She writes weekly for Bleeding Cool about the challenges of the digital comics industry, detailing her own attempts to create and innovate and list all the options open to her. it’s become quite the textbook. But she’s also an old friend from the pre-kids days when I’d spend every Thursday in the pub with people who met on the Warren Ellis/The V fora. Until we all got old, moved away, moved on or moved up. It’s a pleasure to talk to Alex De Campi.
Rich Johnston: The news is full of gloom, financially, culturally, economically. Valentine is war, cold and death. Why no feel good factor?
Alex De Campi: Valentine’s actually a very hopeful comic. It’s got wonder and love and all sorts of stuff other than hitting
Rich Johnston: But it’s good to have both right?
Alex De Campi: but I’m a little obsessed with the 1812 campaign, it was horrific for both sides, a war that shouldn’t have been fought at all so I spend time setting the mood of what it’s like to be Napoleonic cavalry when all the horses have died of cold/starvation we have a lot of good things in Valentine. Sometimes to gratuitous levels. Wait until Episode 06…
Rich Johnston: Interested in the delayed storytelling. Aspects of panels and captions that appear as you progress through it. A new trick?
Alex De Campi: the delayed storytelling – it’s just sculpting time as well as space, cinematography 101. The reader’s relation to the frame.. (sorry, also dealing w final grade on Los Campesinos! music vid right now so hence slight delay) reader’s relation to frame different when it’s screen by screen not page by page, so we make more use of cinematic elements… to create the same sense of space and pacing that a good page layout does. It’s fun stretching the medium. on that subject, watch this, it’s ace.
Rich Johnston: Is it still the same medium though when the images are juxtaposed so thoroughly?
Alex De Campi: are you asking if Valentine “counts” as a comic?
Rich Johnston: Well I dunno. It’s a question. Maybe it doesn’t matter, it could just be a thing. It’s on its way to being a motion comic…
Alex De Campi: THEM’S FIGHTIN’ WORDS. Take it back. Valentine is not a motion comic!
Rich Johnston: I want categorisation dammit! Because the link you gave me, an excellent “thing” certainly, but its a few steps away from being a “comic” comic.
Alex De Campi: Valentine IS a comic, and when you see the paper version with 1-4 panel pages you will really get how flexible my format is. we have just optimised the format for small screens, and that means 1 panel per screen… and I would be a fool NOT to use….the spacial and temporal box of tricks that opens up. But as someone who has directed proper animation, I can say clearly..that I am NOT trying to do some sort of poor-man’s animation or animatic. the other great thing about panel/screen is of course it translates to right-to-left beautifully. V. works GREAT in Japanese
Rich Johnston: There’s a question then. One panel per screen. Is that a comic? Or is it an illustrated story?
Alex De Campi: it’s got speech bubbles (somewhere, John Byrne’s head just spun around Exorcist-stylee), the story is told thru images
Rich Johnston: Thank goodness for speech bubbles. Maybe we should reclaim that phrase, prevent it from being used as a weapon.
Alex De Campi: quite. the sharp points on the end of the bubble could really do a damage if used for evil. Valentine is a comic. An illustrated story I think of as a prose novel with illustrations eg Alice in Wonderland. but quibbling about whether it’s a “comic” is quite dull. Ask something more interesting.
Rich Johnston: Okay. Is Valentine a digital comic because there isn’t a publisher you haven’t burnt your bridges with? And I say that as someone who was party to said burning…
Alex De Campi: OH SNAP! No, it’s self-published for two reasons. First, we wanted to keep all our rights in the book. Second, honestly, Christine and I were better set up to launch something across multiple wireless platforms than any publisher. What we are doing is like the Wild West, nobody has done translations and wireless distribution on this scale
Rich Johnston: So what would stop you doing all that at, say, Image, just with a little better publicity support?
Alex De Campi: we could still do it through Image – they could theoretically handle the print edition. Though we are hoping more for…a bookstore publisher like Tor . In some ways, the wireless release covers our costs and builds interest in the book then before we know it we have a really fat lovely graphic novel to take around. We’re not anti-publisher we’re just enjoying being non-exclusive, choosing the best distributor per platform: Comixology, RobotComics, Stanza, etcbesides, the whole point of the internet is disintermediation of large, slow moving corporations.
Rich Johnston: Mad translation anecdotes. Everyone has mad translation anecdotes. What are yours?
Alex De Campi: er… we don’t have any. Translators are all friends or friends-of-friends and they do a great, careful job. Original Spanish translator vanished (he was a random off twitter) so had to hospital-pass it to @therealsobreiro, that’s it
Rich Johnston: You know Freakangels is just plugged into Babelfish. So… yes. What kind of markets is that opening up, and are they responding?
Alex De Campi: The only figures I have so far are Kindle, and 50% of our sales are non-English. It’s a crapshoot if we’ll take off in any…particular language market, but you have to be in it to win it, as they say. We’re in it, at zero additional cost to us remember that there are SINGLE VOLUMES of manga and BD that outsell the entire US comics industry
Rich Johnston: When you outsell X-Men will you feel a particular slice of glee? You know, before you go on to outsell Harry Potter?
Alex De Campi: schadenfreude is a delightful emotion. But we’re not looking to score points against anyone. We just want to tell a good story maybe help a few people’s days be a bit brighter/more fun, that’s all. Christine and I like telling sequential stories.
Rich Johnston: Do you have an ideal amount that you could be writing.publishing/earning from? I remember Alan Moore always wanted 4 a month.
Alex De Campi: 4 a month would be amazing. But once again, you can’t write with the sole aim of getting paid X. It taints the work. You just have to write the best work you can, and hope that others find it good enough to reward you with sales. The trouble comes when authors try to second-guess the audience, what they’ll want, and try to do something trendy. That is how most terrible screenplays are born.
Rich Johnston: Isn’t writing for amounts of money pretty much the definition of commercial art? Something comics usually wallows in.
Alex De Campi: quite, which is why there are so many bad comics out there. Not that creator-owned stuff is naturally good. but the great, game-changing comics have mostly been creator-owned works, not necessarily conceived as works for profit. btw, this also might be the moment to plug NOIR, the Dark Horse anthology to which I contributed a story. It’s fab, buy it
Rich Johnston: I’ll add an Amazon link. But also Doctor Who, Sex Pistols and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Maybe its the whole horse cart thing. Even with SP comics, you get orders in before you print. With digital there’s no clue. How are your stress levels?
Alex De Campi: well, we have nothing to lose – no print costs. So our stress levels are pretty easy. I’ve always said that it will take 6 episodes or so to gain momentum with the series anyway.
I’ve signed on an amazing book person I know (ran a top literary publisher in NY for a decade) to do PR for Valentine in Jan so that will help. I’m doing marketing too on comics side, and it’s going OK – great interview at CBR, more in pipe.
Rich Johnston: It seems an age since we used to go drinking with friends most Thursdays in London. Do you replicate that in NY?
Alex De Campi: I never go out in NY. Between part time job, comics, directing music vids and dev work on my feature I am all work and no play
Rich Johnston: Almost like you’re married with kids… although your kids won’t run off/drown/get pregnant.
Alex De Campi: heh. the current music video is doing a good impression of difficult teenage years, though. Can’t wait until it’s done.
Rich Johnston: Thanks Alex. I’m taking the literal kids off to Nine Lessons And Nine Songs. Some may call it religious indoctrination But I’m giving them a working stab at a social/cultural background and something to at least rebel against
Alex De Campi: NP. Just don’t accidentally take them to the film “Nine Songs” instead. That would be an education!
Rich Johnston: What, in bad acting?
Alex De Campi: one last thing – I should probably add that Episode 03 of Valentine comes out on 13 January
Rich johnston: So it does, Alex, so it does…
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