10 Questions: The Gathering Edition – Andrew Goletz

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 next is Andrew Goletz, Publisher, Editor in Chief and President of GrayHaven Comics.

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

Andrew Goletz: I did a short story for a comic book anthology about 15 years ago which was my first comic book work. Around 2000 I was doing freelance for Marvel Comics working on their Official Handbooks to the Marvel Universe doing bios for various characters and then I also did some freelance for Eaglemoss’ DC Super Hero Magazine, again doing character bios for the magazines that came with the various figurines.

GP: Were you a fan of comic books before?

AG: Ever since I knew how to read. Actually quite likely before that. I remember picking up various Iron Man, Batman and Superman comics at convenience stores and around the time Roger Stern began his Amazing Spider-Man run is when I started actually following a title and making sure to seek out new issues as opposed to just picking random titles off the racks while shopping with my parents.

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

AG: Absolutely. I’ve never stopped or even thought about stopping. I think the comic book medium offers a type of storytelling experience you can’t get anywhere else and the diversity of titles and characters continues to grow even stronger. The Big Two may dominate the charts (except for the most impressive showing for The Walking Dead #100) but there’s so much variety out there from companies like Image and IDW and Dark Horse and Oni all the way down to small press and self-publishers. It’s a fantastic time to be a comic book fan.

As for the titles I get now, I still read a lot from the Big Two. Batman and Daredevil are two of the best examples of how very good super hero comics can still be but I’m also a fan of Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, I Vampire, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Earth Two,  and many others from Marvel and DC. Image has been so good the last few years that I’ll pick up every one of their new issues and give it a shot. The Activity , Blue Estate, Creator Owned Heroes, Dancer, Debris, Fatale, Grim Leaper, Lil Depressed Boy, Luthor Strode, Planetoid, Revival and Walking Dead are some of my recent favorites from them. I also really love Smoke and Mirrors from IDW, Rachel Rising from Terry Moore’s Abstract Press and The Shadow from Dynamite.  I’m also a very big fan of Clown Town from a small press studio, Inverse Press.  The creators, Kevin LaPorte and Amanda Rachels have done some incredible work with that book and I’m happy to have gotten a chance to feature some of it in our books as well.

GP: How did you get involved with The Gathering?

AG: I started it with the help of a lot of friends from Brian Bendis’ Jinxworld forums. After observing some false starts with various other anthologies and feeling the itch to create more comics I decided that if I took total control and tried to run the whole thing at least if it failed I could only blame myself. No what ifs? Thankfully there was a wealth of talent on those boards including Mike Lapinski and Brent Peeples who went off to illustrate Feeding Ground and Last of the Greats respectively and about two dozen of us told short two page stories with the theme of ‘Hope

By the time we were getting the first issue to print I already knew I wanted to do a second issue since so many people had asked about participating and I couldn’t fit them all in. We made the theme of the second issue ‘Despair’ and Gail Simone, who was a big fan of what we were doing  with the anthology gracious agreed to do a short in that issue.

Since that second issue we’ve been fortunate to have several pros contribute to the book including Sterling Gates, Glenn Greenberg, John Jackson Miller and soon Victor Gischler among others. And believe me, it’s incredibly cool for me to be able to work with pros whose work I’ve admired for a long time and give new creators and opportunity to have their work featured alongside them. The main draw of The Gathering though is opportunity. Opportunity for writers and artists to have their work published, often for the very first time, and be seen by a bigger audience. We’ve had close to 200 creators featured in our comics with many, many more on the way.

For some it’s just about scratching that itch and getting the story out. For others they see it as a springboard to bigger companies. At any rate I’m proud to be able to help them all as best as I can along the way.

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

AG: Initially we were thinking of doing what many anthologies do and tell one sequential story written and drawn in segments by many different people but even I thought that might be too ambitious to attempt for the first comic so I settled on just giving everyone a theme instead. For the first issue, Hope seemed like the obvious choice and then I wanted to go the opposite direction the second time out. Coming up with themes and trying to figure out which ones readers will respond to and creators will have fun with may be one of the most enjoyable parts of the job.

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

AG: Go out there and create. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Just go and do it. Whether you do a digital comic or self publish your own book or come up with six page pitches to show to editors go and get it done. If you can only write or only draw there are plenty of sites like Pencil Jack and Digital Webbing and Deviant Art or just about any comic book message board where you can find people to collaborate with. And when in doubt, pitch it to us.

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

AG: I don’t know half as much as I thought I did.  Even just talking about themes I would predict that certain issues would sell better or worse than others and would usually get proven wrong haha. I’ve also had to learn that not everyone is going to be as excited about our comics as I am. To be honest initially I figured, hey we have a great product, some pros helping us out and this awesome little niche here where we’re actually helping creators realize their dreams of publishing. Who wants to interview me about all this awesomeness first? Unfortunately it’s hard to try and get comic book news site to sacrifice some of their space for a black and white indie anthology when they compete for hits with the latest events Marvel or DC is doing. I understand the reasons for it but it’s hard when you email a news site asking if they’d be interested in reviewing the books or talking to a creator and hearing no responses back. That’s why I am forever grateful to the reviewers who did take the time to read our comics and sites who spend time making people aware that we are out there. It is such a crucial help to the small press to get that type of publicity.

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

AG: I think it is just by the simple fact that almost anyone can self publish their own work nowadays thanks to printers dedicated to helping small press and if that’s even too costly you can always do digital comics. It’s never been a better time for creators.

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

AG: Kickstarter was named, what, the 2nd biggest indie publishing company or something like that recently. They’ve been extremely helpful to creators. We’ve successfully funded four Kickstart projects over the past few years with a new one to come the 2nd week of August (along with our last Open Submission period of the year). It’s allowed creators to realize their dreams and gain funding for projects that may have otherwise taken them years to save for or not at all if one was afraid of the risk that comes with any publishing venture. I think the biggest thing crowdfunding has done those is allow creators to forgo a distribution model for comics that doesn’t really help people outside of the Big Two. Instead of hoping that someone will carry and distribute your comic, taking 65% off the top to do so and then trying to make minimum orders  just to maintain that deal using a crowdfunder allows creators to get their orders right off the top, paid for in advance. That’s huge for creators just trying to carve out a little chunk of the pie for themselves who usually just get the door shut in their face.

GP: What can we expect from you next?

AG: For three years we’ve self published anthologies and by the end of the year we’ll have put out 16 issues of The Gathering. Due to the success of our Horror themed issues December will see the launch of Tales from the Abyss, an ongoing Horror anthology and next year we’ll launch Hey Kids, an ongoing anthology aimed at young readers. We’ve already started production on collections of a few of our popular webcomics like Kid Robo (by Marc Deschamps and Chris Chamberlain) and The Bid (by Gary Hogan and Blake Sims) as well as the one shots My Geek Family (by Doug Hahner and Donal DeLay) and Sparks (by Glenn Matchett and Cassandra James) but the goal was to expand from that in a big way.

That brings us to Phase Two. Phase Two is taking all the lessons we learned in publishing an anthology for so long and taking some of the people who’ve worked with us a lot and giving them bigger projects to work on. Self contained projects. Mother and Son by Erica Heflin and Elias Martins, a 5 issue mini series just launched. Over the next few weeks we’ll be announcing a number of other mini series and one shots including a comic book adaptation of a novel and a series of mini series by one of the top creators in the business who recently just ended a long run on a team franchise title for the Big Two.

And here’s a little exclusive. Over the years it’s become a bit of an inside joke that I have never written a story in The Gathering. My wife has. My kids have. But I always bump my stories to give someone else a chance. My first published story in over ten years is available in The Archives, a historical anthology that just went on sale. So in thinking of Phase Two and big projects I figured this was the time for me to once again put myself out there on the front line of this experiment much like running with The Gathering so one of our projects is 11:59 an ongoing written by me and illustrated by Nick Francis. It’s a post apocalyptic monster series that I like to say is a cross between Lord of the Flies and The Walking Dead that launches in January.

Beyond that, The Gathering is still going to be front and center allowing for new creators to have opportunities to get their work printed and hopefully work alongside some fantastic pro creators as well who’ve already committed to stories in next years’ books.

Our comics can be ordered direct through us at http://www.grayhavencomics.com/comics/

For more information on GrayHaven and The Gathering check out the website www.grayhavencomics.com or follow us on Twitter @gatheringcomic

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