Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dark Horse Editor/Writer Scott Allie Goes Digital (Maybe)

Technology is through taking steps; it has moved on to leaps, and even those seem to be going the way of the horse and buggy.

Recently Hideous Energy got the chance to chat with Dark Horse Senior Managing Editor, Scott Allie about the future of comics, and see what may be in store for the medium.

Along with this interview Allie also recently spoke with the Alter Ego Comic Cast about a variety of topics, and this can be seen as a companion piece. To hear the interview visit the Alter Ego Comic Cast site.
Along with editing duties, Allie writes "Solomon Kane," and recently saw the publication of his original trade-paperback "Exurbia" with artist Kevin McGovern.

Hideous Energy: Digital comics have been generating buzz/arguments for some time now, and Dark Horse is certainly a company utilizing the medium, first with MySpace Presents, and now with comics for the iPhone. What is Dark Horse's stance on digital comics and their role in the industry?

Scott Allie: "Well, we're pretty much traditionalists by nature, and we love books, paper, all that. But digital comics are the future. We had a great meeting today looking at a unique app to bring our stuff into the digital world. We're trying to figure out the best ways to do it, and try out different options along the way. We also think that the harmony between digital and print does a lot for the industry, with books like Applegeeks bringing popular web comics to print. I guess to look at it cynically you could say it's one more example of content being exploited on multiple platforms. The way I see it, it's just proof that people still want to hold books in their hands, which I take as a sign of hope for the species."

HE: Did the meeting cover digital mediums other than onMySpace Presents and iTunes?

SE: "Yeah, something totally new, that I can't go into, of course, but it involves somewhat new tech."

HE: There is a small selection of 'eComics' posted on the Dark Horse website; is this a glimpse at what may be coming in the future?

SA: "Well, yes and no. That's not really what I mean here. But we are going to expand that part of our site."

HE: Printing prices are rising, and in turn sales prices go up; does Dark Horse have any plans to ensure their prices don't climb steadily every year, and if so, does it include a stronger digital presence?

SA: "We've been resisting a price increase, but that's how it goes—prices go up. They just do. We don't want to see them go up every year—it'd been a long time since we've raised prices, and this time around we were dedicated to being late to the price-hike party. But offering comics online can't lower the price of paper, and that more than anything has driven comics prices up."

HE: Does the inclusion of creator-owned material within Dark Horse's publishing roster contribute to prices increasing?

SA: "No, if anything, creator-owned books keep costs down, because some creator-owned books can be done at lower creative rates than most work-for-hire books. But the biggest cost increase for US is still paper."

HE: We've seen that certain properties can be utilized in both formats (Joss Whedon's "Sugarshock"), but are there any plans to release a monthly Dark Horse comic digitally?

SA: "We're looking at a lot of different ways of putting comics out digitally. At the very least, we're putting more and more books out on iTunes. We're reluctant to undercut the sales of our print comics by making series simultaneously available online and in print, but we're playing around with variations."

HE: How much has Dark Horse discussed possible inclusion of more material - higher page counts, supplemental material, etc. - within single issue formats, in order to offset price increases?

SA: "That's part of the conversation. We look at every book on a case by case basis. So we have some with slightly higher page counts."

HE: How are projects chosen to be featured on MySpace Presents, and what's the best way for anyone to get their work noticed?

SA: "Two real different questions. One the one hand, MDHP is there to promote books we're publishing, like Conan, which is in there this month. On the other, it's an anthology of its own, meant to offer compelling material to keep people coming back, and to offer the variety and inventiveness that only anthologies can give you. Which is why we have NuMeat, by Cody Goodfellow and Jeff Wamester in there right now. In terms of getting your work noticed—if you mean by me, an editor, or a publisher, I'd say work your ass off, put a lot of stuff online and maybe self-publish, and show your work at conventions. And be amazing.

HE: How much of your time at conventions is spent reviewing art and/or pitches? Also, is there a set time hopeful creators are expected to present their material, or is it less formal?

SA: Depends on the convention. At San Diego, [Dark Horse Editors] Chris Warner and Randy Stradley have valiantly offered/insisted on spearheading portfolio review, so I do relatively little there, although a lot of people catch me in the booth, and there are a lot of people whose stuff I've looked at every year for a long time, and I make time for them. But at other shows where I'm the only editor, I'll spend a few hours a day. Could spend all day, but it wears on you, and there are other things I have to do at a show. Portfolio review can easily eat up a weekend.

HE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a huge part of your publishing roster, yet Angel currently resides at IDW; do you know if it's Dark Horse's goal to bring Angel over?

SE: "I've often said I regret letting it go, and I'd love to bring it back, but unfortunately it's not up to us."

HE: Can you reveal who it is up to, or is that a secret of The Whedon?

SA: "Oh, no, nothing like that. It just is what it is."

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