During today's Monkeybrain Comics press call, comic book writer and Monkeybrain Co-Publisher Chris Roberson spoke to CBR News and reporters about his plans to expand his publishing company, Monkeybrain Books, into publishing digital creator-owned comics exclusively through comiXology.
The call kicked off with Roberson explaining that Monkeybrain Comics is an imprint of his existing Monkeybrain Books publishing company, toting a brand new line of creator-owned comics, the initial launch titles of which will appear on comiXology on July 4. Roberson, who left DC Comics over the issue of creators’ rights, said that he had spent the past two years trying to figure out how to publish directly to the digital market before coming to a deal with comiXology.
“We began approaching other creators we knew and invited them to bring projects to us,” Roberson said, adding that they will be announcing more projects and creative teams at their panel at San Diego's Comic-Con International.
Opening the call to questions from members of the press, Roberson said that while they are focused on digital comics now, that does not mean they will never do physical print publishing.
“Monkeybrain is only taking digital rights, so nothing precludes creators from doing print books,” Roberson said, adding that they already began talking to other publishers about doing trade paperbacks and collections.
Roberson explained that he felt the creator/publisher contracts offered by Monkeybrain were contracts that he would be comfortable to enter as a comic book writer.
“We take a very small percentage of the money that comes in,” explained Roberson, adding that the creators still hold the copyright to their work.
While the publisher are not open to outside submissions at the moment, Roberson said that it might do so in the far future before touching on his decision to leave DC Comics over creators' rights, telling reporters the decision did not lead into the expansion of Monkeybrain.
“They are actually completely unrelated,” said Roberson, explaining he finalized the comiXology deal back in December before he decided to leave DC.
Talking about the imprint's comics line in general, Roberson stated that there was no one genre, tone or house style to the books coming out from Monkeybrain.
“The only thing we ask creators to do is do the book they want to do!” Roberson said, adding, “There’s some urban fantasy, there’s some all-ages and young reader...and that’s what we want to offer the readers in terms of more diversity."
Roberson then elaborated that they are talking to Image Comics and other physical comic book publishers about doing collections.
“What I’m hearing from a lot of people is that the 10% [profit from digital sales] is in addition to the physical publishing,” Roberson said as a reason why a more traditional publisher would partner with Monkeybrain. The writer/publisher then touched on the format of the various books, saying they were looking for diversity.
“We’re largely leaving that in the hands of the creators, [when it comes to format],” Roberson said before explaining that Monkeybrain, not the creators, would foot the cost of the digital publishing, which lead him to learn more about the pricing of digital comics.
“I didn’t know...iTunes only sells things for ninety-nine cents,” Roberson said, explaining that they are using published comic length (22 pages or so) as the yardstick for digital comics length.
“We are looking at things that are longer,” Roberson added, saying that with some of the projects and his comic “Edison Rex” they will be adding additional material, such as possibly scripts and sketches, on comiXology.
Speaking about their marketing plans for pushing independent books in a crowded marketplace, Roberson said they want to go outside of just advertising to the direct market.
“There’s a potential with comiXology to reach readers beyond those who go to comic shops,” said Roberson. Co-Publisher Allison Baker jumped in to add comiXology gave readers more time to find the comics as their books won’t be taken off shelves after a couple of weeks.
“With digital they don’t go out of print,” Roberson agreed.
Looking at Monkeybrain Books, Roberson’s non comic book publishing arm, Roberson said that he felt the closure of chain bookstores and the costs of print publication helped push them out of more traditional publishing and into the arms of digital comics.
“The advantage of digital, because you’re not having to cover the printing costs, you’ve having to cover the creator costs...it suddenly becomes viable again,” Roberson said, adding, “We’re optimistic, we’ll see how things go.”
Releasing all their digital comics exclusively through comiXology, Baker and Roberson expressed their pleasure at partnering with the online comics distributor.
“We felt comiXology was definitely going to be the market leader when it comes to comics...we have complete faith in them,” said Baker.
Talking about Roberson’s new creator-owned comic which will be releasing this Wednesday in time for Independence Day -- or “Independent’s Day” as Roberson termed it -- the writer said that his new series is about an arch-villain who actually succeeds in getting rid of the hero in his world.
“The bumper sticker for 'Edison Rex' is a mad scientist, criminal genius...is trying to defeat the world’s greatest hero and succeeds...and then has to figure out what to do with his life,” said Roberson, adding, “And then hilarity ensues!”
“And it’s available July 4!” Baker added, explaining that at the outset they will release many of their comics on Wednesday.
“Our philosophy at this point is to release on Wednesday as much as possible because that’s when comiXology gets a big spike,” said Roberson. “Because it was Wednesday and because it was Fourth of July, we decided to go with that.”
The conference then ended with Roberson talking about Bill Willingham’s involvement in Monkeybrain, writing a new comic for digital release.
“Bill will not say what he’s working on because he’s a perfectionist, but we know what he’s working on and it’s very, very cool,” said Roberson.
The writer also added that when it came to another possible collaboration with artist Mike Allred, who co-created Vertigo’s “iZombie” series with him, “We’ve discussed it in general terms...it’s always possible,” Roberson said, though there were no plans to do a series at this time.
As for what projects the publisher might do next after the initial July 4 release, “Look for us at Comic-Con!” Baker concluded with a laugh.