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Desperado Breaks Loose

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Two months ago to the day, Desperado Publishing announced it was breaking up its partnership with Image Comics after a fruitful two and a half years. BF spoke to Desperado founder Joe Pruett about the amicable parting of ways, the company’s future plans and its identity.

Next to the interview, we’re also bringing you extended previews of Antoine Sharpe #1 and Cherubs #1.

BROKEN FRONTIER: As far as public perception goes, Desperado had a solid thing going at Image Comics. Why did you decide it was time to part ways?

JOE PRUETT: First of all, I want to publicly state that our decision to leave Image Comics was not because of anything that Image had done, didn’t do, or whatnot. It was a decision purely based on what we want to accomplish as a company.

Our time at Image was great. They’re a good bunch of guys and I’m grateful for all their help, direction and support over the last two plus years. Image was a great parent company, but now is the time to go out and make our own way. It’s just the natural progression of life.

BF: How do you look back on the time at the Big ‘I’?

JP: Again, it was a great time.  I sincerely believe that our decision to partner with Image from the start was the right one. We were able to make our mistakes under their umbrella and learn from one of the best companies out there. I feel that our time there was well spent.

BF: Was the decision to go solo made internally some time ago already? When did the idea start circulating?

JP: It was a decision that was gradual in coming, but one that, of course, would be evaluated from time to time. Business is like any other relationship you have in life. You’re happy with the one you’re with, but every once in a while you wonder if there’s something more out there for you.

I guaranteed Image I would stay with them for at least two years, so after that time was up it was time to start considering our options. There were a lot of positive things about staying with Image, but ultimately we felt like now was the time to try to make it on our own.

BF: Desperado has been part of Image almost for as long as Erik Larsen’s been publisher there. What did you learn from Erik when it comes to publishing comics?

JP: To publish what you believe in. I’ve been involved in publishing comics for over a decade now. I spent a good part of the 1990’s working with Caliber Comics where I eventually rose to Creative Director of the company.

What I did at Caliber was recruit top talent to work on their own personal projects, while also trying to get what I considered to be the top new talent a chance at getting into the business. I think my time at Caliber was pretty successful judging by the amount and quality of creators who I worked with there who are now writing or drawing the top comics in the field—Paul Pope, John Cassaday, Brian Bendis, David Mack, Paul Jenkins, Phil Hester, Mike Oeming, etc.).

I simply took the same approach I had there and applied it to Desperado. Seek out the top talent and let them do whatever they want.

BF: How did Erik respond when you informed him of your plans?

JP: Image was very good with the announcement. They were sorry that we had decided to leave and wished us well, even telling us that if we ever wanted to come back we were welcome.

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BF: During your time at Image, an important part of the company’s publishing plans were the reprints of older, out of print material (mainly from Caliber projects). Is that something that will continue in the future?

JP: I believe so, yes. There was a lot of good material published by Caliber that just isn’t in print anymore. My relationship with Caliber’s owner, Gary Reed (who now writes a number of Desperado titles and acts as our Business Development man) has allowed me pretty free reign to the Caliber library of titles.

But I’m not just looking at older Caliber titles, as our recent reprinting of the former Vertigo/DC series Outlaw Nation shows. We have another old Vertigo/DC series being collected this July (Jamie Delano, Tom Peyer and John McCrea’s Cruel and Unusual ).

There’s a few more in the works which we’ll mention later. Again, I want to publish quality titles and make sure that titles that fall into this category stay in print.

BF: In terms of original Desperado material, we had The Atheist, Common Foe, Negative Burn, and Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick, just to name a few. Which projects performed best at Image?

JP: Each has done well in some form or another. The Atheist (recently renamed as Antoine Sharpe – ed.) was probably our most critically acclaimed title. It’s also been the title that has triggered the fiercest Hollywood interest since its debut. Paul Jenkins’ Sidekick and Stardust Kid did very well sales wise. Negative Burn allows us to work with newer talents which we couldn’t do otherwise. Flaming Carrot , of course, has a huge cult following. I’ve been pretty happy with almost everything we’ve published at Desperado.

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BF: Did the success of any of these original projects help determine the content of your upcoming output?

JP: Not so much the content than perhaps the nature in which we present projects. For instance, five-issue limited series are tougher to do than four-issue series, both creatively and in terms of profitability.

The Freak Show hardcover did really well for us, so we might be inclined to try more projects in that format. The Art of Brian Bolland hardcover was so well received and has done well in reorders that we’re now planning on doing a couple of art books per year (P. Craig Russell being the next to get the treatment in July).

BF: What are some of the highlights among the new projects you’ve got coming up?

JP: I’m really excited about the prequel that we’ll be publishing of Don McGregor’s Sabre original graphic novel from 1978. Sabre was always one of those series that was ahead of its time. Don always pushed the envelope further than anyone else before him. This new series doesn’t disappoint either.

We also have Don McGregor’s Detective’s Inc. series coming back in a big way later this year as well. Why Don isn’t working more in comics today I’ll never know. His stories are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. Perhaps more so.

Bryan Talbot and Mark Stafford’s Cherubs limited series is a fun, yet socially conscious aware project that will sneak up and surprise a lot of readers I’m sure. Bryan has been writing classics for 25 years. This series is no different.

Frank Beddor and Ben Templesmith’s Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M was one of the surprise hits of 2006. I’m happy to say that we’ve been talking about another 8-12 issues coming up in the future. Frank just has to juggle his time between writing his next Looking Glass Wars novel and his day as a movie producer. Must be rough… [Laughs]

BF: When it comes to attracting new talent to the Desperado family, has that process been facilitated because of the experience you’ve gathered working under the Image umbrella?

JP: As I said earlier, it comes more from my years at Caliber. I’ve been doing this for quite a long time (interrupted by a few years writing comics for the X-office at Marvel) and have built up a number of relationships through the years that I can exploit now. [Laughs] How else can you explain that guys like Phil Hester and Brian Bolland keep doing work for me at the rates I pay?!

BF: Aside from the fact that Desperado is no longer part of Image, are there any other changes coming up for the company?

JP: Not particularly. We’re pulling in more friends to work with us on the production side of things, but, other than that, it’s business as usual.

BF: Finally, as a company standing on its own to feet, in what areas do you hope to carve out a niche? In other words, what do you want the ‘solo-Desperado label’ to stand for?

JP: We just hope that when someone sees a comic with the Desperado logo on the cover that they’ll at least take a look at it because they’ll know it’ll be something interesting. We’re not tied into one particular genre or format. We just aim to publish good books by good people.

For more information on Desperado Publishing, visit the company’s website at www.desperadopublishing.com .

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