10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Marc Lombardi

We continue our interview series with members of The Gathering and GrayHaven Comics. We’ve put out the same questions to numerous individuals and can compare their responses. A hopefully intriguing interview series.

Check out our previous interviews.

Up today is Marc Lombardi, the Editor and Assistant Art Director at GrayHaven Comics.

Graphic Policy: How did you get started in the comic book industry?

Marc Lombardi: In 2007, Jim Valentino’s partner studio at Image Comics, Shadowline, was running a contest to create a promotional street team called the Shadowline Pimpsquad. I was a regular on the Shadowline section of the Image Forums.I ended up winning the contest thanks to coordinating an interview with every single major Shadowline creator at the time and getting the folks at CBR to publish it. Months passed and I started doing more and more work for Shadowline and eventually they brought me on in a more official capacity as their Communications guy, which basically means I run their website and social media accounts. All of that gave me some much needed industry experience and helped lead me to the great opportunity I have with GrayHaven.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

ML: I’ve been reading comics since I was 13 (which means for about 25 years now), with a few years off and on between then and now. Come to think of it, I was reading comics even earlier than that by picking up random issues of Rom: Spaceknight and Mike Grell’s Warlord at flea markets or issues of Super Powers comics off of the spinner racks at the local convenience store.  But nothing as steadily as when I turned 13 and started my very own pull list.

GP: Do you read comics now? If so, what are some of your current picks?

ML: of what I read and love comes from Image; The Walking Dead, Hack/Slash, Saga, Skullkickers, Morning Glories, Peter Panzerfaust, The Activity, Near Death, Hoax Hunters, Planetoid and a bunch others. I just started reading Invincible in trade and love it. I tend to read much more non-Marvel/DC books. Terry Moore’s Rachel Rising is something everyone should be reading. IDW has some great comics with Cobra, Smoke and Mirrors and Godzilla. Atomic Robo from Red 5 comics is awesome. As for the “Big Two,” the DCU reboot got me into a few new comics and the ones I enjoy the most have been Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Demon Knights, Batman and I, Vampire, and I adore the new Daredevil series from Marvel.  I’m also reading some books in trade, such as Locke and Key, American Vampire, Scalped, and The Unwritten.  I’ll also read anything written by Duane Swierczynski, Nathan Edmondson, Justin Jordan and Joe Hill.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

ML: As you already know, The Gathering started out with people from The Bendis Board and I was a regular, although a little bit of an under-the-radar kind of guy. Three years ago, there was a game on the board done in the style of The Apprentice, geared entirely towards comics, and the final two in that game were Andrew Goletz and me. I won the competition and it was soon thereafter that Andrew formed GrayHaven. I knew he was a great guy who had a passion for comics, and while I didn’t do anything in the first few issues, when the first round of submissions opened I started working on some ideas.  My first published comic work is in the Romance issue of The Gathering and it was a 2-page autobiographical story of how I met my wife at a Greyhound bus terminal in Philadelphia.  After submitting quite a few pitches in the later rounds I started getting more and more work and then eventually Andrew contacted me and asked if I would be interesting in joining the team as an editor and assisting Chris Chamberlain with the Art Director duties as well.  Andrew is sort of like the Sam Jackson Nick Fury in that sense and he put together a rather formidable Avengers-esque line-up.

GP: Each issue of The Gathering has a theme, how did that factor into the comic creation?

ML: Andrew can answer that question much better than I can, but I can say that I surprised myself a few times in that I often found myself coming up with ideas for themes that normally wouldn’t appeal to me (Romance, War) while not submitting ideas for themes that seem like a natural fit based on what I like reading (Dark, Pulp).

GP: What advice would you give to independent creators just breaking into the business?

ML: For writers I would say that you need to write the stories that are in your heart. Be true to what you love and don’t write something just because it’s what you think people want to read. Write the comics that YOU would want to read instead. The most important thing thought is to write all of the time.  I’m a big fan of Image’s “Experience Creativity” ad campaign and have geared my own career in comics heavily into writing my own stuff and not really having the ultimate goal of writing for Marvel or DC.

GP: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned through your experiences?

ML: I’ve been very lucky to have gotten some great insight into the industry from Jim Valentino. He’s become a mentor of sorts for me and he doesn’t even know it. I’ve taken some writing cues from something he wrote in the extra material in a TPB for After The Cape, which is that all great comic stories (and stories in general) should be written in three acts. I outline all of my stories before writing a script and I’ve discovered that the best ones are usually the ones that fit that three-act format.  The other thing is that the comics industry is quite a close knit community, so the best advice for anyone is to be yourself and don’t be a phony. If you’re hard to work with or just not a good person overall, the word will spread and you’ll find it hard to find anyone willing to work with you.

GP: Do you think it’s easier today for creators to get published?

ML: I think so. Self-published comics have existed for decades but they’re experiencing a bit of a renaissance and the quality in small press/indie comics has now grown to a point where it rivals that of the bigger publishers.  Fundraising websites have also made it easier for people to raise the capital necessary to put out a book without having to sell of your belongings or cashing out a 401k.  And then there’s always the webcomic or digital comic format that not only makes it easy but it also takes out virtually all of the cost associated with self-publishing.  There’s no reason to think that ANYONE who wants to make a comic book this day and age can’t make that dream a reality.

GP:  How do you think technology like social networking or crowdfunding sites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are impacting comic book publishing?

ML: Absolutely! When established pros are turning to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo you know it’s here for the long run. When Kickstarter campaigns are helping to raise over $100,000 and people are hitting their funding goals by over 1000% it means that the opportunities are out there.  As for Social Networking I can attest that it’s not only a fantastic promotional tool but it’s also a great way to find new talent. I also think that social networking brings creators and fans closer together (more than creator-run messageboards).

GP: What can we expect from you next?

ML: I have quite a few stories coming up in GrayHaven books. There’s a story I worked on with 27’s Renzo Podesta for The Gathering’s Mystery issue. There’s a horror story in the third Gathering Horror issue and the artwork is by the wonderful Leo Gonzales, who did a killer cover for the issue. Artist Brian Defferding is bringing a story to life for me in the True Ghost Stories issue. And 2013 is going to be a huge year for me as I have stories coming up in the Crime, War, Hey Kids! Superheroes and Sci-Fi issues and a story in the third issue of Tales from the Abyss.

Beyond that there are three books that I am editing in 2013. The Bid is the collected edition of Gary Hogan and Blake Sims’ previous Gathering content and follow-up webcomic about Lightning Triangle, the star of The Further Adventures of a Super Attenuated Adventurer. It will contain brand new previously unpublished pages, so I’m really excited about that. I’m also editing Test Drive, which is a Kickstarter reward similar to what Top Cow does with Pilot Season. Three writers will each have as 14-page story in the issue and readers will select which one moves on to becoming either a one-shot or mini-series.  Lastly there’s the as of yet untitled Night Out issue.  I’m keeping this one under wraps but I’ll say that it’s a cross between The Hangover, the movie version of Clue and the sensibilities of a Quentin Tarrentino screenplay.

You can also expect me to be canvassing comic conventions, deviantArt and Twitter (@marclombardi) looking for new artists and writers to bring into the GrayHaven fold. And I’m doing all of this while still maintaining my position at Shadowline, so call me crazy!