You're heard the rumors and read the news: the former Fangoria Comics has risen from the grave. Many of the original personnel, who had gone on to found The Scream Factory, are back and working with Fangoria's new ownership under the banner of Fangoria Graphix. How did this happen?
For answers, we went to the Executive Editor Scott Licina. Licina first joined forces with Fangoria in 2006 after pioneering comic soundtracks (he composed the Purgatori and Earth X discs) and creating the critically acclaimed cult-hit comic G.R.A.V.E. Grrrls. Licina talks about ups and downs, producing the Bump film, and puts some old speculation to its eternal rest.
Newsarama: Scott, last time we heard anything about the comics that were formerly known as Fangoria comics, they had pulled out of Fangoria, and were set up at The Scream Factory. Now, they're back at Fangoria. What happened?
Scott Licina: The comics formerly known as Fangoria Comics- damn it, I knew I should have named the new division a symbol!
Anyway, it’s a long, bizarre, convoluted story- you know, just a typical day in the entertainment industry. ;) Basically the old owners of Fangoria Entertainment had corporate issues, and we got caught in the middle. So even though we were moving units and making money, it didn’t matter because certain factions at the top were having internal disagreements, and had different ideas about how things should work and how budgets should be spent. This caused the whole to implode, and we were cut off after only two months and four days of actual publishing. There’s been much speculation about what we sold and how we “failed”, but in reality we did really well and actually made money; unfortunately we were dealing with certain people who just couldn’t grasp the “red-headed stepchild” nature of the comic industry in the vast cosmos of the entertainment universe economic hierarchy, despite numerous attempts at educating them.
I’ve always been completely candid about our numbers with the media and the public, talking ad nauseam about how the direct market sucked huge for us but that we did extremely well in the mass market, and that’s really the end of it. It was a corporate decision made by certain people who didn’t care about comics or understand the industry and had to cover themselves in other areas, so we became “acceptable casualties”.
Instead of crying in our beers, we took the initiative to keep the ball rolling and created The Scream Factory, and began moving in the direction I personally feel is the future (read: present), digital publishing. Just as we had our new model in place and things were starting to swing, I received a phone call from the new owner of Fangoria, Tom DeFeo, who had recently acquired the brand. He told me about the new vision he had for the company and asked if I’d be interested in coming back to revive the comic line and spearhead the new media development initiative, among other things. I liked his concepts, get along with him exceptionally well and have been given a degree of control and participation that ensures the line a chance for success. Tom is a man who is a fellow creative, not just a “suit”, and we share the same drive and passion for the Fango brand and its potential for growth in the 21st century. Believe me, it took an extraordinary opportunity and confidence in what we could accomplish for me to bring the line and the crew back after what happened, especially knowing the uphill climb I would most likely face with the media and the public’s perception of what went down the last time.
NRAMA: With Fangoria Graphix up and running, and as stable as anything else in this industry, what happens to The Scream Factory?
SL: The Scream Factory is still there, running smoothly underneath the surface of Fango Graphix. Our group’s objectives are the same; we’re just creating under a more widely known banner. Internally, we liken it to the studios that run under Image.
NRAMA: Given the volatility you've already seen, what's the guarantee for the fans that this time, things will work out? There's not a great fan perception going on here with Fangoria as well as Scream Factory...
SL: First, to sidestep into a personal pet peeve of mine, we’re not here to garner “fans”. I personally detest that term being used about our readership, or any supporters of any industry. We’re their fans, and without them we’d be nowhere fast. I truly appreciate the time and effort they put into checking out our works, especially given the state of the economy nowadays. As to a guarantee for the readers, we’re here to rock, pure and simple. Just like the last time, we’re going to make the best damn books we can and enjoy the hell out of creating them, and hope that the readers out there enjoy ‘em just as much. As mentioned earlier, the volatility we experienced working with Fangoria the last time came from corporate issues that we don’t have to face this time around, and even though the economic climate is completely in the shitter, we’re using our out-of-the-box way of thinking to circumvent many of the hurdles facing the publishing industry today… and tomorrow.
NRAMA: That said, where do you think the market is headed? At any other time, if you said you wanted to start a new comics imprint, people would have told you to have your head examined. Now, in light of the economy, what in the WORLD are you thinking, launching now?
SL: As I’ve stated in numerous articles and conversations, print media is headed the way of the dinosaur. The comic industry in particular always makes me think of what it must have been like in the tar pits, as the Anklyosaurus, knee deep in black, sticky, inevitable death, says to the Stegosaurus, “Hey, are you sinking? It feels like I’m sinking?” and the Steg replies, “Nah, everything’s cool, bro. We’re dinosaurs, man! We ain’t going nowhere!”
It isn’t going to happen today, or next year, or even five years from now, but the concept of traditional paper printing is going to disappear, just like our fossil fuel friends. And that’s why we’re already looking to the future of digital and it’s applications for all our creative endeavors. As to comics directly, it’s going to happen at an even faster rate, because the market is such a microcosm to begin with, and the base keeps dying off. There just aren’t enough new readers coming in to replace the drop, and sooner rather than later (waaaay sooner if the economy doesn’t stabilize globally in the next few years), it just won’t be lucrative enough to create, publish, distribute or sell tangible paper comics. I actually have been spouting the decline of the comics industry for almost a decade and a half, and this belief is why way back I began creating soundtracks for comics (such as the work I did for Alex Ross on the Marvel EARTH X soundtrack project), trying to get the products into other outlets (like music and video stores) to attempt to drum up new readers and show them the wonders of comic books. We have to evolve or get used to the taste of tar. And evolution in my opinion rides on waves of electrical current.
As to what I’m thinking in regards to launching now, as I said before we’re here to move in new directions and try new approaches. It’s all about innovation, and there’s never a better time for forward thinking movement than the present.
NRAMA: So what do you do to pull people in? What makes for a good horror comic?
SL: The same thing that makes for any solid piece of entertainment- great source material. The very concept has to be sound, and of the utmost quality. Horror isn’t just about grossing people out or shocking them; it’s about pacing, and good old-fashioned story telling. We’re here to tell good stories, and illustrate them in a way that’s beautiful as well as grotesque.
And pulling people in takes good old-fashioned American ingenuity and that out-of-the-box thinking I’m always babbling about. It’s about doing great and unusual PR and product placement, and reaching the comic-deprived masses where they live. Which, more and more commonly, is inside the very electronic devices that everyday we become more and more reliant on.
NRAMA: Hand in hand with the launch of Fangoria Graphix is the relaunch of the Fangoria website. Should your audience read anything into that, that is, that a redesigned website can serve as a home to digital copies of Fangoria's comics?
SL: Absolutely. I’m heading up the new media end of things at Fango as well as the graphix division, and the two go together like chocolate and peanut butter. We have all kinds of surprises coming the readers way, like the sample chapters from the upcoming BUMP prose novel which were just released on Fangoria.com this week, and the digital versions of the comics. A major announcement I’ll make right here, right now, is the fact that I am in the process of digitally mastering and releasing every back issue of FANGORIA magazine from the every first issue. Very soon you’ll be able to purchase digital editions of every ish of Fango on Fangoria.com, and at a very affordable price point. There are more surprises in store for the mag in cyberspace, but we’ll have to leave those for future revelation.
NRAMA: Who's who at Fangoria Graphix now? Are you still working with the same team from '06?
SL: Yes, except for the amazingly exceptional Janelle Siegel, who is now in editorial at DC working on BATMAN. We’ve also added some fantastic new talent including James Zahn, writer, director and new media expert extraordinaire. The rest of the monster squad is pretty much the same cast of lunatics- Troy Brownfield, my main editor and man with the PR plan; Jason Moser, production manager and artist exemplary; my partner Mark Kidwell, THE multi-faceted writer to watch; Milen Parvanov, up and coming colorist supreme. We’re also going to be working with a lot of the same artisans from our previous incarnations, including the phenomenal artist Stephen Thompson (Beneath the Valley of the Rage for us; Star Trek: New Frontiers and the John McCain book at IDW) and writer par excellence Jesse Blaze Snider (Strangeland: Seven Sins for us; Marvel Comics Presents and more elsewhere). It’s a real family affair with us, and we like to continue working with the incredibly talented cats we know, trust and love.
NRAMA: So where and how does someone who has never heard/seen a Fangoria comic start? What's a key book for the look and feel you're going for?
SL: BUMP, baby! BUMP, in addition to currently being in development as a feature film starring Tobin (SAW) Bell, is also going to be released in both the digital format on Fangoria.com, (in multiple languages, to boot), and as a trade paperback collection available on the site and in the direct and mass markets. The book is brutal, hardcore, beautifully rendered and everything a horror lover could want. BUMP was written and drawn by the aforementioned genius Mark Kidwell, and really epitomizes what a good horror story is all about. Again, check out sample chapters from the novel for free at the Fangoria.com website.
NRAMA: What's your print schedule look like coming up? Anything new, or just getting the original material back on track?
SL: It’s a little of both. First out of the gate are the digital editions, and that includes both original material like Beneath the Valley of the Rage, BUMP and Strangeland: Seven Sins, and new titles including the Death Walks the Streets mini and the horror/sci-fi series ELLIUM. And even with the older material, it’s really like a brand new bag- the last three issues of Strangeland have never been seen, and even the last ish of Rage has only had limited exposure as a Con exclusive. All the books have been tweaked for added perfection and freshness as well.
The first book to get the “traditional” print treatment will be the trade paperback collection of BUMP, which will include new material. And speaking of the rarity of the Beneath the Valley of the Rage fourth issue, we also have a limited edition print version coming which will only be available through the Fangoria.com website.
NRAMA: Also - last we heard about Bump, it was being prepared for the film treatment. Where does that stand?
SL: It’s still on track. As I’ve said a million times, we’re out to make BUMP the best film it could ever possibly be, and we’re taking all the time we need to achieve that goal. Tobin, Ashley (Hellraiser) Laurence, Sean Patrick Flanery (Boondock Saints) and Robert Kurtzman (Wishmaster director, KNB F/X founder) are all on board and ready to rock, the effects concept work is in motion, the final script is in hand and we’re moving closer to start time. If you check out Fangoria.com you can see (and order) the mega-limited BUMP Treehugger statue- a massive 22” by 14” masterpiece created by renowned special effects legend Robert Kurtzman in preparation for the actual suits being created for the film’s creature actors. Eddie Dill and his monstrous creations are coming to get you soon by way of the big screen, but he won’t get there ‘til every aspect of the production is perfect. Stay tuned to FANGORIA.COM for updates, exclusive news and info on BUMP in all its incarnations. I promise, you won’t be disappointed!