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Adam Fortier has been driving the Speakeasy Comics bus for seven months now. Unexpectedly--in the eyes of comic fans, not so much in Fortier's--Speakeasy has rapidly carved out a niche with books that leave out the fanfare but put in an extra dose of solidity instead. Both industry veterans and newcomers were quick to take notice of this new voice in comics, and more than a handful have already found a home under the sturdy roof Fortier has built.

With more exciting announcements set to come this summer, the time was now to catch up with the man in the driving seat... so that's what we did.

BROKEN FRONTIER: Speakeasy is incredibly hot right now. Since you officially launched the company in early November last year and opened the doors for submissions, things have just exploded. Did you expect that kind of success right out of the gate?

Click to enlargeADAM FORTIER: In all honesty, if you go into a business venture expecting to fail, you shouldn’t even get out of bed in the morning. I try to see the big picture. You try to plan for the most scenarios and keep all you bases covered, you know, “Expect the best, plan for the worst.” The fact that people like our stuff is a result of really hard work of the creative and writing teams and the efforts of people here at Speakeasy.

BF: What factors are responsible for the success of such a young company?

AF: You need dedicated, trustworthy people working with you.  You have to have a goal, be able to articulate it and have an idea on how to execute it. You also have to realize that your target is constantly moving; you have to be able to be flexible, be adaptable, and be prepared. You also need to be able to deal with those crappy days when you feel that everyone seems to be conspiring against you.

BF: Do you have a specific philosophy when it comes to publishing comics, aside from trying to put out the best books you can, because that’s what every publisher should want to be doing.

AF: It sounds really basic, but when we get a submission or looking at the books we already have on the docket, we search for what is missing. Is there an art style that’s really interesting that’s not being represented? Is there a genre of story that we’re not hitting? Find the opening in the market and try to patch it with a good book.

It also helps that, as a non-artistic type, I surround myself with arty friends that have discerning tastes and who have seen it all. If they like something, it’s probably got a fighting chance in the market. With Speakeasy, it’s not like there are floors of departments that a project needs to get through before we decide whether the material is viable for the market.

BF: The company seems to be similar to what Image is doing: different studios working under the same banner, new creator-owned properties, etc. Do you feel it is a legitimate comparison?

AF: I’d be lying if I said no, but there are vastly different business philosophies behind each company. There are only so many ways you can set up a comic book company, so I guess comparisons with any company involved in the same industry are going to inevitable. Do we publish creator owned material? Yes. Do we provide creator services? Yes. Are we a comic company trying to get a bigger share of the pie? Yes.

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BF: Where exactly do Speakeasy and Image differ in what they offer creators then?

AF: As a smaller company we’re more hands-on and accessible to the creators we work with. We lay everything out on the table and involve our clients at almost every step. We are very transparent in what we do and how we do things. Once we develop a relationship with a creator, it’s all about honesty- good, bad and ugly. I don’t think you’ll find a Speakeasy Comics client that thinks there’s a power imbalance in the relationship. If you find one, let me know because I’ll try to fix that.

BF: Unlike other new companies, such as Alias and Kandora, Speakeasy hasn’t really encountered any problems when it comes to (extremely) late shipping. Has your experience as a retailer proven to be helpful in that regard?

AF: I’ve always been upfront about respecting schedules. Missing deadlines isn’t just a bloody inconvenience; it costs people money. When people arbitrarily decide to delay books, death and disease notwithstanding, it screws up advertising, printing and shipping deadlines that then affect sales. I don’t like lateness in my social life, so why would I have to accept it in my professional life?

BF: I completely agree. What are some of the moves you’ve made to ensure that Speakeasy’s books hit the stands when they are expected to?

Click to enlargeAF: We make it explicitly clear when projects are due. We also make it explicitly clear that individuals that don’t pull their weight can and will be replaced. It’s not a threat, it’s a fact.  I think the people who approach us have their own drive to keep things on track. This is a great opportunity, putting out a book of which you have total creative control. People recognize that and they try and stay ahead of the game schedule-wise. This is a business, not an art project to be done at someone’s leisure.  Slacking has financial consequences for everyone involved.

BF: Do you plan on making any changes to the company’s structure now that you’ve had a chance to see how all things fit together seven months into the game?

AF: For now it’s steady as she goes. We’ve recently moved to a new office space and that’s probably the biggest change in the last 7 months.  So people should double check the address they sent submissions to. But other than that, we’re not going to overextend ourselves too much. If it ain’t broke…

BF: … don’t fix it. A few moments you ago, though, you mentioned that one of the aspects that differentiates a bigger company like Image from Speakeasy is your more hands-on approach, because you’re smaller. The critic inside then begs me to ask how you’ll try to avoid losing that hands-on approach as you keep on growing. By employing a big in-house editorial staff, like Marvel and DC do, perhaps?

AF: We keep it real, yo. We shake babies and kiss hands; we’re approachable and sometimes a little too social. Speakeasy Comics is positioning itself as more of a niche label. We are willing to look at just about anything, nobody should ever be afraid to approach us and show their work. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll publish it, but we really like meeting new creators in unusual places. I don’t think that will ever change.

BF: Of the first wave of books—The Hunger, Atomika, Beowulf and Grimoire—which book outperformed from your perspective?

AF: Not to cop out on an answer, but the expectations for all those titles were different. Each book has its expectations and its limitations, and I’m happy to say that each of those books found their fans.  Pull sheet orders have really helped get Speakeasy Comics into stores that may have ignored an upstart publisher, and I’d like to really thank the fans that took a chance on us.

BF: Right from the start, it was clear that diversity was a key element in Speakeasy’s line of books. Do you feel there is enough diversity in comics as a whole these days?

Click to enlargeAF: I think that if there really were diversity in all the brand lines, not just a really cool book being printed by a Kinko’s being sold in local comic shop, Speakeasy wouldn’t exist. My wife always says that every comic book she’s seen either has a guy in a costume or everyone chasing down a shiny orb. Variety is important, not only in your diet but in your reading material. I try to make it really clear to everyone, if none of the Speakeasy books grab you this month, please check in next month in your Previews, because we’re bound to hit the genre or art style that will appeal to you or your customers.

BF: If you have to name one such a genre that is being neglected a bit, which one would you pick?

AF: Historical Romance, because it’s never been done in comic format. Damn you Harlequin!

BF: Should the industry brace itself for some exciting announcements during this summer’s convention season?

AF: Yes they should, and no I’m not announcing anything yet. Feel free to visit, but not hack, www.speakeasycomics.com for updates.

BF: Without naming any names, might those announcements include some big mainstream creators that haven’t signed any exclusive contracts? Have you been approached by such creators recently?

AF: Yes and yes.

BF: I guess we’ll a short and firm answer like that will have to do for now. Will Speakeasy be present at all of the big conventions this summer? Do you have anything special planned?

AF: Speakeasy Comics will be enthusiastically attending the San Diego Comicon and Wizard World Chicago. There will be preview books, posters and postcards available, and convention exclusives like Rocketo # 0 (look below for a special sneak peek – ed.) . Many of the creators will be attending and I don’t think you’ll find a group happier to be at the cons doing signings and sketches.

Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge    Click to enlarge

Creators will be attending a lot of their own local conventions as well, so basically you won’t be able to swing a stick without hitting a Speakeasy creator, but don’t hit them too hard or you’ll break them open like piñatas. Unfortunately there are no delicious prizes hidden within Speakeasy creators.

BF: Oh no, don’t tell me there are no fortune cookies on the Speakeasy staff!?

AF: Most of them do have creamy centers, but I wouldn’t go there. [Laughs]

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