11 February 2005

Interview: O'Reilly on Arcana Studio, Part II

In Part I of this two-part interview, Arcana Studio's Publisher, Sean Patrick O'Reilly talked about Arcana's successful first year, what really happened with Ant and Image, how Ezra became their most popular title, and what it takes to succeed in the comic book business. Today in Part II, we take a peek into Arcana's future, talking more about marketing, the pros and cons of Free Comic Book Day, and get an exclusive announcement about, and sneak peek at, their newest title, The Assassin.

Comic Book Commentary: Looking to the future, you have six new titles listed as coming soon on your web site, plus I neglected to cover Starkweather. Give us a quick overview on these.
Sean Patrick O'Reilly: Definitely...

Starkweather. Alexander Starkweather is a witch plagued by self-doubt and tormented by prophetic dreams. In his dreams, Dany Golden is being crucified, and when she dies, reality as we know it...unravels. Armed with power he can barely control, an inferiority complex, and a belligerent talking iguana, this former line cook is the only person who can save her, and the only witch willing to stand against his own kind. Hounded by unstoppable clay constructs, a secret Order of the church, and the very Coven he once called home, Alex must overcome impossible odds, and his own fears, to preserve the balance of magic and to keep a promise made when he was five years old. This is his destiny. This is his curse...he is Starkweather.

Dead Men Tell No Tales. In the golden age of piracy, Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, and Black Bart Roberts, the three most reviled pirates in history, contend for the most sacred prize the world has ever known - the lost Relics of Christ! Ben Templesmith will be gracing the cover, with Dwight MacPherson, Fernando Acosta, Mike Fiorentino, Tony DeVito, Michael DeVito and Jon Conkling completing the sequentials. Tenatively scheduled for release in July.

Dragon's Lair. Follow Dirk the Daring and Princess Daphne as they return from an astonishing adventure in the Free Realms only to be attacked by the great dragon, Singe, and his evil minions. Arcana has reassembled the MVCreations team that brought to you the first three issues, and we are forging ahead with the never before seen conclusion of issues 4-6. Tentatively scheduled for release in July.

ZOO. The fate of an entire universe rests with a sleeping child named Joli, a comatose nine year old who's fallen backwards into a vast continent of unconsciousness known as ZOO — a feudal land where animals rule and humans are nothing more than the mythical inhabitants of bedtime stories. Joli's unconscious mind has woven together recent memories from her waking life (trips to the local zoo with her mother, and lazy Saturday afternoons watching kung-fu flicks with her father) and created a living, breathing dreamscape; a universe that operates with almost no knowledge of the little girl that sits imprisoned at its center; a place that would cease to exist if Joli ever woke. In the Darwinian land of ZOO, where survival goes to the fittest, heroes are the only force shielding the weak from extinction...and heroes are a rare breed. Jorge Vega, Darrin Stephens and Benny Fuentes will see this trade on shelves in Winter 2006. Special guest artist for the cover will be huge!

Hero House. Where can super-powered college students go to learn the skills they'll need to be the heroes of tomorrow? The super-powered fraternity, Epsilon Epsilon Psi—Hero House. But what if one of their new recruits was an unwitting spy, sent by forces who may not want a group of superheroes, even inexperienced ones, operating on campus? Written by Twisted Toyfare Theater writer Justin Aclin, this series will feature a mystery artist who is one of DC's biggest names! Tentatively scheduled for release in September.

Khan. People from the Americas tend to believe that the ranking of conquerors begins with Alexander the Great, continues through the Caesars and ends with Napoleon. But Genghis Khan was a conqueror of a more gigantic stature than the high profile actors of the European stage. Coping with the harsh reality of life among the nomadic peoples of the steppe, Temujin loses his birthright upon the death of his father. A bloody struggle ensues as Temujin vows to seize his power by his own hand. Literally three years in the making... Khan will stand on shelves in 2005.

Fuzzy Bunnies From Hell. The first time he was unleashed he almost destroyed the world but, due to the betrayal of his conjurer, he was stopped and returned to sender. Now, Hell doesn't want him, so he is back! And Hell hath no furry like a demon rabbit scorned. Ethan Van Scriver, Todd Nauck, Steven Kurth, Bill Maus, Thomas Thurman, Benjamin Hunzeker and Stephen Toth's work will all be found in this trade coming out in June.

Finally, this is an exclusive...our next title released in June will be The Assassin. We've just acquired this wonderful book that was originally published in Spain. We haven't even announced this on our website yet. We have become the official publisher for The Assassin and this book will be guaranteed to please those who have loved Ant and Ezra.

CBC: That's a pretty aggressive slate of titles for your second year. Are you concerned at all about doing too much? Do CrossGen or Dreamwave ever pop in your head when you're making your plans? Or any of the other lower-profile indies who've come and gone over the years?
O'Reilly: We've kept that in the forefront the entire time. In one year we've seen High Water, Dreamwave, MVC and CrossGen stop publishing. I'm well aware of the risks associated with expanding and have been very careful to make sure that we don't over-leverage. Our 2004 titles are all either done, or wrapping up and now it's time for the next wave of Arcana books. I think that people will be very pleased at what we have to offer.

CBC: Which of these are monthlies and which are trades?
O'Reilly: Our goal is to have everything we've done to be released as a trade. We love the format, the price, and really believe it is the key for having more people read our work. As well, ALL Arcana books are going to be monthlies from now on. I really don't envision us releasing a bi-monthly book for quite some time...if ever.

CBC: Why Dragon's Lair? Is there really a sustainable demand for this kind of book?
O'Reilly: It's a wonderful project that never saw the finish line. I'm picking this up on Arcana's back and we're taking it right to the end. Val [Staples] has done a wonderful job and from what I've already seen, he's doubled his efforts and the second half will be even better. I PROMISE you there will be some big surprises in store for Dragon's Lair.

CBC: Tell us more about The Assassin.
O'Reilly: The Assassin is a 52-page book and will retail at $4.95. It is created by Vicente Cifuentes. I know it's really going to blow a lot of people away with the art and story! (This is the first time anyone has seen the cover.)

CBC: Let's go back to marketing again. It's what I do 9-5 in business-to-business publishing, and for me, it's one of the most frustrating things about the comic industry. Let's talk about Free Comic Book Day (FCBD). The focus seems to be more on promoting comic book stores than comic books themselves. Agree or disagree? And is it a good or bad thing?
O'Reilly: I first of all have to thank Joe Field for FCBD as he is one of the founders of this great event. We were part of it last year and I have been told by numerous people, and even found links by chance on the web, that we produced one of the best books for FCBD. We are very proud of this and we believe that FCBD can be an organic entity. That is, it can help retailers, companies, characters and fans all in one day. I'm really hoping to see this continue and for it to continue to grow.

CBC: Do you think FCBD will ever expand beyond the direct market? Should it?
O'Reilly: I think FCBD has already expanded beyond the direct market. The biggest allies with regards to getting it more in the public eye has been the committee's decision to pair it up with major movie releases. As well, publishers (such as Arcana) are also working with high-profile companies. On May 7th [this year's FCBD], we'll be at the Virgin Megastore and Bif Naked will be providing a free concert and Jones Soda will also be sponsoring us. It's a great day and we'll bring quite bit of attention to ourselves, as well as to the industry.

CBC: What is one of the worst marketing practices you've seen in the comics industry?
O'Reilly: I'm not a big fan when people either say they are "the best," or going to be "the best." Basically, the [CrossGen publisher, Mark] 'Alessi statement' that still resonates in people's heads.

CBC: What's your stance on variant covers? Are they a necessary evil for independent publishers?
O'Reilly: I think they can be a fun incentive if you take them at face value. If you start looking into them too deep I really think it can be a slippery slope.

CBC: What's Arcana's plan to expand its readership, both in and beyond the direct market?
O'Reilly: We have a major decision coming up with regards to who is going to be our book distributor. When we lock that into place...I really feel it's going to change.

CBC: To wrap this up, what would you consider to be Arcana's most significant contribution to the industry so far? And, in that context, what are your goals for the coming year?
O'Reilly: Our best contribution, I hope, has been our attitude. We're coming in here fresh and very optimistic. We are young, energetic, hard-working and we really want to help get our books into people's hands any way we can. Our goals for 2005 are to continue to work with retailers, our online community and, most importantly, to develop our craft of making comic books that exceed expectations.

CBC: Sean, thanks for your time and best of luck to Arcana in 2005!
O'Reilly: Si vales, gaudeo!

[Check out Arcana Studio online at www.arcanastudio.com]

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