One of the leading publishers of the independent comics movement, Alternative Comics, is relaunching with a new face at the helm. Founded in 1993 by Jeff Mason, Alternative started the careers of comics mainstays such as James Kochalka, Dean Haspiel and Gabrielle Bell. The line was put on hold about five years ago after Mason had to attend to personal matters, but it's coming back under industry veteran Marc Arsenault.
Arsenault—who has been running his own Wow Cool line for several years—has acquired both the name and the backstock, and is launching the line with Injury #4 by Ted May. He hopes to follow this with new books by Sam Henderson, Kochalka and more.
Arsenault's interest in the company began when he attempted to get the rights to Alternative's titles by Henderson. This led to conversations with Mason. "He sent me a list of their in-print titles and such a large portion of it were books that I wanted that I offered to take over running everything," Arsenault told PW. "The existing relationships with distributors, etc. was obviously a huge factor."
Following the May book, the new Alternative Comics will debut Henderson's Magic Whistle #12 at November's Brooklyn Comics and Graphic Festival. Future titles will include works by Kochalka, LA Times Book Prize nomineeKarl Stevens, and Steven Cerio, whose Sunbeam on the Astronaut is his first comics work in 15 years. "I think Steve's book will be a surprise to a lot of people," says Arsenault. "His work has become a bit more intense and detailed while still containing that creepy-cute look that will be familiar to fans of his work with the Residents."
Arsenault has also acquired Alternative's existing backstock, which is quite extensive—"some 25 pallets of about 40 30lb boxes each"—which he'll make avilable through distributors Diamond and Last Gasp.
He has lots of ongoing plans. "One area I really plan on focusing on is the all ages titles," Arsenault continued. To that end, Alternative will co-publish Henderson's collection of his long-running Nickelodeon Magazine strip Scene But Not Heard with Top Shelf Productions, and re-release Kochalka's Peanut Butter and Jeremy.
As for digital plans, he hopes "to get as many artists as are willing to issue digital editions of their work through Alternative. The first releases will likely be from Sam Henderson's deep catalog of books." The reborn Alternative is signed up with iTunes and Amazon, and Josh Neufeld's Titans of Finance is already available. "Future releases will be on a case by case basis. I'm sure some will be same day and date print and digital and some will stay as print only."