New start-up publisher AHOY Comics is being founded on the idea that there's something unique about the reading experience that isn't available in other media. Launching in September with a new slate of titles, AHOY is publishing what they call "comic book magazines," featuring creations for people who not only love serial stories and comic books, but really enjoy reading.
"We are primarily publishing comic books, and they will have a lot of emphasis on the front story and the running characters and stuff," explained AHOY Editor-in-Chief Tom Peyer. "But we're going to fill the package out with back-up comic stories, short text stories, prose, poetry, whatever fits and whatever is fun and whatever is good reading."
Focusing on originality and offbeat humor, the company is being launched by Peyer with Publisher Hart Seely, Chief Creative Officer Frank Cammuso, and Stuart Moore, who's overseeing operations.
Most of the company's offerings are more than 40 pages, yet are still priced at $3.99. And although the page count means the comic books are "oversized," Peyer explained that the "magazine" format doesn't mean added width. "They will fit in your long-box," he said with a laugh.
According to the company's manifesto, the publisher's name, "AHOY," can be interpreted as being shorthand for "Abundance," "Humor," "Originality" and "Yes!" That not only meant yes to things like new, original art and stories, but the company's executives said it also means yes to great ideas from comic books of the past, like page numbers.
"Comics without page numbers are inferior comics," Peyer said with a laugh.
"We're not trying to throwback ideas just for the sake of doing them, but there are things like that where you sort of step back and you look at it and say, why don't you have those anymore?" Moore said. "That was one of Tom's initiatives. In fact, it's one of Tom's most iron-clad rules as editor-in-chief, that there has to be page numbers."
"You know, that was part of the inspiration for the prose and text stories too," Peyer added. "Old comics used to have those. And we were thinking about that and thought, what if they were were good? So we'll see. We'll see what happens when they're good."
First up in September is The Wrong Earth, a six-issue mini-series by Peyer and artist Jamal Igle. The book's lead story will tell the story of what happens when two alternate earth versions of a character named Dragonflyman (one a brutal anti-hero and another an adventurer) switch places.
But with AHOY's new approach, the title's first issue will be 40 pages, retailing for $3.99, with extras including a prose story by Grant Morrison (titled "'HUD' Hornet's Holiday in Hell") with illustrations by Rob Steen, a mock Golden Age story about Dragonfly's sidekick Stinger by Paul Constant and Frank Cammuso, and a comic strip by Shannon Wheeler.
"As soon as we started working on this, we put out some feelers about this, and we got some amazing work," Moore said. "Grant Morrison has written three incredible stories."
Also in September comes High Heaven, a five-issue series for mature readers that's also from Tom Peyer with Greg Scott on art. The satire story shows what happens when "chronic malcontent" David Weathers dies and goes to heaven, where everyone hates a complainer.
High Heaven will also feature 40 pages for $3.99, this time with a back-up story by Peyer and artist Chris Giarruso, another cartoon by Wheeler, and Morrison's prose story Festive Funtimes at the New World's Fair with artist Rick Geary providing illustrations.
"It's an interesting mix," Moore said. "They are comic books. They're comic books first and foremost. But all this other material hopefully just makes it a big, fat package that everyone can enjoy."
Then in October, the company will kick off an anthology series called Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror, including stories from artists that neither Moore or Peyer have worked with before (like Mark Russell, who wrote Flintstones for DC). Other participants in the anthology series include Peter Snejbjerg, Hunt Emerson, Fred Harper, Cienna Madrid, and Carly Wright.
Also in October, Moore debuts Captain Ginger with artist June Brigman, a 48-page, $3.99 title with even more work by Morrison and Wheeler.
"Captain Ginger is hilarious," Peyer said. "It's a space opera set on a starship that is staffed by cats who behave like cats. They're human cats who really act like cats. And I love it."
Future AHOY Comics will feature stories by Gary Erskine, Mariah McCourt, Linda Medley, Peter Milligan, Dean Motter, Ann Nocent, Rachel Pollack, and Roger Stern.
Moore said the company has cast a "wide net" to bring new creators to the company. They even plan to eventually have windows for submissions, trying to attract the originality of a variety of creators who are looking for the unique experience offered by AHOY.
"There's a really wonderful freedom to working with AHOY," Moore said of the stories he's launching with the company. "I don't think I've ever worked with a company where I felt as strongly supported on every level.
"The production values are wonderful. They trust me. They trust us. It's a really good experience from start to finish," Moore said.
The publishers are also hoping to expose comic book readers to a variety of creators and genres. "Our publisher Hart Seely likes to say that nobody loves stories more than comic book readers," Peyer said. "And so we're going to be delivering stories to them in more ways than one. And they're going to find out about some great people they don't know about yet. That is certain."
Moore also emphasized that the first goal of the start-up publisher is not to invent IPs for later movies. "This is first and foremost a comics publisher," he said. "We're not in this as a road to other media or anything like that. We want to build it up as much as we can.
"This is an interesting media environment we're in now. There's a certain conversion. You've seen things like the Mark Millar Netflix deal. The outside world is paying more attention to comics. And they're paying attention to comics as comics," Moore said. "And that's what we want to do. We want to build this up as stories. This is not an IP farm or anything like that. And to see where everything goes.
"I don't know if we have a firm benchmark of where we want to be in five years," Moore added. "But we certainly hope that people catch on and people like what we're doing and that the whole thing continues to grow."