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Salicrup Days - Part Three

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In a lengthy, three-part interview, Jim Salicrup talks to Broken Frontier about his early days at Marvel Comics in the role of editor on the Marvel bullpen, the beginnings of the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art and his latest projects at Papercutz.

Salicrup Days - Part One
Salicrup Days - Part Two

Papercutz

BROKEN FRONTIER: As Editor-in-Chief of Papercutz, you’ve stated that your target audience is “teens and tweens” (ages 9-17) Why do you feel that age group is so important?

JIM SALICRUP: I probably would describe our titles for ages 8 and up. Papercutz was the brainchild of my partner, NBM publisher Terry Nantier—a true pioneer in the graphic novels field. 

The question itself—why is this age group so important? - seems crazy to me. Would anyone ever ask why should there be books, TV, or movies for tweens and teens? But to answer why it’s so important, Terry and I strongly believe there can never be enough good comics for comics readers of all ages. Furthermore, even the evil cigarette industry knows, that you need to hook people when they’re young, otherwise you may never get them. So, just to help create future generations of comics fans it’s important to get tweens and teens aware of this amazing medium.

Aside from all that, I believe in creating comics that are truly enjoyable for all-ages. Adults enjoy films such as Shrek and The Incredibles—they don’t dismiss them as “kid’s stuff.” I believe our Nancy Drew, Girl Detective or Zorro graphic novels can be enjoyed by adults as well as tweens and teens.

BF: It seems like there are a lot fewer teens and kids reading comics nowadays, when compared to even twenty years ago. Not only that, the same group are the large target market for video games and other entertainment media that have come about in the last few decades. How does Papercutz plan to attract these new readers?

JS: We’re lucky to have the resources of powerful book distributor, Holtzbrinck Publishers, getting our titles into major bookstores. We’re lucky to have librarians supporting our books. We’ve gotten write-ups in newspapers all across America - we’ve been on page one of USA Today—so lots of parents are aware of our books. We’ve just had Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys previewed in Scholastic’s Scope magazine—the Weekly Reader for tweens and teens. We’re even in The New Book of Knowledge 2006 Annual. We suspect when the new live-action Nancy Drew movie from Warner Bros, starring Emma Roberts, opens next year we’ll get a lot of attention then.

Our publishing plan is to license properties that tweens and teens already enjoy. We’re adding Totally Spies! to our line-up this year, for example. It’s one of the top shows on the Cartoon Network, so tweens and teens already like our characters. All we have to do is let them know that their favorite characters are now also available in graphic novels.

BF: Currently you’re publishing The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Zorro. What was it that you found appealing about those properties?

JS: All of those titles have been around longer than Superman, the very first comic book superhero. It’s a fact that Zorro helped inspired the creation of Superman and Batman. So there must be something about these characters that has made them the favorites for so many generations. It’s also no secret that comics fans enjoy teen-age heroes, even if they don’t have spider or mutant powers.

Besides, have you ever been to a bookstore that didn’t carry the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew? The fact that there was a place to put our books—right next to the original Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series - helped a lot too. 

BF: Is the youth market familiar with these older properties?

JS: Both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have recently been re-launched in new series by Simon & Schuster, with the first new Nancy Drew books making it on to the New York Times best-sellers list. I suspect the Nancy Drew movie will have a major impact, and a new series of Zorro animated cartoons, as well as a new Zorro movie, are in the works as well.

BF: What kind of response have you heard from teens and tweens?

JS: That’s been my favorite part of working on these books—hearing kids tell me how much they’ve enjoyed these books. They really respect that the books aren’t being written down to them. Talking to kids at conventions and school libraries is always a wonderful experience. Just as I enjoyed getting to know Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane, and Aunt May as well as I did, I’m having a blast with Joe and Frank Hardy, Chet Morton, Aunt Trudie, Nancy Drew, Bess Marvin, George Fayne, Don Diego, Eulalia Bandini, and Tornado. I’m lucky to be working with such great writers such as Stefan Petrucha, Scott Lobdell, Don McGregor, as well as artists such as Sho Murase, Dan Rendon, and Sidney Lima – they make my job a whole lot of fun. 

BF: How is working in comics different today than it was when most of the comics creators lived in or near New York City?

JS: Comics creators before were able to live wherever they wanted, but those that worked in the office needed to live in or around New York City. Only when someone was trying to break into comics did it really helped to be close to the publishers. It's not as important today, but it still doesn't hurt, if you're a freelance writer or artist, to happen to be nearby when an editor is desperately looking for someone to write or draw something overnight.

The biggest difference is that since I've been at Papercutz, I haven't touched a single piece of original artwork - everything is done digitally now. Back at Marvel and Topps, we'd work with the actual original artwork - marking it up for corrections, having it hand-lettered before it was inked, making photocopies for the colorists to create color guides, and then shipping it off to the printers for final publication. Now, everything is in file form and emailed wherever it has to go.

Thanks to the Internet, Papercutz can be a global company in a very real sense. Our artists, for example, live in Brazil, Mexico, and San Francisco. Our books are printed in China and Canada, and distributed all over the world. It's great hearing from fans from the Philippines and Malaysia, as well as those from New Jersey and LA. It's kind of amazing if you stop and think about it.

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