What kind of work went into organizing Occupy Comics and what were the challenges of this?
I think the most critical work done on Occupy Comics was devising the blueprint of how the whole thing would function. That was the key. The initial idea was just to do a comics-zine to spread the word about Occupy Wall Street at New York Comic Con, because at that point Occupy Wall Street wasn’t getting any exposure… but, well before NYCC, Occupy Wall Street exploded into a media firestorm, so exposure wasn’t really an issue anymore. So the team I’d brought together for the outreach at NYCC all brainstormed on how we could support the movement, and the consensus was for a creative time capsule of the movement and its themes as well as a fundraising effort to support the occupiers. Figuring out how to do that within the rules of Kickstarter (which doesn’t allow charitable fundraising) and in a transparent way that everyone could feel comfortable committing to was the key challenge. So once I wrote out that blueprint and posted it on the site, the rest of the process was just outreach, promotions, and the normal work of organizing an anthology.
The Kickstarter campaign was highly successful for Occupy Comics. What have been some of the short terms successes Occupy Comics has had on the political discourse?
I think the core success was demonstrating that artists could support a political movement in a structural sense, not just in terms of solidarity. There were a lot of Occupy-themed coalition groups where artists, writers, musicians, etc. added their names to a list announcing solidarity with the Occupiers. That’s cool and it’s important, but it’s not helping sustain the protesters in any serious way. Meanwhile wealthy political interests prey on underfunded grassroots movements, like when the Koch Brothers took control of the previously grassroots Tea Party movement by pumping money into it and forging it into a radical bloc within the Republican Party. So the premise we were operating under was that if there were a sustainable way for indie artists to generate funds to support the protesters, it might be the basis for a model where a movement could financially support itself through art and not fall prey to establishment money.
I also think the interplay between Frank Miller and Occupy Comics brought comics into the political discourse in a way that’s pretty unique. I’ve heard Miller was instigated by Occupy Comics into writing his fateful blog post, but I think it was just timing… either way it escalated things both within the comics scene and in the broader entertainment world, especially once Alan Moore jumped in. It was really fascinating to see the whole thing jump the rails into places like Entertainment Weekly, Deadline Hollywood, Huffington Post, and Breitbart. When I started the outreach for Occupy Comics, a lot of creators told me they supported the movement but were scared to come out publicly in favor of it… but once Miller made his statement they felt compelled to join the project just so Miller’s point of view wouldn’t define comics’ overall position. So it was really interesting to see some creators who were initially scared ultimately step up and take a position. That was really impressive to me.
What are your hopes for how Occupy Comics influences political discourse as we head into the election season?
We are planning some Occupy Comics related events to keep the conversation going through the election cycle, because at the end of the day we have a Wall Street Bailout President running against a Wall Street Nominee. There are differences between the two for sure, but not necessarily through the lens of Occupy. What’s fascinating is that Occupy always said it was non-partisan and if you look at this upcoming election you’ll see that the issues raised by Occupy truly are non-partisan.
Do you see Occupy Comics as an ongoing project that will continue to weigh in on the current socio-political issues affecting American society?
I think it will continue but maybe not in the same form. For example, Alan Moore’s contribution was supposed to be a 5-10 page essay but it ran 40+ pages when it was done, which is way too long for the Occupy book. So we’re going to pull relevant sections from the essay for Occupy Comics vol. 1 and then also release his unabridged long-form essay as a standalone book. So already Occupy Comics, which was intended as a one-off project, is taking on a life of its own. It would be interesting if Occupy Comics developed into an ongoing anthology series along the lines of World War 3, that would be cool but we’d have to see what the appetite for something like that is from the audience as well as the creators.
How are you handling future recruitment of creators to contribute to Occupy Comics if you will continue to publish more volumes?
We’re not actively recruiting right now as we’re still deep in the first volume, but we’re regularly receiving pitches and inquiries. I think the book can continue on if there is demand from creators for this forum to express their views, but if it becomes too reliant on recruitment then I think that would change the personality of the whole thing. I only really needed to recruit in the early stages of the project, once it had established itself most of the creators came to us.
Aside from Occupy Comics, what are some of the projects your are working on to continue your creative efforts in the near future?
Right now we’re working on Godkiller 2: Tomorrow’s Ashes which has been coming out for a few months now as a comic and we’re working on the illustrated-film, and we’re also expanding the Godkiller universe with a prequel called Godkiller: The Long Knives that tells the origin of some of the characters in pre-apocalyptic times. I’m also working on the Hack/Slash illustrated film, and a short film for the video game company Red 5 that will have a few surprise guest appearances from some familiar characters. I have several other projects in development right now, but I’m not sure what’ll get the green light first. And I’m putting together the slate for the new company Black Mask Studios.
What can you say about Black Mask Studios and your involvement with it at this point?
Black Mask Studios is a new comics company I’m launching with Steve Niles and Brett Gurewitz. The goal is to create a pipeline that supports and sustains creatively innovative comics and helps them expand to new audiences. Steve and I have both had the experience of creating comics that reached beyond the direct market and in many ways outperformed direct market hits, so we know the audience is out there. We love the direct market and we absolutely want to support local comic shops, but the direct market just isn’t large enough and diverse enough to be the only audience. So we’re hoping we can build bridges into other audiences and create new opportunities for creators.