What a difference a decade makes. In 1994, cartoonist/entrepreneur Tony C. Caputo sold his holdings in Now Comics, an independent comics publishing house he founded in 1985, and the company ceased operation shortly afterward. But with a growing market for book format comics, Caputo has regained the rights to the Now name and relaunched his former periodical publishing house as a graphic novel publisher focused on books.
The new Plainfield, Ill.—based Now Comics has released five trade paperback collections and one hardcover so far this year. Diamond Book Distribution is handling distribution, and Caputo said that beginning in 2005, he plans to publish seven to 10 trade paperbacks annually.
At the height of its success in the late 1980s, Now Comics was a multimillion-dollar comics publisher with 17 full-time employees and 70 freelance cartoonists around the world. It published 14 monthly periodical comics, among them Marc Hansen's zany cult classic Ralph Snart, as well as a long list of licensed properties like Mr. T, Astro-Boy, Ghostbusters and The Terminator.
Caputo, who is also the author of two popular how-to books on comics from Watson-Guptill, told PW that "fast growth caused problems for the old Now. We struggled when we outgrew our start and needed investors." Caputo now intends to focus on "controlled growth. We were a periodical publisher, but now we're a book publisher. These days the market is different and the audience and the bookstore buyers are different."
Early this year, the house published reprint editions of Hansen's Ralph Snart Adventures in both hardcover and trade paper, as well as trade paper collections of Hansen's equally zany series Doctor Gorpion and Weird Melvin. In addition, Caputo has returned to the drawing board to create his own comics again; in October he is publishing Vespers, a tongue-in-cheek book about a rock star with supernatural powers and a 12-step program for superheroes who need emotional support. The house is also releasing Syphons by Allan Curtis and Mark Beachum, a superhero SF thriller that Now will copublish with Image Comics.
"Manga has really helped create a new comics market in bookstores," said Caputo. "Books offer comics readers more depth and a richer expression. It's a perfect time for us to come back as a book publisher."