Her Word Is Her Bond
♦ Shelly Bond is the former Senior Editor at DC’s Vertigo imprint who is now in charge of IDW’s Black Crown Pub imprint. With two of its launch books, Kid Lobotomy by Peter Milligan and Tess Fowler and Assassinistas by Tini Howard and Gilbert Hernandez, already started and its third, Punks Not Dead by David M Barnett and Martin Simmonds, coming out in February, Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS spoke to Bond recently when she was in London to find out a little bit more about her latest enterprise…
“So Black Crown is basically the indie comic book imprint that I always wanted to be a part of and it’s books I want to read,” Bond explained to me when I met up with her at her hotel foyer in London back at the end of September.
She spent decades working at Vertigo but her first love has always been indie comics, she reminds people.
“Going back to my roots, I started out at Comico which was an independent comic book company. A lot of people don’t know that about me. I spent twenty three and a half years at Vertigo but I spent two years at Comico and there was nothing like working for an indie. There was less pressure and there was just this great vibe of being fearless and knowing that you didn’t have these shackles on your ideas so it was exciting. And we are going to do things like that and more with Black Crown,” she explained.
Black Crown Pub is a part of IDW Publishing and the company was an obvious choice for a home for her new imprint, she revealed:
“IDW was really my first pick for Black Crown for a few reasons. They are a respectable company, they’ve been around for a while. Everyone I talked to had only great things to say about the editorial staff and about the publishers. So I think word of mouth is important and Chris Ryall in particular was the first person to send me an email on the day that I left Vertigo. And I didn’t know him at all, I knew him by name. And I couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. So he just said if you want to stay in comics please give me a call because I’ve been a fan of your books for many years and I love what you do. Maybe we can work something out?
So I was very straight up with him and I said I may be taking the summer off just to chill. I hadn’t had a summer off since 1979 and I put my resume together that fall and he was the first one that I sent it to and he responded to me immediately. And he said he really liked my manifesto and my idea because I had put Black Crown together and then I would start pitching it. I knew I would get him in first and see what he thought and he said he loved it. So right from the get go I think he got my vision and has been a dream boss. The best I’ve ever had.
We both realised that there is so much potential at IDW. They excel in so many areas. The printing aesthetics are very high quality and they have pretty strong production values and you can’t say that about all the publishers out there. If they’re able to put a fifth colour metallic or a fifth colour neon on a book that, let’s face it, probably doesn’t sell over 10,000 those are people who care about the quality of the book and the artistic integrity of the book.”
When Vertigo started, there wasn’t the selection of quality titles out there but Bond feels confident that Black Crown will be able to compete with the range of other renowned titles out there:
“From the day that I discovered comics I felt like comics were in my bones. That’s the only kind of job I wanted to have to make comics in any capacity. So when you have a strong vision and you’re very selective about the kinds of things that you read, the kinds of things that you spend your money on, you don’t worry about the competition. The marketplace is always flooded. Right now there’s just so much out there that you can read in 20 seconds. Is it worth $3.99? perhaps not if you can read it that quickly. So I think there’s amazing stuff out there but I think there’s also a lot of stuff that is just wasting trees. So I have to say that all through the years people would say: ‘Oh it’s just a bad market for comics.’ It’s always going to be a bad market for comics. It’s always the right time for exceptional ideas and to be able to find incredible artists from all over the world and that’s something I really take pride in.”
The editor sees her previous track record as something unique that she can build on:
“I hope one positive aspect of my reputation is that I tend to have maybe slightly peculiar taste in artists and writers but what I think is really exciting is bringing people together that you wouldn’t normally see collaborating. And if they connect on an artistic level that is when you really see work that’s more masterpiece than mediocre. That’s when you see us really elevating the artform.”
Black Crown Pub is a very small operation so there is no danger of them flooding the market. But this is for a very deliberate reason, Bond elaborates: “When speaking with IDW I did tell them that I did have a few projects that I wanted to move forward with. But I came to the table with some solid teams. So it has been harder in that respect because people have been pitching to me and I’ve been very straight up and have had to say: ‘We’re at capacity’. Because it’s a small imprint. You can’t come out of the gate with sixteen new titles and you really want to make sure that your first offerings are strong.”
Shelly Bond has been assisted by her husband, Philip, who has a long career drawing comics. But here his role has been more of a design one, Bond tells us.
“Because I’ve always been a frustrated art director and knowing that I would be a one person operation I presumed I would be doing a lot of the design. But it is so much that I couldn’t go at it alone. So I challenged Phillip Bond to actually start considering himself a logo designer and a graphic designer which of course he said ‘No I’m not, I’m a comic book artist.’ And I said ‘You’re the kind of comic book artist who is extremely gifted in all areas or I wouldn’t have married you.’ So I challenged him to do the design and he’s just blowing my mind. He has created everything from the logos to the trade dress,” she says.
All of the Black Crown Pub titles have a connection to this one place, Cannon Street, so they exist in a shared universe of sorts. Bond explains why this was important to her as we wrap up our chat:
“When I was putting the imprint together I knew that it would all be on or around this street, which is called Cannon Street. I knew I wanted to have very specific locations including a hotel. The model for me for the high street is St Marks Place in New York. I came of age there in the Nineties. I loved hanging out there and it had the coolest shops. Whenever I think about that street, I remember it had no franchises, the coolest record shop, the coolest comic shop and of course there was a hotel down a back alley. So I really wanted to fill this particular location with lots of the real estate that you would find on your favourite high street. I wanted Black Crown to combine my love of comics and music.”
Kid Lobotomy started in October and Assassinistas began in December. Punks Not Dead starts in February.
All of their titles are available to order here Black Crown Pub Titles