FOR TOMMY: LARRY YOUNG
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
Many companies seem to believe schedules are there to deviate
from. But care to give us any exclusive stuffed animals information?
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."
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