How do you break into the comic industry if you're not a writer or artist? It's a question many fans have wondered. We all know it happens, but how? While there is no single answer to this, CBR News contacted Jim Demonakos, Image Comic's newest Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, for his story.
Like all good tales, Demonakos started with the beginning; well, almost the beginning: "We'll skip over my childhood - pretty uneventful overall. Looking back, I did have a life-changing experience when I was seven years old and received my first comic book, a reprint of 'Fantastic Four' #1. I've been hooked ever since," Demonakos told CBR News.
Jumping to his college years, Demonakos attended the University of Washington, pursuing a fine arts degree while working for the UW in their on-campus computer department. "During this time, he taught myself HTML and web design and started to create fan-sites. These included a site about Terry Pratchett (one of his favorite authors), a couple of X-Men fan-sites, and a Savage Dragon fan-site."
Demonakos elaborated, "The Savage Dragon site was great fun and I even created the largest Savage Dragon fan-club online. The group (eventually named Fin Addicts Online or 'FAO') was a blast. I met a lot of cool people in that club who I still talk to today. It was cool having a group of people just as enthusiastic about comics as I was. At its peak, we had over a thousand members and way too many messages to keep up on per day, but it was fantastic!
"That's actually how I first met Erik Larsen. He contacted me through the website to let me know that he thought the site was cool and to give me some news about upcoming Dragon projects. I was pretty thrilled. Back then, you didn't have the access to creators you do now, so just hearing from a creator was an event. Eventually, Erik had me design and maintain his own site, savagedragon.com."
When Demonakos realized where his interests truly lay, he transferred from the UW to the Art Institute of Seattle. He said he learned a lot about art and animation and made some great friends there, including Iron Man artist Adi Granov. After graduation, he got work in the video game industry, but continued doing freelance web design. However, he ended up getting so much freelance work, Demonakos soon quit the video game job and did web design full-time. His passion for comics never wavered though. This would lead to another change in his resume down the line.
"The whole time I was a regular comic reader, constantly buying books from the same store - even after it caught fire once and moved twice," he explained. "I was pretty loyal even though there were other stores much closer. I really liked the people who worked there. I did enjoy going to the other stores and browsing, checking out things that my shop didn't carry.
"After awhile, I noticed that I had to go to a few different stores to really get everything I wanted. One didn't carry any graphic novels, some had no back issues, others had a really limited selection - either all indy or all mainstream - some were pretty dirty or super-underlit. I hardly even wanted to go in them, but I did because they had what I needed.
"A four-color crack addict will go anywhere to score.
"I thought to myself, why can't all the stuff I want be in one store? It didn't seem like I was asking too much, and why can't the store be well-lit and still be cool and clean at the same time?
"I started talking to my brother and the guy at my local shop about the idea for a new store. After some planning, I quit my freelance job in web-design and helped open The Comic Stop.
"There was no high-concept about the shop. It was just the kind of shop that we wanted to shop at, carrying a large selection of comics (both indy and mainstream), tons of graphic novels, posters, back-issues, shirts, statues, toys - all the stuff that makes a shop great!"
Demonakos' instincts were on the money. He said the store caught on, developed a great customer base, and celebrated its Five-Year Anniversary this past March. He then opened a second store that will be celebrating its Two-Year Anniversary this June.
In addition to his retail work, Demonakos helped organize a brand new comic book convention in Seattle a few years ago called the Emerald City ComiCon. It quickly grew to become the largest comic book convention in the Pacific Northwest, with its most recent attendance reaching over 6,300 people. The show will be back again for its fourth year on April 1 & 2, 2006.
All of these experiences were laying the foundation for his job at Image, but the ball really didn't start rolling until a year ago at the inaugural Wizard World Los Angeles show. Demonakos had dinner with several Image employees and Eric Stephenson (Image's Executive Director) invited him to come out and see the Image office in Orange, CA.
"So the Monday following the show, [Eric] picked me up at the hotel and we drove out to Image," Demonakos said. "During that drive, we talked about a lot of ideas for the company, many of them marketing-related. Eric and I were of the same mindset when it came to how comics could be marketed. After a tour of the office and Eric getting some work done, we headed to lunch and then he took me to the airport. During the drive, we continued our discussions and eventually I told him that I would be up to the job if it ever opened up.
"We would talk occasionally throughout the year, either at conventions or through email. Fast forward to this past February - I had just finished with the 3rd Annual Emerald City ComiCon and had planned to take a small vacation down to San Francisco - sort of a work/play trip since I planned it for WonderCon weekend.
"At the show, I saw Eric Stephenson and Erik Larsen at the Image booth. They invited me to check out their new digs (they moved to Berkeley from Orange late last year). Since I was on vacation, I had extra days after the show and went out to Berkeley on Tuesday.
"I went to the office around noon, so Stephenson, Larsen and I went out to restaurant called Jupiter (an office favorite). Over pizza and beers, we talked about a range of topics, but mostly comics, of course. Marketing for Image came up as the dominant subject; different ways of getting the word out about new books, promotions - the whole nine yards. Again, we all seemed to be on the same wavelength when it came to ideas.
"Fate works in mysterious ways, and it was around this time that B. Clay Moore had expressed interest in taking more time off to focus on his writing. So, the idea was brought up about me coming to work for Image.
"To make this long story short, over the next couple of months we had quite a few discussions regarding the position and they eventually offered me the job.
"And, as should be obvious by now, I accepted."
With his experience in web design, retailing, and running conventions, Demonakos is a triple-threat for Image. When asked what excites him about his new employer, he responded, "Image Comics is a very unique company, and without coming off as a shill, I'm more excited about the books Image has coming out now than I am about any other books I see in Previews. The sheer variety of books, plus getting to interact with the creators who are so genuinely enthusiastic about their books - it's great excitement to feed off of!"
In talking with Demonakos, his enthusiasm for the comic medium is easily apparent. He's a lifelong fan whose passion helped get him where he is today. If more fans like Jim Demonakos break into the comic biz, the industry can only get better.