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At a Loss for Words

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With Speakeasy Comics having closed up shop earlier this week, BF talks to Chris Stone and Vito Delsante to shed to find out what went wrong and which books we can still expect to see in comic shops.

*** Chris Stone's comments were removed on his request. ***

BROKEN FRONTIER: When Speakeasy started operations in early 2005, nobody would have predicted the company to go down so quickly. I know it’s quite possibly a very broad question, but where did things go wrong?

VITO DELSANTE: Everyone will blame expansion, but I still think that you can't fault ambition.  I will say that we should have built an audience up... maybe focus on one genre, like IDW did when it first started, and continues to do. [Delsante is talking about the ‘horror’ genre – ed.]

BF: According to Publisher Adam Fortier, one of the reasons for the company’s demise is that Ardustry, the entertainment company that bought Speakeasy last fall, never paid a dime. In the same feature , Ardustry on the other hand claims that it never ‘went forward’ and actually bought Speakeasy. Can you clear things up a bit regarding the whole Speakeasy/Ardustry debate?

VD: I don't know. It's very "he said/she said" isn't it?  I was under the impression that it was a partnership, not an outright buy-out.  I know that when I talked to Adam at Toy Fair, he was still anticipating money... I figured it was an investment by Ardustry, more than buying Speakeasy.

BF: In one of his Bad Signals released Tuesday, Warren Ellis expressed being surprised by the company’s decision to release book after book without any clear marketing plan to support them. Since marketing is key in this industry, it’s indeed surprising to see the lack of any consistent effort. Why was that?

VD: I'm 100% in agreement with Warren here.  Over the past month, one of the things Adam asked me to do was think of a new way to make the Speakeasy Previews section look less like solicits and more like ads.  Is this the solution?  Probably not, but to really make a splash, you have to advertise in a book like Wizard, and truthfully, those ads are too expensive.  It was left in the hands of the creators to do their own marketing, which is a bit of a sour apple since it was assumed that they (Speakeasy) would share the costs of any advertising and it would be pro-rated, or taken out of the profits of the books.

    

BF: One could say the writing was on the wall. After the partnership with Ardustry was announced, Speakeasy wasn’t what it used to be and slowly but surely more and more creators went to Image (Rocketo, Occult Crimes Taskforce), Markosia (Of Bitter Souls, Mutation, etc.) or opted to publish their properties themselves (Atomika: God Is Red at Mercury Comics).

VD: You can't blame the failures or success of a company when a few books leave.  They had an aggressive plan for 2006 and in my eyes, losing those properties wouldn't have made a difference in the end.  It's easy to talk about now, but if things fell into place, it would have been, "Wow, I can't believe how lucky they are" rather than, "Wow, what the hell happened?"

BF: Adam Fortier has stated that he’s doing the best he can to get everyone their money as soon as possible. Are you at liberty to reveal what amount we’re looking at here?

VD: I don't know anything about this in terms of dollar amount, though I do know two creators that are owed money.

BF: Do you know what will happen with Speakeasy’s books? Have you heard from any creators what they will do now that the company has closed doors?

VD: Everyone is scrambling right now.  I'm looking for a publisher myself.  I haven't heard anyone say that they are quitting, which is a good thing.

BF: There doesn’t appear to be a clear overview of what books will still see release. Allegedly, several titles are still set to hit stores in March, perhaps even through April. Which issues are we talking about?

VD: Beowulf #7 is all I know. After that, I'm unsure.

BF: Regardless of what happened to Speakeasy over the past few weeks and months, it’s a matter of fact that almost everybody (except for several projects released through Dark Horse and Image) is subject to what Marvel and DC do. Industry insiders had predicted the demise of a number of companies in the short term… Speakeasy just happens to be the first. Do you agree?

VD: What can you say?  That's clearly the rule and not the exception.  What, if anything can change this?  Look, I work for a comic store, and people come in every week and say, "God, I hate Spider-Man's new costume!" or "They're ruining Superman!" or whatever... and instead of seeking out alternatives, they stick with it.  What is this overwhelming sense of fear in our audience?  I don't get it!  We used to be vanguards, and we're stuck in 1986!  I urge people to try some new comics, not just mine. Dammit, Fear Agent is the best book out there, and no one knows this! 

People... comic fans... mobilize!  Tell your retailer to diversify, or if they are the kind that has a variety of titles, tell them you appreciate it!  Encourage these guys because they aren't just the "middle man" in the whole transaction—retailers are the lifeblood of comics, as are fans.

BF: What will you be doing now that you’re technically unemployed? Have you had enough of comics for the time being?

VD: I'm hoping TokyoPop contacts me to do a new OEL Manga. I'm also in discussions with a couple of publishers, so we'll see. The Mercury Chronicles has had its share of setbacks, and I hope we can make it work this year.

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