Ambidextrous 300 - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough

Ambidextrous 300 - On Miranda Mercury

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the 300th installment of Ambidextrous…

This week is devoted entirely to my creator-owned series, The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury, which many of you have heard me mention a time or two before. Early last year, the first issue of the series launched, and the entire creative team was thrilled by the initial critical response. Anyone that managed to get their hands on a copy seemed to find something they liked in there, and that was very encouraging to us just starting out. This is a feeling that co-creator Lee Ferguson and I imagined would only grow stronger as more issues got released, and we continued to improve as a creative unit. Unfortunately, our publisher Archaia Studios Press was forced to stop putting books out while undergoing a restructuring period. Now though, Archaia (and Miranda) are back, with an official re-launch scheduled for this fall---and with a few well-placed alterations in both our approach and our creative team. We'll start with a little more about the latter, as Newsarama was extremely instrumental in ensuring that piece of the puzzle came together for us.

So I'd like to take another opportunity to publicly thank site runner Matt Brady for allowing me to run that ad for a new Miranda colorist right here in Ambi. It was without question one of the most self-serving things I've ever used this forum to do, and if I'd had any idea how well it would turn out…it would've happened weeks before it actually did. I went in thinking if we'd heard from three or four interested folks we'd be in decent shape, so imagine our surprise when over a dozen colorists got in touch wanting to submit samples. From that initial number, seven got in materials by the deadline we set, and Lee, Marc Deering (inker extraordinaire), and myself, got on the phone to decide who was the best fit. But as the material was coming back, one guy immediately put himself ahead of everyone else, both with the quality of his color palette and the fact that he smashed the deadline into tiny pieces. He really set the bar for us and though several of the other potentials came close, we were convinced he was the total package.

Not going to announce him quite yet, as I have this habit of revealing co-conspirators a little too soon, who are promptly swooped up by much bigger companies with much bigger pocketbooks, which then prevents them from working on books with me. Just a little while longer, and we're expecting another set of gorgeous pages any day now, so it's possible I'll sneak something up in the next couple weeks. Our previous guy Felix Serrano set an incredible standard for the look and feel of Miranda's world, and it was a shame he couldn't stay on, but his successor will quickly win people over.

But yeah, thanks again Matt, and to all of the people that responded to our ad, or sent the link along to someone who did---that's how we got our man actually. Good lookin' out.  

This obviously is the good news, with the bad coming from a recent development we've been talking about for months now.

The newly instituted Diamond sales minimums changes the game for independent comics. It makes that relatively brief two-week pre-ordering window monumentally important, and we've already heard the stories from talented creators whose projects won't be solicited by Diamond because of them. So we're all being forced to adjust, and in the last couple months, that have seen Archaia Comics officially returning to the Previews catalog, you might've noticed that a few of their books are being published two at a time in oversized (yet reasonably priced) editions. This will be the new format for Miranda Mercury going forward---two issues of comics for only $4.95. Something of a relative bargain with many standard size books clocking in at $3.99. But I'll save that line for the official marketing campaign.

The reason for the repackaging is likely two-fold. One, a slightly higher cover price makes it "easier" to achieve the new benchmark, and second, it'll make it "easier" to actually complete a serialized run of books before you experience the usual (and expected) level of sales attrition that would bring you dangerously close to those aforementioned minimums. It's a great plan, and as Miranda's numbers were in the neighborhood of the benchmark anyway, it's no wonder this is the route we are going. Fortunately, this was discussed between Lee and I long before as a possibility during Archaia's restructuring, so there was no resistance to it on our part. It did, however, suggest a slight title change and an alteration in how we handled the numbering.

The prospect of soliciting The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #296 & #297 just bothered me. It sounded too long, unwieldy, and on top of that, people that didn't already know precise details about the book didn't know what we were doing. Beginning the series numbering at #295 was a nice gag, but I don't know how I feel about it in this current climate, so we've come up with a clever (or so we think) way of giving Miranda Mercury that #1 that attracts the attention of fans and retailers, while still preserving that "this all was going on long before you showed up" feel. What we're doing is actually fairly simple and should allow us to have our cake, eat it, and even save some for later, if the sales for the book are what we're hoping. Cool thing about comics is that you really can do anything, but again, this is a situation where it would be foolish to consciously ignore what the market is saying. Miranda Mercury: ____ ____ ___ #1 (of 3) has a much better shot than The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury #296 & #297 Double-Sized Re-launch.   

The upcoming launch will also see several changes in how we get out there and actually market the book. In short---it'll be done much more aggressively and in a much more concentrated way. The website will be redesigned and fully operational when the solicits hit, instead of being under construction. There will also be a major treat posted up on the main site, but we'll get to that later on. The preview material will be more complete and better coordinated to fall within that all-important pre-ordering window that ultimately determines the fate of one's independent comic. "Ordering coupon" will become two of the most important words in our marketing message, and the use of them will be strongly encouraged and supported.

We really (and quickly) became overwhelmed during our first go-round, partially because of the fact that nearly everyone on the creative team moved into a new home or apartment during our press window, and partially because we (meaning me) were just generally unprepared and got things circulated way too late to be of much help. But this is one of the many things that we're very serious about turning into a positive effect of our unplanned hiatus, and I've spent most of my unplanned free time making sure we're ready this time. Some of the specifics will hopefully be announced near San Diego, and even though I'm skipping it this year, I'm planning to have a "presence" there. Also going to be getting a table in Artist's Alley at Wizard World, which'll be a personal first, and should work out well as it falls within what will likely be our pre-ordering window. And give me the opportunity for some personal follow-up on the major retailer outreach stuff I'll have done beforehand.

With all this said, the original vision for the series remains the same. Miranda Mercury is still "the greatest adventurer in this or any other galaxy," and she's still infected with a deadly contagion, courtesy of arch-nemesis Cyrus Vega. What is hopefully the first of a few minis will still present six self-contained adventures filled with cool action, cool locales, and cool characters, as Miranda begins to accept (or not) her impending doom. All while partner Jack Warning secretly works to save her, unconcerned with breaking a few rules in the process, and completely pissing off the very person he desperately needs to save.

The saga begins again this fall (October, most likely) and continues into early spring of next year. We mean it when we say we'll be offering one of the "best deals in comics" and the amount of time, effort, and thought we've devoted to this project is incalculable. And we hope when all is said and done, that it shows. Thank you for the continued support and your patience. More information as it's available, both here and elsewhere.

One Last Thing

So this is my 300th column and I should say something about it and what that means. I'm far from the longest running soapbox out there (What up, Augie) but I have managed to hang around much longer than most, and I'm really glad I did. When I started this, I was a 21 year old college junior utterly convinced that I was only six months away from being a fulltime comics writer. Yes, that was a completely ridiculous thought that becomes even more ridiculous when I consider that I'm now knocking on thirty and still aren't exactly where I wanted to be, but…I have had a few minor (and major) successes along the way. Hell, still being here and still finding things to talk about, and be excited about, is one of them. It hasn't all been glorious or demoralizing, just a comfortable mix of both that I'm assuming will make "THE END" that much more valuable and ultimately justified.

I set out to use this column as a vehicle to break into the industry, and in the process discovered how that could actually be done. And I'm very happy to report that I'm not dead yet…but don't expect 300 more of these things.

Thanks to everyone that ever wrote me, or posted on a thread, whether you agreed with me or not. Next week is #301, and we'll move on from there…

The Fiction House

Last Time in Ambidextrous - "Odds, Ends"

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