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WAITING FOR TOMMY: LARRY YOUNG
By Richard Johnston

RICHARD: Okay. I'm in the pub last Thursday and a number of people mentioned that they'd stopped buying AiT books directly because of your online persona, something I've come across myself. Especially among female readers - and indeed professionals. Their loss? Is it possible that your creators suffer as a result? I'm no fan of boycotting a creator's work because I disagree with opinions they've expressed, from Salvador Dali to Dave Sim, but as a businessman, does this bother you?
LARRY: How can it? EVERYone will get upset about SOMEthing, eventually, yes? But I will note that five years on, our sales are much stronger than they were in the early days, so for every individual who once found my writing style on a message board to be abrasive, we pick up two or three or four presently paying customers who enjoy, now, what we publish. The business model seems to be working. Tell your pals in the pub who can't separate Larry-the-comics-fan from Larry-the-businessman that I personally miss them, though. We had some laughs together, in the early days of our publishing, and I recall them all fondly. If I could, I'd buy 'em all a round.

 

CHANNEL ZERO: JENNIE ONE TPB

RICHARD: And you know what? Knowing those people I think they'd accept it. It's arguable that comic companies have grown a lot smarter, marketing-wise, since Larry Young stepped up. Is it egotistical to believe that some of your best ideas have been swiped? And is it always flattery/good for the industry as a whole/standard business practices, or do you think a little development or focus group contribution could have come your way - much as companies sometimes pay original creators for 'homage' covers?
LARRY: I don't know about all that: that I personally caused any sort of Renaissance in treating the comic book industry as a marketing-rich environment, although it sure is flattering for you to postulate it so. At the core of it, I am the biggest fan of comics, as an art-form, that you might be likely to find. So any innovation in comics I might propose, really, is something that I, personally, would want to see as a fan of the form. Back in 1999 when we released the bound collection for the astronaut scripts, for example, THE MAKING OF ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, there were only two widely extant comics scripts published: Neil Gaiman's script for SANDMAN, and Alan Moore's script for FROM HELL. But other than that there was a dearth of that sort of info available for students of the form. Me, I had been a big fan of THE ART OF STAR WARS when I was a kid, with the screenplay and the pictures of the models and whatnot, and I figured if I ever had a chance to produce something similar in comics for the kids who were paying attention, then, hell! I would, no matter how self-serving or egomaniacal it seemed to others. Then, I was able to have produced Matt Fraction's THE ANNOTATED MANTOOTH!, a sort of Cliff's Notes for monkey comics. I've been vilified in some quarters for those two books, and deified in others, so who's right? Larry Young: devil, or angel? I guess it all depends on your point of view. Me? I figure I'm just a dude who does comics, and if other companies follow my lead, well, right on! That makes a comics industry I'm real happy to be a part of.

RICHARD: Some publishers were recently hit through distribution problems, causing delays to books, to payments, and funding drives. How did AiT remain seemingly unscathed? Was it?
LARRY: Well, we lost a lot of money when LPC went bankrupt, but we didn't put all our eggs in one basket, if that's what you're referring to. We have various operations-specific initiatives in place to minimize cash-flow hits like that if a vendor or two can't pay us. So I wouldn't cop to "unscathed," really. But while it's not optimal, we're set up to take a hit or two like that. Any solidly-constructed and -designed business will be.

RICHARD: How solidly-constructed-and-designed do you find your fellow comics publishers, in general?
LARRY: I honestly don't know anything about other publishers' strategies or resources.

RICHARD: Not willing to make assumptions or presumptions for the sake of this interview? I'm begging here, Larry.
LARRY: Well, it's hard to say. I don't really follow what other publishers do, honestly. I do watch DC pretty closely, though, because I personally admire Paul Levitz and Bob Wayne and Patty Jeres very much. I think they're some of the smartest people in comics. The reason we do freight-paid overships is directly a result of a conversation I once had with Patty Jeres. When I did marketing and promotions for Brian Hibbs' shop in San Francisco, Comix Experience, I would talk with Patty or one of her marketing folks like Marco Palmieri or Maureen McTigue at least once a day about marketing and promotions and strategy. So I know what the mindset of DC corporate was four or five or six years ago, and I keep up with the news they make public, now. But anything I could offer about other publishers would be from the standpoint of a fan and my personal tastes for the comics they make.

RICHARD: You're coming up to five years in publishing. How would you do your first year differently?
LARRY: That first year was solid. I wouldn't do anything differently. AiT: LIVE FROM THE MOON, the AiT script collection, THE MAKING OF ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE, ASTRONAUTS IN TROUBLE: COOL ED'S #1, NOBODY, CHANNEL ZERO, AiT: SPACE 1959. Those books were all reinforcing the then-fledgling brand and also moved towards growing the action-adventure thing we were working towards, step-by-step. Slow and steady wins the race.

RICHARD: It's five years in the future. We're talking about your tenth anniversary. How would you have done your fifth year differently?
LARRY: We're on course. There's nothing I would do differently. We're set, schedule-wise, from now until January of 2006. Everything, from comics, to film, to TV, to action figures, to stuffed animals, is all set. Everything is on course. I can look back in 2009 and say 2004 worked out just as we had scheduled. I mean, that's the whole reason to do schedules, yes? So you don't deviate from the path?

RICHARD: Many companies seem to believe schedules are there to deviate from. But care to give us any exclusive stuffed animals information? Plush Couriers?
LARRY: There's some other-media things happening that I'm not at liberty to divulge. Which is an interesting situation for me, since I've had five years of being the sole spokesman for our company. And now part of our growth areas consist of aggressively pursuing other-media partnerships, and once those get agreed-upon, all of a sudden the process of writing a press release gets more complicated since other companies and their specific agendas become involved. Which is the long way of saying, "Sorry; I can't talk about it."

Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 Continued Here...

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