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The Day Speakeasy Went Down

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One week ago, a white flag was raised at the offices of Speakeasy Comics. The company announced that it was closing up shop, mainly because of persisting financial difficulties.
After talking to Vito Delsante and Chris Stone last Thursday, BF now turns to a few former Speakeasy creators to hear about how they felt when the news broke. Did they in any way expect the publisher to cease operations? And how has it affected their careers? Will they look to publish their books elsewhere or will they quit comics altogether?

Note: if there are any other former Speakeasy creators out there who want to have their side of the story included in this feature, contact us  for more information.

Ben Lichius
Writer, co-creator of The Black Coat

I spent last weekend in NYC at the comic convention visiting retailers and letting them know about “The Black Coat.” Issue #1 was due out on Wednesday and so I made sure to let everyone I talked to know about it. Even though there had been some communication problems with Speakeasy in the last couple of weeks and there were some things about the services they were providing that I wasn’t happy with, we were just a few steps away from the finish line and the excitement of having my first published comic hit the shelves was starting to creep up on me.

When I got back home on Sunday night though, I got a call from my partner Francesco (the artist on BC) saying that it was looking like the book was delayed. He was understandably upset since we had confirmed with Speakeasy that March 1st was going to be our release date and he had scheduled a signing at a local comic shop. The shop went all out, contacting the local paper and television stations to help promote the event. I won’t even go into all of the other promotional efforts we had made (including my NYC trip) that would be wasted if the book was late. So we emailed our Speakeasy rep to find out about the delay, but we didn’t hear back from them.

On Monday, I was impatiently waiting for Diamond’s updated ship list for the week to see if, indeed, we had been bumped. Five o’clock rolled around and when Diamond posted the new list for the week, sure enough, we had been bumped. I went home from work pretty confused and disappointed and planning to call Adam Fortier to try and find out what was going on. That’s when I got another call from Francesco. He had been on Newsarama before I had and saw the news there about Speakeasy’s demise.

I must say I wasn’t totally shocked, but it was a pretty big let down. Here we were, 2 days away from having our book out and now, it wasn’t just late, it wasn’t going to happen at all! The biggest disappointment for me (aside from not getting to ship my books), had to be reading the news story and hearing that, supposedly, all of the creators had been contacted prior to the press release and yet this was how I had to learn about it. I must say that left me with a real kicked-to-the-curb kind of feeling.

So we’re upset, and of course very frustrated. But we’re getting over it and moving on. Our team is not going to give up and WILL get our books published. The Black Coat is NOT dead. We have 3 of the 4 issues done already and we are getting ready to start talking to other publishers. We decided not to release book 1 through SE even though they would have shipped it because we didn’t want fans to have to buy the book twice. Since we had a chance to stop it, as much as it hurt to do it, we decided to wait and release all 4 issues under one banner.

For our fans out there, we’re sorry for the wait, but we think it will be worth it in the long run. We appreciate your patience and continued support. Stop by our website (www.the-black-coat.com) for all the latest news and previews. We put some forums up on Tuesday and there are already people there who are excited to talk about “The Black Coat.” We plan to do everything we can to keep it that way for a long time. 

###

Joshua Ortega
Writer, Beowulf #7

I'm sorry to hear the news, but as many others have already commented, the writing was on the wall, and the lack of communication at the end was not a good sign.

Adam Fortier has said that he'll honor all of his current contracts, and pay all of the creators who are due compensation, and I hope that's the case. That's the best thing Speakeasy can do at this point: distance themselves from the fallen comic companies of the past by not screwing their creators over. Sounds obvious, but few have ever done it.

If Speakeasy can do that, then they’ll at least bow out of the game as a company that kept its integrity by honoring its contracts.

As far as what I’ll be doing next? I’m fortunate in that BEOWULF was just one project of many for me. I’m also writing THE NECROMANCER for Top Cow, a new STAR WARS project and an ESCAPIST story for Dark Horse, a STAR TREK graphic novel for TOKYOPOP, and I’m also working with editors at DC, Vertigo, and Marvel on some new projects as well.

And speaking of BEOWULF, issue #7 *did* ship to stores this week and I encourage everyone to still check the book out. It’s a two-part story and #8 will be shipping as well, and it’s a really trippy, often disturbing ride through modern-day America. It’s quite timely, and it features some amazing art by Jim Mahfood, Atilla Adorjany, Jeff Lemire, as well as a back-up story, “Fallout,” which is drawn by the incredibly talented and all-around-cool-dude Dean Haspiel.

In closing, I wish all of the other Speakeasy creators the best, and I hope this is the only time they ever have to deal with this situation.

Here’s to the future!

###

Scott O. Brown
Writer, editor of 2020 and Death Valley

I was one of the Speakeasy victims, but this effected more than just me. 

Back in 2004, I decided to scale back my publishing operation (Cyberosia Publishing, home of 2020 VISIONS, DAMNED, JOHNNY NEMO, and others), to focus on packaging comics for other publishers. I had five graphic novels placed with Speakeasy. Two came out--the 2020 trade and DEATH VALLEY. And everything looked like it was moving forward, but then a third kept getting postponed. A fourth was set up for August of 2006, and the last, I could never get an answer regarding it despite a verbal commitment. The royalty statements that were many, many months late didn't help either. 

Adam did his best to let me know what was going on, but as time went on, the response time got slower. I understand how time-consuming publishing is, but lack of efficient turn-around kept me from getting the work out as fast as I could. And it kept me from giving my own people the answers they were looking for. 

But like I said, this didn't affect just me; I've got creators who are entitled to money from these books, and none of them are happy, either. What makes it worse is that on paper, we didn't lose money, and I want to make sure that as much of that money as I can collect gets to whom it needs to. I don't care if I don't see a single cent for myself so long as I'm able to give my creators their fair share for the work they did and the trust they placed in me. Adam says he'll make good, and all I can do is hope he does. 

This doesn't affect my comics career. I will continue to make new comics, and I will continue to help other creators get their comics out, too. Their collapse have put a strain on some of my relationships, but ultimately, all we can do is keep on keeping on. I will start shopping Cyberosia's books to Image and other publishers. And if I have to resume full publishing duties to release them, I will. 

It's merely a bump in the road. I will push on.

###

Andrew Foley
Writer, creator of Parting Ways

When I found out I'd gotten a call from Adam, my first thought was it would be good news. The possibility of me writing something for Adam's Hawke Studios (in other words, WFH for actual money) had been floating around for awhile, and I'd been told that February might see some movement on PARTING WAYS as a Hollywood property. I called Adam, he asked if he could call back after he finished the call he was on, I said sure, and went to make myself a snack.

On the way to the kitchen, it occurred to me that this might NOT be good news. By the time I finished making my sandwich, I was preparing myself for what I still perceive as the worst outcome: Speakeasy declaring bankruptcy and PARTING WAYS' publishing rights getting entangled in lengthy and almost certainly prohibitively costly legal proceedings.

So, when Adam, after some very brief small talk, told me Speakeasy was shutting down, my first and really only question was, would I and my collaborator Scott Mooney get the rights back? The answer was yes, definitely. My personal Doomsday Scenario had been avoided.

I'm mildly ashamed to admit that the first thing I did after getting the news was NOT contact Scott. Instead, I sent a brief message to a publisher representative who'd been in touch a couple times in the last few months regarding the publishing rights for WAYS, telling him that they'd be coming open soon. I then called Scott and informed him of the situation.

A couple minutes into that conversation, I realized the potential implications involved in Speakeasy not going into bankruptcy. As soon as I finished with Scott, I called Adam back to ask, basically, how the current gap between PARTING WAYS' earnings and expenses would be dealt with. I'll admit I was a bit flustered; I don't recall exactly what was said, but I got the distinct impression I'd be expected to pay off the difference on a schedule that wouldn't be fiscally devastating. Issues of remaining inventory and money would be dealt with early next week.

I've got to admit, I was among those creators who believed the company would, or at least still COULD rally. At the same time, I can't say I'm surprised it didn't. From August onward, it was increasingly obvious that the company was understaffed--it simply didn't have enough people to keep all the balls it was juggling in the air, and as time went on, more and more of them got dropped. It's just a question of how many creator-balls bounce back.

Wow. That may be the worst metaphor ever.

What's really amazed me in the fallout from all this is the number of creators who aren't letting it slow them down. I'm 100% confident that worthwhile Speakeasy projects like ELK'S RUN, HELIOS, THE BLACK COAT, and ATHENA VOLTAIRE, among numerous others, will see print and completion at some point. I hope they, and PARTING WAYS, end up in a situation where they'll be more effectively represented in the marketplace.

In the meantime, I've got plenty to keep me busy. 2006 will see the release of DONE TO DEATH from Markosia, Platinum Studios looks like it's finally on track to get some books out later this year, including COWBOYS & ALIENS, which I've got a co-writing credit on. And I've got a few other irons in the fire. More than fit comfortably in the fire, actually.

I 'll leave it there, except to say that I'll be detailing any further developments with Speakeasy, PARTING WAYS, DONE TO DEATH, and everything else Foley-related, more or less as they happen, at my LiveJournal: http://andrew6.livejournal.com/.

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