This post is the first in a series, designed to introduce ourselves to new readers, give some historical background on Comiculture, and ultimately, to provide some perspective and reflections about our ongoing experiment in self-publishing.
Who & What is "Comiculture?"
Comiculture is many things. It is this website; an online home to a group of comic book pros. It is a publishing imprint for a line of original comics and graphic novels. And, in the words of one reviewer, it is "the best comics anthology you've never heard of!" a magazine featuring comics stories, articles and interviews related to comics and pop culture. The folks responsible for Comiculture are based in Los Angeles and call themselves Mad Science Media.
Mad Science Media is a collective of comics professionals who have been collaborating since 1996. Individually, each has been working in and around the comics industry for much longer than that. The core group originally met while working on staff in Marvel Comics' Editorial and Production departments in the late '80's and early '90's.
Years later, fate conspired to bring these four friends together in Los Angeles, where they founded a studio to develop new projects. The four founders were Steve Buccellato, Rob Tokar, Don Hudson and Marc Siry.
In the beginning, Mad Science Media acted as service providers, lending their talents to projects published by most of the major comics publishers (Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Image Comics, Dark Horse, etc), as well as non-comics related clients (Disney, Mattel, Warner Bros., Sony Animation, FoxKids.com, Nickelodeon, and United Media). In fact, Comiculture Magazine was originally concieved as a proposal for Marvel Comics back in 1997 under a different title. The pitch was simple: "Heavy Metal meets Spy Magazine" or "Epic Illustrated meets Maxim." The proposal was met with enthusiasm by the Editor-in-Chief, but the project never got going.
In 2001 Steve Buccellato and his studio decided to throw caution to the wind and publish the magazine on their own. They Joined with other comics pros (like Klaus Janson, David Wohl, Ben Raab and Walt Simonson, to name a few) to develop several original creator-owned properties, and they leaped into the world of small-press publishing. Drawing upon years of collective experience in all aspects of comic book production, pre-press, printing, marketing and web-site management, the Mad Science Media team ambitiously launched first issue of Comiculture magazine and Comiculture.com simultaneously at the San Diego Comic-Con in the summer of 2002.
The reaction to the magazine was overwhelmingly positive. While issue #1 was only available in comic shops, the second issue was picked up by several magazine distributors who sold Comiculture to Borders Books, Tower Records and other newsstand venues. The second issue actually sold more than the first. Fans and critics alike responded to the variety of work in Comiculture with glowing reviews, including a spot in The Fourth Rail's "Best of 2002":
"(Comiculture is) a gorgeous production that fills a niche no one else is tackling in comics...."
--Randy Lander, The Fourth Rail
"...a great mix of mainstream styles and storytelling and more oddball, indy-spirit comic art as well. There's a remarkable balance in the material here, and it means that any reader...will find something about Comiculture to really enjoy."
--Don MacPherson, The Fourth Rail
"5 (out of 5) Bullets...This magazine deserves your attention...(the) second issue of Comiculture is actually better than the first"
--Ray Tate, Silver Bullet Comics
"...packed from cover to cover with entertaining stories and informative articles."
--Wolfen Moondaughter, Sequential Tart
"'With No Power'...had me laughing out loud...this is an example of the kind of autobiographical delight that makes the genre so rewarding."
--Alan David Doanne, Comic Book Galaxy
Unfortunately, producing a high-quality color magazine is an expensive proposition. Without outside investment or any advertising revenue, the costs of producing Comiculture were just too high to justify going beyond the second issue. Many lessons were learned, and the gang at Mad Science Media were forced to rethink their publishing strategy.
In June 2005, Comiculture Books debuted its first publication: a black & white, 90-page graphic novel called Comiculture Anthology. The book picked up where the magazine left off, but in a different format excluding the articles & interviews. Since the publication of Comiculture Anthology, the creators have concentrated on other individual projects, such as Steve Buccellato's original English manga, Battle of the Bands, published by TOKYOPOP, and Don Hudson's graphic novel, Gunpowder Girl and the Outlaw Squaw, published by Active Images. Though their publishing imprint Comiculture Books has been idle for a few a few years, the folks at Mad Science Media are always developing new concepts and story ideas, and hope to get back to the business of publishing if and when these projects can be adequately funded.