The New Kid on the Block - Part 1

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Specializing in horror, historical fantasy, science fiction, urban crime noir, shoujo, and blockbuster action-adventure, new upstart company Americanime Corporation (composed of sister imprints Americanime Productions and Withdrawal Studios) is poised to leave an unforgettable mark upon the comic book industry. BF was able to get in contact with company CEO Michael Westerman for an exclusive lowdown on what’s being offered and what fans and retailers can expect.

BROKEN FRONTIER: For those unfamiliar with your products, can you give us a brief breakdown of the many titles now being offered?

MICHAEL WESTERMAN: Cool, I’ll toss out the pitch-lines I use at cons to snatch the attention of the masses, more detail can be found on the site or web if sought. I will warn these are a bit jaunty!

-Katharsis is an alternate history of WWII in which the Nazis create a supersoldier, called Blitzkrieg, and conquer the world, only to have their savior turn upon them when he runs out of enemies to satisfy his sadism (he finds an outlet in his comrades!).

-Bounty Killer is the tale of a bounty hunter who accepts only dead or alive contracts, and takes no prisoners. He is being tracked by the Mephistophelean Red Man, who seeks to influence his path to serve his own shadowed ends.

-Honor of the Damned is the story of an unstoppable warrior samurai, only serving those that have summoned him through the blood of seven, or by killing his current master. By mishap a 12 year-old by, Steven, becomes his retainer, and they set out to save the world from itself, while being tracked by immortal vampire samurai out to kill Steven for his newfound servant!

-Bushido is the tale of a cybernetic solar-powered samurai, who enters hibernation due to a nuclear winter, only to awaken 300 years later to a new world.

-Airshell is the story of Rene, a man who feels as though the world he lives in is not quite right; the sky is too small. Rene finds a new assistant, Ari Norvant, who begins to find logic and truth in the views of his introverted (schizophrenic?) new acquaintance.

-The Upper Hand follows an American private eye and Scarlet, Hitler’s prized psychic detective, as they track a German serial killer across the US amidst the Second World War.

-Cold Dream 0 is the tale of Agent 41, who is assigned to a case involving the infamous cop killer, and is given a new partner who just happens to have been the primary suspect in the case.

-Stoimvlad : Has 9 Seconds is the story of a man with a quaint super power; he can freeze time for nine seconds by clapping his hands, but is only able to do this once every two minutes. He recounts to his psychiatrist the origin of his odd power, and the moral repercussions from its use.

-The Way To Your Heart is the tale of Yumi, an intelligent young girl sent to a high-school for the gifted, where the most popular J-Pop band, Orocihi, also attends! It’s a roller coaster of emotion as Yumi falls for the band leader, Toshio!

-Shadow of the Setting Sun follows the main character of the same name, a member of the Slayers Klan. A warrior who adheres to blades in a world of guns, he encounters monsters of another world behind the ‘gate’, and will determine the fate of the world!

-Drug-Land Security follows Tyrone Jubei, a New York unaffiliated drug kingpin who discerns from the stray bullet that killed his novel brother that the violence must end. Naturally TJ moves to completely eliminate all competition and unite the territory, recognizing that the lack of rivalry can only result in peace. Prior to ending each gang, he takes their drug, going on a perception altering chivalrous crusade of peace, utilizing guns, swords, and warrior philosophy to establish ‘Drug-Land Security’.

BF: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

MW: I’m a 23 year old writer and businessman with miscellaneous resolute intentions. To summarize the educational experience, I went to St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, they turn boys to men, actually living up to the promises they pitch to the parents for their green, (gotta plug what your proud of!) then to Barry University in Miami. After a silly year of parties and the beach, I decided to get an education and transferred to another university in Boston. This school had a program called co-op, whereby the student is given a job in their major for 6-month periods to train them in the real-world. I ended up working in an office, being a business major, and immediately despised the enabler of mass incompetence, the bureaucratic machine. Preferring to work on my own, I opted to start my own company to create an environment I was content with the next co-op cycle.

BF: What were the origins of Americanime Productions, the nitty-gritty details of how you came to dive into the wonderful world of comics?

MW: Katharsis was the story that served as the impetus to start a company such as Americanime. One evening in September of ‘04 at two or three in the morning during a hazy session of anime, I blacked out for a moment and saw the opening visual of Blitzkrieg coming upon a camp, savoring the steel serpents as they tore through the flesh of his palms before voraciously unleashing his havoc; it was sick. From there the screenplay flowed and I had that done by November. Then I adapted the screenplay into a novel and hired an editor from NYC then made a final manuscript… I should send that out at some point.

A small detail, Klaus and Cristov [two characters in Katharsis] are representative of a few individuals from the actual War, whose actual names were utilized in the novel. In order to budget the anime film version of the screenplay a substantial amount of capital was needed. Anime is about $36K/minute for the animation alone, plus cgi, voices, sfx and music! And moreover I wanted to see the series in visual format; graphic novels seemed the natural starting point. So Americanime was founded first as a DBA – “doing business as” – called Americanime Animation in November or December of ’04.

Next I put together a business proposal and pulled my first loan from a private investor to produce ‘The Americanime Sampler’, a preview of the first 5 titles. At the advice my friend, also the initial artist, Yikai Ken Zou (an avid gambler) I had moved to increase the odds of my venture and began pursuing other titles. In January I developed the business proposal into a plan, 5yr pro-forma and all, and picked up another round of financing while incorporating under the name Americanime Corporation. From there the construction of the intellectual property development company began, and Americanime Productions began to release the series as comic-books.

BF: What is your current role in Americanime as a publishing company?

MW: From the outset I have been at the front serving as the CEO of the company and also handle all operations from property/title development, finances, advertising and marketing, and also as the editor/director for the two publishing labels while also writing the flagship titles. A bit long-winded yes, but when running a one-man company numerous tasks are assumed, but nothing would have been possible were it not for the exemplary group of individuals I have had the honor of assembling. My team has been a monumental help for all aspects including the stories, artwork, and graphic design, as well as incredible motivation and energy along the way, working arduously to hit the numerous and demanding deadlines that are ever-present with prime material.

BF: Speaking of comics written by you: many of AP’s titles have you credited as writer, paired with a selection of comparatively unknown artists. How did you go about seeking this talent?

MW: In regards to the artists on the team who have worked on the titles I write, I found the talent primarily through www.digitalwebbing.net, a great resource, where writers/employers can put up job offerings and artists respond. For each title there would be a submission stage where I would provide an identical script to numerous artists and go with whomever best embodied the spirit of the series. In this way I found Xerx Javier of Katharsis and Drug-Land Security, as well as Donny Hadiwidjaja and Erfan Fajar of Bounty Killer to work upon my titles.

Xerx’s art is incredibly powerful and dark with a black-and-white film, gritty realism that is perfect for Katharsis, somewhat baroque in style, which is also the music I hear when thinking of the character Blitzkrieg – baroque lyre or classical guitar, and so very fitting. Donny is a great artist and person, giving 1000% at all times to push his skills to the limit and hit the striking visuals I ask of him; he’s headlining a new series on art with me titled Roman Infidelity that will showcase his skills in a new setting!

BF: A few titles are creator owned and fully crafted by others. What made you choose the titles and creators that you did? What was the selection process like?

MW: JB Monares came to my attention through the DW site with samples of the Undead Samurai, which in turn brought Honor of the Damned and Nevin Arnold to the table. Nevin’s writing style is very attractive, his stories extremely well written and paced with innovative plot elements; the undead samurai mastered by the 12-year old Steven from Honor of the Damned is quality. He has also been invaluable in the graphic design department assisting in lettering and logos for nearly all releases, and another of his series The Upper Hand, is being released through Withdrawal Studios.

I first picked up HotD and had at the same time been searching through the online comic phenomenon for the best art and stories, and found Airshell by Lia Fiengo and The Way To Your Heart by Emily Wilcken, which quickly became the goals of my search. Lia’s art style is stunning; crisp and beautiful character models with elaborate and foreboding backgrounds amidst the backdrop of a deeply mysterious story. I initiated contact and after some consideration we began the relationship which led to Airshell, and also I’m publishing her series Cold Dream 0 through Withdrawal Studios. Emily does stories and art in the heavily popular shoujo style, revolving around a J-pop band in TWTYH, and her 1-shots Message in a Bottle and Charmed Reality have also been released through Americanime. 

Stefano Cardoselli I met through a Katharsis submission, and over time Stefano pitched a few series as we got to know one another. Bushido was the first to be developed through Americanime, written by Tzvi Lebetkin, with two additional series, Tokyo Bullets and Shadow of the Setting Sun, both written by Marco Della Verde and Stefano, coming from Withdrawal Studios. His art was also used to represent TJ’s heroine-high, shotgun-blasting massacre in Drug-Land Security, a great mix of European comic and Japanese wood-block art that is both hard and violently unique. Alejandro Boim of Stoimvlad Has 9 Seconds I met at the Wizard Boston convention. His personality and the quaint story sold themselves and I picked it up to publish; the beautiful cover painting done by Alejandro was of particular influence as well.

That about sums up the outside series, although there are a few more shrouded titles in development from within the team! Basically what I have required of any series overall is a unique and ensconcing take on the content and method of story-telling, and excellent art in and of itself (as styles may vary but quality does not). For Americanime the manga-influence was sought after, while for Withdrawal a more hard-core and gritty feel.

BF: The shift from AP to Withdrawal Studios: can you tell us what made you open up a new imprint and what its focus and direction will be? 

MW: Withdrawal Studios has been established to release the series that are more geared towards the traditional comic-fans, with a hefty dose of ultra-violence. Americanime was satisfactorily received in the comic industry, but given the manga tilt to the fan-base, the graphic novel format will be more conducive. As for Withdrawal, Drug-Land Security is the vanguard of the new label, with The Upper Hand and Cold Dream 0 in the first wave, followed by Shadow of the Setting Sun, Tokyo Bullets, and a new series I’m working on.

BF: I noticed that more graphic novel compilations are planned than individual issues - is this more or less the new paradigm for future publications?

MW: For Americanime the graphic novel phase is approaching, and Withdrawal Studios has passed the development stage and started on small-scale and direct distribution, with the wide-scale distribution later this year. The titles of Withdrawal Studios are set to be released as quarterly comic-books, with the graphic novels soon to follow. This will be the model that I’ll be pushing the publishing labels towards, as a majority of the issues have already released through Americanime with the graphic novels scheduled. Comic releases are not particularly lucrative within the indy sector, more a marketing expense to develop the name of the property and get the title out there. From that the graphic novel sales will be augmented and pre-advertised, and the comics also are means to assist the titles in other media. However the graphic novel sales turn-outs will dictate the future strategy of action, an outcome I impatiently await!

To be continued…

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