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Hope you like the interviews we've been doing because they're not stopping any time soon! Today's interview is with Mike Kennedy who was recently announced as the new Publisher for Archaia. Mike has a rich history with comics and video games (we cover those too) and so we took the oppurtunity to ask him some questions about working in both mediums and what his plans are for Archaia.
PA) I think for comic readers the term "publisher" is a bit unknown as most of them think of Archaia as the publisher, can you describe a bit of your duties and day to day process as Archaia's new publisher?
MK) The primary task as Publisher will be to oversee and enable the various stages a title goes through to reach the shelves. This means making sure that editorial has everything they need to stay on track, production has everything they need to assemble a high quality product, marketing has everything they need to execute a solid release plan, and everything gets done on a managed, efficient schedule. That involves running the office space and facilities as well as any issues with artists, employees, and contractors. It is a lot of management, but fortunately at a company such as Archaia it also allows a lot of creativity and brainstorming with really talented people. As the company grows in new directions, with new titles and projects, there will be new opportunities to explore different areas of interest, such as the growing digital frontier. We’re putting a lot of attention into this unfolding facet of publication, and want to approach it in a way that will introduce something new to the market, not just following simple trends set by other early adopters.
PA) Having worked in Video Games and Comics why did you choose comics? Also what's the biggest difference creatively between the two mediums besides the audience’s interactivity with them?
MK) I’ve been a video game geek and comic book reader since forever, and will be both until the day I die. Working in video games for the past 20 years has been a blast, and I was lucky enough to be there during the evolution of interactive entertainment and storytelling as it grew from 8-bit text- and sprite-animation to photo-realistic, cinematic 3D. I had always been focused on the story development of each title, so pushing the narrative envelope was always an exciting challenge. Designing campaign mission structures and producing cut-scene materials became a bigger and bigger job involving more and more diverse tasks: talent casting, motion capture direction, pre-rendered video production, audio and music direction, etc, etc. The scope of each project grew tenfold every other year, as did the budgets, the size of the teams, and the magnitude of corporate expectations. Telling an engaging story became much more of a priority and things got really big really quickly, almost ridiculously so. I was fortunate enough to be in a position to try some interesting, experimental things with non-linear narrative, parallel plotlines, branching character paths, etc, but focus always came back to emphasizing the importance of a well-defined story that isn’t lost in the technical restrictions of gameplay.
That said, there is purity in an experience created by just a handful of passionate artists and individuals focused on their personal vision, vs a team of 200+ market-driven decision makers trying to satisfy a segment demand. Comics and graphic novels are a much more intimate and accessible form of expression, without any technical limits or barriers, and a very reasonable, even encouraging, cost of entry. Each can offer extremely exciting and memorable experiences, but with different demands placed on the audience, one passive and one interactive. As technology allows more hybridization, however, that line of interactivity starts to blur. Both industries are currently undergoing a pretty drastic evolution brought on by the growth of digital distribution, portable technology, and social networking. It’s an exciting time to be a storyteller, and we’re going to try some new and unexplored things within that field. We’re going to see some very interesting hybrid storytelling methods in the months and years to come!
PA) Where did you get your start in comics and how was it different from your start in video games?
MK) I started writing comics about the same time I entered video gaming, releasing a little independent comic book with Dan Brereton called “That Chemical Reflex” in the early 90’s. Video games provided a nice, steady day job, but comics were always a creative passion. I worked and attended a lot of conventions in those days, and tried to meet and befriend everyone. I got to know many of the guys at Dark Horse quite well, and consider them all very good friends. Eventually I lucked into a few gigs with them writing Ghost and some DHP shorts, which spun into some Star Wars gigs, Lone Wolf 2100, even broadening out to include Superman, etc. Over time I’ve been lucky enough to mash the two worlds together with various projects, bringing comic talent into various game designs, and game talent into various comic projects. I love the graphic novel format, and love working with talented artists, editors, designers, etc. Trading in the video game day job for a full-time job focusing on that juicy middle ground is really exciting.
PA) Its kind of a loaded question, but what's your favorite Archaia book?
MK) I’d be biased to say BLEEDOUT, but won’t since it’s not technically out yet … In all honesty, I can’t fairly answer that. There are so many great titles in the catalog already, spanning so many categories and genres, with so many more great titles coming up in the next 10 months. I’m definitely excited by the original Henson Company titles we have coming up (A Tale of Sand, Dark Crystal, The Storyteller), as well as a few other really awesome creator-owned books rolling out over the next few months – OLD CITY BLUES, RUST, EVERLAST, MR MURDER IS DEAD… lots of really cool stuff, it’s gonna be a great season. Seriously, we’re just kicking this machine into gear.
PA) Is there anything you can tell us about your plans with Archaia? Any creators you'll be bringing to the company? Or is there a possibility of some huge major change from the way Archaia functions now?
MK) No immediate plans or announcements, but there are certainly discussions underway that will hopefully blossom into exciting projects soon. I’m very excited to introduce friends and colleagues to the Archaia family, and think the fans will really appreciate the rich material we’ll be bringing to the shelves. From an outside perspective, there might not be much evident change in the way we function, but we’ll be putting new plans into place that will give the community more entertainment experiences and additional opportunities to engage with the creators and each other on a regular basis. We really want to encourage a strong community around our titles, and we’ll be exploring a bunch of new interactive features and forums in the months ahead.
PA) With books like Okko, The Killer and Cyclops, do you see yourself tapping into the foreign market more? If so are there any new books on the horizon?
MK) Absolutely! I can’t talk specific titles yet, but we are certainly going to continue our track record by cherry picking some of the best foreign books available for translation. There is such amazing material out there, and the books we’ve got in the pipeline are fantastic. Rich material shouldn’t be limited by language or distribution barriers, and we’d like to do our part to erase those boundaries in both directions, bringing excellent material from other countries to America, and vice versa. We’ve had excellent results introducing our own titles to Europe and beyond, and will continue to do so on a greater scale.
PA) Does your arrival for Archaia mark a time for growth or a restructuring due to the harsh economic times?
MK) Definitely the former, although with complete awareness of the latter. As mentioned, it’s a very dynamic season in the comic book industry – in all entertainment industries, frankly – and it will require a lot of forward thinking and parallel problem solving to navigate these changing waters. Having experienced this kind of digitally-initiated evolution in other related fields, I’ve gathered a few lessons and ideas for how to not only weather those changes but take advantage of the opportunities hidden in the breaks. I’m really excited to explore these new waters, and Archaia is a great vessel on which to do it, filled with fantastic material and amazingly talented individuals.
We'd like to thank Mike Kennedy and Archaia Press for taking the time to answer our questions and it sounds like an exciting times are coming from Archaia. Bleed Out is definitely a book to keep an eye out for in the future and you know we'll be covering.