Super Human Trade

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There a few things people genuinely enjoy more than a good laugh, but getting them to roar is easier said than done. Good humor is tough to pull off in real life, but presenting it in comic book form is even harder. Yet, that’s exactly what Super Human Resources did.

The four-issue Ape Entertainment miniseries by newcomers Ken Marcus and Justin Bleep gets collected this August. BF caught up with Marcus to find out what it was like to get his first comic book series published.

BROKEN FRONTIER: The Super Human Resources trade paperback has just been solicited. Looking back, what were the most trying parts of the process of getting your book published?

KEN MARCUS: No doubt, the biggest problem was myself. I took forever to finish the end of the series. It was hard. I was in the middle of a move with a new baby. A colicky baby to boot. It was tough trying to be funny when you're freakin' miserable. I submit a humor book is a little harder to write than other comics, time-wise. There's a reason shows have a staff of ten writers. Comedy is hard. Doubly so when you're only getting three hours of sleep a night.

BF: Did it take you a long time to get the concept for the series just right?

I like to say the concept for Super Human Resources is a better writer than I am. Once I got the idea for the book--the HR department of the world's greatest super team--all of these fun, little possibilities presented themselves. It's just one of those ideas people "get" once they hear the concept. What would it be like to work alongside the world's mightiest, yet most dysfunctional people? The concept has a lot of legs.

BF: You’ve gone to great lengths to get the word out there. What kind of an impact did it have on order numbers?

Yeah, I worked pretty hard. Did everything I could think of. Emailed everyone. Posted everywhere. Really reached out to retailers. Honestly, I think all my hard work just kinda offset the horrible economy. Retailers are cutting back. It's a tough time for comics. I totally understand. Who wants to take a chance on a humor book (which typically don't do well) from a first time indie creator? I get it. The bottom line is, you have to be twice as good in this climate. And I think Super Human Resources is. 

BF: You were also heavily promoting the book at NYCC earlier this year. Was it a memorable experience?

Yeah. I probably gave as many books away as I sold. I'm a moron. I gave them to a lot of press, podcasters and pros. Just trying to get the word out. But it was really cool to have people come up to the Ape table looking specifically for the book.  I also got to sign my first books. I had no idea what I was doing. I offered to sign a boob or two. No one took me up on that. Okay, one guy did.

BF: What factored in to your decision to release the book through Ape Entertainment?

Simple, really. They liked our book. We sent SHR out to a bunch of publishers. At the time, a lot of publishers were holding pitch contests – like American Idol but for comics. I wasn't terribly interested in that. Ape got the book at a show and followed up with us the following week. Brent, David and Kevin were very excited about Super Human Resources. So that's all it took for me. They've been great and are extremely supportive of us.

BF: How does their deal differ from other publishers you may or may not have spoken with?

I really can't speak to that. I don't know the ins and outs of other contracts. Basically, Ape gives you options. The more risk you assume with printing costs and whatnot, the less of a cut they take. If Ape pays more, they take more off the top. It's pretty logical. But we own the concept for 100% and that’s what’s important.

I don't get creators handing over their ownership to publishers like Platinum or whatever. If you don't own your self-created idea, you have nothing. I mean, you're not going to make much money either way. You should have a reasonable shot at some money if there's an option or whatever.

BF: There aren’t many creators out there who have the good fortune of starting their comics career with a book that almost every pro in the industry agrees with that it’s unique. How much time did you spend on getting the concept for Super Human Resources just right?

Again, the concept is a better writer than I am. The situations just present themselves. The characters took on a life of their own. Some characters Justin designed as background characters just sorta pushed their way to the front of the stage.  But most of my time was spent on dialogue revisions. That was the hardest and most time consuming. 

As far as unique? I know there have been other office-based superhero concepts before, but there is nothing like Super Human Resources. We're not trying to be a super hero comic really.  There are plenty of those already. I'm more interested in what happens behind the comic panels that we don’t typically see: all the same banal, mundane stuff that happens where you work must also happen in Avengers Tower.

BF: One of the writers to break into comics with funny superhero stories and who’s made it big because of that was Dan Slott. Do you consider humor your top quality as a writer?

Dan is super talented. His Spider-Man is great. I dunno. I like to think humor is my strong suit. It's pretty subjective.  I don't think I could do what "normal" comic writers do. There is a real craft to what they do, which really only learned by doing again and again.   Plotting, world building, long character arcs.

The one thing that writing Super Human Resources has taught me is how good the "real" pros actually are.  On the other hand, Super Human Resources is more like an animated show. It behaves differently than most comics. I've watched a lot of Simpsons and Venture Bros. So I can just fake my way through the stuff I don't know.

BF: In retrospect, how did the sale of the four issues go? Did the numbers outperform what you had imagined?

Our numbers were pretty good. Not amazing. We made the top 300, which is pretty good for a first-timer on an indie. The numbers seemed underwhelming to me. But when I tell other indie creators, they think we did really well. I will say our reorders have been great.

BF: Which issue are you most proud of creatively?

I think we got better with each issue. Three is probably our funniest while four is our best story-wise. I proud if how it all came together at the end. Seemingly pointless details all played a role at the end of the story. This might sound stupid, but I'm also proud that the end of the story had some heart. That we weren't all jokes and gags. I like to say Family Guy is The Simpsons without the soul. I'm glad our story still had a little soul to it.

BF: Would you have done anything differently story-wise?

I would have had issue #1 actually have a story. Hah. We got so caught up in introductions and jokes that there was really no plot to speak of. Leave and learn. It was a good introduction to our Super Human Resources world, but that's about it. That's why I'm so excited about the new trade. It all just holds up better in one read.

BF: How do you see your career evolving from here?

Hopefully, if Super Human Resources does well, I can do another volume. I want to get some semblance of an idea if there's demand for that. Some creators keep putting books out that no one is reading. In the interest of "working hard" to build an audience. I'm a big believer in letting the market decide, right off the bat. I've done what I can do to raise awareness. Now, people have to decide whether they want to part with their hard-earned cash to read Super Human Resources. People will either want to read more or not. Hopefully, word will spread. And I'm happy to keep working on it if they do.

But again, the market is tough. If you want to read something that's not from the Big Two, you have to ask your retailer for it. So if you're even interested in checking out Super Human Resources in the slightest, ask your comic books store to order the new trade paperback from Ape Entertainment. Thanks so much.

The Super Human Resources TPB hits in August. The Diamond order code is JUN090688. To get a taste of the book, read Super Human Resources #1 for free now!

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