Saturday, October 24, 2009

SHC Interview - Jamie Cottle

We at Salty ’Ham Cartooneestas recently welcomed Jamie Cottle to our ranks. He's the writer/manager of R&R Comics. After checking out the site and putting up his SHC page, I somehow felt that I still didn’t have the whole scoop. So I decided to interview him. And here’s that interview, now.

. . . . .

cg: Welcome, Jamie! Tell me about R&R Comics. What does that stand for? Rest and Relaxation?

jc: R&R’s name is derived from R&R Productions, the production company my brother and I run on the side. It's where we put all our side projects. The two R’s actually stand for Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who founded the Roman Empire. So you can see we're aiming high.

cg: Who founded R&R Comics? And when? And how? And why?

jc: R&R Comics was conceptualized by me, and then I was fortunate enough to convince some extremely talented individuals to work with me. My brother Jack handled the design and execution of the site, as well as providing pencils for the new story we'll be adding soon, "Pound of Flesh." In a way, all the people currently involved, I count as founders of the site. Each has put in their own share of sweat into making a great site.

We're right about six months old as I write this, and I find that tidbit hard to believe. Things are moving fast.

The original concept for the site came from my frustrations over the submission process for comics. I find it maddening that I'm expected to stalk editors for gigs. It feels sleazy and desperate. There's also the Catch-22 of answering the question most editors have – “What have you done?" Well, nothing, until an editor helps you out, but you need something to show in order to get an assignment from them. I'm in the latest Negative Burn, and it's sweet to be in a publication next to Brian Bolland and Phil Hester (who gave us a sweet quote for the site), but I realized I needed more than that. I needed something that was easily accessible, that demonstrated a nice range in style, and had the comparative workload of a monthly book (16-22 pages/month). That's why I went for the web site. It is a great promotional tool for myself and the other contributors. I only have to give the editor my card and he can check it out. I don't need to bother him with ashcans and other printed samples he'd have to keep up with. In addition, there are NO PRINTING COSTS!!!!

cg: Do you consider it a Birmingham-based company? Because maybe it should have its own page on Salty 'Ham Cartooneestas. Mega Comics Group has one, and 5 Guys in a Garage will soon have their own SHC page, as well. Should R&R?

jc: Well sure, I'm in the 'Ham, and while the site's contributors range from all over, I believe that there should be more networking among creatives in the Birmingham area. A similar loose association has sprung up among creators in the Kansas City area (Tony Moore, Rick Remender, Alex Grecian), and I think those guys really push one another. It's why they're the new rising stars among comic creators. I'd love to get to know more local folks who're dedicated, professional, and really into comics.

cg: It looks like R&R is only doing web comics right now. Any plans to put anything in print?

jc: We plan on doing an annual compilation of everything on the site. With additional bonus material, of course. We may not do it for the first year. It depends on whether interest in the site can justify the printing expense. We'll be going to C2E2, MegaCon, Imagicon, and hopefully the NYCC this year, so maybe we can really get some people looking at the site and make the printing worthwhile.

cg: Does R&R Comics have a lot of readers? How do you attract people to the site?

jc: For a six-month-old site, I think we're doing okay. We had a nice boost early on when we helped Rich Johnston (from bust infamous comics scammer Josh Hoopes. That was good for fostering some good will from some people I really admire (Rich Johnston and Ben Templesmith, among other professionals), and we've been leveling out since then. I think it takes time for word to get out and really build that audience. Is traffic where I'd like it? Not really, but I am willing to give it time and keep working.

We've been primarily using our twitterfeed and our facebook group (which is approaching 1,000 fans, by the way) to direct traffic to the site. A well timed Reddit post seems to help traffic on Fridays, as well.

cg: I see ads on the R&R page, and you also have a cafepress store. And I read something on there where you mentioned paying the artists. So you’ve got some money coming in, and some going out. How hard is it to make web comics profitable? Are you guys anywhere near breaking even?

jc: Profitable webcomics is almost an oxymoron. Especially when you're new. PVP, xkcd, and all the other great sites like them are making cash now, but that's after a few years of constant work. Those guys have earned their place. We're prepared to do the same. R&R functions more like a collective, so meeting the overhead is a bit simpler. When money comes in, it gets split evenly among the members. Fortunately, not only are the folks at R&R brilliant artists, but they love what they do and are willing to delay compensation for a place to put their work and get seen. Once you’re a working pro, then you can demand real fees, otherwise it's really putting the cart before the horse.

I talk more about how I relate to my artists on my blog, "Pushing Lead," found at R&R. Essentially, it's based off truth and respect. When dealing with people over the internet, I try to be as honest as possible. I don't ask anyone to read between the lines. That just leads to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

cg: Are you happy with what R&R is doing creatively, so far? What are your plans for the future of the site?

jc: I really love the content we have up right now. I think it has a maturity and sensibility not seen in too many comics right now. They can be so much more than just capes and tights. Pride of Baghdad, We3, 300, and Maus are all examples of how sequential art can do more than blow up buildings. I am most intrigued by exploring those possibilities. Don't get me wrong – I’d step over my grandmother to write Captain America, but I also want to tell other stories. In fact, I am working on a pitch about forgotten American heroes that has me pretty excited. The process is different, because it's my first time working with an editor, but he's great and makes me a better writer every time we communicate.

cg: How do you choose the artists that draw the stories?

jc: It's really organic. I know what my story feels like to me. When I see art that makes me feel the same way, I target that artist. I don't just grab the first guy. If I find the right person for my story, I'll contact them, and then if they're interested, I’ll wait for them to become available. It's worth the wait to do it right. If I just worked with anyone, I wouldn’t be as happy with the finished product as I am with the work on R&R.

cg: Bob Sly, P.I. is my favorite series on the R&R page, so far. Would you explain the premise for us? How did the idea for Bob Sly come about?

jc: Like many of my stories, these are characters I created in my childhood. They are extremely different from the first concept (most notably Bob, who was a time traveling P.I. from the ’40's, inspired by Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal"). I liked the noir style and the name, but the rest had to be trashed. I started thinking about what else P.I. could stand for. Don't ask me how, but Polyspecies Integrator is what popped into my mind. The P.I. is an individual licensed in the mediation of culture-based conflicts. Bob has an office aboard a space station called "the Hub," which is a large trading station. So of course there are plenty of situations for him to navigate.

It's drawn by Anthony Peruzzo, the powerhouse behind two other titles on the site, "Tales from the Looking Glass" and "The Assignment." He's a beast, and having worked with him for over two years now, I can say he's become a good friend. Look out for this guy. He's starting to get noticed more by indie publishers and has some stuff coming out soon. He’s got a big project from Silverline, and he's also my collaborator on the Negative Burn story.

Side note: We originally had another story to launch the title with, that's more like the standard situation for Bob. We had the chance, though, to get it into the next popgun anthology, so we submitted it, held our breath, and cranked out another story in record time. That story didn't make it past the final cut (so close!), but it will be our next Bob story on R&R.

cg: You wrote a piece called "The Harvest," for Desperado’s Negative Burn anthology – 2009. Tell us about that story, would you? And how did you get the job? And when will the book be available?

jc: Without being too cryptic, it's a story about personal sacrifice, that takes place in Mexico City. It's the second thing Anthony and I ever worked on, and we were able to submit to them because Anthony had some work in there prior to our submission. Really the best advice I can give a writer is to find a brilliant artist who believes in you. It's a tall order, but man is it easier than the alternatives. I continue to be grateful to Anthony for his continued support and faith in what we're doing. The book should be available next week. Go to your LCS and demand it. I may be doing a signing in the future at Kingdom Comics in Vestavia. More info later.

cg: Thanks for the interview, Jamie, and good luck!

jc: Thank you.

No comments: