Friday, October 03, 2008

Avatar Press Publisher Review / Commentary

As I said with my review of BOOM Studios, this is an outsider’s perspective and I do not have any internal contact with anyone inside of Avatar Press.

It was only in the last couple of years that I even noticed that Avatar press was even alive. Prior to that I had seen some of their solicitations in the back of Diamond and wondered what the Ellis character Gravel was about, but for the most part I ignored their line of comics.

When I first started to pay attention to them was when Ellis announced he was going to be doing a lot of work for them and I ordered Wolfskin and Black Summer. My retailer even made a remark that the publisher was all about gore and almost soft core pornographic material. I can only go by what I have read and while the gore level is high in some of their books, some of the concepts and stories have been great.

What I have noticed is that Avatar appears to be Warren Ellis’ publisher. Warren almost owns this company and now Garth Ennis has been contributing a few projects. This is a huge plus and a huge minus. On one hand Ellis is a talented and professional writer who appears to be very smart in knowing how to write not only for the sake of the story, but also for the artist. Almost ever artist does his best work with Ellis, because I believe Ellis writes to the strength of his collaborators as opposed to just writing a script and crossing his fingers (which seems to be the case with many writers). Ennis is also a strong professional writer and knows how to produce a good story. Even when I don’t like these writers’ books, I can appreciate the structure and the strength of their skill. The downside is that if Ellis ever leaves this company would Avatar even survive?

It has been a great positive to see Jamie Delano and Christos Gage have projects coming from Avatar. I like seeing the smaller companies survive and it is a good sign to see more and more creators show up here. No matter what, it will be impossible for me to not believe that Avatar will be in my mind the publisher that was built on the skills and strengths of Warren Ellis. I hope Avatar has given him some ownership interest in their company.

Some of my favorite stories and series so far have been Crecy. This was by Warren Ellis and Raulo Cacres. This was a wonderful historical graphic novel that depicted a battle between the English and French in 1346 and talks about how warfare was changed forever due to the tactics used in that battle. Black Summer by Warren Ellis and Juan Jose Ryp was a brilliant story that ask what happens when a JLA type group has a member who decides the US government is run by a bad guy and takes him out. A lot of political themes and themes about super powers running in this book. Other projects and stories that have been good or at least started out well is Crossed, No Hero, Scars, Chronicles of Wormwood and a few other titles.

What has surprised me is how strong and how consistent this company has become in a relative short time. I’m not sure what changed (again would love to interview the main guy in this company one day), but Avatar has become a company on the move and one to watch.

What I cannot determine is if they have any plans to try and get around the direct market or if they are happy being in the direct market and trying to move up in the top tier of comic book companies. Also they have done very few license type deals, yet so far seem to be financed well enough to stay afloat and continue to publish a decent number of titles.

What their “game plan” seems to be is that they are a haven for people who want to be able to create comics without any restrictions. I sense that they are a no holes barred kind of place. If your story is ultra-violent and has some offensive elements that is okay as long as it makes sense within the story and you are telling a good story. In other words, you can be shocking, but not shock for shock's sake.

They have produced some gory books (see Wolfskin), but often they are making some valid points, but are not for someone easily offended. They have a great website that can be seen here.

I see Avatar as a company that is up and coming at this time, but I think they are reliant on just comics and I think that they need to work to reach a broader distribution base. What they have done, that no one else has done is produce an online comic (see FreakAngels) and give it away for free on a weekly basis and are then trading it after enough is completed. This, in my view, is a great way to advertise and market your book as long as there are enough people out there like me who ultimately wanted the printed book.

A company that is certainly worth you time to check out.

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