FOR TOMMY: LARRY YOUNG
Young reinvented comics for the twenty-first century. Comic
book retail worker turned publisher, his emphasis on creator-prominence,
creator-owned work, keeping back-stock available and selling
titles on the creator over the concept, he pre-empted DC and
Marvel's move in that direction, and the rise of companies
such as IDW, New Avatar and Image Central. After so many companies
started and fell, the survival of AiT/Planet Lar is not only
remarkable but a tribute to a man with enough business sense
to survive the whims of the market and produce work that has
prospered in spite of the direct market. A target for comic
activists and always happy to stick his head over the parapet,
his public statements have shocked as much as they have delighted
- he is clearly a man who not only speaks his mind, but is
happy to be the arbiter of his own taste.
JOHNSTON: How much do you value your own personal profile
as a way of selling AiT comics? You've certainly put yourself
forward, seemingly as a figurehead for the company. Yet the
response to such a brazen figure hasn't always been positive.
Is there such a thing as bad publicity?
LARRY YOUNG: Right, let's drop right into the thick
of it, then? Honestly, I find it an unending source of entertainment
and mirth that people seem to think that my personal behaviour,
word-choice, or temperament has anything to do with the comic
book stories that they, themselves, choose to purchase and
enjoy. To tell you the truth, I'm just a guy who likes comics.
A guy who likes comics so much that he has to make his own,
yes? And I'm lucky enough that my own comics, originally,
were so monetarily successful that I now get to help my pals
produce comics of their own that I personally enjoy, as well,
using those cash dollars I was able to elicit from people
who enjoyed the same sort of comics as I do. Or did. Whatever.
Dang! That was tortuous, verb-wise.
see what I mean? What others consider to be "my personal profile"
doesn't have anything to do with how I see comics. Me, I'm
just a guy who wrote a comic book (ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE:
LIVE FROM THE MOON) that, back in 1999, no other publishing
house would publish so I just went ahead and published it,
myself. I'd had more than a few years experience in marketing,
and advertising, and promotions; I figured I could hit the
ground running in comics, if I had to go it alone. My wife
had an MBA in business administration, and between the two
of us, we knew what we were doing. If you've got creative
and administrative covered, there's no harm in swinging for
the fences, yes?
to the comic book world, I'm the figurehead and target and
bull's-eye for our company. I mean, the friggin' thing is
called AiT/Planet Lar, yes? It's not Planet Claire or Planet
Meem or Planet Ry or Planet Whatever... I'm in the bull's-eye
and that's my fate. If Mike Carlin or Jim Valentino or Stuart
Moore or Phil Amara had said YES to publishing LIVE FROM THE
MOON, well, I'd be writing for DC or Image or Vertigo or Dark
Horse, now. But they gave it a pass back then and I was forced
to launch my own publishing house. So, now, for better or
worse, I'm the guy in the cross-hairs. When people take shots
at me, they're not taking shots at our creators, and that's
all right with me; I can take it. I guess I'll say I'm the
guy who has to act brazenly so our other folks don't have
Do you see that role in a different light to, say, the one
that Bill Jemas used to present on behalf of Marvel? Aside
from the fact it's called Marvel Comics not Planet Jem (and
believe me, I bet he suggested it). And is it naïve to believe
that people don't make judgments on personality instead of
LARRY: Well, it's a bit different to that in that it
wasn't Bill's money that paid the freelancers, so I have a
more visceral stake in whether things fly well or not. I work
with people as best as I can, and I quite enjoy the give-and-take
that publishing entails. But at the end of the day, it's Mimi's
and my call. It seemed to me Bill's thing in public was a
bit of a calculated pose, playing the carnival barker and
rabble-rouser. Me, I own the circus.
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| 5 Continued