Thursday, November 06, 2008

Radical Publishing – A Review / Commentary

This is my third in a series of my outsider’s views of various smaller press comic publisher and I will have to say this right up front Radical Publishing has impressed the hell out of me for a new publisher. In fact they are easily the best new publisher of the year and already in the top tier of all smaller press publishers.
What I see that they have done right is that the first shot out of the door for them was to issue two new series and launch them at the same time and give us a full size issue of these #1 books for only $1. What is a better way then to say hi to your public then to introduce yourself with a quality product at a cost that has to be a loss for you, but gives your new customers a solid taste of what is too come.

Those two series were Hercules and Caliber. They next added Freedom Formula and after that City of Dust. In the most recent solicitation they have added Shrapnel. Each of these series is a five issue mini-series and each is a premise that can easily translate into other media. I can easily see Hercules as a movie (and I believe it has been optioned), Caliber as a great HBO or Showtime TV Series, Freedom Formula could be a great animation material, City of Dust as a movie and Shrapnel I have yet to see an issue, but maybe a good movie, but it would need as lot of CGI. Also there is no reason each one of these premises could not be the springboard for a video game. Finally each book so far lends itself to being a franchise type book and could be structured as a series of mini-series.

So it seems to me that Radical is being very careful about what they pick as a series and are trying to ensure success by structuring themselves in such a way that each series has the potential to be more then just a five issue mini-series comic and then a trade and then it is a dead concept. Many publishers have been daring enough to do mini-series on books that are total one and done concepts. While I applaud that move, from a business model standpoint, that is a rougher road to go down.

What I have also thought has been a great move to start a company is the absolute high quality of their production values and the high caliber of the talent they have hired to do these series. Until City of Dust with Steve Niles as the writer none of these names were familiar to me. Once I read Hercules and saw the art I was very impressed by the writer’s ability to tell a story and the artist ability to give this book an almost cinematic quality. The colorist and high end production values make the artwork jump off the page. Caliber was in exactly the same mold, although I thought the characterized were overly photo referenced and I was constantly seeing Brad Pitt and other actors too much and not the characters. Freedom Formula jumps the art to another level and City of Dust gives us yet another different artist feel, but the consistent thing is the quality of the work. No one is a weak sister with this group.

What that means to me as the consumer that I can see Radical Comics solicitation for a new series and say I want to order it and try out issue #1, because I know I will be getting a high quality product. Now maybe one day I will not like one of their series, but I know it will still be worth the price of entry because they have shown me they are not going to solicited something just to try and make money.

Another move I have seen and intentional or not they have something coming out every month and are trying to have at least two books a month hit the stands. I think this is very important because otherwise the buying public can forget you in a heartbeat. It also seems like they are building slowly and that means that maybe they are staying within their budgets, which is important for a young publisher.

Also I get the sense that these guys are ready to jump into the new generation of comics with downloadable books, web comics, ipod comics or whatever that next wave is going to be. With this line-up already established I think they would be attractive to a wider audience then just the comic shop crowd. This is extremely important because that crowd (me included) is not the wider public and to grow you need to be selling more then 8,000 copies of a comic book and in comic stores it is very hard to break into the top 100 if you are not Marvel, DC, Image or Dark Horse (and Image and Dark Horse rarely get there or are a constantly small percentage).

Finally they have one of the best websites of any publisher. See it here. Each book has a separate section with trailers, video interviews of people, the whole works and it just flat out looks sharp.

Final word : Radical Publishing is a winner!

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