Do you know who one of the best new publishers, and pound for pound one of the best around period, are? If you guessed 21 Pulp, you’d be absolutely right. While I admit that with only two comics published as of the end of January (although I was able to read the first issue of Imposter – it’s great), that may seem like an overly inflated hyperbolic statement, but you tell me if you think I’m wrong after you’ve read the two issues of Hero Hourly that are out right now.
Alex had the opportunity to talk with the man behind 21 Pulp, and the writer of the publisher’s first two comics, James Patrick, about where things stood, and how things have progressed since we last checked in back in September.
Graphic Policy: It’s been a few months since we last spoke; how have things over at 21 Pulp been?
James Patrick: Really good. I guess that’s how to best sum it up. There are good things, and there are things we’re trying to improve as a company.
The good has been reaction to our books. The people who’ve read them genuinely seem to be enjoying them or are ecstatic about them. Hero Hourly‘s reaction, the pre-release reaction to Imposter by the few who’ve read it, and people who are anticipating our other books like Planet of the Dinosaurs.
If I were to say there’s been a disappointment it’s that the quantity of reaction. And that may just be us being impatient. We only have a few books out, we’re slowly getting traction, and that comes with time. Especially when you’re not coming out of the gate with names like Warren Ellis or Jim Lee. When you’re building on the hooks of your products and what we feel is the quality. It’s a mountain to climb. It’s also why we’re not releasing a whole bunch of books at once. We want everyone to read our books whether they’ll love or hate them, though – to give them a shot.
A good example of this has been reviews, which have been stellar, but which there haven’t been a ton of. There’s just so much product out there competing, new companies popping up all the time, and everyone wants to run reviews of books that will get them hits, recognized books, and they honestly don’t trust us yet.
But I’ll also say that when those books get into people’s hands, we see results. In other areas other than just readers.
Like how we’ve seen success with distribution avenues outside of Diamond, how retailers have responded, how our numbers keep growing – it’s all been very fascinating. Every single one of our books has been in one or multiple subscription boxes. We feel like that’s because of their quality and their shelf/box appeal.
So yeah, good things in certain places, improvement needed in others.
GP: How different was funding and publishing the first issue of Hero Hourly through Kickstarter compared with the first issue of Imposter?
JP: Very, since Hero Hourly was successful and Imposter wasn’t. Heh.
Firstly, funding isn’t necessarily the goal of our Kickstarters, and I’m only saying this so I can give the most accurate answer as possible. We see Kickstarters as a way to do some market research, general marketing, a unique way to provide extras for fans with the books, and, yes, partly revenue. And the reason I’m saying this is because if you look at Imposter it wasn’t funded, but it’s still being published. So we don’t rely on the Kickstarters, but they offer a piece to the puzzle, so to speak – and if we can learn to do it effectively, then it’s a great bonus to what we’re doing.
But the two were vastly different from start to finish. Imposter actually went on Kickstarter before Hero Hourly, and we learned from that that we weren’t marketing it properly. We also learned a way not to approach a Kickstarter. Our approach with Imposter turned out to be confusing, not marketing savvy, and was insight maybe to which books work on Kickstarter and which don’t – at least for us.
Now, either we took what we learned from Imposter, or Hero Hourly was just a better candidate for Kickstarter, or a combination of those two things, and we went out and did very well with a Hero Hourly Kickstarter. We had a great hook and we explained it simply and in a way people could relate. The difference was success. None of the means Hero Hourly is a better book, just that different books may have different audiences and different ways to be presented.
GP: With two issues of Hero Hourly published, the third on the way, how has the reaction been for the comic?
JP: Stellar, with the disclaimer of what I said above. We hear a lot of “this is what the industry is missing” and “this is the funniest book out.” People are relating to it, too. Connecting with Saul’s trouble, the situations he finds at work, which are basically any job.
The few criticisms are it’s too raunchy, but we understood when you put a book that foul-mouthed out there that’s one of the risks.
New reviews pop up frequently and people are just glad to have discovered it. We really do want to build enough word-of-mouth and momentum to do a sequel, but time will tell.
GP: So what you’re saying is that even though 21 Pulp isn’t focusing on a long running series yet, that doesn’t mean we won’t revisit the world of Hero Hourly for some new stories down the road?
JP: Correct. I’m ready to go if we feel Hero Hourly justifies a sequel. Saul‘s story is done, though – for now. It would be a different character or character with a new story in that world, at that employer.
Imposter has the option to go long-form as well. It all works as both. But Imposter is made so that the long-form continues a more natural arc, if need be.
GP: Yeah, the buzz for Hero Hourly that I’ve seen both online and heard in my local comic shop has been phenomenal. I understand that both issues have sold out at Diamond; are there any plans to do a second printing, or collect the series in a trade paperback down the road?
JP: The trade follows the singles, yes. It’s already been solicited and will come out after Issue 3 sometime, about a month later.
We don’t feel the need to go to second printings yet – partially because there’s a trade coming.
GP: You have Imposter debuting in a couple of weeks [February 10th]; I was fortunate enough to read an advance copy, and I really enjoyed it. What can you tell us about the comic without verging onto spoiler territory?
JP: Wow. That’s hard. There’s so much I can say about Imposter. The easiest way to describe it is that there a bunch of different archetype characters – a crime vigilante like Batman or the Spirit, a sc-fi character like Buck Rogers, a Dr. Strange-like character, and a jungle adventurer – and they’re all connected by a secret.
I guess I’ll just say that what makes it unique is that it crosses into so many genres. Each issue can be a different genre and story that supports the overall story, or it can seamlessly cut between the genres. That and that it’s a dense story told on a huge canvas – all while being about one thing. How lies can erode a person and the people around them. The consequences of having to tell lies to make the world a safer place.
If you want a crime, sci-fi, sorcery, and jungle adventure all in one, I guess it’s the perfect book for people. Ha.
GP: Jetpack Jump is the next book your releasing, and from the sneak peak we saw in the back of Imposter, it looks like it’s an entirely different setting for the story than the two series released already. I know you said the last time we spoke that you goal was to release excellent comics (and that’s certainly been the case so far), are you also aiming to publish stories in multiple genres as well, or is that a happy coincidence?
JP: We have a brand that we’re inching towards perfecting, but I’m not going to completely reveal what that is yet. All I’ll say for now is that that brand isn’t necessarily a genre or a style. And if you look at Jetpack Jump, it’s a lot of fun and different in tone from Imposter or Hero Hourly. It’s like a suped up Saturday morning cartoon. It’s all out action and high-octane. Right now we’re making the best books we can and chiseling into what we want to be.
Sorry to be so cryptic :) but we really are just about making the best books and building who we are with the parts that add up to it, rather than saying, we are this or that. At least not yet.
GP: There’s actually a lot I want to ask you about Imposter, but I’ll hold off on that so folks can get a chance to read an issue or two… so moving before I slip up and do that; with Imposter #1 hitting the racks on February 10th, and Hero Hourly #3 later that month, when can we expect the debut issues of Jetpack Jump and Planet of the Dinosaurs to hit the physical and digital racks?
JP: Jetpack Jump Issue 1 will be available online when Imposter #1 hits shelves. So by Feb 10th. It’s four issues, It’s a bit of an experiment as the previews in the back of Imposter and Hero Hourly #3 throw back to it. Planet of the Dinosaurs is penciled in to follow Imposter.
We had a far more aggressive approach to publishing, but we’re learning to let people get to know us first rather than releasing books too soon and before we have the potential exposure of our brand.
It’s always an evolving thing as we learn more each day.
GP: The last time we spoke, when given the choice of pirates, ninjas, cowboys and aliens, you went for Frank Miller ninjas. What if vikings replaced ninjas?
JP: Cowboys. Aren’t enough freakin’ cowboys in comics.
GP: I really appreciate your time James, thank you!
Imposter #1 is due to hit shelves February 10th. Do you have your copy reserved?