A Second Wave Ahead
Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden takes a look at new comic company AHOY Comics which launched last year. With a second wave of titles imminent, he chatted to Stuart Moore, Tom Peyer and Paul Constant about the new enterprise…
In the summer of 2018, there were rumblings from Syracuse, New York, USA, that a new comic book ship was ready to set sail. That fall, AHOY Comics made its four-colour debut with its first wave of titles: The Wrong Earth and High Heaven in September, and Captain Ginger and Edgar Allan Poe’s Snifter of Terror in October. It’s almost been six months since the launch of this exciting funny book enterprise – emphasis on the “fun” – and AHOY Comics’ Tom Peyer, Stuart Moore and Paul Constant are talking about comics, comics, and even more comics. Oh, they’re shedding light on their company’s second wave of titles, too – but that also falls under the heading of “comics.” In fact, it’s their comics – and they’re worth the wait! Dig for yourself:
Comics and comic book properties are everywhere now: TV, movies, video games, toys, and more. Do sales in the Direct Market reflect this, or do you think comic books have reached a plateau with the audience at large?
Tom Peyer (TP): That’s a really good question that I couldn’t begin to answer. I tend to worry about editorial matters and leave the business thinking to others as much as possible. I guess I sound spoiled, but really, it’s good for everyone. I would be a terrible business person. Do you want your comic book company to die? Pick my brain about the market. Go ahead.
Stuart Moore (SGM): It’s been a parlor game for decades to say the direct market is dying, and there are some worrisome signs right now. But I think the continued survival of comic shops—in a world where bookstores are an endangered species—speaks to the continued popularity of the medium. And some of that has to be a reflection of comics properties’ and characters’ popularity in other media. I’m oversimplifying greatly, of course.
AHOY Comics has proven itself to be a rising star. How does AHOY Comics compare itself to other companies such as IDW, BOOM!, Dynamite, or even Dark Horse? Or, better yet, does the company EVEN compare itself to other comic book publishers?
Paul Constant (PC): I’m not on the editorial board, but I’m going to butt in on this question: if there are more great comics on the stands, I think that’s good for comics as a whole. I’m a huge fan of the Berger Books imprint at Dark Horse, for instance, and I’ve been reading and loving Giant Days from BOOM! since the very beginning. What they’re doing is different than AHOY Comics, and that’s how it should be. A good publisher is just as unique as a good writer, and nobody would ever say that there are too many good writers in the world. It’s an incredible time to be a comics fan because, pound for pound, there are more good comics on the stands than at any other time in history.
SGM: I don’t compare my work directly, especially when I’m putting together one of my own titles—I just try to produce the best comic I can. But I do keep a close eye on the field. There’s a tremendous explosion of creativity going on now in the companies you’ve mentioned, and many more besides: Image, TKO, Vault, Black Mask, Lion Forge, and others I’m too stupid to remember right now.
To me, there’s something organic about the evolution of AHOY that sets it apart. Most of the initial titles were written by me and Tom Peyer, which allowed us to really set the tone for the line. So there’s something cohesive about the way an AHOY book reads and looks, even though we’ve opened it up to a lot of different voices now.
TP: We wish other companies well. Chris Ryall of IDW actually gave us a flattering blurb. I didn’t think the competition was going to be so nice. We’re all in the same soup, and as I said in my first answer, it’s a soup I will probably never understand. But I think there should be room for all of us. If anything sets AHOY apart, it’s that we’re practically militant about making all of our projects funny on some level. Not comedies, necessarily, but there should be at least a wink or a smirk. It’s not so much that we’re using that to stand out; it’s just more entertaining that way. And we could all use a laugh. Yes, the world has gotten so awful that you can say funny comic books have become a necessity and, instead of ridiculing you, people sadly nod in agreement.
What is the secret origin of AHOY Comics? How did this exciting new comic book publisher happen to be?
TP: Hart Seely, Frank Cammuso and I have been good friends for years. They brought this idea to me one day in January, 2017, when it looked like the world was falling apart and it would be a good idea to create a big distraction, if only for ourselves. The world has been falling apart ever since and, while I follow its collapse as closely as anyone not employed as a journalist, I’m grateful every day to also have AHOY to think about.
SGM: I don’t know. I don’t know anything. I just got a call one day, and I live my life by the words of ’90s pop-funk group Cameo: “When you get the call you got to get it underway.”
AHOY Comics seems to have a broad approach to its publishing schedule. How do you decide on the comic books you publish? How do you determine what books are coming out during what wave? Is there a method to your madness?
SGM: I keep the AHOY schedule, which is constantly in flux. Like any publisher, we have a number of titles in different stages of development at any given time. When we’re planning a new wave of books, I look at everything and see how far along we are on each title, along with the speed of the particular artist—that’s always the most important factor.
TP: Everything in the hopper is something we really like and want to publish. So it mostly comes down to what’s going to be ready in time. It’s very important to us to ship on schedule, so readiness is everything.
SGM: We try to balance out the line so that, for instance, we’re not launching two books set on Neptune at the same time. And sometimes you get positive or negative surprises: a project winds up not coming together, or something unexpected and wonderful drops in your lap.
It’s been announced that AHOY Comics is publishing collected editions of its titles. Does this mean that all four of the First Wave titles will be collected? Will there be limited edition hardcovers as well as trade paperbacks? Will they feature any new material?
TP: You won’t have to wait long for our trade paperback announcement. I will say that we have Cory Sedlmeier editing collected editions, and he’s the best there is.
How far ahead have you planned for AHOY Comics’ future? Do you already know what comics will be available in Wave Three – or do you take it one comic at a time?
SGM: I am beating my head against Wave Three right now. It’s coming together! Really!
TP: We mostly know, but there’s still some wiggle room to change our minds. Like I said, we have to be sure the material will be ready.
What is your all-time favourite comic?
PC: My opinion changes regularly, but certainly the earliest and most influential book for me was my very first comic, the book that taught me how to read: a hardcover Bonanza Books collection calledSuperman from the 30s to the 70s. Those comics—especially the Mort Weisinger-edited stories from the 50s and early 60s—are the comics Rosetta stone for me. If you ask me to close my eyes and picture a comic book, I’ll think of the first appearance of Bizarro, or the Superman Red/Superman Blue imaginary story sequence. They’re burned so deeply into my brain that they’re practically in my DNA.
TP: Superman #143, February, 1961. Three big stories:
· “The Great Superman Hoax,” in which a criminal tries to convince the Daily Planet staff that he is secretly Superman.
· “Lois Lane’s Lucky Day,” where Clark Kent secretly uses his super-powers to expose rigged carnival games. Literally the most important thing Superman could be doing on that day.
· “Bizarro Meets Frankenstein,” where Superman’s imperfect duplicate becomes obsessed with proving that he’s the scariest of all, so he attacks a movie actor who’s playing Frankenstein’s monster under the impression that he’s the real thing. Fortunately, Superman is in the same movie studio filming a PSA about dental hygiene.
No better comic book is possible.
SGM: I hate competitions. I’m very very fond of the following books: Howard the Duck, Kirby’s Fourth World, American Flagg!, Hellblazer, Preacher, Doom Patrol PATROL, Paper Girls, Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s The Vision, Mark Russell and Steve Pugh’s Flintstones, and many incarnations of Mister Miracle, including the latest. There’s a lot of other stuff, too.
What do you love about the comic book medium?
PC:This is not to take away from those cartooning geniuses who both write and draw their own stuff—Chris Ware, Lisa Hanawalt, Kate Beaton, Jeff Smith—but for me the most interesting part of comics has always been the collaboration aspect. Think of some of your all-time favorite pairings of writer and artist—say, Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire on Justice League, Byrne/Claremont on X-Men, Samnee/Waid on Daredevil. You may love those artists and writers on their own, but there’s some kind of magic when you put the right team of people together—a unique energy that neither creator can summon on their own.
Every time I get a page back from one of the artists that AHOY has teamed me with, I’m over the moon. Gary Erskine and Frank Cammuso and my partner on Planet of the Nerds, Alan Robinson, have all drawn pages that surpass my wildest expectations. They add something that wasn’t on the page in my script. Sometimes it’s a very specific detail—a panel arrangement I didn’t imagine, or a perspective on a scene that recasts the whole thing in a new light—but often it’s just something intangible, a little spark of life that I know I didn’t picture when I wrote the script. That never gets old.
SGM: It’s close collaboration between two or three primary creative people. When you write a novel, it’s all you on the page; if you make a film, hundreds of people are involved. The alchemy between a writer and one or two artists is a really magical thing when it’s working.
TP: It’s the only form I can write with confidence. There’s something about the limitations of the structure—divide stories into pages, then panels, describe the picture, write dialog beneath—that makes me feel safe and in good hands.
Will we see any AHOY Comics-related toys or movies in the future?
SGM: We’re just getting started…haven’t got that far yet! We’re focused on the comics right now.
PC: Honestly, just writing a comic is enough of a thrill for me. Adaptations are fun—they’re an opportunity to engage with the original work in a different way and bring it to a new audience—but I do get the sense that the AHOY team is interested in making comics for the joy of comics. They’re not in the intellectual property game, they’re in the comics game. Everything else is a bonus. (That said, Hart Seely, our fearless publisher, did send me a very nice AHOY baseball cap when they bought the pitch for Planet of the Nerds and it’s one of my most prized pieces of comics merchandise. They ought to sell them to the general public.)
TP: We wouldn’t turn down the right opportunities, but it’s important to do comics for comics’ sake. If all they ever are is comic books, and they’re good, I’ll be satisfied.
Bronze Age Boogie is a Generation X’ers dream book. Where did you get the idea to combine all these ‘70s comic book, TV, and movie archetypes in one title?
SGM: If you lean close, I’ll whisper the secret of Boogie: It’s a team book. I took a kung fu master, a tough street warrior, a couple talking apes, a barbarian girl and her father, and threw them together to fight the Martians. With a bit of period flavor, of course.
Maybe next season, they’ll get a secret headquarters.
What was behind your archetype choices for Bronze Age Boogie?
SGM: I have a long list of characters. I worked out the story carefully, fitting in players from two different time periods—1975 AD and ’75 BC—as naturally as possible. The nice thing about this book is that it’s creator-owned, so Alberto and I control just about every aspect of it. If a character doesn’t fit into Season One, we can just hold them until they do.
Hashtag: Danger is hilarious! How did you come up with this not-so-fantastic threesome?
TP: Glad you like it. The idea started with the name. It popped into my head somehow, and it was just so stupid, I wanted to explore it. What kind of people would spell out “Hashtag?” The name suggested a team of science adventures, like the Challengers of the Unknown or Fantastic Four, who are bad at the small things. How many ways can they undermine themselves?
How did Hashtag: Danger get promoted from a series of back-up stories to a six-issue limited series all its own?
TP: When we did the little backup stories in High Heaven, artist Chris Giarrusso was drawing Encounter, a very funny series he did with Art Baltazar and Franco at Lion Forge. When that ended and it looked like we could get a bigger chunk of Chris’ time, we leapt at it. Chris is so great, and so funny. He nails every gag and every emotion, which is important because the Hashtag characters get pretty emotional for no good reason.
Planet of the Nerds reminds one of a John Hughes movie on steroids. What led to its creation?
PC: I wish I could say it came to me while I was doing steroids while watching John Hughes movies, but the truth is I’ve been thinking a lot about nerds lately. I was a nerd in high school, and I was bullied for it. Being a nerd was something to be ashamed of. But over the last thirty years, nerds have become the cultural default in America, and I wanted to tell a story that investigated that change by butting the 1980s right up against the present. It just started as a high concept about a trio of jocks who are cryogenically frozen in 1988 and who declare war on the nerds who rule the world in 2019, but it evolved into a celebration of 80s movies and an investigation of the way social norms change over time.
In Planet of the Nerds, what is Chad’s major malfunction – besides the fact that Alvin exists?
PC: Chad is a difficult guy to love, or even to like. He’s the classic alpha-male football bro, and he loves nothing more than beating the hell out of nerds. At first, it was hard for me to write a character who so clearly would loathe me if he ever met me. But over time, I gradually came to really appreciate Chad. Over the course of the series, we learn what makes Chad the way he is, and hopefully the reader will develop, if not an affinity for him, at least a new level of respect for him. All of our characters go through journeys in this book, and the reader will hopefully feel differently about all of them by the end of the story than they did at the beginning. It’s easy to hate someone when you can summarize them in a single one-word cliché like jock or nerd. But it’s harder to dismiss them out of hand once you learn a little bit about them. I’m not asking you to develop sympathy for the devil; it’s more like I’m asking you to have some sympathy for the quarterback who gave you swirlies in high school. Is that even possible? Let’s find out together.
To find out more about AHOY comics, visit their website