With comics sales growing in 2013, two veteran comics execs are betting that there’s room for a new publisher with an eclectic line-up of new and translated titles. Magnetic Press is a new comics line which aims to release 10-20 graphic novels a year, starting in early Spring with Super Ego by Caio Oliveira and Naja and Meka, two titles by the acclaimed Franco-Belgian team of JD Morvan and Bengal.
Magnetic, whose motto is "Stories that stick," is the brainchild of publisher Mike Kennedy and CEO Wes Harris, both industry veterans. Kennedy was publisher at Archaia, and has an extensive background in video games and writing. Harris was the v-p of publishing at Boom! Studios and previously worked at Viz and White Wolf publishing.
As happens with many comics-type folks, the two struck up a friendship at various comics events before realizing they had similar goals. “Independently, we both had a dream,” Kennedy told PWCW. “It was at one of the many parties at San Diego Comic-Con that we thought, why don’t we pool our resource tackle this together?”
“It quickly became clear we were interested in the same titles and the same approach to publishing,” said Harris. “So we decided, why not team up like Voltron.”
While Magnetic has no overt limitations on what they will publish, Kennedy said “if it’s something we like to read, it’s probably something we’ll publish.” To start, a main part of their focus is bringing more French comics to American readers. Comics are a huge part of the French publishing industry, with a wide range of material available for readers of all languages. Most of the French-language comics books published in the US have been in either literary—works by such artists as David B. and Jacques Tardi—or kids’ works—Monsters and Tib and Tumtum—but Magnetic will publish more mainstream, but by no means ordinary, action/sf/noir comics here.
For instance Morvan and Bengal’s Meka and Naja are two unusual thrillers with SF backgrounds. In Meka, the pilots of a giant fighting robot must fight their way to survival when it stops functioning in the middle of an urban warzone. Naja concerns a female assassin who has been desensitized by her training. While Bengal—who founded the French version of the Deviant Art website—is acclaimed in his home country, he’s little known in the US except for come contributions to the Flight anthology, but “it’s crazy they aren’t known more known the US,” said Kennedy.
The first Magnetic titles however will be Oliviera’s Super Ego, an original graphic novel about a psychiatrist to the superheroes. Magnetic is wasting no time in establishing themselves, with a planned appearance at the upcoming Comics Festival in Angoulême at the end of the month and a launch scheduled for April. “This seems like it came out of nowhere but for the last 3-4 months we’ve been working up to this,” said Kennedy.
The line will include only 1- 2 releases a month to keep the focus tight. “We’re definitely going to focus on quality over quantity,” Kennedy said. “So not only does each title get the TLC it needs in terms of production and marketing but the creators also get full equity in that exposure.” Getting creators like Bengal more exposure in the US is a big part of their corporate goal, Kennedy and Harris said.
“We hope to open a lot of North American eyes to the breadth of material available,” said Kennedy. While acknowledging that there are many Franco-Belgian comics that don’t yet fit the North American mass market esthetic, he said “there is a lot that fits perfectly. A lot of people are going to be surprised.”
The rest of Magnetic's announced schedule includes Dave Dorman’s Wasted Lands and several books penned by Kennedy himself—mixing originals and foreign pick ups.
For originals, the aim is a variation of the “creator participation” model for ancillary rights. “We want to be an alternative for creators who are looking for a space for their next project,” says Harris. “Our approach is whatever we bring to the table or whatever we take from the table, we want those to be things we have earned.”
Even though comics publishing seemed to have strong growth in most channels in 2013, (the segment was up 9% in 2013, according to recently released figures) launching a new company to publish books is still a bold move. Although they will soon be announcing plans with digital vendor Comixology (including digital sampling ahead of publication) and other distribution deals, Kennedy and Harris are committed to keeping physical publishing as part of the Magnatic experience. “We’re a publishing company first; anything that comes later with ancillary right for creators, that’s secondary,” said Harris. “Mike and I have a similar approach to publishing books as physical objects—the use of paper and cover enhancements add to the experience of reading the story. I love the opportunity to create these physical objects that go out into the world.”