Kandora Kan!


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Well, our esteemed Chief apparently has not been flooded with a wave of protest emails concerning my official debut here in Broken Frontier, so, looks like we get to go again! This is wonderful, because I’ve been investing in building the virtual office here for the official Outside the Box Headquarters and would have been real disappointed if I had to return all the nifty stuff I ordered! Which is all covered under my BF expense account, right chief? (Sure *grmbl* - ed.)

The last few months have seen a wave of new publishers debuting on the comics scene, however, and I might be biased, none seems to have created the same stir as Kandora Publishing. Now, I’m not talking company-issued press releases that most news sites from courtesy run when received. I’m talking here in terms of generating discussion, reflection and outright debate in the media!

How come Kandora is stirring the waters? Two things. First, they are delivering genre comics and thus have garnered many comparisons to CrossGen and filling their void. Second, they are offering something NO OTHER US publisher is doing…32 pages of actual story per issue, at the price of $3.50 per issue.

Now, just to clarify for those fans who read the little print in Previews and elsewhere, a lot of books are listed at 32 pages, but those are total page counts for the issue, which is usually 22 pages of story, covers, and interior text pages and ads. Kandora’s books are actually 40 whole pages, and 32 pages of actual, fully illustrated storyline.

This is a step toward a lot of Asian comics which are very thick, with lots more pages of story and art per issue than the standard US comic. While the higher price has garnered some criticism, the basic math is still prevailing and people are seeing that Kandora is essentially going to be offering the BEST page value on the market, month in and month out, even over the big boys! Now, with the announcement of plans to move to 40 pages of story per issue within the first year and the same cover price, there seems to be something rising which is outside the box for the comics industry: genuine value to the consumer and the retailer!

Yeah, it may be great to get the first issue at some super cheap price, but that’s simply designed to ‘hook’ readers with a cheap lure. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s designed to get more people to buy the book, in order to shell out the higher market price on every issue thereafter. Kandora’s plan is an unmatched commitment to the fans to give them a solid value and more bang for their buck! (Just where the heck DID that phrase come from anyway? I feel I should be saying that while out hunting deer!)

Anyway, I invited all the Kandora guys to hang out for the day at beautiful, official OTB headquarters here in sunny LA (that’s Left of Annapolis) and give us the full skinny on Kandora!

First, guys, thanks for the time and effort for this interview! By the way, sorry about the mixup in your rides from the airport…I said Limousine, and I guess my official assistant heard Lean Cuisine, I understand you guys had to ride over in a freezer truck?

Brian: brrrrrrrrr.

I know, that was cold. Okay! Seriously folks, lets get to it shall we?
Here’s Ken Choi, Tom Lee, Ian Feller and Brian Augustyn…The Kandora Krew…

Okay, the most obvious up-front question is why a NEW comic publisher? What was the drive or decision that pushed for Kandora to be more than a studio?

Ken: While I was in Korea, I met several great artists that had some incredible skills, and along with Transparency Digital, I was certain we could produce some great comics. Having seen how the comic book market is now mostly dominated by Marvel and DC, we wanted to start something new, something different, providing non-superhero books to fans who were looking for a different thing.

What specifically does Kandora bring to the market that other publishers don't?

Tom: First of all, we want to produce high quality comics. There are lots of books with nice covers, but once you open the cover, the interior art is not that great, and we want to provide the fans with great content consistently. Also we are starting all of our titles with 32 pages of monthly story, and will bring it up to 40 pages or more in a few short months.
We'll be the first publishing company providing 40 pages on monthly books while keeping the price affordable.

Ian: From my perspective, Kandora brings something to the industry that has been missing for a long time and more specifically, since the demise of CrossGen. It brings high-quality, full color genre comics. Comics featuring stories other than superheroes. There is always a need for greater choice but lately there hasn't been much else. With Kandora, the industry gets pirate comics again, martial arts stories, fantasy, adventure, comedy and more.

Did you say Comedy?


You trying to be funny? Never mind. Why Genre Comics?

Brian: Independent companies that are succeeding in today’s market are niche publishers that are focusing their efforts on doing a slice of the possibilities, and doing it well. Fantasy has always been a popular genre among comics fans, one that has had a real resurgence of late, so, ultimately, it was why not?

With all the comparisons the media has made between CrossGen and Kandora, does that get the team behind Kandora excited or scared? After all, CrossGen spiraled and burned pretty ugly and pretty publicly.

Tom: Ian will be the better person to explain this, but I can say that while Crossgen lost money with their books selling fairly well every month due to overhead, Kandora will profit nicely with similar sales numbers. With our lower overhead we feel confident we can keep doing this for quite some time, with even moderate market sales. Of course, we are hoping that by making our monthly books 40 pages of story at $3.50, the sales volume could eventually go up a bit more and make it possible for us to hire more great writers and artists for us to be able to produce even more great titles.

Ian: CrossGen's mismanagement and financial problems and the attention they drew have nothing to do with the quality of the work they produced and the job they did at bringing in new readers to comics by giving them a new option. Kandora can capitalize on this by offering those displaced readers with a new home to find the non-superhero stories that attracted them to comics in the first place. Kandora and CrossGen are two completely different entities and anyone that feels that they should avoid Kandora because it seems too similar to CrossGen is going to miss out on a great line of comics.

Just for the record, I was a huge CrossGen fan. They weren’t perfect, but they had some truly good books out on the market!

Okay, tell me more about the 32 pages of story / $3.50 deal. A lot of concern has come out that the per issue cost is too high, that people would rather see something cheaper. What is the logic and goal of going this route?

Ken: We intend to make all of our monthly titles to be 40pgs of story down the line. For now, we can't afford to do it because of all the overhead of producing the books before any are sold, but we did want to be different than all the other comics out there by starting out with 32 pgs. $3.50 at 32pgs is not a bad deal, and once we ramp it up to 40pgs and still keep it at the same $3.50 price, it'll be a better deal then. So instead of starting out at 22 pages like all the other comics out there, we'll give fans 10 more pages for 50¢ more, and then as the books hit the stores, we'll first ramp them up to 36pgs, then 40pgs.. and then some more. It'll be like reading half a TPB every month!

Brian: It benefits everyone really. The creators get to add some more ‘flesh’ to the monthly stories, make them a little bigger all around, higher page count makes for cheaper per page printing, which we pass on to the consumer and retailer – the consumer getting a better per page value for their purchase, and the retailer a higher return product per sale. This is a value we can deliver every month.

In the era of 'Late Books' where artists and writers often can't seem to keep a 22 page book on a monthly schedule, how in the world does Kandora plan to keep 32 page or 40 page books on a monthly schedule?

Tom: Well, as far as our writers you can ask them how they plan on keeping up with the schedule. They are confident that they can do it without much problem.

Yeah, being chained to my laptop doesn’t hurt either! Not to mention the pet parrot Ken sent me, which I thought a nice gift until one day it just started shouting: DEADLINE! DEADLINE! Non-stop.

Brian: That was meant to be a pet? I thought it was a bad pirate joke.

Tom: As far as the production is concerned (pencilling, inking, coloring, etc), we are very confident that we can keep up the schedule just fine. Transparency Digital is a graphic service company handling most of our production work directly. The freelancers work in-house in the same studio, making it very easy to work closely together with in-house inkers, colorists and illustrators thus allowing for an easy streamlined process of passing the work along to the next step in the production pipeline. TD has several highly skilled colorists who are already doing several monthly titles that require very tight turn-around, so we have complete confidence on them for delivering the art to us on time.

How about the artists, a lot of positive buzz is forming from the preview art, what's the story with each?

Ken: Our artists have 20-30 years experience in the comic book field and now they are very excited to have the chance to show off their work in the US market. They have done numerous titles in the Asian market and as some of you might know, in Asia, the monthly book's page count is very high (120+). So, doing only 32 pages of art per issue allows them to put in more detail and make the pages look beautiful (as you can see in the samples).

Refocusing some now… what challenges does the comic book industry face that Kandora is SPECIFICALLY trying to address? How does Kandora intend to improve the state of the industry with its existence?

Ken: Superhero books currently are dominating the comic market and while Crossgen did have a good following with their genre books, they are now gone. We are going to do our best to stick around for many, many decades to come, not making the same mistakes CG did by growing too fast or having too high an overhead. We will strive to deliver quality books, with great story, with great art, higher page count and all without becoming overly ambitious.

Ian: I think there are two simple answers to this question. One is diversification. There are plenty of superhero publishers and titles. But there is a definite need for stories in other genres. Kandora is offering those genres. Beginning with the four initial titles and then hopefully expanding into more as the time is right and the audience is there.
The second is value. There is an industry-wide cry for the death of the "pamphlet" comic and the rise of the graphic novel. What people don't realize is that, in most cases, it is not financially feasible to only produce a graphic novel. The costs are too expensive and sales don't support it. So, while Kandora is not changing the format radically, they are giving readers more value for their dollar. By offering individual comics that contain 32 pages of story and art for $3.50, Kandora is producing one of the most cost efficient lines on the market. The average comic price of the Top 300 titles offered by Diamond, according to Comics and Games Retailer, is $3.05. The majority of those books are your standard 22 page comic. With Kandora, readers get just about 50% more story and art for only 45 cents more than the average comic they're already buying. If that's not value, I don't know what is.

Well, the deal on that Lean Cuisine Freezer truck…that was value.

Brian: brrrrrrrr.

By the way, Brian, what happened to your parrot?

Brian: Someone mention Lean Cuisine?

And that’s a wrap!

Next Week: Remember when you read comics in school and the Teacher got after you? Well, pretty soon in Maryland, a pilot project will launch that will - you better sit down for this - use comics in a literacy project! That’s right, reading comics just became homework. Wow. All the details, right here, next week…same box time, same box channel.

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