Nat Gertler Celebrates 24 Hour Comics Day
Yesterday, we began a conversation with About Comics’ Nat Gertler, looking back over 10 years of existence. Today, we’ll examine his best known project 24 Hour Comics Day as well as About’s future plans.
ComicMix: You’ve also nurtured talent through your books on comic book writing. Will there be other such projects?
Nat Gertler: Right now, Steve Lieber and I are in negotiations for doing an updated edition of our Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Graphic Novel, so that’s likely to come out next year. There are a couple other such projects that I’ve got on my "someday" file, but nothing I’m ready to announce.
CMix: Are you writing anything currently?
NG: I just got the rights back to a graphic novel script that I wrote for Platinum, and I’m in the midst of updating that and fixing an ending that I didn’t get right the first time. After that, I’ll be focusing on completing The Big Con, my graphic novel looking at various folks attending a major comic book convention. Folks who’ve read the Idiot’s Guide have seen one chapter from it, and I had planned on having that book out when the Idiot’s Guide hit… but the one-two punch of the first 24 Hour Comics Day and the birth of my daughter wiped that from the schedule.
CMix: Now of course, you just survived another 24 Hour Comics Day, which we covered. How does this year’s competition compare with previous years?
NG: Well for me, this year was very different, because this was the first year that I wasn’t running it. I passed it over to the able hands of ComicsPRO, and that took a lot of effort off of my shoulders. I’m still offering advice and taking care of little bits of business, but not running it this year meant that I actually managed to participate for the first time, and that was a blast!
CMix: Is it continuing to grow? What sort of response and attention are you receiving?
NG: It’s grown every year in terms of number of participants, of locations, of pages created, and of countries involved, and this year is no exception. I don’t have the final figures yet, but I know that the number of official event locations crossed into three figures for the first time. I’m just amazed at how the event has taken off.
CMix: This will generate another collection I presume.
NG: Not this year, no. We didn’t do one in 2007, either. Those books were a helluva lot of work to put together, and we found that there were probably more people interested in having their work in the book than wanted to actually buy the book. Hard work and losing money is a combination I avoid. But I’m not ruling out future ones – as the event grows and gets more attention, it may well be worth it. But I’d probably hire someone to edit future ones, because it doesn’t make sense to just have my view of what makes an interesting 24 hour comic.
CMix: You’ve also resurrected forgotten titles such as Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle’s Crossfire. Are there other titles coming back to public attention?
NG: ’09 will see the launch of our new science-fiction and fantasy imprint, About Infinity, bringing several things back into the light. There was this Eclipse space adventure series called Fusion — very Fireflyish, with writing by respectable science fiction writers like Michael Reaves, and Peter Morwood. The series started with a five issue storyline by Steve Barnes with art by Albedo‘s Steve Gallacci and Lela Dowling, and we’ll release that as a graphic novel then follow up with collections of shorter stories. We’ll also have a trade paperback of the fun Weasel Patrol stories that Lela did with Ken Macklin.
And we’ve got The Misadventures of Prince Ivan by Diane Duane and Sherlock. This was a story that Diane wrote before her Young Wizards series made her quite so popular on the Young Adult fantasy shelves. At 60-some pages, the story is a little short for a book these days, so we’re getting Diane and Sherlock to do a new follow-up story.
There was a bigger reprint project we were gearing up for… but then a larger publisher suddenly showed up wanting that project, so we’re passing it along to them. That’s something which has happened several times lately. I’m not ashamed to admit that larger publishers have marketing muscle I lack. So if we can cut a deal that’s to the benefit of the creators or rights owners, and to About Comics, that’s a win for everyone.
CMix: Similarly, Comics Prose resurrected early works from the likes of Denny O’Neil. How has the book been doing and will there be another?
NG: Comics Prose — our collection of prose short stories by comic book writers – did so-so. Not the sort of sales which demand a sequel… and that’s good. I went into it knowing a few existing published pieces which I wanted to include, and reckoned I wouldn’t have a hard time scaring some prose pieces out of people’s file drawers. When I was breaking in, there was still a sense that folks trying to write comics were trying to be writers in general, and would have been pitching prose markets as well. But talking to more-recently-successful comics writers, they broke in only targeting comics, or maybe comics and screenplays. So it took more work than expected to fill it, and a follow-up would’ve been even harder.
CMix: What else may we expect from About in the next decade?
NG: Oy! Planning years in advance is not our specialty. We try to be nimble, and be able to grab whatever opportunities pop up. Had I made a guess a decade ago what About would be doing now, I’d’ve been very wrong. Besides, by moving fast from concept to reality, I can keep up that personal enthusiasm that I need. Something like The Blank Comic Book… it was literally a couple weeks between deciding to do it and actually soliciting it to Diamond. I do have a couple books in line for 2010, but forgive me if I don’t have the next decade all planned out!
Having said that… more and more of what About Comics has been doing isn’t publishing but what I loosely refer to as "packaging", really more appropriately called "comics services". And that really covers whatever portion of our normal publishing efforts someone else needs. This actually goes back to the days before the first About Comics publication; the first use of the About Comics name and logo was on a pitch to a tech publisher that wanted monthly giveaway comics built around some characters a major tech company used in their advertising. And by putting out a reasonably professional-looking pitch and lining up some really appropriate talent, I beat out some far better established folks in packaging this… and then a new manager came in at the tech publisher and the whole comics project was out the window.
The most visible recent example of our comics services work is Many Happy Returns, the one-shot that the Happy Harbor comic shop chain hired us to create which included new Crossfire, new Journey, and new Licensable BearTM stories, among other things. But at the moment, there are five different publishers – some big in the comics industry, some outside the industry – with whom we have projects in-place or almost-in-place where About Comics would have a credit. In some cases, it’s material where we have the rights. In other cases, it’s some About Comics expertise — creating usable black-and-white images where the only source material we have is actual printed color comics, say, or my knowledge of certain kinds of comics. And then there’s comics writers who want us as to round up the artists and do the production work to turn their scripts into finished, printed comics to use for Hollywood pitches. So there’s a lot going on that people haven’t seen, and in some cases the public will never see our name attached to what we’re doing.
CMix: Thanks for your time, Nat. It’s been good to catch up and share your efforts with the online audience.
NG: Thanks! It’s been great. Talk to you again in ten years!