David Lloyd is the award-winning British comics artist of series like V For Vendetta, Hellblazer and War Stories. Since 2012, Lloyd has shifted his focus from drawing comics to co-publishing them. Aces Weekly is an online comics anthology featuring a mix of new and established talent, co-founded by David Lloyd and Bambos Georgiou. With a new volume starting a few weeks ago, Tripwire caught up with Lloyd to find out how Aces Weekly got started and how it’s developed since…
TW: what was the genesis of Aces Weekly?
DAVID LLOYD: Wanting to host an anthology comic easily and inexpensively once I knew it was possible, and do one where almost all income goes directly to the creators. The excellent Bambos Georgiou was the founding managing editor. The first concept was to put it on an existing platform but a dedicated site was decided as better for branding. It’s turned out to be hard work, though!
DL: Not inherently British – there are anthologies in Europe and other places.
True, in the English-language market there are few that are mixes of subject matter – most in the US are single genre if any are being published. We did want to echo the UK weeklies style – and as a regularly published anthology it was automatically something needing lots of creators working at the same time to supply the stories – and especially so when many are done by people who are taking time out from print work to lend their support to a pioneering product.
TW:There have been a number of volumes now but what initially was the selection process for strips for Aces Weekly?
DL:We chose people we knew and who knew us to do basically anything they liked within parameters of universality of acceptability ; wanting as wide a readership as possible to maximize uptake means necessary limits. But, otherwise, freedom was the key – any type of story, any style of art. Choose good people and give them their heads. That was it. And still is.
TW: You have become best known as a creator, a writer and an artist but here you are on the business side of proceedings. How does it feel to be in this different role?
DL: Hard! Because of the resistance we’re meeting from too many people who love paper and won’t move from it. Comics readers are also collectors of the ‘ thing ‘ instead of just what the thing contains, but that content of art and story can be on any surface – and, in the case of the screen and its superior reproduction values, its affect can be even better! AND you can make it big on your smart tv! For the first time we can make comics big! But on top of that paper-love problem we face, too much comics is free on the web as backlog dumped manga or webcomix just put there for fun, so people resist buying even the best-priced, best-quality work because they’re not used to paying for ANY comics they read on the net. So, it’s doing the push that’s the hard part of the business task. But putting Aces Weekly together couldn’t be easier – even when we have work close to publication date with pages. It’s much easier and much cheaper than using all that antiquated repro and distribution from a past age. We’re in the 21st century so we should be using the benefit bestowed by it to us to reach people, not the tools of a previous era.
TW: As someone with such a reputation in comics, did this help when you were looking for content for the series?
DL: Yes – l don’t think I could have started it so easily and couldn’t run it so easily if it wasn’t for that. This is a project that has a core of trust – I give our Aces freedom and they trust me to stay true to my word, and they know me enough to trust in that. But what I’d like is for this model of publishing to be taken up by collectives of artists who already know each other and trust between them is a given – well, as much as it can be in any group of like-minded friends anywhere! We shouldn’t have to keep making deals with big paper publishers who take most of the creators money because we can’t afford the expensive outlay that print entails. Lets get rid of it! Even the self-published, and Kickstarter-initiated projects are still spending thousands unnecessarily. Go straight to the buyer through the ether, and get their payment coming straight back to the creators – or as directly as it can be done. We can do this, so let’s do it. And at Aces Weekly we’re not doing anything that needs lots of tech like motion comics – we’ve only had two stories that use digital delivery for effect, though not to any stretching degree, so we’re mostly just sticking pages in place to be read! BUT pages that look much better than they ever do in print.
TW: You have come from the world of print so what was it about digital/ web that appealed to you?
DL: The ease of production, the directness of sale and income. And, from a personal point of view, I’ve had my share of problems with print and repro and distribution, which came from situations that would not have occurred were the means of publishing similar to those of Aces Weekly.
TW: Which other models influenced your approach to Aces Weekly?
DL:There’s no-one like us.
TW: There have been a number of volumes so can we assume that Aces Weekly is starting to pay its own way?
DL: We’re on an upward curve.
TW: The format seems to be very short episodes, three or four pages, creating a slightly longer story when they’re collected together. What is the luxury of such short episodes?
DL:More than slightly longer – we’ll have to get you more familarized with us! But on the question : it’s important that creators only have to do a small amount for us on a regular basis, which we decided to set at a level that was achievable for creators who often need to produce it between other jobs. But they make up a page-count that is still the equivalent of a comic-book every week, and at a price you couldn’t get an originated print comic book for – £1. Ideally, we’d love more pages from each creator per week, and we do get lots of Extras from them ( another value of digital : no concern over higher page count costing more ) but they do what they comfortably can. Also, 3 pages is what UK print weeklies often gave readers of their separate stories per issue. The major difference is that the number of panels per page in Aces is usually nothing like the number you would get in traditional weeklies. But that’s the creators choice – it’s part of the freedom they have – and they still produce great stuff every week, whatever the number of panels and length of story told. We don’t equate quantity with quality in Aces Weekly!
TW: You seem to have focused on Aces Weekly and we haven’t seen much from you in terms of sequential work elsewhere. Are you working on anything that we shall be seeing soon?
DL: No. I’m 24/7 Aces Weekly admin for now, and extremely proud to be so in presenting some of the best comic creators on the globe in a publication that exists for their benefit and its readers by giving best-priced and terrific work through millions of outlets for little outlay. I’d guess many of your readers who like my work have still not seen my latest work – in Aces Weekly Volume 1 – because maybe they just like paper and haven’t bought it because of that. This can be remedied by going to www.acesweekly.co.uk/shop or Comixology to get it. It won’t be available on paper anytime soon, I can promise you : )