel on the website. What is it about that title that people respond to?
TB: Bump works on a lot of levels. There’s an old-school splatterpunk thing that the hardcore dig. There’s a brilliantly designed new monster with the Treehugger. There’s frequently stunning art. There are smartly realized characters. I’ll say this, too: Mark Kidwell knows how to draw a cover. The covers for #1 and #4 in particular are just terrifically iconic. I’ve seen people at shows just stop dead to look at those images. I’ve personally sold the first book to people, only to see them return the next day and buy all three. It just connects.
CMix: Scott spoke about other digital initiatives such as remastering every issue of the magazine for online use. While I look forward to that, is there an audience for such online reading?
TB: Definitely. Part of that stems from last year’s real Fangoria tragedy: the loss of all the remaining back issues in a warehouse fire. Fangoria did great business selling the old magazines, so we know that the audience is there. We also know that we’ll be able to offer these at a smaller price point, which will allow more people to check out the magazine than ever.
CMix: Bump has already been optioned for film. Where is that production?
TB: Bump is going to be directed by special effects legend Robert Kurtzman. Bob has actually been in India working on a film with director Jennifer Lynch these past few months. When he returns, there will be more momentum gathering. Already, Tobin Bell, Sean Patrick Flanery, and Ashley Laurence are attached. Tobin, for his part, was talking about the project in interviews he did for Saw V last week. Everyone is really into this; it’s a question of schedules, etc. right now.
CMix: Has anything else been optioned? Will Fango go back and make movies of the comics as part of their video line?
TB: I can’t really comment on either of those points right now, but there are certainly interesting things going on.
CMix: Thanks for your time, Troy.
TB: Thank you, Bob. Happy to chat with you. And I’ll be happy to drop by and answer questions that the readers might have here or at Fangoria.com as well.